John Muir Trail, Day 2: Little Yosemite Valley to Sunrise High Sierra Camp.

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Hello friends. As you can already tell, getting through our JMT adventure is going to take a little time, but now we’re at DAY 2!! We are totally busting a move here ;).

So I shouldn’t have to say much about this, but we obviously didn’t get mauled by the bear. I’m sure you’re relieved…

We woke up super early this morning, knowing it was going to be a really difficult day if we kept to our schedule. We’d both agreed in the planning of this hike that we wanted to make a schedule, but also allow ourselves to stray from it if we have good or bad days. That said, we also didn’t want to start cutting out miles on Day 2, so we definitely hoped to cover some ground.

Our plan was to hike about 13 miles, which doesn’t really seem horrible, but most of it was gaining elevation, including a little jaunt up to Half Dome. So we just considered it a day of ‘a shit ton of up’, and the fact that we were adjusting to our packs meant it wasn’t going to be easy any way we looked at it.

Although we got up at 5:30 AM, we didn’t even break camp until probably 7:30. This was partly because I kept hoping to poop (and surprisingly couldn’t) and probably also partly because Jennifer kept pooping. I might have that remembered incorrectly, but I’m sure she can add some commentary on the pooping. I just know that I was more excited to get my revenge on Half Dome (Chris and I had attempted with other friends Liz/Kevin last year and had to turn around at the freaking base of the dome b/c of thunder and lightening – not cool on a rock), and for Jennifer, this was the most nerve-wracking part of the trip for her.

J:  There were two things I was anticipating/dreading before starting this trip: 1. pooping in the woods for the first time (my previous backpacking adventures were short and/or involved a privy at camp) and 2. climbing the steep cables of Half Dome.  I was excited that I only had to conquer one of those fears that day because there was a privy at our LYV camp site and I still didn’t have to poop in the woods! I was however feeling nauseous all morning and trying to figure out if it was from dehydration, altitude, or fear of climbing that damn dome.  To clarify, in case anyone gives a shit (pun intended), I pooped a normal amount.

Ha! Ok, so Jennifer didn’t poop her brains out. I’m glad we cleared that up. And neither did I. No pooping. Yet.

Either way, we got out of camp and it wasn’t long before we started ascending. We didn’t realize it at the time, but on the way to the Half Dome junction, we met a couple of fellow hikers who would soon become part of our “trail family” – a father and his 13-year-old daughter who’d camped right across from us the night before – Sean and Cassidy. They weren’t doing HD, but were going up to Clouds’ Rest that day, so we eventually stopped leap-frogging them when we got to the HD junction, at least for a while.

At the sub-base of Half Dome, we showed our permit to the ranger, who turned out to be the one who came through camp the night before to warn us of the bear in the area. He said the bear came through later that night and they were able to scare him away with a paintball gun of mineral oil. Good to know ;).


So this (above) is Half Dome. For those of you who aren’t into hiking, or aren’t familiar with HD in Yosemite, it’s pretty damn daunting when you’re standing right at the base of it. We got there, and I think we both started sweating a little. Ok, a lot. Fortunately, the 4 miles up to and back to the JMT trail junction were miles we did without our actual backpacks – we’d hidden them, as most do, behind some rocks at the junction and packed a small day pack with food and water – so we at least were able to ascend a lot without added weight.

Half Dome itself, as you’d probably guess, is pretty fucking steep. You barely go any actual distance, but you climb 1,800 feet total to get to the top. Most of it is done on the ‘sub dome’, and the last 400 feet is what you see in the picture above. The sub dome is steep, but lots of stairs and switchbacks – totally doable.


After we got our shit together, we knew we needed to just mount that damn mountain and climb. Jennifer had brought both of us some super awesome grippy gloves from one of her construction job sites, so we were well-prepared to hold on to the cables that are drilled into the dome itself – this worked well since otherwise my hands would have been sweating the whole time. I started climbing and made it up about 1/3 of the way and felt pretty ok, but eventually my wimpy-ass arms started feeling really really rubbery. I knew it was steep, but I don’t think I was truly prepared for pulling my entire body UP a mountain via cables, which is essentially what you’re doing. Not much leg work here. Not easy for a lot of people, but especially those of us with absolutely no biceps. I thought I was making ok progress for a bit, and then some douchebag on the way down says, trying to sound reassuring, “Once you get over these couple of steps, you’re halfway!! Yay!!”. If I wasn’t gripping the cables with all my might, I would have punched him in the ballsack. There was one small moment in this area that I also remember looking down at Jennifer, who was a couple of steps away, feeling a little bit scared – “what if my rubbery wimpy arms actually stop working?”, or “what if that douchebag was lying and this isn’t even halfway? because I don’t think I can do this more than that…”. You know, fun thoughts. Fortunately, we were on the dome so early that morning that we really weren’t in a rush at all, so we just took it one step at a time, resting when we needed to, and slowly but surely, we both made it! I have to say, it felt pretty awesome to be climbing Half Dome, and knowing that this mountain was only a small piece of the adventure that was in front of us.

J: holy crap, half dome is a tough climb! My fear of the heights, combined with the altitude making it hard to breathe, and the never-ending stairs up to the sub-dome made that climb intimidating. As stubborn as I am, I knew I would make it to the top, but I did keep wondering ‘why the hell am I putting myself through this? Isn’t the JMT enough?’ But hey, why not cross another adventure off the bucket list, right?  The climb up was mostly mental for me.  I  remember the ranger who checked our permits telling us that there were no false summits.  To me, that means there is nothing that looks like you’re almost at the top.  He lied.  There were moments that you can’t see any more rock above you and you think you’re almost there, but actually, you aren’t even halfway.  What a relief when you finally get to the top, the cables and rock start to flatten out, and you can start to appreciate the expansive views of Yosemite around you….amazing!



Obviously, we had to stay up there for a while. As it turns out, we had cell service, and we called our respective husbands who both already knew that we’d made it as they were stalking tracking us the entire morning with the Spot tracker. We also ate our first of many Snickers Bars before the marmot got to them, snapped some selfies, and eventually made our way down.


How well fed is the marmot?! He was super close to getting an entire bag of trail mix from some dummy.


Don’t worry, parents – we were totally not on the edge. But we really were.

J: Notice my death grip on Heather as if she would save me should the rock suddenly start falling…


I had a much easier time climbing down than up, so I sat at the bottom and snapped some shots of Jennifer on her way down. By this point, a whole herd of people were climbing up, so it was a little trickier navigating the folks on the cables on either side.

J:  I had a much tougher time going down.  It was soooo steep! My feet kept slipping which made me feel like I was losing control.  Like most people, I went backwards down the cables which means you’re still able to face the rock instead of looking out and noticing that you could slip to your death at any moment.  But heading down, you are forced to look down behind you to make sure you’re not going to run into someone coming up.  This was terrifying for me, but I slowly eased my way down the mountain…


It was sort of a big deal. The first of a few.


I had to get a picture at the point where we turned around last year – it was a much happier face this time around. I’d later learn how un-smart I was to have not put on sunscreen by this point, and how much heavier my pack would feel with numb arms as a result of pulling oneself up Half Dome. But at that exact moment, I couldn’t be bothered.

After we finished HD, we made it back to our packs, had a nice, long lunch, and decided it was time to get moving if we were going to make it to our goal that day.

The next section of trail turned out to be one of the hardest parts of the entire JMT for me. I think conquering HD was such a highlight of the day, and the rest was really uneventful, other than the fact that we had to constantly ascend (over 5,000 feet that day!). The scenery itself was even a little sad, as it was a section of the park that had really suffered from a recent forest fire. It was sad, but also really serene. Nonetheless, we soon realized that there wasn’t even a good place to stop prior to Sunrise even if we’d decided to – so we just pushed on. And on. And on. We eventually met back up with Sean & Cassidy, who’d made it most of the way up to Clouds’ Rest that day, and were also going to Sunrise. We leap-frogged them multiple times throughout the day.


Day 2 would fortunately turn out to be our latest day – we got to camp after 9PM, walking a good hour in the dark, our little headlamps guiding the way on a trail that seemed so much longer than anticipated. My GPS watch had died a couple of hours back – at which point I quickly realized I’d be making use of my portable battery more than I’d initially assumed – so I wasn’t sure how much longer we had; we just kept going until we saw little camp lights and tents ahead. I remember talking to Chris at the end of the following day about this section of the hike, and of course he was tracking us, he and Jon texting back and forth the whole time in disbelief that we’d decided to keep going this much.

We ate a really late dinner and hit the sack ASAP, both agreeing to sleep in on Day 3, which would hopefully be much easier, and end with us getting our first resupply and hopefully a BURGER to celebrate the first portion of the JMT.

So far, this adventure was shaping up to be exactly as hard (and this day, quite a bit harder) than I’d imagined.

Until next time ;)

Day 2 Details (July 26, 2015):
Start-Finish: Little Yosemite Valley to Half Dome to Sunrise High Sierra Camp
Daily Miles: 12.7
Mileage Tally: 20.7
Camp elevation: 9,310 ft
Hiking Elevation: 5385 ft gain, 2206 ft loss

Hey! Here’s a link to all JMT posts for your reading pleasure ;). You’re welcome.


John Muir Trail, Day 1: Glacier Point to Little Yosemite Valley

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Check this out! Jennifer is joining in on posting here. To do that, I’ve given her total access to my blog, so if you see something weird on other pages, tell me. She can’t be trusted….. Anyway, get excited. There will be my regular posts, and Jennifer will add her commentary too on some/hopefully all. Double the fun!!! So here goes: 

I remember waking up on Day 1 in disbelief that it was finally here. Everyone says that, right? I took a nice, semi-long shower, knowing it was going to be a while before I had one of those. Everyone says that, too.

I knew I wasn’t crazy-nervous because I couldn’t poop. Everyone probably doesn’t say that. So if you’re reading this and thinking that this was WAY too much information, you might want to tune out to these posts. There is a lot of poop to talk about. But yes – normally, if I’m really really nervous, I poop a lot. Some people sweat a lot, some people get nauseated. I poop. And since I didn’t that morning, that meant two things: 1) I wasn’t nervous and 2) these next couple of days were going to be interesting….

Anyway, we all took our sweet time that morning, knowing it would be a while before we saw our respective loved ones, and we made it to the Glacier Point trailhead around noon. If you’re unfamiliar with this location, it’s an alternate start point to Happy Isles, the more popular trailhead and official start of the JMT. At GP, the Panorama Trail eventually joins up with the JMT near Nevada Falls and then heads via a relatively flat trail about 1 mile further to the Little Yosemite Valley campsite.


We did some final rearranging at the car, and walked to a more scenic area to eat some shitty lunch sandwiches (but note: fresh food!). At the time, I was feeling pretty stoked about getting another attempt at that beastly Half Dome the next day, so sitting right in front of it was cool. I remember thinking about Yosemite, looking around and realizing that, yeah, we’d get to Half Dome the next day, but we were walking waaaaay past it too – a distance I hadn’t quite appreciated and probably wouldn’t for a few days.

J:  Unlike Heather, I had no problem flushing out my system a few times that morning.  All I had to do was picture the steep climb up the cables on Half Dome and my nerves put me right back in the bathroom.  I mean, just look at that thing! AND two weeks earlier, a large chunk of rock fell off the north face of HD with reports warning that more rockfall is likely in this area.  Awesome.  The good thing was that my fear of climbing Half Dome blocked any worry of actually completing the JMT.  That was just walking…


We took a few more pictures of ourselves looking pretty excited, super clean, and pain-free. We even had good hair that day, and of course, no other trail casualties at that point.


I should mention that, by this point, we’d already seen 4 bears. Yup. Three of them were chillin’ in the woods off the road as we drove up to the trailhead, and one was right there at Glacier Point, a little ways from the parking lot, just minding his/her own business. I was glad to have seen them before hiking, hoping that meant I wouldn’t see them while hiking. I realize now that that was a really stupid way of thinking…


We finally set off, and the moments following our departure were so surreal. Chris and Jon were standing there watching us, like the way parents watch their kids the first day they get on the school bus. Allow me to stereotype for a moment: Chris was the ‘dad’ – snapping pictures of us walking away, looking proud and excited; Jon was the ‘mom’ – wiping his eyes and weeping just a little bit, thinking about his little girl going off into the big world. It was perfect, and even though I’m joking, I’m sure that is just a little bit accurate.

J:  I remember a slightly different departure…Chris was creepily trying to take photos of his wife’s hiking booty as she walked away while Jon wiped sweat from his brow secretly hoping to get back to the air conditioned car.  Jon and I knew we’d miss each other, but it was only 3 weeks, right?  It didn’t seem like it would be a big deal.

The thing I remember most of all though was when we had trouble finding the trailhead (great start, right?) and the two hikers we asked for directions exclaimed, “Wow! You girls are backpacking and the boys are heading home? That’s awesome!”  …Agreed.

We were finally hiking. Months of planning how to get permits, months of planning the trip itself, and then now – Day 1. Mother fucker. Holy shit. Oh boy.


I think the first day was harder than either one of us expected. I for one hadn’t thought at all about the temperature we’d be walking in, having started hiking in the afternoon. And while we had a decent amount of downhill to do since we started higher than the our campsite for the night, we also had some climbing and sweating to take care of. It was hot as balls. Hotter than balls.

Most of the people we saw were day hikers. When we got to Nevada Falls, we stopped for a nice break and even helped some underprepared day hikers by loaning them our Steripen to sterilize water, as they’d sorely underestimated how much they’d need for the walk up to that point. It felt pretty badass to be helping someone on the first day ;). Well, badass until I laid down in a pile of dirt (not pictured).


I have written down that we got to camp around 5 that day. It gave us plenty of time to adjust to our surroundings, fill up our water, and drink some whiskey (straight, too! so badass) while we still wanted it. It was a good way to end the first day until we walked right into a giant mud hole. That was awesome.


There was some creeper across from our tent who was sitting there munching on Doritos and staring at people. Nice huh? Judging by his clothes, I think he was one of the Yosemite ‘janitors’ – he didn’t have a backpack, had a shit-ton of junk food for dinner, and had rubbery-looking waders on. I decided there were plenty of people around, so he wasn’t worth worrying about. Plus, if he really was cleaning that toilet area, I liked him even if he was a creeper.

What was worth worrying about was the warning we got around 8PM that a bear was nearby. Great way to start this trip, eh?

J: A bear was 150 meters away from our camp!  The ranger was telling everyone to pack up their food and scented items in the bear boxes (locked metal vaults) because they were trying to scare the bear away using paintball guns, but “it will be wandering through camp tonight” …What?!?  I triple checked that my honey flavored lip balm was NOT still in my pocket and tried to get some sleep.

Obviously, neither of us were eaten by said bear….so I’ll ruin that suspense, and close for Day 1.

Below are stats for the day, as I’ll try to do at the end of each day. So what’s the big adventure tomorrow? Half Dome, bitches! And a whole lotta UP.

Day 1 Details (July 25,2015):
Start-Finish: Glacier Point to Little Yosemite Valley
Daily Miles: 8
Mileage Tally: 8
Camp Elevation: 6,130 ft
Hiking Elevation: 1089 ft gain, 2172 ft loss

Hey! Here’s a link to all JMT posts for your reading pleasure ;). You’re welcome.


John Muir Trail, Day 0: San Francisco to Yosemite

this way to the JMT

Howdy Friends!

I intended to get these posts out on the internets a long time ago, but life has a way of picking right back up where you leave off after vacation, doesn’t it?!

If you haven’t read about the preparation for the JMT, or don’t know what the JMT is, you should read the three posts I wrote earlier this summer (the intro,  the meal planning, and the resupplying) before you get started here. Or else you’ll be really lost, and I ain’t got time to tell the backstory again ;).

So! It is nearly 2 months since Jennifer and I completed the John Muir Trail (yes! we made it!), and I so want to tell my experience. I hope the entries in my journal and the pictures we took will refresh my memory enough to paint the picture accurately, but I tell you, this journey was so entirely amazing, beautiful, breath-taking, and life-changing that I just know I can’t do it justice completely. I will try…

My hope its to post a short snippet of each day on the trail, retracing our steps, our meals, and the ups and downs (both mentally and physically) along the way. Between Jennifer and myself (& Chris!), and the many friends we made on the JMT, I think we have some really great stories. And of course, anyone who undertakes this sort of journey has their own unique experience, so Jennifer and I will have completely and totally different accounts of this trip. Maybe I can rope her into chiming in on occasion…

So here goes, with the day before, what we folks in hiker-land call DAY ZERO.

DAY 0 of 20

Day ZERO is the day before shit gets really real. But it still felt pretty damn real on this day. Day 0 is 7/24/15, Friday. Jennifer and Jon flew in to San Francisco late Wednesday night. The timing of the trip had honestly worked out perfectly, as Jon and Chris had tickets to a concert on Thursday, which meant that both of them would be able to head down to Yosemite to see us off on the big adventure.

Of course, Friday was a work day for me since I barely had enough time off for the JMT as it were. Around noon, I’d gotten all my ‘to-dos’ off my plate, and felt ok about shutting down the laptop. The hardest task on Day 0 was packing the car – as you can see, we have a tiny Mini Cooper – Chris and I had ‘practice-packed’ a few weeks ago and were confident everything would fit – but knew it would be a tight squeeze.

car packing

how will this all fit?

Almost there!

Needless to say, we finally got the dang car packed without an inch to spare. Four hours later, we were in Yosemite National Park pulling up to the permit office. Five minutes after that, we had permits in our grubby little hands! All I remember about those 5 minutes is how prepared I felt – how badass we were for doing this, or trying this. And how I was so relieved that he found our name…relieving my paranoid fear that our permit was all a big hoax. Nope – it was legit, and this was really happening.

The picture below makes me laugh. I can’t tell how I feel, but Jennifer looks a little terrified. Or maybe just crazy. What am I doing hiking 20 days with this crazy person??!! ha ha

Also, please make note of our sunglasses – both in great shape. This will change at some point…


Anyway, this is about it for Day 0. We got the permit, we wandered around Yosemite a little, and we grabbed a fancy-but-shitty dinner before heading to our hotel at the Yosemite View Lodge.

Chris had gotten me a journal to take on the JMT and had written a little snippet in it each day for me to read at the end of every day (how cute, right?!). For Day 0, he started with a quote:

“Strength: A river cuts through a rock not because of its power, but its persistence” – Lara Croft

Ok yeah, he wrote a Tomb Raider quote. But I thought it was entirely appropriate – this trip was going to take a whole lotta persistence – that was no joke.

What did I write that night? Not much – I was in disbelief that we were starting this journey the next day. Six months of saying we were going to apply for permits, 4 actual days of applying for permits and hundreds of faxes (yes, faxes) later, and six more months of planning – resupplies, food prep, gear purchasing, miles and miles of hiking practice – all of which led up to one big day – tomorrow.

Needless to say, it was hard to sleep that night, but I tried to remind myself how much I’d soon miss that bed, the pillows, and the warm body (that wasn’t Jennifer’s!) by my side.

Daily Miles: ZERO
Mileage Tally: ZERO
Elevation: Somewhere around 4,000 feet


JMT Prep: Resupply

[Part 3 of our JMT Prep plan. See previous POST 1 for the background and POST 2 for the food story.]

I really wanted to get this post out before we left, so here goes. The food questions have been answered, and now it’s time to talk about just how that food gets to us throughout these upcoming (2 days!) 21 days.

No one in their right mind would carry 21 days worth of food. First – it’s heavy – and remember, I cut out something that weighed an ounce. But second, and probably even more importantly, you really can’t. Most areas of the John Muir Trail require carrying of a ‘bear canister’. They are virtually impossible for naughty hungry bears to open, even though they are certainly NOT scent-proof.

This is a typical bear canister:


They aren’t small, as you can see. They weight about 2-3 pounds themselves, depending on the brand and should carry about 4-5 days of food for 1 person, of course depending on density/volume/number of snacks/booze/etc. But note: NOT 21 DAYS. Eventually, using them becomes really easy, as does getting it in and out of your backpack.

But not being able to carry all the food at once means you have to do something called “resupply”: you have to plan out stops along the trail so that you can pick up food and restock. The first half of the trail has more options, like in Yosemite and the ‘resort’ where we are staying; the last half of the JMT has fewer options. Some people simply resupply by buying food at the stores that are along the trail (usually not on the trail, but off by .5 miles or so). Others, like us, mail boxes or buckets to those locations that are held (for a fee; ain’t nothin’ free!) until we arrive.

Jennifer and I ultimately decided to resupply 3 times, so once we figured that out, we each had our own methods to organize. For me, I was lucky enough to have a spare bookcase in which to put labels, as you see here:IMG_5533

As you can probably read, we are starting the trail carrying 3 days of food. We resupply at a place called Tuolumne Meadows (in Yosemite), where we will pick up a box that contains our food and snacks for Days 4-8. Jennifer packed the snacks for this leg earlier than others, so that I could bring them back to SF when I was visiting in Seattle over July 4th. This helped to decrease cost of shipping since we only sent 1 box to this location.

Here is the box:IMG_5583

Packed and ready to go – we sent this one off first, since we are getting to this location earlier in the trip. Delivery confirmation showed it as being at the Tuolumne Meadows post office, so we should be good to go on this one!IMG_5584

The second resupply is a bit trickier, and bigger. We are staying at a place called Vermilion Valley Resort to relax on our 9th day of the trip. We have no miles planned and a reservation for a real bed, a shower (!), and laundry. This place will also have magical things like sandwiches, beer, and BBQ. It’s going to feel good for that 1 little day.

That said though, once we leave VVR, we have to carry 8 days worth of food. Remember how I said the bear cans only held around 4-5 days worth of food? Yeah, that’s right – but luckily, bear cans aren’t required along the beginning of that 8 day section, so we’ll be able to whittle down our food supply and eventually get it all back into the bear can by the time we have to. Don’t worry – no bear attacks will be had here – that’s one part of this trip that we’re totally prepared for.

As you see below, for my VVR bucket, I have all of mine and Jennifer’s meals laid out for those 8 days, and also a few replacement toiletries, like wipes and sunscreen, and even a fresh pair of clothes to wear while my dirty dirty laundry is being washed (these clothes will be tossed before we leave).IMG_5586IMG_5589

VVR recommends shipping in a bucket, so that’s what you see here – a 5 gallon bucket that is literally filled to the brim with our supplies (the picture shows it halfway full, but don’t you worry – it was to the top when it went out):IMG_5592

This got shipped out last week, and has also been confirmed as arrived at VVR:


So after that, we have 4 more days to go, and this is the section where the resupply options are few and far between. Most require you to leave the trail by about 14 miles roundtrip, and an extra day of hiking. You could also hire a pack mule service which will set you back a few hundred dollars. Or you could find a loving husband who happily hikes in 7 miles to resupply you for your last 4 days, and walks the rest of the trail with you:

I have a feeling that, no matter how much whiskey he does or doesn’t bring, this will probably be my favorite of all the resupplies. But I also have a feeling he will want to sleep in a tent all by himself due to the stench emanating from the two of us.

So that’s the quick 3 post rundown! We are almost ready for this thing. We’ll be in Yosemite in less than 48 hours, hopefully getting a good night’s sleep, and starting mile 1 of many on Saturday.

Regardless of the outcome, I’ll report back here at some point – so stay tuned!



jambalaya, bitches!

JMT Trail Planning – Meal Prep

jambalaya, bitches!

jambalaya, bitches!

The main reason I decided to write about this backpacking trip Jennifer and I are going on (NEXT WEEK!) is because we’ve gotten a ton of questions as the trip has come closer and closer to really happening (although let’s be honest – I have a week or so left to chicken out, right?).

Aside from the inevitable question from my parents (“Why do you want to just walk for 230 miles?”), a large majority of the questions have really centered around the planning. And for good reason – we’ve been doing it since January when we had to plan our permit requests. The planning is no joke, people.

You don’t just toss shit it in a bag a week or two before you leave. Doing such a thing would be pretty silly – sillier than doing this trip in the first place. You have to constantly think of 3 things during planning: cost, comfort, and weight. Fortunately, I had a lot of backpacking gear already, but this trip has still required quite a few extra purchases, one of the most significant being a food dehydrator, which I’ll get to in a second. Weight-wise, I’m not kidding when I say that I removed a pair of iPhone headphones because I “don’t need the extra weight (of 1 ounce).” I hope I don’t regret that when Jennifer starts talking in her sleep….

When it came to comfort, after the obvious things like having a nice backpack and good hiking shoes, I realized that I needed to have some comforts from home in the way of food. I knew I’d go crazy eating Clif bars for every meal, and I knew from previous hiking trips that my body does not respond well to the enormous amounts of sodium in the store-bought freeze-dried meals, even if they are surprisingly tasty (not to mention they are $10 each).

This is where the dehydrator comes in handy. This amazing contraption has allowed us to have things like dehydrated cheese powder (!) and dehydrated peanut sauce (!!), as well as homemade jambalaya (!!!).


freshly dehydrated Tillamook cheddar!


peanut sauce in the making

People keep saying that we are going to be eating better than anyone on the JMT. I think we’ll be eating better than 90% of people, for sure. But some people go hardcore gourmet when it comes to hiking food, and I won’t be surprised to see fancy pour-over coffee contraptions, pots and pans, and actual plates. Plates! (We eat out of bags…)

Now, getting all of the food through the trail is just as tricky as getting yourself through the trail; that’s going to be the next post. But since people ask us a lot about our food, I figured I’d share the “menu”, meal-wise. Jennifer and I divvied up the food tasks – I took on making our meals since I bought the dehydrator, and she is prepping every last snack and instant coffee pack.

We have a few “fresh” meals throughout the trip, such as days where we resupply and over our “zero day”, so we aren’t eating 21 pre-prepped breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. It shakes down to 16 breakfasts, 17 lunches, and 17 dinners that I had to prepare in advance. To make sure we don’t get too tired of any one meal, we decided on 4 different breakfasts and lunches and 5 different dinners – all rotating throughout the trip.

This is what we came up with (and all have been tested) –


  1. cheese & bacon grits
  2. granola cereal
  3. cranberry-pistachio oatmeal
  4. Clif bar (different one each time)


  1. smoked salmon & hummus on dill triscuits
  2. veggie pasta salad
  3. peanut butter & honey tortillas
  4. tuna couscous with Italian dressing


  1. quinoa & veggies in peanut sauce
  2. mac n’ cheese with broccoli & ham
  3. chicken curry & rice
  4. beef & bean chili
  5. chicken & sausage jambalaya

Sounds pretty decent huh? Now you might be wondering just how we are eating all of this, right? The only perishable items are things we will buy once or twice along the way (tortillas and triscuits). Everything else is either pre-packaged (Clif bar, peanut butter packs) or dehydrated at home. Dehydrating does two things for us – 1) it keeps things shelf stable so we don’t die from rancid food and 2) it significantly cuts down on weight and bulk. For example, a serving of chili (2 cups fresh) weighs 18 ounces, but when dehydrated, it weighs 4.6 ounces – huge difference. HUGE. Also, it’s amazing just how many things you can actually dehydrate. It’s sorta fun…

Dehydrating also means we can limit what we carry to cook – we share a Jetboil, which is a device with the sole purpose of boiling water in under 2 minutes. We pour the water into the freezer bag our food is in, close it, and let it rehydrate for a few minutes. For lunch, our meals don’t even need boiling water – we made sure we had only cool/room temperature lunches, to save time and effort (and we figured it would be the warmest then, and a hot lunch sounded gross).

Where did we come up with the meals? Lots of places. I started by looking on, which is a great site for backpacking recipes. I made quite a few of those meals that passed the test (veggie pasta salad, chicken curry rice, cheese grits), and also tested a few that I didn’t like as much. A couple of recipes were made from my blog (remember when I posted recipes?!?) – the jambalaya and chai granola made the list, and the chana masala was a solid 6th place dinner option, which we decided we didn’t need (but it was great on a couple of practice trips!). Some of them were just cobbled together until they were ‘right’: the quinoa with peanut sauce, for instance, or the smoked salmon on triscuits, and last but certainly not least – the mac n’ cheese, which took 3 practice runs to get right.

The meal prep was definitely time-consuming, but I know it will be worth it, given that we absolutely NEED to eat A LOT, and as a result, it will help to like the food and have variety. Making the food saved us money, too, since we didn’t have to buy the pre-made meals, and we don’t have to restock while on the trail at the couple of stores we have access to.

Snack-wise, Jennifer has some super solid things lined up, too. Lots of trail mix, peanut M&Ms, Snickers bars (a hiking MUST), jerky, Goldfish, and even some cheesecake pudding for dessert. And Girl Scout cookies. BOOM.

And of course, you can’t hike without coffee and whiskey – so that’s on lockdown, too.

When it comes to the food, we are more than ready. Next time, I’ll explain how it all gets on the trail ;).



A Little Adventure

I went back and forth about whether or not I’d write any real posts about this adventure, but I ultimately decided it would be nice to have some sort of documentation on some of this planning, and the days leading up to the big day – so here goes –

So my friend, Jennifer, and I are doing this crazy thing this month. And saying, “this month” is sorta freaky now…

Over a year ago, we thought of this crazy idea to do a backpacking trip together, and decided that hiking the John Muir Trail sounded relatively “doable”. Of course, we later learned the difficulty in obtaining permits, and wondered if we’d even be able to go… but we tried anyway! After deciding on a large range of potential dates this summer, we started the permit process and a few days later, we were feeling a little like Charlie in the Chocolate Factory. A golden ticket!!! Hells yes.


But truthfully, we were both sorta like, “Holy shit. Now we have to do this thing”. And I know I for one was like, “Holy shit. Now we have to do this thing, and can I even do this thing?”.

This was back in January.

We are leaving in less than 3 weeks, and back in January I thought this month would never come, but now that it’s here I go to sleep with the jitters every night. It’s pretty exciting just to think about going, I’ll be honest.


So here are the details:

  • The entire trip will take 21 days, starting on 7/25
  • The John Muir Trail (JMT, or “jimt” as we say for short…) is 221 miles; our total hiking will probably be closer to 230.
  • We have 1, maybe 2, days of no hiking, what we call zero days. This all depends on how awesome we do.
  • We are NOT carrying 21 days of food – we are resupplying at 3 points along the way – one of those points is Chris, who is joining us to hike the last 4 days and bringing one last batch of food (and whiskey!).
  • There is relatively NO cell service, so we will not be live-blogging this adventure. Plus, that sorta defeats the purpose of going remote, anyway.
  • We will, however, take a shitload of pictures, and we have trail journals, and we even have a playlist for early days at camp, and songs like “Push It” if we are struggling up a mountain. Yeah, I’m serious about that. I’m sure I’ll need anything to get me up those ‘hills’.

And finally, we will both look absolutely stunning for all 21 days, because, well, just look at us:

IMG_3486 IMG_6648

More later. I’m considering a detailed post about our itinerary, and one about the cooking prep, since this is technically a FOOD blog.

Peace homies.


Nduja (en-doo-yah).

FullSizeRenderSo, yeah. Hi!

The other night, Chris asked me how long it’s been since I’d posted. July 2014. Woah. But on occasion, I miss this place. I know I say that every time I disappear for a while, but it’s true. Plus, sometimes I make something that I just need to share. And tonight, that happened.

I still cook the same way. A lot of other things have changed (more on that in a moment), but I still clip recipes from my favorite magazines, and sometimes they sit around for a while, sometimes they get cooked immediately. Nduja (en-doo-yah), a spicy, spreadable pork sausage, is an ingredient I’ve wanted to cook with for a long time. I found a recipe in a recent Bon Appetit magazine that I couldn’t resist – a pasta sauce made with nduja, with small pieces of shrimp nestled within, and squid ink pasta running throughout.


The first step is making a quick and easy shrimp stock. As much as I hate peeling shrimp, when I make shrimp stock I realize that it only takes about 5 minutes to shell a pound of them, and whether or not you need shrimp stock in the recipe at hand, you should always, always make it and freeze it if you don’t need it. In fact, I still have lobster stock in the freezer from who knows when. I really don’t know when…


I’m sure you could buy squid ink (actually, I know you can) and make your own fresh pasta injected with it, but I prefer to just pay someone to do this part. I’m all about a cooking project, but not on a weeknight, and this is a weeknight recipe, no doubt. If you’re in San Francisco, Local Mission Market is the place to go.


The end result is really magnificent. Saucy, spicy amazingness bathing fresh, black pasta with a nubbin of shrimp in every single bite. It reminds me just a tad of paella – and I’m not sure I can explain why, so I’ll just let you decide, if you decide, of course, to whip this up.


Did you see a little furry face in the background above? Go look again – you were probably focused on the pasta. Not judging.

But I’ll back up for a minute. A while ago, I mentioned that we were house-hunting. It takes a long time in San Francisco. Well, 7 months and 7 offers later, it finally happened! We moved late in August last year, and said Adios! to that little ol’ Mission apartment. We now live in a neighborhood called Mission Dolores, right between the Mission and the Castro, and super convenient for practically everything in the city. I haven’t been as good about sharing pictures on social media, but I did upload a few to Flickr, so feel free to take a look.

Now those of you who read here frequently know I was crazy-attached to my Tangerine. It took a lot longer than I previously thought to even consider another cat around here. But shortly after we moved, we were visiting a favorite winery, and they happened to have another litter of kittens (does that sound weird? It’s totally normal, I promise). We found an adorable tiny little blob of fur whose wee little eyes were practically begging us to take her home. But we didn’t. We were both traveling for work the next week, so the timing didn’t add up. We said goodbye, and crossed our fingers that she wouldn’t get eaten by a coyote (kidding, sort of), and the following weekend, we came back and got her. Life with a little kitten has been so much fun. But now she’s giant, it seems, because they always grow so dang fast. But this one – this little Sirah – she is something really special. I can’t believe I already love her so much, and she’s pretty attached to us, too.

So, now we’re all caught up, right? Things have definitely changed, but really, a lot is still the same. And all of it – every last bit – couldn’t be better.


Squid Ink Pasta With Shrimp, Nduja, And Tomato

adapted from Bon Appetit, March 2015; serves 4
time commitment: 45 minutes, most active

printable recipe

1 lb large shell-on shrimp
3 T olive oil, divided
6 garlic cloves, divided, 2 smashed, 4 thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
1 c puréed tomatoes
4 oz nduja
Kosher salt
12 oz squid ink spaghetti
¼ c fresh lemon juice
¼ c chopped fresh parsley, plus more for serving
Freshly ground black pepper

Peel and devein shrimp, saving shells. Finely chop shrimp; set aside. Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high and cook smashed garlic, stirring, until golden, about 1 minute. Add reserved shells and cook, stirring, until bright pink, about 2 minutes. Add bay leaf and 2 cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until stock is slightly reduced and flavorful, 8–10 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl; discard solids.

Heat remaining 2 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add sliced garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove skillet from heat and carefully add tomatoes and 1 cup stock. Return to heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce is beginning to thicken, about 3 minutes. Add nduja, using a wooden spoon to work it into the sauce. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until flavors have melded, about 3 minutes. Stir in reserved shrimp and cook, stirring occasionally, until opaque, about 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until very al dente (fresh-made pasta will only need about 2-4 minutes to cook). Drain pasta, reserving 1½ cups pasta cooking liquid.

Add pasta and 1 cup pasta cooking liquid to sauce and cook, tossing often and adding more cooking liquid to help finish cooking pasta, until pasta is al dente and sauce is thickened (but still saucy) and coats pasta, about 5 minutes. Add lemon juice and ¼ cup parsley; toss. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve pasta topped with more parsley.