Days 0 and 1

Well, pretty much the usual procrastination nonsense on my part.  I DID have a lot to do this week, but still.  I’d wanted to get a fair deal more done on making meals and trail mix the night before, but I guess I passed out from drinking 2 glasses of wine…or maybe the water (a 24 pack of 8 oz bottles I POUNDED throughout the day that I was planning to use for oil bottles).  This led to me scooping stuff (measuring? pshaw) into baggies from 8-5:20 pretty much straight and frantically throwing things into boxes.  I left a half hour late for the airport, and a lot unfinished.  Just so happy to finally be done with that- whatever I did, that’s it.  Hopefully it’s enough.  But it’s great now!  I don’t have to worry about so much except walking!

The car ride to the airport takes longer because of traffic but it’s fine- I know I’ll get through quickly and I do.  I’m feeling more of a feeling of optimism, things can’t phase me.  Hey!  Awesome free hummus and olives in airport lounge!  I get carded because the woman at the bar thinks I’m 20 rather than 34!  Plane’s late, no problem.  I roll into the hotel (gotten for 5,000 IHG points, it was on reduced points breaks rate) around 1:30 am, take a shower and relax until 2.  2:30, I’m still not asleep.  I toss and turn until at least 3, and basically the rest of the night.  Each time I have a vague sensation that too much time has gone by.  Finally I check and it’s 1.5 hrs after I planned to get up.  I make coffee and have a little trail mix, and head to the MARTA station, which thankfully is right across from the hotel.  It’s $3 to go to the North Springs station.  The train is delayed a few times but I really don’t care.

Once at MARTA North Springs I see three other hikers but they all have shuttles that are $60-85.  Uh, no.  As I’d been advised it looks like a pain to hitchhike from there so it’s time for plan B- Uber.  After $22 signup discount and 10% cashback from Discover it’s $40 to get a ride in 5 minutes all the way to the trailhead at Springer mountain, including the last 10 miles on a compact dirt road (this takes about 45 minutes of the drive time).  My driver gives me his personal business card which is in the form of a fake trillion dollar bill (a la the current US budget deficit) complete with multiple forms of contact info- including a QR code.  He wears a suit when he drives “just in case”; today’s specimen was a mismatched orange and beige plaid combo- classy.  Actually though we had a nice conversation about politics, and most importantly, he was totally game to drive almost two hours to the Appalachian trail from the Atlanta suburbs.

When I get there a guy named Mountain Squid was signing people in.  Apparently already 30 people had started out that day before noon, though around half were section hikers.  I started my way up the 1 mile “backwards” to Springer.  A half mile in I can’t stand it anymore and sprint off trail to pee.  Got a rip in the Frogg Toggs rainsuit already, and I hadn’t officially started yet!  Oh well.  At the top it was grey and foggy, didn’t feel like a mountain at all.  There was a drawer in the rock on the right side, reminded me of that key slot in the Hallmark version of The Secret Garden (who’s with me?  Right?)

It was raining bits of the trail after, feeling good though. Not so much nasties on the trail but then the rain started to pick up.  Got to Stover Creek shelter which is a beaut, couple guys and I decided to keep this nice one and avoid the predicted downpour.  Rain came down hard but eventually let up completely.  The sun came out and reflected on water droplets like icicles.

Miles hiked: 3.8


Dehydrate-a-thon Day 6 (last day!)

Well the last day of dehydrating.  I am writing this after the fact but it was dehydrate all day.  I got in some peaches and mangoes bought from Smart and Final in addition to everything else I had.  Gave up on the tahini which did not dehydrate at all.  I will use Amazon credits to buy some instant hummus I guess.  I think it was around $20 at Smart and Final, I will update later (but it may be months later!  Am writing from 6 days in on the trail as it is 😛

Also had the chance to go to costco last night with a friend.  It was too expensive to make jerky compared with their prices (I’d have to buy the right cuts of meat at under $4/lb just to compete with them), so I got a bunch of packs, and one or two other things (pea chips, nuts).  I spent a little over $100.

I was starting to wonder how I would get everything to NJ on the plane so headed to the Goodwill, which had provided a major score previously in the form of almost new New Balance minimus trail runners (later discarded as they were too small), Patagonia capilene 4 bottoms in my size, and a shirt and nice pants for my easter gig, all at $3 a piece.  The Goodwill hooked me up again with an almost new trunk and a classy American Tourister suitcase for $22 total.  I can consider that my “shipping” fee I guess though honestly that trunk would be pretty sweet to bring when I go on the cruise ship.

Just finishing everything up, it was really stressful to do this.  I feel pretty satisfied I got almost everything done but to be honest I am not sure if I would do things this exact way in the future.  Of course if it had been spread out instead of all in one week that would have made a huge difference.  I was really grateful though that my friends could hook me up with a place to stay and do this and also the dehydrators.

Dehydrate-a-thon Day 5

My time is almost up in LA and I am getting more nervous that I will get everything done.  I am not giving myself room to think about this (or just avoiding the issue?  who knows) and just moving from one dehydration project to the next.

Today I got the 6lbs of ground free-range turkey done.  As with the pork, it was actually really easy to do.  I’m not sure of the fat content but it didn’t seem like there was so much.  I cooked it in a non-stick pan (sorry guys, it’s what my friend had) and then rinsed in water in a colander.  I also put the sauerkraut and garbanzo beans in, the sauerkraut finished relatively quickly while the beans took longer.  I also had decided to put tahini in to see if I could dehydrate that.  Uh, what was I thinking?  Dumb move, it’s oily.  It didn’t end up dehydrating at all (on teflon sheets).  Now I have to order pre-made hummus mix which was sort of a stupid move.  Oh well, it happens.  I think I will use the beans now to make a lunch salady thing.  The refried beans by the way are going to go with the turkey in a sort of mashed chili.  I just decided it was easier to deal with, and I didn’t care as much about the texture.

While all this stuff was cooking I decided to take a walk to get the beef I wanted for Massaman curry.  This was my 3rd time walking around LA since I got back, mostly on Santa Monica Blvd.  It is still really shocking, here in the US what happens when you are walking is you see numerous homeless people, and have to avoid getting hit by a car every couple intersections.  How do we think this is ok?  The only other country I saw as many people on the streets as in the US was India, and that’s because people are p.o.o.r. there.  Completely unacceptable in a so-called first world country like the US claims to be.

It was a bit of a walk to get to the Sprouts natural market on Westwood Blvd, and I had forgotten that there was a Cost Plus World Market on the intersection there.  Sweet!  There is a post on the blog-o-verse about someone who got mini sausages for backpacking there, I decided to take a look.

When I stepped into the store there was a huge sign advertising 30% off all “salami”.  I asked the clerk what that meant and she said it was actually off all vacuum packed meats.  Score!  I got a variety of stuff: (US-made 😦 ) “Spanish” chorizo, various Italian style salamis, peppered salami, herbal salami, and even a cacao-salami which will be either disgusting or awesome.  I got in line and noticed everyone with their smartphones out with a coupon.  Oh wait!  I have one of those things now.  I looked online and easily found a code that got me another 10% off everything.  I spend about $25 in total.

After this I walked with my stash to Sprouts up the street.  The beef roasts were actually not for grass fed as I’d thought, just regular (though hormone-free) at $7/lb.  I decided to change my plan as I’d also not found the Massaman curry paste and get the grass fed ground beef which was $5/lb, a good price though not insanely cheap.  Dehydrating this was a little more of a pain than the turkey (I think it was 15% fat) but after I rinsed all the fat out it was pretty good.  I also picked up some good quality ginger candy for weeks when I am due to “get the mens” as my friend calls it.  It always cheers me up and helps with the nausea and pain I often get.

The other score was a bunch of chips.  I needed to boost my “salty” snacks category.  I got 1.6 lb of okra “chips” and 2 lbs of mixed vegetable chips (green beans, squash, taro, beets etc), each at $10/lb.  When you think about normal health food type chips they are often $3-4 a bag, and it’s usually only around 5 oz.  These were a good deal I thought.

Will post final #’s later but I spent around $25 at World Market and maybe $60? at Sprouts.

Dehydrate-a-thon Day 4

Last night I was super tired upon getting home from hanging with my friends.  It was only 10:30 but I turned off the dehydrators and passed out.  I realized this morning that I forgot to put the next batch of pork on (the first batch dehydrated beautifully!) so put the two shoulders I’d thawed out in the slow cooker.  Threw a lot more of my “sauce” (aka random-stuff-from-Nick’s-fridge-and-cabinets) and got a text from Nick later in the day saying it was more awesome than the last one.

The buckwheat noodles STILL were not dehydrated fully so turned the dehydrator timer on for a few more hours before heading out.

Today was a very social day- met my friend from school for breakfast (she had just flown back from some family stuff out east, and was going to China in the evening!!!), and then a couple hours later met up with another one for lunch, or hiking, or whatever it was we had planned to do or didn’t do exactly.  Friend #2 had just taken the CA acupuncture board licensing exams a few days earlier as well as treating some patients at the school clinic in the morning, so wasn’t as up to hiking.  We had some coffee and a salad at Rockenwagner bakery (jeebus! they charge THREE dollars now for a coffee.  Never again.) and then headed to the marina in search of a drink and maybe a little walk.  I guess we got that hike in after all because apparently we logged 7+ miles according to her app.

Finally we went to this place called Killer Cafe, which was pretty sweet and right on the marina.  I lived close by for 4 years, how did I not know about this place?  I swear it wasn’t there before.  So many things in LA are like that and it really frustrated me when I lived there.  Anyway our food was meh (guac/chips) and the beers likewise, but we had a great time catching up and being silly and sarcastic and random.

I am really happy that every day so far I have been able to hang out with old friends, and even get some hiking or walking in!  Super 🙂

I bought a few things today:

$29.78 6lbs Shelton’s ground turkey (it’s free range/no antibiotics)

$12.83 Google express/Groupon promo (1lb organic tahini, 6 packs already cooked sticky rice, 3 boxes Mary’s Gone Crackers, 1 jar Thai green curry paste)

$13.97  Smart and Final (108 oz garbanzo beans, 30 oz dehydrated refried beans, 108 oz sauerkraut)




Dehydrate-a-thon Day 3

Today I was starting to feel the laziness creep on.  Still I was able to finish up the mashed sweet potatoes which were in the second dehydrator, which has proved slightly geriatric.  The kiwis finished up as well and I was also able to cook the buckwheat noodles, which I picked up my friend’s place last night along with my new cellphone and a pair of Darn Tough socks gotten for free on ebay with a discount.  I messed up the noodles a bit though since I thought the best idea was to cook all of them (12 8oz packs) in the gigantic tamale pot at the same time.  Then forget about them.  They were a little pasty going in and I almost regretted dehydrating them at all, but I knew in order to save fuel it would be necessary.  I started them in the dehydrator but looks like they are a long way from finished 😦 Basically though I didn’t get a ton done on the dehydration front today.

I DID however get my new cell phone set up.  I feel like an 85 year old as I apparently no longer have any idea how to use such a thing.  It will be a learning process for sure.  One thing that I noticed that is nice that google apparently has a voice dictation thing.  I’m wondering if wordpress or something has that as well, I will not have a computer on trail obviously and it will make blogging a lot easier.

Another awesome thing that happened was I finally sold my old MLD Exodus pack.  I had put it on a few ultralight gear sites with no replies.  Decided one last try with GearTrade on reddit, got a reply within an hour.  I had to ship to France but that was no problem as the guy actually paid me MORE than what I asked for.  I was happy to ship same day.  Got my new Zpacks Zero backpack covered for in this way.

On the way back awesome thing #3 was that I stopped in the Goodwill store at Stoner/Santa Monica.  I went in and saw a sign advertising that all clothes and shoes were $3.  Why not poke around?  I had gotten rid of almost everything before I left, and the few clothes I managed to not forget or get holes in and bring back with me mostly don’t fit anymore after loosing 20-25lbs.  So what did I find?  Exactly what I was looking for, super dope: a small size women’s Patagonia Capilene 4 bottoms, almost new New Balance trail runners, a ridiculous pair of  running  shorts (motivation for getting in shape) and a black outfit for my Easter gig (we classical musicians are used to always wearing black).  The shoes are too small I think (I really need size 11) but I at least learned I don’t prefer normal shoes any more I guess- I’ve been wearing Merrell Contour Glove trail runners the last year, which are barefoot style- hopefully the zero drop size 11 Altras I got on ebay for like $20 will do the trick.  It’s super hard btw to figure out what sort of sneakers you need overseas, none of these styles are available, let alone in one store to try them on.

Later I went with a friend to meet yet another friend for a little hike at Griffith Park.  I actually had never been to the obvervatory at the top so we checked it out.  I was a little sad I couldn’t go to “Light of the Valkyries” which was playing in the planetarium, but it was overpriced anyway.  Insanely packed over there!  We grabbed some Thai food for dinner, checking off another of my LA cravings.

Dehydrate-a-thon Day 2

Today I finished up the rest of the veggies- 5.5 lbs of sweet potatoes turned into mash, 4 giant heads of cauliflower treated likewise, 6 giant bell peppers, and 2 lbs  of gala apples, along with finishing the veggies from yesterday (I can’t run the dehydrator overnight here and they needed a bit more in the dryer).  The cauliflower took FOREVER and I think it may be because I used parchment paper to line the trays (that dehydrator didn’t have any).  I didn’t get to the hummus but also wasn’t expecting to do the peppers or apples today.

My friend needed to go grocery shopping today anyway so he was cool to drive  me to some local places that usually have good deals.  The Ralph’s is a place I routinely used to score 50-75% off of meat.  I got a pack  of grass fed hamburgers for $3.50 to eat here, but then only got a normal sale on pork shoulder- almost 8 lbs for $11.  Not the highest quality either but a decent price at least.

A lot of normal foods are overpriced there so I suggested dropping by the dollar store up the street.  I did pretty well there, scoring 6 lbs of kiwis, 6 giant peppers and another 1.5lb bag of small ones, 3 lbs pears, 8 lbs gala and golden delicious apples, and just over a half pound  of coconut chips for $23.26.  Unfortunately nothing was organic but what can you do?  It’s a budget healthy thru hike.

NEW FOOD  TOTAL: $112.23

Tonight my friend and I are going  to put the pork in the slow cooker overnight (we can run that because it’s silent, unlike the dehydrator) and I guess I’ll have my first go at dehydrating meat tomorrow.  I also hope to get the apples, kiwis, and pears done.  I’ll be hiking with a frriend tomorrow so a good day to let stuff sit.

I admit I’m starting to get nervous about gettinng everything done but I’ll just do my best, prioritize the things that are  less mess-up-able or mission critical to dehydrate.  I’ve just decided on a dinner that only  involves dehydrating one thing- the rest is bought already dehydrated- so at least that’s one thing I don’t have to worry about too much.

I also am having second thoughts on making jerky.   It looks  like 4lbs of meat or so yield one pound jerky.  I haven’t seen beef or turkey that cheap and I know I can get already made jerky at Costco  (if I can find a friend with a membership) for $9.99/12oz. So I may save myself some hassle and go this route.  I guess buying online is another option which  can work well if I end up getting the amazon credits from a promo I’m working on.

My friend and I were able to go on a little hike while everything was cooking, up at Los Leones.  I had been there with friends almost a year ago to the day and the change was shocking- so green from recent rains!  Hard to believe I was in Southern California.  We logged a tidy 7.8 miles round trip and celebrated with Tacomiendo (the new location quasi-sucks, go to the original on Inglewood)

Dehydrate-a-thon! Day 1 and total budget thus far


Last night I flew into LA from Barcelona, promptly got picked up by my friend, went to a bar, ate sushi with more friends, and had a short and decidedly out of shape karaoke session.  Nothing like hitting the ground running.

With my Japanese fix quenched, or at least soothed, off it was to start dehydrating everything.

I paid $5 to get two boxes of organic veggies via a Living Social deal that was hackable.  All of the veggies above were included!  I got started on chopping kale and chard and was ready to go when my friend kindly dropped off the super awesome, 9 tray Excalibur dehydrator.  *Side note!*  When doing a budget dehydrate-a-thon, probably the best place to do it is somewhere like LA. Because half the people there have a dehydrator they are not using.  I placed the greens on the trays, sprinkled with zaatar seasoning, and put them in the dehydrator.

It took 3-4 hours to reduce 5 huge bunches of greens to this:


Man, shrinkage is a drag.

Anyway I felt emboldened by my first attempt and went on to the next step in my dehydration learning curve: veggies for a curry I will make.  Apparently the best thing to do is dehydrate each ingredient separately as much as possible.  I chopped up 4 HUGE broccoli heads and got this after about 6 hours:


That is so crazy to me!  The carrots and celery took an extra hour or so.  Chopped basil and cilantro only around 4 hours total.  I also dehydrated 2 lbs of bok choi.

In general when dehydrating vegetables, if the item can be eaten in a salad, one doesn’t have to pre cook it.  Otherwise, it’s best to boil, blanch or steam first.  I was lucky in that I am staying at a friend’s house, who happened to still have a giant steamer pot from a tamale-making party I hosted a couple years ago.  Total score for bulk steaming!  I steamed the carrots, broccoli, and bok choi for a few minutes each.  These veggies are all going to go in a Thai green curry with SeaBear salmon I am making.

In the evening another friend came by with HER giant, 9 tray Excalibur dehydrator, so I have good hopes for tomorrow.  The plan is to finish the rest of the vegetables- drying mashed sweet potatoes and mashed cauliflower.  It’s a pretty natural progression on my learning curve.  I was really hoping to start on dehydrating the pasta for a grain-free spaghetti I will make, but apparently it still has not arrived yet.  So if I have time tomorrow I will probably try to start on a hummus or bean dip, which will be one of the lunches I will eat.  I’m kind of bummed since customs confiscated the awesome and cheap Spanish tapenade I had hoped to mix into the hummus (the jar was 135g and I guess the limit was 100g).  But, life goes on, and certainly there are decent options to mix in here in the US.

Total costs so far for food:

$4.96- Living Social promo for two Farm Fresh to You organic CSA boxes of veggies

$39.85- 12 8oz packs of 100% buckwheat soba noodles

$3.05- 45 sq feet parchement paper for lining trays when I make mashes, sauces, etc 😦 would have been cheaper at dollar store but I was able to just run across the street to Smart and Final to buy

$6.67- 1kg Tunisian deglet noor dates (bought in Barcelona)

$12.49- Google express/groupon promo (Got 5 packs of instant sticky rice, 1lb organic mulberries)

$10.95- Google express/groupon promo (4 6.5oz boxes Mary’s Gone Crackers to use with dips/nut butter)



Other things I have gotten so far for free:

I used $35.05 in Amazon credits to buy 5 lbs of dehydrated coconut milk powder.  I hope to use this in quite a few things because of it’s great calorie/weight ratio, and health benefits.  I am not counting the Amazon credits in above totals since they were basically, or actually free from a variety of sources.

4 3oz packs organic beef jerky, 9 grass-fed meat sticks, 2 lamb bars, 20 3oz pouches wild-caught salmon, 30 1.5 oz pouches smoked wild-caught salmon, 123 gluten free, mostly Paleo bars from assorted companies, 10 small chocolate bars, 8 packs seaweed cracker snacks, 24 packs seaweed snacks, 3 lbs sprouted seeds, 6 single-serve size coconut snacks, 6 16oz jars sunflower seed butter, 18 9.75 oz jars chocolate-nut butter, 31 single-serve packets of sunflower or almond nut butter, 24 packs of superfood supplement drink powders.

I got all of this for free just by telling quality food companies (I only wrote ones with sort of things I’d recommend my patients) about my trip and how I am trying to eat healthy on a budget!  I will be reviewing these products on this site and/or Appalachian Trials so that people know there are options out there besides ramen noodles and Snickers bars for their thru hike diet.

I am hoping that I can only spend another $2-300 on food for the grocery part of my hike (I plan to have meals in towns of course when I pass through).  Even though it seems like a lot, it’s actually my food for 4 months of life!  It’s really not that much.  So we’ll see if that works out or not.  I have not made my major expenses of meats yet which could be quite pricy potentially.  Also nuts may be very expensive, but there’s a possibility I may have more Amazon credits soon, so that might be covered.