Friday, September 23, 2016

Yosemite Chronicles: What I'm Eating

In Sacramento, I stuck to a mostly vegan, whole-food diet that was almost entirely produce. This summer, I’ve had to make some modifications. I’m eating more carbs because they are less perishable and I’ve had to incorporate fish and eggs. I’m training for an event in October and found I was losing muscle mass and strength in the first half of my summer trip. I added eggs and more fish to my diet and immediately saw improvement. This is a typical day’s diet:

Morning Snack

I start the day with coffee and a Larabar while I write my Morning Pages. I won’t eat breakfast until I’ve written in my journal and completed my workout.


Breakfast was my High Protein Crunchy Granola for the first part of the summer, but I’m now eating 2 or 3 eggs and a corresponding number of corn tortillas fried in coconut oil and salted. Sometimes I add green onions or avocados.


Lunch is four roll-ups prepared as follows:

Wrap: corn tortilla fried in coconut oil and salted
Sticky stuff: hummus or peanut butter* (when I run out of ice to keep the hummus cool)
Veggies: sprouts, sun-dried tomatoes, and/or green onions
Main event: baked tofu, avocado, and/or smoked salmon

Hiking Snack

I pack trail mix and fresh or dried fruit into my pack to eat before, during, or after lunch.

Afternoon Snack

I crave salty, crunchy snacks after a hike. On my least healthy days, that means french-fried onions or croutons. (I know these foods are terrible for me. It’s an addiction.) When I have more nutritionally sound options, I eat Terra chips (Sweets & Beets** are my favorite) or I make blistered shishito peppers (well salted, of course).


I follow this formula for dinners: protein + carb + veggies (if I have any). This is usually expressed as one of the following meals:

Tofurky sausage + gnocchi
Chickpeas + whole wheat pasta
Textured vegetable protein (with taco seasoning) + fried corn tortillas (= TVP tacos!)

I dress the first two options in lemon juice, olive oil, and salt or pesto sauce.

Even with the extra protein, most of my calories come from fat and carbs because these things don’t usually require refrigeration. I wish it were possible to eat more produce, but it spoils so quickly, cooler space is limited, and preparation is difficult without a real kitchen. I eat almost no added sugar. I eliminated most sugar from my diet last spring because of issues with hormonal acne. My diet is also fairly low in wheat (except for those croutons!) I’m making the best of things and trying to make healthy choices.

What do you eat while on a long camping/hiking trip?

It took me less than 11 weeks to consume this entire container.

*Peanut butter and tofu roll-ups are good. I pretend they're Thai-inspired. I haven’t tried peanut butter and avocado, but I’m game. I don’t think I could bring myself to eat peanut butter and smoked salmon.
**WHY can I only find these unsalted? It’s an easy fix with my salt shaker, but creating salt-less chips is just sadistic.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Yosemite Chronicles: I read Grandma Gatewood's Walk

The most interesting question one can ever ask is: “Why?” It yields the most interesting answers. What, who, when, where, and how reveal facts, but why gets at motivations, relationships, and fundamental truths. So, why did Emma Gatewood, at 67, walk the entire 2,050 mile Appalachian Trail? Why did she go alone? Why did she tell no one she was going? Why did she persevere through hurricanes, lack of shelter, and injury? We’ll probably never know.

Grandma Gatewood’s Walk chronicles the what, who, when, where, and how of Emma’s journey through her journal entries, family interviews, and the accounts of those who met her along the way. She was 41 years dead when this book was written, so the author had no opportunity to ask her why she’d done it. In interviews during her walk (and second walk on the AT and subsequent long hikes), she always evaded the “why” question with a pat answer. “I’m a great lover of the outdoors.” “Just for the heck of it.” “I decided to take a walk - one I always wanted to take.” “I thought it would be fun.” None of the answers are satisfactory.

Maybe it was because, in her decades-long marriage to an abusive husband, the woods were the only place that made her feel safe. Maybe it was, after raising 11 children, she just wanted to do something for and by herself. Maybe it was an act of defiance against the inevitability of aging and physical decline.

Similarly, I don’t have a good answer for the “why” of my own wild summer. Maybe I’m revisiting the happy days of my youth. Maybe I’m rebelling against our overly complicated and industrialized lives. Maybe it’s my own way of saying “fuck you” to getting old.

As any six-year-old will tell you, if you keep asking “why,” you eventually get to an answer of “I don’t know.” And maybe that’s the real appeal of why. It’s the one question that eventually gets to the mysteries of the universe. It’s the one question that leaves us wondering and speculating and imagining. Spend a few days reading Grandma Gatewood’s Walk for the facts of her remarkable journey and then spend the rest of your life wondering . . . “why?”

Montgomery, B. (2014). Grandma Gatewood’s Walk. Chicago, IL: Chicago Review Press, Incorporated.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Yosemite Chronicles: I read One Man's Wilderness

In our current renaissance of homemade and homegrown, One Man’s Wilderness is as in touch with the Zeitgeist as when first published in 1973. At 51, Richard Proennneke arranged to be dropped off in the Alaskan wilderness, alone, with nothing but hand tools and a few supplies. He began building his log cabin on May 22nd and had it complete with moss-topped roof, stone fireplace, and dutch door by the end of September. The book continues through the long winter and following summer until he returns to the Midwest the next autumn to care for his aging father. In the meantime, he builds a cache (an adorable replica of his cabin, but on stilts), makes everything from hinges to dishes with empty gas cans, and attempts to domesticate a wolverine.

I must admit, I was in constant awe of Dick’s skills, strength, and stamina. He seemed capable of building and fixing anything. I had trouble following all the engineering details of even building a simple log cabin. My back ached as he described packing a ram down the mountain in two heavy loads. I shivered in the Yosemite summer evening as I read of his winter outings at negative thirty-four degrees. He makes my summer adventure seem about as daring and complicated as a trip to Disneyland.

I admire Dick, but his experience was so far beyond my own that I didn’t identify with him until one of the last chapters. In the "Reflections" chapter, I found myself nodding in agreement with Dick’s observations on possessions, physical activity, and eating habits. As dissimilar as our actual experiences are, I've come to some of the same conclusions as Dick about modern life.

Possessions: although this book was written forty-three years ago, Dick had already identified Americans’ surplus of “stuff.” He was perfectly content with the $40 of supplies he had flown in and everything he had built with the trees and stones of the land. I’ve been similarly satisfied with the items that fit in my car for the summer. I don’t miss my wardrobe, kitchen, furniture or any of the knickknacks that fill my house. I wonder what Dick would have thought of all the electronic toys that fill our lives, today. I am grateful to have my laptop, phone, DSLR, and GoPro with me, but don’t miss the television one bit. Dick wasn’t a total Luddite; he did bring binoculars, a spotting scope, a tripod, an 8mm movie camera, and a 35mm reflex camera. But who needs all that other crap? Thinking about all my “stuff” at home makes me feel claustrophobic. I have plans to lighten my load when I return and purchase less.

Physical activity: Dick found great satisfaction in the daily physical work of providing for his own shelter, heat, and food. How many of us can say that we built our own houses, chopped our own wood, and grew/hunted/fished our own food? Of course, one of the benefits of modern society is that we don’t have to do these things and, instead, can focus on higher pursuits like science, art, and the general betterment of the human race. But that lack of physical connection to our daily needs leaves us fat and unsatisfied. There’s a balance to be found and Dick’s story has inspired me to outsource less of my own daily maintenance. I am planning to ride my bicycle more and maybe even grow some food.

Eating habits: Dick’s diet was pretty much the same every day. It consisted of oatmeal, beans, fish, game, and sourdough pancakes or biscuits. For variety, he had blueberries, cranberries, fireweed greens, and the odd vegetable he grew in his garden. It was a limited diet, but he didn’t mind. He just “season[ed] simple food with hunger.” I’ve been hiking an average of nine miles a day and, even with that level of activity, I inwardly groan when I’m confronted with the fourth dinner in a row of gnocchi with pesto and vegan sausage. We modern people have been conditioned to expect variety and excitement with every meal. But maybe we need to view food as fuel instead of entertainment. Again, there’s a balance to be had between monotony and complaining that you just had Mexican food for lunch yesterday.

One Man’s Wilderness is aspirational, but it’s inspirational, too. The actual events of his Alaskan adventure are nothing I feel I’ll ever be able to replicate (I won’t be field dressing a mountain sheep - EVER), but the lessons learned are applicable to anyone’s life.

Keith, S. and Proenneke, R. (1973). One Man’s Wilderness. Anchorage, AK: Alaska Northwest Pub. Co.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Yosemite Chronicles: Seven Weeks of Hiking

The question I’m most often asked by those I meet on my trip is, “What hike was your favorite, so far?” How can I choose a favorite trail? Some have amazing views. Some have historical interest. Some were bursting with wildflowers. Some were blissfully devoid of other hikers. I can’t choose. I can only list those I’ve done, so far.

Yosemite National Park
Rancheria Falls: 12.7 miles, 2568 feet elevation gain
Poopenaut Valley: 2.2+ miles, 1263 feet elevation gain
May Lake: 2.4 miles, 501 feet elevation gain

Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area
Black Point Fissures: 3.43 miles, 400 feet elevation gain

Hoover Wilderness
Virginia Lakes: 5-6 miles, 400 feet elevation gain
Lundy Canyon: 9.7 miles, 2000 feet elevation gain
West Lake: 9.43 miles, 2160 feet elevation gain
Oneida Lake: 8.45 miles, 1600 feet elevation gain
McMillan Lake: 8.8 miles, 960 feet elevation gain
Anna Lake: 13 miles, 2240 feet elevation gain

John Muir Wilderness
Little McGee Lake: 16.77 miles, 3000ish feet elevation gain
Upper Morgan Lake and Gem Lakes and Chickenfoot Lake: 10 miles, 1000ish feet elevation gain
Kearsarge Pass and Big Pothole Lake: 11+ miles, 2623+ feet elevation gain
1st, 2nd, and 3rd Lakes, 11.3 miles, 2000 feet elevation gain
Summit Lake via Mono Pass and Ruby Lake: 10.75 miles, 2116 feet elevation gain
Tamarack Lakes: 9.4 miles, 2303 feet elevation gain

Ancient Bristlecone Forest
Mexican Mine and Methusulah Trail: 5.6 miles, 826 feet elevation gain

Sequoia National Park
Muir Grove: 4 miles, 541 feet elevation gain

Kings Canyon National Park
Mist Falls: 9.21 miles, 800 feet elevation gain

Death Valley National Park
Wild Rose Peak: 8.3 miles, 2473 feet elevation gain

That’s over 172 miles hiked and 31,774 feet climbed. I’m saving a number of the Yosemite hikes for September, once the tourist traffic dies down. Expect me to add many more hikes to the list!

Follow along on Instagram @kasmirakit #yosemitechronicles

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Yosemite Chronicles: I read Soul Deep in Horses

I met Merri fresh from the Seattle racetracks. She was lean and incredibly strong from tossing bales, hauling water, brushing horses, and whatever else grooms do at the horse track. (Obviously, I’m not a horsey person. But Merri is.) She put those muscles to work on our Humboldt-Toiyabe trail crew and left me in awe of her strength and endurance. While her body worked the trail, though, her eyes always lingered on the horses. Horses were her past and they would be her future.

Our former boss gave me a copy of Merri’s book, Soul Deep in Horses. Since I’d left trail crew, eighteen years ago, he told me she had gone on to work with pack stock and was now doing some sort of endurance racing. I was surprised that she continued working with horses, because I also knew of a nearly life-ending injury she’d sustained (kick to the face) from her beloved horses during the intervening years.

Knowing of her racing background and present, I was hesitant to read the book. I was impressed with the glamour of her racetrack job eighteen years ago, but I’d learned the harsh realities of racing more recently. Beneath the glitz of glossy muscles, fancy hats, and mint juleps, lies outright animal abuse. How could my horse-loving friend have returned to such cruelty?

It turns out that I should have had more faith in Merri. Her book hopscotches through time and across continents to follow her own, beautiful arc. She goes from a girl who knew all the winners of the Triple Crown to a racehorse groom yearning to overcome her fear of galloping in order to become an exercise rider to an international traveler learning the harsh realities of Irish jump racing to a nervous horse-packer in the Sierra Nevada. She leaves working horses behind to simply enjoy riding in Egypt, Zimbabwe, and New Zealand. I cheered for her as she conquered her fear of galloping and found a new passion: endurance racing. (The book is not in chronological order, so I may have the order of events a bit out of line.)

Unlike traditional, track racing, endurance racing is a humane sport emphasizing the bond between rider and horse. Teams complete trail rides of 50 or 100 miles with frequent vet checks and breaks for rest, food and water. The motto of the American Endurance Ride Conference is “to finish is to win.” By Merri’s account, endurance racing is an excuse to get away from it all and spend some time in the wilderness with your horse buddy. The “race” is incidental.

I’m so happy for my friend to have found her horsey groove. I got to know her better through her engaging writing and fantastic stories. The title of her book is Soul Deep in Horses, but it’s Merri’s heart that shines in this collection of essays.

Melde, M. (2014). Soul Deep in Horses: Memoir of an equestrian vagabond. Murphy, ID: The Equestrian Vagabond.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Yosemite Chronicles: Frequently Asked Questions

Town clothes

What are you wearing?
I’m mostly wearing athletic gear and loungewear. I do have some “town” clothes: denim shorts and skirt, a few tees, a long skirt, a chambray shirt, a scarf, and cowboy boots. Believe me, you’re not missing anything (except my incredibly obnoxious American flag hat).

A visit from Beefy AND his mom at Lake Tahoe

Where’s Beefy?
I left my job to take this trip. Beefy did not leave his! He’s in Sacramento, working and taking care of our animals and my plant collection. We are meeting for weekends a few times this summer.

My Bridgeport friend, Mark

Are you alone?
Yes. I’m an introvert and love alone time! I am not always, alone, though. I get Beefy visits and have a friend in Bridgeport. I have also made friends on the journey.

I wanted to eat this puppy

What about the dogs?
Because I’m hiking in national parks, the dogs had to stay at home. Most parks don’t allow dogs out of the parking lots/campgrounds or off the paved road, if they are allowed at all. I manage to get an almost daily “dog fix” from other people’s dogs, so I don’t miss my own as much.

Are you sick? Dying? Pregnant? Suicidal?
Yes, I’ve been asked all of these things. No, no, no, and no. You know how sometimes you need to take a “well day” from work instead of a “sick day?” Think of this trip like an extended “well day” from everyday life.

How long are you hiking?
My trip is 13 weeks long. As of this posting, I’ve just finished week 6!

Drying off after a dip in West Lake

Do you swim naked?
Not yet. Back in my park and forest service days, I always swam in the nude. I guess I’ve gotten a bit prudish in my old age. I’m usually wearing quick-drying gear so I swim in my sports bra and shorts or skirt.

How do you charge your phone?
I charge it in my car or with a solar battery. Because I’m usually out of cell service range, I leave it in airplane mode to conserve battery. I have found that when nighttime temps are below 50, it’s best to sleep with the phone inside my sleeping bag or the battery shuts down. (According to my research, it shouldn’t do that unless the temps are below freezing. I think my battery is defective.)

16-mile day hike

Are you day hiking or backpacking?
I’m day hiking. I prefer to day hike 20 miles with a 10-lb pack and come back to all the comforts of my camp rather than backpack 5 miles with a 30-lb pack, eat a crappy, dehydrated dinner cooked over a tiny, tippy stove, and miss my books and hammock (and booze). I may do an overnight trip or two, once I’ve reached peak stamina. And maybe not.

Got a question? Leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.

Follow along on Instagram @kasmirakit #yosemitechronicles

Monday, August 08, 2016

Yosemite Chronicles: I read The High Sierra

I’ve always thought Time-Life books were something to page through, bored, at my Grandma’s house while she watched Perry Mason. I’d flip through the pages, looking at the photos, but never, ever reading the text. In fact, I thought those books were all pictures and captions. Until reading (yes, reading) The High Sierra, I didn’t realize there was more to the books than pretty pictures.

Not only does the book have text, it’s good text. I’m not sure why I was so surprised by the quality of the writing, but I was. Ezra Bowen pulls the reader into his mounted Sierran journeys with keen observations, crisp descriptions, and a little of that cowboy attitude. I appreciate the history and naturalist text, but it’s Bowen’s opinions that entertained me most. He comes across as a crotchety old man complaining about how his wilderness is being taken over by dirty hippies with backpacks and lazy people in cars. I found myself nodding along, especially when I was visiting some of the more crowded areas. Bowen writes:
...most of the sightseers, lured to the area by its reputation and by its relative convenience to heavily populated metropolitan areas of California, arrive to experience only a brief and superficial encounter with the beauty of Yosemite. There are still a few such as the visitor who was heard to snarl at her husband, “Now I don’t want to hear NOTHIN’ about flora, fauna, or geology, understand?”
Written in 1972, the issues he grouses about are the same that plague the area today: overuse and development. Purists complain that the wildernesses are “too available.” Conflict between horse and hiker use continues. “Is a park a natural museum or a natural resort?” Reflecting on my own visits this summer to Yosemite and Sequoia, I’m starting to favor a daily car entry quota for the more popular parks.

Some of the conflicts have been lost to history. For instance, who knew that Walt Disney Productions planned to build a ski and summer resort in the Mineral King Valley that would have included a multilane access road through part of the Sequoia National Park? (The current highway though the park, The Generals Highway, is two lanes and steep and winding.) The Sierra Club blocked the development long enough for the area to be added to national park status, ending the plan.

Although the book is now 44 years old, I found it a good companion for my summer. As expected, I saw pretty pictures and learned a little about Sierra science and history. As not expected, I was prompted to contemplate the politics of the region. In the end, it left me hopeful. Currently, more of the Sierra is protected in wilderness status than shown in the 1972 map. Wildlife is rebounding. New restrictions and limits on use protect sensitive and popular areas. We are successfully being kept from “loving our wilderness to death.”

Next time you’re at your Grandma’s, don’t just flip through the pages of her Time-Life Books collection; pause to read a little. You might be surprised at what you find.

Bowen, E. (1972). The High Sierra. New York, NY: Time-Life Books.