All-you-can-eat (PCT Days 135-139)

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The all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet at the Timberline Lodge is legendary on the trail… I’d started hearing about it at least a thousand miles before I got there, and now I was hungry… I’d been hungry for weeks… All-you-can-eat buffet… That’s every thru-hikers dream!

Wet and bedraggled, I finally made it to the Timberline Lodge… A warm, dry place with an all-you-can-eat buffet… What more could a weary traveler ask for!!

Pop quiz: What is the name of the artist and of the song that commingled with my dream of eating more calories and led to this song getting stuck in my head?

Calories, calories, calories
I need to get more
Calories, calories, calories
I need to get more calories
I need to eat more food
I want to eat whatever I like

You say milk, I say shake
You say French, I say fries
You say fast, I say hey man,
McDonald’s was never my scene
And I don’t like Starbucks

You say lo, I say mein
You say meat, give me a choice
You say beef, I say steak
I don’t believe in dieting
Fasting long or weightwatchers
All I want are

Calories, calories, calories
I need to get more
Calories, calories, calories
I need to get more calories
I need to eat more food
I want to eat more

Double-stuffed Oreos
are coming your way
So forget all your diets oh yeah
Blueberry pies will be baking today
We need more desserts oh yeah
On your marks, get set, eat

Calories, calories, calories
I need to get more
Calories, calories, calories
I need to get more calories
I need to eat more food
I want to eat whatever I like

You say coke, I say pop
You say pork, I say beans
Hot dog, I say cool whip man
I just wanna find a nice buffet
You say Mac, I say cheese
Caviar, I say please
Calorie count, I say Jesus
I don’t want to be a master chef
Don’t want to be Ramsey
or Emiril Lagasse
All I wanna do is eat

Calories, calories, calories
I wanna eat more
Calories, calories, calories

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(For dinner I ordered every dessert on the menu!)

Backpacking Science and Privilege: Food

On long-distance backpacking trips we don’t take the same things for granted that we do at home and as a result we can gain some insights into our privilege and how it affects the way we hike our hikes, and pack our packs. In this series of three posts I’m going to talk about how science and privilege influence the way I pack my pack. Using science as my guide, I’m going to break the discussion into three parts (requirements for physiological homeostasis in the wilderness):

  1. Food: Our ability to regulate blood sugar levels (glycoregulation).
  2. Water: Our ability to regulate water and minerals (osmoregulation).
  3. Shelter/Heat: Our ability to regulate body temperature (thermoregulation).

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Things that have been weighing on me…

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The pants that fit me snugly when I first started the AT were already loose a month in (AT ‘2013)

Bullying and trying to shame people into reducing their pack weight is relatively new to the backpacking community (Does pack weight come from fear?), but it has been commonplace in American culture as a way to try to motivate people to lose weight for decades. Though I’m sure (or at least hope) that the people who coined the term “pack weight comes from fear” were not intentionally tapping into the very sensitive issues surrounding size/weight-based prejudice, they stumbled into it anyway. Issues of bullying and weight shaming have bled over from mainstream America into my idyllic community in the woods and I don’t like it!

Americans obsess about food and weight.

I was shocked when I returned home from the trail and was immediately inundated with commentary about food, eating, and beauty. The culture I’d been immersed in on the trail viewed food and eating very differently from mainstream society, and I had forgotten the pervasiveness of our cultural programming about food and body image. On the trail, I lost count of the number of complete strangers that walked up to me and offered me Snickers bars or other kinds of food. On the trail, the Snickers bars and other unexpected treats were referred to as “trail magic,” and the strangers providing them were called “trail angels.” Meeting a trail angel and getting unexpected trail magic was an overwhelmingly positive experience. I still smile thinking back on those Snickers bars! On the trail I’d stopped being ashamed of my hunger. I’d stopped being ashamed of eating. I’d stopped being ashamed of taking food from strangers. If I went into a restaurant and ordered 2 appetizers, 2 meals, and then every dessert off of the menu my friends and acquaintances would look at me with approving surprise and say, “You go girl!” while the wait-staff would laugh wholeheartedly and say, “You must be a thru-hiker.” On the trail, the pervasive attitudes about food and eating were all very positive. No one ever said, do you really need that candy bar?” or “You’d really look great if you just lost another X (fill in a number) pounds.”

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The Hunger (Days 23&24)

The hiker hunger has finally hit me. I’m hungry all of the time. It seems like all of the thru-hikers turn into hobbits on the trail… We have first breakfast, second breakfast, elvenses, lunch, second lunch, first dinner, second dinner etc. Pretty much every two hours I stop and I eat. On the plus side, I’ve definitely dropped a few pant sizes.

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Thankfully my pants have a drawstring I can use to hold them up now! The downside to the hunger is that it means I have to carry a lot of food. I just resupplied in town and got food for the next 5 days… Carrying 5 days of food is a lot of weight, especially when you have a hobbit sized appetite!

In other news, the weather has progressed into summer and the trail goes through beautiful tunnels of mountain laurel. Also, even though I’m out of the smokies, I’m not out of bear country! I saw a bear near the trail yesterday morning. This time the bear paused and looked at me before scampering into the woods. Even though it was only about 20 ft away I still didn’t manage to get a picture of it.

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