THE PLACE TO GO WHEN YOU CAN'T GO BACKPACKING

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Liz Forster - page 2

Liz Forster has 15 articles published.

Backpacking Meal Plan to Treat Yourself on the Trail

in Food by

In the backcountry when the ultimate goal is to reach the next campsite, we don’t always have the luxury or the time to focus on our food. We settle for a bagel and peanut butter for breakfast, three Cliff Bars for lunch and Kraft Mac & Cheese for dinner. The day after, when we do have time, why not sip on that hot drink for a bit longer and treat ourselves to a hot and hearty meal? For a full day of 5-star cuisine in the backcountry, check out this backpacking meal plan.

 Backpacking meal plan

 

Breakfast: Cheesy Biscuits

Makes 4 biscuits

1 cup flour

1 1/2 tsp of baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2 1/2 tbsp + 1 tbsp vegetable oil or melted butter

1 tsp garlic powder

1/3 cup + extra for topping grated cheddar cheese

 

Combine flour, baking powder, salt, oil or butter and garlic powder in a bowl. Fold in cheese. The dough should be sticky, but shapeable.  Divide dough into four to five biscuits. Heat the remaining 1 tbsp of vegetable oil or butter in a skillet. Drop the balls of dough into the heated skillet and sprinkle each with a little cheese. Cook each side for 3-5 minutes, or until the bottoms are golden brown and the cheese is completely melted.

 

Lunch: Trail Mix Pita Pockets

Makes 8 sandwiches

4 pita pockets

1 cup crunchy peanut butter

1 cup strawberry preserves

1 apple, cut into thin slices

2 cups granola

 

Split the pita pockets in half. Spread peanut butter on the inside of one side and jelly on the other. Place four slices of apple on the peanut butter side and sprinkle granola on the jelly side.

 

Backpacking meal plan

Dinner: Pineapple, Almond and Veggie Couscous

10 oz couscous

2 cups water

½ tsp salt

1 tbsp + 2 tbsp olive oil

¼ green pepper, cut into ¼ inch squares

¼ cup onion, diced

½ zucchini, diced

½ yellow squash, diced

½ cup slivered almonds

½ cup pineapple, cubed (I use canned so that I can use the juice)

½ cup pineapple juice

¼ cup parsley (fresh or dried)

salt and pepper to taste

 

In a pot, bring water, salt and 1 tbsp of olive oil to a boil. Stir in couscous, remove from heat, and cover. Let it stand for five minutes. Saute green pepper and onion in 2 tbsp of olive oil on medium heat in a saucepan until al dente, about 3 minutes. Add zucchini, squash and a teaspoon of salt and cook for about another five minutes. Add vegetables to couscous. To toast the almonds, spread them over the saucepan evenly with 1 tbsp of water. Cook for about 5 minutes or until the almonds are fragrant and light brown, continuing to shake the pan so that the almonds do not burn. Mix almonds, pineapple, pineapple juice and parsley into couscous and vegetables. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sriracha or Tabasco also go great with this.

Top 5 Chocolate Recipes for Backpacking

in Community/Fireside/Food by

The backcountry is the one place where having an unlimited amount of chocolate 24 hours a day is socially acceptable. For one, chocolate provides ample calories and fat. More importantly, though, that squished Snicker’s Bar in your pocket or frozen bag of chocolate chips in your pack’s brain is an essential morale booster to which the most inspiring words from Thoreau or Jack London cannot compare. So reward yourself after a hard (or easy!) day on the trail with one of my top five favorite chocolate recipes for backpacking.

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Photo by Greg Walters Flickr.com

1. The Luke – One 16 oz Nalgene

The Luke is the instant fix for frozen boots in the morning, fading energy in the late afternoon, and grumbling stomachs watching water refuse to boil for dinner at night. Named after the mad scientist who created it on our NOLS backpacking trip in Alaska, Luke Cleary, The Luke fuels the body and warms the heart on a 3-day or 30 day trek.

2-3 tbsp hot chocolate mix

1 tbsp butter

¼ tsp cinnamon

1 ½ tbsp powdered milk

2 cup boiling water

 

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2. Kitchen Sink Granola – Serves 2

At the end of a trip or ration cycle, this granola on steroids is perfect for getting your body the calories, fats and proteins it needs for the day, as well as for ridding your pack of portions of food that add weight, but are still too small to make a whole meal. Another NOLS concoction we originally called “granola mush,” this breakfast was a close second to cheesy biscuits.

2 tbsp butter

¼ cup peanut butter (or any other type of nut butter)

1/3 cup chocolate chips

1 ½ cup granola

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

 

In a fry pan, melt butter, peanut butter and chocolate chips, and stir until smooth. Be sure to stir constantly so that the mixture doesn’t burn. Sprinkle in granola, cinnamon and vanilla. Continue stirring over the flame until fully incorporated and the granola is slightly toasted. Serve as is or cooled in yogurt.

 

3. Banana Boats – Serves 2

Banana Boats are a car camping favorite with the scents of childhood wafting out of the creases of the tin foil. I was first introduced to them in 4th grade at sleepaway camp and have yet to have a summer pass without digging into the better version of the classic s’more.

2 bananas

1 Hershey’s Bar, broken into the individual rectangles

15-20 mini marshmallows

tin foil

 

Peel one side the banana, leaving ¾ of it unpeeled. With a spoon, scoop out half of the inside of the bananas. Press half the Hershey Bar squares into the banana and top with the mini marshmallows. Fold the unpeeled side back over the chocolate-marshmallow mixture and wrap the entire banana in foil. Repeat with the other banana. Place both bananas on top of a griddle over the fire, or a pan over the stove, for 5-10 minutes or until marshmallows are golden brown.

 

4. Mexican Chocolate Ganache Apples – Makes 8 Apple Slices

Every backpacker knows Sriracha, Tabasco and any other hot sauce instantly elevates a dinner in the backcountry. Heck, they do in the frontcountry! So, why not add some spice to dessert, too? These apples are the perfect balance of sweet with a touch of heat for a night around the fire or tucked away in the tents.

1 tbsp butter

1/3 cup chocolate chips

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla (optional)

small pinch cayenne pepper

1 apple, cored and cut into slices

 

In a pot over a stove, melt together butter and chocolate chips until smooth. Stir in cinnamon, vanilla, and cayenne pepper. Dip apple slices in the chocolate mixture. You can eat them as is or, if you want them more like a candy apple, make them before dinner and let them set for an hour.

 

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Photo by Mary Flickr.com

 

5. GORP

What would a list about chocolate in the backcountry be if GORP wasn’t included? GORP, or “good old raisins and peanuts,” is backpacker slang for trail mix. This version of GORP is my personal favorite, although there are a million variations out there. I normally use raw almonds and cashews.

1 part cashews

1 part almonds

1 part Pretzel M&Ms

1 part dried cherries

1 part banana chips

 

 

Cocoon Polarized Fitover Sunglass Review

in Gear by

Cocoon Eyewear has released a new line of sunglasses designed to fit over prescription glasses. Cocoon’s Polarized Fitover Sunglasses use Flex2Fit frames made from ballistic nylon that adjust comfortably and securely to the size and shape of the head. The durability of the frame is also enhanced by the strong hinges between the frame around the eye and the temples.sunglass

The lenses, which are designed by Polaré, come in five different colors depending on the amount of light: gray, amber, copper, yellow and blue. Despite the variances in light transmission, all the lenses are designed for strong sun protection, filter 100% of UVA/UVB light, and are polarized.

The Gray Polarized Lens is the standard of the lenses, which is 100% polarized and allows for 15% light transmission. It is best for cloudless days with a bright, strong sun when enhanced light contrast is not necessary. These can be used on a daily basis.

Fitover 3

The Polarized Fitover Sunglasses also offer the Amber Lens, which is polarized and allows for 14% light transmission. Unlike the Gray Polarized Lens, the amber lenses absorb blue light waves emitted from the sun, which sharpens visual accuracy particularly on overcast, low light, or variable light days. This accuracy encompasses not only depth perception but also the acuteness of color perception. In this regard, the Amber Lens deters this type of light’s tendency to washout colors and increases the vibrancy and sharpness of the surroundings. Using these glasses while fishing, boating, and doing other water sports is particularly effective since the lenses absorb extraneous light reflecting off of water surfaces that would inhibit depth perception.

All of the Polarized Fitover Sunglass lenses are strong enough to prevent scratches from minimal pressure on any surface but will be damaged by heavy pressure applied on rough surfaces like rocks.

Fitover 1Cocoon Eyewear offers all lenses and frames in seven different sizes. Although their website includes a size chart, the quantitative fit does not coincide exactly with the actual fit. Frames that, by centimeter measurements, should fit around a user’s glasses tend to fit too tightly around the temples and not extend fully around the prescription glasses, especially if the lenses of the latter cover a larger area of the eye. Buyers may want to purchase a size up from their measurements but should still be aware that the frame of a size up may be too larger for the face.

The Polarized Fitover Sunglasses come with a limited lifetime warranty, a carrying case, and a lens cloth. They can be$49.95 purchased for at cocoonseyewear.com.

New York Mountain Ski Tour

in Community by
New York Mountain

I think I’m an addict. My drug of choice is a white powder, and it sends my mind and body racing into a universe of total euphoria. I know that the first part of breaking an addiction is recognizing you have a problem. I am fully aware of my addiction, the time and money it consumes, and the selfish pleasure it feeds me. Yet I still embrace its manipulative control over my desires and priorities, and I will never cut myself off.

New York Mountain

That drug is snow, and my paraphernalia are pairs of rockered, K2 Sidekick skis and Scarpa Shaka boots. For the last time this ski season, I let the click of my boots locking into my ski bindings waft through my nose and circulate down into my lungs so as to initiate that high I constantly crave. I felt my chest warming and expanding with every step up towards the top of my run. And finally, at the height of my high, my legs went numb, and all my thoughts exploded like fireworks that lit up my eyes and left only a S-shaped track as physical evidence of my indulgence.

For the last four-day vacation this year, most Colorado College students embraced the emergence of the spring sun by rock climbing in Indian Creek, white-water rafting on the San Juan River, or sand sledding at the Sand Dunes. In my mind, there was still plenty of snow on New York Mountain for one last multi-day backcountry ski trip.

The New York Mountain trailhead is in the Sylvan Lake State Park area, about forty-five minutes outside of Eagle, CO. Skiers, splitboarders, snowshoers, and hikers have two options in terms of lodging: the Polar Star Inn and the Hidden Treasure Yurts. Being poor college students, we opted for the cheaper Hidden Treasure Yurt that sleeps eight people.

New York Mountain

From the trailhead, the skin up to Hidden Treasure Yurt is six miles, four of which are road-grade before reaching the (dare I say) town of Fulford. During the first four miles, my six friends and I trekked up with ease, laughing in disbelief that we were covered in sweat in t-shirts while skiing.

The laughing quickly ceased after reaching Fulford. The trail from Fulford splits into three, all of which are unmarked and difficult to decipher. After spending an hour searching for ours with too-heavy packs, we wanted to light the fireplace and curl up in our sleeping bags at the yurt. The next two miles were everything but that. We switchbacked on steep paths through a thick forest of Aspen trees, all of which were naturally engraved with Illuminati eyes. At the five-mile mark, we transitioned from spiny Aspens to bushy conifers holding the last piles of snow of the season. Our packs felt like cinder blocks and legs like melted Jell-O. With every step I would pray for my friend 30 feet in front of my to yell “Land-ho!” or some type of sign of success. Just as I thought I was going to collapse, I heard the song bird sing. I skinned at what felt (but definitely was not) a sprinter’s pace, threw my pack down on the porch, and collapsed on my bed.

The yurt is a single room with three bunk beds. Two of the beds are full-sized, and the rest are twins. The kitchen is stocked with plenty of pots for melting snow for water, plates, utensils, and spices, peanut butter, and Cholula hot sauce left by previous occupants.

New York Mountain

The next morning, after coffee, eggs and bacon, and a quick yoga session to wake up dead legs, we skinned north for twenty minutes on an established trail, then headed east up a much steeper grade until we reached treeline. We did not have a plan from there. What do you expect, we’re college kids?

As soon as the pines disappeared and I caught sight of the first false summit of New York Mountain, I knew I was summitting. I had fresh legs and zero desire to ski the crusted slush in the trees the sun had yet to soften. No, it’s not a fourteener, nor a mountain most people have heard of, but the view from the summit is beyond deserving of a fourteener’s reputation. Aspen, Aspen Highlands and the Maroon Bells stand tall to the SSW and various, unnamed, 11,000+ feet peaks boasting steep chutes, fragile cornices, and jagged ridge lines make up the valley connected to the east face of New York Mountain. I spent ten minutes pointing out each chute I would want to run and which cliffs I’d be daring enough to drop. But of course, I had to quell those desires with the crushing reality of summer looming over my head.

The west face of New York Mountain at this time of year is by no means run-of-the-year material. Wind blown divots and hard pack make for a chattery, technique driven ski down to treeline. We didn’t expect much else and didn’t really care much either since we were still enamored by the expanse of Colorado mountain ranges surrounding us for the next two days.

Once in the trees, the top layer of snow had turned to soft slush through which we made tight, quick turns. During each of our four laps thereafter I kept finding little mounds and lips off which to launch, confident that I wouldn’t hit a tree upon landing. Looking back, the combination of the intensity with which I approached my technique and the giddy enthusiasm with which I approached everything else was something quite special that I think the blend of warm weather, great friends and skiing bring about.

Our last run that day was zero intensity and all giddy. A common backcountry trip theme among CC students involves…you guessed it, nudity. With the sun blazing and the wind calm, how could we not? I wish someone could’ve witnessed three boys and four girls buck naked, uncontrollably laughing while carving through the pines as if nothing in the world could deter their happiness. But don’t worry, we have plenty of pictures with our private parts covered by beacons and pack straps.

New York Mountain

When leaving Hidden Treasure Yurt, White Quail Gulch is a must-ski during the spring seaosn. The gulch is prone to avalanches the rest of the year, but with the more stable snowpack and shorter cornices in the spring, the extreme conditions are minimized. We skinned up to the saddle at the top of the gulch that overlooked the same valley as the New York Mountain summit, hopped off a baby cornice, and swung our turns around the left and right sides of the half-pipe-like gulch. I went first, set the left boundary, and skied about 20 yards further down than we had agreed. The snow was just too consistently soft for my skis to ever want to stop. They’re part of my addiction, so I had to listen.

All the snow below treeline was crust over dust, so we called it a day at 2 and celebrated our last epic run with beers, hard cider, and Cards Against Humanity. The seven of us agreed this backcountry ski trip would forever be a 7th block break tradition for the next three years at Colorado College.

Alpine Touring in Aspen

in Community by
Alpine Touring

Alpine touring, or randonee, is one of the more recent and most cherished additions into my outdoor life. Since I began skiing at the age of three, I have explored resorts throughout the Northeast, Utah, and Colorado. Yet,I have never once carved an edge into snow far removed from any lift line or snowcat. That all changed two years ago when my dad and I threw ourselves blindly into the backpacking, hiking, and skiing package during a seven day, hut-to-hut ski tour known as the Haute Route from Chamonix, France to Zermatt, Switzerland. Since that trip neither my dad nor I touched another pair of skins or AT skis. That was until my alpine touring this past March in the Green-Wilson and Friends huts in Ashcroft, CO, just outside Aspen. Took our alpine tour with the Aspen Expeditions Guiding Company.

Alpine Touring

Our first day started at the Ashcroft Trailhead via the Pearl Pass Road with a 6 mile, 1,780-foot elevation skin to the Green-Wilson Hut. Unlocking my lifters for the first time was like detaching a leash from a dog that has not seen his owner for weeks. That energy combined with that of the sun beaming on the 12-14,000 foot peaks on either side of me swept the monotony of a moderate, 5 hour skin off my mind. The road passes beneath various avalanche paths, and at one point after skinning around a bend in the road, we were face-to-face with aspen trees near parallel to the ground. Our guide, Amos Whiting, shook his head in disbelief of what was probably the worst avalanche of the year in that area.

We cut through alleys of conifers that offered brief relief from the unobstructed sun reflecting harshly off the snow. After almost five hours of road-grade steepness, I was oddly thankful for a steep climb for the last 500 feet to the Green-Wilson Hut. My body seemed to be sick of the unchallenging rhythm, and craved some type of risk, even if it were as small as sliding 10 feet down a short slope.

An hour after arriving at the hut, our ski senses were tingling too much to ignore. We skinned for a mile up to 12,160 feet for a run called The Backyard. Any and all winds were absent, which caused a dominating silence to vibrate from the surrounding Mace Peak, Star Peak and Pearl Peak. We had no one who could disturb our first canvas of S turns that we carved into the packed powder and crust layers.

The next day was all about finding the best quality terrain with the least avalanche danger on the ridge surrounding Castle Peak (14,265 feet). All of this was well above treeline. From the hut, we skinned southwest up the major drainage and swung west towards Castle Peak. Amos’ plans A and B brought us about halfway up the northeast face, but were foiled by unstable, avalanche-prone snow and the dreaded womping sounds filling the whole valley. Most would say that we wasted four hours hunting, but how can time ever be wasted on a bluebird day in the backcountry?

Alpine Touring

Besides, as a result of our aborted treks, I skied my first ever 50-degree slope on a couloir on the southwest side of the ridge at about 13,000 feet. It was one of those runs I look at and immediately give myself a pre-ski pump up talk to ensure I’m not stalemated by either the narrow space in which I am forced turn or the lingering fear of such steepness. “Keep your shoulders facing downhill. Don’t let your backhand drop behind. Link your jump turns. And, please, just make this an epic run after 5 hours of hiking.”

I focused so hard on that last command that the technique flowed from my mind to my body effortlessly. I reached Amos, breathing hard and smiling as intoxicatingly as when I received my acceptance letter from Colorado College. A day like that, and particularly a run like that, were well deserving of Jack Daniels and red wine back at the hut.

The next morning, we retraced our skin track to The Backyard, passed over Mace Saddle and the north side Pearl Pass (12,705), and skied to the edge of treeline where Friends Hut was tucked away in the conifers. In total, the skin was about 4.5 miles, 1,350 feet up and 1,220 feet down. On our way down through packed powder, breakable crust, and wind drifts, we noticed an enormous cornice stretching across the entirety of Carbonite Ridge. To say the least, we wouldn’t be skiing up there.

It again was terrain huntin’ time. Amos and I left my dad at the car stero speaker and 600 degree wood stove equipped hut to skin up to a couloir on the Star Peak ridgeline. It’s funny how many barriers are broken on backcountry trips. Would you ever think a 37-year-old and an 18-year-old could spend a two-hour skin and boot up a 40+ degree slope talking and laughing about shared experiences without even a moment for an extra breath? The lure of the slopes just acted as our imaginary chairlift.

Alpline TouringWe made it with our skis on our backs and ice axes in hand about 20 feet below the top of the ridgeline, where the faceted snow eliminated any stability in terms of both avalanche danger and booting capability. This would be our summit. I couldn’t complain. It’d be a sin to. Another bluebird day. Another 50 degree slope.

That night, as I wrote in the hut log, I couldn’t ignore the fact that we were leaving, that the nights of our potty humor were almost over, and that I wouldn’t have the slopes within reach. I guess that’s just part of reality. We all wish we could stay in the backcountry forever and live as simply and as genuinely as such an environment encourages. The best we can do, though, is ski that final 50 degree slope with bountiful passion and appreciation, and then of course celebrate the ending of yet another invigorating trip with a round of beers.

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