Last week my good friend Tom and me spent 6 days and 6 nights hiking north on the Pacific Coast Trail (PCT) from Ebbet’s Pass to Donner/Hwy 40 just past Sugar Bowl in Tahoe. We hiked 100+ miles and after many, many nights of back country hiking together I think I am ready to define a new way for me to measure hiking speed, or maybe it is energy used? Bars per hour. While hiking we ate many bars of many varieties (Clif Mojo, Clif Builders, Kind and Larabar in any of their 4 ingredient flavors are my favorites) and spent many minutes discussing their various merits, how many per day to allot, which bar was best suited for what part of the day and which bar wins the taste test (a tie between Clif Mojo Dark Chocolate Cherry Almond and Kind Blueberry Vanilla Cashew in my expert opinion). Here’s my case and math for ‘Bar Metrics':
- 6 – Days of Hiking (started 1pm on Wed, August 27 and ended 10:30am Tues, September 2nd
- 105 – Miles of PCT trail hiked – more if you count side trails to camping, water, etc.
- 42 – Hours of hike time (actual time spent walking over these 6 days)
- 17 – # of bars consumed in this time
BAR PER HOUR (hiked): .404
BAR PER DAY: 2.83
While these are important stats, it is also important to note that we estimate our bodies are burning 6,000 calories a day using our average daily hiking mileage at 16 miles. To support this energy consumption we supplement our bar eating ways with several other food products (listed below). Bars for the trip alone to keep up with 6,000 calories/day would likely require a pull-behind wagon. Bad for our mileage and the trail. None of the other foods are as easy to translate into a “per” given their lack of consistency in which they are consumed throughout the hike.
FOOD LIST FOR 6 DAYS, 6 NIGHTS
- 6 Freeze-Dried Meals at roughly 4200 calories a meal
- 32 Dark Chocolate Covered Almonds ~1000 calories
- 1.5 lbs of Tom’s trademarked GORP recipe at ~2500 calories
- 4 Honey Stingers (organic waffle cookies – try the Gingersnap!) at ~640 calories
- 8 drink mixes (e.g. Skratch, Sugar-free lemonade/ice-tea) at ~ 700 calories
- 6 Miso Soup Packets (salt, seaweed, hot water) at ~600 calories
- 2-8oz blocks of the sharpest cheddar or Gouda cheese at ~1800 calories
- 30 Triscuits at ~900 calories
- 10 packets of Oatmeal at ~1800 calories
- 1 Peach (Echo Lake Resupply) at ~150 calories
- 2 Tomato/Cheese/Avocado sandwiches (Echo Lake Resupply) ~ 600 calories
- 1 Naked Juice drink (Echo Lake Resupply) at 270 calories
- 1⁄2 Bag of NY Sharp Cheddar potato chips at 300 calories
TOTAL CALORIES (INCLUDING BARS): 19,710 calories
TOTAL CALORIES BURNED (estimated @ 6,000 calories/day): 36,000 Calories
ENERGY DEFICIT: 16,290 calories
So, in short we need to eat more calories during our hikes. Many more calories. I believe through experience that this statement easier said than done. First, you typically walk into your stomach over a few days. Coming onto the trail you are not usually burning energy as quickly and as pure as the trail food due to daily eating habits and your effort immediately spikes while your consumption takes a few days to get on pace with the effort. Second, effort each day is different. A tough morning makes for more consumption early in the day than late. Approaching the next night’s camp, I typically hold off eating knowing a big meal is coming. Third, sometimes you forget until it is too late at which point catching up is not easily done. Lastly, I suspect that hydration levels play a big role. As I take in less water due to fewer available sources, forgetfulness, etc. I find I want less food. This creates an increasing problem over time and again results in the inability to catch up or take in enough food.
THE END RESULT: 4.65 POUNDS LOST ON THE HIKE (the scale says 8 pounds, water is the likely delta)
Coming out of the woods after roughly 42 hiking hours and 144 total hours to contemplate life at a greater rate than when I’m not hiking, I’m often asked: What big revelations did you come up with? It’s a great question as I have made some of my biggest and best life decisions while hiking, namely the decision to ask Cindy to marry me. I have made smaller decisions to like deciding to learn to make cheese. On this trip I emerge with a few ideas, although slightly smaller in nature to the ones above:
- Find more opportunities to share activities with my kids
- Be more engaging/present in the presence of others.
- Continue meditating (started before hiking) – I like starting each day with a clear, positive mind.
- Eat more real, whole foods – raw nuts, fruits, vegetables, etc.
Admittedly, there are a lot of words here yet not many details about the actual hike. Given my prior verbosity, I’ll keep it short and let the slideshow tell the rest of the story. It was fun, picturesque, dusty/dry, tough at times, sunrise/sunset-filled, paralleled Lake Tahoe, bear-free, deer-filled, along part of the Tahoe Endurance Challenge (we ran into 2 entrants named Iris and Perks tapering with a 12-14 miler on Monday) route and most importantly all outdoors with no electricity for 144 straight hours.
Allow me to close this post with a few notes of gratitude:
- I’m grateful Cindy and my kids enable me to follow this passion – it is never easy to leave them and always a joy to return back to see them.
- I’m grateful for having a 20-year friend that will do this with me – I wouldn’t be able to say I have spent 300+ days/nights of my life outdoors without his company and friendship.
- I’m grateful to my Dad (and Mom for enabling it) for making hiking the meaningful part of my life that it is today. I can only hope 20+ years from now I can look back and say I had such a profound influence on my kids.
Next hike? Soon, I hope. Maybe with Dad.