Monday, August 14, 2017

Food for Kayak Camping

As summer starts to wind down, I start to get excited about kayak camping trips.  Our favorite "get-away" is to load up our kayaks and go on a wilderness kayak camping trip.  Usually we do a whitewater river trip of a week or so but also we will jaunt off in our sea kayaks to various locations on the coast.  Coming up later this month, we are guiding a sea kayak trip on California's Lost Coast.
Kayak camping on the Owhyee River.
Food preparation for self-support kayak trips can be a daunting task.  I enjoy the challenge and get better with each trip that we do.  Most of our meals are one pot meals a protein, starch, and lots of vegetables.
One pot meals make for easy prep and minimal cleanup.
Many paddlers buy pre-packaged dehydrated meals.  This is a convenient way to plan, pack, and prepare meals in the backcountry.  I usually keep a few pre-packaged meals around for emergency supplies and for extra food on our trips because they are lightweight, don't take up much space, are easily prepared, and have a long shelf life.  The disadvantages of prepackaged meals are that they are usually high in sodium and are expensive.  For these reasons, I prefer to create my own meals.
To minimize dishes, we often eat right out of the pot.  It was a good meal when the pot looks like this.
There are a lot of good resources and recipes on the internet for backpacking food.  One of my favorites is BackpackingChef.com.  This site is helpful because it has directions for dehydrating your own food and serving sizes for dehydrated food.  He also has some good recipe ideas.

My new favorite site for backpacking recipes is Dirty Gourmet.com.  A nice resource that they have compiled is backpacking foods that you can find at the local market.  It is less expensive than the prepackaged backpack specific meals.  It gives you ideas so you can shop for Non- GMO, gluten free, organic or other dietary options.  I also like the Dirty Gourmet's recipes.  When Jeff and I did 10 days on the John Day River this spring, I made a variation of their Thai Coconut Soup.  Jeff is allergic to soy so I used freeze dried chicken instead of soy.  It was delicious!!!
Preparing Thai Coconut Soup on a kayak camping trip.
 When planning food for a trip, planning your menu is key regardless of whether you buy or make your own meals.  I usually scratch out all my menu ideas on paper then mix and match what foods would be best on what day.  If I am packing fresh produce, I plan my meals that need produce at the beginning of the trip.  Planning the menu also helps you with shopping for ingredients and preparing and packaging the meals.
Fresh vegetables are a luxury for us on kayak camping trips.
For food preparation at home, I definitely use my dehydrator.  This time of the year, our summer garden is bountiful.  What we aren't going to eat, share, or trade, I will dehydrate for our future camping trips.  Right now, I am dehydrating zucchini chips for dipping in hummus, ceviche, crab dip, or tuna salad. (Down Home Foods in Fort Bragg carries Fantastic Foods Dehydrated Hummus.  It is tasty and easy to pack and prepare).
Dehydrating zucchini from our garden into zucchini chips.
Kale, broccoli, carrots, onions, roma and cherry tomatoes, apples, pears, huckleberries, and king boletes (porchini mushrooms) are seasonal items in my dehydrator.  Dehydrated vegetables are easily added to soups, mac and cheese, instant potatoes, instant rice, or pasta during the cooking process.   I dehydrate my own spaghetti sauce (homemade or store bought).  One of my favorite wilderness meals is dehydrated spaghetti squash with spaghetti sauce and a protein (chicken, beef, or fish).
Dehydrated spaghetti sauce.
Dehydrating spaghetti squash.  YUM!
Buying tuna, salmon, or chicken in packets is an easy way to add protein to a meal.  I also use freeze dried chicken or catch fish depending upon where we are camping.  For eggs, we have found Ova Easy Eggs to be the best.
Using a handline to fish for rock cod on the Mendocino Coast.
Spices and seasonings are essential if you are preparing meals from scratch and want them to taste good.  We carry our favorite spices in our camp kitchen kit and small packets of chicken bullion.  Of course, it is important to plan and pack special treats and snacks - maybe some fresh fruit or vegetables but definitely chocolate.  Huppybars are a staple in my snack bag.  Hot chocolate also is a necessity on chilly nights.
Snacks and special treats.
These are but a few of my backcountry food ideas.  If you enjoyed reading about them, I will share more including some of my favorite recipes.  Please share in the comments if you have other good resources or recipes.
Kayak camping on California's Lost Coast.



Sunday, July 16, 2017

Summer of Love

I debated whether to call this post Summer of Love or Labor of Love.  Running a kayaking business is a bit of both.  This summer seems to be flying by.

Running a kayak business isn't all fun and games.  There is a lot of "invisible work" that goes into running the business.  Countless hours are spent on the phone, replying to emails, writing newsletters, scheduling, managing photos, posting on social media, planning trips, cleaning and maintaining gear, bookkeeping, managing the website, banking, and the list goes on.  In our 10th season I am learning to take it in stride and finding humor and enjoyment in it.  One question I got this summer was about our return policy - I could have verbatim rattled off LFK's cancellation/no show policy.  Instead, I responded "Our goal is to bring'em back alive."
Poster that I created for the Mendocino Coast Chamber of Commerce.
This summer, I am spending a lot of time guiding our wildlife and nature history tours on the Noyo River Estuary.  I love it!  Each trip is different. Our trips often include first time kayakers that don't know how to swim, families with kids of all ages, as well as seasoned paddlers.  I like to challenge myself to improve my teaching and guiding methods to meet the individual needs and interests of all participants on the trip.

I really enjoy incorporating my knowledge of the natural world into the kayaking experience - aka "nerding" out on nature.
Doe and fawns checking out the kayakers on the Noyo River.
With the maturity of our business, I am continuing to learn how to create time to enjoy life within the busy summer season - and making Jeff do it too.  At the end of the day, we are dog tired.  We often go to bed early but with smiles on our faces.
Jeff and I enjoying dinner that we caught and grew. 
Carving time out for life means regular mountain bike rides, trail running, kayak surfing, kayak fishing, time with friends and sometimes quiet time with a book.  Last week, we managed to slip away to the South Fork American to connect with some friends and run whitewater.
Kayak fishing on the Mendocino coast.
Our summer garden is producing.  It is so nice to come home and pick fresh vegetables for dinner.  Our winter crop of kale continues to produce, and we have been eating it as well as fresh broccoli, zucchini, and lettuce.  The cabbage is starting to make nice heads and the tomatoes and cucumbers are coming along.

Last week, I was wishing I had some fresh potatoes to go with the rock cod that we just caught.  I was doing some digging in the garden and unexpectedly found a fresh batch of red potatoes.  Fresh kale and potatoes from our garden and fish that we caught in the ocean. YUM!
Food of our labor - fish we caught and vegetables from the garden.
All is not perfect of course.  The house is a bit of a mess.  Oh, well - its summer time!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Mountains to the Sea - Day 8

To the Sea!

We awoke on day 8 ready to complete our mission of kayaking 169 miles of the Eel River from the mountains to the sea.  The early days were fun with lots of whitewater and wilderness.  The past couple of days were scenic but primarily flat water with glimpses of the 101 highway and sights and sounds of civilization.
River view of the gas stations and conference center at Riverwalk in Fortuna, CA.
The Eel River Brewery is one of our favorite stops on all of our travels along the 101 corridor in Humboldt County.  We thought it would be fun to hop out of our kayaks and pop in for a beer on the last day of our trip.  We have been enjoying the fast moving current but it rushed us along too early for beer at Eel River.

The river is quite flat now and meanders through the farmlands of Fortuna and Ferndale.
Checking out the historic Fernbridge at Ferndale, California.
When we hit the historic Fernbridge, Jeff dug out his cell phone and makes our extraction call.  Our friend Hawk Martin (owner of Humboats at the time) was going to pick us up at the beach.
After passing Fernbridge, we anticipate landing within the next 1.5 hours.  Jeff makes the extraction call.
We were surprised to still be seeing signs of the dilapidated Eel River Railroad.

We knew we were getting close to the ocean when we started seeing barnacles on the logs and harbor seals swimming.

As we got closer to the ocean, we could see the surfzone and waves breaking.  We also discovered that we were being swept out to sea very quickly.  We were too far in the middle of the river to get to shore before hitting the ocean and surf.  Oh well, we got to end our trip surfing a wave back onto the beach.

Our Eel River mountains to the sea journey was special in many ways.  It was my first multi day kayak camping trip.  It was a special time for Jeff and I - just the 2 of us for 8 days in the wilderness.  This trip was one of the best weeks of my life - whitewater kayaking in the wilderness with my sweetie.  Since this trip, we have done numerous overnight kayak trips on the Pacific Ocean and on different rivers.  Self support kayak river trips continue to be my favorite.  I am already looking forward to the next one.
Mission Accomplished! 169 miles on the Eel River from the mountains to the sea.  We are still smiling.
Photo by Hawk Martin

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Eel River Mountains to Sea - Day 7

Redwoods and 101

We awoke on Day 7 a bit stiff and sore but excited to see the sun.  Our journey today would take us through some of the largest trees in the world - the coastal redwoods.  The river was still flowing very fast and was in a semi-flooded state.  We enjoyed the current pushing us down river.
Giant redwood stump in the flooded Eel River .
We pulled over to take a hike in one of the groves of Avenue of the Giants.  For our hike, we took off most of our paddling gear but kept our drysuits on.
Hiking up a creek to get into the Avenue of the Giants.
We came upon a local photographer that was hiking in the forest.  He looked at us like we were aliens - guess we looked a bit odd in our drysuits.  We said hi and continued on.  He doubled back and asked us why we were dressed in yellow suits.  We explained that we were on our seventh day of kayaking the Eel River from the mountains to the sea, and we just pulled over for a hike in the redwoods before continuing with our journey.
Hiking among the giant redwood trees of Avenue of the Giants.
He was very interested in our trip and shared that he likes to do multi-day cross country motorcycle camping trips.  We inquired about his photography and found out that he is an amateur photographer that works full time in the lumber mill in Scotia.  After an interesting chat, he wished us well and we continued on our hike.
Photos barely do justice to the grandeur of the redwood forest.
It felt good to stretch our legs, eat some lunch, and of course enjoy the awesomeness of the redwood forest.
An abandoned road in Avenue of the Giants.
Back in the boats, we journeyed along the 101 corridor.  The river is quite wide at this point and moving fast.  At times we still see evidence of the Eel River Railroad.  We also notice that the geology has changed significantly from the jagged, dark sandstone to smoother, lighter colored sandstone.

At the town of Scotia, we landed to stretch our legs.  Jeff decided to jaunt into town and get some tasty beverages for our last night on the river.  Up until this point, we have been totally self sufficient.  We had planned enough food for 10 days and still had plenty, but why not enjoy a comfort of being close to civilization.  As he started to hike up the hill toward town, the local photographer that we met in the redwoods greeted him and gave him a ride into town to the local market.
Landing at Scotia near an old dam.
On down the river we traveled.  Highway 101 crossed over us numerous times and seemed to be ever present.
Highway 101 crossing the Eel River.
We found a campsite on a gravel bar that was on a bend away from the highway and enjoyed our last evening on the river with a nice bottle of wine and another one pot meal.
One pot meals were lightweight but hearty and easy to prepare.
We planned to complete our journey and reach the sea the next day.
Last night camping out of our kayaks on the Eel River.
Day 8 - To the SEA!