It’s All About the Bars

I’ve done something new while training for the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). I’m trying out lots and lots of bars. Food bars that is. Nutrition is one of the most challenging parts of a long-distance backpacking trip. I struggled finding healthy, easy to pack and yummy food during my Appalachian Trail thru-hike. Thank goodness for the proliferation of  protein bars, breakfast bars, or whatever bars. Simple to pack and easy to eat. By the end of my hike, there were a lot more bars in my life than when I started. And that turned out to be a good thing. Then I came home and discovered Thunderbird bars, which are made right here in Texas. Seriously?! I could have had them all along? Aargh.

You can’t imagine how long I would stand around in stores wishing I had better options. Even stuff I liked to eat became loathsome when faced with the same items at every store for months on end. Trail towns are usually quite small and always one of three particular chain stores determined your selection choices. Add in factors like portability, no refrigeration, little prep needed, etc. and your choices became a pathetic array of the same old stuff. Every time I walked into a store to resupply, I searched the shelves trying to find something new. I tried pudding cups and they were okay, but too heavy, and the containers didn’t squish down well once empty. I bought hard cheeses and those lasted a couple days before all the oil separated out. Even trail mix often came in large, heavy bags, or the same four mixes in snack bags.

All that time I could have enjoyed a dozen DIFFERENT flavors of Thunderbird bars, if only I had known about them and sent them in my resupply box.

Somehow I missed discovering them last year. Then my wonderful husband put a few in my Easter basket this year and I tried them. Pretty good. Made of real food, too. This summer our local grocery ran a special on them and I tried some more. Yum! I went to their website. Oh my goodness there were lots of different varieties and flavors. Right then I decided to pack a bunch into each of my mail drops for the Pacific Crest Trail next year.

While looking through their website, I found they offered an Ambassador Program and decided to apply. Ambassadors promote the brand and receive discounts and perks for doing so. I thought my experience reaching big outdoor goals as well as motivating others to reach theirs would make me a good candidate for their program. And guess what?! They agreed. So here I am, a newly minted Thunderbird Real Food Bars ambassador. I think it will be a good fit.

Next week, I kick off this ambassador role by hosting a giveaway. Thunderbird bars sent me a mixed box of bars and told me how to set up an Instagram giveaway. Hosting it will be another first for me. So if you are on Instagram, look for the giveaway posted by @lorriegirltx. You might find yourself liking a new kind of bar, too!

Day 44 – Hostel Territory

All along the trail, people open their homes and set up bunkhouses and B&B’s for thru hikers. Most are “primitive” as one owner mentioned, and others are more like quaint retreats. It rained a lot last week while Melynn was with me on the trail, so we stayed in three different ones during her adventure in the thru-hiker life.

Prices range from $5 to $30 for a spot in a bunkhouse or shared room, and usually include shower with towel and a “real” bathroom. Some include cereal breakfast, have a place to do laundry, and/or offer free shuttles to town.

Let me show you some of the differences and you can see how eclectic they are:

Mountain Crossings Hostel at Neal’s Gap less than 30 miles in the trail. Trail Angels came with dinner and the thunderstorm and cold were kept at bay… for us.

Top of Georgia is run by former thru hiker and they clean like maniacs. Bunkhouse was basic, but they had loaner clothes and washed your laundry for you.

We just had dinner at Standing Bear Hostel, as we wanted to put in more miles. It had pizza and beer and a little resupply place. Some hikers sleep in their tree house.

Elmer’s Sunnybank Inn is more of a retreat, with a few rules that made sense, like leaving boots on back porch, no cell phones in common areas, and sign up for dinner by 3 pm. The house smelled fantastic all afternoon as Elmer cooked for us. He’s also a former thru hiker. Dinner and breakfast were fabulous!!

Bob People’s is a former thru hiker and now trail volunteer. He runs Kincora Hostel and hikers make themselves at home whether or not he’s there when you arrive. It’s the first time I’ve gone inside and helped myself to clothes and a towel before showering in a stranger’s home when no one had been there to greet us. It was a very relaxed place.

CeeCee moved the tables in the top photo so seven people could sleep on the floor in a rainstorm. I was lucky and had a bed!

I camped at Boot’s Off Hostel, and still could use their shower, “privy”, kitchen, shuttle, and WiFi plus the cereal breakfast for $10. What a deal!

There are so many stories to tell about each one, the quirky owners of some, the rules, and adventures, but the trail waits and I need to hike on.

Day 16 – Food

Pretty much the only things we think about while hiking are: where is the water, where should we camp tonight, and food.

We are always thinking about food. One reason is we need to eat so much to hike like this every day. We’re not just hiking 11 to 15 miles a day; we’re hiking over mountains. We’ve hiked over 24 mountains so far and that doesn’t even include the peaks called knobs or tops – some of them are pretty darn close to as high as the mountains.

We need about 3000 to 5000 calories a day to keep our energy up. Whenever we are in a town we load up on big meals, but that’s only every 3-5 days. We keep protein bars, dried fruit, and high sugar high fat snacks easily accessible during the day, and generally cook breakfast and dinner in our backpacker stoves.

Food is heavy. We carry about 2 pounds per day. Today I picked up my mail drop, which had what I thought was 4-5 days food and I swear to goodness it weighed more than 10 pounds. It probably did. I started eating dried fruit and beef jerky while rearranging my pack to hold it all. Thankfully, Blue Jay received a new bear bag today which can hold some of my food too, because mine far overflowed the bear canister and stuff sack I usually use.

Everyone else felt the weight of their mail drops too. We all sat in the sun by the laundromat waiting our turn to do laundry while sitting and packing food. Finally I had all mine in my backpack, and could almost close the cover over it.

Then we hiked a mile uphill to our campsite. I fantasized about eating the heaviest items first all the way up that hill.

It’s good to be loaded down with food though, especially as we head into the Smoky Mountains tomorrow. It will be 41.9 miles before we cross a road and can hitch a ride to Gatlinburg or Cherokee for resupply. By then, my pack will be at least 6 pounds lighter.

If you are planning on sending us a little treat for the trail, don’t worry about weight. There are plenty of hungry hikers willing to help lighten our loads and we all love treats!