The Crunch…the Challenges

Trail Running in Sycamore Canyon
Trail Running in Sycamore Canyon

The count down begins. Just 23 more days and I will be taking my first steps on the Continental Divide Trail with the goal to walk through Colorado and Wyoming.  As I sit typing this post, I hear the hum of my food dehydrator, multiple to-do lists on post-it notes seem to be everywhere, trail food is piling up, the UPS truck STILL visits our house most everyday, something is always downloading on my i Phone, empty resupply boxes await my attention, and I have found a new love, trail running.

This is the 4th spring in a row that I have prepared for an extended summer hike. One would think by now that I would have a system for getting everything together easily and simply. Not so. BUT I do dream of a system that consists of a streamlined sequence of tasks. It seems each year there are new variables:  I change, my needs change, gear changes, and technology changes. What does stay constant is the love of the trail and the sheer anticipation of it all.

Highlights of My CDT Prep:

Physical Training
This is where I like to focus my priority. I figure I can have all the great gear, maps, and food, but if I do not prepare my body, I WILL suffer. This year I had great grandeurs of doing Jillian Michaels’ exercise videos daily and regularly hiking up Tehachapi Mountain with a loaded pack. Well, that has not happened, not once. Instead, I have backpacked and hiked on the weekends, climbed mountains, and started trail running with a few push-up, squats, and sit-ups sprinkled in. I am certainly lacking in the flexibility department. I think that one will go on a to-do post-it note.

Gear Updates
I posted my CDT Gear List a few weeks ago and have made some changes since then all in the name of lightening my pack. Most likely in the next couple of weeks I will change a couple more. I have added or substituted the following gear: Sony RX100 (I dropped my Panasonic LX5), Sawyer Squeeze without in-line adapter and platypus, Suntactics Solar charger, Brooks Cascadia Trail Runners, and OR Spectrum sun gloves.

Maps, Water, Resupply, and Technology
The Continental Divide Trail is unique and mysterious. It is a route and a trail. There are not really guidebooks. Everyone seems to have different strategies for navigation. I am using the popular printed Ley maps and Bearcreek way-points loaded on my i Phone with USGA maps. I am also very lucky to have the CDT Data Book that has been updated by Beacon and a resupply schedule that has been a collaboration of  CDT hikers: Schoomer, Why Not, Swami, and Wired. Also, I am working on downloading books on Audible and creating new i tunes playlists.

Well, this is where I need a lot of help. I started buying food a couple of days ago. I have 11 resupply boxes to fill with food that I will be sending to trail towns over a 2 month period. This is very daunting. About 7 months ago, I started a diet that is gluten, dairy, and soy free. I feel better and think better without these foods. However, it is challenging going gluten, dairy, and soy free on the trail. Most of my tried and true trail recipes, treats, and bars are now off-limits. I sure would welcome all suggestions for favorite backpacking foods that are gluten, dairy, and soy free.

Side Note: There is a rumor going around that my son, Silly Chili just might be hiking along. Stay tuned.


  1. Pingback: Operation: Food | Lady on a Rock

  2. I try to stay away from gluten and dairy, too, and it can be super difficult when all I want is macaroni and cheese after a long day of walking… Quinoa is a mainstay. I also love red lentils; they cook quickly and are super tasty and satisfying with spices and olive oil. Fantastic Foods’ dehydrated refried beans are good for a salty, starchy kick. I eat buckwheat in the morning; a company called Go Raw makes a great buckwheat granola (no oats, only buckwheat groats, which are not a grain) with fig sweetener and raisins. I eat it with dehydrated almond milk and dried fruits. KIND bars (fig and walnut) and Go Macro bars (almond and carob or tahini and fig) are my favorites, but I’ve started making my own, too… Look forward to following along on your adventure!

  3. Hey Rockin’,

    Great meeting up at Kickoff! Also loved the Whitney photos on your facebook page!

    In regards to food, you may want to have a look at the following companies: Mealpack, Taste Adventure and Fantastic Foods. As far as I’m aware, their products are gluten free and you can buy in bulk from all of them.

    Best of luck with your final preparations and I look forward to following your progress.

    All the best,


  4. Also, for gluten-free ideas, Steve’s Paleogoods has some tasty stuff:

  5. Wow! It’s so exciting to hear about your trip.
    Yes, gluten, dairy, and soy free is quite the challenge when backpacking. I’ve been off those for about 8 years now, and I still don’t have my backpacking meals down perfectly. I usually rely on Justin’s Nut Butters and Lara Bars for snacks, those coconut oil packets, and all natural jerky. I love making meals off of chicken and salmon packets, but they are not as lightweight as I’d like. My fav dinner is always salmon packet, freeze-dried peas, mayo packet, lemon juice packet and pepper. Re-hydrate the peas and mix everything together into a tasty salmon salad.
    Vitacost also has some good gluten free deals:

    Can’t wait to hear of your adventures!

  6. End of May is coming quickly! – stumbled upon your blog, in particular the Inspiration section when getting my daughters ready for a trip this summer. We’re not doing the CDT yet, but a small portion of the CT in the Weminuche Wilderness.

    You mention gluten, dairy, and soy free. That’s what we are doing. My wife and daughters are completely free, me it doesn’t seem to bother. But, for noodles, Annie Chun’s Pad Thai rice noodles are our plan. Quick boiling water soak.

    Out breakfast came as an idea from outdoorherbivore. Course grind 1/3 c buckwheat (it’s an herb, not wheat) 2 tbs chia seeds, cinnamon, blueberries, sugar, and a dollop of coconut paste. Boil your water and let it sit for 8 – 10 minutes. stir occasionally.

    The tough one was the flavoring packets. What to use as a base, then came across, she has a vegan broth recipe, now I have powdered stock, without all the MSG et al, in commercial powder.

    Excited to read and see the photos of your trip – have a great trip!

  7. Can’t wait to read about your adventure on the CDT. You are such an inspiration to me! Happy Mother’s Day!

  8. Oh, I am highly interested in finding out how the gluten, dairy and soy free foods are. So far all I have (for a 9 day hike!) is dried quinoa and veggies, gluten free oats, potato flakes, and instant rice. There’s a local shop that makes gluten free jerky, but it’s really expensive. I’m also limited as I’m in Canada and we don’t have pouches of tuna or chicken.

  9. Really looking forward to your CDT hike and also to you and Wired meeting up. Good luck on the last of your fitness prep before you go. As everyone has already said, you’ll be doing fine. For goodness sakes, you hiked over a thousand miles last year. That’s a real acheivement.
    Go! Rockin’ Go!

  10. “Sawyer Squeeze without in-line adapter and platypus”

    Just curious. Are going to go to the squeeze bag a bottle ?

    FYI update on me. My Wondeland app got denied. 1500 People appd for that 2 month window. A 50% jump in apps from Last yr.

    New plan: hike the pasayten wilderness for a week and hike a section of the PCT. undecided on which routes as of now.

    I am putting in my vote for Silly Chilly to join you. He adds a whole extra layer of positive vibe and silly entertainment to your hike /blog.

    Good luck on your prep.

    • Ahhh man that is such a bummer. I know you have been looking forward to and preparing for the Wonderland Trail. 1500?????? Wow. Sounds like you have a great new plan and are willing to be flexible.

      I am now going to use the Sawyer Squeeze with bag and disposable bottles in Colorado. I have been told that it is cold and would be a risk of the water in the hose freezing up. So no in-line adapter until Wyoming.

      So glad you noticed the mentioning of Silly! He is an awesome and fun hiking partner. Thank you for giving the thumbs up.

  11. The Beekeeper

    The time is ticking. I can only imagine the anxiety since you didn’t give yourself much time between the end of school and the beginning of your adventure. I’m sure Wired’s journals are encouraging and motivating you to hurry and just get there!

    You are amazingly fit and should do great if you can avoid a bizarre mishap. I have Colorado on my bucket list so look forward to your pictures. I find food choices the most difficult part of my prep, with reduced choices I’d feel frustrated I’m afraid. Good luck getting that piece worked out.

    • So funny you mentioned that there is no time. My last day of school is Friday the 31 and I will be on a plane the next morning at 6:00 am. Am I crazy about hiking, or what?

      The word procrastination best describes my food prep this year. I am in denial. On a positive note, the food I have prepared and bought is healthy and delicious. There just is not a lot of variety. I miss tortillas and cheese the most.

  12. It really IS challenging going gluten-free, dairy, and soy free on the trail. For a warm breakfast, I like oatmeal (I’ve heard that most oatmeal is cross-contaminated with a bit of gluten, though) and cream of rice. For a warm dinner, minute rice or instant mashed potatoes. Do you have any meal suggestions?

    • Unfortunately, oatmeal is a no go. But I have found quite a few delicious dinners that I am dehydrating: spaghetti with meat and quinoa noodles, Chili, Quinoa with veggies, teriyaki chicken, lots of mashed potatoes, dehydrated veggies, beans, dehydrated salmon, and any noodle dishes made with rice noodles.

      I did buy the Harmony House backpacker packets, but am having trouble finding recipes to put dishes together. I just emailed them for ideas. 🙂

  13. snakebait

    Hey Rockin’

    The first step on any journey … Is the one before the second step.

    You are so ready for this. I have learned when climbing or walking, that a prepared mind is as, or more, important than a prepared body. A prepared mind allows you to face challenges, which an unprepared mind but fit body will not face well.

    Although, given what ‘Swami’ said about your fitness – it’s great, I just know you will do well. ‘Wired’ says the same thing.

    Be comfortable in your experience and your resilience. You’ll get fitter on the trail.

    Relax – anticipation will lead you to “sail beyond the sunset.”



    • Okay, I so needed this today! Thank you. Relax????? :0
      I will work on that one. Ha. I do think I need to hit an exercise video or two. They deliver super powers when it comes to getting the hip flexors in shape. On the trail that it is essential when hiking big miles. So glad to have you along

  14. Don’t forget to attach a wrist strap to the Sony RX100. Consider a small waterproof bag for it as well as a small neoprene padded pouch you can hang on a shoulder strap. Extra SD cards (better to have multiple smaller ones than one huge one in case the worst happens). A small microfiber lens cleaning cloth would be useful as well.

    • Wrist strap on that camera is a MUST! It came with a great little Sony lightweight camera bag and that I love and I just now put a cleaning cloth in the kit. Big thanks. Now I need to read the manual and I bought the Photographer’s Guide to the Sony DSC-RX100 by Alexander White. I have not touched it yet (on the to-do list). So question for you. What are your favorite settings or modes on that camera for for use in outdoor photography? HDR? Creative Style (Sharpness, saturation, contrast), Intelligent Auto??? It seems the camera is shooting dark and needs +3 exposure. Most cameras I have had the sweet spot is -3. Weird. Love your thoughts…

      • I shoot almost exclusively in Aperture priority (A on the mode dial) and in RAW but that’s just me. For quick shots without a lot of futzing around I’d use P or intelligent Auto. I leave ISO on Auto most of the time, even on a bright day you can get significant underexposure in shadows if you force ISO down and Auto doesn’t make it so high that things are noisy.

        I’ve not noticed my camera shooting dark although I find the control wheels sluggish and once I noticed that I’d accidentally moved exposure compensation a few clicks when I’d meant to adjust something else.

        Because I shoot RAW all of the creative stuff isn’t used so I do all of that stuff in post in Lightroom. My recommendation for you is to shoot in jpeg and experiment with that stuff as you like but remember, if you bake it in as you shoot it will be more difficult to remove later if you get a good shot but don’t want it. Best to shoot in some generic fashion and adjust things in post (IMHO).

        You also might consider some Eclipse fluid. It’s an alcohol based lens and optics cleaner. The cloth will only do so much and if you get the front element seriously munged you’ll want some liquid on it so you don’t scratch it. You can get it at camera stores or online.

        I highly recommend shooting as much as you can before you leave and feel free to ask me questions as they come up. I may not know the answer, but I just might!

        Have fun.

        • You got me motivated. I have set a different setting for the P, A, and 3 different for Memory (MR). Now I need to take photos to see what I like. I am playing around with the idea of posting more black and white. It might work on the Continental Divide Trail nicely and would be different for my trail journal. Thanks for your positive help. 🙂

          • Great. Now do some shooting to make sure you’re happy with the results and consider making yourself a little cheat sheet to keep around so you remember to adjust the camera as needed. Glad its working out.

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