Friday, October 18, 2019

On the Trail: What's for Lunch?

What do you usually bring for lunch when you go hiking for the day (or several days)? My hiking buddies find it mildy amusing that I'm seriously interested and enthused about what they bring for noshing. 

I think the current trend is toward more packaged snacks. This seems especially true for long distance hikers, like Pacific Crest Trail thru hikers. But I don't have much of a sample group other than my friends.

I've also wondered if there's a generational shift from middle-aged and older hikers who bring food like sandwiches to Millennial and Gen Y hikers who want the latest and greatest in ultra light food. Or maybe it's more about regional variations?

Back in 2011, I had the fantastic experience of hiking in the Italian Alps.  My gracious and enthusiastic host Mario packed our lunches over two day hikes.

Ciao Mario!

For our first hike up to a mountain hut (Rifugio Barba Ferrero), Mario brought apples, packaged bread sticks, and some tinned meat for lunch. The next day, though, he snagged some local cheese, dried meats, and fresh bread from a deli in the village for an incredible Italian feast al fresco.

I relished tearing off hunks of bread and slathering them with the oozingly ripe cheese and pungent salami or prosciutto.

Wonderful memories.

Meanwhile back here in the Pacific Northwest, my friends Andy and Mark also go for salami and cheese, although not quite as Euro-fresh and rustic.

Dry salami and cheese with mustard on pita.
Often my standby lunch is peanut or almond butter on crackers. Sometimes I buy Justin's squeezable packets of nut butter for the convenience. But to cut down on waste, I usually carry my own in a small container.

Classic peanut butter on pita.
While thru hiking the Washington portion of the PCT this summer, my friend Lisa started with crackers and tubes of peanut butter and jelly. The cheese she brought for the second week didn't work out so well: it melted all over the inside of her pack on a particularly warm day, leaving a greasy, smelly mess.

My friend Julie is an out-of-the-box thinker when it comes to hiking lunches. Usually she grabs whatever is in her fridge (she's a bit of a gourmand), and usually I'm envious of her lunch.

Goat cheese on Italian-style croccantini crackers

Sometimes she has tidy little containers of hummus and crackers, and sometimes it's leftovers, like the argula pizza a few weeks ago.

As for me, I bring healthy salads and fruit or just a bar and fruit (apples are a favorite). Plus lots of dried fruit and nuts.

And a random stranger sitting a few rocks away from me on the shoreline of Mason Lake a few weeks ago was going for a paleo lunch: grass-fed cheeseburger without the bun. She and her hiking mates were good-humored enough to oblige the lady who wanted to take pictures of their lunch. :)

But I gotta love my friend Don, who sticks to his routine meals regardless of whether he's at home or on the trail. Below, his classic ham sandwich and apple.

So grouping lunch preferences by generation or location is surely too simple. I'm sure it's as much about personal preference, taste, and more.

Oh, I haven't mentioned what many consider the most important component of trail food: dessert.  I say there must be good, high-quality chocolate. I'm also becoming partial to the buckwheat fig bars made daily at my local bakeshop, Preserve & Gather, in north Seattle.

And we must not forget the classic American chocolate chip cookie.

 So how about you? Yes, I would seriously love to hear what you favor for trail food in a comment below!

Happy trails and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons! 

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