Offering opportunities for foodie adventurers.
WRITTEN BY ELISABETH KORB
Photo courtesy of Tahoe Rim Trail Association
"Bottom line, food just tastes better on the trail," says Jaime Souza, director of trail use at Tahoe Rim Trail Association.
TRTA Crew Leaders Gina Silvernale and Bill Weik
I can attest to this as I discovered one of my favorite snacks on the Bayview Trail out of Meeks Bay: Doctor Kracker flatbread with fresh avocado. Perhaps the food we've packed in tastes so good because we've earned it, slogging our fare up vertical feet. Or maybe it's something deeper, a "primal connection between the movement of your body and food as fuel," says Teresa Crimmens, TRTA's director of operations. No matter how you philosophize — or not — about it, eating on the trail is essential if you're hiking farther than a few miles or deeper into the woods on a backpacking trip. TRTA employees know this, and have created a variety of programs and volunteer opportunities for the foodie in every hiker.
Backcountry Cooks Wanted
The Tahoe Rim Trail depends on volunteers for trail maintenance, but not every section of the 165-mile trail is easily accessible. So the TRTA plans two multi-day camps a year that get its trail-building crews to more remote sections, such as Barker Pass, the site of the 2012 camps. These backcountry camps have been run since the '80s, when the TRTA would use pack animals to carry in tools, food, and supplies; now trucks bear the load. To make the most of everyone's time, a volunteer cook goes along, and runs the show, Crimmens says. The cook is up at 5 a.m. to start the coffee and is the last to bed to make sure all the food and trash are bear proofed. Past volunteers have been everyone from passionate home cooks to a trained French chef. Fare ranges from pancakes and tacos to the traditional 4 o'clock welcome-back-to-camp margaritas. "It's a great way to support the trail without physically wielding a tool," Crimmens says.
Calling All Trail Angels
As the name implies, trail angels are godsends on a through-hike. You might find a trail angel doling out pizza or cold soda once or twice on the entire Appalachian Trail, but on the Tahoe Rim Trail's two annual 15-day guided through-hikes, trail angels appear every one to two days with goodies. It's a nice surprise for the through-hikers, many of who are backpacking for the first time. Whether they bear fruit, a hearty meal, fresh supplies, or lavish amenities such as hair-washing stations and lounge chairs, Tahoe's trail angels are backpacker celebrities. "Generally, we are met with dirty smiles and occasionally hugs," says Roberta "Ro" Martinoni, a Tahoe Rim Trail guide and trail angel. "We get cheers and songs and sometimes thank-you cards." Susan and Dave DeVoe, who've been trail angels for the past two years, cook up hot sausages for hungry hikers, and set out their homemade zucchini relish and olives atop lace tablecloths, all of which help make "roughing it" a bit less rough.
"The food we eat on the trail or when we are camping or backpacking is special — sacred even." — Jaime Souza
Preparing Camp Meals
Foodies also can get their trail food fix by participating in and learning from the TRTA crew at events such as Family Camping 101, June 22 – 23. The event, sponsored by REI Reno, invites families to pitch a tent at Glenbrook's Camp Galilee to learn safe camping strategies, including cooking in camp.
Sometimes camp cooking can be as simple as soup and s'mores; after all, it's all about the experience of enjoying food outside.
"When I am out in nature, I stop inhaling my food and actually taste it and enjoy it," Souza says. "Even if all I have is ramen, it's the best-tasting ramen I have ever had." Elisabeth Korb is a Tahoe City-based editor and writer who likes to hike, eat, and eat while hiking. She's packed in everything from banana chips to boxed wine, and her favorite Tahoe Rim Trail section leaves from Barker Pass on the West Shore.
Tahoe Rim Trail Food Events
Backcountry Volunteer Camps (cooks needed): Aug. 10 – 12 & Sept. 15 – 16 at Barker Pass
Guided Through-Hikes (trail angels needed): Aug. 4 – 18 & Sept. 8 – 22
Family Camping 101 (with a cooking family meals component): June 22 – 23 at Camp Galilee
Tahoe Rim Trail Association Executive Director Mary Bennington isn't just known for her nonprofit management; she also is famous trail-wide for her energy bars. Lucky you, she's shared her recipe with edible Reno-Tahoe.
Mary's Rim Trail Energy Bars
1 cup oats
½ cup sliced almonds
½ cup pumpkin seeds roasted/salted
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup peanut butter
½ cup honey
1/3 cup Kashi Go Lean Crunch cereal (don't roast)
2 tablespoons wheat germ
2 tablespoons protein powder of choice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Vary the nuts/seeds and oats combo to equal 2 cups Toast oats and nuts in 350 degree F oven until light brown. Warm honey and peanut butter in saucepan until warm, mixed, and easy to stir (do not boil). Mix everything together in bowl. Press into jellyroll pan or cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover with layer of parchment paper and spread with rolling pin. Let cool then cut into bars. Enjoy!