My 47KM journey on the Juan De Fuca Trail.
This week is going to be a bit different. Normally I write on topics regarding different aspects of nutrition and wellness, but this week I want to share something more personal with you.
Last week I embarked on the journey of a lifetime through the coastal rainforests on the west coast of Vancouver Island B.C. It was a 3 day hiking trip of 47KM through breathtaking forested coastline trail.
For anyone who has ever embarked on so much as a day hike, they know how important hydration and food can be to keep your body strong and your mind sharp. Add multiple days, questionable weather and rough terrain and these things become even more important to your happiness and survival.
When you’re “in the middle of nowhere” you need to stay focused, you need to stay strong, and you need to persevere. Nutritious food, the right gear, and a strong mindset are mandatory.
Plan ahead & prepare in advance
We started meal & gear preparations up to a week before our departure date. We made sure we were fully equipt with all cooking, sleeping, and hiking gear we would need for our trip. A big thank you to Jamie & Doug at Out of the Storm backpacking rentals for hooking us up and giving us some amazing tips and knowledge about the trail. We wouldn’t have made it without your help. Thanks!
In hindsight, we’re a bit crazy. As novice backpackers, we didn’t worry too much about the weight of our packs (oops!). We didn’t underestimate the importance of weight, but we knew our limitations and that a few extra pounds wouldn’t break us- we’re pretty tough on the trail. So please bare this in mind as I share what we packed for food. If we were going any longer than 3 days, we would have taken more care in packing dehydrated foods.
Preparing a meal plan and portioning out what we planned to eat was key. Ensuring you have just enough to get you through but not too much that you end up carrying extra food is a fine line. We made our mixes of nuts, breakfast porridge, and lunch mixtures the day before departure.
What fuelled us for 3 days
When hiking for extended periods of time, your body uses carbohydrates as the quickest and most efficient source of energy. A good supply of carbs is absolutely necessary! Your muscles will also need good quality proteins to help repair your “damaged” muscles after a day on the trail. A few good fats are also necessary to produce enzymes and help your body function at a cellular level as you move.
A big day. Starting late due to transportation, hiking 19KM, and getting our muscles warmed up made for an exhausting day.
We hiked through gorgeous lush green forests along the west coast. The ocean was full of kelp beds and made of nothing but rock slate. Not a place for a quick swim on a hot day as the powerful waves would be quick to take you out to sea.
About half way through the day, we had our first emergency first aid incident. Ok not so much of an incident as what my husband calls “the highlight of his trip”. I was stung by a wasp in the back of the leg. Neither of us had seen the nest and I immediately thought it was a snake or spider. “Do we have poisonous snakes or spiders here??” I was panicking. Can you tell I was scared by the dangerous animals we saw not so long ago in the jungle of Peru? Luckily we figured it out, laughed about my panic and marched on. Not long after we lucked out with our first black bear sighting. He was a cute mid-sized furry guy sitting on the trail ahead of us. Some loud noises and he was quick to jump into the bushes and scurry away. Welcome to the great Canadian wilderness!
Our menu of the day:
Breakfast: We had made scrambled eggs full of veggies on toast with avocado. We ate in the parking lot once we parked at the trailhead so there was no need to pack this heavy meal with us.
Lunch: Rice bean wraps with hummus, avocado, and sprouts. We had pre-cooked rice and beans and mixed with spices to bring along. This was a heavy addition, but a great vegetarian fuel for the energy we were using. Full of fiber, carbohydrates, and protein – we were off to a good start.
Dinner: Pasta, rose sauce, and peas with wine. After a long day of energy use, our bodies were more than ready for the carbohydrates that pasta had to offer. The sauce we brought was pre-made and lightweight. The wine was a heavy but absolutely necessary addition. I can assure you there is nothing quite like a glass of good wine after hiking for 7 hours! Trust me, well worth it!
Snack: Nuts, dried fruit, hard boiled eggs, and Granola Power Cookies. Keeping energy up between meals is key. Having snacks every hour or two will keep up your energy level and help prevent energy crashes between meals. Nuts are a great source of protein and fat. Dried fruit and the granola power cookies were a perfect source of carbohydrates to give us the burst of energy we needed along the way.
Hydration: You can’t sustain on foods alone. Hydration is extremely important to any hiking plan. Thank goodness for the Camelbak water sacks we rented from Out of the Storm so that we always had a good source of fresh water on us. The easy to drink from tubes are highly recommended. It allowed us to constantly be taking in hydration more so than if we had to stop and pull out our water bottles from our bags every hour. We infused some of our water with hibiscus tea to replenish some electrolytes lost through our sweat and to make it taste delicious.
We decided to make this day our shorter day and catch up on some rest for our poor muscles. We did an 8KM hike through a “hard” section of the trail. Only 2.5 hours later, we were at our next beach camp for the night. It was a quick painless day and we found that we didn’t need to eat as much as we thought. We had a small lunch and ate dinner later than planned as we just weren’t hungry. Relaxing on the beach and watching one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen are highlights of our whole trip.
Our menu for the day:
Breakfast: My famous porridge. Jam packed with grains, dried fruit, and seeds. It was a perfect way to get your belly full and ready for the energy needed during the day.
Lunch: Same as the previous day. Rice, bean wraps with hummus, avocado, and sprouts. I will admit that on this day we did have one of our “cheat” instant noodle packs that were a sodium loaded treat. When sweating for three days straight it’s important to remember to replenish your electrolytes with extra sodium, potassium, magnesium, phosphate, and calcium.
Dinner: Quinoa with curry, naan bread, and the rest of the wine. We had made naan bread before our hike and brought one piece each along with us. It was a nice treat! We had also packed some green lentils to mix into the curry sauce. We were slightly concerned about how much cooking fuel we had left so we opted for skipping the lentils and simply having quinoa mixed with some of our bean lunch mix and the curry spices I had pre-packed. It was a delicious meal for a relaxing night.
Snack: Nuts, dried fruit, Granola Power Cookies, and dark chocolate. The snacks were packed individually for each day of our hike and we had more than enough to keep our energy up during the days.
Hydration: Fresh water from natural streams. We are lucky to live in a part of the world with some of the most abundant and freshest water. Streams were plentiful and we simply sterilised with our travel UV light Steripen and away we went. Some of the best tasting and most mineral rich water comes from these natural springs
Our biggest, longest and most gruelling day. We hiked a total of 23KM (planned on 21) for a total of 8 hours. The extra two KM were due to a small unnecessary detour that we took from camp. Yes, that’s code for we took the wrong trail and got lost. Let’s leave it at that. Luckily we managed to get back on track and pick up our pace to still finish our day strong. We couldn’t have been any luckier with the weather during our whole trip. Sun and ocean breeze in the shade of the trees made for perfect hiking conditions.
The first part (10KM) of our day was by far the most “hilly” and gruelling terrain. We are both pretty good “hill people” so didn’t have much of a problem tackling this section. At lunch we were hit with the muscle fatigue and mental exhaustion that comes after such a trip. We knew there was only 10 KM left and we were so close. We managed to pull ourselves together and finish strong. The last 3 KM were by far the most difficult mentally. The terrain was easy but the knee pain and mind fatigue made these last few KM feel like a marathon! Making it to the end was such a great feeling!
Our menu for the day:
Breakfast: More amazing porridge to start us off on the right foot.
Lunch: Same as the other days. Rice, bean wraps with hummus, avocado, and sprouts.
Dinner: We finished the trail around 4:30PM and wanted nothing more than to indulge in some Pizza Hut bread sticks. So away we went and indulge we did. It was glorious. After such a hike our bodies needed some simple carbs and salt. Any other day of the year and I would have felt guilty and heavy after such an indulgence. But after what we just accomplished it was easy to let go and enjoy every bite of those white carbs!
Snack: Nuts, dried fruit, Granola Power Cookies and dark chocolate. We ended up having a lot of leftover nuts as we didn’t eat as much as we thought we would have. We now know more about what we need for our next trip
Hydration: More of that glorious fresh water. We discovered that my body seemed to require almost double the amount of water than my husband. I was constantly drinking, sweating, and stopping to pee. I was glad to be so conscious of staying hydrated and thank’s to this, I prevented any instances of dehydration and heat stroke.
Other than eating well, staying hydrated and keeping our minds sharp, there are a few other things that were key to our success on the trail
- Allow ample time to digest meals (especially ones containing fats and protein). We always took one hour for lunch which allowed us a good 45 minutes to digest after eating. During digestion, your body is using all of it’s resources (energy) to focus on breaking down the meal you just ate. If you try to use your energy for movement or other activities, digestion will not be efficient and can cause problems such as indigestion, fatigue, and weakness.
- Hiking poles are life savers! Going downhill without these babies will put a lot of strain on your knees.
- Leave the need to be clean at home. If you aren’t up for the real challenge of the great outdoors or if you can’t stomach the smell of your own sweat, then multi-day hiking might not be for you. No showers for miles, dirt everywhere, salty skin and oh so greasy hair are part of the joys of being one with the nature around you. Embrace it!
- Post muscle care. After the two-hour drive home, my muscles were NOT happy. Immediately upon returning home, I made sure to take a hot bath with Epsom salts to start relaxing my angry muscles. In the days to follow, good stretching is key to help your body heal up as it should.
Now officially hooked on hiking, we are planning even longer hikes for next summer!
Love & The Great Outdoors,