UN12,130 “Cherokee” (Indian Peaks Wilderness)

Stats

Distance: 15.5 mi
Elevation Gain: 4000
Difficulty: Easy Class 3
Time: 10Hrs round trip

Useful Links

Camping

There is Arapahoe Bay Campground near the trailhead, which a good option for staying the night before hiking.  The campground was full so we elected to sleep in the back of the truck at the trailhead.  There are a few VERY nice backcountry sites along the trail.  There are 2-3 sites just above the waterfalls at 4.5 miles.   There are 8 sites 7 miles back at Crater Lake.
I believe all back country camping in this area requires permits.  June – Sep

Trip Report

Jeremy, Dayton, and myself have been trying to coordinate schedules ever since our unsuccessful attempt at Juliet Couloir this spring.  Jeremy proposed this relatively unknown 12er in the Indian Peaks wilderness.  It didn’t take long for Dayton, and I to agree to making Cherokee Peak our objective.  Both Gerry Roach and the author of the summit post page, lavish praise on this peak and the Lone Eagle Cirque.  This praise is WELL deserved! Continue reading

Pacific Peak East Ridge

The East Ridge of Pacific Peak is a fun easy scramble on solid rock.  The ridge will keep you entertained with a few challenging towers, and plenty of amazing views.  At 13,950 Pacific Peak is one of the highest 13ers, and centennial which makes it a worthwhile objective for peak baggers.

Continue reading

Mt Massive

I somehow managed to convince Angela to climb Mt Massive with me to celebrate her 32nd birthday.  We were already in the area doing some mountain biking from one of the 10th Mountain Division Huts near Tennessee Pass.  You can read about that part of our trip here.  We were climbing via the southwest slopes route. This route is accessed via a 4WD road North Halfmoon Creek. Continue reading

La Plata Peak

Route: Northwest Ridge (Standard)
Distance: 9.5 mi round trip
Elevation Gain: 4500 ft
Date Climbed: 6/23/2012

Pre Hike

The trailhead for La Plata is three hours from our house in Castle Rock. I happen to be a fan of actually sleeping the night before a climb, so we decided to spend the night in Twin Lakes. We both had Friday off so we enjoyed a pancake breakfast at Snooze, and then headed to Twin Lakes. We spent the day riding our mountain bikes on the Colorado Trail around the lake, and fishing. We then checked into Wolfsden B&B for the evening. We enjoyed a relaxing evening with a great view. Liz and James are great hosts I would highly recommend.

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The Hike
We had a 15 min drive to the trailhead so we slept in until 4:45. We were kind of slow getting going so we didn’t get to the trailhead until 5:45. We took the last parking space at the small parking area off highway 82.
The trail starts off with a couple of creek crossings on good bridges. The second crossing has a really cool waterfall!!

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After crossing the second bridge we accidentally turned left on the small trail instead of following the main trail. To avoid this make sure you continue straight (not left) after crossing the second bridge. We did not realize our error until we reached a creek with no aid for crossing. We checked a map and gps and decided to bushwhack upstream to the main trail. This turned out to be much easier than backtracking I would recommend to anyone who makes the same error. If you simply follow the trail upstream you will reach this crossing.

Camping
Last year I was considering doing this trip as an overnight backpack. There was a couple of nice camp sites approximately an hour in. They were directly on the main trail with little privacy. There was no fire rings, so I would not recommend a fire here. Also at the start of the trail there was a warning about not drinking the water in the area. It is contaminated with heavy metals / minerals from mining. I don’t know if the upper creek has this issue, but it would be worth investigating before camping here.

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WIND!!!
We knew from the forecast that we were likely to encounter bad winds. As we started up the switchbacks around 11500’ the wind really picked up. For me strong wind is super annoying, and it really saps my motivation. It seems there is a point in many climbs where a seed of doubt creeps into your mind (Am I really going to stand on top today?). A couple of parties passed us on the way down, reporting they turned around at the ridgeline due to extreme winds. As we struggled to stand in the gusts I was thinking if I would write a trip report for a failed attempt. It was very annoying, but not yet dangerous so we persevered. By 9AM the wind had subsided to a manageable level.

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Loose Trail
I had read a recent thread on how “loose” the La Plata trail was. I would have to agree that the area between 12K and 13K was exceptionally loose. It was dirt, and small gravel. This caused some wasted effort from slipping backward on the trip up. It was annoying on the return, but didn’t pose much of a hazard. When descending this stuff I find it easiest to not fight gravity. I move pretty quickly and just accept that I am going to slide. It is kind of half plunge stepping half skiing motion, seems to work well for me. It is sort of like sliding on ice. If you bend your knees, keep your center of gravity low, an expect your feet to move in any direction you are fine. I you try to fight it and stop from sliding you are going to have a bad time.

Summit
After 13K the trail fades, and you climb a large heap of talus. I found this section to be a lot of fun. After the talus hopping the trail picks back up, and continues most of the way to the summit. We made the summit at 9:45 (3:45 minutes climbing time). It had turned out to be a beautiful day. There was no sign of incoming storms, and the temperature was pleasant. The well-constructed shelters on the summit provided protection from the remaining wind. We spent 30 minutes enjoying the stunning views. One of the groups sharing the summit was enjoying a sushi lunch.

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Descent
The descent was uneventful, but LONG. I expected to be down in two hours or so, it ended up taking more than three hours to get down. As we lost altitude the temperature rose, at 10,500 it was 85 degrees! I stopped and dipped my shirt, and hat in the stream which provided some welcome relief. My feet were quite sore and tired, which made the last two miles really drag. I wanted nothing more than to be done hiking, I knew the only way to make it stop was to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

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At 1:40 we reached the parking lot. We cranked up the air conditioning, and removed our hiking boots; both felt AMAZING. We met some friends who were camping at Twin Lakes. At the campsite we cooked up some wygyo beef hot dogs ($10 for 4), which were delicious!!

Overall La Plata was a long, beautiful, and fun hike. My favorite so far in the sawatch range.

South Colony Lakes and Humboldt

I elected to spend my 33rd birthday camping in the South Colony lakes area, and climbing the 14er Humboldt. We met up at the lower 2wd trailhead and made the bumpy but uneventful drive to the upper trailhead. The drive took about 20 minutes. We arrived at the upper trailhead around 10AM on Friday morning. We promptly deployed some mothballs (to ward off marmots / porcupines), and readied our packs. The upper trailhead has 3-4 nicely developed campsites. The sites have a flat tent platform and a steel fire ring with grates. There is one site that is maybe .10 of a mile down the trail just across the bridge. There are also at least a half dozen good dispersed sites along South Colony Road. At the trailhead there are no trash or toilet facilities. When we signed in at the register there was a poster saying that they were going to start charging a $20 fee for using the area in the near future so you may want to check the status of that before heading to the trailhead.

The hike up the old 4wd road was pretty easy we took our time and enjoyed the beautiful surroundings. At approximately two miles we hit the “shortcut trail’ that is marked as a pack trail on topo maps. There is a sign here although I think it is a bit misleading. The sign indicates that the trail leads to upper lakes / Humboldt. You can also use this to access the lower lakes and Crestone Needle.
We started seeing campsites somewhere around 3 miles in we decided to keep hiking as we wanted to camp near the upper lakes. We hiked around and surveyed over a dozen good sites before settling on this one. We picked it because it was sheltered / private, yet had good views with access to water. There are a lot of good sites up there however; many of them almost have a campground feel as they are well developed and quite close together.

Campsite
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While hunting for a site I ran across a heard of bighorns including a baby. They were scavenging around someone’s campsite.

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We spent the remainder of the afternoon lazing around camp. A couple of thunderstorms blew through in the afternoon. Wow they really move in quickly up there, and the needle blocks your view to the west where they come from. By the time you can see the clouds you have 15 minutes until it is over you.
We turned in early so we could get good nights sleep. Although our camp was hidden from view of other campsites we could hear nearby campers enjoying campfire conversations. At 4:30 AM my slumber was rudely interrupted by the marimba sound emanating from my iphone. As I fumbled around in my tent pocket to snooze it, I could hear the wind blowing hard in the trees above us. We decided we would sleep for another half hour and see if the wind would die down. Reluctantly we extracted ourselves from the warm sleeping bag around 5AM. I went down by the creek and snapped couple of pictures of the Needle as the glow of the pre dawn sun warmed it.   

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We hit the trail around 6AM. The wind had died down and it looked to be a near perfect day for hiking. I noticed the needle reflecting in the creek below the lower lake. The contrast was to high to get a good picture (this would be a great spot for an alpenglow shot)

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Soon we passed the upper lake and the trail steepened as it began to climb the saddle. As others have noted the CFI has really done nice job improving this trail. I can’t imagine how much work it took to place all those steps. On the way up the ridge we passed some nice wildflowers. They were a couple weeks past prime but still very pretty.

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We took our time enjoying the view from the trail. We reached the saddle and took a break around 7:20. We got our first views of North Colony lakes here. There was a little wind, but less than I expected.

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After leaving the ridge the trail gets even steeper and rougher. I stowed my trekking poles as they were just getting in the way at this point. The trail to the false summit soon turns into a fun scramble over a large boulder field. Really the only thing to be careful of here is the occasional loose rock. There are cairns marking a pretty easy route through the boulders, but there are endless options of class two routes. Really you just need to meet up with the ridge line on the other side of the false summit. Angela was somewhat freaked out by the scrambling and so we took quite a bit of time making it up to the ridge.

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As we reached the home stretch we paused to get some pictures of Humboldt’s impressive north face. A group of four that passed us on the saddle stopped to say hi as they returned from the summit (We had only seen one other group all morning)

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From the false summit there was a short scramble to the summit. The summit of Humboldt was quite large and had a nice wind shelter. The weather was PERFECT hardly any clouds and dead calm. We shared the summit with a few marmots and pika that came to help celebrate Erik & Steph’s first 14er summit.

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The return trip was relatively uneventful. We made good time although it seemed like a longer hike on the way out. We passed 3-4 more groups making their way up the trail

Upon reaching camp we traded in our hiking boots for sandals and headed up to the lake to eat lunch and fish. We enjoyed a lazy afternoon at the lake, and an evening around the campfire.

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There were fewer people camping at the lakes Saturday night.
After a great nights sleep we packed up the tents. As we were packing a few big horn sheep showed up to bid us farewell. Sad that the weekend was already over we waved goodbye to Crestone Needle who had stood guard over our camp. We reluctantly shouldered our packs and forced our aching quads to make the 3.5 mile hike back to the cars.

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This was just a spectacular weekend. It is impossible to even come close to capturing the beauty and grandeur and beauty of this area. I look forward to one day returning to tackle the harder peaks in the group.

How I Lost 100 lbs Playing Outside

You probably clicked this article hoping for a secret easy way to lose weight.  Unfortunately I don’t have some big secret, however, I hope you will enjoy my story.  I think it will show you that you can lose a siginifcant amount of weight, change your life, and have a great time doing it. If you read to the end I will give you some unsolicited advice on how you can make similar changes in your life.  

How I Got Fat
I am a Colorado Native, who grew up in the Colorado Springs area.  I have always been a husky guy.  My parents love the mountains, and we spent lots of time playing in the great outdoors when we were kids.  This level of outdoor activity kept my weight somewhat in check.

After College I was lucky enough to land a great job with Lockheed Martin.  The unfortunate darkside of this job was that it meant long hours of sitting in front of a computer.  After the long day I would come home crack a beer and plop down in front of the tv.  This pattern of course, led to pound after pound slowly sneaking onto my body.  I moved to Caste Rock, and my level of activity continued to decrease.  I had somehow all but forgotten my love for the outdoors.  It was now replaced with a love of food and TV.

The pounds kept piling on and I had just resigned myself to being a ‘Fat Guy’.  In the fall of 2009 I was staring 300lbs in the face.  That was a scary prospect.  I started to make some small changes which resulted in losing a few pounds over the next few months.   In March of 2010, a routine doctor’s visit noted that my blood pressure was getting pretty high for my age.  

I started thinking about the fact that I was working hard to invest money for my retirement, but I was not investing anything in my health to ensure I could enjoy my retirement.   The time had come to deal with the problem. 

 

 

How I Fixed It 
I knew from past experience that a diet and gym was a path to long term failure.  So instead I tracked my calories and analyzed my life to figure out what the biggest problems were.   Slowly I made small changes that I knew I would be able to live with for the rest of my life. This included reducing how often we were eating out, adding in healthy fresh food, and giving up alcohol.  Of course another obvious problem was my completely sedintary lifestyle. Having a unique distain for hours on the hamster wheel (treadmill), I knew I needed to be active outdoors in order to have success. I knew I used to love hiking, golf, and riding my bike.  So I started out slow with some easy hikes.  I increased the amount of time I spent outside by 10 fold. I didn’t worry about what I was doing, as long as I was being active and enjoying myself.  Sure enough the pounds began to slowly slip off.   

My first symptoms of the 14er bug bite appeared mid summer 2010.  I had been on 14ers as a teenager, and I remembered how much fun it was.  I set a goal to get in shape to climb 14ers, and so I began training.  I was still really out of shape, and I thought tackling a 14er that year would be irresponsible.  Instead I set a year long set of goals that would get me in good enough shape to enjoy myself and be safe.  I started with 3-5 mile hikes in the foothills around Castle Rock. At first it was 300’-400’ elevation gain per hike.  By the October I was  50 pounds lighter and able to do the infamous Manitou incline in a little over an hour.    

I also read and researched to keep motivated.  I bought “Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills”  and spent a lot of time studying it.  I checked out dozens of climbing books from the library.  One of them I particularly enjoyed was Halfway to Heaven.  I enjoyed it enough that I got my wife Angela to read it as well.  After months of hearing me babble I could tell that she to was getting intrigued by climbing. Halfway to Heaven talks a lot about the website 14ers.com . I joined the site and found a great community of local hikers and climbers that were very motivated to climb the mountains that surround us.   

Throughout the winter I continued to hike, and we got back into snowboarding.  We bought microspikes and snowshoes so that we would be able to stay out in the winter conditions.  By January I had shed 70 pounds and I knew climbing would be much easier this summer.   I wanted to increase my cardio capacity so in February I started the Couch to 5k running program.  I completed my first 5k at the beginning of April. The training was tough, but I could really feel the difference when I was out on the trail.  

 

Where Am I At Today
In March I bought a new bike, and really got into cycling as well.  I found it to be my second favorite activity behind hiking.  It was also much easier to do on a daily basis, and again I noticed a difference in my endurance on the trail.   By mid summer I was riding 30 miles on the bike, had run a sub 30 minute 5k, had a 47 minute time on the Incline, and was hiking harder and harder trails with increasing ease.  

In July I finally stood on top of a 14er.  The mighty Mt Elbert, the tallest one in Colorado.  All the training had really paid off, and the hike went better than expected. 

For us the journey is just beginning.  There are more mountains in Colorado  than I can hope to climb in my lifetime.  Many of them are far beyond my current technical and physical abilities.  This means I have many years to get in progressively better shape.  Which is now an exciting prospect. 

I have lost a total of 112 pounds since September of 2009.  Here is a picture of me on July 4th. 

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Tips
So I wouldn’t want to leave you with out some lessons I learned along the way. 

  • There are two types of pain. The pain of discipline and hard work, and the pain of regret. The first pain is temporary and will be replaced by the pleasure of accomplishment.  The latter will eat at you for a long time in a very uncomfortable way. 
  • You won’t be successful unless you set goals.  You need to set some really lofty long term goals.  Something that seems almost impossible.  Then set lots of intermediate goals that when combined will get you to your big goal.  This gives you plenty of successes to celebrate along the way.   You need to move slowly, but at the same time push yourself hard.  You will soon be amazed at what you can do.
  • Find a motivated partner that has similar goals if possible.   Victory is even sweeter when you have someone to celebrate it with. 
  • Make small incremental changes in your life.  Every few weeks look at your habits and try to eliminate the worst of what you are doing.  Make better bad choices, and make all of the changes permanent.  Small changes coupled with a lot of time lead to some really big results.  
  • I know this isn’t going to be popular, but you should drastically reduce your alcohol intake. 
    • Alcohol is full of bad calories.
    • It reduces your body’s ability to metabolize fat. Your liver learns to prefer it as fuel, and stores fat.
    • You are far more likely to make poor food choices after drinking.
    • Even a small amount of alcohol the night before a big activity will reduce your peak performance.  A lot of alcohol, and you will probably just stay in bed instead of hitting the trail. 
    • Alcohol messes with your sleep, and dehydrates you.  Sleep and hydration should be top priorities for anyone seeking a fitter lifestyle. 
  • The things we think will make us happy in the short term, are really the enemies of our long term happiness.  When the alarm goes off on a cold day, I feel as if nothing would make me happier than shutting it off and skipping my workout.  Once I get going and complete the workout I have a much happier day than if I had chose to stay in bed. The same is true with your food choices.  Even though it seems that second cookie is really what you want, it is the enemy of your long term happiness.
  • Take advantage of techology. I used several Iphone apps to help me with my weightloss. I track all of my workouts using runkeeper, I track and analyze my food using my fitness pal, and foducate.
  • Don’t go on a diet, but do work to make healthy food choices.  You should not deprave yourself or follow a strict diet.  That does not mean you don’t need to change your eating habits. It takes work to find healthy foods that you like It is completly possible to enjoy your food and feel satisisfied while loosing weight.  Food is the fuel your body needs to rebuild itself so learn about and pay atenttion to what and how much you eat.  

I hope you have enjoyed the article, and perhaps it will motivate you to do something better for yourself.  I know I am very happy with my choice to change my lifestyle.  

 

Backpacking / Hiking Food

These are some ideas for trail food you can take with you backpacking or on day hikes.

General Tips

If you are out for more than a day hike you need to really consider weight, and perishability of your food.  This means dehydrated / freeze dried food rules. You will be expending a lot of calories so you want to eat high calorie foods. You know, the stuff you are supposed to stay away from at home.

Eat a very big breakfast the day you leave and plan for a big dinner on the way home.  This reduces what you carry

Pre portion your food use a combination of drysacks / plastic grocery bags / ziplock bags to portion your food. Splitting into a grocery bag for each day makes it easy to find your food, and keeps you from accidentally overeating early in the trip.

Don’t forget to hang your food & trash in a bear bag or bear canister.

Packets of olive oil or canola oil  are a good way to add healthy calories to lunches or dinners.

You should focus on getting plenty of carbohydrates, they are the primary source of quick fuel.  They will also help tired muscles replenish glycogen for the next day’s hiking.   Fat is a good way to up the overall calories, eating fat before bed can help you stay warm at night.

Breakfast

In winter or shoulder seasons a warm breakfast is a good start to a day in the outdoors, it may be worth the time and effort to heat breakfast.

 

  • Cliff Bars or granola bars make a great easy breakfast 
  • Bagel with cream cheese (set it on top of kettle while making coffee to get it warm)
  • Instant Oatmeal (consider nuts, raisons / dried fruit to improve) [Also bring ziplock bag to line bowl with, then you can just throw away when done)
  • Cereal with dehydrated milk
  • Pancakes
  • Dehydrated breakfast meals from Mountain House or Backpackers Pantry
  • Pop Tarts
  • Honey Stinger Waffles
  • Via instant coffee from star-bucks makes a great tasting cup of coffee in the morning. It is already pre-packaged in convenient single serving packs

Lunch
A common lunch strategy is to simply graze on snacks all day long. This avoids the time and effort of unpacking and preparing lunch. I personally prefer an actual lunch, but I try to make it low fuss.  

  • Summer sausage and hard cheese (this will keep for a couple of days)  Good with crackers
  • Flatout wrap or tortilla with – (hummus, turkey, cucumber, tomato, cheese)
  • Flatout wrap or tortilla with – chicken, avocado and smoked salmon cream cheese
  • Flatout wrap or tortilla with–  peanut butter and dried apples and a sprinkle of roasted pumpkin seeds (the green kind without the shell aka pepitas), some honey
  • Flatout wrap or tortilla spread with Gnutella & then toss in some banana chips as a wrap
  • Hot soup in a thermos (this is a real treat on a cold day)
  • Cold Pizza (only good for a short day hike)
  • PB&J on Pita bread (better than regular bread because it won’t  squish.  A good tip is to put your PB&J in a ziplock bag. You can then just cut the corner an squeeze onto your bread when you are ready to eat.
  • PB&J bagel
  • Savory bagel (onion / everything) with cucumbers tomatoes, and savory cream cheese
  • whole grain bagel with thinly sliced apple and gouda cheese.
  • Cold KFC (only good for a short day hike
  •  Lunchable – only good for day hike
  • A pouch of tuna with crackers
  • Mini-baguette sliced in half, drizzled in olive oil, plus sea salt, ground pepper and rosemary
  • Sea Bear Smoked Salmon with crackers or chibata bread.
  • Mountain house chicken salad (just add cold water) with a tortialla or bagel.

Snacks

It is always good to have a mix of salty and sweet snacks.  After a few days of trail mix, and candy sweet food starts to sound pretty disgusting.  A good variety of flavors making sure you include some savory options can help avoid this.

  • Bananas / coconut milk are a great pre hike snack.  They will give you calories and electrolytes.
  • Trail mix (there are tons of varieties in trail mix, it is a great choice because it is low weight high calorie and easy to eat)
  • Nuts (there are lots of nut mixes that can vary the flavor and range from salty to sweet to spicy)
  • Coconut Almonds and dried pineapple (yeah its just trail mix but yum!!)
  • Nut butters (justins nut butter or pocket fuel)  [Note these don’t do well in cold weather]
  • Cheetos (these do much better in a pack than potato chips)
  • Pringles (the can keeps them in good shape) (note they do sell short cans of these)
  • Crackers (Tougher crackers such as triskets or wheat things survive better in the pack)
  • Fruit Rollups, fruit leathers or cliff kids
  • Dried fruit (bannana chips, dried apricots, dried mangos, dried apples)
  • Cookies (the hard varieties do better in a pack)
  • Candies such as gummy bears, orange slices, hot tamales, twizlers (these all do well in cold weather)
  • Candy bars (snickers are great frozen)
  • Jerky (I prefer the kinds that are not super chewy as they are faster to eat and don’t get stuck in the teeth as bad)
  • Apple
  • Energy bars(Cliff, Luna, Laura are all popular) [some of these turn to real hard bricks in cold weather]
  • Protein bars (these are a nice filling snack, again cold weather can turn these into a rock)
  • Energy Gells / blocks (shot blocks are the best in my opinion)
  • Stinger organic waffle. (available at REI and YUMMY especially vanilla!!)  http://shop.honeystinger.com/categories/Organic-Stinger-Waffles/
  • Cytomax / gatorade / hammer nutrition …  (I keep a week solution of this in my camel back for a constant suply of energy and electroliytes) http://www.cytosport.com/products/cytomax.    I prefer the powder kind because I can bring it in my pack and mix more on a multi day trip.
  • Sharkies organic fruit chews
  • Date balls- grind up dates and walnuts add cocoa and coconut
  • yogurt or chocolate covered pretzels

Dinner

For dinner you should consider dehydrated food. Many of these such as Backpackers Pantry, and Mountain house are cheep and really pretty darn good.  If you want to reduce the sodium and the cost you could consider buying a deyhdrator and doing it your self.

Some other choices for dinner

  • Instant mashed potatoes
  • Ramen noodles
  • Cup o soup
  • MRE’s (available at military surplus stores and online)
  • Fresh caught fish.
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Thanks to the users at 14ers.com who provided some of these ideas.