Weighing In

We just wrapped up a double-dip in Alaska: a sea kayaking adventure in Glacier Bay followed by a week-long float of the Kobuk River in the Arctic. Both trips created packing challenges, as our usual kitchen either wouldn’t fit in our tandem kayak or wouldn’t stay below the weight limits for our bush plane. So we stripped things down to what we thought was the bare minimum–not to be confused with the bear minimum–and off we went.

It’s tough to stay ultralight and still have variety, but we mixed in enough pepperoni, cheese, and fresh veggies to keep things interesting, and we foraged a bit along the way for lowbush cranberries and wild blueberries. We also caught a lot of fish on the Kobuk, which helped round things out and gave us a cushion of food in case our bush plane was delayed due to weather (it was). In Glacier Bay, our portions were so big that we didn’t really need our kayak sprayskirts by the end of the week. And on the Kobuk River, we gorged on fresh grayling almost every night.

To prepare the grayling, our buddy Steve favors wrapping a cleaned fish–head and all–in tin foil and then baking over an open fire. No scaling, no fuss, no muss, and you just peel off the skin to eat it. Adding salt and pepper helps, but the fish basically seasons itself when it cooks. Clean up involved burning out the foil in the fire (we were in brown bear country, after all) and then packing out the burnt foil. It took fifteen minutes from stream to table for a delicious mild white meat that is healthy for you (reportedly high in Omega 3s, which may even help your mood—prompting me to immediately begin sneaking grayling into our companions’ coffee).

Despite our weight and space limits for this trip, we did bring some fresh herbs and vegetables (carrots and celery), and they added quite a bit of texture and interest to what would otherwise have been pretty standard one-pot meals. Storing the herbs in a wet paper towel and the vegetables in a brown paper bag kept them going for the better part of a week, even as temperatures in the usually cool Arctic soared to close to 80 degrees. You can add them to just about any dish, and while it’s not exactly Alyeska, it wasn’t Hardees, either.

For our dehydrated meals, Mary Jane’s Farm generally outperformed Mountain House and Backpacker’s Pantry. In particular we liked the black bean hummus and the burritos. The Mountain House spaghetti wasn’t bad, but the Chicken Teriyaki with Rice was bland and pasty, probably the most forgettable entrée of the week. For desserts, tops was the Backpacker’s Pantry Crème Brulee. And seeing moose was way more fun than eating mousse, which basically tasted like watery pudding. Rounding out desserts was our usual complement of chocolate bars, which I insisted were excellent sources of antioxidants (even though I’m not sure what antioxidants are).

If there was a lesson from this trip, it’s that you can’t really have enough antioxidants. Or Scotch.

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