We were out in the desert on the eastern side of the Sierras when we stopped to take a photo of Mt. Whitney in all of it’s sunset glory. The landscape was pretty barren of interesting vegan friendly restaurants so we decided to cook up dinner right alongside the 395. Cows to the right and the highway to the left. It was scenic, fast and mighty tasty. I highly recommend this as it has quickly become a tradition.
Ramen is inexpensive, comforting, quick to cook and easily expandable. Add what you love!
Probably one of the best backpacking trips I’ve been on that is extremely close to Los Angeles. it’s about a 10 mile hike round trip so 5 miles in and 5 miles out. The Narrows are about 1 mile but can take a decent amount of time since the trail is not maintained and is covered in poison oak. And yes it gets very narrow and your essentially just hiking up the creek. Check out more info about our trip here and a lot more photos of the adventure here.
Recently we headed to Red Rock Canyon to go stargazing and camping. It was quite spectacular and not too far of a drive to see the stars. There were a few scattered clouds crossing by but they just added to the dramatic landscape. We saw several meteors and just laid on our blanket in silence. A wind storm ripped through the desert in the middle of the night and shook the tent pretty good and it didn’t disappear until first light.
I brought a Doomies red velvet whoopie pie for a treat and we cooked up oatmeal and scramble tofu with toast and coffee (the usual) for breakfast.
1st pic: Vegan S’mores made with Dandies marshmallows and I got the Speculoos cookies and vegan chocolate from Trader Joe’s. I usually cook them up but these are also quite tasty straight out of the bag.
Alix and I picked up a bunch of dehydrated vegan backpacking meals at REI. It’s kind of nice to be able to grab these in a hurry. The lentils, rice with indian spice are good. You can rehydrate this meal in the bag but I always like to cook it in my pot and add some extra seasonings. If you don’t like cleaning your pot you can also eat out of the bag.
I like the kettle chili quite a bit. We let the chili rehydrate in the bag. It was fine but next time I’ll cook it in my pot. I’m not sure if I added too much water but it seemed like it. A common technique to thicken meals out in the field is to add some dehydrated potato flakes. This time I added some nutritional yeast and it did the trick.
And scrambled tofu is pretty much what I aim to have every morning I’m camping & backpacking. If I’m going out for multiple days I can’t always do this but heck it’s really tasty and easy to make. My alternate version of scramble tofu where I cook it all in the same pot. What’s in the seasoning? Mostly nutritional yeast, salt and pepper. I add a few secret ingredients but it’s really only a secret because I’m always changing the recipe.
The Backpacker’s Pantry Louisiana Red Beans and Rice was quite good. I let it rehydrate in the bag as I cooked the tofurkey dogs. Then I added the beans and rice to the pan and cooked it on low heat for a couple of minutes. Then I take off the heat, cover it and let it cool down for a few more minutes. I offended my friends from Louisiana when I sprinkled some Daiya on top. You just don’t add cheese, vegan or not to red beans and rice. I won’t do it again, it was a one time thing! I’ll keep trying new variations and techniques with my food but I’m extremely happy with what I make on the trail. I have a couple longer trips planned where I’ll be dehydrating my own food and I’ll post some photos of that. And I should of posted about Ramen and Oatmeal. It’s super cheap and easy to make on the trail.
Here’s the camping photos from our backpacking trip in Kings Canyon National Park. We brought an insane amount of food and it was definitely worth it. As some of you know I love making my tofu scramble for breakfast as well as having a delicious cup of coffee. This time I managed to have grits and vegan beans & weenies with my breakfast as well. Alix kept it simple and went with oatmeal. We also brought some dehydrated vegan backpacking food which we ate for lunch later in the day. I’ll post a couple of those photos sometime as well. Have fun on your trip.
BACKPACKING IN KINGS CANYON / GIANT SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARKS
A little over a week ago we went backpacking in Redwood Canyon, the largest Giant Sequoia Grove on the planet. It resides in Kings Canyon National Park which is right next door to Giant Sequoia National Park. We slipped in right before the busy season (trail quotas and permits) and we were practically the only people on the trail. Throughout our two day stay we hiked about 11-12 miles. I’ve backpacked / mountaineered in the Sierras for quite some time and although trails dip into the forests on occasion it’s common for them to be mostly exposed, sure with brilliant views but also with intense sun and heat. I love hiking in the woods and I wanted to go backpacking in the woods. This was the first overnight backpacking trip I took in the Sierras where I was completely shrouded in a forest for the entire adventure. We peaked out on a rocky overlook but other than that we were deep in the woods the entire time. It was delightful and magical.
Planning adventures ls something I rather enjoy. it’s always fun to figure out how much and what kinds of food to bring. Then the joy of packing the right stuff in your pack without it becoming to cumbersome. I have some of the newer lightweight stuff but mix it with plenty of vintage and older backpacking gear. I don’t mind extra weight here and there. Hiking is part of the fun but I also like setting up a nice camp. My wife is a bit more interested in the lighter weight gear and dehydrated meals than I am. I’ll hike with heavier foods such as tofurkey dogs, baked beans, bread, burritos, and tofu so I can make my classic scrambled tofu for breakfast no problem.
The hiking. The trail was relatively easy. There was plenty of uphill but nothing too steep or strenuous. We took our time and had a really nice hike both days. All five of us made it without much of a hassle. We took breaks regularly and we took lots of photos.
There’s a few caveats to hiking in this area. Bear canisters are required or highly recommended (for overnight camping) in several of these wilderness areas so check it out in advance. Alix and I own two smaller bear canisters and our friends rented canisters at the Lodgepole Visitor Center for $5. I don’t mind them at all, I quite like mine because it fits perfectly in my pack and I keep my cookset, stove and food inside. You can also use it as a stool. I’ll post more tips on this type of stuff later.
It’s springtime and the Sierras are just beautiful this time of year. There are so many pretty wildflowers. We were super lucky and we even saw a bear :) I’ll post some camp photos soon with the vegan eats that we packed and cooked. Have fun!
Yosemite National Park is one of my favorite places on the planet. If you haven’t been, the heart of Yosemite is the Yosemite Valley which sits at about 4,000ft elevation in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and is surrounded by Granite Cliffs which are at about 7,000ft. Yosemite Valley was formed by a glacier and is way, way, way beyond stunning.
If you want the classic private experience of camping you’re going to have to hike into the backcountry. Yosemite gets crowded, very crowded, especially on the weekends so by all means go on the weekdays if at all humanly possible.
I’m not a big fan of drive-in campgrounds unless they are private. In Yosemite Valley the drive-in campgrounds are not very private but they can still be cool. The drive-in campgrounds are few and they often sell out so make reservations in advance. There’s also Housekeeping Camp which is kind of like camping and kind of like having a cabin. It just opened for the season and they sound pretty fun. If you don’t want to camp there is the Yosemite Lodge and the super expensive Ahwahnee Hotel (where Steve Jobs got married and looks like the inside of the hotel in The Shining) which are often booked months in advance. There is also the infamous Camp Curry which rents out small cabins and canvas tent cabins. Camp Curry is inexpensive but also quite crowded. The tent cabins are stacked. You can also score some cool private cabins near Yosemite Valley and keep in mind the next accommodations are about an hour or more away. Wawona is a beautiful area and close to the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. You can also camp up in that area, stay at the Wawona Hotel or rent a secluded cabin. Wawona is still inside Yosemite and it’s a lot quieter than the valley. If you want to hang out in the woods and have some solitude Wawona is a great area to be. It’s about an hour drive to Yosemite Valley but you also get the legendary tunnel view on your way in and out of the valley which is a major bonus.
Right outside of Yosemite I looked at The Yosemite Bug which does have vegan eats at their cafe and a nice selection of draft beers. It seems very affordable and like a cool hang. It does take an hour or more to drive to Yosemite Valley. The drive is pretty and down the Merced River so you don’t have to drive up the curvy mountain roads like when you’re going to Wawona.
On my trip to Yosemite in early April I stayed right in the heart of Yosemite Valley. I went on a weekday and it was rather empty at Camp 4 which is a first come first served campground and only $5 per person which is rather nice. Camp 4 is a walk-in campground so you don’t have to be close to RV’s or cars but you’ll most likely will be close to other tents. It’s often used by rock climbers and I ran into a few young wanderers using it as a temporary home. I found it quite lovely and enjoyed resting beneath the granite cliffs and didn’t mind the close company. Be prepared to store your food in bear lockers no matter which campground you stay at. All the campsites in the valley have bear lockers and even some of the backcountry campsites have them as well. If you’re heading into the backcountry for an overnight visit in Yosemite you’ll need to rent or buy a bear canister.
There are so many other places to go in Yosemite but most people head directly to Yosemite Valley. It’s open all year and most of the hiking in this area is suitable for beginners and it’s accompanied by some of the most dramatic scenery in the world. Many of us are awaiting the opening of the Tioga Road which is roughly a 60 mile section of road in Yosemite that is closed all winter long. They just opened the road to Glacier Point a few days ago so you can go check out magnificent views of Yosemite Valley and get some amazing subalpine hikes in.
TIPS: the weather forecasts the last three times I’ve gone were always inaccurate. Your best bet is to hike prepared and check the latest forecasts possible. Carry a rain jacket, lots of water, and go to Degnan’s deli for ice cold bottles of beer that are under $2. You can drink the beers with your packed lunch at the picnic tables outside. We packed most of our food but they do have a small but well stocked market with Primal Strips and other vegan snacks and food. The closest full size grocery store is over an hour away. We sometimes stop at the Whole Foods in Fresno and there is a health food store in Mariposa.
If you have any camping or hiking questions please ask away. I’m obsessed.
Get to the Sierra Nevada mountains now! Enjoy the amazing mountains as they transform during Spring. The flowers are blooming and the weather is beyond gorgeous. The waterfalls in Yosemite are at or close to peak right now because of the snowmelt. Some of the waterfalls will be a trickle by August. Avoid the crowds and go on a weekday if at all possible. The crowds often quadruple on the weekends. I have another post I’ll put up shortly with some camping tips.