Mount Rainier always has been our personal health challenge. Jim has been fortunate enough to hike the park more than me, and it shows. Whenever we go, he usually keeps a good clip ahead of me on the inclines, and before I started on my plant-based diet, I would have to stop a lot, gasping on the side of the trail and figuring it was just another example of weak lung capacity. Out of shape didn’t begin to describe how I was, and little wonder. No exercise and life brought to you by the Standard American Diet, heavy on microwave meals and micro-tiny salads, made for a bad hiker.
We hiked this past Saturday, and it was great. Yes I got tired, but the familiar “I gotta stop!” feeling didn’t kick in for quite some time. I had a lot more stamina and our total hike was just under 4 miles, with a solid half of it at an incline. No big deal if you are an ultra-marathoner, but it’s a big deal to me. I credit our new diet and the fact we walk about 2 miles every night now. The walking is easy, the hard part is you have to make the time commitment for regular, daily exercise. We do it after dinner each evening.
I look forward to this sight later this summer, when Mount Rainier National Park has its wildflowers in full bloom and we can walk the upper trails at Paradise.
Plant-based living takes planning if you travel for hikes. Here is our strategy, which you can do. Again, it’s all about building habits. Once you do this routine, you can modify it for future trips, but once you do it you will know you can survive without a double-cheeseburger and fries on or off the trail.
Before the trip, make a list of what you want to eat: This is not some food-obsessive thing, but you want to make sure you don’t get hungry (read, tempted by roadside burger stands) so healthful snacks are a must. Your list then will then show you if you have what you need on hand and whether it will satisfy everyone going on the trip.
Pack the night before: We made sure we had ice for the cooler for perishables and bundled the perishables (fresh fruit, dips) together in one place in the fridge.
Keep the water, trail mix and fruit going while you hike: Think apple slices, bananas or raisins. Keep a trash bag in your backpack so that you’re not a litterbug. Our last hike saw the trail littered with stray cheese puffs, which I think the birds like but the park doesn’t want wildlife being fed by humans; junk food isn’t good for them or you.
Make a picnic out of snacks after your hike at a beautiful location either where you are or nearby: Pack peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (we use blueberry preserves) on whole grain bread, low-sodium crackers (rice, rye, whole wheat, even plain Triscuits, go to this link for more tips on what are “accidentally vegan” foods at the store), berries and fresh fruit such as melon slices that you can store in a cooler. Black bean hummus or other healthful dips are great with the crackers. We like Daiya Vegan Cheese with our crackers (not a sponsored plug, just a product I found a few months ago at the store and really liked). You will be surprised how you will fill up on all of this without even a hint of meat.
Warning about crackers: I stay away from the “flavored” varieties, as they will not only overpower the rest of your picnic with their concentrated flavor, but high sodium typically comes with the exotic flavors. Cracker purchases are the main times I read product labels, both to see what’s in them and how high the sodium is in the item.
Overall, emphasize fresh fruit, nuts and seeds and keep the bread, crackers and other boxed “accidentally vegan” treats to “condiment” level (solid advice from Jeff Novick) and you should be good to go!