Tag Archives: gorp


Our son, Peter, is the outdoorsman in our family. He hikes, rock climbs, skis, canoes, and anything else that will get him into the outdoors. When all the rest of us have opted for a motel room, he will choose to sleep outside in a bag on a ground cloth. He was excited, then, when he was selected in a lottery to bow hunt for elk in one of the wilderness regions of the Jémez Mountains in New Mexico. He drove to our house in Santa Fe almost non-stop from his home in Northern California, stopping for a few hours’ sleep in the Mojave Desert.

We helped him pack food for his expedition, and in a few hours he was off for what turned out to be a five-day adventure. He went to the San Pedro Park Wilderness with much of the trip over dirt roads. When he got to the trail head, he loaded up his back pack and went for a two-mile hike to his campsite. There were no other hunters, and he had planned the hike so that it would not be too far back to the car in case he bagged an elk and needed to pack out the meat. He wound up hiking another two miles to find a good hunting spot.

Map of the San Pedro Parks Wilderness

Map of the San Pedro Parks Wilderness

Hiking can be a strenuous activity, especially with a 50-60 pound pack. It’s fairly easy to use up 400 calories an hour, and even possible to use up 1000 calories an hour, never mind the fluid loss. Thus, it is very important to stay well hydrated and to have a good supply of food. Even if you had pure calorie sources – carbohydrate, protein, and fat – at 4, 4, and 9 calories per gram, respectively, you would need at least a pound of food a day to stay in balance. Of course, these days you can buy elaborate dehydrated meals at the outdoor sporting goods store, but they are very expensive and they also take away some of the fun of planning and packing for a wilderness trip.

Using dehydrated or low-weight foods available at the grocery store, we worked up a menu for the expedition. All you need is a good backpacking camp stove and a reliable source of water. Remember to cut instructions off the sides of boxes and drop them in the zippered plastic bag with the food. Put individual dry ingredients in zippered sandwich bags and drop them in the bag of the main dish.

Also pack a small squeeze bottle filled with cooking oil and another small container of butter or margarine. Bring small salt and pepper shakers.

Gorp, more commonly known as trail mix, is a hiking standby. These days you can buy any number of varieties with a wide range of different nuts, dried fruits, and candies. Some of them are extremely expensive and – in my view – not very good It’s just as easy to make your own, and that way you can include ingredients that you like.

Soup made from a packet of dehydrated soup is good while waiting for the main dish to cook.

Macaroni and cheese, especially the boxed kind, is an old-time kids’ favorite. It is nothing but dried ingredients. Add a little dry milk powder and some Spam lights, and you have a dish that can be cooked in just a few minutes. At the end of a hard day of hiking it will please everyone, kids and grownups alike.

Tuna casserole is another standby. With the new packaging of tuna in  foil pouches, this becomes even more light weight. Instant or fast-cooking pasta makes this an easy effort even with just a backpacking stove.

Salmon and rice casserole becomes another possibility with the advent of dry packaging of salmon just like tuna. A can of salmon would weigh over a pound, while the “dry” pack weighs 2.5 ounces

Dried fruit – banana chips and apricots make good desserts, along with chocolate bars.

Energy bars weigh only about 2 ounces each and pack an impressive 250 calories, about 1/3 of it from fat




  • 10 ounces sunflower seeds, roasted (880 calories)
  • 16 ounces dry roasted peanuts (2560 calories)
  •  7 ounces “runts” or other candy-coated chocolate candy (715 calories)
  • 6 ounces walnut pieces (1100 calories)
  • 6 ounces whole almonds (935 calories
  • 9 ounces dried cranberries (780 calories)
  • 8 ounces raisins (775 calories)


  1. If the sunflower seeds are raw, roast them by spreading them out in a jelly roll pan and placing them in the middle of an oven preheated to 300° F (177° C). Bake for 15 minutes, turning them frequently. Remove from the oven and cool before adding to the remaining ingredients.
  2. In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients and mix well.
  3. Place in zippered plastic bags. This makes enough gorp for 4 or 5 bags, one for each day of the trip.

Macaroni and Cheese with Spam Lights


  • 1 box commercial macaroni dinner, including cheese packet
  • 1½ tablespoons powdered milk
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 pouch Spam lights


  1. Place all of the dry ingredients in separate packages in a larger plastic bag
  2. In a camper’s cooking pot, bring 2 cups of water to the boil. Add the dry macaroni and cook until tender.
  3. Pour off all but about ¼ cup of water. Stir in the contents of the cheese packet and the powdered milk. Add butter.
  4. Drain and stir in the pieces of Spam lights. Cut them up a bit if you wish.
  5. Mix well and serve immediately. Serves one or two hungry hikers.

Tuna Casserole


  • 4 ounces quick-cooking pasta
  • 1 2 ounce packet dehydrated mushroom soup
  • 3 tablespoons dehydrated mashed potatoes
  • 1 2.6 ounce pouch tuna
  • 2 cups water


  1. Place all of the dry ingredients in separate packages in a larger plastic bag.
  2. In a camper’s cooking pot over a camp stove, bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add the pasta and mushroom soup. Cook until tender.
  3. Stir in the dehydrated mashed potatoes and the tuna, drained.
  4. Eat. Should serve one or two .

Salmon and Rice Casserole


  • 1 cup instant rice
  • 1 envelope dehydrated vegetable soup
  • 1 2.5 ounce pouch salmon
  • 2 cups water


  1. Place all the dry ingredients in separate packages in a large plastic bag.
  2. In a camper’s cooking pot over a camp stove, bring water to a boil. Add the instant rice and dehydrated soup and stir until cooked and the water is absorbed.
  3. Drain the salmon and stir into the mixture.
  4. Eat. Should serve one or two.

For breakfast, be sure to bring tea or instant coffee and packets of instant oatmeal. For lunch, if you want to pack the extra weight, dry Italian salami,  Parmesan or other hard cheese, small cans of Vienna sausages  or Kipper Snacks, along with hard tack or crackers are perfect. Just remember you will have to pack out the cans, and Kipper Snacks can be smelly. Remember, too, if there are bears in the area, the smells will be a magnet. Be sure to secure your food appropriately.

The hunter and some of his elk meat

The hunter and some of his elk meat

The end of this story is that Peter hiked in two miles, set up camp, and then hiked another 2 miles in stocking feet (!!!) to the spot where he got his elk with one arrow at a range of 45 yards. Then he spent a whole day cutting up and packing out the meat in three separate 4 mile (8 mile round trip) hikes to his car. He had a long sleep when he got back to our house.



Filed under Food, Photography, Recipes, Travel


On our recent trip to Glacier National Park and Yellowstone we stopped in Moab, Utah with a lot of mixed feelings. Forty years ago when we lived in Utah, Moab, Dead Horse Point, Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park were our favorite places. We visited them often and as much as we could.  Moab was a sleepy little river town peopled by laid back river rats, denizens of the desert, and a lot of very nice folks.  We really didn’t spend much time in town, though, because we camped out in tents on the desert floor waiting for the sunlight to slice into the canyon making the slick rock and desert varnish shine. We also anticipated the distant morning call of the canyon wren, birds hopping around our camp site, and lizards and snakes seeking coolness under boulders. Exploring Canyonlands required a four-wheel vehicle and an adventurous spirit, but Arches was a wonderland of trails, canyons, and striking rock formations including the name-sake arches. One of our most memorable hikes was up the steep narrow trail to a rock window through which you could see a smooth rock terrace with Delicate Arch perched on the edge of the abyss and the glistening La Sal Mountains filling the horizon.  With a little trepidation you could sit under the arch. We and our small children spent a half day there by ourselves, pleased with our hike and awed by the breathtaking scene.

Since our long-ago visits, Moab has been “discovered” and turned into a Mecca for dirt bikers and river runners. We had heard that Moab had grown and changed a great deal, so we were a little nervous. But we were not prepared for what we found.  The main street had been widened with lots of traffic signals, and the streets were filled with still-shiny four-wheel drive vehicles with expensive composite kayaks strapped on top or $5,000 dirt bikes strapped on back or both. The cars created traffic jams, and one could only wonder why they were in town instead of the desert or beside the river. Above were giant billboards advertising this or that outfitter, and the streets were lined with overpriced motels and cutesy restaurants featuring local specialties like steak and lobster (lobster in the Utah desert??), pizza, tired-looking Italian, and more than one easy-to-forget Mexican restaurant.

We decided to forego Arches because we didn’t want to have our memories destroyed, and we didn’t want to see a parade of people shuffling in lock step up the narrow trail to Delicate Arch in the same way I imagine the current traffic jams on the final pitch to the summit of Mount Everest.

We did revisit two of our favorite places, and we were pleasantly surprised. The twenty-two mile drive to the Big Spring Canyon Overlook in Canyonlands was virtually isolated except for three separate bands of pronghorns. When we arrived at the overlook, there was practically no one else there, and the various hiking trails assured that the few who were there would not get in one another’s way. The view from the rim evoked an uncontrolled gasp, and it just got better as we walked along the edge of the sheer cliff. At one point we could just make out the ridge identified as Dead Horse Point, all the way across the huge chasm created by the confluence of the Colorado and Green Rivers, 15 miles or more away. There is no exaggeration to say the place is as spectacular as the Grand Canyon.

Big Spring Canyon Overlook, Canyonlands

Nearly 40 years ago we made a camping trip along the edge of the river with friends. One of them was an artist who later did a show based upon our trip. A painting of hers remains a prized possession. Here is a detail from that painting in contrast with one of my recent images of the tributary San Juan River near Blanding, Utah.  You can see that nothing much has changed in forty years.

Colorado River by Ruta Dreimanis, 1973. Oil and fabric on masonite (detail)

San Juan River near Blanding

On our way out of Moab, we took a 20 mile side trip to Dead Horse Point, a Utah State Park so-named because of the legend of horses that perished while being constrained to the narrow peninsula by a gate. The park now boasts a modern visitors center, but just a short stroll down a well-marked path gets you away from anyone else. The view inspires another involuntary gasp. Again, nothing much has changed. You can judge for yourself by comparing a painting we purchased from another artist friend about the same time (We still marvel at how or why we paid as much as we did in those days of training) with one of my recent images.

Dead Horse Point by Denis Phillips, 1973. Oil on canvas

Dead Horse Point in 2012

This is mostly a food blog, so I struggled with what to write about Moab food in light of there being nothing of particular note there. Instead I decided to describe the perfect trail-side lunch for a hike in the desert. I have included a recipe for Gorp. No one uses that name anymore because it has been replaced with the term, “Trail Mix”, by aggressive retailers. Be assured, though, that any hiker above a certain age will know exactly what you are talking about with Gorp.

A perfect desert trail lunch including gorp


  •  1 sleeve of saltine crackers
  •  1 tin Kipper snacks
  •  1 can Vienna sausages
  •  1 plastic bag  Gorp



Ingredients (you may use any or all, or choose something else of your own)

  • 1 cup salted peanuts
  • 1 cup mixed fancy nuts
  • 1 cup salted pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup M&M candies (CAUTION: under no circumstances use chocolate pieces, as they will melt into a huge mess in a back pack and 105® day temperatures in the desert
  • 1 cup dried apricots (or pack separately)
  • 1 cup dried apple slices (or pack separately)
  • 1 cup rolled oats

Mix together and pack either in a single large plastic bag or in smaller quantities in individual bags

Remember to pack out everything you brought in, like cans and plastic bags, but bring an odor-resistant container for the cans or you will smell like a kippered herring for the rest of the trip. Be sure to then secure the trash in either an animal-proof container or pulled up off the ground on a line until you are ready to pack it out.


Filed under Food, Photography, Recipes, Travel