“The mountains are calling and I must go.” John Muir

Once I recovered from my professional-grade hangover, my January was off to an excellent (second) start. APU offers month-long block classes in January and May, which means students have an entire month to get credit for doing awesome stuff. Case in point: this month, I’m taking Winter Wilderness Skills, in which I get my Level 1 avalanche certification and ski and camp for an elective credit. Needless to say, I am pumped.

Am I proud that my freezer is full of Smuckers Uncrustables? Of course not. Will eating those be easier than thawing out the three key ingredients of a PB&J each morning? Priorities, people. (P.S. The thermos will be filled with hot chocolate of the FULL FAT variety. Oh so delicious.)
Am I proud that my freezer is full of Smuckers Uncrustables? Of course not. Will eating those be easier than thawing out the three key ingredients of a PB&J each morning? Priorities, people. (P.S. That thermos will be filled with hot chocolate of the FULL FAT variety. Oh so delicious.)

Backcountry travel rocks for a number of reasons. One of my favorite things about living and traveling in the backcountry is the fact that, in order to stay warm and make up for hauling around a forty-pound pack and a sled full of gear, you have to eat a TON of calories. Food groups normally banned from my pantry (lots of sugar! carbs! full-fat items!) are welcomed into my backcountry diet with open arms (and mouths).

In the frontcountry, people eat like 1,800 calories a day, and a fair amount of that diet should be made up of vegetables. Not so in the backcountry.ย When I say “a TON of calories,” I want to make it clear exactly how much I’m not exaggerating. Each person in my cook group needs to eat about 2.5 pounds of food per day, or roughly 4,000 calories. That’s only a third as much as Michael Phelps eats every day (I read that somewhere), but it’s still a lot of calories. I love calories.

While eating in a way I never would at home (candy bars! beef jerky! Top Ramen!) is undoubtedly one of the things I look forward to most about wilderness travel, it’s still not the best thing. I’ll get to that in a second.

The second best thing is that I get to do lots of the same stuff I do in the frontcountry, but it’s totally normal in this context. Going several days without washing my hair? Totally cool. Wearing the same clothes every day for a week? Standard. Sleeping in one pair of sacred socks for days on end? Everyone does that. (This is making me sound gross. I promise I’m not gross. Crunchy, maybe. You know what? Shut up. All this stuff is very Dar.)

This is me the very first time I ever skied, at age four. Look at my sweet dinosaur hat. Could I still rock a onesie today, you ask? Let's just say some things, like great fashion sense, stick with a person for life.
This is me the very first time I ever skied, at age four. Look at my sweet dinosaur hat. Could I still rock a onesie today, you ask? Let’s just say some things, like great fashion sense, stick with a person for life.

Okay, the second-best thing was a little dicey, but I’m pretty firm on my #1 favorite thing about backcountry travel: no traffic. Here, I mean traffic not only in the literal sense, because it sucks, but also in a larger, more getting-away-from-it-all sort of way. I do not have to drive for the next two weeks. I will not have to sit at a desk or talk to annoying strangers or, god forbid, sit in traffic. My primary responsibilities for the rest of January will include skiing, setting up tents, skiing, digging pits to determine snowpack stability, skiing, and (say it with me now) eating.ย Constantly.

Some of my strongest, happiest childhood memories are of my family’s frequent trips to the mountains to ski and hike. Few things in life bring me as much pleasure as time spent in the mountains, though eating pasta without guilt and skiing with a wicked awesome new friend, both of which I will be doing this month, are up there on my list.

Note: Yes, poor Kevin will be stuck in Wasilla while I’m gone. I think he will enjoy the opportunity to do things he normally wouldn’t, like watch football without hearing me whine and eat lots of chicken wings. See, my backcountry expeditions affect everyone’s diet! Just kidding, I stocked our house with healthy hot wing alternatives to ensure he at least occasionally eats something green while I’m gone. I don’t feel too bad about leaving, because he will have the world’s most ridiculous (and helpful) Labrador to keep him company.

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