WOW! The last month has been a whirlwind on steroids. I returned home from Brazil, spent about 8 days at home cleaning gear and visiting family; I also packed for the summer. Next I drove to Vermont for our trip planing weekend, followed by a month long stint with Hurricane Island Outward Bound, I taught some staff trainings, attended other trainings, jumped in a few rivers, played in my boat, and spent almost all my free time on trip prep. There was a four day period in which I placed 4 Amazon orders. It's sometimes hard to remember everything at once. After I finished work, I had 10 days to make trip planning my full time existence. First I sewed then second I packed. Simple right? Let me enlighten you.
Food Bag Production
200 pennies isn't a lot when you count them. 200 M&M's could accidentally be eaten over the course of a day, Holy moly 200 food bags is A LOT of sewing. I thought two people could sew food bags easily in two days. My friend Meganne volunteered to help. Meganne spent 4 hours on her knees expertly cutting 27 yards of fabric into 200 individual pieces- and they were square! I sewed. The next day, I spent 7 hours trouble shooting sewing machines, meanwhile Meganne sewed like a machine! The following day I sewed on all the ties and finished all the bags. Eli's mom, Joanna helped us out by making 40 bags. After three days of food bag production, my butt hurt from sitting, I put a huge dent in my tea collection and ate way to much take out. I dreamed about food bags, more than once.
The morning after the food bags were finished, I headed to the Maine cost to Eli's parents house. Their upstairs had been turned into a food prep room. Eli, Sage, and Steve were all busy over the week end so I took on food pack alone. Eli created our food system and gave me a detailed list of all the ingredients and meals. Sage finished up the details and did the final food shopping. When I arrived to the food room, everything was very organized and easy to find. "Eh food pack will be easy" I thought to myself.
I got to work making food bag labels and creating an organization system. Being organized and systematic is probably one of the keys to a successful food pack, especially a big one. I organized a grid on the floor to separate food by breakfast, lunch, supper, and snacks. That was one axis, the other axis separated the food by barrel. Our food is organized so that the first 10 days is packed in a dry bag. The barrels are packed in layers, the top layer for the second 10 days, the third for the 3rd 10 days, and the bottom layer for the last section of the trip. All the barrels contain a combination of breakfast, lunch, supper, and snacks- that way, if we forget a barrel on a portage or lose it down a river we wont lose all our delicious oatmeal or chocolate bars.
Food packing took hours. Meticulously weighing everything and then placing it on the grid. So far, I'm pretty happy with the performance of the food bags. The seams are sewn tight enough that flour doesn't dust out the sides!
Working through the lens of a no single use plastic initiative has opened our eyes to just how difficult it is avoid plastic waste. We order a lot of our food in bulk, while this reduces waste and cost, food still comes packaged in plastic bags. Small pallets as still wrapped in plastic, We also order trip gear online and some of those items shipped in plastic bags. Some boxes even contained has air filled plastic bags as packaging material, not to mention the dreaded Styrofoam. On Future trips I'll reduce this by trying to purchase more food items and gear locally. Much of our food was from the Outward Bound 'roadkill' bin. Roadkill is food that went out on a course with participants, was left over, and is still in excellent condition, but for O.B. can't send it back into the field. Many of our grains, pastas, flour, cornbread mix, powered milk and a few other items we from this bin. Those items were still in their original plastic food bags. We repackaged these into our sewn food bags. Those plastic bags are added in to our plastic waste total, even though it isn't new plastic waste. Over all our food pack added 13.2oz to Eli's 9oz of plastic waste from food dehydrating, totaling 22.2oz. We inevitably missed a few things, but our push to buy consciously and use or own food bags greatly reduced what this could have been. Remember- we're not bringing back plastic waste! We will return with 75ish candy bar and energy bar wrappers. We ran out of time to make all of our own bars. Besides plastic, we had one paper grocery bag full of cardboard for recycling (not including a few shipping boxes), and several gallon containers from peanuts, nuts, potatoes, prunes, and cheese powdered. Not zero waste. We tried hard - and this processed open our eyes to just how difficult this is.
The next step in the prep process was packing everything in barrels and bags! We have checklists months in the making and most things were checked three times. Our food barrel packing session showed that we only missed one item (mung beans, impressive right?). It did enlighten us that our original plan of fitting all our food into 4 barrels was a distant dream. We had to add in an old 110L seal-line dry bag. Our barrels are full to the brim!
We filled 43 containers from sQuishloc with varies wet ingredients and spices, like maple syrup, olive oil, jelly, lemon juice, molasses, honey, salt, cumin, garlic etc. We double checked all of our gear item by item. We packed repair kits for sewing, patching dry bags, fixing and patching boats, repairing bug mesh, and patching dry suits. We triple checked our first aid kit. We debated about if we really needed to bring a wooded spoon. We set up our tents and tarps and counted tent stakes. In the end all of our gear fit into one granite gear food bag and Duluth pack.
Next we sorted through our own gear. Between the porch and backyard at Steve's house common questions were, "How many pairs of socks are you bringing? Should I bring my wind-stopper fleece or my cozy comfy fleece?" "Shit, where are my neoprene socks?" Final decisions were made and clothes, and sleeping bags are tucked away tight in our dry bags. We will make a last minute gear store stop in Burlington on our drive north- never found those neoprene socks!
Last step- the final check and loading the van!
And, with all of that- Beth and Steve are heading north! They will meet Eli and Sage in La Grande, Quebec on July 1st. The team flies to Umiujaq on July 3rd. We may check in on Facebook so like our page if you want to follow our progress. Thanks to all of you who have contributed in many different ways to make this trip happen. We'll be back at the end of August!
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One of the best places to begin route planning? Google Earth. Each day's travel length can be measured. Each proposed campsite's Lat and Long measurements can be recorded. Waterfalls can be seen, images from other adventures can be viewed.
Imagine entering this area even, 120 years ago. Inaccurate maps and no information. Or, with a hand drawn map, a hunch and large sacks of flour, sugar, and salt.
I can't fathom adventuring like the first explorers. Over-planning and information gathering can easily hinder the expedition prep process. Can't we just go already?
If you're into adventure stories, check out Great Heart: The History of a Labrador Adventure. A 1903 ill-fated expedition into the unmapped Labrador Wilderness was a race for fame for Leonidas Hubbard that he would not survive. That gave way to a 1905 expedition crafted and completed by his wife, Mina Hubbard and her fantastic Cree Guide, George Elson. This expedition made headlines around the world.
These days I can explore waterfalls, rivers and mountain tops around the world, in moments immediately after the thought occurs. Today I stood on the east face of Annapurna. Holy moly is that mountain steep.
The world of adventure sure has changed in the last 120 years. I can take a flying tour of our expedition route at an altitude of 164 feet.