Tag Archives: off-trail food

Vegan hikers should eat avocados in town

The Appalachian Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Appalachian Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

That’s right, I’m endorsing a fruit. Avocados are a great snack for vegan hikers. In town, on the trail, straight up or mixed right into your dinner, avocados are the perfect supplement to a vegan hiker’s minimal diet. Also, they’re delicious.

According to my favorite book on vegan nutrition: Becoming Vegan (2000) by Davis and Melina, both R.D.s., vegan athletes need to increase the fat and protein in their diet. It is commonly accepted that protein is important for high intensity activities; it is essential for muscle building. However, much of the real energy for physical activity comes from carbohydrates and fat. Fat is the longer-lasting energy source and is needed most during endurance activities (sound familiar?). Vegan thru-hikers should pay close attention to get enough protein, fat, and carbs.

Davis and Melina suggest that the best sources of fat are whole plant foods, “nut butters, tofu, and avocados” (p. 250). They also recommend oils such as olive, canola, or flaxseed. I’ve written about my experiences eating olive oil and peanut butter on the Appalachian Trail.

Avocados are especially high in calories and fat, according to the USDA. One average size whole avocado has 320 calories and 29 grams of fat. Avocados are also high in protective monounsaturated fats and have more folate and potassium per ounce than any other fruit, even bananas!

For a hiker, avocados are somewhat heavy, bruise easily when ripe, and have a heavy pit. During my thru-hike in 2009, if I found a ripe avocado in a store in town, I would eat the whole thing right there with a spoon. Sometimes I would carry a second one onto the trail with me as a first night out treat, though I’d have to carry the pit until my next resupply. As I got further into my hike, I was eating so much and subsequently carrying so much food that an extra ounce of pit didn’t bother me.

However you like avocados, or if you don’t eat them very much at home, they are a fantastic, nutritious, and calorie-dense addition to a hiker diet. In the trail world of overprocessed foods, a whole fruit is a welcome addition.

Not to shoppers: an avocado is ripe if it’s soft enough to easily depress under your finger (don’t buy a hard one, they can take several days to ripen).



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Technically Vegan Part 2

During a thru-hike, you will be carrying an insatiable appetite with you into every town. As we got closer to our next resupply we couldn’t help but talk about where and what we wanted to eat when we got to town. Needless to say, we often went straight for the Pizza Hut hoping to make it in time for their all-you-can-eat lunch buffet. Most of the other folks dining would have a couple slices of pizza and a drink. But when thru-hikers show up, each of us could easily down a whole pie. Plus, there’s a salad bar.

Having not eaten in one of these places since I was a kid, I was skeptical when we first went, but then discovered that you can request pizzas for the buffet. I would make a request for a pizza with lots of veggies and no cheese. The first time I did it, I would just take a few slices at a time back to our table. Every other visit, I would just bring the whole pie to my seat…

The general agreement amongst the vegan blog world is that the “Thin & Crispy” style crust is vegan, while the regular crust is not. I think it’s safe (read: vegan) to get this style crust with veggies and no cheese.

Apparently there has been controversy surrounding the ingredients that this company uses. Natural? Not natural? There have been no recent disclosures. The company provides an ingredients page on their website that shows some wholly unhelpful images of food and no actual information. However, they do have a page of allergen information. There is also an old pdf (last updated in 2006) that has ingredients, though I can’t find anything more current.

For your information: Pizza Hut, formerly owned by PepsiCo, is now owned by Yum! Brands, a huge corporation that also owns KFC and Taco Bell.

Here we are again: chasing another big chain restaurant for vegan options (I much prefer cooking for myself, and I hate big corporations).

Sometimes, along the Appalachian Trail, we eat where is most accessible.

Check out Part 1 about those ubiquitous, tasty, and technically vegan cookies.

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A raw potato in Tennessee

While staying at Uncle Johnny’s Nolichucky Hostel in Erwin, Tennessee I asked if they had any suggestions for vegan/veggie restaurant options in town and got a hearty laugh in return. “Not in Erwin, Tennessee” is what I was told, to be exact.*

The day before getting into town (randomly while walking through Sam’s Gap, under an interstate), Half Moon and I were taking a rest and contemplating how we could hitch down the road to a diner that might be open. We were about to just keep hiking when an elderly gentleman very slowly walks up the road and says hi. He waved us over to his truck which had been parked there and pointed out how the back was loaded with cases of vegetables! Half Moon and I were laughing at how silly this was… The guy was super nice and sent us on our way with a pile of oranges, tomatoes, potatoes, and some ramps. What ever to do with a huge, raw potato? Munch on it of course. I chopped up a little into my dinner that night and snacked on the rest of it raw.

*Some internet searching shows the closest natural food stores to be in Johnson City, a bit far away. We hitched to the Pizza Hut buffet in Erwin.

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Vegan cookies!

Yes, in this post I’m featuring a non-trail food: vegan chocolate chip cookies!

Though I didn’t have many food drops during my hike, the ones I did were left packed, addressed and unsealed at my parents’ house. My mom would ship them from the post office as I was getting close to each town. She often would pack a treat of some kind, though under strict (half-serious) instructions not to send too much as I would have to carry whatever I couldn’t eat/share! But the treats were always a welcome surprise…

This is one of the best chocolate chip cookie recipes I’ve had, and it is the recipe she used:


  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup Earth Balance margarine, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Egg Replacer for 2 eggs (Energ-G brand works great)
  • 2 cups (12-ounce package) semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (optional)


  1. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl.
  2. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla in large mixer bowl.
  3. Add egg replacer one at a time, beating well after each addition; gradually beat in flour mixture.
  4. Stir in chips and nuts.
  5. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.
  6. Bake in preheated 375-degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown.
  7. Let stand for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.


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