by Sarah Kirconnell
Looking for a quick meal for an easy overnight? Garden Veggie Couscous is a fast, light fill-you-up dinner that can be fixed in the freezer bag, insulated mug or one pot methods.
Pack in a quart freezer bag
- 1 cup freeze-dried vegetable blend
- 2/3 cup couscous
- 1/4 cup shelf-stable parmesan cheese
- 2 Tbsp. dry milk
- 1 Tbsp. low-sodium bouillon powder
- 1/2 tsp. granulated garlic
- 1/2 tsp. dried parsley
- 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp. onion powder (not onion salt)
- 1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
- 1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
1 packet or 1 Tbsp. olive oil
Freezer bag method:
Bring 2 1/2 cups water to a near boil. Place bag in a cozy, add in water and oil, stirring well. Seal tightly and let sit for 10 minutes.
Insulated mug method:
\Bring 2 1/2 cups water to boil. Add dry ingredients to a large mug, stir in water and oil. Cover tightly, let sit for 10 minutes.
One pot method:
Bring 2 1/2 cups water and oil to boil, add in dry ingredients, stirring. Take off heat, cover tightly and let sit for 10 minutes.
Find freeze-dried Just Veggies at grocery stores and REI, or Mountain House freeze-dried vegetables
at REI. Get olive oil and parmesan cheese packets online at packitgourmet.com
Share your variations
If you have a similar backcountry recipe or try this one and give it your own spin, tell us about it in the comments below. What worked? What didn't? Which method do you use?
Sarah Kirconnell is the author of Trail Cooking Made Simple. For more trail-worthy recipes for your next adventure, visit trailcooking.com.
UPDATE 5/16/13, 6:35am: The preliminary results are in: 446 hikers contributed $55,805 to trails during yesterday's GiveBIG challenge. The community-wide total reached $11.1 million - all to help make our region a better place to live, work and play. We can’t wait to find out from The Seattle Foundation how much your gifts will be "stretched" by GiveBIG sponsors. THANK YOU!
UPDATE 5/15/13, 5:45pm: What an amazing day for WTA and so many great organizations, thanks to you! So far, 278 hikers have helped us raise an astounding $34,000 for trails. Give now to help us reach 365 donors and $40,000 by midnight TONIGHT. The bigger your gift, the more matching dollars will go to protect trails and wildlands you love.
UPDATE 5/15/13, 12:30pm: A huge thanks to the 182 hikers, volunteers and incredible members who have already made a GiveBIG contribution to trails today. Because of you, we just surpassed the $22,000 mark! Haven't made your GiveBIG gift yet? All donations made on WTA's page on The Seattle Foundation website today will be stretched by matching funds from GiveBIG sponsors.
Today you can grow your impact on trails thanks to a special challenge from The Seattle Foundation.
Just make a gift to Washington Trails Association through The Seattle Foundation website before midnight tonight, May 15! The more you and your fellow hikers give, the greater WTA's share of matching funds -- and the more we can achieve for trails. Every dollar you give will be "stretched" by matching fund from GiveBIG sponsors -- all to benefit the trails and wildlands you love.
When you GiveBIG to Washington Trails Association, you invest in the largest state-wide volunteer trail maintenance program in the country. Your gift helps ensure that WTA remains a powerful voice for the hiking community.
On top of everything else, every hour The Seattle Foundation will award a "Golden Ticket" worth $1,000 to the non-profit that is selected by random drawing from all donations made in the last hour. Honor the trails you love by being that donor!
GiveBIG now -- the first $2,500 WTA receives will be DOUBLED thanks to the Eleanor Morton Trask Advised Fund!
Figuring out what area to visit is half the battle. The other half is planning your adventure, evaluating your distances and elevation gains and determining the best timing.
Map and guidebook
Start your trip planning by thumbing through a good trail guidebook. This will stir up the imagination with photos and trail descriptions, as well as give you a good idea of distance and elevation gain.
Search for trails with "established campsites" in WTA's Hiking Guide and search "overnights" and "multi-day trips" in Trip Reports for the month you are planning to go.
Once you make a destination decision, a good topographic map will help you identify trailheads along with where you’ll camp each night. Learn more about which maps we recommend in our Backpacking 101 section.
Timing and permits
Rarely, even in a normal snowpack year, does the high country melt out before mid- to late July. Lingering snow can make for hazardous crossings on steep slopes or swollen creeks.
Check with the appropriate land management agency (National Parks, U.S. Forest Service, State Department of Natural Resources, State Parks,etc.) for suggestions on the best times of year to visit and information on snowpack, trail and road conditions.
Tip: Ask if the area of interest requires a special permit or if there are any restrictions on camping.
Set an itinerary
When selecting your backpacking trip, decide if you want to base camp or pack up camp and migrate each day.
Base camp backpacking: Base camping is a good option for those who might not want the hassle of breaking down camp each day. Base camping also allows you to fill your days with lighter, local explorations of surrounding lakes, ridges and peaks.
A different home, every night: The other option is to migrate from location to location and set up camp at a different site each day. This opens up the possibilities of going farther, seeing more scenery and making longer loops out of connecting trails.
Either way, if you're new to backpacking or it's early in the season, remember to take it easy and not plan days that are too long or too difficult.
Consult with the pros
Check trails and conditions with the latest trip reports, and get info on all of the best trail destinations for each season.
Also, talk with service staff at your local outdoor store. They can offer insights on local trails, make suggestions and help you select what you need, and what you don’t, to ensure that you have a memorable, not miserable, experience.
Destination ideas for your planning your backpacking adventure
- Fourteen overnight adventures under 14 miles
- Classic backpacking loops for a weekend
- Ten backpacking trips for kids
- Where Trip Reporters are backpacking now
- Backpacking on WTA-improved trails
- Backpacking the Wonderland Trail
- Early backpacking trips on the Olympic Peninsula
This article originally appeared in the May+Jun 2013 issue of Washington Trails magazine. Join WTA to get your one-year subscription.
The Washington State Legislature is in extra innings, and funding for Washington State Parks is at stake.
The House and Senate wrapped up their regular session without agreeing on a budget. In fact, they adjourned with competing proposals that are $2 billion apart. Lawmakers are back in Olympia, May 20 to come to agree on a final budget.
- The House raises new revenue and funds basic services at higher levels, including $23.7 million for State Parks.
- The Senate raises no new revenue and makes deep cuts, including cutting $5 million from the already-slim 2011-2013 State Parks Operating allocation, bringing them to $16 million.
WTA supports the general funding of 23.7 million for State Parks in the House budget. Furthermore, WTA is excited by an amendment offered by Representative Larry Seaquist that would match each dollar of Discover Pass revenue with a dollar of general fund. That would benefit all three Discover Pass agencies, and would help State Parks dig out of its chronic budget hole.
We are also asking for a $50,000 appropriation to the Recreation and Conservation Office to study the potential implementation of a joint State Lands/National Forest Pass.
Here's how you can help:
Please call the legislative hotline at 1.800.562.6000. When connected with your Washington State Legislators, ask them to:
- Support the House version of State Parks funding at 23.7 million.
- Support the Seaquist Amendment to HB 1935 for sustainable funding for State Parks, DNR and Fish and Wildlife.
- Support WTA's request for $50,000 to RCO to study a joint State Lands/National Forest Pass.
by Carolyn Driedger Mastin
Northwest hikers frequently hand down rich traditions of favorite trails to younger generations. While these multi-generational traditions provide the illusion of landscape permanence, observant hikers often witness geologic change in progress—rockfall, water erosion, and glacier change. You might recognize that your views of mountain landscapes are a little bit different from the views of your grandparents, and what you see will likely be different from what your own grandchildren will eventually see.
Some geologic change happens over generations, centuries and millennia. Other changes occur in mere moments.
Once in a while, landscape change happens on a scale so grand that it transforms not just a landscape, but our collective understanding of earth’s power and permanence. Geologic change is expectable and inescapable, and as a society we are wise to prepare for it.
A history of volcano eruptions in the Cascades
On May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens captured the world’s attention when the largest historic landslide on Earth and a powerful explosion reshaped the mountain and dramatically modified the surrounding landscape. Twenty eruptions between 1980 and 1986, followed by the continuous eruption of lava onto the crater floor between 2004 and 2008, prompt our vigilance. Hundreds of eruptions have shaken Cascade Range volcanoes during the past 4,000 years, and future eruptions are certain.
During the 1980s, measurements of subtle changes at Mount St. Helens took on new meaning for scientists as the volcano demonstrated that patterns of change could help them forecast eruptions. Since then, tools for tracking the movement of magma have evolved rapidly from the use of isolated instruments to networks of ground-based sensors that measure earthquakes, surface swelling and gases. Satellite-based instruments also detect patterns of change on Earth’s surface.
Technological revolutions in low-power instrumentation are fueling a new era of volcano monitoring systems capable of collecting and transmitting real-time data with increased precision and resolution for improved eruption forecasting.
During the past decade in Washington, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the Pacific Northwest Seismograph Network have expanded monitoring networks on Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier, and plans are in development now to augment sparse monitoring on other hazardous Washington volcanoes including Mount Baker and Glacier Peak.
While hiking in these areas, you might see these instruments on a volcano’s slopes. These instruments are hard at work for communities downwind and downstream of the volcano.
How to prepare for volcano eruptions
When volcanoes are quiet, they aren't high on people’s daily list of concerns. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be aware.
- Learn about the location of volcano hazard zones near your home, schools and places of business.
- Inquire about community evacuation plans, and follow official advisories to help you survive with less disruption.
- Prepare your home with extra supplies and an emergency communication plan to reduce losses and help your family live with greater peace of mind.
For more information on volcano awareness and preparedness information, visit:
This article originally appeared in the May+Jun 2013 issue of Washington Trails magazine. Join WTA to get your one-year subscription.
Think about the awesome mom (or moms) in your life. Think about how much she did for you. She showed you how to lace up your shoes and boots. She introduced you to basic first aid. She taught you to move through the world safely (don't walk too close to the edge of that cliff) and with care (pick up your trash).
Moms are the best. So, plan to take her hiking using our easy-peasy 3-step guide below.
1. Pick a great hike
- Want to give her sunshine and wildflowers? Head to the desert. (And use the May-Aug wildflower guide below to help you identify flowers.)
- Take her to a waterfall.
- Make it more of a stroll with one of these easy hikes that are great for families with kids.
- Is your mom of the intrepid variety? Take her backpacking on the Olympic Peninsula.
2. Pack her a picnic. A proper one.
- Keep it simple or pour your love into homemade granola bars.
- Surprise her with an unexpected treat, something you wouldn't usually find on trail, like ice cream or strawberries . (Just be sure to pack out ALL your trash.)
- It may weigh a little more when you add it to the ten essentials in your pack, but a picnic blanket makes everything feel fancy.
3. Capture the moment
- Don't forget your camera! These are moments you will want to remember.
Have you already made plans, but love the idea of giving your Mom a hike for Mother's Day?
- The gift of hiking. Give her a gift membership to Washington Trails Association.
- The gift of reading about hiking. Guidebooks are a great way to give an IOU to her about your future hiking adventures.
Tired of PBJs, GORP and freeze-dried dinners on trail? Need some culinary inspiration to liven up your trailside snacks and backcountry meals? We've heard from many hikers that they want recipes, so we're bringing back WTA's Backcountry Kitchen. It's starting out in our blog, but if this is something you like, we will look for ways to make it a more permanent feature.
Today we tackle trail snacks, with three can't-miss options to keep you and your companions energized and well-fed.
Nut Butter Tortillas
- Spread favorite nut butter
- Add fun ingredients: sliced fresh or dried fruit; honey; cereal; granola; chopped fig newtons; potato chips; pretzels; pickles
- Roll 'er up and eat!
Make ahead or on the trail, and be creative to give this hiker lunch a new twist. For breakfast, it can also be heated up before serving.
- 1/4 cup dried hummus* per person
- curry or other spices (optional)
- crackers or pita
This is a great lunch option for hikers and backpackers.
Put the hummus and spices in a quart-sized bag before your hike. Redehydrate in the bag on trail with an equal part water (or follow instructions on mix). Dip crackers and sliced cucumber in bag for a nutritious and tasty meal.
*Dried hummus can usually be found in grocery stores with good bulk food departments.
Chewy Granola Bars
- 1 1/2 cups Rice Krispies cereal
- 1 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats
- 1/4 cup raisins
- 1/4 cup shredded coconut
- 1/3 cup chocolate chips (frozen)
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup pure maple syrup (or honey)
- 1/2 cup peanut or other nut butter
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
This is a carbo-rich snack to make before you head out on your trip.
Spray an 8x8 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Mix the first five ingredient in a large, heat-safe mixing bowl.
In a medium saucepan, bring the sugar and syrup to a boil. Take off heat and add nut butter and vanilla. Stir until smooth. Quickly add the hot syrup to the dry ingredients, mixing while pouring in.
Once thoroughly coated, dump mixture into the prepared pan. Pack down firmly. Let sit until cool then slice into bars with a thin knife. Wrap tightly for carrying.
Share your modifications
What do you think of these recipes? If you have modifications to suggest, please add them to the comments section below.
Reprinted from Mar+Apr 2013 issue of Washington Trails magazine, by Sarah Kirkonnell. Join WTA to get your one-year subscription.
Hiking in Eastern Washington during the spring and summer months means blue skies, warm weather, open trails, and, sometimes, hearing the distinctive rattle of a rattlesnake.
Encountering an elusive rattlesnake on trail can be thrilling and a little scary, but with good preparation and awareness, it doesn't have to detract from the wonders of desert hiking.
How to avoid encounters with rattlesnakes on trail
Rattlesnakes are instinctual creatures who'd rather avoid hikers altogether. If given the choice to run away, they will. Here are some tips to help avoid surprising a rattlesnake as you hike.
- Check trip reports. Hikers report recent rattlesnake activity, so you know to be careful when you visit or choose a different destination.
- Hike with trekking poles. Hiking poles allow you to push back brush that stretches over the trail and hit rocks or ledges that might serve as a nice sunning spot for a rattlesnake.
- Use popular, well-hiked trails. Since rattlesnakes want to avoid humans at all costs, they tend to stay away from trails that get heavy foot traffic.
- Stay on cleared, open sections of trails. A clear section of trail will allow you to see any rattlesnakes well before you come upon them.
- Avoid thick brush. Thick brush or undergrowth serves as a perfect hiding spot for a rattlesnake.
- Wear long loose pants and high top boots. Long pants and high top boots provide more protection against rattlesnake bites.
- Stick together and keep dogs leashed. Keep kids close and keep your dog on a short (non-retractrable) leash.
- Hike in hibernation season. Don't let a fear of rattlesnakes keep you at home during the best of the springtime blooming desert. But remember, you can always hike the desert in late fall, winter and early spring when cool temperatures keep snakes in their dens.
If you encounter a rattlesnake on trail: freeze, listen, slowly retreat
Sometimes there is no way to see a snake hiding around a bend or under a rock. If you hear a rattle or stumble across a rattlesnake right in front of you on trail, follow these three steps to avoid escalating the encounter into an emergency.
How to read rattlesnake behavior
> A rattlesnake will coil into a defensive posture if it cannot escape by crawling away.
> If you remain too close, the rattlesnake will usually warn you with its distinctive rattle.
> Its last defensive move is to strike.
All of these warnings are meant to help avoid conflict. Rattlesnakes want to avoid you as much as you want to avoid them. -- Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
- Freeze. If a rattlesnake is in a position where it feels threatened, the best way to avoid attack is to stop all movement and assess the situation.
> If you're hiking in rattlesnake country with kids, practice having them freeze at the trailhead and several times along the trail.
- Locate the source of the sound. If the rattlesnake cannot be seen, it is important to locate the sound before you try to move away from the snake. You want to avoid putting the snake in a position where it feels trapped or more threatened than it already is.
- Slowly move away from the snake. Once the snake is located, move away slowly with no sudden movements. If you have a hiking pole, hold it up between you and the snake. If the snake does attack it might go for the pole instead of your leg.
A note about dogs and rattlesnakes: because of their behavior, dogs are more likely to be bitten than you are. A non-retractable leash and trail-tested training are your best tools to help keep your buddy safe. You can also ask your vet about the vaccine for rattlesnake venom.
What happens if you or your dog are bitten by a rattlesnake
In the rare chance you are bitten, the most important thing to do is stay calm, try not to move too much and seek immediate medical attention. These guidelines apply to your hiking dog, too.
- Remain calm. The most important thing to remember is to stay calm and restrict your movement. Snake venom travels slowly through the body. Most deaths from rattlesnake bites are caused by shock rather than venom.
- Rest. When a snake bite occurs, it is important to rest at once. An increased heart rate means increased blood flow. This causes the venom to flow throughout your body faster.
- Wash the bite area with soap and water, or with an antiseptic wipe from your first-aid kit.
- Get medical help. It is crucial that a snake bite is treated as soon as possible. Attempt to call 911 from the trail and avoid movement. If phone service is unavailable, send another hiker to the trailhead to contact authorities. If you are alone on the trail, layer your clothing to keep your body temperature stable and walk slowly back to the trailhead, trying to exert as little energy as possible. If your dog is bitten, do not allow her to walk out; carry her, keeping the wound below her heart.
- Remove any items that could restrict the swelling of the bite area. These items could include rings, watches, bracelets, etc. Swelling is supposed to occur with snake bites and should not be suppressed.
- Apply a clean, moist, loose, dressing. A moist dressing can soothe the snake bite area and make you more comfortable. It is important not to apply pressure.
- Elevate the bite above heart level
- Draw out the venom by cutting the wound
- Suck the venom from the wound
- Apply pressure to the wound with bandages or tourniquets
- Apply ice
- Give medication like pain killers (unless instructed by a doctor)
- Try to capture or kill the snake
Photograph rattlesnakes only from a distance
Spotting a rattler can be exciting, but most bites occur when people are intentionally engaging or. If the desire to get that perfect photo of a rattlesnake is just too much, use these tips to keep yourself and the snake safe.
- Move to a safe distance before you reach for your camera.
- Use a telephoto lens or digital zoom on your phone. You may lose a little quality with the digital zoom, but these tools allow you to get the perfect shot from a safe distance.
- Watch for the warning signs. Rattlesnakes wear their heart on their sleeve. If a snake exhibits warning signs, back away and wait to take the photograph another day.
Trip Reporter snakes slideshow
When it comes to sleeping bags, and getting a good night’s rest in the backcountry, there’s no shortage of products available on the market. There’s down bags, synthetic bags, hybrid bags, summer bags, winter bags ... the list goes on and on.
As part of our gear team’s preparation for Washington Trails’ summer gear guide (the new May+Jun issue) they were charged with figuring all this out to come away with their top recommendations to help you sleep well while enjoying the outdoors this summer.
Among the bags tested were Therm-a-Rest’s new integrated down sleeping bags, the Antares and Altair. Both bags feature the SynergyLink Connector that lets you connect the bag to your sleeping pad to ensure a comfortable night’s sleep without slipping off your pad. They also feature zoned insulation and a smart design that keeps heat in while allowing freedom of movement within. And the highly compressible 750-fill down insulation keeps pack weight to a minimum.
Find out how we put the new bags to the test—and we're giving you a chance to win one of your own!
Testing on a soggy Olympic Coast and through Cascade snowstorms
Our team accepted the challenge and wasn’t gentle in their testing, having to do so through the cold and soggy months of winter and early spring—from biting winds and rain on the Olympic Coast, to snowstorms in the Cascades and Issaquah Alps. They tested for packability, durability, comfort and, most importantly, the ability to stay warm. In the end, these new Therm-a-Rest bags passed the test and came away highly recommended.
Here’s what our testers had to say:
“I tend to toss and turn, getting twisted and claustrophobic in most sleeping bags. In the Therm-a-Rest Antares I was able to comfortably move inside the sleeping bag while it stayed in place secured to my sleeping pad.” — Jaime Hale
“Zipped into the Therm-a-Rest Altair in a blizzard at 4,500 feet, it was the most comfortable experience I've spent in the wilderness in a long time. From the moment I cinched down the hood the bag trapped my body heat and kept me warm.” — John Soltys
Win a bag! Share your tip for a great night's rest in the backcountry
Just like WT’s gear team, you can experience a great night’s rest in your own favorite wilderness destination too. Thanks to Therm-a-Rest, we have some of these bags to give away!
Three lucky winners will be chosen from all entrants in our Great Night’s Rest Contest to receive a brand new Therm-a-Rest© Antares™ 3-season down sleeping bag and a NeoAir™ All-Season Mattress.
Last year, YOU helped WTA raise more than $48,000 from The Seattle Foundation's extraordinary one-day GiveBIG campaign. On a day that the Seattle philanthropic community was urging their supporters to give, WTA's members came out in droves to support and promote our work throughout the day.
This year's GiveBIG challenge will be held on May 15
Hikers: help break giving records again this year
Your past GiveBIG donations helped WTA set new records for trails in 2012. You put trails on the map by making WTA 6th overall for gifts received and 21st in total amount received out of 1,200 nonprofits.
You can take this year's GiveBIG challenge by making a special gift to trails on May 15. It's easy! Just visit WTA's page on The Seattle Foundation website anytime on May 15 to grow your gift for trails. WTA will receive 100% of what you give, plus additional matching funds for a portion of your contribution.
Your donations to WTA matched on May 15
The more you and your fellow hikers contribute, the greater WTA's share of matching funds - and the more we can achieve for trails. On top of everything else, every hour The Seattle Foundation will award a "Golden Ticket" worth $1,000 to the non-profit that is selected by random drawing from all donations made in the last hour. Honor the trails you love by being that donor!
>> Remember to bookmark WTA's page on The Seattle Foundation website, then go online and make a gift between 12am and midnight next Wednesday, May 15 -- and encourage your friends to do the same.
Who sponsors GiveBIG?