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Eating at Baxter State Park

Note: This is a little later than my usual post, since this past Sunday I was at Baxter State Park near Millinocket, ME, camping and hiking and enjoying a vacation from technology.

It’s always a fascinating experience to see how your eating patterns compare to those of others, especially when you’re so used to doing things a certain way that you can’t even quite conceive of something else. Camping at Baxter this year proved to be one of those times.

For those who might not know, I’ve been going to Baxter State Park every summer since I was ten. Not always the same weekend, and not always with the same people, but we have always eaten quite well. When I went with my parents, we had a fairly set menu: one night of pasta and salad (before hiking), another of burgers and cut veggies and chips (after hiking). Breakfasts were usually some combination of bacon, sausage, eggs, homefries, pancakes or ployes, and we always had fresh fruit, as well as cookies for dessert.

When my brother and I started going on our own, meals became a little more elaborate, especially with my brother, who liked making stir-frys at camp. This involved bringing lots of pots and pans and cooking oils and ingredients, cutting vegetables and protein of choice, and starting things at different times so it would all finish at once. We also got more creative with breakfasts when a friend who’s gluten-free joined us, doing things like parfaits instead of anything wheat-based.

This year, though, my brother couldn’t join us, and I decided to see if I could keep things simpler. For me, that meant doing much of the preparation ahead of time - chili, frittata, bacon, burgers, blueberry spice whoopie pies, gluten-free pancake batter - and generally avoiding lots of preparation apart from cutting vegetables. It hadn’t ever occurred to me that having lots of salads and vegetables while camping isn’t usual until my friend commented that her family never did that, given the preparation and also how expensive it was in a family with five kids. It’s not something I’d likely change, since I like my veggies, but it was good to get that different perspective.

I got another dose of perspective when I saw what the rest of our group did and realized my version of simplicity came nowhere close to theirs. They were five people (including two teenagers) who came up from Massachusetts and needed to fit everything into a single hatchback, without a carrier. They were able to do this by using a single pot, a tiny back-packing stove, and using lots of one-pot hiking recipes that involved mostly dried ingredients to start with. They did a lot of things like sausage, hot dogs cooked over the fire, potato pancakes with pepperoni, oatmeal with freeze-dried blueberries, etc. - lots of focus on carbs and protein for energy while hiking.

It all made perfect sense, but it wasn’t anything I’d ever considered. While I liked the food I brought, I’ll have to consider if I’d want to do something less involved in future years. But even if I don’t, at least it will be more of an informed decision.

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