Vegan Backpacking Food

Being vegan makes sense on so many levels, but for now I’ll focus on the ease of being vegan and backpacking, bike touring and camping.  I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite items that are often in my pack.  If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll recognize some of these.  I’m not a super lightweight backpacker but I haven’t yet done anything too epic.  These are just some suggestions that I thought some may find useful.

  1. Powdered Soy Milk  changed my backpacking life, so much so that I found myself using this stuff even while at home.  It’s a lot less packaging, cheaper and it’s nice to have on hand for baking or when I don’t feel like going to the store.  I first discovered powdered soy milk while backpacking in Guatemala for a month and really wanting to have cereal for breakfast. Browsing the aisles, the only non-dairy milk I could find was a powdered version.  I loved it and since coming back to the states, realized it was perfect for backpacking in the forest and bike touring as well.  Better Than Milk Vegan Soy Powder (Original) is my favorite and I think it actually tastes great, although some of my friends may tell you otherwise.  You don’t have to use it in your cold cereal/granola, but it’s nice as an added protein source to oatmeal and excellent for mac and not-cheese.  It can be found on the shelves of many health food stores.
  2. Nutritional Yeast: If you are vegan, there is a good chance that you are addicted to this stuff already.  Nutritional yeast  is used to add flavor to various vegan dishes, and is really popular in mac and not-cheese dishes.  Some say it has a “cheesy” or nutty flavor.  It’s high in B-vitamins and  also adds deliciousness to any meal.  You can find nutritional yeast in the bulk section of health food stores and sometimes in with the spices / cooking products in a shaker.  It’s cheapest to buy in bulk.  I keep it on hand to add to pasta or anything I make really.
  3. Dehydrated Beans:  I stumbled upon the joy of dehydrated beans while collecting some  foods for camping in the bulk section of a health food store.    It’s kind of hit or miss to find them in bulk, and since I’ve actually special ordered bulk bags of them from local shops if they didn’t have it in stock.  I’ve always went with the black beans but for the most recent bike tour, neither Jason nor I could find them in stock, but they found dehydrated refried beans instead, also delicious.  Fantastic World Foods offer a lot of dehydrated food options, including beans and are easy to find in lots of grocery stores.  Simple and fast backcountry meal ideas:  Boil water, add couscous or quinoa then add dehydrated beans a few minutes later.  Add in spices/bouillon cube while cooking or any garlic/onions/peppers if you happen to have those.  As a bonus, if I feel like carrying it with me, I’ll pick up a pouch of enchilada sauce or a spice packet.
  4. Couscous / Quinoa:  Maybe you never heard of these items, but growing up with middle eastern grandma, couscous was common for me and a favorite veg dish as a kid.  You can find couscous at most grocery stores, it’s lightweight and cooks quickly.  It’s also a good way to get some carbs and protein for hiking.  Quinoa isn’t quite as common but it’s becoming more popular, it’s not actually a grain but is used in meals similar to how rice is used.  It’s delicious, lightweight, cooks quickly and full of protein and vitamins.  You can find it in the bulk section of any health food store, and it’s starting to appear in more grocery stores as well- packaged in a box on the shelf with grains usually.

    Matt making some black bean quinoa enchilada stew for our xmas dinner while bike touring.

    Matt making some black bean quinoa enchilada stew for our xmas dinner while bike touring.

  5. TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein):  TVP is a quick way to add protein to any meal and helps to fill you up after hiking or biking all day.  Perfect to add to noodle soups, mix with couscous, make vegan sloppy joes, add to spagetti and so many more options.  While cooking, add spices or a bouillon cube to the pot so the TVP will absorb the flavor.  It’s fairly common and as like other items already listed, it can be bought in bulk or packaged.  I’ve found it in health food stores and your traditional market, even in small towns and it’s somewhat common in Central and South America as well.  Really light weight and cooks quickly.
  6. Dried Fruits and Nuts:  That should seem obvious enough.  But seriously, don’t ever forget these.  My favorites are almonds, dates, raisins and mango slices.  I once had a dream that the world had pretty much ended but a few of us survived and someone asked me what food I was able to bring with me.  I thought I had grabbed a bag of raisins but when I looked in my hand I realized I was clutching fresh grapes instead.  Needless to say, I was bummed.  Even in my sleep I worry about survival food.  Dates are a perfect way to sweeten up oatmeal and to give you a burst of energy.  If it’s not summer, as a treat, bring some vegan dark chocolate chips to add to your trail mix.  Try to get the fruits and nuts raw without added oils and salts and other weird crap.  Your best bet is buying them in bulk from health food stores.  But if you are in rural areas, you can still find peanuts and raisins and any grocery store / market in the middle of nowhere.
  7. Oatmeal / Granola:  Another obvious one, but sometimes people forget how many things out there are vegan.  I seem to find myself outside on adventures during cold weather and oatmeal is always perfect for warming up.  On summer adventures, I usually just mix some granola with soymilk (yay powdered soymilk!).
  8. Nutbutters:  I don’t usually take peanut butter with me when backpacking, but it’s been nice to have on bike tours when splitting the food weight with another person.  I don’t have to tell you how great this stuff is.
  9. Mac and “Cheese”:  I can’t even tell you how excited I have been to have a nice pot of hot vegan mac and “cheese” after hiking or biking all day.  I have no trouble devouring the box myself.  It cooks pretty quickly, since you just have to cook the pasta and you’ll be ecstatic that you have the powdered soy milk.  Road’s End Organics make some delicious boxed Mac & Chreese found at any health food store, and I’ve also had enjoyed Leahey Gardens brand Mac and “Cheese” but it’s harder to find.  Or you can be not fancy, just make some pasta, add a bunch of nutritional yeast, soy milk and spices to it and it’ll still taste good if you’ve been out hiking for days.  If you have any dehydrated veggies, throw those in, too.

    Vegan mac n chz- plus powdered soymilk is the best for backpacking.

    Vegan mac n chz- plus powdered soymilk is the best for backpacking.

  10. Rice Noodle Soups or Ramen:  There are a wide variety of rice noodle/ramen noodle soups out there that are vegan.  Many contain tofu and dehydrated veggies in them already.  But it’s great to add TVP to them while they cook.  We all know how great the ease of throwing a soup packet into boiling water is.  Lightweight, cooks quickly and easy to find in stores.  If you are bike touring through small towns you may not be able to find a spice packet that’s vegan but the noodles usually are, so in desperate times just use the vegan noodles and add your own spices with TVP.

    Add some TVP for extra protein.

    Add some TVP for extra protein.

  11. Vegetable Bouillon Cubes / Spices:   I always keep a couple of vegan bouillon (broth) cubes in with my gear.  I often just shave some of it off and add it to the hot water for the couscous.  It’s a simple way to add flavor to your food.  I love spicy food and I love to cook.  I have a hard time thriving without cayenne and other spices so I also carry some spices with me and love these silly spice containers.  I sometimes just take one that holds two spices, it’s not necessary, but kind of nice to have.

Also, if you aren’t on a tight budget or if you find them on sale, Mary Jane Farm Organics has a line of backcountry foods with lots of vegan options.  They are labeled as vegan and very lightweight but not cheap.  I got a couple a packs on clearance once and they were delicious.

Please add your vegan suggestions in the comments!  I’d love to hear them.  I’ll also make sure to add a link to any additional vegan food suggestions that I write about in the future to the comments section.  There are plenty of options out there, but these are some of my go-to items when getting things together for an adventure.  Hope this helps!

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The Nature Zine, Issue One

Earlier in the year I put out a call for submissions for the first issue of The Nature Zine.  In the spring, I set a deadline for myself- to finally complete a zine before the end of the field season.  With the contributions and support from friends, I finally put forth the effort to complete the first issue of this project.

The Nature Zine: (re)connection with the natural world  (Issue One)

The Nature Zine: (re)connecting with the natural world (Issue One)

Issue One consists of a few stories and thoughts, 3o pages in all, on adventures, childhood memories, thoughts on experiencing city and forest, and more.  For example, I used this as an opportunity to finally write out my experience of having an allergic reaction to bald faced hornets while in the middle of a forest, off trail, a couple of hours away from the hospital.  I gave away the first run of 50 to friends but have recently made another run of 50.   If you are interested in a copy, I’ll send you one for free, trade or a $1-$3 donation.  Donations just help to cover the cost of copies and shipping.  Just use the the paypal button below or email me for other options, batsnbikes [at] gmail [dot] com

Donate for a copy of The Nature Zine

Eventually, I’ll provide a pdf version but I like this only being available as a hard copy for now.  Plus, it’s fun to get mail and keep with zine tradition.

Until then, I’ll at least share my introduction:

October 2012

Welcome to Issue #1 of The Nature Zine:

Over that last few years, I’ve spent more and more time away from my usual city life.  I’ve jumped back and forth from one extreme to the next.  For a few months, I would walk out my back door and into an alley in Detroit or Flint or any other various city street I’ve stepped into from my always temporary home.  Compare this to walking out my door and into a forest, or not having a door at all.  Just climbing out of my tent and into the crisp morning forest air.  I fall asleep to the swaying rhythm of katydids and the calls of owls, woodcocks and whip-poor-wills, sometimes even the drumming of a ruffed grouse as the sun sets.

Each year I spend more of my time in the forest.  Each year I learn more and my connection grows stronger.  Sometimes I need to slow down and not just analyze, learn from and understand my surroundings but enjoy them.  Reminding myself that it’s ok to hear a bird calling and not remember their name, I can still appreciate their songs.

Out here in the forest, with all that there is to explore, I sometimes still find loneliness.  I struggle to find that balance of my love of nature and my need to be around amazing people to share vegan meals with over both thought-provoking conversations and laughter. Social validation.  I need both in my life.  But as I walk deeper into the wilderness, I fear that I am often cutting myself away from my social connections.

As I near the end of my 8-month track of living in a house in the middle of a state forest in Pennsylvania, so many thoughts rush through my mind.  How do we find that balance?  For those of us that live in the city and crave the outdoors- we miss the smell of freshly fallen leaves on a dew covered forest floor.  In the city I miss the chorus of frogs and songbirds but in the forest I find myself escaping to the city so I can shout along with friends to my favorite punk bands.  I drive back to the forest alone but as my headlights brighten my surroundings and the tree branches arch over me I feel this sense of them welcoming me home.  I step out of my car that is polluting their air and I take a deep breath, I let it all out.

For each of us, that balance differs but we must never lose our connection with nature.  In a city, I always find myself in any park nearby.  I watch the pigeons for hours with friends or sometimes alone.  I observe the squirrels and catch them stealing glances at me.  We see plants bursting through the cracks of pavement.  Become mesmerized by the way ants can clean the sidewalk in a way similar to how they make use of a forest floor.  Birds build their nests in the cracks of old buildings and bats fill the attics and night skies of cities.  We have destroyed their homes and pushed them out, and unfortunately our actions continue.  The more we ignore nature around us, the less we will notice as more and more of it is destroyed.

This zine is about sharing those connections you’ve had.  It’s about reconnecting.  It’s about sharing your fears.  Sharing your adventures.  It’s about our love and respect for both city life and the natural world.  Both can exist.

Learn. Share. Explore. Connect. Respect. Enjoy.

Stand in solidarity with the natural world,

Nessie Grace

Both a creative outlet and a way to share our thoughts on connecting with nature, The Nature Zine will continue on with more issues.  If you are interested in contributing, please send your stories, thoughts, and art to me or contact me for more information:  batsnbikes [at] gmail [dot] com

Much thanks to everyone for who contributed to Issue One.  Cover art by Amanda Blodøks.

Pittsburgh to DC, We Pedal

I’m the first in the house to awake, too excited and anxious to sleep.  I awake to that feeling where I get this rush of anxiety, I feel like my heart is beating so fast that I almost lose my breath.  I calm myself with long stretches and this also acts as reassurance.  With each deep lunge I tell myself that this time my knees will be ok, the circumstances are different.  My stomach feels hollow but at the same time it’s hard to eat.  I empty half a tub of soy yogurt into a bowl and pile granola on top of it.  I wake Jason up and my anxiety begins to fade as we both light up with smiles knowing that the only thing we have to do for the next five days is ride our bikes.

It doesn’t take us long to prepare for departure, most things were packed the night before so we carry our bikes and our gear down the three flights of stairs after giving out hugs to our friends – both half awake and in bed still but wishing us safe and fun travels.  As we load our panniers onto our bikes and situate our loads, remnants from last night’s thunderstorm begin to sprinkle lightly upon us.  We jump onto our bikes and I instantly remember how good it feels to just ride away.  We ride out of Braddock and after some confusion we make our way onto the Great Allegheny Passage.  When we cross the railroad tracks and turn onto the trail we are relieved and dive into conversation, catching up on everything since I left Detroit.

Nearly two years ago, Jason met Matt and I in Detroit to ride with us on our first day of our tour.  This day will forever be known to the three of us as the worst bike ride ever.  That day the temperature dropped down into the 20s and the wind picked up to that same speed.  With the temperature and riding into the wind my bad knee pretty much exploded but I didn’t want to give up.  Our clearest memory is of stopping in a playground and hiding in this little train, a sad attempt to block the wind.  We shared food bars that were nearly shattering from the cold as we tried to break them apart.  Our water bottles were freezing shut and I felt like a complete failure.

This ride would be different.  The rain had faded and the autumn temperature felt perfect.  Anything could feel perfect after reminiscing about that ride on December 1, 2010, but really it was.  We rode just over 70 miles that day, arriving to Ohiopyle as planned.  The only terrible thing about our first day wasn’t the ride at all, it was pushing our bikes up the 1/4 mile loosely graveled trail to the campground.  That 1/4 mile felt like 5 at the end of the day. The sun was fading fast, so we made camp at one of the the sites nearest the trail, we had plenty to choose from and didn’t see anyone camping nearby.  Enjoying our dinner of vegan mac n chz on a picnic table soaked from the recent rain, I felt drained but was feeding on the energy from my enjoyment of being on a bike tour.  Within minutes of climbing into the tent a storm rolled in that lasted hours into the night but luckily ending before we woke the next morning.

Our clothes from the day before were soaked, but in hopes of it not raining, I decided to put on my 2nd (and last) set of dry clothes.  It didn’t take long for it to start raining on us that day.  Our damp clothes from the day before strapped to our bikes collecting just as much rain as the clothes we were wearing.  The tunnels that day rejuvenated us, their entrances surrounded by heavy fog and their insides cool, damp and dark.  Our time spent in the Big Savage tunnel discussing doom metal and staging photographs was perhaps the cause to arriving late into Cumberland at the end of the day but no matter, it was all quite worth it.  The rain was falling steadily, I could see it in my bike light and feel it on my face as Jason and I rode 17+ mph in the dark on the trail.  With Jason’s front rack and load they couldn’t get their light to point to the path, so they rode behind me watching to make sure they didn’t need to avoid anything in the path.  Their light threw my shadow into my path and with the rain and my glasses it made for a bit of a sketchy ride, but I kept pedaling faster and sometimes found myself laughing at our situation, enjoying our adventure.

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In the Cemetery I Slumber

Cemeteries are truly the perfect place to sleep for the night (or forever), what with the peacefulness and access to water pumps, but Dravo Cemetery steps it up to make your night in the cemetery truly complete with providing space intended for “rustic” camping.  If only more cemeteries would follow their lead to allow us to channel our inner metal/goth/zombie obsessed selves- but maybe it’s more of an adventure when you aren’t supposed to be there.  (This is that moment where I wish I had access to my high school senior photos- but just try to imagine me in 2000 with hair down to my ass, wearing all black and sitting on the leaf covered ground in the cemetery with my cat or climbing the walls of a mausoleum barefoot in a dress.  Apparently not much has changed.)   If this set-up doesn’t already sound perfect, now let’s add this:  it’s only accessible by bike or hike, it’s next to a river and it was established in the 1800s.  There are vault toilets, a hand-pump for water, a few fire rings and tent pads.  A dozen or so picnic tables are scattered around, a few of which are under a pavilion- perfect for hazardous weather.

I didn’t search “cemeteries to camp in” but rather I was looking for somewhere on the GAP trail that offered free rustic camping and was around 50 miles away, allowing me to get in a nice bike ride and camp for the night.  It seemed all too perfect when I read:

Dravo’s Landing Primitive Campground
Mile post 124

Dravo’s Landing is directly behind Dravo Cemetery, six miles south of Boston Trailhead, one and one-half miles north of Buena Vista Trailhead – it is for trail users only – the campground is NOT accessible by car.

Free. Room for several tents, two fire rings, and two picnic tables. Permanent restroom facilities. Pump for well water.

I currently live near Mile Marker 72 in Ohiopyle, PA so 52 miles and getting to camp in a cemetery was perfect.  So if you are looking for a fun ride to do from Pittsburgh or Ohiopyle and want to dream of zombie attacks- this one-two day trip is perfect.

I set out in the afternoon, loading my bike up with more than what was needed for a short trip to help train me for my bike tour to DC at the end of the month.  En route I passed a dozen or so people, some out just to ride for the day, others on extended trips- their bikes loaded down with panniers, shoes and sleeping bags strapped down to racks.  We nod and say hello and just keep riding.  I spent my last 15 miles riding with a middle-aged couple (also from Michigan but spending their summer in Ohiopyle as campground hosts).  Within a few minutes our similarities were stacking high.  One of which included that they were also biking from Ohiopyle to the cemetery that day.  The miles passed quickly as we talked about Michigan, bikes, bike touring, adventures in PA and their kids (who were around my age).  It gives me hope for my future when I meet people a couple of decades older than me but still very active- they white-water kayaked almost daily and were doing this ride to the city.

All of the cliché things that are expected to happen in the cemetery made my night- well, no Night of the Living Dead scenes took place.  Within an hour of arriving, the temperature changed drastically.  The breeze ceased to exist, humidity began to rise and in with it came heavy fog that draped across the tombstones.  The air became damp and thick with a storm following just behind it.  The sun was close to hiding behind the horizon but still casting just enough light to see the bats flying above me.  I stretched out across a picnic table and watched the bats swoop and dive for insects- their flight looks sporadic but it’s so tuned in, allowing them to hunt each insect down with their advanced echolocation.  Nearby an Eastern screech owl began to call, it’s long whistle rising above the steady rhythms of the katydids.  I felt accomplished and my surroundings were casting a serene display.

It didn’t take long for me to fall asleep, my slumber was deep and filled with complicated dreams.  I awoke near 6am to the sounds of thunder and a demanding bladder.  I scrambled out of my tent to quiet my bladder’s demands just before the clouds decided to empty their fluids as well.  I was in no rush to return home and had planned for a ride in the rain for most of the day so I thought it best to at least wait for the thunder and lightening to pass.  I drifted back to sleep and awoke with just enough time to pack up my tent and supplies before the heavy rains began again.

While filling my water bottles at the pump, a trio rolled up on their bikes, two men and a lady all in their 50s.  We exchanged “good morning”s and they asked if I had slept here the night before.  Enthusiastic about their ride, they told me that today was the annual That Dam Ride.  I knew nothing of it, but it was a 69 mile ride most of which covered my route for the day.  They then camp at the Dam in Confluence and ride back the next day.  They encouraged me to to ride with them and pretend I was a part of the event so I could get lunch and snacks along the way.  Perfect!  Had I of known about the ride, I would have actually registered and participated but I couldn’t deny that this was a pretty solid arrangement.  I didn’t ride with this trio, but within 10 miles, under the pouring rain I found myself chatting with another middle-aged rider.  He told me he was doing the Dam ride as well and gave me some more details.  We ended up riding the entire way to Ohiopyle together and covered various discussions on politics and the environment.  He, too, had kids my age and was quite proud of their accomplishments as he should be.  I always find that I get along with many of my friends’ parents really well and as we were riding it almost felt like I knew one of his kids and I was just hanging out with their dad.  Conversations passed the time under a steady rain with the crushed limestone coating our bikes and ourselves. The conversations were both thought provoking and filled me with more knowledge of cycling in the region.  We stopped in Connelsville for their lunch.  They didn’t have as many people riding as expected due to the weather, so I didn’t feel bad snacking on bananas and peanuts while filling up my water bottles.  (Let’s think of this as an exchange of me promoting your ride for the snacks that you fed me along the way, ok? Thanks!)  As soon as I stopped riding, I started shivering.  The steady rain and mid-60s temperature was ok for riding in, but stopping brought chills.  We jumped back on our bikes, collecting more limestone grit and mud along the way.  I waved goodbye in Ohiopyle, anxious to get home to a hot shower and a big bowl of vegan kale and white bean soup to warm my core.

The ride was an excellent taste of what I’ll be adventuring on starting this Wednesday as Jason and I bike from Braddock (Pittsburgh) to DC.

Michigan to Pennsylvania

My two weeks before leaving Detroit were a whirlwind of events.  My sleep schedule was a disaster, each night managing to find only 4-6 hours of chaotic sleep.  On top of packing, organizing and getting rid of stuff I was also working right up to the day before I left and was trying really hard to spend time with close friends and family.  Saying good-bye is never easy, even when everyone knows you are bound to leave.  In my short time back in Michigan (June 2011-March 2012), many friendships grew stronger, others faded and new ones arose.  I had to balance my mind and stay functioning through the heavy emotional exhaustion of leaving.  I’m not really sure how well I did, and I think everyone was noticing my limits decreasing.  I did manage to get in bike rides and dinners with friends and catch some excellent punk shows before leaving though.

My last two days in Detroit were non-stop.  Thursday night was a delicious vegan dinner at Seva in Detroit with a full table of my friends that I have lots of love for and all of which are vegan.  Friday found me at work presenting 4 educational programs to 2nd graders on the adaptations of animals and shortly after I spent time finishing up projects there and saying good bye to my human and non-human friends.  I almost cried like 10 times because everyone was so sweet with their very thoughtful going away wishes and gifts…. I’m getting sentimental just thinking about it again.  After work a few of us ate the coconut lime vegan cupcakes Amanda made (which were the same ones that I made for everyone years ago that got her started on making vegan desserts weekly for everyone at the Bat Zone) and then we headed to see the Hunger Games movie that Michelle got us hooked on reading.  Thank you everyone at the Organization for Bat Conservation for all of your support, encouragement and friendships.

I had to rush off after the movie so I could meet friends for the Kimya Dawson and Your Heart Breaks show- an excellent way to spend my last night in Detroit.  Afterwards, Liz and I walked home and parted at her apartment in the rain, a block over I met Matt at my apartment where he kept me company while I attempted to finish up packing and cleaning.  After sleeping a few hours, I woke up, packed up my car with everything that I’d need/want for the next 8 months.  I drove off to pick up 2 people who had responded to a ride share ad.  (Both guys were really respectful and fun to share the drive to Pittsburgh with as they were in the middle of their adventures.)  Just before leaving, I met Andrea, Curtis, Arlo, Liz and James at Eastern Market.  As some of you may remember from my previous departure, it’s the best way I can think of to depart from Detroit.

The sun was setting behind a mountain as I reached the very small town in Pennsylvania where I’ll be living and working.  The house that I’m now living in with 4-5 other people is on a very small dirt road that’s surrounded by a state forest.  The same people I’m living with are also the people I’m working with.  Similar scenario as the project I was working with in TN/NC.  It’s a pretty amazing set-up as I get my own room and my window looks out to the backyard which is mountains and forest.  I had Sunday to unpack and acclimate to my new surroundings and meet my new housemates.  I could finally relax and not think about the millions of things I had to do before my move.  It didn’t take long to unwind and feel the anxiety and pressure lift.  Walks on dirt roads, breathing country air and working outside is an excellent cure.  It’s quiet here, I can hear the birds.  I feel comfortable.  I feel relaxed.

I’ll post more about work soon, but this was more about transition.  Today was my day off and I went on a chilly bike ride through a state park on a hike and bike trail.  I only rode 18 miles, but it was 18 miles with trees on one side and a river on the other.  18 miles with no cars to worry about.  Things are so different here.  I love cities, but right now it feels really good to not be in a city.

More on adventures soon, I just really needed this transition post so I can move onto what’s ahead.

Thirty

Lately the discussions I’ve had involve living in Detroit, bike touring, limiting physical possessions, and the need for traveling and adventure.  I say lately, but I suppose this always seems to be the case.  As my time living in Detroit reaches its ending point it doesn’t come as a surprise that conversations may encompass such topics.  Discussions with others who also spend a large portion of their time planning out their escape to a new adventure allows my mind to feel clear- there are others who spend as much time, if not more planning, brainstorming, developing.  Others who have an end date to their time in one location.  Perhaps not a specific date, but somewhere in your mind you know that your time in a set location will expire and when it does you will be ready to set out and explore.

Since my return in June I’ve been trying to pinpoint that end date.  I found it.  It’s time to go.  March 24 I depart and this time it will be to Pennsylvania.  8 months in the Laurel Highlands region (about an hour outside of Pittsburgh).  I’ve only ventured to this region once before for hiking and camping but I have only fond memories.  I took a crew leader position working on a bats and wind energy study for Bat Conservation International and I’m really looking forward to it.  I absolutely love working for the Organization for Bat Conservation and I’m truly going to miss everyone, humans and non-humans alike, but I crave research and working outdoors.  I also want to continue to open new doors and broaden my research experience.  So get ready for adventure stories because I’ll be living in a gorgeous region- hiking and biking galore!

The timing of everything seems rather perfect with spring just around the corner.  Where the smell of mud leads my mind to thinking only of being in the forest and hiking for miles and miles.  To add to that, I turned 30 on March 8th.  The level of excitement on turning 30 increased last month when I realized that on this day not only would I be turning 30, but I would also be celebrating with a full moon.  I also have the added bonus of sharing my birthday with International Women’s Day.

Wanting to celebrate most days of my life in the forest, it only seemed fitting to take a day trip north.  I awoke around 5:30am, only minutes after the time I was actually born on March 8 in 1982, and scrambled to put on the proper amount of layers.  Indecisive the night before about how cold it’d actually be north of here I had left out a small pile of layers to choose from, I fumbled through them half awake.  Now into the kitchen…. feed my cat Douglas who had been purring on my legs, nearly knocking me down as I tried to put on my base layers and pants.  I need food, too.  I peel a banana, toss it in my glass bowl along with a handful of strawberries and a huge handful of spinach, a splash of tart cherry juice, some hemp oil and top it all off with orange juice.  Using my favorite kitchen tool, my immersion blender, I soon have a smoothie.  Snacks…. I need snacks for our hike.  I fumble through the fridge and cupboards… a bag of carrots, a container of raisins, a bagel and some spinach.  I have just about everything…. no wait… where are my binoculars and camera.  Lace up my snow boots….it’s supposed to snow up there, but just rain here in Detroit.  I step outside and it’s already a downpour here.

Did I mention I bought a motorized vehicle? I did… and it’s time to take it out for her first day trip adventure.  I arrive in Flint just after 7am and am greeted by Jay, Meghan, Ruthie (their amazing English Setter dog), Peanutbutter Face (their super cute cat) and a carrot cake cupcake with a candle burning…. it says “30, OLD LADY” and I laugh and smile as I am reminded how much I love my friends.  I blow out the candle but save the cupcake for after the hike.  They are all ready to go and have managed to put together a more filling lunch to take for our trip.  All of us (sans Peanutbutter Face) load into the Rav4.

Close to two hours later we are driving down dirt roads, sloshing through the snow, ice and mud.  Not a single car passes us as I navigate through the ruts and what seem like tiny ponds in the middle of the road.  On the whole drive there was hardly any snow, but when we jump out of the car at the trailhead we are surrounded by snow around 6-12 inches deep with lots of snow drifts reaching close to 2 feet deep.  Ruthie charges through the drifts and runs around full speed, thrilled to be in the forest as we all are.  Snowshoes may have been useful but it was just as fun to try to step where Jay had left his prints and try to float on the surface only to think you had it until your foot sunk in, the snow reaching half way up your knees.  None of this phased Ruthie, at one point she even ran through the cat tails, half in the partially frozen water.   She looked at us, asking for help, thinking she was stuck but we all encouraged her out and Jay told her to put it in 4-wheel drive.

It was pretty quiet in the forest, sometimes the snow fell so hard it would sound like rain.  By the end of the afternoon we saw a northern goshawk (that I desperately wanted to be a snowy owl), ruffed grouse and some porcupine scat…. but not porcupines to be seen.  I kept thinking I’d find myself an assortment of animals wearing birthday party hats for me and they would jump out from a tree shouting “SURPRISE!”  handing me twigs, leaves and other forest snacks but I need to stop anthropomorphizing.

Later that evening I made sure to go out on a bike ride to a hang with a friend and I wanted to be sure to ride under the full moon on my 30th…. it felt really good.  On that note, it’s gorgeous outside and I don’t know what I’m doing inside on the computer when I should be riding my bike.

You’re in Austin?

If it seems like Matt and I went out to eat a lot….. well we kind of did.  I’m obsessed with scoping out vegan places while in a new city and well, Austin has a LOT of options.  This isn’t to say that we didn’t make lunch and dinner often, because we did that as well.

I originally wanted to put a zine together for my good buddy Christopher and anyone else coming to town for Chaos in Tejas but time fell short and instead I’m making this blog post that will hopefully prove useful to him and others visiting Austin.  It is by no means all inclusive and I’m sure we missed some places.  For more on vegan options in the city, check out VegAustin.

You can get to all of these places by bike, bus, some are walking distance and well, if you have a car, I’m sure that’ll get you there as well.  The bus system is decent here.  It’s affordable, too: $1 per ride or $2 for a 24-hour pass.  Or if you are staying for the week it’s $9 for a seven day pass.  You’ll have to get the 7 day pass at HEB, the chain grocery store here.  But you can purchase the day passes and single trip passes on the bus. Their late night buses aren’t too great so make sure you check into those if you party pretty late.

I’ve focused mainly on vegan food, and threw in a couple of other things to do as well.  I didn’t really touch on bar culture because I have a heavy dislike for bar culture.  There are a decent amount of places that have punk shows here, but I’m sure you can ask plenty of other people about bars.  XXX

That being said….. here’s the list of places that stood out to me- they are all linked to their websites that have the location and other info as well:

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