“Dehydrating Helped Me Improve My Trail Meals” by Debbie Wroten

I never thought I would try to dehydrate my food for backpacking.

It was so easy to go to the outfitter and buy Mountain House or some other packaged food. However, three summers ago I went on a 20 day backpacking trip—my first outing longer than 5 days.

I discovered that after eating the 4 dinners that I liked several times, the thought of having to eat any of them again gagged me. And the thought of having to eat another power bar or any other protein bar made me just want to forget about lunch.

When I was in town, I would load up on fruits and vegetables. I lost about 13 pounds on that trip and decided I had to have a better meal plan. The things that worked for a 3-5 day trip just weren’t working for a longer trip.

I needed better quality food that was better tasting and more nutritious if I was going to continue backpacking. After all I don’t really eat processed foods home nor do I eat foods that are low in nutrient density.

Dehydrating food for my meals seemed like a good place to start. I could control what went into my meals so I would have food that I liked in amounts that were satisfying to me. I have a Nesco dehydrator with 6 trays plastic sheets that I can line the trays with if I am dehydrating something like spaghetti sauce but most of the time I use parchment paper.

My favorite foods to dehydrate are:

*fruits — apples sprinkled with cinnamon, fresh pineapple slices, strawberries, and watermelon. The key is to slice the fruit evenly so that all the slices are finished at about the same time. I may do all the fruit at the same time since it uses the same temperature, but some fruits take longer. For example, a watermelon takes about 26-28 hours. Because of the sugar content of a watermelon I wrap slices in plastic wrap before putting in a Ziploc to keep the pieces from sticking. The key is to get all the moisture out. Why dehydrate fruit when they are so easily available at the grocery store? It is very hard to find fruit that does not have added sugar.

*vegetables — frozen mixed vegetables are easy to spread on a tray to dehydrate and can be added to anything. Many vegetables such as butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and acorn squash need to be cooked first. I usually roast them and then puree before spreading on a parchment paper- lined tray. Add any seasoning you like and you won’t have to carry seasonings with you. Canned black beans and kidney beans can be spread on the parchment paper to dehydrate and then use with rice for a tasty meal, especially if you remember to bring along single serving sour cream or even the powdered sour cream.

*meat — this is usually ground beef, sometimes plain but usually with taco seasoning. I can add this with any vegetable combination and some minute rice for a quick meal. I add the vegetables and rice before leaving home so I can play with herbs and spices. Beef and venison jerky are easy to make and there are a variety of recipes on the internet. It is very important to get all the moisture out or the jerky will mold.

*hummus — you can make your own or dehydrate your favorite brand. This makes a great lunch with crackers or flatbreads!

*leftovers – chili, spaghetti sauce, and hamburger stroganoff are three of my favorites and I plan to experiment with others this winter. I spread the food on parchment-lined tray and dehydrate.

Just a few things to remember:

*it takes planning to dehydrate your food but once you package it, you can toss it in the freezer until you need it

*I rehydrate each new food once at home to see how long it will take and how much water I will need. This also gives me a chance to play around with seasonings

*sometimes you will decide some foods aren’t worth it. I will never dehydrate tuna again—it is not worth the smell! Nor will I do bananas.

*your dehydrator should have various temperature settings. Fruits and vegetables need to dehydrate at 134* and meat 155*. Remember to make sure all the moisture is out

*I keep a notebook of foods that I have tried to dehydrate, the time needed to dehydrate, how much I packaged as a serving, and the amount of water need to prepare it. I write the amount of water on the package along with the contents.

I don’t get caught up in having “perfect” meals but I do want to have nutritious meals. After a day of hiking miles, pretty much anything will taste good. At the end of the day, my main goal is to have a satisfying meal that meets my nutritional needs and can be made with boiling water in less than 10 minutes with little or no clean up.

I can honestly say that this past summer I looked forward to my dinners every night of each of my backpacking trips. Now to improve my lunches!

“Who wants to lead a caving trip” by Catrina Timeus

“Who wants to lead a caving trip?” Anna said at my first Hike Leader meeting. I quickly volunteered, because as long as I could remember I have wanted to go into a cave, I saw specials on the Discovery channel and thought that would be so amazing. So Anna put me in touch with Nancy and her daughter Scout. Nancy picked a good beginner cave for us, and we set a date and away we went!

Tumbling Rock Cave
The first thing I learned that caving is much more physically demanding that I thought, and can be very scary at times when you are the not so sure footed person like myself who will stumble over a twig or slip on a wet leaf, so when I hike I use poles to keep me on my feet.
Before we entered the Cave

So we go into the cave and our first thing is to step over this crevice.

With my short legs I was unsure about making it over, but with a hand and a leap I made it over. It really wasn’t that wide not much more than a 1 ½ feet, but like I said not so sure footed (NSSF) here saw it as this huge cavern.

We would walk a little ways, then we would have to climb up these huge formations, then we would then slide down the other side. My favorite part was sliding down. With every down slide or climb I would look back and think how am I going to get back up that. But everyone said don’t worry.

Then we got to the breakdown, an area when the water stopped flowing rocks came down in the cave. This was un-even, having to climb around looking for places to step and the entire time making sure you don’t slip. I made it over this, but struggled with my breath, and nerves.

Once we completed this, Nancy our fearless leader let us know there was going to be at least two more of those, and let the group know that if any of us wanted to turn around at any time we could. Two ladies decided they wanted to turn around. I hesitantly turned around, because even though I was exhausted, I was having a blast!

So Nancy was about to take us back while Brent and Scout led the other two ladies forward when the Cave Maintenance person Jay showed up and offered to take us back. I am so happy he did, even though this is an in and out cave it had a few different paths you could take, and he took us through them. To my relief these didn’t involve climbing up some of those areas I was worried about. We also took a moment to turn out our lights to experience complete darkness. It’s amazing how dark it is, that is one place you don’t want to have your lights go out.

When we finally got to the 1 ½ foot crevice that we went over in the beginning, well I swear it grew by 2 feet! But again with a helping hand, I made it over, and then we climbed out into the light of day. We spent about three hours in the cave, I wasn’t keeping track, but the rest of the ladies came out about 2 ½ to 3 hours later. I’m hooked.

Raccoon Mountain Echo Room
I’m so hooked I joined the Georgia Adventurers Group two weeks later on the Raccoon Mountain Echo Room tour. I am going to have to say, this one was much more involved. We had more crawling, belly crawls, sliding, rolling.

The first major climb I thought I was done because it required using a rope and pulling myself up and I just did not have the upper body strength. Thankfully Josie was behind me (she also went to Tumbling Rock).

She gave me the push up I needed, while the guide help pull me up. I was told that was the hardest part, so after a brief break to catch my breath, forward we went.

This cave had A LOT more up and down climbing then tumbling rock, but most of it is a loop, so a lot of the hard maneuvers didn’t need to be repeated just new ones. Even though I had a hard time with the rope climb, personally I think the hardest and scariest part was when we had to go over a canyon. Where our feet (and butts when it was narrow enough) were on one side of the cavern and our hands were on the other side and we had to side step while looking down the canyon.

I had a wonderful gentleman David in front of me who helped me by pulling, and Josie was behind me giving me a push when I needed. And everyone else in the group provided great emotional support when I was struggling giving me some great words of encouragement when I was nervous and worried.

At the end I was so exhausted that I had to take breaks more frequently, and the last 10 feet which was crawling I had to take 2 or three breaks, not because it was difficult, I did it going in, but I was so exhausted I was just struggling to move. But I made it out having had an amazing adventure, and as I was emerging I was already thinking about the next cave……

This post was contributed by Catrina Timeus who is a hike leader for the Trail Dames of Georgia.

The AT Summer Series Through Maryland

Last winter, as I sat in my comfy chair, cat on my lap, dog at my feet, and a cup of hot coffee within reach, I began to plan the AT Summer Series.  Having completed the AT through Maryland twice, once in a series of day hikes and once as a backpack with fellow Trail Dames, I could think of no better way to pay it forward than to host a series of day hikes on AT from Harper’s Ferry, WVA to Pen Mar, MD!

ATC 32

We kicked off the trek north on June 7, 2014 in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia.  Beginnings are so exciting, especially when it is the start of something big, like completing the AT through Maryland!  We left most of our cars at Weverton, and then shuttled down to the ATC in Harper’s Ferry to begin our hike.  It was a busy morning at the ATC but Python found a break in the action to take a picture of all of us embarking on this journey north!


The thing about walking through Harper’s Ferry is that there is SO much to see that it is hard to make yourself stop looking at stuff and continue to make forward progress!  Good thing we are Dames who aren’t in any hurry and love to take time to enjoy the moment!

Wonderful day that left us all looking forward to the next section…which was RAINED out!  Can you believe it?!!  Weverton to Gathland State Park ended up at the end of the series.

So we reconvened a few weeks later for a hot and humid hike from Gathland State Park to South Mountain Inn (Old Rt. 40).  One of the Dames making the trek with us on this section was Victoria.  If you all haven’t had the pleasure of hiking with Victoria aka Queen V aka Bag Lady, then you are missing out!!  After hiking up the first hill, which rises steeply leaving Gathland, we were already breaking a sweat.  A few steps further brought us to the blue blazed trail down to the Crampton Gap shelter, the exact place where Victoria earned her trail name “Bag Lady” on another Trail Dame adventure.  She was gracious enough to reenact that moment and had us doubled up, pains in our sides, laughing so hard we could barely catch a breath!  Well, with a hike that starts like that…whew!


A few miles later we were taking in the hazy view from the rock outcropping at the top of Lambs Knoll, and then happily descended to the new Rocky Run Shelter for lunch.  We met a thru hiker at the shelter who told us we should go down and check out the old shelter as it was his “favorite place on the AT so far”.  Wow! That is an endorsement! So off we went to check it out.  It was a beautiful spot with a spring flowing in full force right in front of the shelter…and (insert squeaky voice) there was a swing!!!  Oh, it was lovely…thank goodness Dames are not in a hurry and enjoy being in the moment!

We finished off our hike together by grabbing ice cream at the South Mountain Creamery…every hike should end this way!  Shortly, thereafter the skies opened up letting loose a slew of dangerous thunderstorms in the area.  We timed that one just right!

Next trek was from South Mountain Inn (Old Rt. 40) to New Rt. 40.  The Dames climbed South Mountain…did I say that loud enough?  CLIMBED.  It was hot, it was humid, we huffed and we puffed and we blew that mountain down! Or something like that…the thing about writing this in late October is that I hope the Dames have now forgotten any pain associated with the hard climbs and just feel victorious in the memory!

We took a break after reaching the Washington Monument at the summit.  This is not the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C….just for clarification! Now, just so you know…you cannot hike the AT across Maryland with learning a little bit about the Civil War.  Ground zero right here!  So it was not a big surprise to find Civil War soldiers hanging out in the shade and taking in the view from the top of the monument!  And what do Dames and Civil War Soldiers do when they get together?  Take selfies, of course!

Well, I think we were all feeling mighty proud of ourselves at the end of this hike.  We were now half way across Maryland…Bring on the rocks!  The section from New Rt 40 to Wolfsville Road has a few places that give a beating to your feet!  This section was a big, big change from the sections we had hiked thus far.  We hiked the section from North to South starting at Wolfsville Road.  Now coming from either side there is quite a climb, but the Dames took it at their own pace.

Hiking along the spine of the mountain it seemed like forever before we got to Pogo Campground!  At the campground we gathered round a fire pit, sitting on nice stone seats, for lunch before heading up to Black Rock Cliffs and Annapolis Rocks.  It was a lovely day to sit up on the cliffs overlooking the Middletown Valley.

Returning to our cars we knew we had done some HIKING! Around 9 miles with the side trips…wow, go Dames!!!

The next section was a short one from Wolfsville Road to Warner Gap, so we hiked it as an out and back hike.  On this section we passed the Ensign Cowall Shelter and walked through a lovely field before entering the woods that would lead us downhill to a pleasant creek for lunch.  Nothing better than to have a picnic and conversation in the woods with such great women!

And then the final stretch to the Pennsylvania line…Warner Gap to Pen Mar.  This is a fun, fun, tough section of trail!  And the rain was supposed to STOP!  But did it?  For most of the hike it drizzled, then poured, then drizzled…back and forth, back and forth.  We had our ponchos and extra dry clothes!

ATC 26

Made a stop at Raven Rock Shelter for lunch…and what a happy surprise!  A backpacker had a nice fire going!  Extra nice!  Sitting around eating lunch was great…but when we got chilly we knew it was time to get back on the trail!  Mother Nature was very accommodating and stopped the rain for the rest of the hike…just in time for us to descend the rock pile down from High Rock!  It was a long, wet day and everyone was tired as we dragged into Pen Mar.  However, it ended triumphantly for us all as we celebrated Diana’s completion of the AT through MD!!!

Congratulations Diana!!!
Congratulations Diana!!!

Two weeks later we were celebrating again when we finished the AT series hiking from Weverton to Gathland State Park.  Amy and Renate walked through the arch at Gathland State Park signaling their completion of the AT through MD…Huzzah!

Congratulations Amy & Renate!!
Congratulations Amy & Renate!!

Hike on!

Trip Report: Georgia and South Carolina Trail Dames at Table Rock State Park

Women from both the Georgia and South Carolina chapters of Trail Dames met on a chilly fall weekend for camping, hiking, and bluegrass music at Table Rock State Park in South Carolina.  It was the first joint trip between these two chapters, and it was so much fun I’m sure there will be more in the future.

Dames goofing off. Photo by Wendy.

Wendy and Julie, who founded the South Carolina Trail Dames chapter at the beginning of this year, greeted everyone in the parking area.  They direct us to the Owl Tree group campsite, only 1/4 mile down the trail and with a lovely view of the lake through the trees.

Jules and Donna show off their winter hammock setups.
Jules and Donna show off their winter hammock setups.

After settling in, the sun set early, as it does this time of year, and we came together around the campfire.  Women who have been with the Georgia Trail Dames chapter since its beginning (7 years ago!) were joined by a few who were brand new to the Dames.  As happens so easily in the outdoors, everyone started sharing stories, exchanging tips, and telling about our past adventures.  Laughter and conversations filled the night air, warming our hearts, even if our backsides remained chilly.

Around the campfire.
Around the campfire.

As the sun came up, women slowly emerged from tents and hammocks.  The freezing temperatures had provided quite a challenge during the night.  Some had stayed warm, but others hadn’t fared as well.

Fall color.
Fall color.

We began the day with a 1.8 mile hike on the Carrick Creek Trail.  The fall colors were incredible!  Waterfalls cascaded over rocks covered in brightly colored leaves.  Fallen leaves crunched beneath our feet as we hiked.

Hopping across the rocks during the hike.
Hopping across the rocks during the hike.

After the hike, some decided to go out to eat, while others grabbed a picnic lunch and then went to listen to traditional bluegrass music at the lodge in the park.  A few Dames joined in the dancing in the aisles.  What an experience!

Local musicians playing bluegrass music.
Local musicians playing bluegrass music.

Our second morning, the early risers in the group took Pam’s suggestion to watch the sunrise over the lake.  Morning fog rose dramatically over the water and provided a picturesque ending to a fun-filled weekend.

photobyWendy Falkner
Donna, Brenda, Joan, Leah, Julie, and Kathy. Photo by Wendy.

This post was contributed by Joan West, who has been a Georgia Trail Dame since 2009 and leads wildflower hikes and beginner backpacking trips.  She writes about her hiking adventures on on her blog, Rambling Hemlock.

“8 Reasons Why Women Need to Go to the Mountains With Other Women” by Leslie Hittmeier

Leslie Hittmeier has given us permission to post this article on our blog.  To learn more about Leslie Hittmeier, click here.

Most of my life I’ve been trying to keep up with the guys. I grew up with two older brothers who were bigger, faster, and stronger, so I think that’s where my mentality of “chase the men” began; I found myself wishing for their traits and doing everything I could to be just as strong as they were. And when I started really getting into climbing and backcountry skiing, it seemed like I could only find guys who would go with me, and teach me. And that wasn’t a bad thing, I think that men and women in the mountains are a fabulous thing; the love of my life, who is a man, taught me mostly everything I know and I have so much gratitude in my heart for that.

But that said, I’ve been getting out there with some powerful and badass women lately and it has really been amazing.. here’s why:


Because when you’re hangin’ with other chicks in the mountains, you no longer have the excuse of “being a girl.” You have to push it and be just as good as the strong ladies you chose to go out with that day. I don’t always try my hardest when I’m with a bunch of guys because I know I will never quite be as strong or as fast as them so I just work on pacing myself and staying safe. But when it’s all girls, we can be a little more competitive and push each other to do better.




Women generally have similar struggles in the mountains (being short, small, less powerful) so it’s great to be around chicks and figure out how to get up a rock route or how to ski a line together.

Picture 2 -  GIRL BETA



Celebrating and sharing the fantastic relationship and beauty of the way a women does things in the mountains. Whether it’s skiing, climbing, biking, or running, we just do things differently than the boys and it’s wonderful to share that.




Guys just don’t giggle and shriek as much as us when they get to the top of a mountain. “Even though I don’t enjoy shopping and manicures, I’m still a girl and I get excited and giggly about things.” – Lila Scott



There’s nothing like getting together with a girlfriend and solving all the worlds problems while walking up a big hill. Also, connecting with other dirtbag ladies who love the outdoors is one of the greatest pleasures in life!




Real talk.




Those womanly characteristics like: nurturing, care, consideration, and patience really come in handy in the mountains. At least with backcountry skiing, sometimes I feel like dudes race to the top. Women seem to be less worried about submitting and more worried about the group as a whole. I know that it takes me a long time to get into my groove and I usually start off slow, and having a fellow chick right there with me keeps me motivated and feeling strong even though I’m in the back of the pack.




We just can’t even contain ourselves. I have no explanation.