Sustenance On The River

As the end of our Paddle Forward expedition nears and the biggest feasting day of the year approaches, food and what I am thankful for is on my mind. For the last 65 days we've been spoiled with a delicious variety of sustenance: donated food from businesses and generous strangers we meet along the river.

This is Martha writing about what it's like to eat with 10 others for 70 days using a portable kitchen. Every day we rotate cook duty: a duo of paddlers set up lunch, cook dinner, pack out next day's lunch, and cook breakfast. The following cook crew is in charge of dishes and cleaning up the kitchen. For breakfast we typically eat oatmeal and every lunch consists of "bread and toppings" meaning tortillas with cheese, summer sausage, rehydrated hummus, and fresh vegetables. Our dinners are creative concoctions most often made with a base of rice or pasta.

The trip began with a ration of 1 bar per person per day (pppd) but that was not enough. Our metabolism levels adjusted to the 8-10 hours of daily paddling, and now our bodies require a range of 1-2 or 4-5 bars pppd. Our pockets carry Clif bars gifted from a friend, Genevieve Caldwell, or calorie-rich bars donated from This Bar Saves Lives. For the first two weeks worth of dinners, Sarah Hamilton of Camp Chow supplied us with easy-to-make dinners consisting of Minnesota wild rice and dehydrated mushrooms. What a treat it was to eat fresh tasting food that only required boiling water and stirring.

At the Hyvee Grocery store in Muscatine, IA, we picked up our first of three food drops that were shipped prior to launching canoes in September. Advice for anyone wanting to travel down the Big Muddy: there are frequent spots along the river to resupply food, and drop shipments aren't necessary. However, thanks to the Just family friend, Ken Beckwith, we purchased bulk dry goods from Sysco that we measured and packaged for shipment.

In St. Louis our friend Joel Tully delivered us a hefty box of gourmet goods that Woodland Foods graciously donated. Since then new flavors of mixed dried berries and fruit filled our bowls of oatmeal, and our bland hummus transformed into a deep purple when we added beet powder. Instead of draining pasta (which is one of the more challenging backcountry cooking tasks out there) we pour in leek, tomato or soy sauce powder to soak up the water. Among our 11 creative cooks, we have yet to eat the same dinner!

I'm off to eat some pasta with venison sausage from last night's hunting friends mixed with rehydrated vegetables and butternut squash powder.

Goodnight from Baton Rouge!

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