SPRING BREAK! was last week. My friend Clint said “I’m not sure you get Spring Break?” but Wes would have had no fun taking a week off without me. We decided Zion National Park was the best destination option- mainly because it wouldn’t be precipitating. I remembered a backpacking trip I did there several years ago where we hiked from Kolob Canyon to Zion Canyon. Our last night was spent in the most amazing spot on the rim overlooking both canyons, and it was an easy 5 mile hike down to the car from there. I always thought an out-and-back trip just to that spot would be the perfect little overnighter, so that’s what we decided to do for Wes’ first backpacking trip. Who woulda thought that going straight up for 5 miles (3500 feet of elevation gain) would be much more difficult than going down.
The difficulty of the trip hadn’t even dawned on me by the time we’d finished our first steep mile and arrived at the trailhead to Angel’s Landing. We saw the hoards of inexperienced tourists starting up the 1.1 mile round-trip death rock, and thought “That’ll be a quick fun addition to our already quick, easy hike. Let’s do it!” And so we did. And it was the scariest place I’ve ever been. If it wasn’t gonna be me that went over the edge, I thought for sure someone else would. Maybe the guy with the baby on his back who’d been climbing off the trail ahead of us all day. Thankfully, we missed the action if there was any to be seen. This little side trip took a lot more out of us (physically and mentally) than the lunch break that we originally had in mind.
After that, the trail continued, straight up the sides of sheer cliffs, covered in snow (which I tackled in my trail-runners), until we finally reached the point which we could walk no more (we called it Campsite 4 ½) at around 6:30pm. The view was as breathtaking as I’d remembered. Wes started using the word “bitchin” a lot once we finally reached the rim, so I stopped worrying that I’d be boyfriendless before dinner. We pulled out our tall PBR’s and layered up for the long anticipated best sunset of our lives- which never happened. Clouds rolled in at just the wrong moment after hours of blistering sun, and day turned to night with nothing in between. The stars didn’t even come out, so we quickly made dinner and went to bed before 9. I was awoken by leg aches around 4am, and invited Wes outside for a pee date and we finally got to see some stars. We also got a spectacular sunrise over the other canyon, so we didn’t go home feeling jipped.
Ok, so I have to admit something. This was not the most well-planned Dirty Gourmet trip. We made some “grate” stuff on the campfire in a campground the night before, but due to forgetting the can opener and salt and pepper, we resorted to a backpacker meal and ramen for the hike. Backpacker meals tend to be dehydrated food mixed together in a zip-top bag. You just pour hot water in and let it reconstitute. These are typically the meals we aim to avoid- one of the main reasons our blog exists. Its not that they don’t taste good exactly, but they lack personality. There is no opportunity to add your own flare, and this takes a lot away from the overall healthy and soulful outdoor experience.
The backpacker meal I purchased (Thai peanut sauce flavor) was fine at dinner, but I’d added too much water, turning it into a sort of soup rather than a thick sauce. This is when my gourmet senses turned on. When most of the rice and vegetables were gone, I zipped up the leftover soup and saved it for the morning. At breakfast, we made a package of oriental flavor ramen, but boiled it in the leftover peanut butter soup. The flavors combined perfectly and breakfast was delicious. It was much heartier than was (not very well) planned. The lesson is: even if you’re a professional like me, you can screw up, but you can always do something to jazz up a meal and make it “dirty gourmet.” I hope you all had or plan to have an amazing Spring Break if you’re lucky enough to get one.
Luckily ramen was not the only form of calories I’d brought with me for the hike down. I had some leftover Orange Coconut Macaroons that Aimee had made for a meeting last week. I was beyond thrilled when I found those in my pack. Here’s the recipe for those.
*Adapted from Dave Lebovitz’s recipe in Ready for Dessert
Orange Coconut Macarooons
YieldAbout 48 cookies
Prep Time / Cook Time/
Activity GuideBackpacking, Day Trip, Picnic
- 8 large egg whites (1 cup)
- 2 1/2 cups (500 g) sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons honey, agave, or brown rice syrup
- 5 cups (350 g) unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1/2 cup (70 g) all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons orange zest
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Large pot
- Medium bowl
- Mixing spoon
- Baking Sheets
- Parchment or Silicone Baking Mats
- Combine all ingredients in a large pot and set over medium-low heat. Cook the mixture, stirring frequently, until the bottom just begins to sizzle. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and let cool slightly.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with silicone mats or parchment paper. When the mixture is cool enough to handle, use your fingers to drop about a tablespoon at a time onto the baking sheets. If the mixture is sticking to your hands too much, it helps to dip your fingers into water between cookies.
- Bake the cookies for about 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheets about halfway through the baking time. Remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheets.