Stray Off the Beaten Path: “Wild” Week One

Being a recently orphaned woman wasn’t enough for Cheryl Strayed. Nor was divorcing her husband, quitting her job and hitting the road with no permanent address. In the ultimate show of independence, Strayed embarked on a three month solo hike up the Pacific Crest Trail, which she chronicles in Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. Her trek involves the sort of the adventure you’d expect (plenty of animals) and a lot you don’t (losing her hiking boots, hitting a patch of trail so icy she had to bypass it, etc).

The preparation alone to hike for three months is intense, especially in the days before smart phones and easily accessible Internet. You can’t carry three months’ worth of supplies on your back; you have to meticulously plan out your route from town to town and schedule boxes to be shipped to you with supplies for the next leg of the trail. You’ll need hydration, snacks and possibly emergency flares in case they screw up your drink and you need their attention.

The question is, was this trip a declaration of independence or the action of someone who was profoundly lost? Strayed started out hoping to find peace. Her last few years had been traumatic between losing her mother to cancer, a divorce and a brief fling with heroin. Strayed was trying to find herself. Trying find something to make her feel less lost.

I had a couple different recipes in mind for Wild. Shockingly, considering how much I love wordplay, none involved rice. There is a decent amount of food talk in this book. Strayed describes how mundane her trail diet would get and about how the intense exercise led her to fantasize constantly about what she would eat when she got off the trail. I decided to write and cook one recipe for being lost, and one – appearing next week – for being found.

Strayed mentions eating a lot of typical camper foods like granola, so I decided to make some basic granola bars this week. I checked out a bunch of different websites and cookbooks and cobbled together my take on them. Granola bars are very adaptable. I wanted something sturdy, sweet, and easily do-able – sort of the Matthew McConaughey of granola bars. It’s really hard to mess these up, and if you do, an impromptu game of Jenga is always an option:

These are also nice to crumble up and pour milk on. Shockingly enough, crumbled up granola bars taste just like granola! Wild.

Vegan Granola Bars 

  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 2 Tbsp. melted Smart Balance Light or other vegan margarine (check ingredients, some types of Smart Balance aren’t vegan)
  • 3/4 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup oats
  • 1 1/2 cups add-ins (I used puffed millet and some chocolate cereal but anything is fair game here)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a 9 by 5 inch pan with nonstick foil and spray with a nonstick spray. Mix the maple syrup, sugar, sea salt and Smart Balance. Mix in everything else and stir it up for a little while, as it takes some time to incorporate everything. Turn into the pan and use your fingers to pack it down evenly. Place in the oven and bake for 25-45 minutes. It is really going to depend on your oven. If your oven is as persnickety as mine, the same recipe will take different times on different days. I don’t know why; it’s old. Anyway, let them cool on a rack, and then in the fridge, then slice n’ hike.

 Featured image via the author

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