I love vacationing on the beach. I love swimming in deep water and laying like a lizard on the sand. I love scuba diving in the Caribbean and practicing my Spanish in South America, but the thing I hate about that kind of vacation these days is figuring out what to eat and avoiding high carb ehtnic foods.
Last year my Colombian boyfriend, Julian, took me back to his country to meet his family and see his home. Traveling was awesome, his family was great but it wasn’t long before I was battling extreme physical and mental discomfort. I am incredibly allergic to the banana family and plantains are in everything. I can’t tolerate fruit sugar and fruit is a staple over there. I can’t eat onions or cilantro. I don’t eat grains. I don’t eat fried foods. I was a weirdo in a country where people haven’t even heard of food allergies and where they believe that being fat is attractive and mature. They have absolutely no idea that the same thing which makes them fat also degrades their health.
I tried at first to pick the starches out of the soups and just eat the meat and broth but eventually all the picking was impolite, plus I was getting freakin hungry! After a while I resigned myself to eating like a Colombian and, while it was tasty, I felt terrible for five weeks. (Next time we go we will rent an apartment and cook for ourselves. We did this when we traveled to Santa Marta and it was the best I felt on the whole trip.)
This summer vacation was to be on my terms.
What is the one thing that would be paleo and totally within my control, ooh ha ha? Camping! Julian hasn’t seen much of the US yet and Evelyn is so girly she could use a little toughening up, so off to the national parks we went!
We hit Arches, Canyonlands, Lake Powell, Grand Canyon, and Mesa Verde. Here are a few pictures. You can find more on my facebook page.
Packing for a Primal Camping Trip
We kept our packing simple with sleeping bags, a tent, toiletries, clothes, and extra shoes. We didn’t bring chairs, choosing instead to sit on rocks and logs. At the last minute I packed a box of toys which Evelyn never played with at all, preferring plants, rocks, and dirt to toys. That’s it, that and a couple of huge coolers stocked full of primal foods.
And no they did not include Dorritos and Ramen to replenish the salt lost in the desert heat! (Inside joke, check comments.)
The staples were beef/bison/chicken, eggs, and bacon. We used bacon grease for everything – extra energy (we pretty much ate all the grease at every meal) and bigger fires (grease fires in the fire pit are way cool).
The three of us all follow pretty different Primal type diets so I’ll give you a few different views here.
Three Slightly Different Diets
Peggy: is the greasy meat eater. While camping I ate extra meat and eggs, plus canned sardines and tuna with lime. I also made lemonade with lemons and cane sugar a couple times a day. (I will go into this further next week when I write about what I eat and why. It’s not about energy. The reason may surprise you.)
Julian: loves his vegetables. He had to have some veggies on the trip so he kept a bag of mixed greens, eating leaves right from the bag with most meals (so weird to me). He also ate roasted red pepper straight off the camp fire (delicious I’m sure) and munched baby carrots. Julian also eats nuts and queso fresco (fresh cheese which is not aged). He brought a six pack of coconut water and a six pack of beer.
Evelyn: is totally obsessed with being just like her mom so she doesn’t eat vegetables either (which I am fine with because she agreed long ago that if she doesn’t eat veggies then she has to eat oysters and liver which she does every week). But she doesn’t want to be quite like mom because mom doesn’t eat fruit and she really likes fruit. She doesn’t usually like nuts (probably because I don’t eat them) but on this trip she ate lots of raw cashews and pistachios. Evelyn also likes a little bit of jack cheese but she skips the beer.
Our Meals On the Camping Trip
The food we carried:
In the pantry bag we carried fresh fruit including oranges, mangoes, apples, lemons, and bananas. We also stocked up on dried mango and pineapple (dried fruit is usually mostly off limits but I didn’t want to deal with a kid complaining of hunger the whole trip). There were the cans of fish, cashews and pistachios, raw cane sugar, and beef jerkey (which we bought, unfortunately, so I couldn’t eat it. I forgot to make some before we left!) We had one big cooler for the meats, cheese, and veggies, plus a beer cooler and a special cooler just for the several dozen pastured eggs that we brought from home. We packed them raw. I didn’t want to be stuck eating hard boiled eggs for 8 days.
Breakfast was always plenty of bacon and eggs cooked in all the grease. That was it for me so I would have an extra bacon or egg (or both). Evelyn and Julian both added fruit and Julian always added a hunk of cheese.
Snacks while hiking consisted of jerky, dried fruit, and nuts. I don’t snack.
Lunch was often a can of sardines for me until we could stop and cook some beef. I didn’t always get a chance to eat a whole lot in the afternoons but the other two filled up with nuts, and dried fruit. Neither of them are as willing as I am to go hungry (though Julian doesn’t mind skipping breakfast at all).
Dinner was a lot of fun. We traveled late in the day on this trip, leaving a spot right about when the rains came. We would arrive at our new campsite around dusk and quickly set up the tent before dark. Hungry but relaxed, we started the fire and would cook up a bone in, skin on chicken breast wrapped in bacon and some red pepper with carrots (for them), and maybe topped with another egg for me.
There is always some small allowance for cheating on the Paleo diet if it’s kept simple and grain free (nuts are cheating for me). On a couple of our long drives I was so hungry while the other two were eating fruit and nuts that I decided to have some pistachios. They made me feel horrible as usual. Nuts are soooo bad for me. (I did the same thing a few days later with the raw cashews. Cashews are a little easier on me but still not great.)
I really wanted to try roasted marshmallows again because I used to love them camping when I was a teenager. This time around they gave me a stomach ache and a bad mood the next day. We threw the bag away. Some treats just aren’t worth it.
In Moab we found some coconut ice cream at the health food store which was surprisingly pure. It’s rare that coconut anything doesn’t have guar gum or carrageenan, which messes up my stomach. The last two days of the trip we were driving a whole lot and ran into some Hagen Daaz at a gas station. We indulged in that as well.
That’s about it for treats and cheats. We didn’t spend the whole vacation thinking about food. We brought good food with us and largely satisfied our cravings and our hunger with a very high fat intake. That is our trick. Fill up and indulge in high fat and your cravings will be minimal.
A quick note about high fat: Some of you may have noticed that I didn’t mention pemmican. I mostly ran out before the trip and had to save what I have left for our Denver Paleo Meetup which is this Sunday. I survived without the pemmican but it would have been nice to have it. It would have saved me from eating nuts those couple of times. It definitely wouldn’t have saved me from eating the ice cream, however. I really wanted that…
What Vacation is All About
These eight days were about being together and escaping the daily grind. We got to know each other all over again and on a deeper level. Since kids grow so fast, it’s easy to lose track of who they are as they change. As the demands of home and work can be relentless, it’s easy to lose sight of what we love about each other and how lovely is our primal backyard.
Vacations give us the chance to get it all back together. I have found this is less true if the focus of a vacation is on food. In fact, this seems to be true for life in general. Modern foods make us feel like crap. They make us act and think differently than we otherwise would. They make us physically uncomfortable, distracting us from much of what is happening around us. Eating pure foods on a vacation is the best way to have a real experience of the people you’re with and the culture or environment you’re in.
Our primal camping trip gave all of us a chance to slow down, to think, and to really watch and listen to each other. It was one of the best vacations I’ve ever had.
It turns out that while I was gone Mark from MDA wrote an article about what to eat while camping and vacationing. His offers more general suggestions so I thought I would include the link since this article is about what my family ate on this specific trip.
And lastly, there were a few comments left on my notice that I’d be out of town so I included them below so that they wouldn’t be lost.
Some additional details
For anybody interested in our particular route and activities I’ll add a little extra here. (This comes as an edit because I didn’t think of it at first.)
We stayed in a campground only once. That was in the Canyonlands because the office was closed when we arrived and we couldn’t get a back country permit (you need back country permits to camp off the beaten path in National Parks). At Arches we drove North on 191 a couple of miles from the park entrance to Mill Canyon Rd. Camping is legal there on an off road trail.
We found a pretty lake somewhere on the way to Lake Powell and so we stayed there a night. We bathed in the cold waters which felt amazing after 3 days with no showers.
We went to South Lake Powell due to inclement weather. On the Utah side you can camp anywhere you want on the beach. It’s not a formal campground but there are some bathrooms. Someone told us about a great view up County Rd off 89. So on our second afternoon there we went out to see it. We never got even close to what this guy was talking about because we were driving on this dirt road forever, but it turned out to be the most amazing off-roading I’ve ever even heard of because the terrain changed so frequently and dramatically.
The geology in the area is really wild with rocks slowly melting off from the top down. All through the area (from Arches down to Grand Canyon) there are spires, canyons, buttes, arches, balancing rocks, and all types of rock formations. Here is one picture I got from this drive that just blows my mind.
Instead of stressing out in the tourist trap of the South Rim, Grand Canyon, we went to the North Rim. While the campground was full inside, the North Rim is surrounded by National Forest which is totally campable. The park attendant even gave us a map of the road system. We drove about 15 miles on National Forest dirt roads until we finally came to a totally secluded view of the Canyon. It was probably the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. There was even a small meadow of butterflies flitting near the cliff’s edge. Here is a picture from our private little spot where we had lunch that day.