A few weeks ago I went on an excursion to Montana and Yellowstone National Park. Unfortunately, it was a short trip – the plan was to arrive on a Thursday night and leave the next Monday, but weather delays in Atlanta caused me to miss my connection in Salt Lake City, meaning I didn’t arrive in Bozeman until Friday around noon. (Note: Accolades to Delta for putting me up in a hotel in Salt Lake even though the delays were weather related).
Thus a short trip was now even shorter and as such we decided to make a slight change of plans. The initial schedule was that Katie and I were going to drive to Yellowstone (1.5 hour drive from Bozeman) and sight-see all day Friday, then do one day/night of backcountry hiking on Saturday, then hike back to civilization on Sunday and return to Bozeman. But with such a late start at Friday we would have been really hard pressed to make that schedule work and see lots of stuff, and what fun is a time-constrained and rushed vacation? We ended up deciding we would just take our time and drive around the park all weekend and camp at any of the many the car accessible campgrounds in Yellowstone.
Being that I had planned on backcountry hiking, I had purchased some dehydrated meals from REI. We could have carried something heavier being that it was only a one day/night hike, but dehydrated meals are very convenient, can provide a welcome warm meal on a cold night, and are sometimes tasty. Also, as the new plan was just to drive around and car-camp, would could have easily dined on groceries or even eaten at a Yellowstone restaurant, but hey, we had already purchased the meals and it added some rugged authenticity (though we did have a cooler full of beer and wine). The meals I brought were all made by the brand Backpacker’s Pantry – we had Mac ‘n Cheese, Vegetable Medley, and Organic Spinach Puttanesca.
I actually had never had any of these before, though I’ve eaten this brand many times in the past. The other brand I’ve purchased often is Mountain House. I’ve had intermittent luck with both brands – some of the meals are really hit or miss. Keeping it simple seems to be the key and I think the choices we brought along easily fit within that guideline. Some of the entrees that include salmon (Pesto Salmon Pasta, Cajun Salmon Inferno) are very scary to me.
The first night we camped in an area in Mammoth, which is in the northeast area of the park, close to the Montana border. The simple menu for that night was Mac n’ Cheese and Vegetables. We fired up the new grill I had purchased, boiled some water, and took the water and put it in the resealable bag and waited 8 long minutes.
I figured dehydrated Mac n’ Cheese would be a fairly close representation of the real thing (or at least the boxed stuff) and it didn’t disappoint. The noodles were kind of chewy (or you could say they were slightly al dente) but the cheese was super gooey and delicious on a cold night (it snowed late that night, even though that July afternoon was 80 degrees and sunny). The vegetables were a little rubbery but the bright idea of adding the vegetables into the cup with the mac ‘n cheese paid off.
The next night we went for the Organic Spinach Puttanesca. This was prepared in a similar fashion, and was a “keeper” as well. At first I thought it was really bland and had no idea why it was considered to be in the style of Puttanesca, but after eating about half of the meal, I figured it out when in one bite there was explosion of spicy tomato flavor. What happened is a lot of the dehydrated spices and other stuff were stuck in the bottom corner of the packaging and I didn’t mix it up well. I’ve had this happen in the past too, so remember to always stir your freeze dried meals well!
I must note we weren’t totally living the craggy backpacker lifestyle. With this meal we enjoyed a bottle of Layer Cake Primitivo (aka Zinfandel) from Italy. I picked it up from a wine boutique in Bozeman. The wine was more in the style of a California zinfandel – more approachable than the other few Italian primitivos I’ve had, it was “jammy” and very fruit forward with mild to medium tannins and acidity.
I wouldn’t want to live on these meals, but I think the amount of variety and creativity in these meals is impressive, and they can be quite enjoyable, especially when you are “roughing it”. If you have any suggestions on other freeze dried meals that are worth a try, let me know!