From dust to tribe . . .

Dust and Tribe (D&T) is the experience of growth through adventure.

Our quarterly excursions are opportunities for men and women to push through the boundaries of supposed mental and physical limits into a new awareness of what we can be when we support one another.

It is where we discover what we are (dust) and what we become together (tribe).

Winter 2019: D&T Grind

On January 24th, 2019, nine men and nine women will head into
the mountains of Santa Cruz for three days and thirty miles of cold and grit. This is their story.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019


What are we going to eat?

How will we prepare what we eat?

Is it necessary that we eat?

What did you have for dinner last night?

What will you have tonight?

Did you send me an invitation?

You suck.

That's a black hole. It sucks, too. You're a black hole.

But I love you and all of your black holiness. I'm still walking with you and camping with you and I'll be happy to share what I know about eating in the woods.

First off, food is not necessary. It is very nice, though. But if none of us had any food we would be fine. Super grumpy, but fine.

I'm not being funny. I'm contextualizing things. We can get really anxious about this stuff, so we need to really take a look at what food is for us. And once we realize that it is not a necessity in the context of a three-day, 30-mile journey, we can hopefully relax and figure out how we can bring enough to enhance the experience without undue frustration.

What we're looking for primarily is the greatest number of calories for the least amount of weight. We're also looking at what it takes to prepare the food we've brought. We also need to consider our budgets. And as a final consideration, what kind of waste will we be generating in the process? By this I mean packaging and wrappers. I don't mean how much crap you'll produce after a meal, but if we want to maybe do something for the science fair I'm down.

You should be so enterprising.

Here's the fun part. We're going to be trudging, packs loaded, for days. That means everything we've learned about nutrition to support our ridiculously sedentary lives, like cutting fats and carbs, TOTALLY goes out the window on the trail.

When I ran Skyline as an ultramarathon back in 2013, there was a rest station like every five miles or so. And they loaded these rest stations with JUNK FOOD!!! Cookies and chocolate milk and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and candy bars along with a bunch of bananas for the potassium, I guess. Point is, we are going to be TORCHING calories, so we need foods that will replace those lost calories quick and easy. And carbs help us retain water (carboHYDRATE), so totally good for us on the trail to help us from drying out. Fats and carbs are our friends!!!

Ounce for ounce, fats offer the most calories by weight. I know of backpackers who pack olive oil to dump on whatever else they're eating just to fatten it up. Whenever I go hiking with Sister Sama, she always brings an avocado. It's a good choice. Loaded with good clean fat, an avocado offers massive calories for a fairly small portion. A big one will net you something like 300 calories. At 6+ ounces, they're heavy, though. And they don't pack real nice. But still awesome.

Nut butters are my favorite. Justin's makes some great nut butters in these cool little packets. Topping out the calorie density list at 210 calories for a mere 1.15 ounces is their cashew butter.

Not the greatest flavor or consistency, likely because of the addition of palm oil, but that added oil nudges up the fat content and caloric value. Two of these would be 420 calories for just over 2 ounces! That's a meal, yo.

I'm not suggesting we slurp nut butter for three days.

Dear God. I want to make jokes, but I butter nut.

(Sisters Sama and Randa- that was for you)

What I am suggesting is that incorporating pureed cashews into your meal plan (or peanuts or almonds) is worth considering.

And why not add a packet of honey, such as those offered by Nature Nate's?

That's an extra 30 calories and some nice, sugary carbs. Slather the honey and cashew butter on a soft taco tortilla (around 130 calories) and you've got 370 calories for just over 3 ounces. About half the weight of the avocado.

But not quite as tidy a package as a good old Snickers bar. Two of those will get you 430 calories for the same weight as your cashew honey wrap.

Which, by the way, is my wife's new pet name. She loves when I call her Cashew Honey Wrap. Sometimes we just do CHW, though. Because discretion.

But it's not all just calories and ounces. I like me a cup of joe to start the morning. I haven't found anything better than Trader Joe's Instant Coffee packets.

The coffee isn't that great, but it's got the cream and sugar already mixed in, which I like because I'm a prissy little man-child. Baby's got to have his milk and all that. I think Sister Sama just adds coffee beans to her trail mix.

Another thing I really like from Trader Joe's is their Indian Fare line.

They have different meals. Madras Lentils, Yellow Tadka Dal, Tikka Vegetables. All pretty good. The food is already precooked in these little packets. You can just open up and eat, or else put the packet in a pot of boiling water to heat it up. Heavy at 10 ounces, but 300-400 very tasty calories.

Your most expensive, and possibly most convenient option, is to go with one of the dehydrated meal services tailored for backpackers, like those of Good To-Go. Clean ingredients and you can sort meals by dietary preference.

I'm not going to give you a list. I might share mine after I have my food together, but I really want to give you the concepts and let you and your partner figure it out. When you make it off the mountain, I really don't want a lot of credit. I want you all to put in the work, the planning, the commitment, and the follow-through. I want you to be center stage in your great adventure. But I also want to be there to see you take the stage.

Think about oils and nuts and chocolate and dried fruit. Some combination of that and you'll be fine, God willing.

I hope these ideas help. There's a lot more that could be said. Maybe you've got ideas you'd like to share in the comments?

Happy New Year, by the way.


  1. Ain't nuttin' like Almond Butter and honey on toast. Breakfast of champions. Costco has organic almond butter. Trader Joe's has Almond and cashew butter in 1 pound jars. One pound of almond butter, plus one pound of honey might be enough meals for 3 days? When the food runs out, the skyline diet could be used to lose some weight, preferably the fat in my body and not the essentials in the backpack. Maybe we'll run into a hiker who brought a generator and toaster, so I could toast my bread and make some hot chai. But in the absence of caffeine, the weight on my back might keep me up

    1. I will be packing some instant coffee packets; which is loaded with caffeine and cardamom :) no caffeine is NOT an option :) . I don’t think we will be running out of food.. let’s face i think as a community of hikers, we will all have something to spare I think 🤔

    2. I think a jar of peanut butter, a jar of honey and a spoon should work fine, Fazeel! You'll survive as long as you don't get bored to death.

      In all of my trips, running out of food has NEVER been a problem. The opposite. People end up with SO much stuff left over. I don't think this will be any different. But who knows! Maybe it's worth getting permission in advance to cannibalize one another?

  2. It would be cool to see if we can exchange snacks/meals in the event that someone wants something other than what they packed.

    1. Food and gear trades are part of the fun!

    2. Yes, its always a delight to see what new items we get in barter :-)

  3. Just came across this amazing bar.

    3600 Calorie Bar - 3 Day Supply
    Kosher and it meets the dictates for Halal.
    Does not contain cholesterol or tropical oils.
    Weighs just 1 lb (for three days).

    1. This is sooooo cool!!!

      I'll trade you two packs of cashew butter for one of those bars!