Author Topic: In need of a few hints for NT route and food  (Read 2226 times)

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Offline SusanF

In need of a few hints for NT route and food
« on: June 14, 2021, 11:08:34 pm »
In about 2 weeks, I will be doing part of the Northern Tier from East Glacier, MT to Fargo, ND self-contained. It will be the longest trip I have ever done, either self-contained or supported. (I hope to eventually get across the USA by connecting NT with other segments I have done with other tours). The mileage varies from 40 to almost 80, but mostly 50-60's. The overnight towns are set, but what I see during the day and evening are more open and flexible.  I have a train ticket set for the 17th, so the length of the trip isn't flexible. Anyone have any hints along that route? So far I have arranged to stay at campsites or hotels to Dickinson. I have learned that websites for the campgrounds listed by ACA or computer searching sometimes don't mention tent camping, but when I contacted the campground, they do in fact have tent sites (sometimes for free). At Makoshika State Park in Glendive, I was told that the upper campground is 3.5 miles back going up switchbacks with a final 15-17% grade at the end of the road, but beginning of a gravel road into the campground that is first come/first serve. All that and still not know if there is a site available. Good information to know! That's the night I decided on a hotel in Glendive. So again, does anyone have any hints of where to stay, what to see or do, and even what to avoid.

I also would appreciate hints about food. I will have a JetBoil and a bear canister to store the food. I prefer single serving and easy to fix meals. I'm also (sort-of) a picky eater and don't like a lot of foods (except sweets). As strange as it seems, I don't get that hungry and usually have to tell myself that I have to eat. I can barely finish one Ramen Noodle package. Not a healthy choice. Maybe a few hours later I will have a pre packaged fruit cup. One Cliff bar can last me 15-20 miles.  Many single package foods (like mac & cheese) instructions say to add boiling water and microwave. Any hints on ways to make that work without a microwave? I need lots of calories with the nutrients in a compact version. With that said, I can usually always have room for ice cream! I don't mind eating at restaurants or grocery deli's at times.

I'm new to this forum. I appreciate any hints.

Another note on 6/15: Thanks for the previous replies. Regarding the food: oatmeal, nuts, peanut butter, and spicy food are just some of the foods I cannot have in my diet. I hope someone else likes the recipes. I probably will take some olive oil. A regular box of Mac & Cheese gives me 5 servings, not the 3 that is listed on the box, so I really have to look for single serving items. Or possibly throwing away extra food. One pop tart is the first breakfast and the second pop tart is the second breakfast. I really don't eat much, probably less than I should. Regarding my bear canister BV500. I wasn't concerned about bears, but maybe other critters in the campground. But it does keep food together and hopefully prevents the items from getting squashed in a pannier. Even though they could get squashed if the canister is too full. However, I do have a Tupperware container that is almost the same, but about 2/3rds the size and much lighter. 2 pounds 9 ounces versus a few ounces. So I may consider that when I trial pack. I did check on the Blackfeet Reservation and it seems everyone can pass through. Thanks again.
« Last Edit: June 15, 2021, 06:53:47 pm by SusanF »

Offline HikeBikeCook

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Re: In need of a few hints for NT route and food
« Reply #1 on: June 15, 2021, 06:04:26 am »
My camp recipe for Mac and Cheese on a JetBoil. Standard box of Kraft Mac & Cheese - de-boxed and package for travel in a (reusable) qt Freezer (more durable) zip top bag.

I carry the JetBoil pot if I am traveling alone. I bring along the cup as well for the two of us with the French press.

I always carry olive oil in a couple of screw top plastic pack bottles (in a zip top bag). Olive oil has a very high calorie count per ounce of weight, one of the more healthy oils, and goes on everything from cooking to fresh greens. I also carry fresh garlic and crushed red pepper.

I like spicy flavorful foods so as an option you can do this first. Pour a small amount of olive oil in the bottom of the pot. Sautee garlic and red pepper - you are the instant envy of every camper around around you. BTW - zucchini packs well and I cook 1/2 half one day and 1/2 the next day by sautéing the same way.

Once the garlic is the way you like it add 2 cups of water and cover for a few seconds until it starts to boil. This is a JetBoil so it will boil fast. Once it boils add the pasta. Return to boil and turn way down so it is just bubbling and LOOSELY cover. (keeps bugs out and heat in) Cook it until around a 1/4 cup of water remains and dump in the cheese pack, stir, and add more olive oil to get a nice creamy sauce.
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Offline jwrushman

Re: In need of a few hints for NT route and food
« Reply #2 on: June 15, 2021, 08:41:06 am »
I stayed with a very nice WarmShowers host in Glendive - another option to consider.

Offline John Nettles

Re: In need of a few hints for NT route and food
« Reply #3 on: June 15, 2021, 08:55:56 am »
I personally would leave the bear canister and eat in restaurants or cold food until you get out of Glacier Nat'l Park.  After that, you will not need a bear canister so save the weight/bulk and leave at home.

Also, be sure to check that the Blackfeet Nation area is open to non-Blackfeet.  I had heard at one point it was closed and there was a longish detour which may alter your overnight stays.

Have a great trip!  John

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: In need of a few hints for NT route and food
« Reply #4 on: June 15, 2021, 09:27:58 am »
My camping breakfast is usually a packet or two of instant oatmeal, followed by a cup of cocoa or instant coffee, and a Pop Tart or two.  Unimaginative but pretty quick.  If there's a diner within the first 20-30 miles, that can be supplemented by a Second Breakfast -- one of the best reasons to tour by bicycle!

Lunch or dinner at a local restaurant will have a wider variety of food than you'll usually prepare on your own.  And while most such meals have way more salt than most Americans need, salt on your baked potato or french fries will do wonders to balance your electrolytes on or after a hot day of riding.  After two weeks eating in small towns, even if you usually don't care for a salad, a well stocked salad bar will look positively amazing.

Offline staehpj1

Re: In need of a few hints for NT route and food
« Reply #5 on: June 15, 2021, 04:40:25 pm »
I personally would leave the bear canister and eat in restaurants or cold food until you get out of Glacier Nat'l Park.  After that, you will not need a bear canister so save the weight/bulk and leave at home.

Cold food, and scented stuff like toiletries also need to be kept bear safe.  So cold food is a pretty imperfect solution if it is a solution at all in my opinion.  That said, I agree that you can almost always skip the bear canister on a bike tour though.  I have not toured through Glacier NP, but other National Parks where I have all had bear lockers in the campgrounds where you could put your stuff.  That was generally true for most places where the bear problems were the worst.

In the very rare event where they specifically forbid leaving food out and didn't have lockers (they said lock it in your car) we asked a nice couple in a neighboring site to keep it in their car.  That was in a state park outside Yosemite.

I own a couple canisters and have never taken them on tour.  I like my little BV450 for backpacking where a canister is required and the Garcia is nice for long canoe trips or group backpacking trips where there is a lot of food (likely both go along then).  I refuse to carry more food than my BV450 can handle, plus one day outside the canister for the first day.  So the big canister is never carried by me unless it is in a canoe.

I have considered getting an Ursack, but never made the purchase since it doesn't meet canister requirements in too many parks.  It saves enough weight vs the BV450 that it would extend the distance I am willing to hike between restock by a day if it meets the canister requirement for a given park.

Offline HikeBikeCook

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Re: In need of a few hints for NT route and food
« Reply #6 on: June 15, 2021, 06:49:49 pm »
I tend to carry a bear canister these days even with bear boxes. I had a really nice sil-nylon food back I carried on my thru-hike destroyed by a mouse in a bear box in the White Mountains. It turns out that the Jobox style bear boxes they use have mouse size drain holes in them. Mice are for more prevalent and destructive than bears. :)
Surly Disc Trucker, Lightspeed Classic, Scott Scale, Klein Mantra Comp. First touring bike Peugeot U08 - 1966

Offline John Nettles

Re: In need of a few hints for NT route and food
« Reply #7 on: June 15, 2021, 07:42:49 pm »
Cold food, and scented stuff like toiletries also need to be kept bear safe.  So cold food is a pretty imperfect solution if it is a solution at all in my opinion. 
I guess I didn't make myself clear enough.  I meant if no restaurants are available (which there are in Glacier NP), then eat (not store) the cold food for lunch/dinner but not keep overnight. Yes, I agree that all scented stuff should be kept bear safe but I guess I would just keep the pannier outside the tent or as you said, ask a car neighbor to keep it.  But since you would realistically only be in Glacier for 2-3 nights probably, that is not that big of a deal.  I personally would just eat out all meals while in Glacier.

Offline ray b

Re: In need of a few hints for NT route and food
« Reply #8 on: June 15, 2021, 10:43:46 pm »
Nice section. Hopefully you'll have a little time to enjoy some of the park before you head east.

East Glacier is almost out of known grizzly territory if you're heading east, so I'm with the above on food storage.

Old fashioned, I've always carried my food in a bag that I can hang from a branch well away from the trunk of a tree. I don't usually leave it outside the tent because I don't want hungry rodents, dogs, or black bears thinking they've hit the jackpot. We all have stories about losing bags, packs, and even tents to porcupines and marmots. I always associated bear canisters with touring in treeless areas of Alaska. Of course, that doesn't mean I'm not beyond hanging a bear canister from a branch when in southern Alberta and NW Montana.

Lack of hunger the first several days of a trip seems normal for some I've ridden with. It usually reverses (and often dramatically) after the first 5-10 days of a long tour as the brain and gut get the message about a change in daily caloric expenditure and decreasing body stores of energy.

That said, if you burn 1000 calories every 20 miles or so, then 40 miles in a day is only an additional 2000 calories. You might be eating enough; you shouldn't worry or dwell on the need to eat. Burning fat stores in our body costs about 1 pound of fat for every 4000 calories we burn and don't replace. Most of us carry enough extra calories that we shouldn't worry. (Of course, if you're running low body fat, you've already figured out that bonking is no fun, and that replacing calories=speed.)

Also, if you're riding the bike, it probably doesn't matter what you eat. If you like ice cream, your body will process it to replace the calories you burn on the bike, and you shouldn't feel guilty - well unless you burn 4000 calories a day and eat 8000 calories in ice cream and sweets..., not that I've ever done that.

If in doubt about whether you are getting sufficient vitamins, well, that's why the companies that make One-a-Day or Centrum multivitamins are making money. If it relieves your food-related anxieties, a multivitamin/day is worth the relatively small expense.

Let us know how your version of John's mac and cheese tastes. In summer, I usually don't travel with a stove and go heavy on tuna fish with garlic and spice, tortillas, peanut butter and honey....

So - other than recommendations that you simply eat what you're hungry for and try not to share your meal with the wildlife, I'm not going to be able to add to your recipe book.

(My favorite bear box for food storage....) (Photo from Lunchbox.com)
« Last Edit: June 16, 2021, 02:59:29 pm by ray b »
“A good man always knows his limitations.”

Offline BikeliciousBabe

Re: In need of a few hints for NT route and food
« Reply #9 on: June 16, 2021, 02:33:41 pm »
Where are your planned overnights? In MT, many of the more populated towns (e.g., Chester, Harlem, Malta, Glasgow) have decent grocery stores. You can browse and see what they have. Same with the larger places in ND.

Offline jwrushman

Re: In need of a few hints for NT route and food
« Reply #10 on: June 16, 2021, 09:01:20 pm »
"...many of the more populated towns (e.g., Chester, Harlem, Malta, Glasgow) have decent grocery stores.."

Unfortunately for those towns, the NT has been rerouted to roads further south.  But they do have decent grocery stores.  I especially enjoyed staying at pianist Philip Aaberg's home in Chester. 


Offline BikeliciousBabe

Re: In need of a few hints for NT route and food
« Reply #11 on: June 21, 2021, 03:30:19 pm »
Dang! Forgot that they now drop down earlier. IIRC, the major re-route had it staying up on the High Line until Wolf Point and then heading down.

Shame that became necessary. Had some good times in Harlem, Glasgow and Wolf Point. Of course, that was in '99. Traffic on U.S. 2 was mostly very light except in a few places like Shelby and Havre. Still went through Williston and used ND 1804 back then.
« Last Edit: June 21, 2021, 03:36:22 pm by BikeliciousBabe »

Offline Westinghouse

Re: In need of a few hints for NT route and food
« Reply #12 on: June 26, 2021, 01:37:25 pm »
I have the full set of Bikecentennial / ACA maps. I bought them in 1987. The northern tier is great. I did it from Seattle, to Ana Cortes to Chicago, Illinois, about 2600 miles. I had to quit. An emergency came up. There are many places for food, water, other supplies and shelter.

Offline BikeliciousBabe

Re: In need of a few hints for NT route and food
« Reply #13 on: June 27, 2021, 01:13:24 pm »
As noted, a lot has changed in MT and ND since 1987. Probably elsewhere as well.

Offline driftlessregion

Re: In need of a few hints for NT route and food
« Reply #14 on: July 05, 2021, 06:08:14 pm »
Blackfeet Reservation is indeed open: I have a reservation at The Blackfeet Cultural Camp in a couple of weeks: http://www.blackfeetculturecamp.com/tipicamp/cabins/