We talk often about how we feed the dogs while on our cold weather mushing adventures, but we rarely get around to talking about what we eat. Just like the dogs get fed a high fat, high protein meal that is the equivalent of “doggy rocket fuel” (the term coined by Megan Moody), we as humans also need a high-octane meal to keep us going on the long, cold, winter nights.
Imagine this scenario if you will, it is 4 a.m., you just ran your team 65 miles from Pelly Crossing towards Dawson City during the Yukon Quest. This run took about 8 hours so the last time you ate a meal was sometime the evening before. The temperature is -35 F. You stop to camp your team to feed and rest them on the side of the trail. Dog care always come first. Dogs are unclipped from their tuglines so they can get comfortable, booties are taken off, the dog cooker is started to melt water, the dogs are all checked for stiffness or soreness and massaged if needed, more snow is put in the cooker, dog jackets are put on, more snow is put in the cooker, and straw is put down for the dogs.
Okay, time to make dinner. As we do all of our chores we are constantly tending the cooker to make sure we have an efficient use of the cooker fuel to melt snow into hot water, in this case we are using methanol. The cooker is a 3.5-gallon stock pot that sits at the top of a 5-gallon steel bucket with air venting cut into it. In the bottom of this cooker bucket, there is a special burner that we pour one of the many alcohol solutions into and it burns superhot with blue flames melting snow at extremely hot temperatures. We make enough hot water to add to the dog’s food and make a warm mix of meat, kibble and fat or “doggy rocket fuel”. At the same time, we are making musher rocket fuel. We have two main types of food we use on the trail. We either use frozen food prepackaged in vacuum seal bags that we drop into the hot water to thaw and heat up or we can add the hot water to a dehydrated meal. We use the hot water accordingly for whichever meal we chose, place the meal in an insulated container and then feed the dogs. Once the dogs are licking their chops in content, it is human dinner time. Both types of food have their advantages and disadvantages, so we use them at different times. In this instance, I used a Heather’s Choice Salmon Chowder dehydrated meal.

A close up of the dog cooker. Alcohol is poured into burner in the bottom of bucket on right.

The cooker has turned snow into boiling and steaming water. Ready for dog food and human food.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s start by talking about the frozen meals. The frozen meals are great choice for most mushing scenarios. The food is already cooked, it just needs to be thawed out and heated up which makes it very simple. We rely on our friends over at Hard Eats in Fairbanks to make much of our frozen pre-packaged vacuum sealed mushing meals. Besides their amazing food from their food trailer, they specialize in making high calorie, high fat, easy to eat options for people on the go. Many of their food choices are wrapped in a tortilla for extremely easy eating with no need for utensils. I often will heat up a breakfast burrito before getting ready to start a run. I can put that burrito inside my chest pocket in my bibs and it not only heats me up, but my body heat keeps it warm for a couple hours until I get hungry on the trail. Then boom, warm breakfast burrito on the go. They also make fruit smoothies and soups that I will often put in a thermos for later and helps with human hydration which is just as important as dog hydration.

All of the tasty frozen food options prepared for our 2015 race season by Hard Eats.

Prepackaged food from Hard Eats

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paige enjoying a meal from Hard Eats at Dawson dog camp during her 36 hour layover in 2017.

One consideration when using frozen meals is that they can take several minutes of soaking in boiling water before they are thawed and warmed. The other consideration is the weight and space of the frozen meals. They are a great option for checkpoints or cabin use as they can be heated several different ways to be eaten. I try to make sure I have these meals at all checkpoints and at least one burrito for each leg of my race, so I can have a hot treat on the trail. I know when I eat one of these meals, I will not be hungry for a while! A huge thanks to Hard Eats for their support of Team Squid.
The dehydrated meal option is one that we have used for years, but until recently was mainly used as a backup option. Anyone who has lived a few days on Mountain House can attest to desire for something tastier and the desire to not take so many bathroom breaks. A couple years ago we found Heather’s Choice dehydrated meals. They are an amazing lightweight, space saving, high octane option and they are tasty. We have been testing all the Heather’s Choice options over the past year on all our adventures, summer and winter and are happy with the results. They are made from healthy, natural ingredients that leave you feeling good. We as dog mushers joke that we talk about poop more than anybody, we probably do. So here we go. I mentioned Mountain House meals before, most brands of dehydrated meals have some weird preservative of something that doesn’t quite jive with normal intestinal action. They either leave you feeling stopped up or the opposite. Neither are what you want when you are out for days on end in adverse conditions. The Heather’s Choice meals leave us feeling good, energized and all normal below the belt. We did a test on a backpacking trip this past summer on the Pinnell Trail and we ate only Heather’s Choice food for 3 days. We had the energy we needed and felt great.

Enjoying some Dark Chocolate Chili on the Pinnell Trail this past summer.

Paige and Stout enjoying some Tomatillos Rancheros on the Pinnell Trail.

Sing it now.. The waiting is the hardest part.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another plus with the Heather’s Choice meals is that they are small and lightweight. This makes them a ideal choice for long stretches on the Yukon Quest like the 205 mile section between Pelly Crossing and Dawson City. Here a musher must carry everything they need for humans and dogs for with them. There is no resupply. Dogfood alone for that section can weigh about 200 pounds, there is no skimping or lightening the dog food load, so we must do it in other ways, like lightening our personal food and gear. The space and weight saved by these dehydrated meals is a huge bonus.

Cody pours boiling water into Heather’s Choice meals on a training camp last week.

Two favorites.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dehydrated meals need to sit for a period so that the food can be rehydrated by the hot water. This can be difficult to achieve in very cold conditions, so we made a small insulated pouch out of reflective bubble wrap insulation. We add our hot water to our meal and then place it in the pouch and tuck it back in the sled while we feed the dogs. The meal is ready when we finish. Heather’s Choice has a bunch of tasty natural options. Our favorites include: Doro Wat with Quail meat, Smoked Salmon Chowder, Dark Chocolate Chili, Rancheros Tomatillos and they have several high octane hot breakfasts that are very tasty as well. We are proud to be brand ambassadors for Heather’s Choice and excited to test new developments on the trail.

Hard Eats candied bacon snacks.

Some super rich chocolate peanut butter bar snacks from Hard Eats.

A mix of snacks from Hard Eats with a Lusty Cake right in the middle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As far as snacks go, we try to eat snacks with lots of calories as we move down the trail. We try to eat lots of nuts, granola, coconut, dried fruit and dark chocolate. Hard Eats has made us some of the most amazing high-octane snacks for the trail. Some past options include candied bacon and oreo bars all vacuum sealed and ready to throw in your pocket for later. Lusty Cakes has made us some amazing miniature cheese cakes that have enough fat to keep us going for hours. They are less on the healthy side, but they are packed with calories and fat and it precisely what we desire at -40. Another great snack option are the Heather’s Choice Packaroons. They are small coconut based snacks that pack an energy punch. They come in a package of two and each Packaroon, depending on ingredients, has roughly 200 calories. That is approximately the same as a snickers bar. These have become one of our favorite snack foods on all of our adventures regardless of the season, hiking, kayaking, backpacking, it is hard not to just eat them at home.
If you are planning a winter adventure this year, I recommend these three companies. If you based your diet on these foods, you won’t be disappointed in your ability to stay warm, have plenty of energy and feel great.

Enjoying some packaroons while pack rafting on the Colorado River outside Moab this past summer.

A tasty snack while camping in the White Mountains last spring.

Cody getting an energy burst from the espresso packaroons while kayaking on the Nenana River.

 

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Day 7 Yukon Quest Squid Morning Update

February 10, 2017

Day 7: Yukon Quest Morning Update   Sorry for the hiatus in updates. This computer musher was called in to be a handler in Dawson. Now that we have the team back on the trail, I will do my best to keep up with the action. Paige left Dawson last evening at 5:25 pm PST […]

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Day 4 Yukon Quest Squid Morning Update

February 7, 2017

The handler team has united in Dawson City. I rolled in last night at 9pm with Mike Ellis. It was a beautiful drive and we made great time doing the entire 900 mile drive in 15 hours with two quick stops for meals. Mike brought up the contrast of what we just accomplished to what […]

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Day 3 Yukon Quest- Early morning update

February 6, 2017

Well I’m up. 3:15 am AKST. I got 2.5 hours of sleep and am ready for the long haul. Mike Ellis and I are about to hit the road to Dawson City. Mike will be helping Brent Sass at Dawson and I guess I’ll give me lovely wife a hand. We have our own little […]

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Commentary by Cody: Day 2 Yukon Quest Evening Update

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Well I have to admit, I’m a bit behind on what is going on in the race. I spent the day running a team and getting the handlers at home squared away with their training schedules for the remaining teams. We have puppy teams running, a yearling team, a race team that can do long […]

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Yukon Quest Day Two Morning Commentary by Cody – Sunday 2/5/2017

February 5, 2017

                    Good morning race fans. Please excuse any grammatical errors as I’m on my first cup of coffee after getting up multiple times in the night to watch trackers. An exciting race is starting out day 2. Hugh still has a sizable lead since he was […]

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The Dog Days of Summer

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Summer time for the athletes of Squid Acres is almost as busy as the winter. When we return from our annual arctic trip, we put the mushing gear away and hit the RESET button. We begin working towards winter once again. Summer is the time when we try to make our money for the year […]

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Cody’s Yukon Quest Recap.. Start to Dawson City. The long winded version.

April 9, 2014

Almost 6 weeks have passed since our Quest run prematurely ended at Braeburn Checkpoint.  The race has played start to end in my head over and over like a DVD player stuck on repeat. Almost nightly I relive the race sometimes it has different endings, but when I wake the ending is the same.  It […]

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Scurion Headlamps… Lighting up the dark of night for Team Squid!

December 11, 2013

We often get asked what that satellite dish thingy is on our heads. Well my friends, we are not tuning in Tokyo, we are lighting up the night with our Scurion headlamps.  Today in Interior Alaska, sunrise is at 10:50 am and sunset is at 2:43 pm, leaving us with a period of  real daylight […]

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Change is coming!

November 7, 2013

Since we last wrote about Dorado’s legacy, we have made great headway with the Iditarod Trail Committee Board of Directors on making changes to the dropped dog protocol. After the race we talked with many mushers and race volunteers to see what these people with vast Iditarod experience thought was important to make the dropped […]

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Our new handler, Charity, writes about her new job!

October 7, 2013

The smells of the dog yard are setting in my skin; Fish and kibble and raw meat watered thin. Been ten days since I’ve showered, Clean clothes now a fading luxury. The soles of my shoes are covered in hues of dog poop The likes you hopefully won’t ever get to see.   Now these […]

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