On a recent Saturday morning I struggled out of bed at 6 a.m., unaccustomed to the morning light. I needed to make an early start so I could get to Seward in time to hike out at low tide to Caines Head State Recreation Area.
Seven friends and I backpacked out there to celebrate a landmark 30th birthday. We spent the sunny day exploring shale-covered beaches, examining starfish and watching for sea creatures. We rented a public use cabin for the night, which meant lunch was on the beach and dinner was eaten over a fire nestled back in the woods. Enjoying food with friends is one of my favorite things in the world, and to do that during an adventure in an amazing place was icing on the cake.
Caines Head is the site of an abandoned World War II fort, which overlooks Resurrection Bay against a backdrop of sharp peaks and forested coastline. According to the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, the story is that early in World War II, as the territory of Alaska was attacked and occupied by Japanese soldiers, Caines Head and other Resurrection Bay vantages became strategic spots for defending the Port of Seward. The port was the southern terminus of the Alaska Railroad, a critical supply line for the war effort and for Alaskans.
For an overnight trip, it seemed like we had enough food for an army. From Mediterranean pita sandwiches to hot cross buns and chocolate cake, we could have fed ourselves for a week. In the spirit of celebratory spring camping, here are some of my favorite backcountry snacks.
Easy camp snacks:
Curry-dusted cashews: I am a big fan of adding curry and nutritional yeast to cashews, shaking them up and bringing them on the trail.
Olives (transfer to a Ziploc bag). I recommend the ones that come stuffed with garlic or peppers. This savory snack is sure to hit the spot during a break or as an appetizer before dinner.
Chocolate-covered fruit: You can find bags of chocolate-covered pomegranates or blueberries at Costco. Beware: they won't last long!
Black bean roll-ups: Mix black beans, cumin, oregano, lime juice, garlic and cilantro in a food processor, spread on a tortilla and roll up. Add cayenne or Sriracha for a kick.
Salmon strips: nutritious and delicious, as the saying goes.
Bagel chips: The crunch is addictive and satisfying. These are easy to make at home and then you can season them however you like.
Things to roast over a fire:
Strawberries dipped in marshmallow fluff
"Camp Churros": Bring pre-made biscuit dough and, working with one portion at a time, stretch it so it's skinny and long. Wrap tightly around a stick, making sure to not overlap the biscuit dough at all. Cook in the fire (this part is a little tricky -- you want to cook it quickly so the dough doesn't expand and fall off but not too quickly, because then the inside won't be done). As soon as it's cooked, spread butter all over it and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon (you can pre-mix those together beforehand).
"Pigs in a Blanket": After putting your hot dog or sausage on a stick, wrap premade dough around it in a spiral. For kids, cut the hot dog into thirds before wrapping in dough and roasting over the fire.
Backcountry Popcorn: Bring popcorn kernels, a pot and a lid for this classic camping snack. Put butter or oil in the bottom of your pan and a small scoop of kernels -- you only need to cover the bottom of the pan to yield a full pot of cooked popcorn. Once the popping starts, shake the pan with the lid on for about four minutes until all the kernels stop popping. Top with salt or whatever seasoning you prefer.
Chocolate Banana Boats: Prepare bananas by peeling back a strip of peel about an inch wide. With a spoon, scoop out some of the banana to make a small trench lengthwise. Fill trench with chocolate chips or nutella and chopped almonds and cover back up with banana peel. Wrap banana in foil and cook over hot coals for 10-15 minutes before eating. To eat, peel and scoop out the chocolate-coated fruit with a spoon.
Shannon Kuhn lives in Anchorage, where she writes about food and culture.
Food & Culture