Basil Pesto and Smoked Salmon Pasta

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, many are strong at the broken places.”

Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms

I recently returned from two weeks spent traveling, camping, and backpacking around Alaska with my friend and amazing travel partner Miranda.  We found ourselves in both some of the most beautiful places I have ever witnessed, and also some of the most precarious situations I have ever been in.  For This Moveable Feast’s first official blog post, I thought I would share our story of Resurrection Pass Trail, on which we had my favorite go-to backcountry dinner – basil pesto and smoked salmon pasta – preceded a BEAR-y eventful evening.

The Resurrection Pass Trail is one of the most famous backpacking destinations of the Kenai Peninsula. It runs 38 miles long from the town of Hope at the northern end, to Cooper Landing at the southern end. It’s accessible and the hiking is easy, so it’s popular. We wanted to through-hike it but only had access to our one rental car.  So we parked in Cooper Landing where we planned to finish the hike, packed up, and set out to hitch-hike up to Hope, where we would start.

IMG_20170808_164623735_HDR.jpg
Hopeful hitching to Hope

Hitch-hiking ended up being one of my favorite parts of our trip. We never had to wait more than 5-10 minutes before we were picked up, and in the process met so many kind, interesting, and helpful people! We made it to Hope in no time, and hit the trail around 7pm.

IMG_20170808_183357522
Excited to start hiking, unaware of the foreboding Bear Country sign that snuck into the picture

After a couple hours of easy hiking, we made it the first established campsite, just over 4 miles from the trailhead. Since we got a late start, we decided this would be our home for the night. The established campsites along Resurrection each provide a bear locker to store food, toiletries, and other smelly items. There was a really nice flat area to pitch a tent right next to it, but being the smart backpackers that we are, we decided it was too close and went another 200+ yards away and over a little hill to set up our tent. we returned to the locker area to cook dinner.

IMG_20170808_214821809
Dinner’s ingredients, + crowler from 49th State Brewery (Healy, AK) we packed in. Worth it.

This is not an incredibly lightweight meal, so we decided to have it on our first night to get rid of some weight, and because it sounded delicious. To me, pasta while backpacking is very satisfying – much more-so than anytime I eat it at home. Paired with pesto sauce, toasted pine nuts, parmesan cheese, sun-dried tomato, smoked salmon, and a dehydrated mix of onions, peppers, and mushrooms, I’m one happy camper.

After eating and drinking and laughing and relaxing, we decided it was time to clean up and head to bed. We loaded up the bear locker with all our smellies, and headed out toward our tent. As we rounded the hill and came into view of our tent, we noticed it was collapsed! What happened? Did we set it up incorrectly? Did someone come and take my poles? As we got closer, I saw that everything was still there, but there was a big hole in the side of the tent! As a knelt down to investigate, the tree to my right started to shake. While it seemed like a long time, my thought progression over the next 3 seconds went something like this:

“Wow, that’s a big raccoon! I can’t believe it got into my tent like this!”

“Actually, these aren’t teeth marks, this looks like someone took a knife to my tent.”

“Wait, that doesn’t look like a raccoon – does Alaska have raccoons?”

“Oh that’s black bear!”

“Oh that’s a very small black bear!”

“Wait, that’s a black bear that’s too small to be by itself”

“WHERE’S MOMMA BLACK BEAR?”

Just as I hear Miranda say, “We’re leaving.. NOW”, I turn and see momma to my left. We had inadvertently walked in between a mother bear and her cub. I stand up, reach for my bear spray, put my arms up, and start backing away. Miranda and I talk loudly, calmly, and confidently as we retreat. Lucky for us, momma bear did not get aggressive or decide to follow. We return to the bear locker area, where we quickly pack everything up while continuing to make a lot of noise and keeping an eye out. After 15 minutes or so, we return to our camp in hope that the bears would be gone and we’d be able to assess the damage. Unfortunately, baby was still in the tree and momma was still eyeing us. We didn’t feel comfortable sticking around, or passing them closely enough to continue moving forward to the next campsite, so we decided to head back to the trailhead without our tent, sleeping pads, or sleeping bags.

After a dark and exhausting four miles out, we were thankfully able to connect with two Outward Bound instructors and their group of 12 teenagers who were camping at the trailhead. They generously welcomed us into their tent and found us an extra sleeping bag. The next morning, we hiked back in to assess the damage.

IMG_20170809_093021297 (1)
Rain-fly, tent wall, and Miranda’s sleeping pad were all clawed through.
20746056_10208955900966226_3573451032681620244_o
My poor tent poles! They broke in half when I tried to bend them back.
IMG_20170809_093003701
If you look closely, you can see all the little scratches from baby bear when he treed himself.

After packing up our sad, damaged gear, we hiked that same 4 miles for the 4th time and hitchhiked back to Cooper Landing for our car. Unfortunately, we got to our rental to find that someone had backed into it, damaging the rear tail light and jamming the trunk closed. At this point, even though we were not very happy campers, our luck started to change and we had an amazing next couple days in Homer and Kachemak Bay State Park. However, that will be it’s own post, along with a recipe for another amazing dinner!

Basil Pesto and Smoked Salmon Pasta

Serves: 2

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 cups pasta of your choice, fully cooked
  • 1-2 foil packets of smoked salmon. I often find the Chicken of the Sea brand packets on sale at the store, but for this trip I used a Sea Fair Pacific brand packet.
  • 1 packet of basil pesto sauce mix. I like the Simply Organic brand. I have also enjoyed simply bringing a tube of Amore Pesto Paste
  • 1/4 cup olive oil – this is for making the pesto sauce
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts – toasted if you prefer, which I do.

At home:

  • Dehydrate the pasta. I usually make a big batch of pasta in the evening, dish out however much I want for my upcoming trip onto a dehydrator tray (usually 3 cups for 2 people), and use the leftovers for my dinner that night! Turn on the dehydrator to 135 degrees, and by morning your pasta is ready to pack away!
  • Measure out 1/4 cup olive oil into a spill proof container that you can pack with you. I’ve been happy with little Nalgene brand bottles like this.
  • Measure out parmesan cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, and pine nuts and store in a plastic baggie.
  • OPTIONAL: I usually saute up a big batch of onions, peppers, and mushrooms that I dehydrate and keep on hand. I like to add handfuls to meals to increase my veggie intake while on the trail. If you want, feel free to add some to this meal – it tastes great!

In camp:

  • Boil water, and add to completely cover your pasta (and dehydrated veggies if you added them). Set aside for 10 minutes. Personally, I use the Cook-In-Bags and Cook-In-Cozy sold by Pack-It-Gourmet.
  • In the meantime, cook your pesto according to directions on package.
  • The pasta will have leftover water that wasn’t absorbed. Walk at least 100 yards away from your camp and discard the excess.
  • Mix everything together and enjoy!

IMG_20170808_214533066