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  • Ken Ilgunas

Planning an adventure

It’s the season for change, it seems.

After a month in Alaska, I flew back to Denver to be the best man at my friend Josh’s wedding. I’ve been living with him and his new wife Amelia (not to mention their dogs Lois and Minnie) in their basement for parts of the summer.

Here’s Josh and his lovely wife Amelia. The picture was taken during our post-reception bar-hopping extravaganza.

With the wedding over, I focused my energies on yet more book-making duties. First came some editorial comments from my editor, which I addressed. And then a copy-editor looked it over and sent me her changes. Soon, one of my publishing company’s lawyers will look it over to make sure I can’t be sued by any people/corporations mentioned, and finally, I’ll do “page proofs” in which I review the printed-out version of the book to make sure, one last time, that there are no errors. And at some point a cover designer will generate some sample cover ideas. Here it is on its own Amazon page!

But mostly I’ve been planning my next big adventure: a 2,000-mile, multi-country North American hike that has never been done before and may very well never be done again. I plan on taking off as soon as I finish up my writerly duties, hopefully sometime between the first and second weeks of September. I’d love to talk more about my itinerary–in fact, I plan on blogging about it while I’m out there–but, for now, because I’m honestly not sure about the legality of what I’m about to do, I’m opting to keep things hush-hush.

Anyway, I’ve spent the past several weeks buying and consuming and feeling like I’m wasting all my new money (my first check for the book came in a couple of months ago) on this big hike project.

I bought a new set of ultra-light gear (sleeping bag, pack, tent, trekking poles, etc.), and spent upwards of $700 on 100 days worth of food, which include:

– 6.5 lbs of mashed potato powder – 7 lbs of NIDO (dehydrated whole milk) – $112 worth of granola from Whole Foods – 1 lbs of dehydrated butter – 17 lbs trail mix – 108 Pop Tarts – 15 cans of Pringles – 2 lbs of instant refried beans – 15 canisters of Parmesan cheese – 228 candy bars (Snickers, 3 Musketeers, Mounds, Crunch, Hershey, Hershey Cookie’s and Cream) – Over 300 energy bars of the Clif Bar and Meal Pack variety. – And a whole bunch more (ramen, angle hair pasta, rice, etc. etc.)

During my July hike with famed backpacker Andrew Skurka, I learned a whole bunch of interesting ways to reduce my pack weight, starting with making my own stove.

This is aluminum foil, about 23 inches long, which will serve as my “stove windscreen.”

Fold it in half.

Fold over the edges to enhance durability.

And here’s the stove-to-be, a small canister of dog food.

I punched holes along the top rim of the canister, and then filled it with about .6 oz of alcohol. Here’s a picture of the finished product, which worked fine, except that I made the windscreen a few inches too short. For a better tutorial, go to Andrew’s site for his advice on how to make a windscreen and stove.

Here’s food for 100 days.

Mixing up trail mix. I plan on eating about 3 oz of trail mix a day.

Wrapping up everything in Ziplocks. I got the Priority Mail boxes from the post office for free. I plan on making 21 shipments (usually about 3-6 days of hiking apart) to myself at post offices along the way.


I wanted to ship some liquids to myself, like olive oil, yet I had a hard time finding small plastic bottles that were small enough for me. At Sam’s Club, though, they offer these small 4 oz bottles of juice, which were perfect. I also bought an 18-pack of orange juice, which come in 10 oz bottles. Needless to say, I don’t think I’ll be hankering for another bottle of Gerber’s White Grape or Tropicana for a long time.

I’m sending myself maps in each box. I bought the National Geographic TOPO! program for each of the states I’ll be hiking through, which worked wonderfully. I printed them out at a local Fed Ex/Kinko’s. Again, I got this advice from Skurka’s website here.

When I made my food list, I was planning on eating 4,200 calories a day. The picture below is a typical day’s worth of food, though note that I’ve packed for several days, so my daily portions won’t be this big.

Typical day’s worth of food: – 3 oz of trail mix – 3 oz of crushed chips – 1 oz of dehydrated whole milk – 7 oz of granola – 3 energy bars – 2 chocolate bars – 1 Pop Tart – 3 oz of dinner meal (polenta, potato, angel hair, rice & bean, or ramen), plus small additions like spices, cheese, bacon, butter, oil – Misc: sunscreen, matches, trash bag, map

All done. Lois is exhausted from watching me.

Not only am I looking forward to a good long walk, but also writing (new stuff) again, which I’ll be sure to start doing a lot more of soon enough.

Extra pics….

Here I am with Amelia. (Permission to dance with the bride was granted from the groom.) Apparently one wedding attendant thought I cleaned up so well (even though I was wearing borrowed clothes, partially devoured by moths) that she took me as a young WASPish Republican. Amused, whenever I was in her company I made sure to remark about how well the convention in Tampa was going and how serious I thought Ryan was as a VP candidate.

Josh and Lois on the basement couch.



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