One of the joys I find in hiking is a celebratory meal at the end of the trip or section. As a group we would try to pick out some kinds of food everyone had been craving over the miles of trail and feast. Hikers burn an amazing number of calories per day. After a couple days on the trail it’s not uncommon for the conversations to shift to food. People will gush about their favorite foods, the way mom cooked it, the best restaurant, the strangest combinations (Easter Peeps & peanut butter sandwiches). I think part of this food craving talk is kicked off by a physiological need for the body to refuel and rebuild. I also think it’s part “happy place.” Sights and smells can trigger memories and emotions and foods are no exception. Its not that hike makes you sad but often when stressed people will seek food for comfort, they are looking for that happy place. I think there is a sweet spot a few days in to a hiking which occurs where your body is aching a little and you’ve hiking enough not to be able to eat more than you burn, and that’s when thoughts turn to food.
But it’s not just about the food either. I have done a couple solo hikes and had post hike meals (the food was fine) which were nothing more than the next meal and I’ve had amazing post hike meals at places where the pizza is little more than a pre-formed crust assembled by a staff with a less than mediocre care factor. It’s also about the company you break bread with. The magic happens with others to share the celebration of the adventure. To eat, drink, and be merry with, whether friends or family, the group setting for tales to be told, a meal to share, is the making of a celebration. These are what I savor.