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June 2003

The Seven Deadly Sins (And Why We Love Them)

This classic roundup appeared in the June 2003 issue of BACKPACKER
seven deadly sins"The Seven Deadly Sins" from the June 2003 issue of Backpacker.

By Peter Moore

Backpacking is the perfect sport for the hungry man. Just do the numbers: A 150-pound man (me) struggling uphill (the Rockies) with a heavy burden (I can’t believe those bastards made me carry a waffle iron!) burns 876 calories an hour. If that man considers the map yet another tedious instruction booklet to be ignored, the trail-bound hours can accumulate–along with a sumo-size caloric debt. There’s simply no better way to build, and then utterly yield to, huge appetites. While the fast-packers are reconstituting their soy mush with iodine-scented water, I’m sawing my T-bone and tipping a Nalgene filled with Valpolicella. The journey is important, but the arrival–if planned right–can be pretty sweet, too.

My training for excess came early, as my dad marched me and my three brothers up to all of the White Mountain huts. Many times we were overtaken by hut porters carrying towering stacks of canned yams, suckling pigs, and Hershey bars. We’d ride their slipstream up to Mizpah or Lakes of The Clouds, collapse for an hour, and then assault the family-style dinner like hyenas at a wildebeest buffet.

As an adult, I have sought out hiking partners who share my belief that eating well is the best revenge. On our big trips, Bacchus is our god and guide (and he always carries his weight). that’s why one of our cherished rituals is the parking-lot shakedown, during which we a) carefully review our emergency equipment, and b) throw it back in the trunk in favor of marinating flank steaks, exotic sauces of the Orient, and enough hooch to dully any pain we’ll feel after hoisting it all into the clouds. We empty our hydration bladders and refill them with fermented beverages, figuring that nobody got schistosomiasis from Jack Daniel’s. Inevitably during our dinners, some poor emaciated guy from the next tent site will materialize, and say something like, "Dude, where’d you get that rack of lamb?" We’ll invite him into our aromatic circle–another ultralighter won over by Team Heavy Cream.

My peak of overindulgence came in Colorado’s Holy Cross Wilderness. During the prehike shakedown, my friend Dave slipped a black tubelike object under a side pocket; I figured he was carrying extra-long skewers for shishkebab a la montagne. But it was better than that. At Fancy Lake that afternoon, he assembled a fly rod and was soon whipping the water with his leaders. It was like taking drunken Catholic-school girls at a freshman mixer: Every cast yielded a trout. In a flash, the chardonnay was flowing, the olive oil and garlic were sizzling in a pan, and the all-you-can-eat fish fry was on. We chowed for hours, then played our Martin backpacker guitars late into the evening. This was gluttony on all fronts, a life philosophy if you will: Trying to cram in as many experiences, as much pleasure, as many mountain-lake trout, as your possibly can before you push back from life’s great banquet table. Eat, eat.

Peter Moore, executive editor of Men’s Health, packed an onion "as big as a baby’s head" on a recent hiking trip in Colorado’s Gore Range.

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