This post comes from Guest Blogger Michelle Shea. Michelle lives in Lake Tahoe and is the host/creator of the outdoor series Adventure Dining Guide. She created Adventure Dining Guide because “food is the unrecognized hero of our journeys, and its about time backcountry meals get the recognition they deserve”. Learn more at www.adventurediningguide.com
Who: Chef Brian Robinson from the Clair Tappaan Lodge, cameraman Calvin Scibilla, dogs Bella and Shogun, and myself
What: Hike to Sierra Club’s Peter Grub Hut and cook lunch in the hut
Where: Tahoe National Forrest and the Clair Tappaan Lodge
When: November, 2014
This was the first official episode that I filmed for Adventure Dining Guide with a cameraman, a script and an experienced chef. I was both nervous and excited for this adventure and spent weeks making sure everything turned out as planned.
Calvin and I arrived in the morning to the Clair Tappaan Lodge to be greeted by Chef Brian and the friendly staff and volunteers who were at the lodge. We all sat down to enjoy a family style breakfast, where Calvin and I were able to hear some great stories about the lodge and its long history.
The Clair Tappaan Lodge was built by Sierra Club volunteers in the 1960’s on a large piece of land located behind Donner Ski Ranch. There are many wonderful stories about the individuals who frequent the lodge and their participation in numerous outdoor activities in the surrounding wilderness.
After breakfast we got down to work filming the episode. Brian prepared his backcountry pork carnita taco meat and salsa in the Clair Tappaan kitchen. Before heading out on a multi-day trip Brian pre-cooks the pork meat and freezes it. This keeps the meat fresh for a couple of days as it slowly defrosts in a backpack.
When we finished filming the kitchen scenes we packed up all of our gear and headed out for our afternoon adventure. The Sierra Club operates four backcountry huts in the Tahoe wilderness, and we were on our way to the northernmost hut, the Peter Grubb Hut. This past summer hundreds of volunteers spent weeks repairing and updating the Peter Grubb Hut. Volunteers packed in materials, tools, and all supplies that were required for the renovation. After much hard work, the Peter Grubb Hut was ready for the upcoming winter season.
For the sake of saving time and daylight Brian, Calvin, the dogs, and I drove to the trailhead on the north side of I-80. There is a trail that connects the Clair Tappaan Lodge directly to the Grubb Hut, but we didn’t have enough time to hike the entire distance that day, so we skipped ahead a bit.
The weather was exciting, crisp air, grey clouds, and the possibility of the season’s first snow. The trail to the Grubb Hut has a slight elevation gain through a beautiful valley, to a few switchbacks that got us to the top of a mountain ridge. The view from the top is stunning! The beauty of the Sierra Nevadas were laid out before us with tree covered hills, rocky peaks and lush valleys as far as the eye could see. Chilly gusts kicked up over the peaks and reminded us to keep moving before the snow started to fall. After the view admiration stop we descended into a beautiful valley surrounded by steep mountains. Brian pointed out some of his favorite ski runs and explained how well the Grubb Hut is positioned for access to backcountry skiing and snowboarding.
We followed the trail through the tree-filled valley and found the Peter Grubb Hut nestled in the wilderness. This beautiful two-story hut is a haven for outdoor lovers. The rustic hut is filled with all the essentials one needs, including propane stove, fire place, outhouse, picnic benches and a large loft to accommodate big groups.
Upon arriving we hurried inside and built a fire. Within minutes the fire was roaring and we were able to defrost our chilly fingers. We unpacked our gear, set up our backcountry kitchen, and went back to work filming the process for cooking Brian’s tacos. Brian set up two MSR stoves. On one stove he made a tortilla steamer by adding a cup of water to the MSR Quick Solo Cook Pot, he then lined the top of the pot with aluminum foil. He poked a few holes in the foil with his knife and covered the pot with the lid to let the water heat up. When steam was pouring out of the holes, Brian placed several tortillas on the foil and covered the pot.
The next stove Brian used to re-heat the carnita meat. He turned on the stove, added his frozen meat to his MSR Quick Solo Cook Pot and we took turns stirring the meat with a Sea to Summit Alpha Light Long Spork. When the meat was cooked through, it was time to eat! Brian, Calvin and I enjoyed a delicious meal that tasted amazing and reminded me of the food I ate growing up in San Diego. The meat was seasoned perfectly with a lovely balance of spicy and salty. The cilantro and onion salsa on top of the meat brought a delightful freshness to the dish, and a sprinkle of Tapatio on top made the taco complete.
When we finished our lunch we focused our attention on cleaning up and making sure we left the Peter Grubb Hut in pristine condition. The dogs were very happy to help in the clean-up by licking the pots clean and picking up any crumbs that fell on the floor.
We packed everything up, did an episode sign-off outside, and then we hit the trail. I had a wonderful experience that day. I got to spend a great day in the wilderness with people who are passionate about the outdoors and I got to enjoy a gourmet lunch prepared by an outdoor enthusiast!
This is the full Adventure Dining Guide episode, complete with recipe and cooking instructions:
MSR Pocket Rocket Stove
MSR Quick Solo Cook Pot
Sea to Summit Alpha Light Long Spork
Sea to Summit Wilderness Wash – 250ml/8.5oz