Epic Hike Granola Bar Fuel

IMG_0135We had a bit of an adventure last Friday. Since we moved here I've thought it would be a terrific idea to take advantage of Jordan's natural majesty and get out into the countryside and walk. The purpose would be twofold: we'd get some much needed exercise and discover the many natural wonders of the landscape. While it was too hot to even consider walking to our nearby bodega, let alone hike for miles this summer, as I noted in my last post, it's cooled considerably and it seemed time to take action!We heard about this particular hiking group from a friend. They are a bunch of folks who are training to climb Kilimanjaro in a couple of months, but undeterred by this seeming expertise, we thought that a 19km (about 13 mile) jaunt through one of the wadis (valley) would be not too tough for the two of us who regularly walked at least that daily in London.  We were to meet at 7am where a bus would take almost three hours south to Karak and we would then walk towards the Dead Sea and meet the bus on the other side. Immediately, I started making snacks for us to take with us (because that's just what I do) and was giddy at the prospect of a day away from the city.IMG_0134Dropped off under perfectly sunny skies at what felt like the top of the world, we started the trek down into the valley below. It took us three hours to walk just five kilometres, scrambling over boulders, avoiding rocks, sliding down steep mountainside. I felt like a mountain goat, knees starting to pound with the force of each step, ankles thankful they were encased in hiking boots for all the pressure they endured. When we finally reached the wadi - a lovely stone littered flat landscape with water from recent rains rushing towards the Dead Sea - I was relieved, but upon finding out that we still had 15 kilometres to navigate, felt a small pang of despair.IMG_0138Lunch consisted of a vegetable and chicken stew one of the guide's mother had made, however they'd forgotten to bring plates and spoons, so we grabbed at it with pieces of Arabic bread, eager to have something warm and nourishing in our stomachs. I offered the granola bars and carrot date power bites I'd brought with me to our friends in the group (I snagged only one small chunk of chicken and needed more protein), wishing that perhaps a helicopter might show up and take me away! As the group lingered at lunch, preparing coffee and tea, I kept saying to anyone who would listen that it would very soon be dark and shouldn't we get a wiggle on? No one seemed particularly concerned.Finally we broke camp and continued the arduous walk, jumping across the streams of rushing water, avoiding the large rocks. My hope for a meditative walk where I could enjoy the beautiful scenery was dashed as I spent the entire walk staring at the ground in order to avoid a twisted ankle. It was however astoundingly beautiful! The rocks were amazingly striped all hues of purple and gold and blue. The canyon we walked in was cut from centuries of water rushing through it, making for smooth, breathtaking rock formations. Crabs frolicked in the sand, as did frogs without another group of humans in sight. I've never felt so alone in the world!
Lo and behold at 5pm it got dark and we had two more hours of walking ahead of us. Thankfully my boyscout of a husband had brought head torches for us, but most of the rest of the group were not so prepared and so the 18 of us made very slow progress huddled closely together, walking in the cold water now as it was the easiest way to follow the trail out.  With two kilometres to go we encountered an enormous boulder with a waterfall on one side and a small crevasIMG_0142se on the other which required a jump two metres down into the pooled water. I was just the third to make the jump....and I really, really didn't want to, but my husband (who, by the way, was like Tigger the entire hike, bounding ahead at the front of the group, seemingly oblivious to any obstacle) told me I had no other choice...and I didn't, so I made the leap. By this point I was angry at the dangerous circumstances the guides of this group had put us in. Thankfully we all made it out safe, but someone could have gotten seriously hurt and we would have all been in a very bad situation trying to get out of this completely deserted, middle of nowhere. Hand in hand, knee deep in cold rushing water, my dear husband and I talked and joked with each other as we finally made our way out of the dark valley and towards the flashing lights of our school bus in the distance.So this post is really less about food and more about the circumstances that made the food I prepared necessary. The I Quit Sugar spiced pumpkin granola bars that I made are full of nuts and protein and chia seeds, the perfect fuel for an adventure like this. While many of the ingredients are hard to find here in Amman, I like these so much that I import certain items just for this recipe! Lacking any fructose at all, I find local taste here thinks they're not sweet enough, but I like them this way, especially as granola bars are usually overloaded with sugar.  These got a little battered in my backpack, but were little saviors given our trying day!  Oh, and both my dear husband and I are still sore as I write this a full four days after the fact.Spiced Pumpkin Granola BarsIMG_0149makes 20from I Quit Sugar by Sarah Wilson2 cups mixed nuts (I used pecans, slivered almonds, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds)2 cups rolled oats2 cups coconut flakes (the big chips, not shredded)1/2 cup vanilla protein powder6 tablespoons coconut oil3/4 cup brown rice syrup1 cup pumpkin puree1 teaspoon ground cinnamon1 teaspoon ground allspice1 teaspoon ground ginger5 tablespoons chia seedsIMG_0148Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and line a baking tray with parchment paper.  In a large bowl combine the nuts, oats, coconut flakes, and protein powder. In a large saucepan mix together the coconut oil, rice syrup, and pumpkin puree and bring to a boil. Now add the spices and chia seeds, remove from the heat and stir it through the nuts and oat mixture until it's completely moistened and starting to bind together. Press the mix into the prepared pan, levelling it out with a spatula and place into the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes, until golden. Allow to cool before slicing into bars. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.