In the old days the much-advertised merits of outdoor cooking owed at least as much to the sharp, crisp air and hard riding as they did to what actually wound up on the tin plates. And the food certainly was not what brought the summer dudes into the camps of the professional pack trippers—not more than once, anyway. But the burnt beans, bitter biscuits and blackstrap are receding further and further into the past. Today the meals on a pack trip are an interesting combination of the old and the new, of living off the land and the water (where wildlife regulations permit) and making sensible use of weightless freeze-dried products to replace bulky sacks of potatoes and carrots.
One of the best outfitters in the country, Faler's Hunting-Fishing Camp of Pinedale, Wyo., packs its guests into the Wind River Range and the unspoiled Bridger Wilderness. Pack and guide services in Wyoming must be licensed, and the Falers, who began at the turn of the century, have one of the oldest licenses in the state. The present resident Faler is Mary, a spry, Indian-looking woman of 74. She and her son Pat organize pack trips the year round, and parties will leave every day in August for stays of as long as two weeks. Mary Faler does much of the base-camp packing herself, and will provide almost any kind of food—except for items which are highly perishable—together with a cook whose beans don't rattle in the pot.
Wilderness appetites are sharp, and the Falers stock up generously. After the steak dinners of the first two days, there are trout from the lakes, canned ham and bacon, smoked tongue and stews. There are fringe benefits like fresh-baked pies and cakes, and the beverages supplied range from milk to bourbon. The Falers make venison jerky for those who want to eat in the pioneer tradition, and a sourdough starter, used for biscuits and breakfast pancakes, goes along on every pack trip.
People come from all over the country to explore the Wyoming trails and, impressed by the beauty of the country and the comfortable efficiency of their packs, they keep coming back to Faler's Camp. The girl on the opposite page, carefully sprinkling sesame seeds on golden and rainbow trout ready to be cooked on an open fire, is 17-year-old Nancy Severson, who comes each year with her parents from Denver. The rest of the day's catch, keeping cool in the rapids, will be turned into a trout chowder, flavored with freeze-dried vegetables that in their original state would have loaded down a couple of mules. Also on the bill of fare is a batch of sourdough biscuits, made from Mary Faler's traditional recipe and baked in a reflector oven. For campsite recipes see page 35.
Nancy Severson prepares trout for cooking over an open fire: the golden is filleted, the rainbows oiled to prevent sticking.
At sunset on the banks of Island Lake, 10,650 feet high in the Bridger wilderness, cook George Dowling begins preparation of trout chowder made with fresh-caught goldens and rainbows.