Never-ending hunger part of travails on trail

Dec. 12, 2012 @ 10:28 PM


After four days and 110 miles of hiking at a break-neck pace, there was one thing that kept Jeff Brown and Drew Simms energized for the rigors of completing the legendary Appalachian Trail.

McDonald’s double-cheeseburgers.

“They’re perfect!” Brown raved. “You get your protein, you get your cheese, your carbs, they taste good and they last for a long time.”z

In fact, Brown said, he was turned on to cheeseburgers as a trail food by a doctor he and Simms were hiking with.

“A double-cheeseburger will last four or five days un-refrigerated,” Brown said.

“Those things have so many preservatives in them,” Simms added with a laugh. “I’d have one for breakfast, one for lunch and two for dinner. And that was for four days (straight).

“Four days no refrigeration, no nothing. You hate yourself while you’re eating it. (But) it’s good, sometimes it is the best thing you’ve ever had. Gourmet four-day-old McDonald’s cheeseburgers —because you’re hungry.”

Brown said they guys would get some interesting looks from McDonald’s employees as the grizzled hikers placed their unusual orders.

“We’d be like, ‘I’ll take 16 double-cheeseburgers’ and they’d think we were crazy,” Brown laughed. “It’s so funny after all the things we went through (eating), and it was like ‘double-cheeseburgers! Right in front of us the whole time.”

Early on in the trip, Simms and Brown tried to meet their caloric needs through rice, pasta or even meal-replacement bars.

“I was eating rice and noodles, and I realized I needed to add more protein in my diet,” Simms, who’d quickly lost some of the 30 pounds he’d eventually drop, said. “(So I started eating) tuna packets, chicken packets and more substantial stuff. You can’t take in enough (sustenance) for what you’re going. Your body has to adjust to that.”

Hiking for 12 hours a day, for sometimes as many as 30 miles, certainly works up an appetite. In fact, fitness calculators on the Internet estimate — with a a 50-pound backpack strapped to their back — Brown and Simms needed roughly 6,000 calories a day.

“The hunger never goes away,” Simms said.

But actually finding something they enjoyed eating took work.

“You run out of stuff that you like,” Simms said. “I can’t even look at a Cliff Bar. I can’t do it. I’m never going to eat another Clif Bar in my life. I’ll never do it.

“I’d eat those for breakfast and lunch,” Brown said. “(And) I got sick of those. They’re so sweet, just chocolatey, I wanted something that tasted like real food. In the morning it was OK, but eating nothing but bars and then dinner at night wasn’t cutting it.

“When you’re burning like 6,000 calories a day you just get this never-ending hunger that’s just insatiable. You just eat, and eat and eat and never get full.

“There was one time in Maine I ate a whole (one) pound burger and a medium pizza,” Brown continued. “And then, in Gorham, New Hampshire — the first town that we came to that had fast food — I took a tour of America. I sampled each one. I got a bunch of cheeseburgers, we went to KFC and got a family feast, and I went to Pizza Hut and got a large pizza.