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Lazy Days in Lander

June 21, 2011

The past week and a half have been a whole lot of down time which is both good and bad. The bad is of course that I am bored a lot. The good is that I get a bit of a break and I look for ways to fill that time. So, here are a few of the highlights, if they can be called highlights.

1.  I finally got my own tent. I got the Mountain Hardwear Skyledge 3.

It is big enough for either 3 people, or two people and gear. I will be using it for the latter. During the upcoming trips to City of Rocks, ID and Devil’s Tower, WY, I will have to bring all of my sensitive and expensive equipment which means it has to sleep in the tent with me and whoever accompanies me on these trips. The fly is completely water proof, so as long as there are no raging floods, my equipment will stay dry. I also just really like the color. I found it at a local store here, and the very nice people let me take one out and set it up to see if it would suit my needs. I loved it, but did not love the price. I was able to find the exact same tent for $150 less on Amazon. I felt bad not supporting the local store, but $150 is $150. Here are some more pictures the latest addition to my camping kit!

2.  Testing out some new equipment. NOLS got a couple temperature data loggers that the course instructors will carry while on course so that I get minute-by-minute readings of the temperature. This is such a great thing to have, and so much better than handing out a thermometer and having someone check the temperature every hour. Using this little data logger means I get more data and more accurate data. Also, it is easy to use, you just initialize the device on the computer, and then hand it to one of the NOLS students (or instructor) and have them put it in the top part of their backpack, and they leave it alone for two weeks. It is pretty ideal.

3.  Baking at high altitude. This made me nervous. It kind of felt like I had to throw all my baking experience out the window and start from scratch. Strange things happen to the baking process at high altitude, and it all really does depend on what you are making. Because of the lower pressure at high altitudes, things tend to rise faster…using up the baking powder (or soda) at a faster rate leading to a quick rise but then an eventual collapse. This happens most commonly with cakes and cupcakes which I have yet to attempt. Typical corrections for this are reducing your leavening agent and often increasing the flour to add more structural support. For all types of baked goods, it seems common practice to increase the baking temperature to 25° higher than called for by the recipe and reduce the baking time. Over the weekend, I made cornbread. I reduced the amount of baking powder by about ¼ – ½ tsp, increased the baking temperature, and decreased the baking time by about 5 minutes. The buzzer went off, I peeked in the oven and the cornbread was NO WHERE near done, I mean it was almost raw. The oven was up to temperature, so that was not an issue. For me, and for cornbread, bake time actually increased rather than decreased despite the higher temperature. It did turn out quite well though. I did find it lacked the depth of flavor I normally have in my cornbread. I did a little research on this and found that high altitude often results in a loss of flavor too, though I am unsure why. If I make cornbread again, I will likely increase the amount of salt to see if that helps. But, here is the initial result.

Yesterday, I made some chocolate chip cookies. Now, cookies are more hardy than cakes, so often recipe adjustments to leavening agents and flour amounts do not need to be made (apparently, only 10% of cookie recipes need to be adjusted Lander’s elevation). I went with my normal chocolate chip recipe, increased the baking temperature, and decreased the bake time. Again, I found that I had to increase the baking time by 5-6 minutes compared to St. Louis bake time. I was astounded by this. Sorry, no pictures of the chocolate chip cookies. You will have to ask Aaron how they turned out since I shipped them to him. I have started a new baking learning process, seems kind of silly considering all I have left to learn for sea-level baking…not to mention doing actual dissertation work. I am not sure how much more time I will have for experimentation, but it is kind of like re-discovering baking. It is actually a lot of fun.

Those are the highlights…sad I know. I head out to the Absarokas this coming Friday to pass out heart rate monitors and the temperature data loggers to one of the courses. I am sure I will have far more exciting things to talk about after that and some nice pics too! I miss all of you terribly.

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