Preparing to send a kid on a hiking trip is a lot of work, especially when they are gluten-free.
I had already successfully conquered the hurdle of sending my daughter, who has celiac disease, to overnight camp. (That’s a story for another time, but the short version is that the camp was super-accommodating with gluten-free options.)
This summer, a different challenge awaited us. For 14-year-olds, her camp offers an overnight camping trip. But this is no simple overnight camping trip, it involves five weeks of traveling from Wisconsin to the Pacific Northwest and back. They’re traveling by bus for five weeks, hiking each day, sleeping in tents at campsites in national parks and making their own food.
That previous paragraph is enough to strike panic in the hearts of many parents. Add to that panic the fact that my daughter is gluten-free and needs safely prepared gluten-free food.
The trip is truly amazing, the adventure of a lifetime. They’re traveling from Wisconsin to South Dakota (the Badlands, Mount Rushmore); Wyoming (Yellowstone, Jackson Hole, Grand Teton National Park); Idaho (Craters of the Moon National Monument); Washington (Seattle, Olympic National Forest); British Columbia, Canada (Vancouver, Whistler); Alberta, Canada (Banff, Jasper); Montana (Glacier National Park) and back.
And, for her, the best part is that she gets to travel with her best camp buddies, whom she has an especially close friendship with. Also, since it’s organized by her camp, it’s a safe space that we trust.
Since her camp has been so great about accommodating gluten-free food in the past, we knew that they would accommodate her on the camping trip too. Plus, they’ve run the trip for many years, so they’ve had gluten-free campers in the past. On her bus, there is another girl who is gluten-free (and dairy-free) too.
I talked to the director of the program at least three times before the trip started. She said they would provide separate pots and pans for my daughter so they’d be dedicated gluten-free. Each camper gets their own plate and cutlery that they wash, and she would wash hers in a separate tub, so it’s not in gluten-contaminated water.
The camp buys food at the beginning and along the way. But it can be hard to find gluten-free food in the middle of South Dakota, so they said I could send gluten-free food with my daughter too.
So I did. Two big bags worth, which I packed in red Enjoy Life shopping bags. One other mom saw my big red gluten-free, allergy-free Enjoy Life bags and stopped me. She had one kid going on the trip this year, but her younger celiac daughter would go on the trip in a couple of years. She wanted to know how they would be handling gluten-free food on the trip. I always appreciate meeting another gluten-free parent, so I told her what we had prepared.
Even though I knew the camp would buy gluten-free food, I wanted to make sure my daughter would have what she needed. So I sent up a lot. All had to be non-perishable, nut-free and of course gluten-free. I focused on gluten-free snack foods that might be hard to find, but I included a variety of other foods too. I also sent a cheap plastic colander for pasta, in case they hadn’t thought of that.
— Barilla Penne and Spaghetti
— Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Pancake Mix
— Cinnamon Chex cereal
— Nature’s Path Gluten-Free Individual Instant Oatmeal Variety Packs
— Kind Healthy Grains Clusters granola
— Kind Healthy Grains bars
— Enjoy Life Mini Cookies packs
— Goodie Girl Mint Slims (small packs from Starbucks)
— Tate’s Bake Shop Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies
— Trader Joe’s Joe-Joe’s
— Schar Honeygrams (for s’mores)
Campers are not allowed to have their phones, but they do get to call home once a week. She said that cooking and cleaning for herself (with the other gluten-free girl) has been a ton of work. While the other campers have a larger group to help split the duties, they have to do most of the work themselves. And she told us that while the food we sent has been helpful, but they’ve been eating a lot of starch.
I don’t really know what foods they’ve been making for meals, because she’s still on the trip. We’ll find out when she gets back. But even though the food has been a hassle, I’m glad that she’s been careful to prepare food that’s safe for her. And I’m thrilled to hear the joy in her voice when she talks about the fun she’s having with her friends on the adventure of a lifetime.Originally posted August 2018