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This is a photo I took of a well-worn benchmark atop a peak in Colorado’s highcountry. Benchmarks are U.S. Geological Survey summit markers and are found on the high-points of many of our mountains. They document the elevation.

I spent yesterday out in the backcountry, energizing my body and reloading my spirit. There’s nothing like a day in the mountains to diffuse everyday stress and shift things back into perspective. Nourishing the soul is just as important as nourishing the body.


Sometimes the higher you go, the better the weather. Yesterday was foggy, rainy and cool. Perfect hiking weather, but the clouds were low and thick, obstructing the view until we were above them. If you look closely at this photo, you can see a range of snow-covered mountains in the distance and a beautiful butterfly in the foreground. I’m thinking this might be a Western Tiger Swallowtail butterfly, but I don’t know. If anyone knows, please leave me a comment.

Now, on to the other good stuff β€” trail food. How about the best of all worlds? Breathtaking views, butterflies and chocolate truffles? I’m such a girl. Although I’m not exactly Backcountry Barbie, I do have my moments, especially when they involve butterflies, flowers and chocolate.


I make different versions of these little power balls and cart them around with me on day hikes. They’re a touch smaller than a golf ball, freeze well and make for a good power snack. I pack two or three of them, along with the rest of my lunch, in a small tupperware container to keep them from getting squished. Sometimes (especially when space is tight) I pack my food in an empty tea box or something similar. That way the food stays intact, but when lunch is over you can collapse the box and stuff it down into your pack.

Melissa’s power truffles
8 mejool dates
1/3 cup orange juice
1/2 cup almond butter
3/4 cup pecans
3/4 cocoa powder *
2 small individual packages of stevia *
1 teaspoon peppermint extract

Pit and chop dates. Place in small bowl and pour the orange juice over the dates. Do the best you can to cover the dates without adding more juice. Set aside and let soak for 30-60 minutes.

Pulse pecans in food processor until finely ground. Add stevia and cocoa powder to dry blend. Pulse and mix well.

Add mejool dates along with the orange juice they have been soaking in, almond butter and peppermint extract and pulse food processor after each addition until mixed well.

Roll into balls and dip in ground coconut flakes. Refrigerate or freeze.

* I like Dagoba organic cocoa powder, but substitute as you choose.

* Stevia blends well in this recipe, but you can substitute another sweetener. I’ve used maple sugar before, not maple syrup. Honey and syrup make them too sticky.

* For a more detailed post I did on backcountry nutrition needs, check here.

Go forth and explore, but eat good food in the process!

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10 Responses to “mountains, butterflies and power truffles”

  1. That is a really unique flavor combination for those power truffles. Hmm, interesting. May have to experiment.

  2. Melissa says:


    I think I mentioned in the post that I make this different all the time. Sometimes with orange extract, sometimes vanilla, sometimes apple juice, sometimes coconut milk. It really depends on what I have on hand. It’s a good “launching pad” recipe.


  3. Cid says:


    That photograph of the mountains and pines has all the makings of a Japanese woodblock print or hand painted kimono…. I love it. If we read up on the symbolism this art form includes, then surely this picture says it all and below the sustenance of life…. how perfect!


  4. I want to go hiking just to justify the power truffles. πŸ˜‰ No, actually, I’d like to see those views, too. Great photo, Melissa. And, I love adaptable recipes. I just found out my grocery store has the dates, but in the back. They don’t have room to put them out. Now how many do you think they sell that way? Aaaargh. I got some chopped dates without reading the label, but turns out they have sweetener added (dextrose … ugh), so next time I have to get the whole dates. I’ll probably donate these to the food bank.

    We saw a pair of Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterflies on our canoe outing yesterday. I didn’t get a picture, but it was great seeing them play around at the edge of the water. It was actually a great wildlife weekend. Turns out we had baby downy woodpeckers in a hollowed tree above our clothesline at our mountain campsite. Watching the parents feed and hearing the babies was great entertainment. πŸ™‚ We also spotted what might have been a fox squirrel. Neat stuff.


  5. Melissa says:


    Thank you! I’ve gotten behind in my replies lately, but that doesn’t make me any less appreciative of your kind words! I’m very curious as to why you have such a love of, and know so much about, Asian culture. You are a mysterious one, my dear friend!


  6. Melissa says:


    Mejool dates are my favorite candy. They taste like caramel to me. Yum!

    Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterflies? I’m going to have to do some research. I wonder what the different geographical ones look like. I’m very curious.

    Speaking of wildlife, I saw a bear on my outing last Monday. That’s the second one I’ve run into while hiking. The last one was years ago in Montana and that guy was a grizzly. My heart was pounding!

  7. Cid says:


    One day we’ll sit down with a cup of tea or coconut milk coffee and you’ll discover how ordinary I am πŸ™‚ Mind you, others have marveled at my range of interests shortly before glazing over I might add. While some of my hobbies come and go swiftly, Asian art and food has long since been a favourite.

    Now, when are we going to get that cup of tea?


  8. We have seen black bears coming back from our mtn property a few times, but we were in the truck. LOL Black bears are pretty skittish even if you come up on them in the wild, but if I came upon a grizzly … OMG! I’m not sure I’ll ever go hiking in grizzly country, Melissa.


  9. Melissa says:


    I absolutely hope so (tea and a visit)! And to be honest, I think that will eventually happen one of these days.

    Ordinary? You? Hardly. I am a nutrition and exercise person, but there is nothing I appreciate more than a well crafted sentence. Those flow from you with ease and when you throw in that wit of yours, the result is anything but ordinary.


    Until we meet for tea.


  10. Melissa says:


    It’s funny, some of my favorite photos of yours are your nature ones and I can only imagine how lovely your property is. What a great thing to have — mountain property! Hang on to it.

    As for being in grizzly country, my exposure was in the backcountry of Montana and we were incredibly careful. I always take every precaution while out in the wilderness. My son is a fly-fishing guide and is steelhead possessed. He’s got some stories! Salmon fishing in primitive areas of the Northwest and Canada makes for some intense experiences!

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