This summer, I ventured out west to Wyoming to participate in the Bighorn Archaeology Field School with a team of 13 other students and staff members. I was nervous for a couple reasons, but my biggest concern was being a picky and allergy-ridden vegetarian.

Our adventure started at The Nature Conservancy at Heart Mountain before testing our survival skills in the backcountry of the Shoshone National Forest

At The Ranch

sauce, tomato, burrito, guacamole, beef, corn, tacos, meat, salsa, chili
Madison Salomon

The first three weeks were spent near Cody, Wyoming at The Nature Conservancy at Heart Mountain. While there, we slept in tents but were lucky enough to have access to the kitchen at the ranch. We weren't "roughing it" quite yet. 

Meals for the entirety of the field school were always accommodating to my diet, and kitchen patrol, or KP, was always sure to make me the vegetarian version of each dish. 

What did those vegetarian versions include? I ate a lot of broken-down vegan and veggie burgers that I used as meat substitutes in dinners. Some of my favorites at the ranch included posole, paella, and Taco Tuesday, of course. 

Into The Backcountry

pasture, grass
Madison Salomon

We hiked a little over four miles into the Shoshone National Forest where we would remain for one week. This meant no phone service, no electricity, no running water — nothing but us and the wilderness. In order to get all of our food and supplies into the forest with us, we hired outfitters with mules to pack our bear panniers and two coolers. 

Being "off the grid" impacts food preparation and packing and, as a result, nearly all of our food was canned or packaged. To leave as little a mark as possible on the environment, we were sure to use the Leave No Trace principles during our time in Shoshone. 


Madison Salomon

Each morning we had oatmeal and cowboy coffee. My daily routine included making instant oats with a spoonful of peanut butter, hot chocolate powder, and a bit of brown sugar with a splash of water. My final product was something like a deconstructed Clif bar. 

We also had vanilla protein powder, raisins, grape jelly, and honey as additional mix-ins. With so few ingredients, we tried to switch up our flavor palates but typically found our favorite and stuck with it. 

Toward the end of our time in the backcountry, we noticed we had plenty of tortillas and cheese left, so most people chose to make a breakfast quesadilla over the fire. (Thank you, lactose intolerance, for ruining that option for me.) 


Madison Salomon

We packed our lunches after breakfast and carried them into the field with us for the day, so being compact was key. 

Lunch usually included a tortilla wrap with a few sides. (Tortillas pack easier than bread and don't squish so easily.) For my "sandwich", I liked to switch up plain peanut butter, peanut butter and grape jelly and peanut butter and honey. I know, the choices are overwhelming. Options for those with more omnivorous diets included ham, salami, and cheese to make into a wrap. 

Sides included an apple or carrot, pretzels or corn chips, dry or honey roasted peanuts, or a mixture of all of the above. We also had the option to grab a granola bar or two and some mountain morale, candy that we could tuck into our pockets and enjoy when morale was low.


water, coffee, kettle
Madison Salomon

It's important to understand how we were able to cook in the backcountry. Boiling water is essential for consumption. To do this, we would build a fire, throw a pot on the grill over the fire and, after the water had boiled long enough, it was clean enough to use. 

Meals were different each night. We had dinners like chili, cowboy stew, tacos, and pasta. Sometimes our menu was a little fancy and we were able to enjoy pineapple dumpcake, apple crisp, or chocolate chip cake for dessert. 

We also had Emergen-C and Gatorade to help combat dehydration caused by the altitude.

I Survived

Madison Salomon

As difficult as I thought being a vegetarian in the backcountry would be, it actually proved to be pretty easy. Even though I'm still weary of tortillas, and peanut butter isn't enjoyed by the jar anymore, I'm grateful there were always accommodations made for my diet.  

If you like hiking, camping, and mountains and want to try this challenge out for yourself, Indiana University's Bighorn Archaeology Field School might be for you. Peanut butter and tortilla haters, beware.