I mentioned a few weeks ago about how Joe & I had the chance to join a couple good friends on a trip out to Tolovana Hot Springs; I also mentioned that I would write more about it later, which I am finally doing! Tolovana is about a 100 mile drive North of Fairbanks; a drive which, when you’ve got plenty of new snow on the road like we did, takes quite a bit longer than one might expect!
Once you’ve survived the drive (it was much better on the way back home with plowed roads!) to the trailhead, it’s another 11 miles out to the hot springs. We were all planning to ski out there, but after seeing the trail, Joe & I concluded we’d be walking a fair bit. The 11 miles consisted of one big downhill, then a lil’ ways on relatively flat terrain, one big uphill, and another big downhill to where the hot springs are located. Needless to say, we weren’t gonna be skiing the uphill, and both downhills were a bit steeper and twistier than Joe & I were comfortable with. On the way out we still skied quite a bit, but decided on the return that walking would probably be just as fast, and it was.
Joe & I were just able to spend one night at the hot springs, although our friends stayed for two. It sure was hard motivating ourselves to do those 11 miles back to the car the next day! Neither of the days out there were clear, but we had some gorgeous light on the way out (when these pictures were taken). It’s a really beautiful area up north there, much different from the Alaska that I’m used to. After all, though, this state is huge, and full of new things to see!!!! There are three cabins out at the hot springs, one of which we had reserved. Our cabin was wonderfully cozy, and a great place to end up at after a long day!
The hot springs were incredible; absolutely worth the effort to get out there. We enjoyed a good long soak the night we made it out there, and another one before we packed up and headed back. That night, the whole experience was pushed into the “perfect” category as we noticed the clouds above clearing to reveal the boundless sky full of stars, as well as a display of northern lights. Soaking in the natural hot springs there, with a few great friends in the middle of such a vast wilderness, watching the aurora dance around and through the stars, was one of the most special things I’ve experienced.
Joe & I were in charge of lunch food for the trip, and that’s where this post comes in. As we debated the possible options, aiming for something easy to eat, yummy, healthy and energizing, I finally decided I would make some granola bars; I didn’t like the idea of buying any, since most of them are so full of sugar, besides being expensive, so homemade seemed the way to go! I used to have a granola bar recipe, but I’m not sure where it is currently, so I devised a new one.
These bars received resounding approval ratings from Joe and our friends. We easily devoured all of them (and I realized I could’ve brought along a few more!), which is why this post is so late in coming…. I had to make another batch so that I could get some pictures of them! That second batch (which was actually a half batch) disappeared about as fast as the first had, even though we weren’t on any ski trip! These bars are delicious, relatively easy to make, affordable, and quite a bit better for than then any granola bars you could pick up at the store. They were awesome trail food!
All the ingredients are natural, whole foods, and can definitely be adjusted to suit your taste. I’ve already started scheming a few different “varieties” of these bars! Since the bananas have so much natural sweetness, I decided I could get away without adding any additional sweetener. If you want a sweeter bar, you could add a bit of honey or maple syrup. I’d also like to add some ground flax seed, but didn’t have any on hand when making these.
Tolovana Trail Bars
makes about 36
3 cups “thick” rolled outs – make sure they’re old-fashioned! You want hearty.
3/4 cup whole wheat flour (if gluten free, just substitute your favorite GF flour, and make sure the oats are certified GF!)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp baking soda
2 cups chopped nuts (I used peanuts, almonds and walnuts)
1-2 cups dried fruit (I used raisins and dried cranberries)
1 cup seeds (I used pumpkin & sunflower)
1 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
4-5 ripe bananas, mashed
3/4 cup chunky, natural peanut butter
3/4 cup coconut oil, melted
Heat oven to 400 degrees. On a baking sheet, toast the oats, nuts, seeds and coconut, being careful not to burn! The oats, nuts and seeds usually take 5-10 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, but the coconut toasts much faster, so watch it closely. Reduce oven to 350.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, salt, ginger and baking soda. Add the fruit, oats, nuts, seeds and coconut. In a separate, smaller bowl, combine the bananas, peanut butter and melted coconut oil (if you want to add sweetener, do it here), mixing until smooth. Add the wet ingredients into the dry and mix well – this can be a lil’ difficult!
Shape into individual bars (you choose the size!) on a cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool slightly before sliding a spatula underneath the bars to loosen them from the pan. Let cool completely on the sheet before storing in an airtight container. You could also wrap these individually if you like.