This next segment of the Active Outdoor Vegans series is with Eric and Veronica from A Wonderful Vegan Life. They are avid backpackers who have explored many fantastic venues, and they have taken some great photos through which you can share a bit in their adventures!
In the Mojave Desert on Kelson Dunes
Favourite outdoor activity?
How long has it been an interest/passion of yours?
We have always been interested in backpacking but it has only been the last few years that we have become more “serious” and knowledgeable about it.
What got you started wanting to be an outdoor adventurer?
Backpacking is simple. You can be tired, distracted, and lacking in athleticism but you can still go for a walk in the woods with a pack on your back and what is there not to love about nature? Nature can endlessly surprise you. You never know what you will find around the next bend or over the next mountain.
In front of the Bowl of Fire near Lake Mead Nevada
How long have you been vegan? What led you to this path?
We have been vegan for at least 6 years now. I remember hearing a quote from Alicia Silverstone that basically stated that she couldn’t understand how she loved animals but she was eating them. The simplicity of that statement hit home with me and I stopped eating meat immediately. My wife also started as a vegetarian. The next logical step for us in regards to animal rights was to go vegan. We love animals and do not want to intentionally harm them in any way.
Where are you located and/or would like to end up one day?
We currently live in the Asheville, North Carolina area of the United States. We are happy here in the mountains for now but the western part of the country is always calling to us.
A typical overnight vegan backpacking food stash
Favourite vegan trail snack food?
Butler Foods Harvest Jerky
Favourite piece of vegan gear (clothing/equipment)?
We both love our Patagonia Nano Puff Jackets
Appalachian Trail in the Roan Highlands area
The best part about being active outdoors and in nature?
Everything just seems to fade away when you are out in nature. When you can relax, your mind is put to rest and when things get challenging your mind is so occupied you don’t have the energy or time to think of anything else. We like these moments of escape.
What is your favourite vegan meal/recipe and place to eat after a long day or trip outdoors?
Anyone that reads our blog will see that we are no strangers to comfort food. We love making vegan versions of classic dishes like chicken and biscuits, macaroni and cheese, and baked corn. As far as eating out after some time in the backcountry we love going to Mellow Mushroom for some vegan sandwiches and pizza as well as eating at Rosetta’s Kitchen here in Asheville, North Carolina.
Veronica in a cave at the Cinder Cones Lava Tube Cave in the Mojave Desert
What is (or one of) your most memorable outdoor experience/adventure so far?
We recently backpacked through sections of the Mojave Desert in California. The weather was amazing, the landscape was like nothing we have ever seen, and the solitude was astounding.
Has it been difficult finding vegan gear (clothing, shoes, etc.)? Do you have any tips/gear/companies you would recommend?
At first finding vegan gear was a challenge for us. I think this was a combination of the time in which we started hiking and my lack of knowledge. I find that now it is completely easy to find vegan hiking and backpacking gear but you have to know where to look and what you are looking for. The world of outdoor gear is still dominated by items that are not vegan friendly but there are plenty of options to keep us satisfied. Merrell is a great company that marks all of their vegan gear clearly on their website and they have very knowledgeable employees ready to answer their customer’s questions. Every sock company seems to offer at least one pair of hiking socks that do not contain wool. The sleeping bags that are made of synthetic fill in them are easy to find and are a lot less bulky than they used to be. Basically this is a good time for outdoor enthusiasts who are vegans because of the amount of options available these days.
What is the best part about being vegan?
The best part of being a vegan to us is being able to live a life that is free of guilt concerning animal welfare.
What are some essentials you always pack for a longer trip? Is it ever difficult to prepare/pack for a trip?
Over the years we have accumulated a good amount of gear and we have realized that we enjoy comfort while backpacking. It is for this reason that we rarely go on long trips without our backpacking chair, sleeping pad, and some great vegan food that we know that we will crave. Part of the fun of any trip is in the preparation. Imagining what it will be like and what you will need before you actually get there allows the excitement to build for months before we actually leave.
Hiking along the East Coast Trail
You’ve hiked/backpacked the East Coast Trail. What inspired you to do that trip? How long did it take? What did you enjoy most about it?
We hiked about 50 miles or so of the East Coast Trail over the course of a week. We would love to go back and finish the entire trail someday. We can’t quite remember how we found the East Coast Trail but what drew us to it was that it was a long distance trail that was right along the coast of Canada. During our hike on the East Coast Trail we saw a moose within feet of us, plenty of coastal birds, and dozens of whales. These are animals that we never get to see so that experience alone made the trail amazing. Added to the wildlife we were able to hike for days and only see a few people. We love solitude while backpacking and the East Coast Trail provided plenty of that. We were also within feet of the ocean for large sections of trail. Lastly the trail goes right through small towns, and the city of St. John’s. These stops along the trail allowed us to spend some nights in hostels, find some great vegan food at restaurants, and go zip-lining.
East Coast Trail camping
Where are some (other) places your adventures have taken you so far?
We spent a week backpacking around Las Vegas, Nevada. We hiked in the Mojave Desert and near Lake Mead. Mainly though we backpack in North Carolina although Eric has done some backpacking trips in Virginia as well.
What’s the longest trip you have been on so far?
Our longest trip was the 50 or so miles we did on the East Coast Trail in Canada. We prefer to backpack for one night to three nights in a row and not much longer.
Kayaking on the French Broad River in Asheville, North Carolina
How many adventures do you tend to go on per year (short and/or long ones)? How do you decide where to go? How long do you go for and how long does it generally take to prepare?
It is hard to count the number of adventures we will go on in a year because I think of the times we only go for a day as an adventure as well. Whether we are going kayaking, bike riding, paddle boarding, or doing a day hike they are all adventures and we do at least one if not more of these things per week. When we decide to make a certain trip variety plays a big part in our process. We like to do a lot of different things and go to different places. We do our best to rotate through our favorite activities and locations. Eric is quite the planner. For long trips he will take months to prepare. He will compare various sources online and triple check the information he comes across. However for shorter trips we may see one article about a local trail and head off to check it out that weekend not quite sure exactly what we will find.
Eric and Veronica in their newly designed veggie t-shirts!
You have a website where you share many of your adventures. How long have you had the website, and what would you most like to share with people through it?
We have had the website for about 2-3 years now. We enjoy showing people how easy it is to be vegan in this day and age. We hope to offer advice for people becoming vegan and for those current vegans that need some extra tips. We hope that people view our website as a helpful resource that they can count on to assist them in living a more wonderful vegan life. We also just recently started selling vegan and vegetarian shirts that we designed as a way to raise awareness for the vegan cause and to raise some money for a local cat rescue. The couple who runs the cat rescue is also vegan and they are really excited about this new endeavor of ours.
In the desert Near Lake Mead Nevada on Anniversary Peak
You have some rather stunning photos on your website as well. Do you have an interest or background in photography? And if so, did that come first or did it evolve as a result of your outdoor adventures?
We appreciate you saying that. Eric has always had an interest in photography and he is pretty particular about his photos however his background and knowledge is completely recreational and he is self-taught. One of the things he loves about going on adventures is trying to capture that “magic moment”.
Thank you, Eric and Veronica for sharing some of your adventures with us! I look forward to more to come!
Eric and Veronica have recently opened a vegan food delivery and pick up business in Asheville, NC, Veganized, so be sure to check them out! They even have a chocolate peanut butter pie for goodness sakes! Check out the website Veganized Ashville, and they’re on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.