Courtesy of Ruby Platt ’25
Platt used her Dale Award from Princeton to hike the 272-mile Long Trail in Vermont

Not even this summer’s historic flooding in the Northeast could curtail Ruby Platt ’25’s attempt to hike the 272-mile Long Trail — and cook delicious food along the way.

Platt anticipated hiking the trail, which runs the length of Vermont, would take her a month — and once intense rain flooded the trail in mid-July, possibly even longer. But after starting from the Vermont-New York border on July 1, she reached the Vermont-Canadian border after only 23 days.

Platt, a history major, was one of 14 Martin A. Dale ’53 Summer Award recipients this year; other projects focused on powerlifting, natural hair, a Taiwanese pirate, and writing abroad. According to Princeton, the awards enable students to pursue a summer project that has opportunities for “personal growth, foster[ing] independence, creativity and leadership skills, and broaden[s] or deepen[s] some area of special interest.”

The award paid for Platt’s backpacking supplies and food, as well as a night in a hostel once every five or six days so she could shower, do laundry, and charge electronics. 

She said the funding also gave her peace of mind for emergency situations, like when Vermont experienced flooding and she was forced to take refuge inside. The day after the heavy rain started, “the predictions were not looking good — I thought that I was going to have to take a lot of time off,” Platt said. 

Instead, after only one day, she ventured out with a friend she had made on the trail. “You would take one step and the mud would go above your boot, and you’d have to pull your boot out. So yeah, that was crazy, but I got used to it by the end. It just felt normal to be stomping through mud the entire day,” she said.

Before her trip, Platt also brainstormed what she could add as another component to the project, “so that there was something that I could work on throughout my through-hike,” she explained. She remembered spending time backpacking in Vermont during her gap year, when she would cook meals using a tiny stove, and a light bulb went off; she decided to develop a cookbook for backcountry cuisine, which she describes as using ingredients you carry yourself, sometimes for days on end, and cook without the use of a refrigerator or advanced equipment.

“For backpacking, a lot of what you want is food that is high in calories but that packs down really well and is as light as possible,” she said. Of course, hikers’ ingredients, cooking implements, and utensils are limited. But at the same time, they “are just constantly talking about food” because they expend so many calories.

Platt’s backcountry cookbook, which she aims to complete by the end of summer, will include filling recipes like ramen matzo ball soup (see sidebar), as well as tips and tricks for cooking in the wilderness. Her biggest suggestion is to use a food dehydrator before departing to make provisions lighter.

While on the trail, Platt bonded with other hikers and would take inspiration from their meals. 

“People don’t really share food because you’re just carrying what you need, but we would always talk about what we were making, and I would definitely see people making things and think, ‘Oh, that looks so good. I’m going to make that next time that I go do a [grocery] resupply,’” she said.  

Amid the mental and physical strain of the hike, Platt said she experienced times of doubt and worried about the embarrassment that would come with failure. But every day she felt herself getting stronger.

“I was expecting it to be a really great experience and to have a lot of time to self-reflect and to challenge myself in ways that I hadn’t before, but it ended up being a lot more fun than I thought it would be,” said Platt. “By the end, I was just so happy to be out there for myself.”

Ruby Platt ’25’s Recipe for “Ramen Bomb” Matzo Ball Soup

The “Ramen Bomb” is a classic backpacker meal — a combination of instant ramen and instant mashed potatoes. It is an extremely filling and satisfying meal after a long day of hiking. This recipe is my take on a Ramen Bomb. Instead of using instant mashed potatoes, I use dehydrated matzo balls. Matzo ball soup is one of my favorite comfort foods from home. During my thru-hike of the Long Trail, there was nothing I craved more than a hearty bowl of matzo ball soup after hiking for days through the Vermont rain and mud. Enjoy!


  • Matzo balls (see below)
  • Half of one large carrot
  • One quarter of a yellow onion
  • One small bag of frozen peas
  • Instant ramen
  • One bouillon cube


  • Food dehydrator
  • One pot with lid
  • Backpacking stove (I use an MSR pocket rocket)


BEFORE your trip…

  1. Make and dehydrate the matzo balls:
    1. Make about four one-inch diameter matzo balls and let them cool (I make them using the recipe on the back of the Manischewitz matzo meal box)
    2. Cut the matzo balls into ¼-inch thick slices
    3. Place the slices of matzo ball onto a food dehydrator for 12 hours, or until fully dehydrated
    4. Set aside and store in an air-tight resealable plastic bag
  2. Chop and dehydrate the vegetables:
    1. Wash and cut the carrot and onion into small, bite-sized pieces
    2. Place the cut-up vegetables and the peas on a food dehydrator for 10-12 hours, or until fully dehydrated
    3. Set aside and store in an air-tight resealable plastic bag

On your trip…

  1. Fill pot with about 20 oz of water and add dehydrated matzo balls and vegetables
  2. Turn on stove and bring water to a boil
  3. Add the bouillon cube
  4. Let the water boil for about five minutes, then turn off the stove and cover the pot with lid
  5. Let the pot sit with the lid on for a few minutes so that the matzo balls and vegetables continue to rehydrate
  6. After about 3-5 minutes, while the pot is still quite hot, add the instant ramen noodles to the pot and stir so that they are incorporated.
  7. Place the lid back on the pot and let sit for another few minutes, until the matzo balls are fully soft and the noodles are cooked
  8. Enjoy!