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Evolution of a trail name on the John Muir Trail.

 August 2020-- I arrived at Vermillion Valley Ranch on day 4 of our 12 day through hike on the John Muir Trail. It’s me, my brother, and our dad. A real ‘guys trip’ if you will. I had arrived first, lucky enough to hitchhike a ride down a dusty ~5 mi. road off trail, atop a pile of lake toys in the back of a dusty Chevy truck, soon to restock our rations of all things dehydrated before continuing on.

As I passed the first group of people I’d seen in 3 days, I thought about how different it was out here, doing what we were doing. How fast your mind wanders into the depths of yourself while hiking in nature, something so surreal to experience in just 72 hours.

Unsure how I feel to be around people again, I sit quietly, perched on a bench, under a shanty marketplace sign that reads: “Backpackers: Loitering Welcome...” Surely I’m in the right place. Inside, I find a refrigerator stocked with beers. Some things you just can’t pack on this kind of a trip and cold beers are one! I opt for a Michelada and return to my backpack to enjoy the first ice-cold thing to touch my lips in what feels like forever.

The market at VVR is bustling, but I opt to sit alone. The trails got me shy I think. My mind wanders, I sip my beer, I’m happy at my picnic table. I pull out my kindle, but quickly realize that I’m not in the frame of mind for reading, and just like that my attention circles back to my surroundings. 

I look up, “Mushroom City” reads a sign to the entrance of a dirt patch surrounded by sawed off logs. I chuckle to myself and take a better look. My eyes jump from stump to stump, each one scrawled with a name: KEGGER, TURTLE, CAVEMAN, MILKMAN, RADAR, LEGO, COYOTE, KITCHEN SINK, BUBBLES, BOTTLE BOY, PHOENIX… you get the gist: Nicknames, no doubt. Do I want one? I daydream.  I turn back to my kindle, still no luck there.

Something still captivated me about these nicknames! Why so many? How long had they been there? Surely there’s more to the story.

My Dad and brother finally arrive, so now it’s time to get to work. We empty our trash and begin to refill our bear canisters. Before too long we’d need to catch a ferry ride across a lake. Back to the land of no cold beers.

Packing a bear canister is an art form, and my brother and Dad take to it, not wanting any of my help. I sit and chomp a CHOMPS.  As we sort through our resupply goods it immediately becomes apparent that we’ve packed too much food. Lucky for us, VVR provides a bin to leave any excess foods for others on the trail.

Before heading out, we quickly fill the bin with CHOMPS snack sticks. A delicacy compared to the normal overstock variety of ramen noodles and bags of questionable dehydrated leftovers that usually frequent the bin. We hear shuffling, possibly running, and maybe even bickering. I have no idea what’s going on at the time, but soon I find out the overstock has been pillaged. All the commotion was to get CHOMPS.

I’m happy to see our CHOMPS sticks being taken advantage of by people who can really use them. Seeing other people so excited is strangely fulfilling. A few people come over and thank us, it’s sort of surreal, and I begin to grasp just how much camaraderie there is amongst the backpacking community. It feels good.

A guy comes up to us and asks “are you the Meat Stick guys?”

A smile creeps up on my face. “Yes.”

He thanks me graciously and says, “I love these things!”


Another in their group asks if I have a Tramily.

“What’s that” I say shyly. Should I?

I ask her about the nicknames on the stumps, and am immediately corrected.

“Those are Trail Names.”

Now I know.

“Trout, Slug, let’s go!” I hear being yelled from a distance. Two backpackers head out. 

It turns out word travels fast. The next day on the trail we encountered a new unfamiliar face.

“Did you meet the Meat Stick Guys?”

“Um,” I hesitate, “I think we are the Meat Stick Guys?”

My brother laughs and corrects me.

“Actually, he is the meat stick guy.”

Later that day, we serendipitously rejoined the group that had found the overstock CHOMPS back at VVR. We hike in close proximity for the rest of the day, and that night we camped directly next to the group, purely by coincidence. It’s a rowdy, fun, nice bunch of folks from all over the place. A group of 13 strangers who met on the trail, and persevered through triumph and tragedy: an all around great bunch. A Tramily.

My newly found friends began calling me nothing but ‘‘Meat Stick Man.’ And as conversation continued into the evening, the ‘Man’ somehow disappeared. Just like that, I am ‘MEAT STICK.’

We continue our beautiful through-hike of the John Muir Trail. We make new friends, perhaps never to be seen again. We take in the majesty of the Sierras. Two days later, we discover the same Tramily we met before, and spend time at the lake together. Many of us swim in freezing alpine water, enjoy CHOMPS sticks, crack jokes, and all-around just have the best time. Amidst the laughter and fun, I jokingly suggest that they should call ‘MIATA’ ‘TESLA’ because she’s vegan and so fast on the trail, when ‘TROUT’ quickly retorts,


“Hey MEAT STICK, why don’t you leave the trail names to us.”

Later, there’s a moment I hear ‘THE LAW’ say “How am I going to explain to my husband that I’m hanging out with a guy on the trail named ‘MEAT STICK? At that moment, I realized: I am MEAT STICK, thanks to CHOMPS Snack Sticks. 

--Matt aka Meat Stick

* A few weeks after we finished our hike, the Creek Fire ravaged the area described in this story and many backpackers had to be emergency airlifted from VVR. We wish our best to all the employees of VVR, others who live in the area, and would especially like to thank all of the rescue crews and firefighters for their hard work and dedication.

Matt Finelli is our October Chompian of the month! He's a photographer, hiker, fearless adventurer, and he's a huge inspiration to the Chomps family. He reminds us that each one of us brings something different to the table, and that nothing lasts forever - to be thankful for today. He recently hiked the John Muir trail with his dad and brother, which took them roughly 3 weeks to complete! Click here to learn more about that journey, and how he obtained his nickname of "The Meat Stick Man."

What’s your best tip on how to stay positive?

I try to remember that it's a miracle I'm alive, and someday I won't be, so learn from the bad and enjoy the good. Nothing lasts forever.

What’s your workout routine?

I try and move my body for minimum 1 hour every day.

How do you consider yourself a “game changer?” This is 100% open to your interpretation!

By being myself. I think it's worth noting that every individual brings something different to the table, whether in personal relationships or work. If you can find out who you are, you will be a game-changer. I believe it's up to you to decide what level that change affects.

What’s the best thing you do for your personal health everyday (mental or physical)?

It's all about learning for me: Books, Podcasts, and Audiobooks (mostly). I'm interested in personal growth and philosophy.

What is your favorite Chomps product?

I'm a classics guy, Original Beef #1!

How does Chomps fuel your lifestyle?

It fuels me on the go! It's such a good healthy snack for anything I'm doing.

Meet Alexis Rivera! Alexis is this month's Chompian, and we're so excited to introduce her to our community. She's a certified Whole30 coach, a mom of two and a huge inspiration to all of us. Alexis is a big believer in self-care - to her, this looks like making delicious Whole30 recipes and healthy movement. Click here to learn more about her and her journey!

What’s your best tip on how to stay positive?

Gratitude. As cliché as it sounds gratitude will always pull me out of the darkest moments. It can be as grand or as small but these days when it seems there’s always an avalanche of worries, changing the phrase “I have to” into “I get to” always keeps me pushing forward with positivity. 💖

What’s your workout routine?

You know it’s funny when I was younger it was a lot of high impact dance, competitive cheerleading and gymnastics. Then my body really took on some stress during both pregnancies. It was after kids where I found more balance and healing with low impact movement like walking, hiking, yoga and barre. But I have to say my latest obsession and guilty pleasure has to be “Just Dance” on Nintendo Switch with my sister! 💃🏻🎶

How do you consider yourself a “game changer?” This is 100% open to your interpretation!

The game always changes but can you adapt enough to still thrive and excel in the game? That’s the key and the answer is yes. I’m a game changer because adapting is knowing what is lacking and stepping up to fulfill that role, to take up space, to be an advocate for your community. As a game changer, I’m doing just that by making Whole30, healthy recipes and education about wellness practices more accessible to my Filipino community and beyond.

What’s the best thing you do for your personal health everyday (mental or physical)?

Aside from gratitude, healthy movement combined with Whole30 has been the greatest act of self-care and self-love. Whether I’m doing a round of Whole30 or not incorporating a Whole30 meal into my daily routine does wonders for my mood, energy level and self-confidence. Combine that with healthy movement and it’s my ultimate glow-up secret weapon. ✨

What is your favorite Chomps product?

Italian Style and Jalapeño hands down are my favorite go-to meat sticks. They’re both full of so much flavor like a meal in one and taste amazing on top of a salad. 🥗💚

How does Chomps fuel your lifestyle?

In this household I wear many hats as a full-time mom, part-time teacher, caregiver, nurse, content creator and Whole30 coach. I work around the clock most days but Chomps is always a convenient Whole30 Approved snack that is always there for me when I’m on the go or when I need a protein packed pick-me-upper.

In this month’s series of our Chompian feature, we’re introducing you to Emily Brown. She’s the founder of a game changing organization called Food Equality Initiave (FEI), which works to increase access to allergy friendly and gluten free foods to individuals who need them the most. Emily has many traits of a Chompian that we know tranlsate to her work at FEI and as a mother.

What’s your best tip on how to stay positive?

It is easy to focus on challenges, but they often bring innovation. I try to focus on the new opportunities that often come from difficulties. When I find myself overwhelmed or down, I remember look back and remind myself of all of the challenges I've overcome.

What’s your workout routine?

I like to get outside and take a walk everyday. This is essential for both my physical and mental health. My family got a puppy during quarantine and she also helps me increase my steps.

How do you consider yourself a “game changer?” This is 100% open to your interpretation!

I think game changers are people who seek opportunity in the midst of crisis. Six years ago I was a mother with sick children and limited resources. Instead of focusing on all of our challenges, I looked for opportunities to make life a little easier not only for my family, but others who face similar challenges.

What’s the best thing you do for your personal health everyday (mental or physical)?

Taking a walk everyday.

What is your favorite Chomps product?

My favorite Chomps product is the original turkey sticks!

How does Chomps fuel your lifestyle?

Chomps meat sticks make quick snacks for my girls. They are also a great addition to a salad or paired with fruit for breakfast.

At Chomps, we consider a Chompian someone who is dedicated, positive, scrappy and collaborative. Someone who is a true game changer. Chompians are what our customers are and we are made of. We’re excited to introduce our Chompian feature series! Each month we’ll be highlighting someone who exemplifies the characteristics of a Chompian in hopes that we can shed light on their stories and provide you with extra inspiration and motivation. 

This month’s Chompian is Natalie from Tastes Lovely. Check out her story below!

What’s your best tip on how to stay positive?

When you focus on the good, the good gets bigger! I feel a whole lot better when I spend time thinking of what I'm grateful for. Negative thoughts rarely serve me well. I've also noticed that choosing to be positive and joyful sets the tone for my whole family and our day. It's contagious!

What’s your workout routine?

I started jogging for the first time EVER a few months ago. Before this, I had never jogged a whole mile without stopping in all my 33 years of life. Ever. I'm serious! But if not now, then when? I used a Couch to 5K app that slowly eased me into jogging longer stretches of time. Within 8 weeks I was jogging a full 30 minutes straight, easily finishing 2 miles. I'm not the fastest, but I'm doing it and feel amazing!

How do you consider yourself a “game changer?” This is 100% open to your interpretation!

I was able to lose 50 pounds in 6 months, which is still so incredible I can hardly believe it's true! I saw a ton of people having great success with the keto diet, but was really turned off with all the dairy and unhealthy looking meals I saw being shared. I combined my love of clean ingredients and whole foods with the low carb high fat approach of Keto, and am shocked at how easily the weight came off. I call my eating style "clean keto". I hadn't seen this "clean" version of the keto diet anywhere, and it has been the perfect fit for my healthier lifestyle with the added bonus of weight loss. I eat tons of vegetables, wild and pasture raised proteins, and lots of healthy fats like avocados, olive oil, nut butters, etc.

What’s the best thing you do for your personal health everyday (mental or physical)?

Without question it is going for my jogs. I don't know how much jogging has aided in my weight loss, but I know without a doubt it has been essential for my mood and mental health! Having those 30 minutes a day to get my heart rate up, push myself and be in nature is the best start to my day. The endorphins I get from exercising are wonderful! Now I get why there is a term for "runners high"!

What is your favorite Chomps product?

The Italian Style Beef and Turkey are my 2 go-to Chomps products!

How does Chomps fuel your lifestyle?

Being a mom of 2 kids, we're often out and about exploring nature and playing outside. I always have Chomps in my car AND in my diaper bag so I can have a healthy, filling snack when I need it. It gives me the energy to keep going, and it tastes delicious. I love how well they travel, and that they don't need to be refrigerated. Bonus is my kids love them too! Our families favorite snack!