Taking Off The Training Wheels–Last Resupply Box
NOBO through hikers come off trail from Grafton Notch in the summer to the town of Bethel, ME, and are met with Family Dollar, Walgreens, Crossroads Diner (good hand-cut fries here), and True North, which offers resupply and gear selection. I was lucky enough to have stocked up on backpacking meals back home at True North Adventureware during my initial planning phase.
Preparation the fun way!
I very clearly remember standing in the kitchen with bulk piles of ProMeal Bars, Backpacker’s Pantry meals, Munkpack cookies, a large assortment of dried fruits, granola bars, oatmeal, and six medium sized boxes. We had other various goodies like hand warmers, bandaids, and a temporary tattoo of a pirate that came from a cereal box. Socks (my hiking partner) and I made quick work of throwing freeze dried meals and snacks into each of the boxes based on how many days we were planning for in our sections. There was a lot of laughing, and no formal math involved in this process. The general consensus was to fill each box for three days, and to ensure each one had a chicken bouillon cube and extra porta-wipes in it.
This method proved to be partially effective–for the first two weeks on trail, we always had one or two extra backpacking meals in our food bags. Personally, I feel that it’s always a good idea to have an extra meal on you anyways, so this worked out. As a result of surplus food, one package of Chicken Larb made it with us from Amicalola Falls all the way through the Smokies before finally being consumed. We carried it about two hundred and fifty miles.
Everyone does it differently
Since starting my through hike, I’ve seen many ways that hikers plan out or prepare their resupplies along the trail. I’ve learned that there’s value in everyone’s unique style of preparation, whether they have pre-packed resupply boxes all the way to Maine or, on the other end of the spectrum, make do along the trail with whatever is available in hostel resupply closets, gas stations, and shopping centers. Everyone does it a little differently, and it’s important to try out different methods to find what’s best for you!
As seen above, I’m in the middle of this spectrum. I don’t have the personal organization skills to plan out an entire through hike and detailed food pack-outs along the way, but I absolutely admire those who do. The more time I spend on trail, the more I enjoy creative leisure in my food choices. Current favorites of mine include avocado chicken salad wraps, Nutella on bagels, fruits that I’m able to carry, and Power Up Mega Omega trail mix.
My method.. And its shortcomings
I packed several resupply boxes at home, but the planning for the contents within them was rather minimal, and we received our last pre-packed box in Hot Springs. Although I enjoyed receiving the boxes, along with the ability to make chicken broth whenever I wanted to, I feel like a reasonably sized weight has been lifted off of my shoulders.
Instead of planning my trip around those boxes, I can plan based on accessible grocery stores or hostels which offer a resupply. I won’t need to worry about making it to my packages in time or following a strict schedule based on what I had given myself for a resupply. We had also been supplementing our resupply boxes each time we received them, as we often needed more food than what we had or chose a longer stretch to hike before going into town again, so they weren’t very cost or travel efficient.
The initial logic behind packing resupply boxes was to ensure that I had gluten free options for food, and that Socks had dairy free options. We didn’t know what to expect when we started the trail or how we would be resupplying. We’ve combined meal planning for the better part of our time on trail so far, and have just recently moved to separate pack-outs. We’ve both found that we’re eating a lot more than we were at the start. It’s been much easier for us to pack food individually so that we are both only responsible for our personal dietary restriction. Gluten and dairy issues are quite the dynamic duo for backcountry meal planning–thankfully, it’s been easier than expected to find options on trail, even in smaller resupply spots like hostels or gas stations.
If I were to do it again, I would ditch the boxes from home and use Amazon Prime or REI mobile orders to order specific items that I can’t find in town to post offices or hostels that accepted mail drops. Postage costs from hand-packed boxes adds up quickly as well–it was not the most cost-efficient method, although it gave us some peace of mind when starting our trip. As I continue with my through, I plan on doing this occasionally when I have an idea of where I’ll be in advance. It will allow me to be more flexible with my trip planning and take away some stress around deadlines.
It’s important to keep in mind that some post offices close on Friday for the weekend, such as the one in Fontana Village, and you don’t want to be stuck somewhere through Monday waiting for a package. Thankfully we weren’t, but some other hikers were not so lucky while we were passing through. PSA: if you send your package to the Fontana Village Resort, there’s a mail drop fee, but you can pick it up anytime the front desk is open.
Happy trails! I’m looking forward to my newfound freedom in upcoming resupplies. I’d love to hear about other’s thoughts or experiences!
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