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[at-l] Credit vs. Cash and Buy vs. Mail

>I have the option of either bringing a credit card to
>buy food and supplies along the way, or having things
>mailed to me to pick up as I go.  Both options make me
>a bit nervous.  If I pack food ahead of time and have
>it mailed, it might never arrive for whatever reason,
>or might arrive after I have already left an area.  I
>won't be able to replace it (or not very often)
>because I've spent my food money already on the
>missing packages.  If I bring credit, prices along the
>way might be high enough to use up my cash pool long
>before I'm done.  Or stores might not want to accept
>my credit card with an out of state ID, especially
>because I have a state ID, not a driver's license.  If
>I bring cash it could get lost, stolen, or hopelessly
>waterlogged until it turns to mush.
>I'd like to hear people's experiences with both
>options.  What would you recommend?  Also, is there a
>list anywhere of post offices along the way?  How far
>are they from the trail, and how far are grocery
>stores?  If I mail (which I probably will, at least
>partly) how far ahead of time should I send boxes to
>make sure they get there before I do, but not too far
>before I do?
>  - Victoria

   I thru hiked last year.  Using a credit card was rarely a problem. 
I was never asked to show any other kind of i.d.  I also had a debit 
card.  I used the debit card at the post office to mail post cards 
and to get cash, money back.  In order to keep my wife involved in my 
hike, I used extensive mail drops, 40 of them.  But most of my mail 
drops were to hostels, motels, outfitters, and a few to post offices. 
The reason for that was post offices have restricted hours.  The are 
not open on Sundays and holidays.  Rural post offices close for long 
lunch breaks and often have very short business hours.  Many of my 
friends would get stuck in town for extra days waiting for the Post 
Office to open.  I did not purchase all of my food in advance.  I 
went shopping with my wife for a few weeks worth of food then had her 
make purchases for me as the hike progressed.  That way she could 
modify the purchases as my tastes and needs changed.  The food/supply 
packages were sent about three weeks before I was scheduled to get to 
a particular mail drop.  I would call home at every mail drop to let 
my wife know where I was.  I ended up taking 20 days more than I 
planned but I did expect that.  Some of my hikier friends used no 
mail drops and some used a combination of town supply and mail drops. 
Most hiker towns have learned what hikers need.  Grocery stores and 
post offices vary in distance from the trail.  Some places the trail 
goes right through the town and in other places it can be 10 or 12 
miles of hitch hiking.

There are several guide books available that would help you determine 
where to make mail drops.  The "Appalachian Trail Thru Hiker's 
Companion" is published by ALDHA (Appalachian Long Distance Hiker's 
Association} updated every year by volunteer field editors.  It can 
be purchased from The ATC (Appalachian Trail Conference) via the 
internet.  "The Thru Hiker's Handbook"  is also a good reference. 
Both are small books that discribe trail high lights, shelter 
locations, water sources, road crossings, intersections with other 
trails and most important is trail towns with available services. 
Telephone numbers, prices, town maps, supply services, best places to 
hitch a ride, and more are included in these guide books.  The ATC 
also publishes its own Data Book and distribute 14 sectional guide 
books with maps for the AT.  A complete set is exspensive.  And you 
would not carry the guide books because they are two heavy and don't 
contain some of the more practical information needed for a thru 
hike.  However, I found the maps to be very useful.  My wife shipped 
me the necessary maps with my mail drops.

Gabby Art Cloutman


Life is Good!!!
Art Cloutman