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[pct-l] PCT Buy and Mail Resupply
- Subject: [pct-l] PCT Buy and Mail Resupply
- From: firstname.lastname@example.org (The Weathercarrot)
- Date: Wed, 21 Feb 2001 20:52:30 -0500
There's been lots of great resupply info on this list recently. To add to
that, I thought I would write up a resupply list with more specific focus on
the "self-supported" method. In this case, self-supported means not planning
to have food or other packages sent to you from support people elsewhere,
and yet not wanting to completely rely on gocery store selection in every
town along the way. The result is to strategically mail ahead from towns
with a good grocery selection to towns with little or no grocery selection.
This method is becoming more and more common along the PCT and elsewhere
(especially for Ashland and Cascade Locks), but there's been very little
written on specific suggestions (Chris Bailey's shop-as-you-go post being
one of the exceptions). Advantages to this method include:
1) Not having to spend much time on food and box preparation prior to the
2) Eliminating problems that can arise from miscommunication with support
person (late boxes, wrong food, etc)
3) Ability to completely change your resupply plans and dietary preferences
along the way, something that would be more difficult to do if you have
already put money into several pre-packaged boxes that are now waiting to be
mailed to you.
4) Postage is far cheaper when boxes are sent short distances rather than
from several states away. With adequate planning it's therefore more
feasible to send via the even cheaper Standard mail instead of priority.
(example: standard mail package from Cascade Locks to Skykomish - about $5.
Priority mail on same box from east coast to Skykomish - atleast $20.)
5) If you decide to use a bounce box (aka floating or drift box) it can be
combined with a mailed ahead food box whenever advantageous.
6) Lots of people have friends and family who are eager to help out with
maildrops, postage, food prep, etc. However, not everyone knows people that
will do that, so for them, this method is an effective alternative.
The amount of times that you would want to send ahead largely depends on how
acceptable a limited grocery selection is.
Here is the full list of my resupply suggestions. This is a combination of
what worked really well for me in my '98 and 2000 hikes, and what I would do
differently next time. The possibilities and variations for resupply are
virtually endless, so this is simply another perspective that can be
utilized by whomever finds it useful for their own PCT plans. This is
certainly not for those who plan on doing their own food prep (like
dehydrating or some other specialty diet).
Important - The number of days listed after a location are how many days of
food to hike out of town with (for a roughly average pace) and NOT
necessarily the amount bought there, since you'll sometimes hike into town
with food left over in your pack. This list also assumes a slower pace in
the first 2-3 weeks. Priority mail is safer if you plan on being at the
destination less than a week after you mail the box.
Bounce boxes are very useful for items that you will need at various times
along the route that are not wanted continuously. These include various
clothing, guidebook sections, etc etc. Many people find that having it in
every resupply town can be a big hassle, so in this list I have spaced the
use of bounce boxes to be more logistically convenient.
BB = bounce box
- Before getting to Campo: buy 11 days of food - keep 5-6 days in your pack
and mail the rest combined with bounce box to Warner Springs. Doing this
from San Diego works well.
- Campo: 5-6 days (most of what you need to get to Warner Springs)
- Mount Laguna: 4 days (buy) - okay selection but very expensive. Pick up an
extra day or so here to add to what you've carried from Campo. Not really
worth having a mail drop here.
- Warner Springs: 4 days (maildrop/bounce box) - Send BB to Big Bear City.
- Kamp Anza: Status for 2001 uncertain as far as I know. Might be better to
not rely on it for resupply and if they're open
it can just be a pleasant visit without having to focus on logistical stuff.
- Idyllwild: 5-6 days (buy)
- Pink Motel: Great place to retreat from the wind and/or heat outside.
Consider whatever food might be here to be an unplanned bonus.
- Big Bear City: 5-6 days (buy/bounce box) - Grocery store here is fair, but
you're selection will be much better in Big Bear Lake, which can be an easy
hitch or bus ride. Stay at fire station. Send BB to Agua Dulce.
- Wrightwood: 5 days (buy) - good selection in store. Would recommend going
in and out via Angeles Crest Hwy rather than Acorn trail, despite potential
for difficult hitching.
- Agua Dulce: 5-6 days (buy/bounce box) The store may not be available here
when hiker season arrives. However, the Saufley's (who are awesome and
generous hosts) may welcome hiker packages and may be able to shuttle to
nearby stores (definitely call or e-mail them to confirm this). So if food
is easily obtainable, mail a box with 4 days of food from here to Vermillion
Valley Resort (if it's open this year and taking packages). As a result,
combined total amount of food bought would be about 10 days. Send BB to Lone
- Mojave/Tehachapi: 7 days (buy) - both of these towns have good stores and
other services. In my experience, Mojave was the better option because it is
more compact and convenient, with hiker-friendly motel (ride from/to trail),
PO, laundry, grocery store, Chinese buffet, etc all in close proximity to
each other. If a food box can't be mailed ahead from Agua Dulce, you can do
that from here.
- Onyx: I found it easier to skip this place and just carry some extra from
Mojave. This was an example of when it's worth it to having some extra food
weight in order to decrease the amount of logistical town stuff and just
stay out there longer. It can be a hard hitch in and out as well, but for
those not wanting to have a heavy load out of Tehachapi/Mojave, Onyx has
NOTE: There are several common ways of doing High Sierra logistics. These
Kennedy Meadows -> Lone Pine -> Vermillion -> Tuolumne Meadows
Kennedy Meadows -> Independence -> Vermillion -> Tuolumne Meadows
Kennedy Meadows -> Independence -> Reds Meadow -> Tuolumne Meadows
Kennedy Meadows -> Vermillion -> Tuolumne Meadows
Onyx -> Lone Pine -> Vermillion -> Tuolumne Meadows
Cedar Grove, Muir Trail Ranch, and Bishop are also possibilities, but they
tend to be less practical for thru-hikers (although Bishop can be a good
trip up the valley while staying in Lone Pine or Independence). Assuming
Vermillion is open this year, this is what I would do:
- Kennedy Meadows: 2 days (buy) - Most people have some form of maildrop
here, but I decided to make Lone Pine my big town stop for the Sierras,
since I wanted to mail a bunch of stuff from there anyway and you really
don't need an ice axe until after there. This also means a light 2 day carry
out of KM, and the selection is good enough here to do that.
- Lone Pine (via Trail Pass and Horseshoe Meadows): 10 days (buy/bounce box)
- This is generally the only carry on the PCT more than 7 days. Most people
make it to Vermillion in 7-9 days (with Whitney side trip) but this is one
section where an extra 1-2 days of food is a very good idea. Buy an
additional 6-7 days of food and mail ahead to Tuolumne Meadows. Receive ice
axe here. Hitching in and out of town can get interesting, but it's the
shortest side hike to resupply of all the better options south of Muir Pass,
and it's a good mail-ahead place. Send BB to Pooh Corner (call to confirm
that this is okay) - alternatives would be Echo Lake or Sierra City. Total
amount of food bought here - about 17 days (which would be cheaper in Bishop
if you happen to take a road trip up the valley on your day off. Lots of
people end up doing this. There's also an outfitter and movie theatre
- Independence (via Kearsarge Pass): Decided to by-pass this because Lone
Pine seemed to offer a lot more logistical alternatives, and this is a much
longer detour to get to. Additionally, I liked the combination of the short
carry out of Kennedy Meadows to Lone Pine followed by an extended stretch
where I could stay in the back-country longer. I would do it the same way
next time. However, many people report success in using Independence, and
the Kearsarge Pass trail is said to be spectacular.
- Vermillion Valley Resort: 4 days (maildrop) - It's not certain that VVR
will be open this year, but it's not to be missed if it is. When sending box
here from Agua Dulce or wherever, confirm that they still take hiker
- Reds Meadow: Not very useful for resupply although if expensive prices and
poor selection is not an issue for you, one can resupply here to get to
Tuolumne Meadows. Stay at nearby campground with natural hot spring showers.
- Tuolumne Meadows: 7-8 days (maildrop) - Store/PO may not be open for early
thru-hikers, in which case you'd have to go down to the valley for your box.
This, however, is more often not the case. I decided to just go straight
through from here to Echo Lake. This meant a heavier pack for the first two
days, but it also resulted in avoiding the hassle of dropping off at Sonora
Pass, which is either a long way to town, or to places with poor food
selection. And like before, it was nice to be out of town for the longer
period. If you don't think the food in your maildrop is adequate for that
stretch, the store here is usually pretty good for supplementing your food
- Echo Lake/South Lake Tahoe: 3 days (buy) - South Lake Tahoe reportedly has
lots to offer, but I didn't want to bother with the logistics of it, so I
resupplied at the more convenient Echo Lake. Selection is not very good, but
should be enough to get to Donner Pass.
- Donner Pass (Truckee/Pooh Corner): 5 days (buy/bounce box) - Pooh Corner
(Bill and Molly Person) is a great place to visit. They are very generous
and completely understand the thru-hiker community. While there, one can buy
groceries in nearby Truckee. If for some reason you don't go there, then I
would have a maildrop at Echo Lake (mailed from Lone Pine) to get you to
Sierra City. From Pooh Corner, send BB to Old Station.
- Sierra City: 5 days (buy) - Selection at the store is not great, but if
you carried five days out of Donner, you'd only need to buy about 2 days
here. Trailer park across the street from PO was hiker friendly and a good
place for shower and camping. Skipping Sierra City and going straight
through from Donner to Belden is very feasible (6-7 days).
Note: The most common way of doing the Belden to Burney Falls section
Belden (maildrop) -> Old Station (maildrop) -> Burney Falls (maildrop or buy
In order to decrease amount of packaging and mailing ahead, I prefer the
- Belden: 2-ish days (buy) - Poor selection in store but one can scrape by
to go 46 miles to Chester (lighter pack that way). It was helpful to have a
little left over in my pack from the previous section.
- Chester: 4 days (buy) - Great town to pop in for a few hours to buy
groceries, eat food, do laundry, and leave again. Hitching in and out is
generally easy, and store selection is great. Might as well buy enough here
to get to Burney(falls). Not recommended for overnight stay.
- Old Station: (bounce box) - Convenient place to take a break and do a
quick turn-around with the bounce box. No need to buy food here if there's
still two days left in your pack (from Chester where it was cheaper to buy
it anyway). Send BB to Ashland.
- Burney: 4 days (buy) - One can buy food at the store here in town, or have
a maildrop at Burney Falls State Park (having sent it ahead from Truckee
perhaps). I've done it both ways and they were equally successful. I would
lean slightly toward going into town because it means having one less box to
put together previously, it's pretty easy to hitch in, and they charge for
holding the box at the park. Even if buying in town, it's worth visiting the
falls and park anyway - only a few minutes off the trail.
- Castella/Dunsmuir: 5 days (buy) - Selection at the store is fair but for
five days of food, you don't want to be picky. Dunsmuir is much better for
groceries and other stuff (movie theatre too). Mount Shasta even better.
Getting a ride to either of these other places can be tricky. Camping is
limited along the PCT where it approaches and leaves the Castella area, so
people tend to stay at the designated PCT hiker site at the state park.
- Etna: 2-3 days (buy) - Probably half the thru-hikers skip this town, but I
was happy to resupply here. Great grocery store, library, B&B that caters to
hikers, and friendly locals in general. Coming here also means carrying a
little less out of Castella. Interesting hitching to get in and out - hardly
any traffic at certain times of day, but most who drive by will pick you up.
This means the potential for easy rides, or nothing at all for a very long
time. Still worth the trip in though.
- Seiad Valley: 3 days (buy) - The store is very basic in it's selection,
but not too expensive and you only need 3 days (less if there's some left
over from Etna) so I wouldn't bother with a maildrop. Good place to have a
bounce box, although since Ashland is such a big resupply place, it's
probably better to have it there.
- Ashland: 5 days (buy/bounce box) - A good place to resupply for the whole
state of Oregon. Lots of grocery options here including large health food
store. Send food boxes ahead from here to Crater Lake (4 days), Shelter Cove
(6 days), and Ollalie Lake (5 days). Total amount of food bought here: 20
days. Send BB to Cascade Locks and put whatever you'd need from it into
various sent ahead food boxes. Most Oregon resupply locations are not very
good for out-going packages (unless you go considerably far off the trail).
Callahan's is a great place to camp either on the way into town or on the
- Hyatt Lake: If using Ashland, this is only a day later, so I skipped it.
The nearby BLM campground is apparently free for thru-hikers.
- Crater Lake: 4 days (maildrop) - best place to pick up package is at the
Mazama Campground store, where showers and laundry are also available. Avoid
buying food here if possible - save your money for the AYCE dinner buffet up
on the rim. Having box sent to the PO up the road is less convenient if you
don't want to miss the 4.5 mile trail section leading up to the Rim Village.
- Shelter Cove Resort: 6 days (maildrop)
- Elk Lake Resort: Didn't want to deal with resupply (and more money spent)
every few days through here, so it seemed to work really well to skip this
and go through to Ollalie.
- Sisters: Same as above, although if needed, the grocery and camping
situation there is good.
- Big Lake Youth Camp: Great place for a large meal if your timing is right.
Usually an excellent hiker box, but you have to ask for it.
- Ollalie Lake Resort: 5 days (maildrop) - One of the best places on the PCT
if all you want to do it pick up your food box and go. Very basic in it's
facilities, but only a few minutes off the trail and they don't charge a
- Government Camp: Poor grocery selection and not needed if carrying from
Ollalie to Cascade Locks.
- Timberline Lodge: Same as above, but they charge to hold your package.
Worth going there anyway to check out the place - only a few hundred yards
off the trail.
- Cascade Locks: 7 days (buy/bounce box) - Best option is to resupply for
all of Washington from here. Send food boxes ahead to White Pass (5 days),
Snoqualmie Pass (4 days), Skykomish (5 days), and Stehekin (4-5 days). Total
amount of food bought here: about 26 days. Empty boxes usually can be
obtained from grocery store. Send remaining bounce box items combined with
Skykomish maildrop. Camping has historically been free at the marina, but
this was less certain in 2000.
- Trout Lake: Skipped it. Found it more convenient to stay on the trail all
the way to White Pass.
- White Pass: 5 days (maildrop) - Good place to get your maildrop and maybe
a quick load of laundry before hiking out again. Many people stay at the
lodge, but it's expensive. Campground short distance away near the trail.
- Snoqualmie Pass: 4 days (maildrop) - One could actually buy here but it's
poor selection and pricey. Best option is to either split a room with
someone in the motel (to cut cost) or hike into town early so you can do
your resupply and have enough time to hike out at least 7-8 miles. B&B that
was well known for taking in hikers was hardly doing that at all in 2000 and
shouldn't be relied upon.
- Skykomish: 5 days (maildrop) - One of the friendliest PO's on the trail,
and you'll also possibly run into Bob Norton, a hiker-friendly resident who
likes to meet as many of each year's hikers as possible. (He and Meadow Ed
do a great job of keeping track of the thru-hiker numbers from year to year,
so they're the first people to go to if you want all the related
- Leavenworth: Alternative to Skykomish if you want a supermarket and
various other features that large towns would have.
- Stehekin: 4-5 days (maildrop) - Worth the side trip unless you have
friends/family meeting you with food at Rainy Pass. Free camping and shower,
good hiker box, laundry and small limited outfitter, but don't count on any
food selection at the store. Don't miss the bakery, which, if money is not
in short supply, is sometimes used for resupply (or at least as a good food
- Manning Park: Has some stuff if you're in need of food for the road....
Here is the send ahead maildrop plan in condensed form:
From: Send To:
San Diego Warner Springs - 5 days (of food)
Agua Dulce Vermillion Resort - 4 days
Lone Pine Tuolumne Meadows - 7-8 days
Ashland Crater Lake (Priority Mail) - 4 days
Shelter Cove Resort - 6 days
Ollalie Lake - 5 days
Cascade Locks White Pass (Priority Mail) - 5 days
Snoqualmie Pass - 4 days
Skykomish - 5 days
Stehekin - 5 days
Bounce Box towns (see above for details):
Big Bear City
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