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[pct-l] Sasha's questions
Hello Sasha -
First - congratulations on having the gumption to challenge yourself with a
thru-hike! I also wanted to do one (AT) about your age, but I dithered
around for almost thirty more years before I got off my duff and started
moving down the trail <g>.
I have enjoyed reading the many excellent answers to your good question.
The temptation for all of us who have thru-hiked is to try to help you by
passing on all the "lessons learned" from our own trail experience. The
problem, of course, is that we all wound up "hiking our own hike"...for our
experience to be of genuine 100% use to you, you would have to hike OUR
You chose an excellent example of this when you selected food to start
with. There are HUGE differences in the way that various (successful!)
thru-hikers have approached the food/resupply challenge. Some try to
figure out everything beforehand and either mail ahead or cache all
resupply items before they walk the first foot of trail. Others do fine by
totally winging it...they buy (or yogi<g>) all resupply needs as they hike.
The large majority of thru-hikers that I have met fit somewhere inside
this rather wide range of resupply styles.
If we look at the two resupply extremes given above, a couple of obvious
trade-offs jump out at us:
if we do everything beforehand we get wonderful economies of scale ($!) and
are left free to enjoy our hike with minimal resupply concerns...BUT...we
are locked in - we don't get to take advantage of all those things that we
will be learning from our own trail experiences (and from all those neat
folks we meet on the trail!);
if we decide to wait and resupply as we hike, we gain a lot of "surface"
flexibility...BUT...we quickly learn how dependent we are on how
well-stocked those trail-side stores might (or might NOT) be (grab a road
map that shows the PCT and notice the size of most of the towns that the
trail goes near <f>).
I remember a couple of AT thru-hikers (southbounders, '93) who chose to use
the above two extremes:
Trailhead and his trail partner drove to Atlanta and bought all the food
(and beer) that they thought they would be needing for their entire hike.
They got a bunch of 5-gal plastic buckets and a shovel and drove north
along the AT, burying resupply "kits" at various road crossings along the
way. They arrived at Millinocket in Maine (nearest town to the northern
terminus of the AT), sold the car and the shovel, and started hiking south.
Trailhead's partner quit fairly quickly, but Trailhead stuck with it. I
slowly caught up to him in Virginia and was loving it...I was getting his
delightful register entries (go Peace Frog!) AND all the left-over food
(and beer!) from his two-people resupply buckets <VBG>.
Annasauras Rex did the opposite - she got out of the Peace Corps, dropped
by her parent's house to pick up her backpacking gear, and started down the
trail. She was living off of her dinky Peace Corps end-of-assignment
"bonus" and was a serious vegetarian, to boot. As far as I know, she
survived on hiker-box left-overs and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. It sure
didn't slow her down any - we did 18 miles one LONG day in new snow (damp,
ankle to knee-deep)...she broke trail almost the whole way and STILL walked
off and left me <g>!
We decided to use one of the "in-between" resupply techniques. We
purchased (in bulk) all the meats and veggies that we thought we would be
needing for our entire PCT hike. We cooked, dehydrated, bagged, and froze
up some 350 meal's worth of individual meats/veggies that could be
mixed/matched with bulk carbos (noodles, dehydrated hashbrowns, rice, and
grits). We guessed on quantities that we would be needing in our early
resupply boxes and planned to adjust on the fly as we became trail hard and
the weather/conditions changed.
BTW, I have (or have had <g>) most of the books mentioned so far during
this thread. The reference I have found to be most helpful in this subject
area is: The NOLS Cookery (Stackpole Books, 1-800-READ-NOW).
My wife was kind enough to join our trip by being the partner who did the
mail resupply. Whenever I called from a town stop I would tell her how
many days worth of resupply we guessed we would need to pick up at the NEXT
town stop. She would crank that number of days into our handy-dandy
much-modified highly-individualized resupply algorithm...and then would
pick the appropriate items from the freezer, box it up, toss in whimsical
spirit-boosters, and mail it off to us. Most of the time the box got to
the resupply point before we did (we always took a week or more between
town stops)...a couple of times it didn't and we hitched to a good grocery
store to stock up (anybody remember what the Unibomber did to airmail
coming into California in '95 <f>?).
Our adjustments were often those of quantity (more, More, MORE!) as the
weather got colder. Some were changes in taste (we wound up eating a LOT
more dehydrated salsa and garlic powder than we first expected <g>) and
some changes were made because we noticed that some foods didn't seem to be
giving us the energy we needed...we completely dropped noodles (wheat) and
potatoes (dehydrated hashbrowns) in favor of rice and grits (MUCH better
than that ghastly corn pasta <VBG>). Some of the changes were related to
the time of year (started eating hot instead of cold cereal for b'fast when
below freezing) and some were sheer pleasure (hot coffee to go with the hot
Most of the changes were made after a fair amount of personal observation
made during months of hiking. We paid a lot of attention to "cravings"
that popped up...on the theory that a craving represents our body trying to
tell us something. My trail partner (Tony, one of my sons) and I had
remarkably similar cravings and we were willing to experiment a little to
help identify what might satisfy each craving as we became aware of it.
We solved a VERY strong dairy craving (Ben and Jerry's!) by quadrupling the
amount of powdered milk we put in our cold cereal packets. An early "juicy
fat-dripping" meat craving (AT) went completely away when we picked up a
magic trail recipe from a Dutch hiker (Marcell Dijkmann a.k.a. "Noname").
We modified his super-goop recipe (1/3, 1/3, 1/3) to become: 2/5 chunky
peanut butter, 2/5 honey, 1/5 Parkay liquid margarine. We craved that
mixture so strongly on the PCT that we would carry it into our town-stop
b'fast restaurant to put on our flapjacks! Interestingly, my craving for
it went completely away as my body settled down after the hike....I
introduced it to my Scouts after the hike and they disliked it so much that
they called it "J.O.B." (Junk On Bread!).
So...I guess that I have taken up all this bandwith to say exactly what
others have said so well: stay flexible!
In fact, I would go one step farther...try to do your pre-hike prep in such
a way that you will be able to take full advantage of the MANY kinds of
personal changes that are the byproduct of a successful thru-hike.
Hmmmm...I might even suggest that these changes are how you decide if a
thru-hike IS successful or not <VBG>!
- Charlie II AT(MeGa'93)
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