One of the most frequent comments I get about preparing for a long distance hike like this is: That must take so much planning!
Yes and no.
My last semester at Ohio State, where I completed my undergraduate degree in geology, I spent many dozens of hours reading absolutely everything re all aspects of a successful thru hike. The internet is host to a plethora of past thru hikers detailing everything from gear reviews to resupply details on countless blogs, forums, and Facebook groups.
Having done a five month hike once before, I really don’t need to do that again. The planning has thus been pretty easy. Many of the people I met on the PCT have done the CDT, and have been an invaluable source of information on such a relatively unfrequented trail.
Plus, I’ve been through all this before. I already know what socks and shoe combo helps me avoid blisters, how often to take a break to avoid injury, the point after which I get sick and tired of pop tarts (4 days), and the like.
That being said, I’ve opted to get some chores done before I hit the trail. Namely prepping mail drops.
There are three main methods of resupply on a long distance trail:
- Buy food in town.
- Make food packages beforehand and have someone mail them to your location on trail.
- Buy food in town, but mail yourself resupply packages to locales with inadequate options or to avoid a difficult hitch.
Option three is my preference. In my opinion, it’s much easier to hitch into town and buy food for the next section from the grocery store. Sometimes that can be a small gas station store a five minute walk off trail, or hitching 15 miles when the trail intersects a road to a supermarket in a town.
Fun fact: Not wanting to walk on an exposed ridgeline during a thunderstorm, I waited out the bad weather while eating ice cream directly from the carton outside such a gas station in northern California. Some woman gave me $5, and a guy from the restaurant next door gave me his leftover fries.
I like having my dollars (after 21 months abroad it still seems so weird to be using USD) go to local businesses, and it also lets me adjust based on my tastes. One complaint I heard frequently on the PCT from those who mailed all their food for the five months was about repetitiveness. They quickly got tired of poptarts, trail mix, etc.
However, sometimes resupplying as you go just isn’t practical. It’s a difficult hitch to get to town, the general store doesn’t have much food, or you just don’t want to go into a larger city (i.e. Ashland in Oregon; after spending 4.5 months on trail, it was a bit of a shock to step off the bus in downtown Vancouver). Making packages along the way and sending them out can be a headache, especially when all I want to do in town is gorge on food and rest. So I’m making up some food drops, which my father has graciously offered to mail to me from Ohio. It’s a lot easier to do this when I have access to a car in Columbus, population 1.4 million, than on foot in some remote Wyoming town.
Here’s my resupply strategy, which will almost certainly change. Italics denote where I’ll be sending a package:
Montana/Idaho (the MT/ID border is the continental divide for a while, so I’ll be in both states)
- Show up at Canadian border with enough food for 29 miles.
- Many Glacier, Glacier National Park – Convenience store. Resupply for 56 miles.
- Two Medicine, Glacier National Park – Convenience store. Resupply for 11 miles.
- East Glacier, Glacier National Park – Small grocery store. Resupply 135 miles.
- Benchmark – Pick up box, 59 miles to next resupply.
- Lincoln – 20 mile hitch from Rogers Pass, resupply 67 miles.
- Helena – 15 mile hitch from MacDonald Pass, resupply 79 miles.
- Anaconda – on trail, resupply 101 miles.
- Darby – 30 mile hitch from Lost Trail Pass on Highway 93, resupply 123 miles.
- Leadore – 14 mile hitch, looks difficult (can call the Leadore Inn for a ride, $20). Pick up box, 56 miles to next resupply.
- Lima – 19 mile hitch, pick up box. 71 miles to next resupply.
- Sawtelle Resort, on trail. 38 miles to next resupply.Wyoming, third state!
- Old Faithful, on trail. 25 miles to next resupply.
- Grant Village – 7 mile hitch, resupply 79 miles to Dubois. – I worked here four summers in college, and am incredibly excited to go back to the mistake on the lake.
Wind River Range – Very remote and one of the scenic highlights of the trail. Can break it up and go off trail to go to Pinedale, or just do the whole thing in one go and carry more food. Carry a week’s worth of food and do an extended trip through here??
- South Pass City, pick up package. 119 miles to next resupply. Get rid of bear spray here? Think it’s the end of grizzlies.
- Rawlins, resupply on trail. ~150 miles to next resupply, can break it up by hitching into Encampment (looks like a hard hitch with poor resupply, probably not worth it).Colorado
- Steamboat Springs – 20 mile hitch, resupply 124 miles to Grand Lake. Looks like lodging is expensive.
- Grand Lake – Hostel and camping here. On trail resupply.
- Breckenridge – A couple hostels here. Buses between all the towns.
- Twin Lakes – On trail,resupply for 84 miles. Looks like lodging is pretty expensive.
- Salida – 21 mile hitch, resupply for 101 miles. Looks like the town has a nice hostel.
- Lake City (or Creede? Farther but looks a similar driving time) – 17 mile hitch, resupply for 118 miles. Hostel and camping.
- South Fork (or Pagosa Springs?) – 20 mile hitch, resupply for 64 miles.New Mexico
- Chama – hitch 12 miles, resupply for 93 miles.
- Ghost Ranch – on trail, mail food package with 54 miles of food.
- Cuba – on trail, resupply 118 miles.
- MUST GET PAST MT. TAYLOR BEFORE WINTER!!!!! Should be good as long as I get through by the first week of October. Then I can take as long as I want to get to Mexico.
- Grants – on trail, resupply 101 miles.
- Pie Town – on trail, mail package here. Supposed to have great pies, but not really anything else. 140 miles to next resupply, but can break it up in Reserve (hard hitch).
- Doc Campbell’s – on trail, mail package here. 154 miles to next resupply.
- Deming – on trail, resupply for 58 miles to Palomas, Mexico.
- Columbus, NM, USA/Puerto Palomas, Chihuahua, Mexico. End of trail! Catch a train to New Orleans.