AT Prep: Mail Drops

AT Prep: Mail Drops

March 3, 2015 Categories Appalachian Trail, Backpacking, Hiking

With two weeks left before I leave for the Appalachian Trail, I finally packed and labelled all of my resupply packages, a.k.a. mail drops. Most of them are five days of supplies, some six, and a few are seven. For anyone who doesn’t know, you can mail yourself a package to any Post Office and they’ll hold it for two to four weeks. Pick up the package whenever you want by presenting a valid ID. You can also forward an unopened package somewhere else. If you want to mail yourself something, just address the package as follows:

Your Name
c/o General Delivery
City, State Zip

* Hold for AT thru-hiker
Expected arrival: ##/##/####

Unlike most people, I will be mailing myself most of my supplies instead of buying as I go. There are a few towns I plan on buying food, mainly because there is a grocery store within a few miles of the trail whereas the Post Office is probably closer to 10 miles away. Here are the towns I have decided to send mail drops to (towns in bold are directly on or within 1 mile of the trail):

  1. Franklin, NC 28734
  2. Fontana Dam, NC 28733
  3. Hot Springs, NC 28743
  4. Erwin, TN 37650
  5. Damascus, VA 24236
  6. Atkins, VA 24311
  7. Pearisburg, VA 24134
  8. Catawba, VA 24070
  9. Montebello, VA 24464
  10. Elkton, VA 22827
  11. Linden, VA 22642
  12. Smithsburg, MD 21783
  13. Duncannon, PA 17020
  14. Port Clinton, PA 19549
  15. Delaware Water Gap, PA 18327
  16. Southfields, NY 10975
  17. Kent, CT 06757
  18. Tyringham, MA 01264
  19. Bennington, VT 05201
  20. Killington, VT 05751
    Cold weather gear will be mailed here, too.
  21. Glencliff, NH 03238
  22. Gorham, NH 03581
  23. Stratton, ME 04982
  24. Monson, ME 04464
    Last town before the 100-mile wilderness.

For the first 100 miles in Vermont, the AT is the same path as the Long Trail, the oldest long distance hiking trail in the US; it is a total of 272 miles long. After finishing the AT, I want to rent a car and drive to where the Long Trail and AT split, near Rutland, VT, then hike the roughly 170 additional miles North to complete the Long Trail at the Canadian border. I’m hoping this only takes a couple weeks and will be doing mail drops to the following towns:

  1. Rutland, VT 05701
  2. Waitsfield, VT 05673
  3. Johnson, VT 05656

The most annoying part of doing so many mail drops is I’ll have to constantly try to predict when I’ll be in a certain town and have the package shipped there a couple weeks in advance. Although I made a rough itinerary for where I hope to be by each day, I don’t expect to follow it at all. I’m sure some days I won’t make my mileage at all, but I’m hoping other days I’ll have extra miles to make up for it.

I’m also confident I’ll skip or miss a package or two, especially if I arrive in a town late on a Saturday after the Post Office is already closed. I’m not going to wait until Monday morning to get a package, I’ll just buy food in town and keep moving.

It’s unfortunate when people feel they have to stick to a set itinerary and schedule. There’s nothing wrong with being prepared, as long as you’re willing to deviate from your plans. Anything can happen.

And who knows, maybe after a couple weeks of hiking I’ll decide this was all one giant, terrible idea. Whhaaaaaat? Walking 2,000 miles up and down mountains for six straight months ISN’T the best idea in the world?

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