Paul Bunyan resting in front of the Unionville Post Office after receiving our mail drop.
While many long distance hikers choose to buy along the way, Paul Bunyan and I did a combination of mail drops and buying (like cheese, bread, chips) which fit our needs well. At times my husband, Skipper, delivered our boxes to us. We chose a combination to help supply nutrition and to mail necessities (such as my medicines, etc).
Note on mailing Mail Drops - be sure to send them Priority Mail with delivery confirmation. Do not send surface. We had two boxes in Maine get lost or arrive without any contents after they were sent via surface. Most POs will hold boxes for a long time, so don't worry if you are running behind. If you are way behind or must leave the trail for a time, you can call them to let them know. Also, drops sent Priority can be forwarded ahead if you find you don't need them. Some hostel owners will do this for you too, but best to call them if you need your box forwarded to see if they will mail it for you.
Also, if you are using fuel canisters, they can be sent in the regular mail. BUT they must go surface mail and with a sticker on the box that has a symbol for "no airplanes" - available at your Post Office. Don't let your PO or others tell you they can't be mailed. They can. We did it several times.
This was our schedule in 2007:
Neels Gap - Skipper brought but you can send drop to the outfitter
Unicoi / Hiawasee- Skipper brought but have good grocery store
Dicks Creek- we dropped at Cloud Nine Hostel
Franklin- you can maildrop at the PO or shop. Ron shuttles to both
NOC - Mail drop to outfitter
Fontana Dam - we went to the Hike Inn which shuttles to Robbinsville. We also dropped at the Inn.
Standing Bear Farm - mail drop
Hot Springs - mail drop and a Family Dollar there; outfitter
Erwin - Skipper brought, Supercenter there for resupply but out of the way
US 19E - mail drop to the hostel - Mtn Harbour B&B
Kincora - mail drop, but they shuttle to town for shopping
Damascus, VA - mail drop to PO but you can buy there; two outfitters
Atkins - we paid $5 to drop at the Relax Inn
Bland - Skipper supplied, but services are there
Pearisburg - we dropped at a friend's, but services there
Daleville- great grocery and outfitter, don't plan a drop here
We then went home (we live in the area), slacked, did sections on weekends, etc. But some options for drops in this part of VA include:
Glasgow- requires hitch
Buena Vista - long hitch
Dutch Haus B& B - check on on drops or might be able to drop at Montebello
Waynesboro - full service town, but spread out, excellent outfitter
Shenandoah NP- you can resupply at the waysides (Loft Mtn, Big Meadows, Elkwallow), but can be pricey
Front Royal - full service town, but spread out and requires hitch
Bears Den - check on mailing a drop there
Harpers' Ferry - you can drop at the ATC office; outfitter here
(the rest below are what we used)
Pine Grove Furnace SP, PA - maildrop to Ironmasters
Duncannon - maildrop to PO, they also make a grocery run
Port Clinton - mail drop to PO; Cabelas with fair selection (can get fuel)
Palmerton - great place for supplies or mail drop if needed
DWG- Maildrop at PO; outfitter
Unionville - mail drop to PO
In NY we got supplies from Skipper. Convenience stores in this area are expensive for resupply.
Kent, CT - Mail drop to PO; poor outfitter
Salisbury - Mail drop to PO, have grocery store
Cheshire, MA - mail drop at PO
MA 2 - good supermarkets here
Manchester Center, VT - mail drop to PO or you can buy; two outfitters
US 4 - Mail drop at The Inn at Long Trail.
Hanover, NH - mail drop to PO and buy at Food co-op (a little pricey); outfitter
Glencliff - mail drop to PO including your cold weather gear, limited food at hostel
Franconia Notch - if you stay at Chet's you can buy in Lincoln; outfitter
Crawford Notch - mail drop to campground
Pinkham Notch - mail drop to AMC office; outfitter (small)
Gorham - mail drop to PO or buy (Wal Mart supercenter here with town shuttle); outfitter
Andover, ME - we sent our box to The Cabin but they are closing.
Stratton - maildrop to PO or buy at grocery store
Caratunk - this one is tricky. Might see if the Northern Outdoors resort will take a mail drop since the Ferryman is closed and he had a store.
Monson - mail drop to PO (store limited for the 100 mile wilderness, IMO)
Abol Bridge - store there