Friday, June 10, 2011

Southbound vs Northbound Part III - Outfitters and Resupply (Food, Fuel, and Gear)

My son, Paul Bunyan, hangs out at one of our resupply points NOBO in '07 - the Post Office at Unionville, NY


Resupply options vary greatly northbound vs southbound. Which is why its better if you have a good plan and a good trail guide to help you out. I used the ALDHA (Appalachian Trail Long Distance Hikers) companion to assist with my resupply points both north and south. AWOL makes a popular guide AT Hiker Guide for both northbund and southbound editions. It contains the data needed for resupply along with small maps of towns to help plan. Most of all it lets you know where to get off to buy food, fuel, gear etc. Its crucial to have a guide like this and to spend some time looking it over, especially in the beginning of a hike, to help you in that first week you are out and getting used to the rigors of daily trail life. Once you become trail-hardened in all aspects AT-wise, resupply will come natural.

I did a combination of buying food and resupplying via maildrops. You can read my blog on what I put into maildrops and places where you might need them (see the related blog listing below). I used about the same amount of hiker mail drops also for my southbound hike, with the exception of a few places. I found it easier to have someone back home do my thinking for me with regards to food, so when I arrived in town I could relax and enjoy my time off rather than spend bunches of time hitching for a ride or at the store trying to figure out food options for five days of trail. But I also liked to have cheese, fresh bread, and other food stuffs fresh from the store. Check out this blog about the hiker food choices I did bring.

So what are the options for resupply both in food, fuel, and gear? 

Southbound

Southbounders need to be more self sufficient as the options for resupply and outfitters are fewer and far between. They are faced with the 100 mile wilderness, but there are options for food and for gear resupply if you need it.

 White House Landing is the choice for many hikers after they leave Abol Bridge (which itself has a small grocery store). WHL caters to hikers with a resupply store, lodging and food. You can also mail home excess gear here. But it is not cheap. After all, its out in the middle of nowhere, across a lake,and requires a water taxi (which they provide). So expect to pay $$ while you are here. Another option if you have gear issues is to hitch a ride out a Gulf Hagas (there is a parking lot there and day hikers are usually in abundance esp on weekends) to the town of Greenville, Maine that has two outfitters (one is pretty good) a motel, and a great restaurant with the best broasted chicken. Hitching back to the trail can be a bit of an issue though, and it also requires a small fee to access the logging roads, payable at the entrance station. But if you are having gear issues, (we had some last year with broken water pumps and in need of Aqua Mira) this is an option unless you can wait until Monson. Shaws in Monson does have a small hiker store also, but call ahead to see what they have in stock (they usually carry fuel canisters, socks, some hydration, etc). They are also equipped to shuttle you to the larger outfitter in Greenville if you need it or you can hitch.

Other good towns to resupply farther along in Maine are Stratton and Rangeley. Caratunk has a post office where you can send yourself a mail drop (as long as it remains open, check your AT guides for updates). Some elect to go to Northern Outdoors for food, etc, but this requires a hitch. There is a small grocery store down the road from the resort, but I found it had little when I was there. So a mail drop is a good option, and the postmistress there was hiker-friendly.
Once you hit Gorham, NH resupply gets easier, and you can pretty much rely on the guidebook for town resupply options. However with rumors of post offices possibly closing like in Glencliff, NH, a mail drop to the Hiker Welcome Hostel  will work to get you to Hanover. There are outfitters at Gorham (limited gear), Pinkham Notch (limited), Lincoln, Hanover, Killington, Rutland, Manchester Center (a good one and a great hostel, Green Mountain House run by Jeff. Be sure to stop here). A small outfitter exists in Kent but with mixed reviews. Your next best place for an outfitter after that is Delaware Water Gap. Then Cabelas at Port Clinton (NOTE - at Port Clinton, PA there is a big Wal mart and a buffet place. Good spot now to resupply). Then Harper's Ferry. And so on. My favorite outfitter is Rockfish Gap Outfitters at Waynesboro, VA. They are well known too for warranty issues. So be sure to stop here and tell them Blissful sent you! From there on outfitters and town stops abound. Check your guides for where they are at. However, as late fall approaches, some services that cater to NOBO hikers are closing up for the season. Like shuttle providers and even small grocery stores (like the one at NOC which closes by early November). So plan accordingly.

Northbound

Mountain Crossings at Neel Gap, GA. The trail goes right through it.

Northbound has it much easier in the resupply route early on. Services such as stores, hostels, shuttle providers, etc cater to the northbound hiker with start dates at Springer Mtn from late Feb through April. Resupply is not an issue if you have a guidebook to know where they are. Just three days after Springer is a full service outfitter Mountain Crossings to help with your gear needs. They also accept mail drops and do have food for sale. After that, there are eager providers to help the needy hiker. Outfitters are modestly spaced out, usually good enough to obtain a fuel canister if you use it among other things. There is an outfitter in Gatlinburg, a great one in Hot Springs, and in Johnson City from Erwin if you get a hitch. Damascus has 2. Daleville has an outfitter right beside a huge Kroger grocery store (best of both worlds). Then Waynesboro's great outfitter and so on northward (see Southbound above). Towns are readily available about every four days.  And lodging options abound. And don't forget either, whether you go north or south, the great delis and hot dog stands of New York, a highlight of my hike as far as culinary lunches.

North or South, you can find what you need with a little planning.

Related Blogs:

What Goes in Maildrops
Maildrop List for the Appalchian Trail
Thru Hiking the Appalachian Trail on a Budget

1 comment:

hugh gale said...

Great post Blissful , thank you, Storm