…A dangerous question to ask a hiker
There’s a reason we were named Team Sherpa, and it’s mainly because of our resupply strategy, but that will be explained in a second. Coming into the hike, we actually planned on not planning a resupply strategy, as we felt confident in ourselves to figure it out as we went, and we’re happy to this day with what we did. First of all, our tastes changed so dramatically over the course of the hike, depending on the temperature, the ease/difficulty of the terrain, the elevation…that we would have done ourselves a great injustice by sending ourselves a box of the exact same thing for the entire trail.
Up until Truckee (Lake Tahoe), we simply resupplied from the stores that were all within a mile of the trail, except for the two times at Cabazon and Agua Dulce when Optimist’s brother Jeff (Rawhide on the AT in ’04) so kindly picked us up and took us to super grocery stores. Early on in the hike, Optimist and I decided that we didn’t want to deal with hitching to towns off the trail, and wanted to be able to walk to all of our resupplies, unless we had a ride from family/friends. This was when we were with Prozac in the first week, and she was quick to declare that it was impossible to resupply that way, that we’d have to go more than a mile off the trail, as the mileage between towns was too much (ie. Kennedy Meadows to Tuolumne). And so it became our challenge to resupply in towns within a mile of the trail from then on.
And so the name Team Sherpa was born, as we inevitably had long food carries because there weren’t all that many towns within a mile of the trail. Many people thought we were crazy for carrying 10 days of food at a time and for skipping so many towns, especially the gauntlet of them within the first 500 miles, such as Warner Springs, Idyllwild, Big Bear, Wrightwood…We found that we were able to get in a much better rhythm by skipping towns, because we weren’t rushing to finish by 5pm to make the post office, and we spent much less money, and we were never lured to take tons of zeros. We also never once paid for lodging on the entire trail.
Honestly, if we’d hit more towns in the beginning, I’m not sure I would have stuck with the trail, as it was hard enough getting back on the trail with the towns we did visit; I can’t imagine tripling the number of times that I felt the exciting yet exhausting town pull to get into town, and then the tiring feeling of getting back on the trail with a full belly and lack of motivation to walk.
Here’s a snapshot of the towns we resupplied in, including the towns we got meals in, such as pizza and/or ice cream; the miles are all by memory, so I may be off by a half mile or so. Our longest carry was from Crater Lake to Cascade Locks, unknowingly, as we just had so many family and friends send us food to the Lodge that all the food carried us past Olallie, where we just got chips and pop, all the way to Cascade Locks. We also had what we called the “Grand Finale”, where we only resupplied once for the entire state of Washington, at Snoqualmie Pass.
Day 3, mile 45, Mt. Laguna
Pizza at Paradise Café (don’t remember the mile marker)
Day 11, mile 210, Cabazon (got a ride with Optimist’s brother)
Day 21, mile 454, Agua Dulce (got a ride to Los Angeles with Optimist’s brother)
Ice cream in Hikertown at mile 518
Day 32, mile 702, Kennedy Meadows
Milkshake and Chips at Reds Meadows at mile 906
Day 42, mile 942, Tuolumne Meadows
Day 49, mile 1094, Echo Lake (in case family wasn’t in Truckee)
Day 52, mile 1155, Truckee (got a ride with family)
Day 61, mile 1377, Old Station
Dinner at Drakesbad and Ice Cream and snacks at Burney Falls State Park
Day 72, mile 1662, Seiad Valley
Pizza and Ice Cream at Hyatt Lake
Day 78, mile 1834, Crater Lake
Dinner and Pop at Olallie Resort
Day 89, mile 2155, Cascade Locks
Day 99, mile 2401, Snoqualmie Pass
Our tastes changed dramatically over the course of the trail, as we started out with the typical hiker fare of Lipton noodles and rice, snickers bars and such, chex mix, chips, peanuts, and genererally crappy, processed food that doesn’t equate quality energy. The food worked out pretty well for the first 700 miles, and I was quite happy to start my days with a King Size Snickers, as there may not be another time in my life that I can do that and still lose weight, but starting in the Sierras we realized that carrying crappy food would not cut it in harder, higher climbs and cooler temperatures.
We left Kennedy Meadows with 10 days of food, an amount that we’d carried already twice before and had been “satisfied” with. I put satisfied in quotes because we could always eat more, and never really got full, but still got enough calories to hike our miles. We realized by Pinchot Pass that we were much hungrier than before, and that our food just wasn’t going to be enough, so we actually bumped up our average miles in the Sierras from 22 to 25 because we wanted to get to Tuolumne faster in order to get more food. Lucky for us there were milkshakes and chips at Reds Meadows, as that helped us get through our last day to Tuolumne. We ended up losing a lot of weight during that section, and in general getting our butts kicked, but we learned that with harder climbing, higher elevations, and cooler temps, that we needed more quality food.
Our resupply strategy changed once we reached Truckee, mile 1155, as we stayed with family and were able to go to a real grocery store. We decided to mail ourselves boxes of food ahead from that point, as we were tired of the small, expensive selections in most of the stores along the way. We went to a natural foods store and large grocery store and loaded up on bulk granola, dehydrated refried beans, angel hair pasta (cooks fast), homemade gorp (use baking chocolate chips instead of m&ms because they are MUCH cheaper), cous cous, hummus (not the best decision and we ended up adding it to hiker boxes), minute rice, dehydrated mashed potatoes, parmesan cheese, and spices. We sent ahead all this bulk food, and then bought snacks and supplements as we went, depending on what our tastes were. The bulk food was great because it also cut down on garbage from packaging, as it was all in Ziplocs, a hiker necessity. I don’t think a hiker can ever have too many Ziplocs.
The one thing in our food strategy that we are forever glad that we did was give our family and friends a list of 6 post offices along the trail that were within a mile’s walk for us, and we suggested that if they wanted to send us anything along the way, such as food, letters…that these were the places they could send them to. The places were Hikertown, Tuolumne Meadows, Old Station, Seiad Valley, Crater Lake and Cascade Locks. The data book has the wrong address for Crater Lake and our food was sent to the Mazama Campground, so I wouldn’t use that one again, but all the other stops were great, and we received no less than 5 boxes of food at each one! It turned out to be a great way to get luxury items from our moms and grandmothers, such as homemade trail mixes, chocolate covered expresso beans from Trader Joes (among tons of other goodies from my beloved TJ’s) and Crystal Light On the Go sticks to spruce up the taste of our water without adding too much pack weight. It was the best support our family and friends gave us along the way, as food was the way to our hearts! All the food may have made our packs a bit heavier, but it was soooo worth the weight.