Tuesday, April 02, 2013

7 Days-21 Mail Drops

Loot from one trip to the discount food store
Over the winter I've been squirreling away food.  There's something oddly comforting about having five months of hiker food stashed away--that's nearly a year's worth of food for a nonhiker.  I have more king-sized Milk Way bars in a bin in the attic than I've eaten in my life thanks to a sale at Walmart.  My goals when picking food for a hike are:  a high calorie to weight ratio, variety, and never paying full price for anything.

The itinerary we've made up has me scheduled for 21 mail drops (including what I will have in my pack leaving from Crazy Cook) and 8 places where I will be buying food in town.  When I buy food in town it will be for the shorter carries:  mostly 3 day resupplies which makes sending a box uneconomical.  On the PCT I had 18 drops (counting what I left the monument with) and only bought food once and that was in South Lake Tahoe.  Buying food that one time was such a treat.  I walked out of the store with bags overflowing with food.  I still had a lot of it left when I reached Sierra City five days later and mailed some food and other things ahead and didn't reclaim them until Seiad Valley--a mere 464 miles later.

I dehydrated my dinners again for the CDT.  I'll be eating mostly all the same meals on the CDT that I ate (and loved) on the PCT.  I did add a new sweet potato recipe that I'm looking forward too.  For those meals, I bought all the food I needed on sale.  It was mildly tedious being at the mercy of sale prices.  It seemed like the stores had limited quantities of the foods I needed.  When I had what I needed food wise I used the biggest soup pot we had and filled it up.  I found out it could hold an entire five pound bag of potatoes, two bags of green beans, and four cans of beans.  One pot of food completely filled my five drying trays--but that was the goal, of course.

To organize five months' worth of food I used the same process I used for the PCT.  After grouping the maps into section to correspond to each drop I wrote the name of the town, the number of the box, and how many days of food needed on a scrap paper that I paper-clipped to that section of maps.  I laid the maps out, taking over the bed and a corner of the room, in numerical order.  With shopping bags of food hanging off my arm, starting with breakfast, I divvied out the loot.  17 different bars, five different types of candy bars, three cans of frosting, two bags of dried fruit, a dozen bags of s'mores trail mix, eight packs of sunflower seeds, seven beef summer sausages, five boxes of cheese and crackers...and then some.

Besides buying food for dehydrating at the regular old grocery store I haven't done much shopping at a traditional grocery store.  The prices just aren't as good as you can find elsewhere if you know where to look.  And I do.  Just down the street is a little store called Deals & Steals that's chalked full of supermarket cast-offs.  It's where each one of my protein bars came from--most of them cost 50 cents each and only three different types cost me a dollar.  They had one pound bags of pretzels from Whole Foods buy one get 2 free, so that ended up costing me $1.33 a bag.  They had Mars Bars with a whopping 280 calories per 63 grams marked down to 50 cents.  They had a s'mores trail mix that was so good I returned the next day and bought the remaining 12 packages. I think for awhile they knew me there as that women that buys all the protein bars.  I go there almost every other day just in case they have something new for cheap that I must have for the hike.

My hiker pantry
When I'm not at the discount food store I like to haunt Big Lots and buy their ridiculous cheap Goldfish.  I'm almost sure that 16 bags of Goldfish are not enough. I also did one trip to Costco in search of a few favorites:  Kellogg's Fruit Gummy Snacks, 5 pound bags of chocolate chips, peanuts, and bacon bits.  I was also on the hunt for hot chocolate, but after doing a few laps around the store I finally asked.  Apparently it wasn't hot chocolate season any more.  I'm still trying to get my hands on 100 pouches of hot chocolate.

Sadly hot chocolate is one of a handful of food items I'm still missing.  I only have about half the number of summer sausages and tuna packets that I need. I only have one bag of peach rings and zero orange slices (I probably ate a couple dozed packages of those two candies on the PCT) and I still need some sesame sticks, and pumpkin seeds, and...

So far, I've spent $430.00 on food.  I've kept a rather meticulous record this time.  I didn't keep records for the AT or the PCT so I don't have a comparison available.  My guess is, thanks to the discount food store, I've spent significantly less money on food this time around.

We packed up our first two boxes today:  six days of food to Doc Campbell's and five days of food to Pie Town.  It was a tight squeeze fitting six days' worth of food for two into one USPS Game board flat-rate box.    But it did all fit, and there is still a little room for extras (like hot chocolate and gummy candy).  Both boxes weighed in a 15 pounds.  We'll be taking those to the post office soon.

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