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Smile
02-03-2006, 11:39
Curious about mail drop schedules for this year's thru hikers.

1) What's your list like, and why did you choose those particular locations?

2) Did you find that the distance to town/P.O. made a difference in your choice, or did your mileage down the trail dictate your choices?

3) What was the one best tool you found for choosing your P.O. drops?

$) Did you choose P.O. over UPS and why?

lobster
02-03-2006, 12:15
You don't necessarily need maildrops.

Nokia
02-03-2006, 12:27
Smile, I just posted my maildrops on my trail journal. I pick towns I know I am going to stay in for my maildrops. In between I buy what I want in stores along the way. This allows me to mix up my menu a little bit. Plus I use the hiker boxes frequently. It really cuts down on food bills. Are you doing just maildrops, or a combo? If just maildrops, every 4 or five days would work. Before you go, let the folks at home know that your maildrop list is JUST AN OUTLINE. I had to really explain this to my sister. Your schedule will change. If you send things priority, they will get there in 2-3 days. This means you could always skip the maildrop list and call home as you go with shipping updates. Lastly, Wingfoot and the companion both list all the p.o.'s along the way. Leave a copy with your people at home. This way they can give info to other friends that might like to send you a cookie. :) Have a great hike. Sorry I'm being so wordy :)

Footslogger
02-03-2006, 12:38
I based my mail drops strictly on whether or not access to food shopping was relatively convenient. That narrowed it down to 3 drops:

Harpers Ferry, WV
Bear Mountain, NY
Glencliff, NH

Other that that I bought as I went. Never had a problem and it cut down tremendously on town stops and Post Office coordination. That said ...I did use a bounce box and on occasion I had to come into a town either to access the box or bounce it further up the trail without openning it. In some places that "bounce without openning" can be done via telephone with the postal clerk. I learned that along the way and it saved me several otherwise unecessary town stops.

'Slogger

Alligator
02-03-2006, 14:04
...In some places that "bounce without openning" can be done via telephone with the postal clerk. I learned that along the way and it saved me several otherwise unecessary town stops.

'Slogger
Is this a "favor" that the PO clerk may do for you? In other words, they will do it but sometimes they won't if they are a stickler for regs? Would you suggest some identifying number, scribble, etc. on the box to make the clerk more comfortable doing this over the phone? Well, now that I am thinking of it, maybe the receipt has a tracking number if you use priority mail?

Footslogger
02-03-2006, 14:14
Is this a "favor" that the PO clerk may do for you? In other words, they will do it but sometimes they won't if they are a stickler for regs? Would you suggest some identifying number, scribble, etc. on the box to make the clerk more comfortable doing this over the phone? Well, now that I am thinking of it, maybe the receipt has a tracking number if you use priority mail?
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The smaller the town the more likely it was to occur. I carried all the Post Office telephone numbers with me and when I knew the only reason I'd be going into a town was to forward/bounce my box ahead on the trail I would just call. Most every time I called the postal clerk was willing to locate my box and agreed to move it up to the town I indicated. I had no tracking number so it was just a matter of trust, I guess, on the postal clerks part. It would probably be a good idea to have some identifying mark on the box so that the clerk could verify that it was really YOU. But ...then again, who else would know WHERE your bounce box had been mailed and the fact that you wanted to over-hike that town ?? Just seemed logical to me and fortunately to the postal clerk too.

Keep in mind that the ONLY way they will even consider bouncing an unopenned box forward like that (with or without you present) will be if it was sent PRIORITY MAIL.

'Slogger

Alligator
02-03-2006, 15:05
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...
But ...then again, who else would know WHERE your bounce box had been mailed and the fact that you wanted to over-hike that town ?? Just seemed logical to me and fortunately to the postal clerk too.

Keep in mind that the ONLY way they will even consider bouncing an unopenned box forward like that (with or without you present) will be if it was sent PRIORITY MAIL.

'Slogger
That makes logical sense to me too, but let's just say here that Earth is not Vulcan;) . Good reminder about priority mail.

Smile
02-03-2006, 15:28
Perhaps I should clarify that I meant bounce box, more than mailing many individual boxes from home ( or having someone else do this). So given that change in the question, how often and where did you 'bouce'?

Thanks, great info so far !

Footslogger
02-03-2006, 15:43
I typically started out with my bounce box about 2 weeks out in front of me. When I got close to needing something out of it I just made a plan to go into the town where it was sitting. Sorry, but I don't remember which towns and how often I bounced it. I did not plan for the box to be in every town I visited so it was somewhat hit/miss based on what I needed at the time and whether or not I could find it in the local store.

Hope that helps ...

'Slogger

Frosty
02-03-2006, 16:22
I used a combo of Baltimore Jack's resupply article, the Companion, prior knowledge, and things I'd read here.

Like 'Slogger, for me maildrops are for when groceries aren't convenient to the trail. Also, like him, my food maildrops are Harpers Ferry and Bear Mountain (though I think I will use Fort Montgomery).

I will avoid the Fontana Dam re-suppy issue by staying at The Hike Inn, with a shuttle to Robbinsville included with room.

I'm sending a gear drop to Pearisburg with my summer gear, but no food in the drop.

I would use Glencliff, but I live in Portsmouth NH and my wife will likely meet me in Hanover, and I will change gear out then for my cold weather stuff. I can easily carry food to get me to Wayne's Market in North Woodstock.

Monson I will play by ear. It is a long haul for my wife to drive, and she will likely be coming to pick me up a week later anyway at Katahdin, so that might be a place for a maildrop.

Frosty
02-03-2006, 16:46
Perhaps I should clarify that I meant bounce box, more than mailing many individual boxes from home ( or having someone else do this). So given that change in the question, how often and where did you 'bouce'?

Thanks, great info so far !Bounce locations:

Fontana Dam (Hike Inn)

Erwin (Miss Janet's)

Damascus

Pearisburg

Waynesboro

From Waynesboro I will mail the Box home. My wife will be picking me up somewhere along I-81 on May 13. We are spending a week near Shennandoah NP, incuding driving down to Trail Days for Friday & Saturday.

I haven't really planned out after that. I will play it by ear as I expect my wife to meet me on the trail when I am in driving distance. I may even go home for a couple days every sooften between No Adams and Gorham to save to motel costs.

I have a trail journal up on trailjournals.com, and I know I wrote an entry with my bounce box contents, but although I have written the entries, it is way behind being updated on line. My wife proofs and corrects my scribblings, and updates when she can. Right now she has committed to putting up at least one every other day. Since I write one every three or four days, it should be caught up soon. Right now I think she is putting in the SoRuck stuff.

hammock engineer
02-03-2006, 16:56
Here is something I am thinking about. I see the need for a bounce box. and the money that it will save you. Instead of a bounce box I am planning on mail drops from home every couple of weeks. I have someone at home that is willing to mail me packages whenever I need them (got to love your mom). This way I can save money and not have to shop in those towns. I will also not have to worry about restocking my bounce box. I am just going to call home and let her know where to send it and what to add to it.

Footslogger
02-03-2006, 17:07
Here is something I am thinking about. I see the need for a bounce box. and the money that it will save you. Instead of a bounce box I am planning on mail drops from home every couple of weeks. I have someone at home that is willing to mail me packages whenever I need them (got to love your mom). This way I can save money and not have to shop in those towns. I will also not have to worry about restocking my bounce box. I am just going to call home and let her know where to send it and what to add to it.
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This might work for you ...but just a word of caution. The further you get from home (or where you mother will be mailing the boxes) the longer lead time you need to have them waiting for you when you get to the pick-up spot. We tried this approach when my wife thru-hiked in 2001. Toward the middle of her hike we had a couple boxes miss the expected arrival date, despite the fact that they were all sent PRIORITY MAIL. Plus ...my wife got tired of eating all the stuff we had bought in advance.

When it came time for my hike in 2003 I decided to pretty much buy as I went, with the exception of the 3 food drops mentioned in my earlier post. I found that the cost of bouncing a box to myself (which didn't contain food items, by the way) and buying food along the trail was actually a less expensive option and gave me more control of the situation from the trail.

Just a thought ...

'Slogger

hammock engineer
02-03-2006, 17:13
Thanks for the word of caution. This may end up being one of those leasons I need to learn for myself. I am going to try to give 2 weeks notice on the maildrop. This should leave enough transit time. If this becomes a problem, I can always go to bounce boxes.

Peaks
02-03-2006, 17:40
OK, there's a couple of different ideas going on this thread.

First, how do you decide where to mail drop? First, I planned where to resupply. I started by finding the obvious places to resupply: For example, in NH, the obvious choices are Hanover and Gorham. But, it's too far to go from Hanover to Gorham without an intermediate resupply. So, Glencliff becomes an obvious resupply place.

Next, using the ALDHA Companion or Wingfoot's Handbook, I look at the choices at each resupply point. Hanover got's the CO-OP. No need for a mail drop here. Gorham has Shaws' just north of town. No need for a mail drop here. Glencliff doesn't have anything close, unless I hitch way off the trail. Good place for a mail drop.

Now, Glencliff to Gorham is still a long ways to go without resupply. So, using one of the books, I look at the intermediate options, and make another decision on where and how to resupply.

Once I had my list of mail drops finalized, I set up a row of boxes in the basement, and filled each with what I needed for each mail drop (so many breakfasts, lunches, dinners, maps, etc.). I addressed all the boxes, but left them open. That way, when I called home, I could either add to the box, or take things out.

I also had a schedule. Instructions were to mail the boxes 2 weeks ahead of my planned arrival date. And, I updated the schedule as I went along.

If I had B Jack's advice at the time, it would have saved me figuring out where to mail drop all on my own.

Bounce boxes: used for items that you want to resupply, but not carry in your backpack. If you expect the PO to forward them, then use priority mail. Otherwise, they will not forward them with out extra charges. For example, how are you going to resupply yourself with maps? They can be in a mail drop, or they can be in a bounce box. The more mail drops you have, the less need for a bounce box. Postage gets expensive. Every time you open the bounce box, it's going to cost $5 to $10 to bounce it up the trail.

Jack Tarlin
02-03-2006, 18:02
Smile:

If you look in the "Articles" section of this website, there's a great deal of information on Re-Supply, where to buy food, good places to send mail, places where food re-supply isn't necessary, etc.

To address your specific questions, your best sources of information are probably the two major thru-hiker guidebooks, The Thru-Hiker's Companion or the Thru-Hiker's Handbook. Both books contain information on towns and town services, as well as information on other places to re-supply while en route. They also contain detailed information on U.S. Post Offices; hours of operation; alternative places to send or pick-up mail, etc.

Either the USPS or UPS is fine, depending on where you're sending stuff. UPS, for example, can ONLY be sent to a "real" address, such as a motel, hostel, business, Outfitter, private home, etc. You can't send UPS parcels to a Post Office.

The principal advantage to sending as much of your mail as possible to NON Post Office addresses is that you won't have to worry about arriving in town when the Post Office is closed: Mail sent to motels, hostels, outfitters, etc. can be retrieved seven days a week.

One main advantage of sending stuff USPS is that parcels sent Priority Mail can be sent on ahead or home if you determine you don't need them (as long as you don't open them!)

Expense-wise, the two services are quite comparable. One other note: Over short distances, the difference between regular parcel post and Priority Mail is often negligible. In these cases, go with Priority Mail. It'll arrive sooner, it'll be easier for Postal staff to locate as it'll be in a special section of the Post Office, and you have the option of sending it elsewhere if you discover you don't need it.

As far as bounce boxes go, it makes sense to send one anywhere you know you'll be taking some extra time off. Many hikers enjoy having access to personal care/grooming stuff or a nice set of town clothes if they're going to be in a place for more than a day or so. Bounce boxes are also usewful for stuff you need every so often but don't want to carry with you every day, such as phone chargers, computer or camera accessories, etc.

Don't make the mistake of sending the bounce box to every single one of your town stops. You'll discover that in many places, you won't really need what's in it, and you'll spend a ton of money on needless postage.

Lastly, Nokia suggestion that you leave the folks at home with a list of all the places you plan to stop for mail is excellent, as it'll help prevent you from missing a letter or parcel being sent to a place you may not visit.