Resupplying on the AT in Virginia, the Mid-Atlantic, and Lower New England
There are three main ways that hikers on the AT (or any other long trail) get resupplied with food: The have packages mailed to them which they pick up at a postoffice, hostel, or motel along the trail, they buy food in the towns as they go, or they send maildrops from the trail, to themselves, as they go. Unless you are on a special diet or are prepared to dehydrate your own, homecooked meals, I would recommend buying as you go. However, there are some places where a mail drop makes more sense. I can resupply just about anywhere, but others may want other kinds of food. A resupply point for me is acceptable if it has candy bars, ramen, Liptons, Mac and Cheese, regular cheese, and cookies. A resupply point is unacceptable if I have to carry out microwave burritoes for dinners.
To send yourself a resupply box to a post office, just send it to yourself, care of general delivery. For example, to send a box to the post office in Harper's Ferry, address it as:
c/o General Delivery
Harpers Ferry, WV
Please hold for AT hiker
Estimated Arrival: June 1, 2004
When you get to the post office, you will have to show an ID to get your parcel. Most post offices will hold a General Delivery box for 2 weeks, although some will go much longer than this. If you are sending the box from the trail, or the trail corridor, it makes more sense to send it Parcel Post (or Third Class). Send it out a week before you need it. If you need it sooner, or live far from the trail, mail it Priority Mail and give yourself at least three days to run it down. I would not, unless absolutely necessary, send boxes to businesses, even if they have a history of handing them in the past. They have a lot to do without looking after your stuff.
I prefer to buy food as I go. The advantages are numerous: It is cheaper to do so than to send a box from home (unless you cook and dehydrate). You have more flexibility: You can speed up or slow down with out having to notify someone at home to change the mailing schedule, you can eat what you feel like eating, you can increase your calories consumption greatly or reduce it if necessary. If you have to get off the trail early, you will not be stuck with a five month store of oatmeal and energy bars. You can carry fresh food out from the trail. And, don't forget that if someone is going to mail things to you, you need to find someone reliable to do so. This isn't as easy as it sounds, and it takes up a lot of time for the resupply person. And, you have to buy all the food in advance and make up all the resupply boxes. This is a lot more work compared to, say, just showing up at Springer and hiking. However, there are some towns without good resupply options (good is a relative term here). In this case, simply send yourself a box of food from the previous town, or maybe the one before that.
The rest of this document lists the towns in which I resupplied, along with a few notes on them. I have not bothered to list the towns in between that I didn't stop at. The ALDHA Companion, Wingfoot's Handbook, and numerous internet sources (see Whiteblaze.net for lots of advice, including Baltimore Jack's resupply article) can help here. Also, I am not listing days between towns. Hiking time is a personal thing and I move faster than most people on the AT.
However, I am listing mileage, as this is more objective.
Damascus 75 miles to Atkins/I-81. Damascus is a nice town with a hostel (The Place). Abundant dining options, but the in-town grocery store has closed. A mile or two outside of town (should be an easy hitch) is a shiny new mega grocery store. Buy your food here. The Side Track cafe has good eats, but I prefer Dot's, in the other direction.
Atkins/I-81 87 miles to Pearisburg. This is a microscopic interchange area, but there is a post office close by, a Dairy Queen, another restaurant, a motel, and a gas station with a mini mart. I found the mini mart to be an easy resupply point, having all the basics, but other hikers hitched into nearby towns where larger grocery stores were located. Sure, the prices are higher than you should pay, but coughing up 50 cents for Ramen instead of 8 cents still isn't too much. If you are hitching back to Trail Dayz, this is a good place to do it from, as I-81 runs straight down to Abingdon, which is close to Damascus.
Pearisburg 94 miles to Troutville. When you get to the road crossing for Pearisburg, there is a motel over to the left, but the bulk of town is to the right, about a mile up hill. Hitching it easy here if you don't want to walk it. Plenty of restaurants and a big grocery store. I'd recommend eating at the All Sports Cafe and staying at the Holiday Motor Lodge, which is cheap and gives a discount to hikers. The post office is further down the main road, with the laundromat a bit further and to the left. There is a hostel a couple of miles outside of town, but I didn't stay there.
Troutville 132 miles to Waynesboro. This is the furthest part of the big interchange. There are better resupply and eating options at the first crossing. From the second, head left to walk into Troutville, which has a postoffice. Just past the post office is a store where resupply is moderately easy. No restaurants here. If you don't want to hitch, consider walking the railroad tracks, as the shoulder of the road is very small. The AT crosses the tracks and it is obvious where it does so.
Waynesboro 53 miles to Lewis Mountain Campground. The AT dumps you out at Rockfish Gap and you have to hitch in to Waynesboro, which is very spread out. I stayed with friends while I was there, but there are several moderately priced motels in town and there is a field by the YMCA that allows hikers to camp for free. If you can, hitch to the Super Walmart to resupply, or use any of the other multiple grocery stores in the area. There is a quality outfitters as well, but it is also well outside of town. There are several people in the area that help hikers get around town. The postoffice is also a little ways away from the camping area. Lastly, try to eat a meal at Weazies, which has an AYCE pancake breakfast for not too much cash.
Lewis Mountain Campground 108 miles to Harpers Ferry. There are several stores in the various front country campgrounds in Shenandoah National Park. I found Lewis Mountain to have enough of the basics to get me to Harpers Ferry in style. Prices, of course, are higher than what you'd pay in a town, but I didn't want to have to deal with hitching into Front Royal or walking into Luray, both at the north end of the park. There are several other campstores in the park, so there isn't much of a reason to carry much food in with you.
Harpers Ferry 99 miles to Boiling Springs. Harpers Ferry can be a bit of a challenge for resupply, but can be done. From the ATC offices, you can walk or hitch away from the tourist stuff to get to a nice place to eat and have a few beers. It seems to be called the Pub. Since they have gambling in there, the door is locked, but you press a buzzer and they then let you in. Next to the Pub is a 7-11, where you can partially resupply. Hitch or walk back to the tourist area after your meal and visit the Outfitters at Harpers Ferry, run by a very friendly and helpful woman named Laura. She has some more stuff you can add to your food sack. Finally, a mile after leaving town and entering Maryland, there is a side trail across the tracks to a hostel. The hostel is well stocked with the basics, and makes for a nice place to stay for the night (internet, showers, AYCE breakfast, nice people, etc). Of course, you could just send yourself a resupply box from Waynseboro. However, many hikers (myself included) seem to be coming into town on or around Memorial Day weekend, which means you might have to do some racing, or a lot of sitting around.
Boiling Springs 26 miles to Duncannon. There is a well stocked gas station in town, or walk a bit futher outside of town to find a grocery store (I was told this, I never actually saw it). Eat a big meal at Anile's and then take some snacks with you to get to Duncannon, which isn't far down the trail. I found enough good stuff at the gas station in town to send out a maildrop to Port Clinton, which is really barren of supplies. If you send it Priority, you can probably send a parcel from Duncannon. If you want to resupply from a big store and have more time to get it, you'll have to send out your maildrop from Front Royal or Waynesboro.
Duncannon 70 miles to Port Clinton. There is a large supermarket in Duncannon, but it is a little bit outside of town and isn't really convenient to walk to. Instead, spend a night at the Doyle, which has a lot of character and is run by good people. The food is excellent and the beer is cheap. They had laundry and internet on the premises and a room will run you about $17 per night for yourself. I can't recommend the place enough. When I was there, the owners would call the supermarket and have them send down a shuttle to pick up hikers. The post office is on the way out of town on the AT. Note that it is quite a walk through town before you reach the woods again, so if you have to go to the bathroom, make sure you do it before starting the walk.
Port Clinton 76 miles to Delaware Water Gap. There isn't much in Port Clinton in way of supplies, although there is an outfitter and a post office. Send yourself a maildrop from Duncannon or Boiling Springs. If you walk up to the main road past town and make a left, you'll come to what the locals called, The Hotel. Inside is a restaurant with the biggest cheeseburgers you can imagine. I highly recommend it as a place to grub..
Delaware Water Gap 51 miles to Unionville. Delaware Water Gap doesn't have a market of any sorts, but I was able to resupply at the two gas stations in town. There is an outfitters here and they have denatured alcohol by the ounce. In the summer of 2004 they were letting thruhikers camp behind the store (MAKE SURE TO ASK FIRST) as the hostel in town was closed for renovations. I sprung for a night at the Ramada and don't regret doing so. Incidently, the best food I've had on the AT was at the Trails End Cafe, which is the first eats place you come to after coming off the trail. If you don't find enough in town to resupply with, simply hitch the 5 miles into Stroudsburg.
Unionville 103 miles to NY22. Unionville has a good market for resupplying and saves you a hitch into Vernon or Glenwood. There is a PO here and in the summer of 2004 you could camp in the city park (ask someone first). The market takes cash only, but they have an ATM machine so this isn't much of an issue. It is less than a mile down Lott Road to town from the AT.
NY 22 18 miles to Kent. About a half mile to the right down NY 22 is a small development that has a pizza place (leave your pack outside) and a deli. I found the deli to have more than enough supplies to get me to Kent, which isn't far down the road, especially as I ate a large pizza at the pizza place before leaving.
Kent 63 miles to Great Barrington. There is a large supermarket near the postoffice on the far side of town. Although a fancier town than I like, Kent has everything you could need, including an outfitters.
Great Barrington 40 miles to Dalton. Hitch to the left from the highway. It took me 10 minutes and I was plenty filthy. I stayed at the Monument Mountain Motel, which is on the far side of town and quite a ways from the fancy downtown area. Unfortunately, the only laundromat in town is in the main area, which is about a mile and a quarter from the motel. However, the motel is close to a big supermarket and a liquor store.
Dalton 24 miles to Williamstown. While I'm sure Dalton has better resupply options, I was interested only in getting to the library to use the internet and to eat some food. However, I did take time to resupply out of a gas station in town and they had plenty of stuff to get me to Williamstown. There are some people in town who take in hikers, and they could certainly point you to better resupply options.
Williamstown 59 miles to Manchester Center. I didn't actually go into Williamstown. After coming down from Greylock, make a right on MA 2 and walk for less than a mile to a strip mall that holds a truly unspeakable Chinese place and a large supermarket. I have been told that there is another supermarket if you make a left turn instead.
Manchester Center. The hitch from the AT (to the left) is very easy and Manchester has everything you could possibly want: Several outfitters, a very good bookstore, plenty of restaurants, a supermarket, a Greyhound station, and lots of friendly people. I stayed with a family one night and at Sutton's Place the next as I wanted some quiet time before getting on a bus the next day. The pizza place next to the supermarket has the best pizza that I had the entire summer.