Getting Supplies on the PCT
On this page, I hope to answer some common questions about how I got food and
other supplies during the summer.
Please email me at
firstname.lastname@example.org if you
want to know more.
The Basics In the fewest possible words, I bought food as I went, stopping
in various towns along the way. There were a few places where I knew that I
couldn't get food and so I sent myself a box, through the postal service, that
had the supplies I needed. For items that I would use frequently, but not be
able to get on the trail, I used a bounce box. The following sections
flesh out this very brief description.
Using the Postal Service Hikers will get to know the USPS very well
during their hike. You can send yourself a package to any post office in
America using the General Delivery address. You address you package as
c/o General Delivery
Town, State, Zip
Please Hold for Hiker. ETA: Your expected date
Any PO along a major trail will recognize this and set your
package aside for you. When you show up, you flash an ID and get your
package. For POs away from a major trail, say if you
were going to hike the Pacific Northwest trail, you would probably
want to call the Postmaster to make sure they will accept the package.
Most POs will hold General Delivery packages for at least 2 weeks,
usually more. Don't send them a package 2 months in advance. Besides
being rude, it will probably be returned before then.
If you are sending your package from far away (like Indiana to
California), the cost difference between Priority Mail and
Parcel Post is minimal (usually a few cents), so send Priority.
If you are sending to and from the same state, Parcel Post will be
a lot cheaper and the delivery time difference is usually
The Bounce Box A bounce, or drift, box is simply a package
that you mail to yourself repeatedly. That is, you keep
bouncing it to yourself. For example, I sent my
bounce box to: Warner Springs, Big Bear City, Mojave, Tuolumne
Meadows, Sierra City, Dunsmuir, Ashland, Cascade Locks, and
Skykomish. What you put into your bounce box is up to you.
I put all my guidebook and data book sections in it, batteries for
my camera and LED lights, film, toilet paper, vitamins, ibuprofen,
extra tarp stakes, toothpaste, gelled alcohol, etc. If I would have
thought of it, I would have put a bunch of mailing labels in as well.
anything that you think you may need to restock along the
way and don't think you can easily get. I generally mailed by
bounce box 10 days in front of.
What to use for a bounce box is very simple, but few people use it: A 5 gallon,
plastic paint bucket. Why?
- They are very tough. You won't have a shredded box to pamper after the third
- You don't need any tape to seal them up. The lids snap shut and stay on
- They have a wire handle, which make them easy to carry through town.
- You can sit on them outside of the PO.
- They are very waterproof.
- They protect their contents.
- They are very big. You can put a lot of stuff in them.
Most people use cardboard boxes, which have zero durability and frequently
die during shipping, causing lost or broken contents. Plus, you have the hassle of
taping up and repairing the box after the third shipment. When you box
ends up at the bottom of a stack, you have crushed stuff. A five gallon
paint bucket with lid will set you back about $3.50 at any hardware
Buying as you go There are several articles on the web which detail
why this is a good idea; take a look for them. Buying as you go allows you
maximum flexibility. You do not have to prepackage food boxes before you
leave town. This can be a monumental undertaking for some and not something
that is very much fun when you are also trying to put your life in order
before leaving for the trail for several months. You do not need to have
someone at home mailing them out. Since it is hard to know your pace before hand,
you'll have to be in contact with your at-home-person to adjust mailing times.
You are not constrained to certain places
and certain times. If you hear about some other great place, you can go there
instead. If you are moving faster than expected, you do not have to ditch
the extra food in your mail drops. If you are moving slower than expected,
you'll have to buy more food in the towns. Moreover, the chances of you knowing
what you will want to eat when you reach Sierra City are pretty minimal. Maybe you
want some oatmeal, maybe you don't. Maybe you are really hankering for some
Potatoes and Stuffing. Snickers Bars rather than Power Bars. By buying as
you go, you allow yourself some measure of choice. By sending mail drops you
are trying to make all of your choices at the same instant. It just isn't
a good idea. Hiking is about freedom. Why
Many people use mail drops so that their food source is locked in. They
have visions of showing up to a town to buy food and finding only a
loaf of white break and jar of jam. This just doesn't happen. Towns
generally don't run out of food. Even if a town gets cleared out of food
by hikers in front of you, there are always hiker boxes and you can usually
hitch to the next town with relative ease.
Some people believe that it
will be cheaper to use mail drops, since they can buy food in bulk beforehand
at a cheaper price. This might make sense if the postal system were free.
Unfortunately it is not. I mailed myself one package of food for 3 days
from Indiana to California. It cost $22 in postage. You'll have to come up
with a lot of free food to make mail drops cost effective.
The only good reasons for using mail drops as your primary resupply method is
if you have a restrictive diet or are dedicated to making and drying your
own food. By restrictive, I do not mean vegetarian. It is pretty easy to
stay vegetarian and buy as you go. I mean something like you are following a
macrobiotic diet. Or, a diet without any preservatives. Or, a diet that
excludes hydrogenated oils. If you make and dry all your own food, it will
still be more expensive than buying as you go, but you will get a lot of
high quality food, which is worth paying for. Of course, drying 100 or
more dinners, let alone breakfasts and lunches takes awhile to do. I
dried up about 20 dinners and sent a few to various points along the
start of the trail through my bounce box.
The mileage in what follows is taken from Craig's PCT planner, which
probably is taken from the Data Book. Remember that times change, stores
go out of business, new stores open up, etc. I was in the back of the
main hiking pack up to Kennedy Meadows, just in front up to Belden, and then
way out in front to the border, with only two hikers in front of me.
Places which had tons of food when I was there might be empty if a bunch of
hikers have gotten to it before you. There are other resupply points; these
are just the ones that I happened to use. South of the Sierra I was moving
a little faster than an average hiker. Past the Sierra, I was moving quite a
bit faster: 30-35 miles a day, with some days in the upper 30s. This
meant that a 100 mile resupply run was relatively easy: 3 days and
possibly a morning. To each town I assign two letter grades. The
first is based on my own opinion of how good a place it is to
resupply. The second utilizes Will Tarantino and my rubric for
grading resupply points: The quality of a resupply point is
based on the quantity and selection of Mrs. Fields cookies.
- Mount Laguna. 43 miles from the Mexican border. There is a
small store here that does not take credit cards or checks. You have to have
cash. It is expensive, but it is also pretty remote. Selection isn't
good, but you can get by just fine. From where the trail crosses
a road after Desert View, you walk back down a road to the store.
Or, when you get to a semi-obvious campground spur, you can walk through
the campground to the road and the store. There is a PO, a motel, and a
cafe here, but I didn't use them. Grades:: C, F (no cookies!).
- Warner Springs. 68 miles from Mount Laguna. This is the first
town you hit, and it is a mile down a paved road. Warner Spring is
pretty small and consists mostly of a golf resort, which has tasty food.
You can stay at the resort for about $50, but I didn't. There is
a PO where I got my first bounce box and a resupply package. There is
a gas station in town with snacky foods. The woman I was hiking with at the
time resupplied out it entirely without too much difficulty. The gas
station has ISOHeet, but not regular HEET. Grades: D, F (no
- Idyllwild. 70 miles from Warner Springs.
This is the first real town you hit, and it is a
real gem. One of my favorites on the trail. Everything you
could want is here, including an outfitters if you need more gear or
cannister fuel or white gas. HEET at the grocery store or hardware
The Taquitz Motel is the place to stay. A room for two was $40, which
included a nice kitchen. Incredible hiker box (with HEET) and a free ride back to
the trail head in the morning. The San Jacinto state park is right next
to it, where camping costs $2. You can get to Idyllwild in two ways:
Hitch from the Pines-to-Palms highway (about 30 miles before the
Devils Slide) or hike off the trail on the Devils Slide trail (2 miles) to
a trail head, where you have to road walk or hitch 2.5 miles into town.
Each has advantages and disadvantages. The Devils Slide trail
drops about 1200 feet to the road. I took this trail and
then walked part of the road before getting a hitch in. The next day,
I had to climb up the Devils Slide to get back to the trail. The Devils
Slide trail is really rather scenic and a pleasant walk. If you hitch in,
you avoid some walking. However, you then have to carry a fully loaded
pack over the San Jacintos. In my opinion, the leg from the Pines-to-Palms
highway to the Devils Slide is one of the hardest sections on the
entire PCT. Grades: A,C.
- Big Bear City 96 miles from Idyllwild. Everything you could want
is here. The fire station in Big Bear City was not hosting hikers this year
due the massive numbers from previous years (not from poor behavior).
The fire station maintains a register and has water information. There
was a hostel open when I got there, but I didn't go to it. I got
very negative reports from people who got there after the first week it
was open, and very positive ones from the first three people there.
I stayed at the Motel 6. There is a liquor store, ice cream shop, and
incredible BBQ place right across the street. Thelma's, the de-rigeur
breakfast place, is about a mile walk into town. From Thelma's,
it is then another couple of blocks to the PO and a decent grocery store.
I didn't spot any HEET at the grocery store, but the Fire Station had plenty
for hikers to use. There is a bus system that runs around town and to
Big Bear Lake City, where there are mega grocery stores, movie
theaters, and outfitters. The bus stops running early (like 6), so if
you watch an evening movie, you'll have to call a cab ($11 back to the
Motel 6): Hitching did not work at all.
As with Idyllwild, you have two choices of how to get here. You can hitch from
a highway about 10-12 miles before Big Bear City, or walk in to where
the trail strikes Van Dusen Canyon Road (the way I took). This is a
a rocky, rutted road with little traffic. It is about a mile down to pavement,
where I (and the three others I was with) hitched to the Motel 6.
- Cajon Pass. This where the trail crosses I-15 and I don't have an
exact mileage count from Big Bear City. There is a McDonalds and a gas station
with a large store inside it. I was easily able to resupply from the
gas station and thus avoid having to go into Wrightwood (several days
ahead) to resupply. I didn't look for HEET, but being a gas station they
probably have it. Grades: C,A.
- Agua Dulce. This is 179 miles from Big Bear City, but Cajon Pass
sits about half way through it, so the resupply isn't bad at all. Agua
Dulce has a couple of restaurants and a convenience store where the
truly stupid would resupply. Instead, head to the Saufley's Hiker
Heaven. You won't believe it till you get there. Use one of their
cars (yes, there are two vehicles for hikers to use) to go into
one of the many other towns in the area and resupply at the megastores there.
Send a mail drop to Kennedy Meadows while you are at it. Make sure to
stock up on fuel because I found none in Mojave. Grades:A,B.
- Mojave. This was 108 miles from Agua Dulce for me. You have two
choices to get to Mojave: Hitch from Tehachapi-Willow Springs road at the
100 mile mark, or walk 8 more miles to Highway 58. The first road would
definitely be an easier hitch than HWY 58. But, there is a long waterless
stretch coming out of HWY 58 and none between Tehachapi-Willow Springs road. So,
if you hitch in from here, you'll add 8 dry miles on to the waterless stretch.
On the other hand, HWY 58 is a very hard hitch. There is no traffic on
the on-ramp where the trail ends and the cars are all blazing along at
75 miles per hour. If you are a woman, you might be able to get a hitch,
although you might want to have others with you if you take a ride from a
person who would only stop for the ladies. All is not lost, however. I
arrived in the around 9 and by 10 the people from White's Motel (in Mojave)
showed up to pick up some hikers. I got a ride in from them and stayed at
their establishment for about $45. They don't seem to mind if a reasonable
number of people split a room. They have a pool(!),as well and the PO
is a three block walk. There was a
cheaper place in town (about $28) but it was quite full with transients.
The Motel 6 is a couple of bucks cheaper. Mojave is a bit spread out,
but has everything you could want, except for HEET or denatured alcohol.
Big stores, internet access, etc. The guidebook makes Mojave out to be a
terrible place, but I found it really rather nice.
- Kennedy Meadows. 134 miles from Mojave. You could break this
up by hitching into Onyx at Walker Pass, but I wouldn't. Kennedy Meadows
consists of a small store with showers and laundry. Rides can usually
be arranged to a couple of restaurants close by. You could resupply
out of the store, but it would be a bit tough since you are going
to need a lot of food to make it to Vermillion Valley. They have HEET
and cheese and, I believe, white gas. You'll want to mail an ice
axe to yourself here, so you may as well send food also. A maildrop
from Agua Dulce would be perfect. It costs $2, I believe, to pick up
each package. Grades:C,F.
- Vermillion Valley Resort. This is up there with Agua Dulce on
the heavenly scale and is 175 miles from Kennedy Meadows through
some hard terrain. You will definitely want a little downtime here.
To get to VVR, you need to hike about 1/2 mile off the PCT to
a landing at Lake Edison. You can either walk (don't do it, you
won't like it) about 6 miles to the resort or catch the
boat, which stops by at 9:30 am and, I think, 4:30 pm. The
boat costs $8 each was or $15 round trip. VVR has lots of supplies and
they are not much more expensive than what you would find in town.
Most (all?) hikers send themselves mail drops here, though. It costs
$10 to pickup a package and my food drop from Agua Dulce cost $7 in
postage. It would be a lot cheaper to resupply here than to send a
mail drop. Denatured alcohol, cannisters, and white gas. Chef
Roy makes some incredible food. Some people grouse about how much
it costs, but I think the prices are fairly reasonable considering
the location. The first night is free. Your first drink it free.
Food in the cafe is a little more expensive than a normal town.
Showers are something like $4, as is laundry (though, you can split
this with others). Satellite phone and internet are pretty pricey.
- Tuolumne Meadows 65 miles from VVR, Tuolumne Meadows is in the
highlands of Yosemite National Park. There is a nicely set up store and PO here and
you can easily buy all the food you need here. I don't know what sort of fuel they
have, since I had plenty coming from VVR. There is a cafe next to the store with odd
hours but pretty tasty food. The store is about a half mile
from the trail. There is a free shuttle bus that will run you between the store and
the Tuolumne Lodge. The Lodge is a place where you can get overpriced, inadequate
meals. The only saving grace is that at dinner you get all the salad and rolls
you can eat. I ate two breakfasts, which cost around $20 total, and was not even
close to full. I would estimate that 4-6 breakfasts would have been okay. Rooms at
the lodge are about $60 and consist of a tent with a bunk and a wood stove. I
slept in the woods for two nights and was happy. You can take a luke-warm shower at the
Lodge for $3, if I recall correctly. No laundry that I could find. I loved
the Tuolumne store and PO, but hated the Lodge. There were rumors of an incredible
Mexican restaurant in a Chevron down in Lee Vining, but I never got around to
hitching there. Note that in between VVR and Tuolumne is Reds Meadow, where you
can get some tasty food and pay alot for supplies. You can also catch a shuttle
bus into Mammoth Lakes, which is a big, full service town.
- South Lake Tahoe 150 miles from Tuolumne Meadows and a 15 mile hitch
from HWY 50. You could continue on to Echo Lake resort and pick up a mail drop (or
resupply there), but South Lake Tahoe is one of the best stops on the entire
trail. It took about 20 minutes to hitch (I was with a young lady) part way
down (our ride was only going to a store), and then another 5 minutes to
get the rest of the way. A local fisherman picked us up and drove us
all around town, giving us the grand tour. I stayed at the South Shore
Inn, which is on Pioneer street. It is next to a 7-11, a block from a
mega grocery store, and about 4 blocks from the Nevada state line and the
casinos, with their immaculate buffets. The owners of the South Shore
Inn gave us a break on the motel room: Weekday rate ($65) for a weekend
stay (normally twice that). The Saturday night buffet at Caesars consisted
of some of the best food I've had. It would be painful to recount all of
it here. Rest assured, I ate a lot more than the $22 I paid for the buffet.
There is a 2 hour time limit, although my friend Will stayed for 3 hours before being
kicked out. It may have had something to do with the fact that he went straight
from the trail to the buffet without changing clothes or washing or anything.
There are several POs in town, but you would be a moron to send a mail drop here.
- Sierra City. 102 miles from South Lake Tahoe and 1.5 miles down a
road from the trail is Sierra City. A very small town, but there is a
grocery store large enough for resupply, a friendly PO, a cafe, and
down the road a motel/resort. The food at the cafe was good, but not
voluminous enough. The store was a bit pricey, but Sierra City is a long
way from anywhere and they had what I needed. I packed up and sent a
mail drop to Burney Falls State Park from here. I don't recall if they
had HEET or not as I had a full load coming out of South Lake Tahoe.
The resort down the road consisted of nice cabins. We got four people into
one without any problems. I think the cost was something like $60.
- Belden Town. Okay, first things first: Belden really sucks. This place
isn't a town and is the only place I visited this summer that I felt
out of place. Not unwelcome, but rather I had a feeling that I should push
on as soon as possible. There is a small store that 3 hikers with me
managed to resupply at. The store was supposed to close at 5 pm, but the
guy running it tried to close at 4, despite a group of 6 hikers sitting
out front. He definitely didn't want to be there and it showed in his
mannerisms. The cafe closed at 3 pm, not to reopen. The bar was open, and I got
a bottle of Sierra Nevada for $2.50, which I thought was quite a bargain.
The owner of the place got into some sort of argument with another
person, screamed some racial obscenities, and proceeded to put his
cigarette out on the guy's bald head. A minor scuffle ensued and the police
eventually showed up. There are showers here for $2.00, but I was at the end of
the line and had mostly cold water. That was okay with me, since it was in the
upper 90s. I left around 6 pm to start the long climb out. I understand that
a bear showed up in town that night.
Pat (of Walt and Pat: Happy Trails fame) was
driving support for Walt and I gave her some money and a list of
stuff to get for me. So, I had a box of food waiting for me at Belden and
didn't have to resupply there. If I were to hike this stretch over again,
I would carry an extra day and a half of food out of Sierra City and
skip Belden competely, resupplying instead at Chester, which is a sweet town.
I don't know about
HEET, as I still had plenty of fuel from South Lake Tahoe.
- Chester. Chester is at exactly the half way point on the trail and
is 47 miles from Belden. Unfortunately, it is also a 8 mile or so hitch into
town from where the trail crosses HWY 36. This is a fairly busy highway,
though. I struck up a conversation with some people waiting for their
friends (who, it turned out, were two thruhikers) and got a ride in and out
from them. Chester has megastores and a nice PO, along with an incredible
breakfast place: The Kopper Kettle. The quality of the food was very high,
and the portions were immense. Will and I both had some difficulty putting
away our standard omelet special and shortstack breakfast. I didn't resupply
here since I was hauling food from Belden. Not the smartest of moves on
my part. I don't know about
HEET, as I still had plenty of fuel from South Lake Tahoe.
Grades:I didn't make it in to any of the stores in town.
- Old Station. Old Station is 42 miles from Chester and is almost
on trail. Old Station consist of a PO (with early closing hours), a
cafe (the Coyote Grill), and a gas station/mini mart. Resupplying here is a
snap. The Coyote Grill just opened when I got there and the food was
very good. Watermelon gazpacho? In the middle of nowhere California?
The chef, as it turns out, used to cook at Sardis, a famous New York
restaurant. Try the Coyote Ugly for dessert: Apple bread pudding with a
bourbon sauce and vanilla ice cream. There is a sort of motel here, but
it wasn't clear what it was when I was there. I don't know about
HEET, as I still had plenty of fuel from South Lake Tahoe.
- Burney Falls State Park. The State Park is the first thing you
hit after dealing with the Hat Creek Rim traverse on the PCT, 46 miles from
Old Station. This is the most overpriced resupply point that I visited
on the trail. Snickers bars are $1, for example. I sent myself a package from
Sierra City ($3 to pick up) and was happy with that. Will and Sharon bought out
of the store, which was amply supplied with costly food. The cafe was
very expensive. I think a coffee was $2. I would either send a mail drop or
hitch into the town of Burney. The hitch looked easy and is just before the
park. I don't know about
HEET, as I still had plenty of fuel from South Lake Tahoe.
- Castella/Dunsmuir. 89 miles from Burney Falls State Park is
I-5. From I-5 you have a choice of where to go. There is an on ramp
(with little traffic) heading north to Dunsmuir, which is a full service
town about 4 miles up the interstate. You can't walk there without
bushwhacking through people's homes or walking the railroad tracks.
Sharon made the hitch ok,as did Glory later in the day.
Or, you can walk south to Castella, which is where Castle Crags State
Park is located. I walked Frontage Road to Castella, figuring there would
be more traffic than on River Road. Neither had any, but it is about a
mile from the PCT to Castella. In the state park, you can camp for $2 and they
have showers. There is a laundromat in the area. For supplies, stop in
at Amaranti's, a big gas station with plenty to buy. The PO is next to
Amarantis. When I got to the gas station, Will was there talking with a
women about getting a ride into Dunsmuir. I picked up my
package (on a Saturday afternoon), which the PO had been kind enough to
put in the gas station for me, and hopped in the car with Will.
Dunsmuir is a nice place, although definitely a dying town. I was just
planning to spend the night, but ended up taking the next day off.
There are a few places to stay in down. In the center of town, you
have what was referred to by several locals as a crackhouse. I
didn't stay there. A few blocks from downtown (but close to the PO and
store) is the Dunsmuir Inn, a nice B and B. Two rooms (a king and
queen) for three people and breakfast was $50 a person. This was more than
I wanted to pay, but the Travel Inn (I forget its real name),
across the street wanted
$33 a person for two twin beds (meaning someone sleeps on the floor). They
were rather unfriendly as well. I really liked the Dunsmuir Inn and would
recommend it highly.
There is a nice grocery store in town and a laundromat just off the main
street. I bought HEET at the automotive supply store across from the Dunsmuir Inn.
The pizza place in town makes tasty pizzas and sandwiches and a
pitcher of Michelob dark was $4. The burger place in town makes great
sandwiches, including a 1 lb burger. It was stinking hot in town when I
was there and neither Will nor I couldn't motivate ourselves to leave in the
heat. So, we spent another night there with Sharon and hitched out of
town in the cool of the morning. It took about an hour to get a hitch out of
the north I-5 exit. The southern exit might have had more traffic on it.
- Seiad Valley. This was the hottest of all California towns (hotter than
Mojave), sitting at about 1,200 ft. in elevation. The 100 miles from
Dunsmuir are incredibly scenic. Except, that is, for the last 6 miles:
A road walk in rather extreme heat. Of course, I had to walk in a
3 pm. Seiad Valley is also one of the smallest
towns I visited on the PCT, with Mount Laguna the only challenger. However, it
had everything I wanted: A store with cold drinks, junk food, and supplies,
along with a cafe with fatty foods. The cafe features a pancake challenge: Eat
5 pancakes and they are free. Of course, each pancake weighs a pound. The
place was featured on a Travel Channel special on the best places in America
to pig out. I declined the pancake challenge (it has been won by less
than 10 people in the past 6 years) and instead opted for a bacon double
cheeseburger that I could barely finish. I don't remember about HEET.
- Ashland. Ashland is a much anticipated stop on the
PCT. California is finally over and a new state has begun. 65 miles from
Seiad Valley puts you at I-5. It is a 1/2 mile walk to Callahan's
a local restaurant that I didn't go to but Will did. He thought it most
excellent and a good bargain, contrary to what the guidebook indicated.
Hitching wasn't a problem. While sitting on the side of the road leading to
I-5 chatting with Will and Sharon, a guy in an SUV pulled over to talk.
He later gave us all a ride into town. Ashland is an expensive place.
Forget about a motel room. The cheapest motel room for two was going to
cost $105. If you want a motel room, hitch into Medford which has cheaper
stuff. However, the Ashland hostel is centrally located and costs thruhikers
$15. Plus, they have free internet, which was very convenient, as I needed
new shoes and a plane ticket home. There is a coin-operated washer and dryer in the
hostel as well. Thruhikers are allowed to come and go during the
day, unlike the normal guests which must stay out of the hostel from
10 am to 5 pm. The main downside to the hostel is that
it is neither air conditioned nor equipped with fans. The rooms stayed extremely
hot all night long and I spent most of the time sweating rather than sleeping.
If I were to stay in Ashland again, I would do so at the hostel, but at night take
my sleeping pad and sleep outside, where it was cooler.
There is a food co-op with pricey, healthy food, but you can resupply there
anyways. There is a regular grocery store a bit further from downtown, but there
is a bus system. A large PO and an outfitter as well. There are lots of
good places to eat with slightly pricey food. Several excellent pubs as well.
During the summer there is a Shakespeare festival, but I did not attend any of
the performances. I meant to send out mail drops for a variety of places
in Oregon, but in the end decided for a much simpler resupply strategy.
See the following for more details. Grades: B,F.
- Mazama Campground, Crater Lake National Park. What a nice treat
was this place, 106 miles from Ashland. Unless you are really slow
witted, you'll want to see Crater Lake. The official PCT goes around, to
the west, of this treasure. Mazama campground is a mile walk from
the PCT and has a really well stocked store with very good
prices on food. The PO is up the road a bit, though. I stayed the night
at the campground ($15 split three ways) and the next morning (after
coffee, donuts, and the paper) hitched up to the rim. Hitching is
illegal in the park and a nice ranger gave me a lift up after explaining
this to me. From the rim village you can walk around Crater Lake, with lots of
great views of the lake itself and the land you will be crossing over the
next few days. The rim trail eventually drops down and goes through woods
before linking up with the official PCT. Grades:A,F.
- Sisters. Since I was too lazy to send out mail drops from
Ashland, I hiked the 155 miles from Mazama to HWY 242, which I hitched
from into the tourist town of Sisters. HWY 242 doesn't get a whole lot of
traffic, but there is a pile of rubble there that the Forest Service calls
an observatory. There is a parking lot about 1/4 mile from the PCT crossing and
it isn't too hard to hitch in. Just strike up a conversation with someone as
they are going to the pile of rubble. Ask for a ride when they are leaving.
It is about 20 miles into Sisters, which has a large megastore in addition
to touristy attractions like fudge shops and clock stores and T-shirt
hawkers. I turned down an offer of a shower from an interested local
at the PO, ate, resupplied, and got a lift out of town in about 4 hours.
There are several hotels in the area, but they all looked expensive.
Bend is a larger town another few miles down the road and should have
cheaper accommodations and supposedly a hostel. The hitch back
took about an hour to get. Grades: A,C.
- Cascade Locks. Cascade Locks is at the end of Oregon and
is 165 miles from Sisters, but the terrain is fairly easy and I made it here
in 5 days. Cascade Locks was one of my favorite towns on the entire trail
due to the quality of food and drink and the local pub and the
incredible selection of ice cream at the store. The only thing it lacked
was internet and a good breakfast place. I took the Eagle Creek Falls
alternative trail, which was very pleasant and not at all scary like the
guidebook implied. Very easy, pleasant hiking, with lots of tourists.
At the bottom, I could not find the trail into Cascade Locks, although there
was a sign for it, pointing in the wrong direction. Failing to find it, I
put out my thumb and got a ride within 2 minutes: The I-5 on ramp only goes
east, towards Cascade Locks. My ride dropped me off in front of the pub, which
had very nice pizza and a great selection of brews (how can a hiker pass up
a Walking Man IPA?). I stayed at the Econo-Inn, which is behind the grocery
store. I think it was $45 a night. Sharon later showed up, which cut my
price in two. The laundromat is across the street. The grocery store
had 13 flavors of Ben and Jerry's ice cream. I ate 4 of them during my stay.
No HEET at the grocery store, but the gas station across the street has it.
- White Pass. White Pass is 150 miles from Cascade Locks on the official
PCT route, or 129 miles on the alternative road walk. The facilities are
about 1 mile off the PCT down a road and consist of a store (with a PO in
it) and a motel.
I got there at 6 after hiking 30 miles, arriving an hour after the store
closed. Dejected, I sat in the parking lot feeling sorry for myself. There
were several tourists and section hikers in the parking lot and, after
finding out that I had walked from Mexico, took up a food drive. Within
five minutes I had three days of (somewhat eclectic) food and half a
pizza. I was told resupplying out of the store would have been easy,
and this was what I was planning to do. Because of the kindness of
strangers, though, I was able to leave bright and early the next morning.
Grades: The store was closed when I got there.
- Snoqualmie Pass. I was really looking forward to this stop 99
miles from White Pass. There is only one place to stay in town: A Best
Western. The normal rate is $115 but, they have a
hiker rate that cut the price to $65. Then Sharon showed up and I had a
very reasonably priced motel room for the night. There are two stores in
town, one of which is also the local PO. The Best Western also has a
restaurant and bar in it with a good selection of beer. The store with the
PO in it can be used easily for resupply. I don't know about the other place.
All of this is located about 1/3 mile walk from the PCT. Grades:
- Skykomish. Another stop I was really looking forward to, but one
that I have mixed feelings about. You hitch to Skykomish from Stevens
Pass, which is 75 miles from Snoqualmie. Sharon had caught up to me at this
point and it took us a mere 15 minutes to hitch into town, which is about
20 miles from the pass. The town of Skykomish is very small, with a gas station,
cafe, motel, a PO, and pseudo-liquor store. There are some other things as well,
but they looked rather closed to me. The motel cost $78 a night for two
people, although it was probably more like a $35 room. The gas station can be
used for resupplying. The cafe had very good food and was very reasonably
priced. The hitch back to the pass took about 45 minutes to catch. The owners
of the motel allowed us to use their washer and dryer for a couple of dollars.
Although I did like my stay, I didn't like the price of the motel. There are
several trail angels in town, but Sharon and I didn't go looking for them.
An alternative to Skykomish is Leavenworth, which is a much larger town in the
opposite direction. If I were going to take a zero day, I'd go to Leavenworth
where prices are probably lower and there is a larger selection. Then again,
there was a big sign in Skykomish welcoming PCT hikers. Grades:C,C.
- Stehekin. The last town on the PCT isn't much of a town, but is
quite nice nonetheless. The trail crosses a dirt road 98 miles after
Skykomish and from this dirt road a big school bus runs regularly between on the
road from the trail crossing into the town of Stehekin. Forget about
hitching on the road. The bus costs a few dollars each way and runs every 3 hours
or so. There is an awesome bakery outside of town that the bus stops at on the
way in and also on the way out in the morning (if you ask nicely). Supplies
are limited in Stehekin, although you don't need much. I resupplied completely
out of the hiker box at the PO and the store in town. This is a good place to
send your passport and immigration papers. There is a free forest service
campground in town, which I used and liked. There are also free showers and
coin operated laundry facilities. If you want to stay in a bed, you can stay in town
at a pricey looking resort or out at the ranch (which the bus services), which looked
nice and affordable. The food at the ranch is quite good and is of the
all-you-can eat type. The owner is a hiker and talked with us for a while.
Grades: D, B (ok, they had no Mrs.Fields, but the bakery was pretty
- Manning Park. When you reach the border 80 miles after Stehekin,
you have to continue another 8 miles to get to civilization: There is nothing at
the border except a monument. In Manning Park there is a large resort with
semi-pricey rooms and TV with only 5 channels. Plus, the restaurant in town is
only fair and the bar doesn't have any good beer. Hardly how a hiker wants
to celebrate. Plus, being Canada, you can't just buy a 6 pack. In order to
buy packaged beer, Sharon and I hitched 20 miles out to the east gate of the
park, bought beer and bus tickets to Vancouver, and then hitched back. The hitch
out took 5 minutes to get from a ranger and the hitch back 75 minutes to get.
A Greyhound bus stops in front of the resort in the morning and you can supposedly
buy tickets on board or at Hope. But, we had ours already. The bus stops in
Hope, which has lots of budget accommodation and places to eat. If you have
time to kill before going home, it would be a lot cheaper to do so in Hope
than in Vancouver. Once in Vancouver, you need to find a place to stay.
The bus station is located in a not-so-nice part of town, although
downtown isn't far. After wading through the sea of drug addicts and
prostitutes, you cross Chinatown and reach downtown. Unfortunately, downtown
has lots of $200 a night hotel rooms. There is a good, cheap place in
town called the Laughing Taxpayer. It is on Hastings and is on the
tourist maps available in town. It cost Sharon and I $75 (Canadian) to
stay the night, which was pretty good. There is a pub beneath it
with an unlimited number of beers on tap. The Laughing Taxpayer is about a
mile walk from the bus station, which makes it fairly convenient.
There is an express bus to Seattle in the morning.
- Seattle. A big town, so there are lots of places to stay.
Sharon and I stayed at the Commodore, which a four block walk from Pike Street
market, down the road from the Green Turtle (?) hostel. It was about a
mile walk from the bus station to the hotel. The hostel was something like
$25 per person, dorm beds, no booze, etc. The Commodore was something like
$50 for two, although that was with a shared bathroom.
Not the classiest of places, but for where it was located
I thought it a good deal. Sharon got spooked when she found a hypodermic
needle in the bathroom, but I thought the place was alright. From the
area you can catch a bus to SeaTac airport for about $1.50. The ride took about
50 minutes and was very pleasant.
Pike Street Brewing company is located next to Pike Street market and
has some nice products and you
can buy six packs from them to take away with you. The bus station is in
downtown, as is Pike Street market. To find information, follow the
signs from the bus station to the convention center, where there is lots of
information about places to stay, bus schedules, and things to do. The
people there will also call various hotels and make reservations for you
if you want them to.