A thru-hiker quickly learns to abhor any walking that isn’t on a direct line between one white blaze and another. A day hiker I met on the trail seemed surprised when I decided not to check out a lookout tower that was only 0.4 miles off of the AT. For him, the tower was the highlight of his hike; but I saw it merely as 0.8 unnecessary miles added onto the already gargantuan distance between myself and Katahdin. Besides, I had already visited scads of towers that were right on the trail. After the first month of my thru-hike, I was only willing to walk at most 0.3 miles off of the AT for water, 0.2 miles for a shelter, and 0.1 miles for a view point or other point of interest (but it had to be spectacular!). I saved the longer side trips for resupplying.
I resupplied a total of 37 times. The round-trip distances between the AT and the resupplies totaled 160.3 miles. Eleven of the stores were right on the trail. I walked to fourteen other stores that were within two miles of the trail (for a total distance of 20.9 miles). That left eleven stores that were beyond easy walking distance. I was able to avoid walking to those stores by arranging a shuttle (once), calling relatives (twice), and hitch-hiking (eight times). Twice, while hitch-hiking, the person who picked me up not only drove me to the store, but waited patiently while I shopped and then returned me to the trail head. On five different occasions, people offered me rides before I even started hitch-hiking!
On the average I resupplied every 4.3 days. The number of days between my resupplies ranged from 2 to 8. When I resupplied too often, I felt like the hike lost its continuity. There were times, however, when it made sense to resupply after only two days because a store was right on the AT. If I didn’t resupply often enough, I ended up carrying too much weight. A day’s worth of food weighed about 2.2 pounds. I usually traveled fewer miles for a couple of days following each resupply and then made up for it as my pack lightened. The longest distance between resupply opportunities was 99 miles. It occurred between Monson and the Abol Bridge Campstore which book ended Maine’s 100-Mile Wilderness. I chose not to buy food at Whitehouse Landing Wilderness Camps. That would have reduced my maximum food less span to 69 miles, but their selection was limited and expensive.
At first, I considered resupplying to be a chore. After a while, however, I saw resupplying as an interesting deviation from the days I spent laboring in the forest. I found that I enjoyed meeting the friendly people who gave me rides. I also enjoyed ogling all of the wonderful-looking items in the stores. And when the fun was over, walking on the hot pavement along a shade-less road always made me appreciate the cool embrace of the forest when I returned to the trail.