The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Monday 21 January 2013

PCT Food: Part 2 (The Resupply Strategy)

As I already mentioned in Part 1, the section of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) that we walked is one of the more remote parts with limited resupply opportunities. Even where we visited some form of civilisation where it was possible to receive a parcel, few had any significant grocery shopping facilities. In fact, only one of our planned resupply points boasted a large supermarket.

It was information gleaned from the PCT Handbook, on the subject of resupply opportunities, that guided our resupply plan. Maybe it was purely a matter of lucky timing, but reality turned out to be somewhat different from the information upon which we had based the plan.

The Plan

Our intended resupply plan was as follows:


It’s Lake Hughes, not Lake Huges, but I’m not re-doing that table just to insert an ‘h’. It also appears that there was a severe shortage of apostrophes when I put it together.

The Reality

As it turned out, we could easily have resupplied from shops as we went along.

The petrol station in Lake Hughes was very poorly stocked and I really struggled to choose even two days’ of food, but Mojave, as we knew it would, boasted a big Safeway where we were not only able to get everything we needed for the following week, but we had choice too.

When we got to Walker Pass (and having failed to get a hitch into town) we ended up getting a lift to the Post Office in Onyx (there’s nothing in Onyx except for a Post Office) with a trail angel who was continuing into the town of Lake Isabella. We went with her and ended up visiting a couple of big supermarkets, so we could easily have shopped instead of sending a parcel. It was the prospect of a 70-mile round hitch (not that I relished the 35 miles to Onyx and back!) that had put us off including Lake Isabella as a resupply stop.

The Handbook warned that the Kennedy Meadows store (where everyone goes) may have been cleared out by those who arrived before you as it’s only a small store. As it went, there was impressive array of food available and, because pretty well all PCTers stop there, it’s very much focussed on backpacker friendly food. We could easily have bought there.

Likewise, because Vermillion Valley Resort is so remote (I seem to recall that it’s 70 miles away from a shop), they don’t get to re-stock too often and thus it’s not hailed as a reliable resupply point. We not only found it well stocked, but it was whilst we were there that we changed our plans to go into Mammoth, which meant that we only needed a day and a bit of food, not the 4 days that we’d sent.

Mammoth was the easiest hitch of the trip, and it would have been even easier from a logistics point of view if we’d been a day later, when the shuttle bus started running. We didn’t visit the supermarket in Mammoth (as it wasn’t an intended stop, we already had enough food to see us through), but if we had wanted to then a free shuttle bus would have taken us there and I’m sure we wouldn’t have struggled with buying 2 days’ of tasty fresh, heavy stuff to get us the last hop and skip to our destination.

Day 31_1

Random food photo

What I’d do differently

Even though it transpired that we could have resupplied on the way, if we were to do the trip again (or, indeed, any other long walk in the USA), I would still go down the same route of buying dehydrated ingredients.

Why? Three reasons:

1) Because I didn’t find a single packet meal in the supermarkets that I would actually want to eat, and certainly not for five weeks. We did buy a few packet meals (pasta and sauce, noodles, cous cous – the usual fayre) and the noodles and cous cous were fine – for a snack or a minor meal, but I just can’t consider them to be a main meal, day after day. As for the commercial ‘pasta and sauce’ meals – urgh!

2) Being a non-meat-eater, my options would be severely limited if I was buying supermarket packet meals.

3) I like to feel like there’s some nutrition in my meals, and I just couldn’t feel that way if eating commercial, processed packet meals every day.

However, I wouldn’t mail breakfasts, lunches and snacks if there was the prospect of reasonable grocery shopping en-route. We would have managed just fine to pick up something for these meals as we went along (and if we had bought as we’d gone we wouldn’t have had the incident of the granola that got too close to the washing powder in transit, resulting in heavily perfumed granola, which we had no choice but to eat by the time we found out that it had been tainted!)

Even though I would use dehydrated ingredients again, I would do it differently next time. I would buy a slightly smaller array of ingredients (but only so as to avoid the crunchily raw ones), and I wouldn’t make them up into meals in advance. Instead, I would just bag up the individual ingredients, together with a stash of various flavours of stock cubes and bags of seasonings (including sachets of powdered ready sauces such as chilli and bolognese) and I would make up meals according to our fancy as we went along. Whereas usually our meals would have the emphasis on the veg/bean/meat element, with the rice/cous cous/mash/pasta as an accompaniment, in using commercial dehydrated ingredients in the future I would change the emphasis so that the bulk of the meal would be the carb element, with the ‘topping’ playing a lesser role. I would still feel like I was getting some nutrition, but with the filling comfort of having more stodge.


Now, I think that rather thoroughly answers Geoff’s original question, but I’ve still got one more post to go on the subject, just to cover a few other random thoughts on the foods we ate.


  1. Just as a complete aside, has anyone ever mentioned that Mick looks a little like the chap who presents Meeting the Ancestors? I knew he reminded me of someone...

    1. Nobody has ever mentioned that. I've just been Googling, but couldn't find a decent photo (having never seen Meet the Ancestors), so I can neither agree nor disagree.

    2. It's currently being repeated on a Saturday morning and I've been recording it (along with Map Man, 'cos I think he's ace), I'll show you a clip (I won't make you watch a full episode) and then I can look an idiot when I realise it isn't that chap that Mick reminds me of!

  2. I sometimes feel like I am an ancestor...