Wow. I did something today that sent chills up my neck - Susan and I put the final fresh items into the first three mail drop boxes and took them to the post office. There's one going to Mountain Crossing in Neels Gap, one to the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) in Bryson City, and one to the Fontana Dam Village. Each has several days of food and other essential supplies to last for a while on the trail. (see the video on putting the boxes together to refresh your memory)
I am not quite sure how long the postal service will take to get these priority mail boxes to their destination, so we are sending them a little early to be sure they arrive in time. The post offices or outfitters will generally hold them for several weeks until the hiker arrives, so if it's a few days early, that's okay. I marked an ETA on each box to let them know when to be looking for me - at Mountain Crossings on April 5th, the NOC on April 9th, and Fontana, April 12th.
There's probably more food in there than I will want to eat, but at the beginning I want to be sure I have enough, rather than the other way around. I know at first my appetite will be small, but it won't be long before I can never get enough. Besides, if I do have some leftover from each box, I will probably need it to get through the Smokies as I leave Fontana Dam. It might be 8 days or more to Hot Springs. If I have the food already, I can avoid having to leave the trail and visit Gatlinburg to restock. Gatlinburg is a big overgrown glitzy neon tourist trap. After a few days of quiet travel in the woods, the sight of G-burg would be an assault on the senses for sure. I've been there before. If I can pass it by and keep hiking I think I will, even if it means carrying a few more pounds of food.
The last few items into each box: a package of tortilla shells for my lunchtime sandwiches, a couple of ziplock snack bags of trail mix, two pouches of instant pudding (just add water/powdered milk), and POP TARTS. It really feels odd after several years of trying to eat healthy meals and watching my weight, here I am looking at labels trying to find MORE calories and MORE fat. But even with all that, by the time I am finished I will probably lose anywhere from 20 to 40 pounds. I hope so anyway.
As I get a better handle on my hiking speed and eating habits, I will have to coordinate with Susan about 5 to 7 days in advance to send the next mail drop box to the next stop along the trail.
Oh my - it's Friday afternoon March 23rd as I write this and the days are starting to move by a lot faster. According to my countdown timer I have 8 days, 16 hours, 31 minutes, 34 seconds left - target: Sunday, April 1st, at 10:00 AM!!!!! Yes, I am keeping track.