One of the most common questions we received prior to our adventure was how we would get food along the way. In the early stages of our trip, resupplying typically entailed an overnight in town every week or so with an opportunity to grab a few items between towns.
As the weather warms and we have adjusted to the pleasant rhythm of hiking and camping, these town visits grow further apart and resupplying becomes more of a hit and run endeavor.
We have yet to hitch a ride anywhere as we prefer the simplicity of walking to a nearby, slightly dodgy resupply point over hitching to a grand supermarket. Somehow two smelly people and a dog seems like a tough sell to your average passing car.
While we prefer large, well-lit grocery stores we seem to do most of our work in Dollar Generals and various iterations of the Kwik-E-Mart. Today we stopped at the Exxon Mart in Rural Retreat, VA–a tiny hamlet of businesses off I-81 (and the AT) catering to hikers and truckers.
We woke up early as we were low on food and knew that a hot meal and resupply were only 4 miles away. After a quick Snickers bar (did I mention we were low on food?) we were on our way at 7:20.
The forest gave way to farmland as we neared the interstate and our anticipation of breakfast grew rapidly. If we have learned anything about resupplying, it’s to always, always eat first.
By 9:00 we were seated at “The Barn,” a diner famous for the 16 oz Hiker Burger. As it was breakfast, we opted instead for the “2×4,” a hiker/trucker special including: 2 large pancakes, 2 strips of bacon, 2 sausage patties, 2 eggs, home fries or grits, and 2 biscuits with sausage gravy. Travis rounded out his meal with a vast wedge of coconut cream pie while I opted for chocolate meringue. It was all delightful.
From there it was off to the Exxon. Buying 4 days of food from a convenience store is really quite challenging. Most stores located along the trail try to stock “hiker food” but generally do a poor job of it. When my mom and I hiked in France it was all much easier–go to the baker for bread, then down the street for cheese, sausage, fruit and chocolate. All very wholesome and delicious. Sadly, Rural Retreat has no baker, nor anything remotely fresh.
Here’s how we fared:
Breakfasts–6 packets of Carnation Instant Breakfast and a family size box of Grape Nuts
Hiking Snacks–6 Nature Valley bars, 2 pounds of raisins, 1 pound of peanuts
Lunches–2 big pouches of tuna, 3 packets of saltines, peanut butter, apple jelly (smuggled from the diner…), Tostitos, Fig Newtons, 3 packs of mini donuts
Camp Snacks–pork rinds, corn nuts, gummi apple rings, cheddar “Munchiez,” 2 XL Milky Way bars, 2 peach hand pies, cinnamon Teddy Grahams
Dinners–8 packages of Ramen Noodles, 2 packages Idahoan instant mashed potatoes, 2 XL Butterfingers, 2 chocolate chip cookie cream pies
To avoid excess garbage as we hike, we repackage as many items as possible into Ziplocs and store arrange them by day in gallon freezer bags. This strategy takes a bit of time on the front end but takes the guess work out of what to eat at which meal when our brains are already a bit fuzzy from hiking.
Luckily, we’ve been able to find ramps just about every day and have yet to find a meal that isn’t enhanced by some fresh, garlicky greenery. We also gathered some spearmint today and, with a few packets of powdered lime juice, were thus able to turn our Ramen into a lovely soup.
We are greatly looking forward to such novelties as fresh produce and a proper kitchen upon our return.