For months now many people have been asking me for info on sending care packages during my trek, and I thought my tactics of evasion were effective. However, over the weekend, I realized I’ve just been kicking the can down the road.
I was at my girlfriend Mele’s baby shower when another girlfriend Mo asked the question. I responded that it wasn’t a big deal and besides she would be too busy moving to send me care packages (she and her husband are going to Camp Pendleton in California for his next Marine Corps duty station).
“You’re being ridiculous. Don’t tell me I’ll be too busy to send you packages. I’ll be moving for like two weeks, and you’re hiking for like six months.”
If you knew Mo, you’d know she said this in a tone that was a blend of a (recently resigned) Marine captain and a “because I said so” stern mom.
Then Mele quickly followed up with,
“Yeah, and do you have a list of foods and treats that you’ll want us to send?”
At this point, I didn’t think it was prudent to remind Mele that she’s 8 months pregnant and will very shortly be up to her eyeballs in caring for a newborn. Instead, I conceded defeat and said that I was working on a list.
And truth be told, my gear’s all accounted for and I’ve moved my belongings back to Virginia Beach. Now the last major task weighing on me has been organizing my mail drops. With gluten intolerance and much donated food, there has never been a question in my mind that I’ll plan dozens of mail drops. I just haven’t had time to create a comprehensive list.
Well, in the past week I’ve been working feverishly to look up hostels, gear outfitters, and even restaurants that accept packages on behalf of hikers. I’ve made many phone calls to confirm details, and I’ve strategically crossed places off of my list, as necessary. Even so, I’m only halfway through the process. I have a list of 50 potential mail drop locations, and I believe I should narrow that down to about 30.
OK, so my list isn’t perfect, but going through this exercise has given me time to think about having people send me mail. I’m so touched that friends, family, and some of you readers might want to send me mail and packages along the way in support of my trek, but I’ve had a gnawing apprehension.
See, my hesitation is that I would be wracked with guilt if someone were to send me something that I could not use or eat. I know everyone means well, and I wouldn’t want that effort to go to waste. However, with my gluten intolerance and sensitive stomach, I have to be careful about what I eat. And since I have to carry everything on my back, if the contents of a care package weren’t immediately consumable, I might not be able to bring them along.
The other bit is that, even with my long list drafted, I still don’t know when I’ll make it to any given location. This, I believe, is the easier problem to solve. I’ll just provide a solid amount of buffer when I announce an ETA (estimated time of arrival) for any given location.
Now, as far as the former concern, this is what I’m thinking.
First, I solemnly promise (pinky promise, the most sacred type of promise) that, if you send me a self-addressed stamped postcard or envelope to any of the mail drop locations I list on my blog by the ETA I specify (such that I receive it), I will absolutely always reply and drop the return note in the mail. And, for the record, it would be my pleasure.
Second, I will never turn away words of support and encouragement, so feel free to send those along, whether via snail mail or through my blog. If you’re looking for outside-the-box ideas, I would be glad to receive feel-good news stories. So, if you’re reading your local newspaper or surfing online and come across a “firefighter gave a homeless man a pair of shoes” story or a “mama goat nurses a lion cub” story or any other fun, interesting, quirky, “people are good,” “the world is crazy,” etc. story, feel free to send it my way. When I’m opening my mail, I’ll pretend I’m Facebook stalking. It’ll be great.
Third, if you really really really want to send me a care package and won’t take “no” for an answer, please leave me a comment on my blog and let me know. If you prefer not to risk a surprise, I’m sure I can give you some ideas. And if you’re more excited to try surprising me, I hope you understand, but I will not eat any food that is not in a sealed, store-bought package labeled with a clear list of ingredients (except if it’s from my mama because, ya know, she’s my mama). And remember: it must be gluten free.
I’ve created a page on my blog specifically for providing information on mail drops. From my home page, see the four tabs at the top, along the banner. Click on the one that says, “Want to show your support?” for addresses and ETAs. This link will take you there directly.
I will be updating the information on that page regularly as I progress. Obviously I’m not yet firm about my itinerary, but there are a few places that I’ll definitely visit, including the Blueberry Patch Hostel, Standing Bear Farm, and Kincora Hiking Hostel in the first few hundred miles. Please refer to the tab on my homepage or this link for more information. The list will be much improved even just by this weekend, so by all means, keep popping back in.
I hope that all makes sense and seriously know that I have absolutely no expectations that anyone should send me mail or a package or even leave me comments on the blog. But also know that you all energize me and motivate me and make my A.T. thru-hike more exciting to plan and to anticipate. And I feel extremely lucky to have all of your support, however you choose to express it.