I have a long To-Do list and today I checked off a big part of it. Planning food for 15 days in the wilderness takes a little research and some strategy. Once you leave Yosemite on the JMT, there are basically two places to resupply; Vermilion Valley and Muir Trial Ranch. Vermilion is about four days out from Donahue Pass while Muir Trail Ranch is a good 6 days out. The challenge is getting past Muir Trail Ranch because there is not another good resupply location until after you exit Whitney Portal, which I plan to cover in about 8 days. This means you have to send your food to yourself. Opting for Muir Trail Ranch, I set about planning supplies and how to get them there.
In strategic planning, one of the things you have to know is your constraints and boundaries. Muir Ranch is about 8-9 hiking days away from Mt. Whitney. My bear can only holds about 7 days of food. Getting supplies sent to Muir Ranch can take up to 3 weeks. There are no full service grocery stores there. Shipping food ain’t cheap. Backpacking requires 3,500 – 5,000 daily calories. You want to keep your pack as light as possible.
Planning the Food
The first thing to do is plan the menus. The common wisdom is to be creative and save money by creating your own meals. I opted for spending the money and bought 20 freeze dried dinners from REI. I had a 20% off coupon and I spent my dividend. The rest was packaged food from the grocery store.
My standard daily menu is essentially the following:
- Breakfast – Oatmeal, honey, summer sausage, cocoa w/ coffee 450 calories
- Lunch – Peanut butter, honey, tortillas, tuna 550 calories
- Dinner – Freeze Dried dinner, chocolate, tea w/ honey, olive oil 1,200 calories
- Snacks – granola bar, fig bars, nuts 1,300 calories
- TOTAL: 3,500 calories
I am going to run a calorie deficit, which many thru hikers do. If I could carry 5 – 7 days food between towns, I could carry more calorie laden food, plus engorge myself in town, but space and weight are the biggest constraints. Plus I could stand to loose 10 lbs.
Getting It There
I crammed the first 7 days in my bear can, which will fly with me to California. The rest I had to ship to myself when I arrive at Muir Trail Ranch on July 7. Muir Ranch has a process. You go onto their website and pay a food pickup and storage fee of $85. They send you mailing labels, along with detailed instructions. You need to pack your food in a plastic 5 gallon bucket. That’s because it will arrive at their PO Box, which then has to be carted by truck, possibly canoed across a lake, and finally stored in a shed. Your food container has to be water proof and varmint proof. They limit you to 25 lbs without charging you even more and they suggest shipping three weeks in advance.
Shipping a 22 lb bucket is not trivial. There is a lot of packing tape involved. It is not a convenient box that comes with efficient and cheap postage. Priority mail from Knoxville to California is $66.00. I spent about 2/3 of my food cost in shipping and handling.
But it is DONE!
The one open issue is that my bear can will not hold all the food in the bucket. I am going to noodle on that one for a bit. One option is to purchase a small bear can and carry both. Another is to take less food. I’ll have a week under my belt by the time I get there.
I may go a bit hungry but at least I won’t starve.