AMERICAN DISCOVERY TRAIL
Planning Mail Drops for a Trip on the ADT
One way of solving the resupply problem is by using mail if a traveler does not want to try to buy along the way so it is common for long distance travelers to use Mail Drops. They mail boxes of supplies/clothing/etc. to post offices that are along the trail ahead of them. The boxes are addressed to "General Delivery" with a note "Hold for" with their name and estimated time of arrival (ETA). Here are some lessons learned and tips on mail drops:
General Delivery-Counter Services: You find a ZIP code for a town and assume that means they have a post office, right? Well, not necessarily!
Recently two ADT thru hikers had a box sent to Copper Mountain, Colo., which has a ZIP code of 80443. When they got to Copper Mountain they found a small room with personal mail boxes for residents. This "postal facility" was unmanned and had no service counter. They had to backtrack 6 miles (12 miles round trip) to the main post office in Frisco (which has the exact same ZIP code of 80443) to find their package.
Many small towns may have a ZIP code but no counter services. They get their mail delivered from a "main" post office in some other community miles away.
For example: The ADT in Ohio goes between New Straitsville (population 774), ZIP 43766, and Shawnee (pop 656), with the same ZIP of 43766. Which town do you select for a mail drop? Go to www.USPS.com. In the red banner across the top, click on "Locate a Post Office." Type in New Straitsville, OH and click on "search." It will show you there is a post office on Clark Street and it lists business hours. If you search for a PO in Shawnee, OH, it will give you an address, but note it doesn't list any business hours. Choose New Straitsville for your mail drop because it is manned and has general delivery service. Shawnee does not.
PO Location: The exact Location of the PO is important, too. New Straitsville, OH is 1.7 miles from the ADT (a 3.5 mile round trip). A better choice might be to pick up mail at Murray City, OH, (population 468), where the ADT goes right by the PO doorstep. You can find out where a PO is in a town by going to www.mapquest.com.
Choosing a PO in a large city for a mail drop can be problematic. Cities have numerous post offices. The "main" PO, which handles general delivery, may be miles from the ADT. It is often hard to find out which of the many post offices in a large city is the "main" one that holds general delivery packages.
In Denver, the "main" PO is several miles from the ADT. It is safer to choose small towns with only one PO. For example: In Colorado, pick Avondale (81022), a small town east of Pueblo, instead of Pueblo.
Bounce Back Boxes
A bounce (or drift) box is used by hikers to send gear that is needed intermittently or occasionally. It is "bounced" from trail town PO to trail town PO, perhaps two weeks ahead of the hikers. A bounce box contains seasonal gear (gloves not needed in summer heat, extra fleece), extras of bandaids, water filter cartridge, socks, hiker cards, batteries, spoon, tape and maybe a charger for camera batteries.
When hikers get to a PO with a resupply box and the bounce box they can accept the resupply (food, TBT and maps currently needed) and may or may not accept the bounce box. If the bounce box contents are not needed the box is forwarded or bounced to a PO about two weeks' time down the trail. There is no PO charge to forward the box if it had originally been sent Priority Mail and remains unopened. The town and zip are changed and the box continues on its journey.
Other PO Information
If you order gear while on the trail you need to know that a PO will not accept packages from FedEx or UPS. It may be possible to mail boxes, with prior permission, to a Motel or Mini-Mart. You should be sure to use a tracking number for photo flash memory mailed to a picture editor or back to a traveler. You can get cash back from a PO without paying an ATM fee if you use a debit card to pay for postage.