Sending packages to oneself via General Delivery is common practice among long-distance hikers in the Lower 48. Does anyone have experience doing this in Alaska? If so, are there any differences in the system? I have not found any information to suggest that remote PO’s do not accept General Delivery mail or that it costs more, though I do wonder given how much extra effort must go into dropping a package in, say, Arctic Village as opposed to Damascus, VA. Having the General Delivery option would minimize or eliminate the need for drops via bush plane on some routes.
We’ve picked up general delivery in Arctic Village in 2003… I seem to recall the postmistress was a bit cranky about it and it took her 20 minutes to find it tucked away under some table, but it worked. At that time Arctic Village had two stores that competed bitterly, but we were able to buy some supplies there.
In general, general delivery is a good way to go. It’s definitely a good idea to put a note on the box explaining what the deal is. For the small towns it’s not a bad idea to call and warn the post-office, but probably not necessary. Also a good way to get some local intelligence while you’re at it. You have 30 days to pick it up, but only 2 weeks if there’s a signature requirement.
It can also work to contact remote lodges and ask them to hold a box for you. This can involve taping an envelope to the box with payment for the charter pilot who delivers the mail to cover that expense, but it’s still WAY cheaper than a remote food drop.
And there are regular mail drops in some pretty surprising places. Like Cape Yakataga (though that may not be the case now… the two local residents may have moved away?) In some cases like this there is no post-office so you have to have a contact to mail to, and they often get an additional charge for mail weight, but again cheap compared to a charter.
And if you want to buy food locally, it’s really helpful to know something about the local store situation. The variation in variety and price is quite surprising in the villages.
I’m responsible for sending my brother’s packages to him on the PCT, with the amount of boxes the post offices get a lot of people tape a picture of them on their box. My brother figuring a few months on the trail might change his appearance used a marker and put three big (3 inch dia) dots in a triangle on each side of the box, then a small recreation of that on a card so he can hand it to the person at the post office and say “it looks like this”.