Grocery Shopping in McCarthy – Spotlight on Adventure (kind of)

van full of food

By Sarah Ebright, Guide

“So where do you get your groceries out here? Valdez?”

          “Nope, we drive 8 hours to Anchorage.”

It was early August, and I hadn’t done a true “Anchorage Run” in 3 years. Despite returning from my last one sick, tired, and without any cheese, the sting had worn off and I thought that I actually had a shot at a successful Anchorage Run. I should’ve known what I was up against…

Every 3-4 weeks, we send a van and box trailer into Anchorage with one (un)lucky guide who gets to spend a few days in the big city. Typically, it’s a 4-day trip. One day to drive in (transporting a roof rack full of trash, equipment to return/repair, and any guides/clients who need a ride to Anchorage that day). Two days of shopping food for 30+ guides (although it’s recommended to start shopping the night of arrival), and one day to drive back (often with some last-minute stops the morning of). If this sounds easy to you, please give me a call so I can offer you a job (haha!)

In actuality, these 4 days are a constant battle fueled by coffee and sugar. Between fighting against the Anchorage traffic while pulling a box trailer, scheduling around Anchorage business hours (nothing opens before 10am!), and tracking down items that are out of stock, Anchorage Runs are an exercise in troubleshooting. And carefully packing the van and trailer so that the Costco-sized flats of eggs survive the McCarthy road on the return trip almost requires an advanced degree (hint #1 – be sure to put the eggs on top of the canned goods).

inside van with luggage and food

But this time, I knew I had it. I planned out all my stops in advance, using a complicated schedule accounting for each business’s location in Anchorage and hours of operation. I organized my lists by stop, and even by aisle in the store. I developed a system for how to pack the van and trailer. I did everything I could to prepare, and there was no way I could possibly lose.

And then my cell phone started to ring. Phone calls and texts came in with last minute additions. Chainsaw bar nuts. Motor oil. Lumber. My carefully planned schedule quickly careened into an out-of-control frenzy of Anchorage shopping. I should’ve known of the double-edged nature of the cell phone. The value of the GPS does not make up for its ability to receive calls for last minute additions.

van getting towed
A sad way to end an Anchorage Run…

After criss-crossing the city for two full days and stopping at the grocery store in Palmer for the last-last-last-minute additions, I drove the McCarthy road in a haze. I faintly remember the smiling faces of 30 guides as I parked in front of the Powerhouse and stumbled out of the van. While I normally participate in the unloading and labeling of all goods (we have to make sure the 30 loaves of bread go to the right people), I just stood there with eyes glassed over.

food packing

And then the questions begin… Did you pick up the spark plugs I called in? This is the 14-oz can but I wanted the 8-oz can… Why do we have granny smith apples instead of honeycrisp? I bite my tongue and wait for it to be over. And eventually it is…

At the end of it all, a few guides come up and pat me on the back, and thank me for my work the last few days. Thank me for my work? Who are these amazing guides? How do they know what I’ve been through the last few days? And then I realize – these are the guides who have done previous Anchorage Runs. They know exactly what I’ve been through. I take comfort knowing that I am now part of an elite group of SEAG guides who have survived an Anchorage Run and lived to tell about it. And it’ll definitely be another 3 years before I get the guts to try it again…

Skip to content