John Muir Trail

7:29 p.m. on August 20, 2010 (EDT)
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I'm kicking around the idea of doing the JMT. I've read a little bit about it and have a little idea of whats ahead. I'd like to hear from some who have done the 211 miles; Is 3 weeks about right, tips/pointers/weather/bugs/other peps, etc? Is mid July mid August about right? Supply drops? BTW, by far this would be my longest trip both in distance and time.


M

8:27 p.m. on August 20, 2010 (EDT)
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There a lots of websites and guidebooks dedicated to long distance hiking and the JMT in particular-here are a couple

http://www.backpack45.com/johnmuirtrail.html

http://www.trailforums.com/index.cfm

http://www.aldhawest.org/

10:19 p.m. on August 20, 2010 (EDT)
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I would add to Tom's list

http://johnmuirtrail.org/

and http://www.pcta.org/about_trail/muir/over.asp

Here is a profile of the trail

http://www.pcta.org/images/elevation_new.jpg

Most people go north to south. The big reason is acclimatization. If you go south to north, you hit the highest point on the trail right away, 14,495 ft on top of Mt Whitney - lots of people get AMS going that high that fast. Heading south, you take several days before you start hitting the high passes.

There are 3 food drops that most people use - Reds Meadows (near Devils Postpile NM, at 56 miles from Yosemite), Vermillion Resort at 87 miles, and Muir Trail Ranch at 108 miles. These all accept UPS and USPS packages (Reds Meadows charges a holding fee per day they have your package waiting for you - you can argue hard , and you should send it with a return receipt to prove how long they have held the package - the other two don't charge "rental"). A lot of hikers drop a load in Tuolumne, and maybe even do a very long day from the Valley to Tuolumne with only a day pack - be in very good shape to do this! There is no legal place for a cache from Muir Trail Ranch to the end or down to Whitney Portal, meaning you have to carry 112 miles of food and supplies at the end - unless you have someone do as I did for a friend and his family, haul a big load over Kearsarge Pass as an overnight or a fast day hike with a huge load (overnight will require a permit).

It is possible if you are an experienced hiker in very good shape travelling ultra-ultra light to do it in 7-10 days. Of course, then you are just slogging out 20-25 miles a day and not enjoying the fantastic scenery. I believe you should take it leisurely and take lots of photos, sticking with 10 miles or so a day, plus several rest days and maybe a couple of peak-bagging side trips. You could hitch a ride out to Mammoth at Reds Meadows to resupply (count on a full day for this). And you could do a similar side trip for resupply at Kearsarge. Very few people do this these days, though.

You will need to carry a bear canister (required in Yosemite and Sequoia Kings Canyon NPs and in the Inyo NF section - which is most of the trail).

By the way, it is actually a bit more than 211 miles - you have to get between the summit of Whitney (southern terminus of the trail) and Whitney Portal, about 11 miles.

12:40 a.m. on August 21, 2010 (EDT)
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I was thinkin about using a bivy/tarp, however, the more I read the more I believe skeeters may be an issue(?) So, a LW tent may be in order. BTW, any fishin enroute?

5:57 a.m. on August 21, 2010 (EDT)
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I did the JMT solo in 17 days in 1981. I carried a tarp, but used it on only 1 night, for thermal cover when I was sleeping up high. It never rained, so I just slept out -- no problem with bugs. I know this is supposed to be a big no-no, but I didn't carry a stove. My usual pattern was to stop in the evening somewhere down in a valley where there was water and plenty of small (thumb size and under) wood, scoop out a little pit in sandy soil, set up three rocks I could set my one pot on, and make a little micro-fire hot enough to boil water in five to ten minutes. When I was done I would completely douse the fire, cover the ashes with sandy soil, sprinkle it over with pine needles, and separate the rocks or put them back in the stream, leaving them black-side down. (Now I would think about using a wood-fuelled stove, maybe the homemade on posted by Trout a while back). I would them pack up and keep on hiking for a few more hours, usually bivvying up high so I was in position to go over the next pass in the morning before the snow got too soft. This way I put in long days, but without ever really hurrying because I was on the move for more of the daylight hours. I avoided cooking and sleeping in regularly used camping areas, which are often where the bears are. That's the lightest I have ever travelled (without using huts), and I remember it fondly. I will be in CA for the first 7 months of next year, and may try to do the JMT again with my wife and daughter, most likely a bit more conventionally.

8:25 a.m. on August 21, 2010 (EDT)
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Three weeks is a good pace, but as Bill implies, you need additional days to retrieve food, do side excursions, and enjoy rest stops at particularly scenic destinations.

Another key word in Bill’s advice described legal caching of food. Back before this too was regulated, we used to position food caches in a series of camping trips prior to the excursion requiring food drops. Before you consider positioning food caches in the backcountry, do note it takes enormous effort. Remote caching needs to be bomber varmint proof. This means a container birds can’t peck through, squirrels can’t chew through, or bears gain access to. Ultimately this translates to metal trash cans with lids wired down, situated in a manner such that the can is usually hung off a cliff ledge on a thin steel cable, beyond any bear’s reach, in locations people are extremely unlikely to come upon, since they, too, often will pilfer or otherwise trash your stash. If the cache is to remain in situ through a snow season, avalanche and varmint accessibility must be addressed, as snow may alter the viability of a location. For example a cache hung ten feet off the ground will become easy access to critters, given an eight foot snow pack. If the main excursion is during snow season, safe access to the cache must be considered. This is often difficult to determine. A cache accessible by bouldering in summertime may require a rope, rack, and mountaineering skills in the winter. Worse the cache could end up completely hidden under snow. Speaking of which; wherever you cache food, a means must be considered how the excursion groups will later locate the stash (we used photos and triangulation data). Lastly you need to go up subsequent to the excursion, and retrieve the stash can and garbage that the excursion group deposited when they made the food pickup. I don’t know why we even did this back then; it now seems like so much work!
Ed

9:12 a.m. on August 21, 2010 (EDT)
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Migolito, there is an excellent trip report that was recently posted on backpackinglight.com by a scout and his brother and dad that did the JMT. Pictures, and a very detailed writeup regarding the whole trip. I suggest checking it out, it will answer alot of questions you have probally.

There is lots of fishing!

9:22 a.m. on August 21, 2010 (EDT)
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It's actually a different website, here is the link. Look under hiking the JMT and hike report.

http://daniels-eagle-scout-project.webs.com/

9:21 a.m. on August 22, 2010 (EDT)
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Hike this trail! Spectacular scenery. Unbelievable variety. Hike in mid August to avoid mosquitos. As stated above , a tarp is fine, but you will need it more for warmth than for rain. Temps can be in the 20s at night, but quickly warm to the 80s during the day. Consider a lightweight bivy, too, and spend at least a couple of nights just out under the stars. You will not believe the night sky on a moon-less clear night!

Do not be discouraged when you read about the permit process. It is easier than you might think. If you do not get the permit of your first choice, ask for it on the day you arrive. You might well get it then.

Get the JMT set of maps here:

http://www.tomharrisonmaps.com/

For largest capacity and lightest bear canister, rent one of these at the special rate for JMT thru-hikers. The canisters will be sent a few days ahead to your home, so you can pack them in your living room! Order well in advance. I have fit 8 days worth of food into the "Expedition" size

http://wild-ideas.net/index2.html

Fishing along the JMT:

http://thru-hiker.com/articles/thru-fishing.php

Ahh....

http://www.trailspace.com/people/rambler/photos/img_1716/

1:03 p.m. on August 22, 2010 (EDT)
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Wow! Thanks all for all the advice. I've book marked and started reading all the sites. I guess I should have posted; I will be retiring at about the same time (49 years old) as I do this hike. I've pretty much convinced myself I'm doing it. Kinda of a start on the next stage of adventure if you will.

8:49 p.m. on August 22, 2010 (EDT)
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Make it a leisurely 30 day trip with more food drops if needed. I liked early August still a few bugs but the water crossings are easier then. Plan time to take advantage of where you are to visit other high spots as day hikes on 'rest days'... such as near the southern end there is the beautiful very high Sierra of the upper Kern drainage and Wallace Lakes. Some excellent views from Harrison Pass near South American Lake and from Shepherd Pass just across the plateau. A few days before then are Kearsarge Lakes (you might have Onion Valley as a resupply) and before that Pallisades Basin from Dusy Basin (resupply from Parchers Camp) other side of Bishop Pass...

etc...

Just so much to see that is a short distance off from the main trail.

http://www.wildernesspress.com/product.php?productid=16621&cat=0&page=1

From north: supply points that you may not have to preposition food for:

Tuolumne Meadows (at about mike 23)-
Red's Meadow (at about mile 59)-
Vermilion Valley Resort (at about mile 86)-

From here on you have to pre-position food (mail it) or have somebody pack it in for you.
Muir Trail Ranch (1/2 way, at about mile 109) send food ahead of time. You could pack the rest of the 100 miles left from here... you should be strong enough by then.

You can send food into Parchers Camp out of Bishop (over Bishop Pass). Call them to check for sure.

8:52 p.m. on August 24, 2010 (EDT)
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Ok, So far so good. Just ordered the Tom Harrison maps. After reading many, many posts and logs, its apparent hikers are in many camps-pun intentional- on the actual 'how' of it all. Mainly based on weight and speed. I guess my 'how' is middle of the road, er, trail, that is. I'm going to fish a little, take some photos, and hike my tail off. Here's my partial gear list;

Gregory Baltoro back pack.

Foam pad

DIY sinylon tarp and footprint (and pray to the mosquito gods for reprieve)

40 deg TNF bag (enough?)

Bivy bag

Mountain Home meals/oatmeal/gorp/energy bars/hot cocoa/tea/electrolytes/spices for trout

Water filter

Stove

Trek poles

4 piece fish pole

Bear canister

At this point I've got e-mails to some packers, however, worse case scenario I resupply @ John Muir ranch and carry 12 days of food to the Whitney portal.

2:07 a.m. on August 25, 2010 (EDT)
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I think that your 40 degree bag would be a little light if it were me. You are going to be in some high altitude country and anything can happen. When we were on the JMT the middle off July (last month) we had frost on two different mornings. Here is a forcast from today with a warning for a possible snow dusting this weekend at altitude. I would go with at least a 20 degree down bag in the Sierra even in the summer just to be safe.

http://www.easternsierraforecast.com/forecast/

4:44 a.m. on August 25, 2010 (EDT)
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I concur with Gary; a 20 degree bag is standard for summers in the high Sierra. That or bring warmer apparel and wear it to sleep. Either way you will carry the weight.

Make sure your shelter arrangement will keep you dry in horizontal rain. It does happen, and while night rain isn't too common, it happens too. Otherwise plan to sleep in the open, it’s great to have stars on your ceiling.

You may have difficulty finding suitable features, such as trees, to tether a tarp from. Plan to use those trekking poles thusly and equip accordingly.

Bring extra chord beyond that required to tether down your shelter in a wind storm. The extra cord will be used to hang dry clothes washed.

Your clothing should include a dependable wind/rain shell, and something to keep the sun off your head.

You’ll need SPF chap stick; the air is dry, UV intense, and both will chap your lips right off in five days without protection on the JMT.

Sunglasses are mandatory, unless you want cataract surgery later in life.

Bring enough plastic bags to deal with packing out used toilet paper. The area gets too much use to leave it behind in cat holes. TP is slow to decay up there, and virtually makes a layer of its own in the soil of some camp locations.

Bring along a means to fetch water in bulk so you don’t unnecessarily add further wear to footpaths along the water sources.

If you like a fire, be prepared to deal without, since they are restricted along many portions of the trail. Bring a light source to substitute, if you like seeing the faces you chat with, or cook after dark. Assume all cooking will be done with your stove.
Ed

2:22 a.m. on August 26, 2010 (EDT)
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A 40 degree bag is not enough, it is not uncommon to wake up to frost on the ground and ice in your water bottle at the higher elevations along the JMT. I had that happen on two nights this year the first week of August (on a six day trip from Onion Valley to Whitney).

Caching food is illegal. If a ranger finds it, you will lose it, guaranteed. And if they can determine whose food it is, you will receive a citation. The backcountry ranger stationed at Charlotte Lake talks about this issue regularly. He mentions finding caches that are cleverly hidden - remember that the rangers are there all the time and can spot things out of the ordinary. The best bet is to either have a willing friend bring in food (frequently over Kearsarge Pass or up from Roads End), or make the trip out yourself at those locations to resupply. It will add two days to your total trip if you do so. Or you can pay an exorbitant fee to have a pack station bring it to you at one of the common drop points (Charlotte Lake and the ranger station at LeConte Canyon).

3:05 a.m. on August 26, 2010 (EDT)
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You will need 200 Polartec Fleece (or equivalent) and something like a Marmot Precip. The later gives you a hood and weather proofing. When you stop to get your heart and respiration rates flipped while going over some of the 12 or 13,000' passes it gets a tad chilly. I keep the fleece handy on top of pack. When I stop I put it on. You can probably get by with hiking shorts, but i prefer long pants and shirts because of the sun and mosquitoes - especially the bugs at times in evening and morning. Heavy socks (for the exposed ankles), long pants, hooded parka and you only need a little DEET on the face and hands even in the worse skeeter conditions. Don't forget a tie-down (there is a wind) wide brim hat.

It has been in the 20F's at night every summer month that I've been up there. Not all the time of course, but when you are 10,000' it gets chilly at times. Day time temperatures can be very hot 90F's.

After about two weeks you will be eating a LOT. Plan on it. Hiking 6-10 hours a day with a 30# pack, up hill, can cost you about 4000 to 6000 calories a day. You will be hungry the last few days. You more than likely will tire of GORP and sweets early on.

I use the Expedition Bearikade. Wife and I have gone 8 days on it. We don't take a lot of freeze-dried...not enough calories per meal.

You will need LOTS of water per day to stay hydrated. Not being hydrated is one of the most significant problems hikers have in the Sierra. Lots of streams and lakes, but you need a sipping bottle as well.

You are going to love this trip!

Start planning The Wonderland Trail (around Rainier) now. Figure 9-10 days to really enjoy it. Next time I do it I'm going to take 30 days and section hike it.

October 20, 2014
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