Hacking the JMT permit process

3:32 p.m. on April 22, 2019 (EDT)
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We  loved this story in the San Jose Mercury News about a computer whiz who is also a backpacker, and needed to figure out a way to get his permit for the John Muir Trail.  So what did he do?

Yep, he designed a bot!  The full story is here:


Or, if you a talented in this direction, here is a link to his code:

The source code for hackjohn is available at https://github.com/dhimmel/hackjohn under the permissive MIT License. To learn more, go to https://busy.org/@dhimmel/introducing-the-hackjohn-bot-for-southbound-john-muir-trail-permits.

To learn more about the John Muir Trail, or to submit an application to the National Park Service’s lottery, go to https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/jmtfaq.htm.

9:45 a.m. on April 23, 2019 (EDT)
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Watch out he could be Russian. 

If you need to design a bot, it is too crowded. 

8:35 p.m. on May 28, 2019 (EDT)
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I feel very glad that I was able to do the JMT back in 2012, one of the last years it was still reasonable crowd-wise. I was even able to get a walk-up permit from Yosemite Valley - and that's not even possible anymore.

I've seen stats in recent years indicating that the trail traffic has increased in a hockey-stick type graph. My theory is that it has a lot to do with the various movies released in the past few years about the various long trails... well, that, and the Instagram effect...

9:08 p.m. on May 28, 2019 (EDT)
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I guess this is just a byproduct of the increasing popularity of outdoor activities.  Now the JMT is very pretty, but it is not the only game in town (or rather, out of town).  Nor is Everest the only worthy summit.

There are all kinds of beautiful places with varying challenges to those who can seek them out....

7:11 a.m. on May 29, 2019 (EDT)
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For our two-family hike on the JMT, we "hacked" the permit process simply by choosing an alternate starting trailhead, Mono Meadows. Got a permit for 7 starters in mid-July on the first try! But I don't know if that would still work.

I would note that if you need to design a bot, your are (sort of) participating in a process that helps limit crowding, hopefully to some acceptable level. There are uncontrolled places where you don't need a permit or a bot where you might experience grater impacts. YNP has a tough job trying to find the right balance. Having said that, the campsites the we used between the valley and Tuolomne were pretty well full up and camped out, but the crowds thinned somewhat as we headed south. Still a very worthwhile trip.

December 12, 2019
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