John Muir Trail

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John Muir Trail

Postby mjordon » Wed May 23, 2012 5:33 pm

Has anyone done the John Muir Trail? If so, I was wondering if you would be willing to post your experience and any logistical/ resupply information that may be of value. I'm considering coin it in July.

Thank you!!
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Postby asabat » Thu May 24, 2012 8:48 am

There's a real active Yahoo group. Anyone can browse, you have to register to post.
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/johnmuirtrail/
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JMT 2012: SUCCESS!

Postby mjordon » Mon Jul 30, 2012 1:21 pm

Well I decided to give it a go and wound up successfully completing the entire John Muir Trial from June 28 - July 14, 2012! It definately lives up to it's reputation for being one of the most beautiful trails in the US and I recommend anyone do it as long as they have the time and motivation.

My wife and I found a lot of information on the JMT Yahoo group regarding resupply locations and other feedback regarding the trail. We wound up hiking NORTHBOUND beginning at Whitney Portal on a Thursday and we even got out permits taken care of in about 1o minutes that same morning at the ranger station in Lone Pine. Just show up early and be the first in line [MIDWEEK] so your chances of getting your entry permit are much better. We didn't have to log our campsites either - a big relief as I had NO clue where we would be staying each night.

Hiking UP Mt. Whitney with a FULL 7 day pack was not easy, but it sure was rewarding! Lighter is better, lighter is better, lighter is better... became my mantra that day and for the next several days. The views are incredible for the entire trip and if you like isolated lakes, the freshest spring water you can imagine, and a whole lot of introspection, the JMT will provide.

Originally, I was stressed about making reservations on recreation.gov, and I even bought my permits out of Cottonwood Lakes just to make sure I had them in hand - it was a nice change of events last minute to get an entry at Whitney Portal though because it saved us another 40 miles of hiking or so. The only time we saw a ranger was heading up Whitney and then coming out at Yosemite - neither checked our permits though which was refreshing.

I wound up renting bear canisters from Wild Ideas - they have lightweight expedition canisters for a special $55 rate for JMT through hikers. Usually they are about $300 if you were to buy them. They definitely were big enough for those with big appetites, but remember, the more you bring, the more weight you will be carrying and the more calories you will have to burn (and the slower you will hike). It was a toss up - if/ when I do it again, I'll consider bringing some different food as I got REALLY TIRED of crappy trail mix after the first four days. Hot soup or pasta in the evenings was great and the worst snack item was dried edamame - YUCK! I couldn't hack that tasteless mung. Some of the best items were: Trail quesadillas, Tofurkey links, pop tarts, Monster shots, sausage, and beans & rice.

My MSR Dragonfly stove worked great and 20oz of white gas was more than enough to get to the resupply at the halfway mark - about twice as much as two people needed. In other words, I could have only used 12oz and I probably could have been fine. We also cooked over an open fire a few times. I even wound up mailing my stove, rainfly and extra Nalgenes back home when I got to Mammoth. It turns out that all the nicknacks that we didn't truly need added up to about 20lbs! WAYYY too much crap that we didn't need - and I mean did not need! Like extra fire starters, extra clothes, tent stakes, more than one nalgene, water bladder, compass, etc. It may eem odd, but the trails are really well defined and all you really need to navigate is a sense of which way is north and a good map. I had the Tom Harrison 13 page JMT map set and it was perfect. You can get it at the sporting good shop in Lone Pine if you forget to get it beforehand too.

I also wound up being a sucker and getting a fishing permit for almost $45.00 - I never had the energy to fish at night and my vegetarian wife would have had one or two bite, but I ran into many people that fished along the way and some had some very good success with catching trout. Most people (PCT hikers) just needed about 20' of line and one or two flys with hooks to bob on the surface of the water and the fish lined up to bite them. We both brought out hiking poles and the were a MUST! I used to hate them, but with a heavier pack and 211+ miles of hiking, they sure helped out with all aspects of the hike - they also double as great fishing poles by the way.

Most of the hike you are allowed to have open campfires in existing rings below 10,000 feet. There are plenty of existing rings as some awesome little backcountry make-shift sites. We were bummed to learn that in the Ansel Adams Wildernss, no FIRES ARE ALLOWED at all. This made it hard when we wanted to warm up jun the evening after a lake dip or when we wanted a hot meal after we ALSO mailed out stove back from Mammoth - at that point, it had broken on an old weld joint (I had the first generation Dragonfly) - I figured that I'd just cook over a fire, but it was no problem eating some of our delicious food uncooked that we got at Vons in Mammoth.

We wound needing only ONE official resupply - that is one packed in resupply. We opted for Muir Trail Ranch which is at about the half way mark - you can get there in about 7 days from Whitney Portal. We ordered food through EFOODS DIRECT - I have been very happy with their food, but it took them 20 days to ship the food so we never wound up getting it! This was definitely an OH SHIT moment in the middle of nowhere, but the staff there allowed us to pillage the hikers box (a sort of free resupply) and they shared some of their good stuff that they had (in case of an emergency like this) with us - it was enough to get us another few days to Mammoth, but I do not recommend pushing it too many days without food. Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it as they say. Don't worry, you'll be fine - we were fine, but it was a scare. It's best to ship your 5 gallon bucket resupply early and MAKE SURE IT'S THERE AT THE RANCH! We planned the entire JMT out in a week and we were hoping that the alternative was to get UPS to the Lake - then to MTR would work out but it was solely the mistake of EFOODS because they shipped our supply in 20 days instead of the anticipated 7-10 days like they mentioned on their site. They have great food, but shipping can take a while. It would be better to ship it to yourself and THEN ship it to MTR (Muir Trail Ranch) or any other resupply location first - just one lesson, but we were fine at the end of the day even though we technically hiked from Whitney Portal to Mammoth with no real resupply.

All that aside, one other thing to remember is to bring shoes that allow your ankles to flex! I saw too many people hiking with bulky boots that looked like they were being tortured. Some couldn't even hike with boots, but instead opted to hike with flip-flops (it didn't look pretty). My wife and I used approach shoes from 5.10 and Evolv and were were fine with just changing our relatively thin socks out once a day. We only got one blister each for the entire 211+ miles we hiked. Some breathable sports tape over a hot spot was all we needed. Years of hiking in the desert has taught me to prefer a breathable/ flexible shoe and cool foot over double socks and a stiff, overpriced boot that does more harm than good. JUst pick a shoe that fits your foot size and if it's tight at the shop, it will be like wearing chinese bondage shoes for the next few weeks. Ours fit perfectly and we didn't even need aftermarket insoles though we both have high arches.

For cooking: I brought one pot for the both of us, some small Glad resealable bowls to put our leftovers in after dinner, a titanium spork, a plastic spoon, and of course my MSR stove which I've had since 2003 (MSR is replacing mine now since it broke - BUT it was still useable). We never saw one bear during our hike - just some scat here and there. The bears must all be in Mammoth or in Yosemite Village - it was pretty sad to think that once upon a time huge Grizzlies and wolves roamed these mountains, but you can see why trappers and prospectors would be wary of such beasts as you'd be S.O.L. if you got bit out there in the 1800's - you'd pretty much be S.O.L. if you hurt yourself out there now too as you'd have to rely on close friends or family first and response time would likely be hours even with a SPOT locator. Just use your head and don't do anything too dumb and you'll probably be just fine.

Weather: The weather was fantastic until we got to Mammoth where we could see clear evidence of weather modification - it 'sprinkled' two days later. You think jets don't cause rain? We watched the entire process - it was odd, but we felt weaker those days too. Nevertheless, we stayed dry and some thunder over Donahue Pass brought a different vibe to our hiking adventure. It sure made us want to get to Yosemite at lower elevation that's for sure!

The only 'hot day' was our last day of hiking into Yosemite Village - it was smack dab in the middle of a hot weather streak and we only had 40oz of water each for about 20 miles. Some electrolytes helped tremendously but we were ready to hop in the cool streams in Yosemite by the time we got to Happy Isles. The stupid backpacker's camping spot turned out to be a pain in the ass to find and it was already full by the time we got in - most of the overflow camped outside the boundaries and I don't think any of the extras paid the outrageous price per person (only $5, but it seemed like a lot to camp on rocks and chipped wood). Nevertheless, our stops at Curry Village for pizza, beer, and ice-cream made up for the crappy backcountry camping spot that the DNC obviously keeps off the radar so they can charge $20+ a night everywhere else.

One GREAT thing is that there is an amazing bus system inside Yosemite Village and very reasonable YARTS bus system to places like Sonora and Mammoth from either Toluene, Mammoth, or Yosemite Village - just make sure you have a way to check departure times as most of the longer distance busses just leave once a day. We opted for the Western exit to Sonora where we relaxed at a friends house in Sonora for three days, we then rented a one way car back to the Inland Empire - that was about $100 less gas.

It was a fantastic trip. It would take another 50+ pages to just begin to describe the beauty found up up there during our journey and pictures don't do the landscape justice. Even Ansel Adams himself [barely] was able to capture one moment along the way.

MOSQUITOS: Not too bad - just at certian water crossings and certian valleys - I've heard that during wetter seasons it's much worse. YOU WILL NEED good repellant, otherwise risk being bit up. We took one medium sized bottle of 100% DEET to share between us - the mosquitos hated this stuff (just don't get it in your eyes!!!) Overall, we sprayed down once or twice a day and we were fine. A tent in the evenings helped keep critters off our face also.

TIME: We wound up hiking the trail in 15 days plus two down days - a total of 17 days. We took one much needed down day in Muir Trail Ranch and one in Mammoth where we split a motel room with a nice couple hiking the PCT. You'll defiantly want to do this as just about every through hiker was. The beer along the way (when you could find it) was top notch and made for some great relaxation. I downed some good stuff in Mammoth, Toluene, and Yosemite Village - you'll need the carbs and calories! You'll also be surprised at how fast you lose weight and gain muscle in two weeks! I suppose when you are hiking 10+ hours a day that happens.

Our shortest milage was heading up to the saddle on Mt. Whitney on day 1, and our longest was coming into Muir Trail Ranch on day 7 which was about 25 miles or so. People that brag about going 25+ miles a day are hiking with ultralight packs of 25lbs or less or are just smoking a lot of pot - even fit hikers will want to slow down and enjoy the sights - keep in mind that we did a pass a day also so that will slow you down.

Anyhow, I already want to do the hike again. Even the PCT'rs were saying that the first 700 miles of the PCT pretty much sucked except for the San Jacinto mountain range - 15-18 miles per day is a very good pace, slower if you want to enjoy the journey even more.

DO THIS TRIP!



:D :D :D :D :D
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Re: JMT 2012: SUCCESS!

Postby HH8 » Mon Jul 30, 2012 6:37 pm

mjordon wrote:Well I successfully completing the entire John Muir Trial from June 28 - July 14, 2012! I

DO THIS TRIP!
:D :D :D :D :D


Thanks for the detailed trip report. I especially appreciate things like "I'll never do THAT again" and also ways you dealt with problems.
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Postby neverwashasbeen » Mon Jul 30, 2012 6:38 pm

Nice TR, I'm convinced.
Happy Trails!
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Postby AlanK » Mon Jul 30, 2012 8:01 pm

Helluva nice report! And trip, of course.
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Postby Ellen » Tue Jul 31, 2012 9:14 am

Howdy Matt :)

Great TR 8) Now I want to go again (perhaps next year) and see what it is like with less mosquitos, little or no snow on high passes, and easier stream crossings.

Miles of smiles,
Ellen
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Postby arocknoid » Wed Aug 01, 2012 9:41 am

Terrific trail report with great tips and personal anecdotes.
You'll treasure the memories.

Major malfxn with EFOODS--yowza--and thanks for the kindness of strangers.

You had a great pearl, which bears highlighting and repeating:

Just use your head and don't do anything too dumb and you'll probably be just fine.


Now if only I could hone my appreciation of that fine line between dumb and too dumb...

kind regards,
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Re: JMT 2012: SUCCESS!

Postby Hikin_Jim » Wed Aug 01, 2012 1:21 pm

mjordon wrote:successfully completing the entire John Muir Trial from June 28 - July 14, 2012
That's a nice, fast completion. Pretty early in the season too. You picked a good year. Try starting that early last year, and you'd have had some serious problems with snow.

I wound up renting bear canisters from Wild Ideas - they have lightweight expedition canisters for a special $55 rate for JMT through hikers.
The Bearikades from Wild Ideas are the nicest, lightest canisters I've seen. The Garcia ones are the heaviest and least easy to use.

My MSR Dragonfly stove worked great and 20oz of white gas was more than enough to get to the resupply at the halfway mark - about twice as much as two people needed. In other words, I could have only used 12oz and I probably could have been fine. We also cooked over an open fire a few times. I even wound up mailing my stove ... when I got to Mammoth.
The Dragonfly is a great stove for serious "real" cooking or for large groups, but probably not my first pick for a trip where saving weight is the word of the day. For really really light weight cooking, you could try an alcohol or hexamine (e.g. ESBIT) stove.

I had the Tom Harrison 13 page JMT map set and it was perfect.
Thanks for that feedback.

We both brought out hiking poles and the were a MUST!
I sure like them with a heavier pack, particularly at water crossings.

Years of hiking in the desert has taught me to prefer a breathable/ flexible shoe and cool foot over double socks and a stiff, overpriced boot that does more harm than good.
Yeah, that's what I've come around to: shoes not boots even with fairly heavy backpack. The only thing I like boots for is snow and maybe serious cross country through loose rocky scree.

Great write up. Makes me want to do it, but alas I gots to work and take care of the young 'uns and the (essentially) non-hiking wife.

HJ
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Postby Ellen » Thu Aug 02, 2012 10:26 am

arocknoid wrote: Now if only I could hone my appreciation of that fine line between dumb and too dumb...


:lol: :lol: :lol:
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