Monday, March 17, 2014

Planning Our Itinerary

JMT is different from any longer distance backpacking/trekking we have done so far. Unlike our previous trips where we had reservation for a particular camp or hut each night, here we only have the first night arranged in Little Yosemite Valley Camp. From there on it will be up to us to decide how far we want to walk each day and where we crush for the night.  It certainly is good to have this freedom; however there are hundreds of amazing camping possibilities along the trail, and choosing the 19 that appeal to us most was nearly impossible task.

There are many planning tools available for the JMT. I used information provided in guide book by Elizabeth Wenk: John Muir Trail - The Essential Fuide to Hiking America's Most Famous Trail as a base for a spreadsheet of all available campsites and their elevation data. 

On the same spreadsheet I marked the mountain passes we will cross and side trips we might consider taking. This breakdown of the trail made it relatively easy to come up with reasonable daily mileage and elevation gain.

Once I knew where on the trail we think we might be in the evening of each day, I compared all the sites near to that point and chose the one that best described ideal camping place =  close to a water source, and of course having views. The more views, the better. In short, this is what we're hoping for.

08/03/2014 Day 1 - 4.4 miles (+ Half Dome climb)
08/04/2014 Day 2 - 13.4 miles
08/05/2014 Day 3 - 14.8 miles
08/06/2014 Day 4 - 12.9 miles
08/07/2014 Day 5 - 13.2 miles
08/08/2014 Day 6 - 11.4 miles
08/09/2013 Day 7 - 10.5 miles
08/10/2014 Day 8 - 8.5 miles (+ 1.5 miles to VVR)
08/11/2014 Day 9 - Rest day
08/12/2014 Day 10 - 9.9 miles (+ 1.5 miles from VVR)
08/13/2014 Day 11 - 11.3 miles
08/14/2014 Day 12 - 9 miles
08/15/2014 Day 13 - 13.2 miles
08/16/2014 Day 14 - 12.1 miles
08/17/2014 Day 15 - 11.8 miles
08/18/2014 Day 16 - 10.1 miles
08/19/2014 Day 17 - 9.6 miles
08/20/2014 Day 18 - 9.5 miles
08/21/2014 Day 19 - 13.4 miles
08/22/2014 Day 20 - 6.8 miles (if weather is questionable or 10.7 miles if camping atop Whitney)
08/23/2014 Day 21 - 7.8 miles (or 11.7 miles depending on previous day camping spot)
08/24/2014 Day 22 - Hitchhike to Lone Pine

But while I am a planner, I am also a realist. I know we might not be able to stick with our itinerary. Blisters, for example, could greatly slow us progress. So could we get delayed by a raging storm over a mountain pass. Or the site I hope for might be already claimed. Or hundreds of other things can cross our plans. This is when flexibility becomes truly valuable. It will be alright if somewhere en route we end up changing our plans. After all  it is the uncertainty that makes long distance hiking appealing. 

Only 138 days to go....

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

To Drive or Not to Drive

We’re really doing it! We’re going to disappear into a wilderness for nearly a whole month, carry everything we need to survive - shelter, food, clothing and a few other essentials - on our backs from Yosemite Valley all the way to the very top of the highest mountain of the continental US.

Over the last month the preparations got underway. The first decision we had to make was regarding transportation. It would be nice to walk to our vehicle at the end of the trail and have the freedom to take off at any time we please. On the other hand will we really feel like a 2-day drive after the trip? Probably not. I also was not quite sold on an idea of leaving the Jeep at the trailhead for such extended period of time. In the end we decided to fly.

We booked a flight to Reno from where we will take the East Sierra Transit to a small town of Lee Vinning. This is where we can catch the YARTS bus heading for Yosemite Valley. The timing is not perfect, the last YARTS bus leaves Lee Vinning before we’ll have a chance to get to the town but we will need to pick up few supplies, including gas, and having the afternoon to do so will make us feel less rushed. On the other end of the trail we should be able to pick the East Sierra Transit bus directly at Lone Pine and ride it all the way back to Reno.

Another decision we made was to prepare our own food. We like food. We like food even more while we’re on the trail. Ramen Noodles and Mountain House pouch might be all right for a 1 night trip; however we did not want to expose ourselves to incredibly high amounts of sodium and other ingredients that resemble a list for chemical experiment more than a dinner day after day for the whole month. So we started dehydrating. Our first experimental meal consisting of pasta, beef and pesto with a bit of cheese was born, and it tasted good. We also dehydrated some sweet potatoes we plan to use for our Shepard’s Pie and some strawberries for snacking. It’s a good start and we have a week long trip planned to Arizona in late April which will give us an opportunity to test more of our creations in area where there is access to other food should something go wrong.