John Muir Trail, a Half-Through Hike


It’s Saturday now as I write, early morning. I’m about to mow the lawn and fix a sprinkler before college football starts. I need to get this “housework” done today because Anthony and I are leaving for our week-long hike tonight. We’ll drive down to a nice staging point where we’ll stay the night with some friends. We’ll then hit the road early Sunday morning to drop a vehicle at our exit point, and get a ride up to Yosemite Valley. Then, after one night spent camping in the valley, we officially hit the trail Monday morning with the sunrise. Monday-to-Monday, seven days. I did decide, in the end, to take along my BlackBerry, and just leave it switched off. I do plan to use it in the evenings, however, as a way to capture some quick thoughts for the blog. If all goes well, you should see this post Monday morning, a post Wednesday, and something on Friday or Saturday.

But, in those dark days when I’ll be miles away from everything – you can come back here and track me using the table below. It’s not a “must” kind of table, but more of a guide. The schedule purposely leaves room for bettering (or worsening, I suppose) our mileage each day, which I figure will be wholly dependent on how we feel at the guesstimated end of each day below. Again, it’s not set in stone, but I’d say you should be able to use the timeline below to figure out where we are (plus or minus 5mi) on any given day. Heck, if you use an average hiking speed of 2mph, you can even check this table to guesstimate where exactly we might be along the trail. If you’re nuts, you can then plug in coordinates from this table and look at our terrain on Google Earth. Whatever you do with the data, though, here it is.

Day One – Monday, 9/17
Satellite image of intended campsite
Route Happy Isles Trailhead -> JMT/Half Dome Trail Junction
Day-Miles 6.9
Cum-Miles 6.9
Day-Ascent ~3,000 ft
Day-Descent 0 ft
Notes “Light” day to break in the legs and lungs; partial cell coverage; opportunity to extend
Day Two – Tuesday, 9/18
Satellite image of intended campsite
Route JMT/Half Dome Trail Junction -> Cathedral Pass
Day-Miles 12.1
Cum-Miles 19.0
Day-Ascent ~3,000 ft
Day-Descent ~400 ft
Notes N/A
Day Three – Wednesday, 9/19
Satellite image of intended campsite
Route Cathedral Pass -> JMT/Ireland Lake Trail Junction
Day-Miles 12.3
Cum-Miles 31.3
Day-Ascent ~3,000 ft
Day-Descent ~1000 ft
Notes Stopover at Tuolumne Meadows Post Office (25.9 mi cum) to pick up resupply package; possible partial cell coverage
Day Four – Thursday, 9/20
Satellite image of intended campsite
Route JMT/Ireland Lake Trail Junction -> Thousand Island Lake Camping Area
Day-Miles 13.8
Cum-Miles 45.1
Day-Ascent ~3,000 ft
Day-Descent ~2,000 ft
Notes Highest elevation reached on the hike, Donohue Pass at 11,056 ft
Day Five – Friday, 9/21
Satellite image of intended campsite
Route Thousand Island Lake Camping Area -> Johnson’s Meadow
Day-Miles 13.7
Cum-Miles 58.8
Day-Ascent ~1,800 ft
Day-Descent ~56 ft
Notes Possible partial cell coverage entering Mammoth area
Day Six – Saturday, 2/22
Satellite image of intended campsite
Route Johnson’s Meadow -> Deer Creek
Day-Miles 11.5
Cum-Miles 70.3
Day-Ascent ~2,000 ft
Day-Descent ~1,050 ft
Notes Pass through Devil’s Postpile & Red’s Meadow; hot thermal showers available; partial cell coverage in Mammoth area
Day Seven – Sunday, 9/23
Satellite image of intended campsite
Route Deer Creek -> JMT/Cascade Valley Trail Junction
Day-Miles 12.3
Cum-Miles 82.6
Day-Ascent ~2,050 ft
Day-Descent ~2,050 ft
Notes Heavy water-pack day, low availability on trail
Day Eight – Monday, 9/24
Satellite image of ferry pickup
Route JMT/Cascade Valley Trail Junction -> Edison Lake Ferry landing
Day-Miles 11.8
Cum-Miles 94.4
Day-Ascent ~1,850 ft
Day-Descent ~3,150 ft
Notes Catch ferry across Edison Lake at 4:45pm; shower and cell coverage at Vermilion Valley Resort; pickup car and head home

For food we based our meals on about 2000-2500 calories per day.

  • Breakfast consists of an assortment of flavors of those instant oatmeal packets (interestingly enough, the “weight control” kind, which has double the protein and fiber, but the same amount of calories) with dried berries mixed in (a mix of raisins, cranberries, and blueberries), a cup of hot mate/tea with honey, and a Cliff bar. We also bought a single dehydrated bacon and eggs meal, just to try it out one morning.
  • Lunch is one of two options, both served on tortilla: tuna (in the little packets, not the cans), or salami and cheese (both the “dry” Italian kind that don’t require refrigeration). For those wondering about condiments: we stopped by Kentucky Fried Chicken to fill our pockets full of “free” mustard, mayo, and honey packets.
  • Dinners are completely made up of those dehydrated “hiker meals” you can get from REI, and another Cliff bar. We bought and assortment of meals, so we’ll have something different to try each night. I don’t have high hopes for flavor, but the they should sustain. Like our rogue dehydrated breakfast, we bought one single dehydrated dessert, perhaps for some special night when we kick butt on the trail, or maybe when we’re calorie-starved and cant’ take it anymore.
  • For snacks we are bringing jerky, dried mango, and more Cliff bars, all calorie-big. We also have a small reserve of those nasty energy/protein “gel shots” we can suck on if we hit a serious sinking spell.
  • Liquids will be filtered water, supplementable with either powdered Propel or Gatorade for flavor (and yummy bonus electrolytes).

We bought and will carry about 10% more than what we thought we’d need in terms of daily calories, just in case. The entire eight days worth of food weighed right around 23lbs; I have no idea if this is a “good” weight for eight days of food or not. We mailed about two-thirds of the food ahead to the Tuolumne Meadows Post Office (13lbs and change worth) for a mid-hike resupply on our third day. We did do a “rough” volumetric check on our foodstuffs, because we do have to get it all (and our smells-like-food-to-bears toiletries) into two bear cans… but I’m still just a little leery that we can cram it all in. In the end, we’ll have the option of renting an additional “spillover” can, albeit at a pretty hefty weight/load tax – so we’re hoping not to have to. Here’s a picture of our entire spread before we unpackaged it all, separated it, and shipped the resupply package:

For gear, we’re both bringing only the essentials, in an effort to hike as unloaded as possible (although we realize there’s tons of room for improvement, we have the luxury of going “halvsies” on a lot of items we can pickup at the resupply point). I have a much more detailed by-weight breakdown of the gear in a spreadsheet (yes, I’m that nerdy), but you don’t need to see that here (maybe I’ll post a readable Google Spreadsheet when I get back, if I feel like it). For now, here’s a rough list of the gear we’ll be taking with us on our trek:

  • Clothing: Two short-sleeve shirts; one long-sleeve shirt; three pair underwear; two pair thin/short socks; two pair thick/tall socks; one pair convertible shorts/pants; regular tennis shoes for me, hiking boots for Anthony; a thin-but-warm jacket/fleece for cold nights; bandanas for headcoverings; and ponchos for the freak rainstorm. All of the “daily wear” items are the super-expensive lightweight synthetic/polypro breathable/wicking kind, purchased expressly so we can be fancy and feel like “real” hikers.
  • Gear: Backpacks; bear cans; sleeping bags and liners; tent; sleeping pads; camp pillows; water bladders and bottles; one bowl and universal spork/knife each; campstove; two white gas bottles; water filter; trekking poles; headlamps; and one large pot with lid.
  • Various Sundries: Sunblock (the cool and easy sprayable kind); bug spray; first-aid kit; handheld GPS (extra batteries mailed ahead to the resupply point); camera; sharp knife; magnesium flint/steel firestarter; spade (for latrine-digging); 50-count wet-wipes (“septic friendly” for faster biodegrade); cash (for incidentals when near civilization, and the ferry ride to the car); drugs (we have a veritable pharmacy, including Ibuprofen, Tylenol, Vicodin, Excedrin, Sudafed, Claritin, and, of course, multivitamins); sunglasses; cellphone/BlackBerry (for thumb-blogging at night and the occasional phone call when we can); paint filters (to strain out beasties from our no-filter electrolysis style water treatment); soap (a small bottle of Dr. Bronner’s peppermint-hemp, for showers and laundry); bungee cord (for attaching bulky bear cans to packs); and extra moleskin.
  • Total pack weight for first half of the hike: ~35lbs
  • Estimated pack weight after resupply: ~40lbs

Well, that’s about all the pre-hike information I’ve got for ya. As you can see, we did a fair amount of planning for this. I only wish we did as much training and conditioning. But, I think we can hack it. I plan to have tons of pictures to post when we return (still need to swing by Best Buy to pickup an extra camera battery), a lot of fancy GPS profiling data and imagery, and hopefully some good stories to tell. Wish us luck, and tune in here periodically through the week to look for some quick updates.

Until Tuesday next week, I’ll be on the trail.


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