Planning for the John Muir trail
Planning for the trip seemed, to me, to be low key, simply because I've done it so much over the last 50 years of my life. My first trips, with the Boy Scouts, started when I was 10 year old. This casual approach probably wasn't the best, but Stephanie and I had only done weekend trips to get into "shape" for doing the JMT and for testing out our kit, and the food we'd bring.
Stephanie's vegetarian diet didn't seem so unsurmountable to me, and she had a lot of interesting food choices that I figured would be interesting to try out. Getting an idea of just how much we'd eat was difficult. But first we'd need an itinerary.
My idea was to try to do the JMT in 2 weeks. That's a number that seemed doable, but fast. Basically it came from a somewhat antiquated view of mine that we might be able to carry 2 weeks of food, and so we'd do the trip entirely self-supported. The reality of the JMT today makes that difficult unless the trip is very quick and the food required fine tuned. Basically this is because of the food storage requirements, that all the food has to be stored in some form of approved canister that prevents the bears from getting it.
The canisters have a weight of roughly 2lbs, and a finite volume. This weight is roughly one day's food ration for one person. We were able to cram 7 days of food into each of 2 canisters, which had them weighing in at 16lbs each. Two weeks would have probably been prohibitively heavy. However, we would find that our planning over estimated the amount of food required.
Our three trips in 2016 prior to the JMT were: May 28-29 to Buena Vista Pass in the southern edge of Yosemite NP, June 18-19 to Sadler Lake in the Ansel Adams Wilderness, and July 7-9 to Lake Merced from Tuolumne Meadows over Vogelsang Pass and back via Sunrise High Sierra Camp. Suffice it to say that we learned a lot on these trips, generated some anxiety about my ability to tolerate the physical demands of backpacking, and were great adventures on their own, taking me to parts of those mountains I hadn't been in before. But they didn't get to answer all the questions that we wanted to answer for the JMT.
The JMT trip itinerary we came up with was pretty aggressive.
The resupply plan was to carry one day of food on the first day and pick up 8 days of food in Tuolumne Meadows. Then to resupply at Muir Ranch which had us picking up 4 additional days of food, which totaled 13 days of food. About one gallon of food was also cached at Tuolume Meadows, we carried a smaller container of 2 days for day 1.
The first day is a monster day in terms of altitude. The second would be in terms of distance. After that we'd have to get in 8 to 10 hours of hiking at a rate suggested by our initial trips. That, at least, was the plan.
We got together and bought food, and this had to be packaged, four days worth sent off to Muir Ranch 3 weeks before our pickup date.
The July trip was the last backpack. We trained until the week before, then we rested getting ready for day 1.
IIRC on our JMT we could not eat more than 14 oz a day.
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Ed Hartouni is a physicist and a climber who lives in Livermore, California.
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