Tuesday, December 16, 2014

John Muir Trail: Planning My Itinerary

I haven't even lived in Wisconsin for five months and already I'm jonesing for my California mountains so bad I could practically go crazy. I'm headed back to San Diego over winter break, but I need more. So I'm planning to hike the John Muir Trail.

In case anyone else is interested in how one goes about planning a 220 mile hike, I'll share my plans here.

Step one: Figure out the basics - start, end, and resupply points.
Step two: Figure out everything else in between.

Easy, right?

The start, end, and resupply bit is easy. Most people start at Happy Isles in Yosemite National Park and end at Whitney Portal. I've visited both places and hiked the last few miles of the John Muir Trail, so that helps with that. You can hike it in the opposite direction, south to north, but I want to go with the flow. I am hiking alone and I'd like to meet and hike with people along the way. Also, going south to north means you have to summit Mt Whitney on your first day. I want to start off easy and work up to longer, harder days.

Resupply options are ample and easy for the first half of the trail, and non-existent/complicated/expensive on the last half. Since I'm poor, I'm opting for "non-existent" (I'm not paying someone to come over the mountains via donkey with extra food for me. I'll be my own donkey.) The one possible exception is exiting the trail at Kearsage Pass to go for food then. It would involve hitchhiking. Don't tell my mother.

You can join a Yahoo! group for the John Muir Trail that provides a spreadsheet with every single detail and GPS coordinate for the entire trail, courtesy of Elizabeth Wenk. It would be kind to purchase her book if you are going to use her data. Fortunately, the Hanukkah Fairy will be delivering my copy of the book soon.

So here's my plan as of now:
  • Day 1: Happy Isles to Little Yosemite Valley. 4.5 mi, 2090 ft elevation gain. Ideally, once my tent is pitched, I'll go hike up Clouds Rest. Also, I plan to take the Mist Trail instead of the JMT when they diverge, which will make this initial segment a bit shorter and a bit steeper.
  • Day 2: Half Dome. Not strictly on the trail but I'm dying to do it. 7.1 mi. Camp at Little Yosemite again.
  • Day 3: Little Yosemite Valley to Sunrise High Sierra. 8.7 mi, 3600 ft elevation gain.
  • Day 4: Sunrise High Sierra to Tuolumne Meadows. $5/person to camp. 9.6 mi, 590 ft elevation gain.
  • Day 5: Tuolomne Meadows to Tuolumne High Sierra Camp. Resupply, relax. 1.1 mi, 90 ft elevation gain.
  • Day 6: Tuolumne High Sierra Camp to Lyell Fork bridge. 9.6 mi, 1030 ft elevation gain.
  • Day 7: Lyell Fork Bridge to Garnet Lake. 11.6 mi, 2120 ft elevation gain.
  • Day 8: Garnet Lake to Minaret Creek. 10.8 mi, 1270 ft elevation gain.
  • Day 9: Minaret Creek to Reds Meadow Resort. 3.3 mi, 280 ft elevation gain. Rest and resupply.
  • Day 10: Reds Meadow Resort to just before Duck Pass junction. 10.9 mi, 2380 ft elevation gain.
  • Day 11: Duck Pass junction to Squaw Lake. 9.8 mi, 1730 ft elevation gain.
  • Day 12: Squaw Lake to VVR: 8.1 mi, 450 ft elevation gain. $12 one-way ferry ticket to VVR if resupply is necessary.
  • Day 13: VVR to Hilgard Fork junction. 9.9 mi, 2840 ft elevation gain.
  • Day 14: Hilgard Fork junction to Muir Trail Ranch. 10.0 mi, 1420 ft elevation gain. Resupply.
  • Day 15: Muir Trail Ranch to McClure Meadow. 11.3 mi, 1985 ft elevation gain.
  • Day 16: McClure Meadow to Helen Lake. 11.3 mi, 2440 ft elevation gain.
  • Day 17: Helen Lake to past Middle Fork Kings junction. 11.3 mi, 430 ft elevation gain.
  • Day 18: Past Middle Fork Kings jct to Upper Basin. 10.5 mi, 3670 ft elevation gain.
  • Day 19: Upper Basin to after Pinchot Pass. 11.7 mi, 2120 ft elevation gain.
  • Day 20: After Pinchot Pass to Woods Creek. 4.7 mi, 20 ft elevation gain. Rest day.
  • Day 21: Woods Creek to Charlotte Lake. 11.2 mi, 3840 ft. elevation gain.
  • Day 22: Charlotte Lake to Tyndall Creek. 14.5 mi, 3630 ft elevation gain.
  • Day 23: Tyndall Creek to Guitar Lake. 12.4 mi, 3360 ft elevation gain.
  • Day 24: Guitar Lake to Whitney Portal. 14.3 ft, 2595 gain.
I might add more rest days in there. I might cut the resupply at VVR since it seems unnecessary, and I might add a resupply at Kearsage Pass. But, in general, this looks like a good plan. If I can get the permits for it.

Up next: Watching the weather, picking the date to do it, applying for permits, and lots of training.

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