Saturday, July 18, 2015

John Muir Trail: Reducing Pack Weight and Changing Food

It's amazing how you find that you don't need as much as you thought you did once you have to carry all of your possessions on your back.

In Tuolumne Meadows, I mailed a box home with excess food, my camera charger, a wildflower book, some emergency water treatment tabs (I kept a few, but sent home most of them), flint and steel (which was a back-up for piezo ignition and a lighter), and some extra band-aids. I packed WAY more food than I needed, especially trail mix (which I don't even like), and my dinners (I assumed hiker hunger would kick in ASAP and I'd need enormous servings).

After VVR, it was time to dump more things. This time I got rid of:
  • My knit hat (it falls off when I sleep, and I have a wool hoodie and a down jacket with a hood)
  • A carabiner (never used it once)
  • My sunglasses (I don't even like wearing them)
  • Mosquito repellant (never used it... and I dealt with the bad mosquito areas by hiking through them and camping elsewhere)
  • Food, again
  • My windscreen (used it twice, didn't feel like it was really needed)
  • My phone charger (I keep my phone turned off since I don't have reception anyway)
  • The bottle the aspirin came in (transferred it to a plastic bag)
  • The bottle my prescription drugs came in (another bag)
  • Papers from the ranger about which lakes you can't camp near (they are well marked when you get there)
  • My third pair of socks
  • Extra memory chips for my camera
  • 6 extra batteries
  • My dry bag (I have a pack cover that did the job, plus ziplocs)
  • Moleskin (it seemed to make my blisters worse instead of better)

Luxuries I am keeping include: a collapsible bucket (I love that thing!), 2 pens and a notebook, and my big fat heavy camera.

I also changed up my food planning after VVR. My meals might have tasted good on day 1, but by now they were disgusting and I was sick of them. With 8 dinners to go (since I'm abbreviating the end of my trip), I switched to 4 new meals, which I will eat twice each. I'm drastically reducing the amount of trail mix I expect to eat (since I don't even like it) and increasing the amount of cheese I'm bringing (it hits the spot better than anything at lunch). Breakfast stays the same (oatmeal). Instead of bringing a variety of dried fruits, I'm just bringing prunes because I like them the best. And, for days when I'm dragging and just need energy, I'm bringing gummy worms. On long days of hiking, sugar is necessary, and not just because it's yummy. You need it to prevent bonking. I don't know how close I've gotten to bonking but there were a few times where my brain just stopped working after long and intense hikes, and I wonder if that's what was going on. I tended to not eat enough during the day because I did not like what I had for lunch.

To make all of these changes, I actually headed home. I could have avoided doing so by putting a bunch of food in the hiker barrel at MTR and then hiking out at Independence or Bishop to resupply in town. However, I feared that it would be expensive and that I wouldn't be able to find organic and vegetarian food like I want. After a weekend off (doing yoga, doing laundry, and eating fresh fruits and veg), I'm going back in at Kearsarge Pass, hiking north for a bit to Rae Lakes, and then heading south to finish the trail. It's not ideal, but at least it will make getting home at the end of the trip easier, because now I'll be able to leave my car in Lone Pine. Also, now I'll be able to leave nice things in my car to have when I finish... like a razor and a clean set of clothes.

I won't be able to say that I hiked the JMT straight through, but that ship had already sailed when it snowed at Donahue Pass my fifth day on the trail and I took a ride to Mammoth and spent two nights in a hotel with other JMTers. I'm excited that I'll get to go back next summer to finish the section of the trail I didn't do this time. Next year I'll hike from Tuolumne to Red's and then I'll see how close to VVR I can hike in (maybe Duck Pass or McGee Pass?) and then I'll go south from there to Kearsarge Pass.

I've hiked 82 miles so far, and I'm going to do plenty more in another stint of nine days on the trail, beginning Monday. And this way I will be safer, healthier, and happier.

Friday, July 17, 2015

John Muir Trail, Day 1: Happy Isles to Little Yosemite

I began at Happy Isles, and naturally, I needed to get a photo at The Sign:

Me at The Sign

Soon after starting, I ran into an old friend:

Gaping Keckiella

Gaping Keckiella

I remembered seeing this flower all over the Yosemite Falls trail last summer, but I couldn't remember its name. After several hours of hiking, it came to me: Gaping Keckiella.

Bottom of Vernal Falls
Bottom of Vernal Falls, from the bridge

Soon after taking the shot above, I saw the junction for the Mist Trail and the JMT. I took the Mist Trail. It was steep, and my pack was so heavy I could hardly carry it, but I enjoyed the flowers and waterfalls.


Hansen's Larkspur

Larkspur... not sure why it's this color instead of purpleLarkspur
Larkspur close up

Cool looking bug

Pretty soon, Vernal Falls came into full view:

Vernal Falls

Vernal Falls

Vernal Falls

Vernal Falls

Vernal Falls

See the look on his face? He's plotting to steal your food.

Up until this point, the trail was extremely crowded with tourists who were hiking up to the top of Vernal Falls. It thinned out after heading up toward Nevada Falls and crossing this bridge:


Still, most of the people I met were day hikers or people just going up to bag Half Dome, not JMT hikers.

Nevada Falls
Nevada Falls

Nevada Falls was extraordinary too, but I was getting tired of carrying my heavy pack. I tried to take a 10 minute break once every hour, actually sitting down and taking my pack off. I forced myself to eat too, because I get sick to my stomach when I hike sometimes, and if I don't eat, I get even sicker. Eating is difficult but it always makes me feel better. Plus, I still had some nice treats with me, like hard boiled eggs.

Nevada Falls

Currants, Not Ripe Yet
Currants growing along the trail, mostly not ripe yet. I ate a few anyway. (And stuffed my face with the raspberries growing around Curry Village.)

Nevada Falls

View from the Mist Trail
The view from above

At a certain point, I was just pooped. I sat down and rested for a while. Several people came past me and said I was literally right around the corner from the top. I've learned not to believe most information like that given by others on the trail, because people are often wildly inaccurate when they tell you how far you are from the end. This time, fortunately, they were right. When I got up and continued, I reached the top in no time. Then it was just another mile to Little Yosemite Valley.

The Bathroom at Little Yosemite Valley
This is the solar composting toilet at Little Yosemite Valley. It stinks just as bad as any other latrine, but at least if you use it, you don't have to pack out your toilet paper.

My Campsite at Little Yosemite Valley
My campsite at Little Yosemite Valley

I didn't take any more pictures after that point because I was too busy making friends, washing my clothes, and taking a dip in the Merced. Also worth noting... another hiker told me he saw 4 rattlesnakes at Little Yosemite Valley. I did not see any, but it's good to know you should look for them just in case.

Day 1 miles hiked: 3.9
Day 1 elevation gain: 2090 ft

All of my JMT photos can be seen here.

Previous JMT posts:

Sunday, July 5, 2015

John Muir Trail

In 2015, I planned to hike the entire John Muir Trail... and then hiked about half of it. In total, I hiked 140 miles in the Sierras. I plan to hike the rest of the JMT in 2016, and I am happy with the decision I made to hike what I did and save the rest for later. This post is a table of contents for all of my blogging about both trips - 2015 and 2016. Be aware that all of the posts and the planning for 2016 are considerably better than those for 2015. My 2015 plans did not exactly all pan out. However, they are worth reading for that reason alone if you want to learn from my mistakes.



All of my JMT photos can be seen here (2015) and here (2016).