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.

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