Tuesday, June 21, 2016

JMT Resupply Planning

Planning your resupplies for the John Muir Trail is, to say the least, a pain in the butt. The up side to doing it is: you're going to hike the John Muir Trail! So it's at least a little exciting to prepare for your trip.

Last time around I planned to hike the whole thing, start to finish, with 3 resupplies at Tuolumne Meadows (TM), Red's, and Muir Trail Ranch (MTR). I didn't hike all of that - it's a long story - but I'm going back to finish it up this year. In fact, I'm hiking my favorite part of the trail in its entirety in addition to finishing what I didn't do last time. I'm going from Tuolumne Meadows to Charlotte Lake, then over Kearsarge Pass to Onion Valley. I swore I'd never do Glen Pass again since I've already done it twice but, well... it's happening.

Last time around, I messed up when planning my food. I packed things I didn't like to eat. I bonked a few times. I planned to go from MTR to Whitney Portal without a resupply in the middle. My plans just sort of sucked all around. So here's what I learned:

  • I get really sad any time I have to carry more than 5 days of food at a time.
  • I don't actually really like Snickers.
  • I don't like trail mix at all.
  • Dried fruit gets really unappealing really fast, but if I have to eat any of it, prunes are my favorites.
  • It's nice to have a cup of tea at night.
  • Cheese and jelly beans are pretty much my favorite trail foods. I would live on them if I could.
  • The brewery in Mammoth is awesome. I am absolutely eating there when I reach Red's. No need to pack dinner that night.
  • The food at Red's is atrocious. I'd rather eat my dehydrated crap than what they've got. (Note to others reading this: I'm a foodie. If you aren't into organic, healthy, pasture-raised, whole grain, free range, hippie foods, you'll probably like their food just fine. But I don't.)
  • The food at VVR is amazing. Eat there.
  • You've probably heard it said already but MTR won't feed you unless you are a paying guest. Really.
  • However, the hiker bins at MTR are a place to find wonderful treasures and deliciousness.
  • The lodge at Tuolumne Meadows, which is right on the trail, sells these amazing breakfast burritos to go, but it's even nicer to eat there if you have time. If you started in the Valley, then by the time you reach it, you will REALLY appreciate their little fruit salad cups.
  • Good To-Go brand meals are delicious, despite the high price. The best one I had was Herbed Mushroom Risotto. However, I suspect the chili made me fart.
  • DO NOT take the ultralight people's advice and repackage your meals if you are eating curry!! That shit gets ALL OVER EVERYTHING and then all of your food tastes like curry.
  • If you DO feel the need to repackage your curry-flavored meals, pack up your neutral flavored food FIRST. Start with the most neutral tasting foods, get those squared away, and THEN handle the more flavorful stuff.
  • Adding a few dried herbs to basic, boring dehydrated meals available for purchase can really help them taste better.
  • Adding cheese to dried bean dishes REALLY helps it out.
  • Oatmeal tastes like paste after three weeks of having it for breakfast. I think adding sugar helps.
  • Granola, on the other hand, was too sugary-sweet for me for breakfast. I tried that on a subsequent backpack after the JMT and it was gross.
  • Mary Jane's Farm has some good meals but they all tend to use different permutations of the same so you can get sick of them easily even if you've packed different meals. For example, Curry in a Hurry is just Lentils, Rice, and Indian Spice with cheese. The same cheese that is in Chilimac and Cheesy Noodle Casserole, which are also almost identical to one another. Some of the Mary Jane's meals were too salty (Chilimac and Cheesy Noodle Casserole) and others (Black Bean and Corn Chowder) weren't salty enough. I fixed that by mixing them together.
  • Variety is IMPORTANT!!!! Last year I bought 2 Mary Jane's Farm meals in bulk and planned to eat them on many nights. It got gross by Day 2. Switch up your food, because if your food isn't appealing and you can't eat it, well... that's a big problem for multiple reasons.
  • One set of batteries in my Petzl headlamp was enough for the whole trip, although I still brought spare batteries anyway. My old Black Diamond headlamp constantly turned on in my pack and that thing ate batteries constantly.
  • As a female, one roll of toilet paper lasted approximately 8 days on the trail.

So.... here goes planning for this year. I am going to drive up to Mammoth, drop a resupply box at Red's, grab YARTS to Tuolumne, and start there. Then I'll hike out Kearsarge, hitch a ride to Independence or Lone Pine, and grab ESTA back to my car in Mammoth. The only resupply that needs to go out ahead of time is therefore the big, stupid MTR bucket that makes me angry at MTR even as I look at it, since they are so unfriendly to hikers and they charge so damn much. But that's the price I am paying to avoid carrying too many days of food at once.

So here's what I need:

  • TM to Red's: 3 breakfasts, 4 lunches, 3 dinners (getting a burrito at the Lodge in Tuolumne for 1 breakfast)
  • Red's to MTR: 5 breakfasts, 6 lunches, and 5 dinners (Taking a zero in Mammoth, eating dinner out, and eating a dinner and a breakfast at VVR)
  • MTR to Kearsarge: 8 breakfasts, 8 lunches, 7 dinners (Taking a zero at MTR so it's OK if a full day's worth of food is kind of heavy or bulky because I'll eat it there.)

So here's the plan:

Breakfast: Oatmeal with raisins, again, even though it tastes like paste. I'm packing brown sugar in a separate bag so I can add it to my oatmeal to taste each morning. Last year I tried mixing in the sugar ahead of time and I didn't add enough. Starbucks Via again as my coffee. It's gross. But the other options are worse.

Lunches: On my zero at MTR I'm going to have cooked veggie quinoa and wild Alaskan salmon. I don't want to carry around a fishy-smelling salmon wrapper, so that's something to eat where I can toss out the packaging. Otherwise, I've got cheese, salami, Jelly Bellies, bars (still looking for the kind I want to get for this year), Amy's brand candy bars, prunes, and olives. I only got a few packages of olives. They are a brand called Oloves and I've tried them. They are tasty. I don't know what kind of cheese I'm going to get yet. I might send one kind that is very shelf-stable in the MTR resupply and then bring something like an aged cheddar for the first part of the trip. I've got the salami already. It's a brand called Olli and it tastes good.

Dinner: I've got a mix of things for dinners. I've got five nights of Good To-Go brand. Three of them are the Herbed Mushroom Risotto, one Indian Vegetable Korma, and one Thai Curry. I'm going to repackage the risotto, but not the other stuff. The down-side to this brand is the packaging is obnoxiously huge and inflexible, and hard to shove in a bear can. For the remaining nights I'm going to have dehydrated soups I got from the bulk bins at my local food co-op. I'm going to be mixing it up between split pea, corn, black bean, refried beans, and curried lentil. I'm adding thyme, rosemary, cayenne, and dried kale leaves to several of them. I also added a dried shiitake mushroom or two to one of the split pea packages. I'm bringing dehydrated veggies separately and adding them to my food. I think I might also mix some of the black beans into the refried beans to take the flavor down a notch because I've tasted this stuff and it's a little over the top with the seasoning. The black beans, on the other hand, are nice and bland. For tea, I bring coca tea. It's good for altitude and you can buy it online from Peru.

Non-Food Items: Omnifix for blisters, any other first aid items, a roll of toilet paper in the MTR resupply. Dr. Bronner's soap in the MTR resupply. Trail maps for the next section of the trail after each resupply. Tampons... still need to work out when I'll need those. Hopefully not at all. And I'll buy fuel when I get there, so I think that's it!


  1. What size bear canister do you use?

  2. I have a UDAP No-Fed Bear can. I don't know anyone else with the same one. It looks like a Garcia though and it's about the same size-ish.