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John Muir Trail first-timer
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Marcus Dyson

Locale: Yorkshire, UK
John Muir Trail first-timer on 02/12/2012 06:40:18 MST Print View

Hi, I'm a new BPL forum user, and a UK resident.

I travel to the US for hiking fairly often. I've day hiked Whitney, Grand Canyon Rim-to-rim, and Zion Narrows top down, among others. I hope, this year, to do the John Muir Trail, but... and it's a BIG but, I have done no overnight hiking before.

I have camped out at festivals, and when I've been mountain biking in the UK national parks - but never for more than a couple nights.

I'm favouring a lightweight approach and not planning to cook on the trail. But I'm not sure what's best to pack for nutrition. Based on my Whitney performance, and other endurance hikes I have done, I think I can do it in 11 days. Though I would probably stay a day at Vermilllion Ranch to enjoy the hot food and showers. So I would only be doing 5 days at a time - so a variety of energy/protein bars would do fine, I suspect.

I'm planning to use an eVent hooped Bivvi.

I heard solitude is one of the biggest challenges to solo hikers - and I see the point. Late August, sun goes down around 19:30 and rises at 06:30 - I'd hit the trail as soon as the sun rose, and hike until it sets. But I only sleep around 6 1/2 hours a night. What do lone-hikers do for the rest of the time. Travelling light means I won't be packing books nor enough batteries to have light to read them by. No power mean no iPad.

Any advice or pointers would be appreciated.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Time on 02/12/2012 07:21:10 MST Print View

"I heard solitude is one of the biggest challenges to solo hikers - and I see the point. Late August, sun goes down around 19:30 and rises at 06:30 - I'd hit the trail as soon as the sun rose, and hike until it sets. But I only sleep around 6 1/2 hours a night. What do lone-hikers do for the rest of the time."

There will be plenty of folks on the JMT in late August. So you will have solitude only if you want it. I also don't think you will have much "extra" time. You are planning a pretty fast pace and I suspect that it will take you more hours to hike this distance than you are expecting due to the altitude. Also, you can not compare day hiking speed to multi-day speed since you have many more "chores" to do that are not needed when out for only a day. And new issues like blisters will be more of a problem.

I know others may disagree but I would bypass VVR. It is a time and money sucker. I would use MTR since it is much quicker access and it is a day further south, reducing your heaviest carry by a day. (I have used both and would use MTR if doing the JMT again.)

Edited by gg-man on 02/12/2012 07:27:19 MST.

ed hyatt
(edhyatt) - MLife

Locale: The North
JMT UK on 02/12/2012 08:24:51 MST Print View

As Greg mentions altitude might affect you; it certainly hit me quite hard coming from the UK (vexingly my better half was fine ;-) and slowed me down - but then I was also packing quite a lot for two.

VVR was OK but I too would go for an alternative; I'd nip into Mammoth, but then I'm a 'luxury' hiker. A UK guy I know did the trail in August and did not sort resupply as he was too late in arrangement; but found plenty in the Muir Ranch bins (possibly not a perfect strategy though).

You'll need a nice bearcan too.

Marcus Dyson

Locale: Yorkshire, UK
OK at altitude on 02/12/2012 09:34:38 MST Print View


Appreciate the insights. I'm not too worried about Altitude, I've been to 18,500ft (summit of Elbrus) and summit of Whitney before and managed OK - nothing more than a manageable headache. And heading North to South (as I hope to) means Mather, Pinchot and Forrester passes give me opportunities to acclimatise.

Time wise Whitney took me 9hr 27min to cover what my GPS said was 20.4 miles. I'll be aiming at an average 20 miles a day on JMT and while I'm guessing some days might be quite hard - none should be as hard as Whitney was.

By solitude, I wasn't meaning while hiking, but after lights out. I plan to walk hard all day, and stop at the best place I see after 18:00 each evening, rather than have set targets in mind. But since I plan to graze on food all day long, rather than have a big evening meal, and since I do not plan to cook - I'm not sure what chores I'll have beyond washing and dressing, making a breaking camp. I'm guessing once it goes dark, I'll be bored, and maybe a little scared.

But I realise I'm a noob, and many of my assumptions will be wrong. I can live with a little tedium, I just don't want to make mistakes that will cost me.

As for VVR/MTR, I read that MTR "suggest that you arrive at Florence Lake before noon on your arrival day to allow for the time it takes to ride the ferry and hike in to the ranch." which seems more of a time suck than VVR, since that has a ferry at 16:45. As for nipping in to Mammoth (where I have spent good times snowboarding in the past) how does one arrange transport to do that? And where from?

I realise the choice of bear canister is going to be an important one. We can't buy or even view these things in the UK, so this is going to be a difficult choice. A guy on here reckons he does the whole thing using a Bare Boxer 101, and I'm hoping to do the same - using Mainstay, Nuts/seeds, Protein Bars.


ed hyatt
(edhyatt) - MLife

Locale: The North
JMT on 02/12/2012 10:05:51 MST Print View

You could hire a Bearikade Weekender (should be fine for you) can-wise.

You can get a shuttle into Mammoth from Red's Meadows.

I backpack solo all the time; and don't find it tedious - you'll find a routine that suits you I'm sure.

Jim W.
(jimqpublic) - MLife

Locale: So-Cal
Re: John Muir Trail first-timer on 02/12/2012 10:23:48 MST Print View

Re: Cooking- Have you ever gone a week without hot food or drink? Personally I'd have no big problem skipping hot food but hot drinks are another story.

Re: Muir Trail Ranch access- The quoted info sounds like it is referring to access from the road, not the JMT. From the trail MTR is less than 1 mile total detour and almost no extra climb. No lake, no ferry.

Re: the long nights- Morning and evening twilight are fairly extensive. If you hike whenever there's enough light I'm pretty sure you will sleep well!

Edited by jimqpublic on 02/12/2012 10:25:58 MST.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: Re: John Muir Trail first-timer on 02/12/2012 11:07:24 MST Print View

Ed is correct about the shuttle at Mammoth....there are designated stops that a bus goes to. The bus does a loop and will drop you off in town

Marcus Dyson

Locale: Yorkshire, UK
Cod food no problem on 02/12/2012 11:47:01 MST Print View

Jim, I doubt I've ever gone a week without a hot meal, but I'm a fairly stoic eater - I don't mind hardship if I know it's gonna end at some point. I usually drink milk, juice and soda, so the lack of a hot drink won't be a problem. I'll take Nuun to flavour my water. I would be happy to drop a few pounds on the trail - just don't want to impact my stamina and strength.

BPL user Jo Bernier tells me I can eat at Yosemite, Toulumne, Red's Meadow, VVR, MTR after which it should be 'just' five days to Whitney Portal, and one of Doug's awesome bacon cheeseburgers. I'm beginning to think this is doable.

Ed, Hiring never occurred to me - seems like the perfect solution - Many thanks!

steven franchuk
I would bring a book on 02/12/2012 13:07:47 MST Print View

A good LED headlamp will run 100 hours on one set of batteries. Thats more than enough for some night reading or some night hiking if you want. I have a Pprincton Tech Fuel and with 1.5V lithium batteries weighs 2.5oz and will go 120 on full (I use medium most of the time). You probably can find something a little lighter.

So with that much light available on one set of batteries I would bring a book. Note an Ipad with its LCD display is not very battery efficient. An E book with Eink display will go 11 days no problem on a single charge. I have a kindle and if I turn off the wireless it will go 2 weeks no problem on a single charge. However at 8oz it might be too heavy for some.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Re: OK at altitude on 02/12/2012 14:38:59 MST Print View

A couple of things:
1) As indicated above MTR is only about a half mile out of the way. There is also a hot spring across the river that will feel real good at that point in your trip.
2) You can get by LEGALLY with a bare boxer if you can fit your first couple days of food into the canister in Yosemite. After either MTR or VVR you can use a combination of canister and hang until you cross Pinchot Pass. Then you will need to have your food in a canister to be legal.
3) Your post seems to be defending that you are capable of doing the JMT in your timeframe. I wasn't questioning your ability to that. My only point was that it will take you longer to hike each day than you think, I have hiked the JMT on about the same timing. Even after doing the PCT I still can't do the daily mileage on a long hike that I can day-hiking. I can day-hike 3mph+ all day long on a day hike but it is VERY tough for me to do this day after day on multi-day hikes. Why? Daily chores etc. You will have to get your days food squared away, water refills, blister maintenance and foot care, gear repairs, stream crossings, bear hangs, sunscreen, insect repellent, clothing changout, rest breaks, setup and tear down will eat time especially as you learn how to get along with your bear canister. The last thing that I would be worrying about is having too much time on your hands. And there is no better place to have extra time than the JMT.
4) I have a nice spreadsheet that is very useful for planning the JMT. It has the mileage of most important point and elevation gain. If you are interested PM me your email and I'll send it to you.
5) There is bus that goes from Red's Meadow to Mammoth. If you are looking for a cheap motel the Motel 6 has a PCT rate and it's close to everything.
6) Food, you will want primarily carbs while you are hiking and a good dose of protein for recovery. And be careful with the foods you take. Altitude has a way of making food taste yucky especially during a hot day of hard hiking. I would also look into taking some electrolytes. I had bad cramping on the JMT prior to learning about them.

joseph peterson
(sparky) - F

Locale: Southern California
John Muir Trail first-timer on 02/12/2012 16:59:43 MST Print View

When I planned my first big solo hike the thought of being alone didnt even cross my mind really.....until the day of on my way to get my permit. As soon as I set foot on the trail, i forgot all about that. Now i prefer solo.

Marcus Dyson

Locale: Yorkshire, UK
Thanks to all on 02/14/2012 04:31:51 MST Print View

Guys, thanks to you all for the pointers. A lot to consider, and a lot of useful information.

When is the best time to hike? I notice is that MTR only accepts short stay visitors on certain dates, and 30/31st of August and 1st and 7-9th September are not included. I'm planning to head south from Yosemite - And begin walking on a Monday. 27th August. So I'd probably not hit those blackout days. But even if I do, Mammoth, VVR and Red's Meadow offer plenty of alternatives.

One last thing (for now) - does anyone have any tips on obtaining permits?

Thanks and regards

ed hyatt
(edhyatt) - MLife

Locale: The North
Permit on 02/14/2012 06:34:08 MST Print View

We queued up very early for a permit at the Yos Ranger Station; about 04:00 and we were not the first there. About 10 there by the time the station opened - but everyone else wanted half-Dome permits, no one wanted the JMT.

Perhaps that was a one-off; but met a few on trail who had done a similar thing.

Marcus Dyson

Locale: Yorkshire, UK
Prefer permits in hand before I fly. on 02/14/2012 07:40:15 MST Print View

Ed, I'm flying from the UK specifically to do hike the JMT. So before i book plane tickets, hotels, rent a car etc. I would prefer to get permits arranged if possible. I'll queue (wait in line) if I must, but it would be a bummer to fly 5,000 miles to find I can't hike the JMT.

I have the fax application form, which enables me to apply 165 days before amy planned hike - that's about three weeks from now. But I wondered if there were any tips to improve my chances of successfully getting a permit. Entry trailheads, days of the week, or even dates that increase the chance of success.


Michael Levine
(Trout) - F

Locale: Long Beach
Re: Prefer permits in hand before I fly. on 02/15/2012 09:08:55 MST Print View


I thought the same about the JMT in the "man I hope driving up here wasn't for nothing" about getting a permit. I went at the height of busy season'ish, late July/early August. I didn't have a permit. What I did was "camp out" in front of the happy isles permit office. I was the only one there, no one showed up until 6pm, which was a group of 3 hikers. Then around am 3 more showed, then another group. At 11 or 12, which is when they let out permits, the ranger had one permit for same day JMT hikers. Everyone in line before 10a.m. got a next day JMT permit. So what my advice is, having done this last year, is that you're making a huge mistake if you feel like you need to call it off for not having gotten a permit. The crappy part being you may have to show up, wait until morning, then get a next day permit. You'll have lost two days, but you WILL get to go, especially if you show up at the permit office at 5am or something. For the night you actually obtain said permit, they allow you to stay at the backpackers campground, which is $5, woohoo!

I went last year and plan to go this year, please feel free to PM me with ANY questions you may have. Last year was my first thru-hike, this year I plan to do two.

Edited by Trout on 02/15/2012 09:10:28 MST.

Jim W.
(jimqpublic) - MLife

Locale: So-Cal
I promise Re: Prefer permits in hand before I fly. on 02/15/2012 09:40:46 MST Print View

You will get a permit, especially if you're alone. I've done it both in Yosemite Valley and Tuolumne and was the only one in line before about 5:30 in the morning. I arrived at 4:00 am to be sure. Both times we actually got same day permits.

john hansford
(jhansford) - MLife
Re: prefer permit in hand before I fly on 02/15/2012 10:18:01 MST Print View

To get a same day or next day permit for a HI start, do you queue at the HI trailhead, or the Wilderness Centre Permit Office?. If the trailhead, exactly where is the "hut"?

Edited by jhansford on 02/15/2012 10:21:02 MST.