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Yet another JMT trip report
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Adam White
(awhite4777) - MLife

Locale: On the switchbacks
An 11 day father/son trip down the JMT on 12/28/2013 10:00:57 MST Print View

Maybe I can brighten up someone's dark, cold winter by sharing a long-overdue trip report from a (another?) father/son JMT trip this year.

There's a long, wordy trip report here; the file is large (25 MB) and the pages are many (~100). I recommend downloading the file from Google Docs (click file, then download) and viewing with your favorite pdf viewer, since the Google Docs pdf viewer appears to limit the images to 256 colors or something awful like that. Reader beware: there are a few four letter words (particularly between pp. 74 and 76).

If you just want to skip the reading and just see the pictures, there's a flickr album here.

And if you want neither, the TLDR version is: SoBo from Happy Isles with my dad; started on 8/27, exited Whitney Portal on 9/7, with all the typical glorious Sierra scenery in between. We packed lighter than we have been on past trips, with base weights around 13 lbs. The Rim Fire threatened, but luckily, didn't affect us. We had a great time.

If we were going to do it all over again, I'd probably bring a different pencil.

Edited by awhite4777 on 12/28/2013 10:03:49 MST.

Tom Clark
(TomClark) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
Re: An 11 day father/son trip down the JMT on 12/29/2013 19:39:17 MST Print View

Adam,
Pretty complete trip report…just short of a book, actually. Those photos (thru the link) were great. The end result really showed the hard work you put into the trip report.

I'm planning to of the JMT this coming August, so it was helpful to read through your memoir. What did you think about hiking late Aug-Sept (bugs, water, crowds)? Unfortunately, it sounded like the campsites were busy.

Thanks for sharing!

Tom

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Re: An 11 day father/son trip down the JMT on 12/29/2013 20:02:03 MST Print View

"Unfortunately, it sounded like the campsites were busy."

I've done several South-to-North trips, Whitney to Tuolumne, starting the 2nd week of September.

I didn't read the "book" so I don't know if specific campsites were mentioned, and if they are in the Valley-to-Tuolumne area I understand. Otherwise, since you are taking a canister and aren't dependent on trees for hanging, you won't have a problem finding a place to camp.

David Noll
(dpnoll) - MLife

Locale: Maroon Bells
Yet another JMT trip report on 12/30/2013 07:16:56 MST Print View

Great read

Adam White
(awhite4777) - MLife

Locale: On the switchbacks
Re: Re: An 11 day father/son trip down the JMT on 12/30/2013 10:37:54 MST Print View

Tom,

Glad you enjoyed it! I think late August, September, and even early October are great times to be in the Sierra. In my limited (four years) Sierra experience, at that time of year, mosquitoes are usually gone (although in wet years, like 2011, they linger on into September). After Labor Day, the crowds seem to taper significantly. This year was a dry year, and I don't think we saw a single mosquito. We didn't bring DEET or headnets, expecting this to be the case.

In regards to water: 2013 was a dry year--the second in a row. But I think more problematic than any dried-up-water-source issues were situations where we were told there was no water for X miles, so we loaded up, only to find there was water available when we got there. All in all, only a few dry stretches, and they simply weren't problems. Tons of water in the Sierra.

In regard to crowds and busy campsites: well, first of all, I half-jokingly say that nobody hikes the JMT for the solitude. So we saw people where you expect to see people: Little Yosemite Valley, Mono Creek Crossing, Wood's Creek Crossing, etc. But there were a couple of times where we did have a hard time finding a decent site--the first was ascending Lyell Canyon. Every obvious campsite within five-hundred feet of the trail or so was was occupied, from the first legal camping, to the site we found, which was about 0.6 miles past the Ireland Lake junction. This was a surprise, because at the time, there was no access from the west to Tuolumne Meadows--120 was closed due to the Rim Fire. We thought Lyell Canyon would be a ghost town. Clearly, we were wrong.

The only other places where the obvious camping seemed crowded were Garnet Lake (we didn't look around too much, but the obvious sites were occupied; we moved on to Rosalie Lake), and descending Wood's Creek from Pinchot Pass, where for the last few miles or so before Wood's Creek crossing, there simply isn't much (obvious) good camping, and the few sites we could find were occupied. We just pushed on to Wood's Creek crossing, which of course has a bazillion sites.

Note than in any of the cases above, we could've asked to share a campsite, or camped closer than we thought polite, and I'm sure it would've been fine. We're not that needy--both with bivies and tarps, we only each really need a flat space the size of a person. In some places, that takes a little hunting, but presumably it gets easier with experience. It was never really problematic, just surprising in the few places I mentioned above.

So to summarize--yeah, it's a great time to go.

Adam White
(awhite4777) - MLife

Locale: On the switchbacks
Re: Re: Re: An 11 day father/son trip down the JMT on 12/30/2013 10:43:27 MST Print View

Greg,

See my reply to Tom--the only real surprise was Lyell Canyon. Previously, I'd been in Lyell Canyon this time of year, and never seen it as crowded as it was this year. Still can't really figure out why, especially with access from the west as limited as it was.

In any case, it wasn't really a problem, just a curious surprise--but at the end of a long (for us) day, an unwelcome one.

M B
(livingontheroad) - M
report on 12/30/2013 18:58:02 MST Print View

Nice work. Enjoyed it. Thx.

Robert Kelly
(QiWiz) - MLife

Locale: UL gear @ QiWiz.net
Great report on 12/31/2013 15:42:14 MST Print View

I'm looking at a JMT thru next year in early September and was planning on taking about 3 weeks, but your faster transit time is making me rethink my planned mileages, especially for the second half of the hike. One clear benefit would be not carrying as much food weight from Muir Ranch resupply. Three less days to do the second half would mean 4.5 less pounds in the pack.

I was very pleased to see you had a Big Dig in your kit.

Keepin' it light at: QiWiz.net

Whilly Jo
(Whillyjo) - F
Yet another JMT trip report on 02/04/2014 21:01:47 MST Print View

Nice and thorough report. I enjoyed it. Hopefully I will be able to do a thru hike of the JMT this summer. I will be doing it with a SMD swift. How did your dad like the swift on the hike?

Jennifer W
(tothetrail) - MLife

Locale: So. Cal.
Re: An 11 day father/son trip down the JMT on 02/05/2014 14:43:02 MST Print View

Wow, thanks for taking the time to write such a thorough report. Some great lines there, loved the part about the horses, I was cracking up. And I could just feel the lingering pain from kicking the rock on the second day. But the best line of all was, "I wanted to exit Whitney Portal—today—because there wasn't anything else out here for me. It was all hollow now."

And if you ever have a chance to go back, maybe with that son or daughter, make a point to stop at MTR for the night, that's probably what got me through the second week. Home made peach pie and home made ice cream, about four flavors to choose from, that was heaven.

Hmm, that just got me thinking, not sure if I've heard of a three generation family JMT trip. Keep your Dad in shape for a few more years!

John Rowan
(jrowan) - M
Wow on 02/10/2014 19:31:55 MST Print View

This is really fantastic- I've been reading a lot of TR's/blogs/trailjournals while I'm planning my own JMT thru for this year, and this is definitely the best by a long, long shot. Thanks for taking the time to put everything together, and for sharing it with us.

The bit about the unattended stock animals was absolutely hilarious, although I suspect it was less so when you were there.

Adam White
(awhite4777) - MLife

Locale: On the switchbacks
Re: Great report on 02/12/2014 04:01:54 MST Print View

Robert,

The Big Dig was great! Not only is it light, but it's multi-functional--leave the spork at home! In all seriousness, I figured that if I went alone, I'd just use a tent stake or something for cat holes, but I'm glad I bought the Big Dig--it makes digging a piece of cake, and it weighs next to nothing.

Well, aside from the HYOH can of worms that discussing pace on the JMT always seems to open; in the first day or two out of MTR, you've got around 7,000 ft of climbing. I think you'd find yourself muttering obscenities at every extra oz in your pack (well, you'd mutter them if you weren't out of breath from the overweight pack and the climbing!).

I started to add another comment, but realized I actually WAS opening the HYOH can of worms, so I'll leave it at that.

Adam White
(awhite4777) - MLife

Locale: On the switchbacks
Re: Yet another JMT trip report on 02/12/2014 04:12:08 MST Print View

Glad you enjoyed it.

I'll ask my dad what he thought of the Swift, and edit this post if it's drastically different than my recollections, which were: he had no complaints about the features, design, etc, but had some shoulder, hip and back pain. His pack weight was somewhere between 15 - 24 lbs. That "carry pain" probably varies a lot from person to person, and unfortunately I never tried his pack for extended periods.

I think the volume was about right for his gear and a Bearikade Weekender.

IMO, it's a good pack.

Adam White
(awhite4777) - MLife

Locale: On the switchbacks
Re: Re: An 11 day father/son trip down the JMT on 02/12/2014 04:19:06 MST Print View

Ha, I will keep my dad in shape for a few years!

The first candidate for that third generation was just born last month, so it's possible...

We really would've liked a stop at MTR--but you have to make reservations in advance, and we had no idea when we'd be passing through. Since we didn't want to have to adhere to a schedule for the hike, we skipped it. If MTR allowed drop-ins, we probably would've payed $50 a plate.

I still get a little bit angry every time I see a horse.

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Re: Re: Re: An 11 day father/son trip down the JMT on 02/13/2014 20:41:50 MST Print View

Adam, you're a genius. That was an awesome bit of writing.

Adam White
(awhite4777) - MLife

Locale: On the switchbacks
Re: Re: Re: Re: An 11 day father/son trip down the JMT on 02/19/2014 20:08:56 MST Print View

Jennifer,

Thanks for the praise!

It was quite a bit of work to write. Arguably more so than hiking the trail. Definitely worth it, though. There's something about backpacking that makes me reminisce more than other activities. I'm not quite sure what it is--I don't think it's as simple as the splendor of my surroundings. Maybe spending that much time out of my "comfort zone" makes a stronger imprint on my brain.

If I thought about it, I could probably recall distinct memories from every night I've spent in the backcountry (admittedly, probably only around 50). Still, all memorable.

Hopefully, years in the future, when I re-read this, it will bring back pieces of those memories that have drifted out of reach over the years. The father/son aspect will also become more important to me as the years go on, I suspect.

Peter James
(pbjames) - F - M

Locale: High Sierra
Great TR! on 02/24/2014 15:29:53 MST Print View

Thanks for the great report on your adventure, I just read it "cover to cover". Hopefully, you'll have many many more such trips ahead of you, enjoy!

Nikhil Marathe
(nikhilm) - F
Perpetuem on 06/17/2014 15:17:03 MDT Print View

Thanks for the excellent trip report Adam!

What was your strategy with regards to perpetuem? It doesn't pack a lot of calories/ounce but did the liquid form make it easier to handle regularly? How many daily calories would you say you got from it? Did you just drink some every hour or was it more of a proper meal, or was the powder just added to normal food to add calories (like olive oil)?

Thanks!

Adam White
(awhite4777) - MLife

Locale: On the switchbacks
Re: Perpetuem on 06/20/2014 23:52:39 MDT Print View

Nikhil,

Glad you enjoyed it!

Perpetuem doesn't pack a ton of calories/oz, but it's not terrible, either--I think I weighed my dosed-out servings in snack-size ziplocks and arrived at around 110 cal/oz. That's middle of the road--perhaps a bit on the light end--of most of the foods I typically bring. Compared to other carbs I bring, that's actually probably pretty good. As an aside, it's also quite packable, being a powder, which helps when pushing the limits of a bear can.

I used it most frequently in the afternoons, almost like an IV drip of calories. I'd mix up two servings (540 calories) in a 20 oz Gatorade bottle, and sip it over the course of an hour or two. I originally planned on four servings per day, but decreased it before the trip, after noticing on a four-day trip that I didn't want to have that much of it. On the JMT, I wished I had more, particularly on days 6 and beyond. Due in part, perhaps, to the fact that I think I didn't bring enough carbs.

In any case, the perpetuem was great--it's on my short list of foods to always bring. Of course, Pringles are also on that list, so I'm not sure I'm the most reputable source for dietary advice...