Wednesday, May 23, 2012

kicking JMT planning into high gear

Now that it looks like I will be able to go after all, some of us are taking it up a notch. The Freak of Nature has announced a training plan of climbing high a couple of days a week and is obsessively weighing stuff on a small scale. The other night we pored over maps and guidebook and determined where we aim to camp for the first 117 miles. Of course, this plan will probably change, but it was good to know something of what lies ahead of us. 

Which is a lot more than I thought. Somehow I had convinced myself that this was going to be a walk in the park. Maybe because I used to hike portions of the JMT when I worked in Sequoia National Park, maybe because a lot of people undertake it without much backpacking experience. But there will be days completely over 9,000 feet and days when we lose and gain enough elevation to have climbed Mt. Everest.

(Not really. But there will be some hard days).

How do you plan for spending nineteen days in the wilderness? I've prepared a list. The Freak and I have set up our tents on the lawn and compared them (hers is a little heavier, but she can sit up without her head brushing the ceiling, a fact for which I know I will be supremely jealous later on). We've debated about the merits of rain jackets and whether it really does rain in (northern) California (I don't remember it raining much, but then again, I didn't remember the trails being hard either). Once the sun comes out again here I am going to post pictures of all my gear and weigh it all, which will trigger another round of cuts. In the meantime, we are now turning our thoughts to food.

I don't eat much on backpack trips; my appetite goes south, but I suspect on one like this I will change my ways. We will be hiking an average of 13 miles a day, up and down, up and down. I have this breakfast problem where nothing ever sounds good. As a wilderness ranger I seesawed between granola and powdered milk, power bars, and pop tarts. In the past few years every breakfast I've packed in with has been packed right back out. 

We've decided not to dehydrate our dinners; we're just too lazy. So we will buy them through a pro deal that the Freak is able to obtain. Time will tell if we make the right choices. 

For now we are a blur of activity, screaming stuff like "I need TITANIUM tent stakes!" It's not like the whole world rests upon our decisions. We aren't going to Mongolia. But I can't help but feel a tiny bit of what people must have experienced as they passed from known country into the wild. For nineteen days, will see other people. We will even pass a couple of small resorts. But for the most part we will be on our own. What we choose to bring now will be what we will have to live with. I love that about the wilderness. 


  1. I love that part too :) I never really feel like I left anything important behind, although maybe it is because I carry too much stuff.

    And a lot of the mountainous areas of Northern California get late afternoon thunderstorms with hail and stuff, I'm not sure when you're going, but it would be something to look into. If nothing else, I like it to sit on if for lunch breaks the ground is wet or snowy. My lightweight rain coat has ALWAYS come with me (but most of my trips have been in the damp Alaska Range).

  2. Fun fun fun fun!!! Don't forget safety pins so you can dry socks on your backpack while you hike. That was something I wish I remembered last time. I am a fan of the little comfort things for camp (clean wool socks for sleeping, slightly warmer than critically necessary sleeping bag etc).

  3. It is getting closer and closer, isn't it?
    Unlike at home, I was never hungry on the trail and I had to keep reminding myself to keep the calorie intake up.
    Another thing I realized was that I really did not care what I ate, everything tasted the same. What I really craved were fruits and veggies. Again, unlike as at home.
    As for the rain, some people encounter rain on JMT, even for 2-3 days straight. Did you see the Yahoo Forum email about it, especially one from John D.?
    I am still taking my rain jacket because it also serves as my wind jacket, and anti-mosquito armor.

  4. The longest backpacking trip I've ever completed was 9 days, along the Escalante River. That was a long time ago (and I still believe it's harder to hike through rivers than it is up and down mountains.) We had to carry 9 days worth of food, and I remember eating mostly bagels, tuna, granola, and beans and tortillas. I'm with Ewa, by day 4 all I could think about was strawberries and spinach.

    Have you considered just not bothering with breakfast and carrying extra snacks for late-morning munching on the trail?

    I'm also curious how long your non-appetite holds out. One most of my bikepacking trips that feeling holds for about a day and a half, and after that I'm ravenous all of the time. I would think you'd even want to carry more daily calories than you do on your weekend backpacking trips; you'll probably be hungry for it. When I rode the Stagecoach 400 I was plowing through upwards of 5-6,000 calories a day. I still lost weight. I'm not saying you'll need that much, but it seems like food might be one of the easiest things to underestimate on a 19-day trip.

  5. oh safety pins, great idea! And I think I will do the breakfast snack thing since I end up doing that on all my hikes. Just bring more lunch stuff. Okay the rain jacket is in.


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