John Muir Trail 2016: Preparation

I guess preparation for hiking the whole 220 miles of the JMT started about 7 months before the start of the hike.  At that time I had to figure out an itinerary and how many days I would commit to the hike. You need an itinerary because when you apply for a permit you have to specify where you will camp each night.  Once you start on the trip, you can camp anywhere, but for the permit you need an itinerary.

I had done the whole JMT in 1971, and had a fair write up of each day, so that helped. Based on recent hikes, and some wishful thinking I figured I could average 10 miles a day.  That would put our trip at 22 days.  Some online research led to some excellent resources, such as:

Inga’s Adventures  :great analysis of the permit process, gear lists, food ideas,

Ray Rippell’s JMT book

Tom Harrison maps

JMT Facebook group

Elizabeth Wenk’s book “Essential Guide….John Muir Trail”  Amazon

I spent lots of time on all those sites, and bought the maps and Wenk’s book for my Kindle.  Exactly 6 months before the start date of our trip (the earliest date possible) I signed up for a permit for 2, myself and my son Jim (age 20). That trailhead and date of departure showed that 27 spots were still available for that date. Within a few days our neighbors determined their two boys wanted to join us, and they got their own permit.  We also made reservations for an overnight stay at Muir Trail Ranch on the day we projected we could get there. I contacted a person to get a shuttle ride from Tuollumne to Cottonwood, and I called a horse packing outfit to reserve a date for them to haul a food drop to us by mule.

The common way to do the JMT is to start at Happy Isles in Yosemite Valley, and end by hiking over Trail Crest at Mt. Whitney.  I decided to start at Cottonwood Campground south of Whitney, and end at Tuollumne. I had hiked from Cottonwood before, and wanted to see the old route, and thought we’d climb Whitney from the west side, without the full packs. We’d end at Tuollumne, and skip the 2 day section of crowded trail to Yosemite.  This would make our transport to the starting point a lot easier, and the sun would be at our back the whole trip.  Where the southbound hikers camped at high lakes below the passes, we’d be camping on the less crowded other side of the passes.

So our groupwould be me, Bob Shaver, age 66, Jim Shaver 20, Ian Willnerd 15, and Luke Willnerd 17.  Our actual itinerary would prove to be close to our planned itineray, and the actual schedule is shown below.

Physical preparation:

I started walking the 3 miles to work (round trip) about 3 months before our start date. I added weight to a pack, and gradually got up to about 36 pounds. I found that any weight over 36 pounds would hurt my back, so I held at 36 lbs. Before the start of the hike I did a 4 day trip in the Sawtooths with Gary Fujino and family, as one last chance to test out some new gear, such as the new camera.  I was the only one on the hike that did not have foot problems, so I was certain that the miles on the road to work were essential in getting my feet in shape for the hike.