Na a don’t worry, we JMT wussies still have a bit of time to prepare. Allright allright… of course we are no wussies, WE’RE ABOUT TO ROCK THE SIERRA. Well actually, not “we”… “YOU” are! I’m stuck in Europe, so “you” are gonna have to do it! Climb your way out of the valley, or worse (well that actually depends on how you see it), climb Whitney on day 1! O man! How jealous I am of all of you, whether you’re about to embark on a journey of thousands of miles or may it just be a few hundred through the magnificent Sierra! You damn lucky merican hikers, YOU’RE ALL GONNA HAVE A HIKE OF A LIFETIME!!!
As I am not qualified YET to give you any advice on hiking badass trails like the PCT or CDT, I’ll have to stick with the JMT. For now my ego is fine with that ;c) After all one must say: The John Muir Trail is ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS AMAZING BREATHTAKING MOTHERFUCKING GREAT! Yet it really ain’t about the name or the trail or whatever. It’s about nature, about wilderness, about the delicate beauty of the tiniest plant, about the majesty of those granite walls, and about everything inbetween. It’s about the soft yellow light that hits your eye first thing in the morning, about the smell of cedar trees when you hike down from Sallie Keyes Lakes (or towards SKL if you’re a northbounder), it’s about the view that makes your body freeze when you see Center Peak and the mountains around, it’s about being a part of it all when you sit down in Mc’Clure Meadow, watch the sun set and you feel so grateful that you are right there on that one spot in the middle of all that beauty!!! O you know… it’s about soooo much more than just “a trail”!
All PCT/CDT/AT thru-hikers will tell you: “After you’ve become a thruhiker, your life won’t be like before.” Things change, they always change… even in “normal life”…. but after a thruhike… well I guess… they REALLY change… Even after my “just” JMT, my life was turned upside down.
Now actually in this post I wanted to give a bit of advice to you future JMT hikers but it seems like my writing is going in a different direction. Jee I never have a plan. Not in life, not when writing, not ever. Wait… That’s not true. I plan on hiking the PCT next year… That’s a good plan. A plan that is gonna happen! Though it’s not just a plan, it’s been my dream for years and years now and 2015 is gonna be the fucking year!
Anyway I still got one year to suffer, to wait, to long and till then I’m gonna stick with my very very smart advice and my extremely clever opinion about hiking the JMT. O well…
So where do we start? Guess the beginning would be smart!
Eh yep… And the beginning is where exactly? Is it Happy Isles in Yosemite Valley? Is it Whitney Portal? Na a. Take your right hand and put it on the left side of your chest… That’s right. That’s where the beginning is!
So you decided (or was it your heart that did it for you?) you wanna hike the John Muir Trail? You made a hell of a good decision, that I can tell you!!!
It’s april now. That means you’re about to hit the trail in 2 to 4 months (well most of you). If you’re the lucky one who won the lottery, you now treasure your wilderness permit and check your computer or your JMTfile on your desk (I’m sure you have one of those haha) regularly whether it’s still there or not.
Advice number 1:
If you didn’t win the lottery: DON’T WORRY!!! Once you get to Yosemite, be it by bus, by car or by teleport, make your way to the wilderness center, get inside and ask the ranger if there are any permits left for the day. If you’re alone, your chances are good! If there are two of you, your chances are still good. If you’re a group of 10… Eh, well I guess you will have to get in line first thing in the morning (Remember: The morning begins in the middle of the night!) and get your permit. So even if you don’t get a permit for the same day, you will get one for the next day. So don’t worry.
Now… If you get a permit for the same day: Well then get your ass of that lazy seat in front of the information center and make your way outta the valley!
If you get a permit for the next day: Get your ass over to the backpackers campground (The BC is situated north of North Pines Campground. Get out of the valley shuttle at bus stop nr. 18, go to the back of North Pines Campground, take the trail between campsites 331 and 335, cross Tenaya Creek on the wooden footbridge… Tadaaaa… There you are! The Backpackers Campground!), put up your tent, pay your 5 bucks (as far as I remember), cook some dinner, relax, have a good night’s sleep and get your ass out of the valley the next morning.
Bottomline: Don’t worry! Even if it seems complicated (o I know, it’s exciting!), the moment you take your first step on the trail, you’ll be like “Eh what was I worrying about again???”
ATTENTION ATTENTION: In 2015 the National Park Service came up with a new permit system for the JMT. It seems like things are getting a little more complicated but they do are serving a good goal: decreasing impact on the beautiful nature and wildlife along the JMT. Check the NPS website for detailed information!!!!
|Got some time left? Relax, play a song, stare up those huge granite walls and BE LAZY (you won’t be the next couple of days haha)|
Allright, we’re not all there yet. It’s still April… You’re still preparing. You already have that feeling in your stomac… a mixture between excitement, longing and the question “Can I do it or am I a wussy after all?” O hell you’re not a wussy. You can do it! If you have to bail while you’re out there, there’s gonna be a serious reason for that. You’re not gonna give up easily.
For now there are no indications that you can’t do it, so you better say to yourself: HELL YEAH, I’M GONNA DO IT. I’M FUCKING GONNA ROCK THAT TRAIL! Cause you know… you are! You are gonna rock, no matter if you’re going slow or fast, no matter if you’re gonna be suffering or not, no matter if you’re gonna have oatmeal or pop tarts for breakfast haha! Now I’m not telling you nothing can happen while you’re hiking, but I’m telling you… Advice number 2: Be confident. Your body is designed to hike, to walk, to use its feet… So that’s what you’re gonna do: Use your feet and do what you’re ment to do ;c)
|You’re gonna rock! DAMN RIGHT!|
Now I assume you’ve been spending the last couple of months going through blogs, chatting with fellow hikers on the Facebook JMTgroup, reading every single post in the Yahoo JMTgroup, watching YouTube videos, reading Wenks book, drawing possible campsites on your Harrison maps, figuring out how much food actually can fit into a bearcan (Damn do I take the Bearikade Weekender or the Expedition???), dehydrating food, wondering how the hell you’re gonna get to Yosemite and even more how the fucking hell you’re gonna get back to civilization once you reached Whitney Portal… Do you feel like I just described the life you lived since you got your wilderness permit (o yeah, you still have to go to work inbetween… man that sucks!)?
You know what? Enjoy it! It’s fun preparing! Also once you’re on trail, you’ll realise, you’re fucking OVERPREPARED… But hell who cares! So here is my advice number 3: Have fun preparing, enjoy the anticipation, read books and blogs. It doesn’t take away the unbelievable beauty of the wilderness out there. And in the end you can’t really prepare for what is waiting for you! I know there might be some people who don’t agree with me here, who think it’s definitely more fun to get out there, not knowing everything… The thing is, even if you read every single line in every single guide book, you don’t know everything, o you know so little, you will only feel what it’s like once you’re on trail… And not a single picture you see in a book or online can measure with the real beauty on the JMT! So if you’re having fun preparing… man… go have fun!
When I hit the JMT last summer, I definitely was overprepared in my head, I had it all figured out, I knew where I was gonna sleep, how many miles I was gonna hike,…. And then I spend my second night on trail with “my” mountain lion, and he told me: Fuck that plan girl! Wilderness makes the rules here!
|Going back down to the Valley on day 3? Not what I planned for!!!|
So now you’re planning and preparing and longing and dreaming… and wondering about what food to put into your resupply packages. Or maybe you’re flying in from overseas and you’re asking yourself: “Where the hell am I gonna buy my food in San Francisco and how the fuck am I gonna get my resupply packages over to Reds, or VVR, or MTR?”
You can see it coming, my advice number 4: Relax, have a coffee and a snickers! In fact, NO don’t have the snickers! Put that one in your resupply box!
Let me give you some advice on food choices: If you haven’t tested the food you’re about to eat on trail, you better don’t put that food on your foodplan every single day.
For instance: I had instant oatmeal planned for breakfast… 24 times! So I had 24 fucking ziplock baggies filled with oatmeal, put in my resupply boxes. First thing I discovered on trail? YUK WTF! I HATE THAT OATMEAL! Whoops! Yeah! You don’t want that happening!!! So if you’re flying in from overseas and you have to buy american food or brands you never tried before, don’t buy too much of it. Buy different kinds of food. For instance buy oatmeal (well not me! Never ever ever again!) and granola and corn flakes and pro bars for breakfast. So if you don’t like something, at least, you don’t have to try to swallow it down every single morning!
Lots of people spend lots of time calculating how much calories they need, but believe me, you do not only need calories. YOU NEED COMFORT FOOD TOO! (well exept if you’re an alien that lives solely from peanut butter). So bring those snickers, and twizzlers, and hershley chocolate, and and and! O MAN IF I COULD HAVE BROUGHT MILKSHAKE! Now I’m not saying you shouldn’t look for calories (you definitely should!), I’m just saying: Not only your body needs the food, but also your mind, soul and your inner child who loves to get a treat after each few hundred feet of climbing ;c)
Now to the amount of food you’re about to pack into your resupply boxes… Take it from me: You’ll put waaaaay too much food into your first resupply box! You’ll open up your box in Tuolomne or in Reds, will put your hands on your head and scream: What the hell was I thinking?!?!?! And you’ll end up putting all of that food into the hikers barrel and make some other hikers (were they smarter than you?) very happy :c) :c) :c)
Once you get to VVR or MTR you’ll have a different problem. You’ll open your box or bucket and you’ll be like: O mannnnnnnn, I wish I hadn’t put that fucking oatmeal in my resupply! And you’ll find yourself going through the hiker barrels yourself, swapping your food, looking for treats… (There IS a reason why the oatmeal barrel in MTR is overloaded!)
|Just a selection of food. Next time I’d bring more bars, more sweets, more happy food.|
One more thing for you future JMTers from overseas: You are allowed to bring certain foods into the States. As a matter of fact: You are allowed more kinds of food than you would think. Eh there is actually more food you can bring than food you can not bring. But still, as far as I remember, everything has to be taken in its original packaging, so forget about dehydrating your own meals. I know, damn those selfmade dinners others post on FB sure look delicious, but you’ll have to go with farty backpackers food. It’s ok, just don’t take anything with toooo much beans in it. For the sake of your hiking buddies. (One more tip: IF SOMEONE ASKS YOU TO PULL HIS/HER FINGER AFTER DINNER… DON’T PULL… JUST DON’T!!! hahaha ;c)
Due to missing my plane (really from the moment I left for my hike, my perfect plans were turned upside down. As if faith wanted to teach me a lesson!) I only had one day in San Francisco to buy all my food, put it into my resupply boxes and send it off. It was stressy, that I must admit, but it’s doable. So I went to REI, Trader Joe’s and one of those huge supermarkets and bought tons of food. Then I went to the postoffice to get one of those free shipping boxes and to a hardware store to get a bucket for my MTR resupply. I repackaged everything into ziplock baggies, devided them between my bearcan, Reds resupply box and MTR bucket and off I went to the post office again to send my resupply packages on their way. As I was taking it slow and easy on trail, the boxes had enought time to arrive (I got to Reds at day 9 and to MTR at day 14) on their destinations. If you plan on going way faster, you might wanna try and send your boxes a bit earlier, or you rely on the trail and the hiker barrels (which level of “full- or emptyness” does depend on what time in the season you are hiking). I am sure though, no matter what happens, you won’t starve!!! EH NO YOU MIGHT STARVE BUT YOU WON’T DIE :c) :c) :c) There is a small store at Tuolomne (I had planned on buying food there, but as you know, my plans didn’t work out, so I ended up having enough food when going thru Tuolumne) and a small store at Reds. They may not have the food you want, but they do have food. When I got to MTR in the beginning of September the hiker barrels were so so full, I shouldn’t have send a bucket. How the situation in VVR is I cannot tell, ’cause I wasn’t there ;c)
BOTTOMLINE: IF THERE’S A HOLE IN YOUR BUCKET… THE TRAIL WILL PROVIDE!!!
Oh by the way, to answer the question: Weekender or Expedition??? If you plan on hiking more than 7 or 8 days between MTR and Whitney and you don’t hike out to Independence: Go with the Bearikeade Expedition!!! Trust me, you’ll be glad!!!!
|3 letters: Y.U.K!!!|
So let’s do an advice sum-up inbetween, as this post is getting longer than I planned for (jee I just have to stop planning!):
1. DON’T WORRY!
2. BE CONFIDENT!
3. HAVE FUN PREPARING!
4. RELAX AND DRINK COFFEE!
Hahaha well well well… Doesn’t that seem nice??? I told you, your descision to hike the JMT was a good idea!!! Just lay back, sip coffee while sitting on your comfy sofa (heck put your feet on the table, who the hell cares) and read a guidebook or two…
You think you’ll be fine preparing for the JMT like that? Eh well you probably would but I know you don’t believe me, so let’s gather some more advice.
Let’s get to training your body, your mind and what the fuck… why are so many people making a fuzz about bears and mountain lions???
Allright…. TRAINING! Training??? Right… hm… Now let me think what advice on training I can give…. Yeah that’s a hard one… Because I really really stand by my advice numbers 1 to 4.
Alas alas to physically convince your body that the JMT is doable you might wanna go on a traininghike or two. Pack your backpack with your estimated base pack weight (I took catlitter to imitate the weight ’cause I was too lazy to actually really pack my bag… Do please note: unused catlitter!), put on your hiking clothes and off you go. FUCK that backpack is heavy? You might wanna bring your BPW down then. FUCK getting blisters? Try trailrunners instead of your gore tex leather boots. FUCK stinking like hell even after just a dayhike? GET USED TO IT BABY!!! FUCK got lost? That ain’t good na a…. Just kidding. You practically have to be blind to get lost on the JMT. O and besides… Getting lost is where the magic begins… The JMT is so well marked you could go without a map… you COULD… still please don’t!!!
Anyway…My advice number 5 is: Don’t train as if you’ve got a race to win! You should be having fun, remember? Try out your gear and if something doesn’t work for you… Change it.
|… or so they say…|
Now let’s get to your mind! Are you mentally prepared to get out into the wild? O I know the JMT isn’t that wild, still… it’s “kinda wild” for the most of us… So have you slept in the woods all by yourself? Do you know your own limits? Ever heard of a comfort zone? Ever been out of it?
When I decided I’d solo thru-hike the JMT I never had slept in the woods all by myself, so I decided to give it a go and on a cold night in January I took my sleeping bag, my neoair and stepped outside into the woods (good thing I live in the middle of it). Wanna know how well I slept? Yeah you guessed it right… I hardly closed my eyes. THERE WERE MONSTERS ALL OVER THE FUCKING PLACE… playing tricks with my mind! But I made it and I considered myself ready to hit the JMT… Yeah right! What was I thinking! But then again, there really are things you can’t prepare for and sometimes all you can do is just jump right into it. At least that’s what I did… When I reached the end of my comfort zone on the evening of day two, I thought I was gonna die… Man I spend 13 frikkin hours at the end of my comfort zone, before I was allowed to cross the line. It took me a while to realise, that is where everything got started, it’s the moment, the situation where my minds goes back to all the time, it’s the one night in my life where I learned like I never learned before! Here is my advice number 6: Get to know your comfort zone. And then… forget about it again! The trail will teach and you’ll learn what you gotta learn! And eh o well… you don’t have to go solo… that might be an advice too ;c)
|Too bad the farts resulting from shitty backpackers
food don’t help much either :cP
Now that we’re talking about comfort zone and we kinda came across the topic allready… I haven’t got too much to say about bears and mountain lions. I saw both on the first two days of my JMT. Concerning black bears: Really, use your common sense, don’t freak out about them. They are beautiful, treat them with respect, don’t leave food unattended, keep them wild!
Mountain lions… well they are just as beautiful (when the mountain lion and I stared eachother in the eyes, I was paralized, but it didn’t keep me from thinking: OMG what a beautiful animal!!!)… and they are very rarely seen by hikers (though you can be sure of it… they do see you!!!). Anyway, these wild creatures shouldn’t keep you from hiking the JMT. They are a part of the wilderness, just as we humans once used to be a part of it… And we still are, we just have to start remembering… If you really are scared, follow the advice of not hiking alone, make yourself big when meeting a cougar and eh… don’t run!!! Allright to be honest… I must admit, I’m still terrified of meeting another mountain lion (well not really of meeting, but of again being trapped and stalked for so long), but I hope with all my heart, that if I meet another one, I will be brave enough to once again look it in the eyes and at that very same moment, not be filled with fear and instead be grateful.
Advice number 7: Don’t let the wild in wildlife keep you from getting out there!!! There’s a wild thing in all of us!!! Still… be humble!
Time for another sum-up of my advices 5 to 7:
5. TRAIN, BUT NOT AS IF YOU’VE GOT A RACE TO WIN!
6. GET TO KNOW YOUR COMFORT ZONE… AND THEN FORGET ABOUT IT AGAIN! The trail will teach and you’ll learn what you gotta learn!
7. DON’T LET THE WILD IN WILDLIFE KEEP YOU BACK!
|The obligatory first day pic, at least if going southbound ;c)|
Now let’s assume you just took your first steps on the trail, no matter whether you’re a south- or a northbounder… Yeaaaaaaaaaaaah! You’re doing it! You’re about to rock! Once you’re on trail all you gotta do is put one foot in front of the other (that is the advice my mom gave me: Girl you just gotta walk!). It’s not like you haven’t been doing it for… eh… your whole life! So really, go and do that: Put one foot in front of the other, it doesn’t matter if fast or slow!!! HIKE YOUR OWN HIKE! And while doing that, take care of your body. Na I’m not talking about body lotion and anti-wrinkle stuff for your face (for god’s sake… those wrinkles write the story of your life… love them!!!)… I’m talking about your feet, your legs, your body, that amazing thing that is carrying around your heart and your mind and your soul.
There are some advices you should follow… by all means:
A. If there is a rock (may it be the tiniest one) in your shoe: STOP and take it out! No matter whether you just took your first step on the trail or you’re running up Forester Pass. You don’t want blisters! Codeword: Gaiters! Dirty girl gaiters! Eh there is one exeption: If there is a rock in your shoe and you’re standing face to face with a mountain lion: DON’T take it out. Don’t kneel down to untie your shoe hahaha!
B. If you’re not on a time limit: DON’T RUSH IT! Take it easy man! It doesn’t get much more beautiful than this! Take time to stare, to be overwhelmed, to stand there breathtaken!!! Take your time cause life in the cotton world is running fast enough. Don’t run after it. Let it pass you by and then adapt to the pace of the wilderness. The only reasons for running on the trail are: 1. You wanna break the trail time record (it’s not my kinda thing, but I have great respect for those taking on that challenge!) 2. You gotta pee or poo… BADLY… (Really ladies, if you gotta pee, don’t wait till the last sec… cause if you wait till the last moment, even taking off your backpack is a struggle… And peeing with your backpack on, na that ain’t comfortable…)
C. If someone offers you food: Take it and eat it! Except if it’s oatmeal!
D. Hit the passes in the morning and avoid afternoon thunderstorms. Get yourself informed on how to act when thunderstorms approach or you’re stuck in the middle!
E. Hike with an open mind. Be nice to others. Because sometimes a journey is best measured in friends rather than miles!
F. Leave No Trace! Pack out your toilet paper (better, just don’t use any… there are some lovely round rocks to be found, or leaves, or or or), don’t leave trash. Except for your footprints on the trail, the pics on your camera and the memories in your heart, no one should know you were there!!!
And if there’s anything more you wanna know (Should I bring rainpants? Can I go with a tarp? How am I to charge my camera batteries? I love oatmeal, now what? Should I bring a bear bell? What the fuck is a wag bag? Should I filter my water? How should I wash my clothes? Should I bring soap and sanitizer? You wanna go on a hike with me?) just add a comment below this post or shoot me a pm! I’m always happy to help.