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25689Re: [John Muir Trail] Re: Conventional Wisdom Regarding GPS on JMT

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  • Ned Tibbits
    Nov 6, 2012
      I love your preface, “If you can read a map...!”
      THAT is probably the most valuable instructional subject taught during all of Mountain Education’s courses because it is a skill that keeps hikers aware of their surroundings and keeps them on-trail. If you can’t “read” a topo map well enough to “see” what’s ahead, then you’re not likely to know when you’ve lost the trail under snow.
      Like yourself, I have skied, snowshoed, and walked the PCT/JMT while under snow, also. Unless you can identify where you are and where the trail goes based on the topographic/geographic landmarks about you, then you’re likely to lose the trail daily resulting in much lost energy and time. In the above-timberline terrain of the JMT, it is relatively easy to spot the right drainage to head into, but when you’re down in the trees searching for a place to cross the creek safely, it is pretty hard to know where to go. It is here that a GPS comes in handy to know where the trail is.
      Sometimes, we follow tree blazes while practicing our route-finding skills, but it’s really not necessary to be right on top of the trail all the time. If you know where it goes, simply pick your own route over snow to get there. Above timberline, you can see for miles into the canyons, so all you need to know is, “Which one does my trail go into?” However, it is faster and easier when down in the trees, to pull out the GPS and lace your way along.
      During the summer, as you said, it is not necessary to bring a GPS for our most-loved trail-highway called the John Muir Trail. Nevertheless, carry a good topo that “shows” you what the route ahead will “look” like so you’ll know when you get there! If the summer trail is partially covered with snow (I’m thinking long “fields” of snow for miles, say in June or July), you might want to bring a GPS for route-finding in the shade or north-aspect slopes.
      Ned Tibbits, Director
      Mountain Education
      From: John
      Sent: Sunday, November 04, 2012 3:48 PM
      Subject: [John Muir Trail] Re: Conventional Wisdom Regarding GPS on JMT

      If you can read a map, then a GPS is of no importance on the JMT unless you are looking for electronic entertainment. I've skied the entire JMT and sections many times in every winter month- I don't know how to use a GPS. Now that said, I skied around in circles in a white out on the Bighorn Plateau one  January. I guess a GPS would have gotten me to Tyndall Creek a little earlier....

      In summer, the JMT is well signed, but not always as the "JMT", so in places, you need to be aware of appropriate landmarks down the trail that a sign may be referring to. Approximately 23,132 people (I made that up) walked the JMT safely prior to the invention of GPS.
      Not necessary, but the entertainment may be worth the weight? Personally I'd bring a good book!!
      Walk the Sky: Following the John Muir Trail
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