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6657Re: [John Muir Trail] where to camp

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  • John Ladd
    Jan 5, 2010
      I really like camping above treeline.  I love the stars.  In my view, the freedom to camp above treeline is one of the reasons to carry a somewhat warmer sleeping bag / tent or bivy combination.  Wind stability is important if you want to camp high.  Some of the tarp-shelters make a lot of noise in the wind.  A bivy or a tight-stringing tent will help with wind.  (I like a hooped bivy, myself)

      If you are troubled by mosquitoes (I'm usually not), camping high helps.

      Also, you probably harm the environment a bit less by camping high.  Less sensitive vegetation to disrupt.  (But see if you can take care of your higher-impact toileting needs while you are still low.  Or carry a WagBag.)

      My favorite: There are a couple of small cleared tentpads about 20 yards South of the Hut at Muir Pass that are good on clear nights.  I wouldn't recommend it if it looked like lightening might come in.  (Don't be tempted to retreat into the Hut -- it attracts lightening and is not grounded.  I hear that somebody got killed in it once.)

      Another nice high spot is on the first lake just South of Selden Pass (or the one just North of Selden - not as high, but with sparse trees).  I've never camped high just North of Pinchot Pass, but there is a high lake there. There is a nice (dry) campsite to the East of the trail in the first stand of large trees South of Forester Pass, with a partial sky view.  Or try the last tarns just southwest of Whitney (1/4 mile or so above Guitar Lake). 

      It is colder up high, but worth it, in my opinion. 

      The "cold air flows downhill" is true on a small scale (e.g., it's be warmer 100 feet above a slot canyon floor than 20 ft above, and snow campers sleep on a shelf where possible) but not on the scale we are discussing here.  Just avoid sleeping in a local depression.

      One way to sleep high is to eat a early dinner at or below treeline and then walk higher in the fading light.  Get up early and walk down before breakfast.  That way you don't need a watersource near your campsite.

      Why don't you try it both ways early on your trip - plan to camp a night in the trees and then a night above treeline and then decide which you prefer.  Adjust your hiking schedule accordingly.

      I small footprint tent is also helpful when looking for high campsites - cleared sites are typically small. That's another reason to like bivies.

      John Curran Ladd
      1616 Castro Street
      San Francisco, CA  94114-3707

      On Sun, Jan 3, 2010 at 4:47 PM, amandahiker <aslive@...> wrote:

      I have been planning to hike the trail this summer.

      I have been planning to camp low and hike high. My thinking was that it will be wormer in the valleys at night due to the lower altitudes than it will be up in the passes.

      On the other hand, there should be fewer mosquitoes and bears at the passes or above the tree line. But, it should be windyer there too.

      Cold air flows down-hill.  The sun sets sooner and rises latter down in the valleys than up in the passes, so now I'm thinking it's colder down below.

      Aughhhh! Suddenly the very simple has become complicated. What do most people do and why?


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