Musings from the JMT
- Hi all,
My sister, daughter and I just completed an epic trip of the JMT NOBO from Bishops Pass (we had already done Whitney previously). As a JMT newbie, I thought I'd share some observations for the benefit of future Yahoo group users.
1) We have hiked all of over the world; my sister hiked extensively in Nepal. Last year, my daughter and I did the PCT north of Stevens Pass to Canada, so we're experienced multi-day Ultralight backpackers. NOTHING prepared us for the challenges of the JMT. It kicked our butts!! We had planned on 15+ miles a day, similar to our PCT experience. That goal proved very challenging in the High Sierra's. We said everyday that we should have planned on 10-12 miles. Now I know why most folks plan on 7-10 miles a day. I really underestimated the difficulty of the terrain and passes.
2) It is crowded!! Even in mid-September, I was surprised by the number of folks on the trail. If you're looking for solitude, this isn't your trail. Fortunately, we loved stopping and chatting with folks, so it was socially a fun trip. Some of the designated campsites were quite crowded, and many folks ignored the rules for camping close to a lake or the trail. Also, you run into a diverse group of hikers - super UL semi-pro hikers to monster pack inexperienced hikers. Also, fishermen and short-trip backpackers. But overall, the people were great and friendly.
3) MTR was an incredible disappointment. I know I should be grateful that they stay open in September just for resupply and that they never offer amenities to thru-hikers, but the lack of any customer service is stunning. I realize that they deal with all sorts of hikers, but for $55, they could extend a simple smile and helpful attitude. Their generator is also way under power and the phone charging was worthless. After almost 2 hours on charge, my iPhone was only charged up 20%. Also, when they say they close at 5pm, they close at 5pm!
But the Hiker Bins are awesome - everything from batteries to gear to every possible food / drink combination - homemade and store bought - can be found. Interesting food observations: the Olive oil bucket was overflowing. Apparently everyone thought it a good idea to bring olive oil packets (and a few bottles) for extra calories and didn't use them. Same with powdered drinks - just can't beat Sierra water.
4) VVR is a long hike along the Lake trail, but worth it. Yes, they nickel and dime you, but they also are laid back and helpful. Most of Jim's staff are hikers, so they understand. We stayed in one of the famous trailers, but found it comfortable, clean, and nice to have some quiet privacy to sleep. The dinner was excellent, as were the breakfast burrito. Did I say the Lake trail at 6.2 miles was long and hard? It's well signed, just long, especially since we just came down Bear Ridge. (We didn't plan on going to VVR when we reached the Bear Ridge Trail shortcut, but did after descending Bear Ridge.) VVR has signs on the JMT for the shortcuts, which was very helpful.
5) No bugs, cool nights, snow this weekend, rapid storms, abundance of wildlife (but no bears), make September a great time to go. Water was plentiful, even in mid-September in a low snow year. The Evolution and Bear creek crossings were non-events. Got our feet a little wet on Evolution crossing, but Bear Creek was a boulder hop.
6) Epic! That's the only word to describe the JMT, especially the southern half. We'll be back next fall.
Best trip ever,