RE: [John Muir Trail] Pre-trip questions, departure date choices
I've done this a bunch of times and never learned . . . you get to VVR and pig out and then go through your food drop. you're so full and fat that food doesn't seem that exciting and you leave all those calories behind. things that you are sick of, you'll suddenly be wanting a few days down the trail.
One classic mistake I saw a number of people make again this year:
1) The first half of the trip they can't even make themselves eat all the
food they bring if they bring as many as they burn (and 3K per day is in the
range of reason)
2) They get to MTR with extra food and think that they will continue to be
3) They leave a bunch of food at MTR (which is great for the homeless
shelters in Fresno or wherever)
4) The second half of the trip they discover that they don't have enough
food. They get cold at night, lack energy on the trail and feel VERY
There seems to be a basic physiologic law that says that when you are
working unusually hard (and having relatively less-than-usually-yummy food)
your body burns fat in preference to your becoming hungry enough to eat the
all the calories you burn. Then, after about 10 days, your body (even tho
there is still fat available if you are like most people) your body starts
to protest. It says to your hunger center; "I don't think its OK to
continue to burn fat stores of energy at this rate. If you don't start
eating as many calories as you are burning, I'm going to make you
I'd guess that if you burn 3000 calories per day, you will feel OK with 2250
or so the first 10 days but really want the full 3000 the rest of the trip.
Or if 3000 is an under-estimate for you (it would be a little high for me,
but I'm 63 and 180 lbs and go about 12 miles per day) you may find that your
fat supplies will burn off at a very high hunger price starting about the
time you get past MTR.
In general, older people, women and those who hike shorter days need less
calories. Colder weather requires significantly more calories. Probably
realistic range is about 2500 to 5000 calories per day but lots of
variation. There are online calculators of your base need for calories and
calculators that will estimate various types of extra calories needed for
various activities (not necessarily backpacking, but comparable activities.)
I gave away food on two occasions this trip to people who were getting
really hungry on the stretch south of MTR. I was just doing 12 days, so my
body let me burn fat without much of a hunger price. (There was one day
where I was a little "draggy" due to poor food planning.)
I dropped from 184 lbs to 177 (part probably a little dehydration) It
wouldn't have worked much longer.
As a rule of thumb, it takes a 3500 calorie difference between what you burn
and what you eat to gain or lose a pound. I brought about 2200 calories per
day and expected to burn 2800 and therefore expected to lose about 2 lbs in
12 days (600 calories per day deficit times 12 days divided by 3500 calories
per lb. of weight loss.) Assuming that I am 3 lbs less hydrated than when I
left, my 4 lbs of weight loss over 12 days suggests that I was
under-consuming calories at about 1,000 per day. I assume that with the food
I gave away, I was probably consuming about 1800 calories per day and
burning 2800 (or 1900 and 2900 or whatever). Not a particularly good idea,
but at least I made some people happy and due to my short trip not much of a
Of course, I'm now eating like a horse. Trail weight losses are always
But on your real question. Learn how to counter-weight hang your food.
It's not all that hard to learn. Though it will mean that you need to sleep
below treeline to find a suitable tree. And maybe well below treeline --
the Whitebark Pines and Foxtail pines found high on the MTR rarely provide a
good hanging branch.
Or you could consider a Ursack to hold the extra food. Not legal past
Pinchot Pass, but a practical way of protecting food if you are careful to
follow the directions. See ursack.com for reports of performance in the
field. Your food might get squished, but at least you won't be giving a bear
a food reward if you use it properly. Technically, you should counterweight
hang the Ursack once you are in SEKI. But the risk f just letting it sit on
the ground appear to me to be VERY low. Don't tie it to a live tree,.
though. A bear trying to get into it could strip off the bark and kill the
tree. In SEKI field testing, bears that did try to get into the Ursack
rarely dragged it very far away from where it was left on the ground.
John Curran Ladd
1616 Castro Street
San Francisco, CA 94114-3707
On Sun, Jul 19, 2009 at 12:25 PM, mm03g <mgmarabeti@...> wrote:
> Preparing for my first solo trip, 20 day +/- itinerary starting at TM,
> w/resupply at RM, VVR, MTR.
> 1. I have flexibility in choosing a start date. Late-July (27th) or
> Late-Aug(26th). Advantage of leaving sooner is I just finished 5.5months of
> intense cycling and am fit. Downside is little pre-trip hiking except this
> coming week. Also, meeting friends in Mammoth Lakes on 8/20 after JMT and
> don't want to be too wiped-out when they're ready to day-hike. Advantage for
> Aug depart is better day-weather, more time to get hiking legs, be at
> altitude week before at Mammoth. Downside is colder nights, shorter days.
> 3rd option is to start in early Aug and stop in Mammoth for the week they're
> there and continue afterwards.
> 2. Menu - Planning about 3000cal/day. Don't mind carrying extra food since
> I am a big eater but at MTR, I doubt it will all fit in the canister even
> with efficient packing. If I understand correctly, bear cans not req'd for
> first 2 days thereafter. Not wanting to invite the bears, how best to solve
> 3. I plan to park in Mammoth Lakes, take YARTS to TM, and upon reaching
> Lone Pine, hitch a ride back. Any flaws with this thinking?
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