Trip Report August 25 - September 18
Trip Report August 25 - September 18
We just completed our first thru-hike of the JMT and wanted to take a minute to thank all of you here on the list for helping to make it possible with your enthusiasm and sage advice. It would have been soooo much harder to pull this off without all the information (and inspiration and encouragement!) we got from list members!
This was the best hike of our lives! Thank God, Gaia (or whomever or whatever you prefer) for the unmatched beauty that is the Sierra Nevada. And thank John Muir for his foresight and dedication! We have hiked and backpacked many places in this world, but this will always be among our favorites.
Our one mishap during the hike was that Joyce slipped and broke one of her Gossamer Gear trekking poles. We want to take a moment to thank Silvia, a Park Service employee we met when we stopped at the LeConte Ranger station, for “trading” her own poles for Joyce’s broken ones. She wouldn’t accept any payment, but we promised at her request to make a hefty donation to the Sequoia and Kings Canyon Search and Rescue Fund administered by the Sequoia Parks Foundation. We thought this was such fitting way to show our gratitude and such a worthy cause that we wanted to share the information on the organization and how to donate. Information can be found (and donations made online) at http://www.sequoiaparksfoundation.org/index.htm or donations can be made via check or credit card and mailed to the Sequoia Parks Foundation, PO Box 3047, Visalia, CA 93278. Include your name, address, e-mail, the amount you want to donate (or enclose a check.) If you wish, you can specify that the donation is for Search and Rescue (SAR.) You can also make the donation as a gift in memory of (or on behalf of) an individual. Include their e-mail and the Foundation will acknowledge the gift to the e-mail you provide.
We enjoyed reading about how others did the trail and what is was like as they traveled, so here’s a brief summary of our own experiences and equipment:
· Our group of 3 (Al, Joyce & Rosemary) left Happy Isles on August 25th, 2009.
· We completed the trail in a total of 25 days (19 days hiking and six lay-a-bout rest days on the Trail) arriving at Whitney Portal on September 18.
· The weather was superb throughout. We experienced only 3 or 4 hours of rain in the entire trip. Days were in the 70s and 80s, nights generally in the 40s and 50s.
· We encountered many new friends along the trail. Our on-going trail “community” included Mike from Seattle, Richard and Sam from Monterey, Ray from Hawaii and many others. We even had the opportunity to dine and talk with the famous Billy Goat.” Meeting and talking with all of you added a lot to our trip. Hope we meet up again some time!
· We had a few frosty mornings when camped above 10,000 ft., but we were otherwise comfortable throughout with our Stephenson Warmlite 2-person tents (weight: 2.75 lbs.) and our Western Mountaineering Ultralite Super 20 º sleeping bags (1 lb 15 oz.) If we were doing it again, we’d probably go with 0º F bags, because we had a few nights when we had to sleep with a lot of layers to stay warm.
· We had no mosquitoes or bugs anywhere, and the only time we got our feet wet was crossing Evolution Creek.
· We carried Therm-a-rest NeoAir sleeping pads (we loved ‘em!) and Osprey packs (Aura 50’s for Joyce and Rosemary and an Aether 60 for Al.)
· We carried a bear canister (Bearikade Expedition) and generally 3 to 4 days of food. We resupplied at Tuolumne Meadows, Red’s, and Muir Ranch, then had packers bring in resupplies and a fresh meal at Deer Meadow and Vidette Meadow. We could, I suppose, have avoided the packers or had only one resupply by carrying 2 canisters, but we wanted to keep things as light as possible since it was Rosemary’s first backpacking adventure. We used Rainbow Pack Outfitters for Deer meadow and Pine Creek Pack Station for Vidette Meadow and they were both great. They spent the night and brought in and cooked a salmon, salad and baked potato dinner WITH WINE! for the night we met them, plus fresh fruit, etc. for breakfast the next day. (They would much rather have done steak…they’re more familiar with cooking that on the trail…but, unfortunately, we’re no-red-meat kind of folks.
· We encountered a bear in our camp only once – on our rest day at Evelyn Junction in Lyell Canyon. We yelled, he scampered away. It was exciting!
· We carried freeze dried food for all dinners (Mountain House, with one two serving envelope per meal per person) repackaged into quart sized freezer Ziplocs. Al added some extra olive oil to his meals for more calories. We had either Instant Oatmeal or “trail bars” for breakfast and “trail bars” or our own homemade trail mix (unsalted roasted nuts and dried fruit, 150 cal. per oz.) for on-the-trail snacks. Breakfast and dinner were “freezer bag cooked” by pouring water into the Ziploc packaging. We didn’t eat lunch per se, just snacked frequently while walking. Our trail bars were custom made to our nutritional specifications at www.youbars.com and we also use Nature Valley Oats & Honey bars for some variety. We also used powdered “greens” (Phytoganix from Metagenics) to boost our antioxidant intake. We included a variety of teas and Mud Gourmet Coffee singles (really good coffee!) from www.harvestfoodworks.com as well as Splenda and sugar packets.
· We used a Jetboil stove with a 1.5 liter pot for all our cooking – which was only boiling water for “freezer bag” rehydration and hot drinks. One large fuel canister was enough for our cooking needs for 3-4 days, but we always carried two – just in case.
· On average, we ate about 13-14 calories per pound per person per day (so: for a 150 lb. person, 13.5 x 150 = 1950 calories.) That brought us to about 1.2 – 1.4 pounds of food per person per day. We were never hungry and had almost exactly the right amount of food (i.e., no contributions to the hiker boxes.)
· We carried a variety of “excess gear” for comfort and security, including a Spot, a satellite phone and a Garmin Geko GPS, plus a pharmacopeia of medicines: Cipro, Bactrim, Immodium, Nyquil, Claritin, Prednisone and on and on (and on). Luckily we needed none of them, but Al has asthma, so we always travel prepared. We carried (and shared several times along the trail) Compeed blister bandages. These are absolutely the best! Compeed is their European name; in the US they’re called Band-Aid Advanced Healing Blister Cushions and are available at most drugstores.
· Overall our packs averaged 27 lbs, including all food and a liter of water. In addition to the above items, we carried rain suits, long underwear, camp shoes, warm hats and gloves, trekking poles, 3 cameras, 3 cups and sporks, a camp shower, extra socks and underwear, various toiletries and personal items and a small set of backup or emergency and first aid supplies.
· We used 5-gallon buckets for all of our resupplies. Our resupplies included stuff to refresh our personal “consumables” (e.g., disposable contact lenses, saline solution, sunscreen and lip ice, toothpaste, dental floss, camp soap, olive oil, bandaids, batteries, etc.) We got travel sizes of this stuff at www.minimus.biz . All of our resupplies included fresh clothes and bandannas. UPS let us include JetBoil fuel canisters in the resupply buckets we sent to the packers in advance, but we purchased fuel at the resupply points that we sent buckets to by mail (Red’s, Tuolumne, Muir Ranch.)We included packing tape and mailing labels in each package and sent back whatever we didn’t want, partially used bottles or tubes, etc. The packers took out our return buckets and trash and we were able to mail back buckets at Tuolumne, Red’s and Muir Ranch.
· Re: transport, we elected to start our trip by driving to Lone Pine, staying at the Dow Villa and leaving our car at the Dow Villa in their courtesy lot. We used Bob Ennis’s Mt. Whitney Trail Shuttle (www.mtwhitneyshuttle.com ) to shuttle us to our starting point in Yosemite. On our return, Bob picked us up Whitney Portal for the return to Lone Pine and the Dow Villa. The shuttle to Yosemite was a little pricey ($550+ plus tip) , but not bad for 3 of us. We looked at instead driving to Mammoth and renting a car there at Enterprise car rental, then driving both cars to Lone Pine and leaving ours at the Portal, then returning the rental to Mammoth, staying overnight at the Lodge and taking the Yarts bus from there into Yosemite the following morning. This would have been much cheaper (about $70 for the car, plus gas) but we were arriving on a Sunday, there were some restrictions on the time for returning the car because of that and the YARTS schedules required us to be up at the crack of dawn. By the time we factored in hotel rooms (we needed 2) and such, the cost difference wasn’t that great. All things considered, we decided to splurge on convenience, but the other option is definitely workable.
It was an unforgettable trip! If we can provide any other information that would be helpful to any of you who may be planning a trip soon, please feel free to contact us.
We couldn’t get enough of the Sierra, so now, we’re starting our planning to hike the PCT sections from Yosemite north to Canada. We’re hooked!