Along with your sleeping pad and bear canister, don’t forget to haul some data with you on your John Muir Trail hike. Here are some recommendations:
~ Probably most important is the sunrise and sunset times. If you don’t carry a smartphone, there are a number of websites (e.g., this one) that will provide the times for the dates you are out there. Remember, it will get dark a little earlier in the evening and stay dark a little longer in the morning because of the high ground that will typically be to your east and west.
~ The same website will give you some idea of what the moon will be doing during your hike. I really enjoy walking for an hour or so before sunrise, and if the moon is up and relatively bright I can forgo the headlamp necessary if the trail is pitch black. (One advantage of the headlamp, however, is that you get to see the light reflected in the eyes of the critters on the left and right of the trail, watching you as you pass. Well, it’s an advantage once you grow accustomed to it; at first it’s a little creepy, because there are more critters than you might expect!)
~ On one of my thru-hikes I carried a few sheets of paper like the one depicted above. Each of the four rows represents a hiking day, and since I was able to print this on both sides of waterproof paper, I got eight days on each sheet. On the left you see the sunrise and sunset data, as well as the total distance for the day, the elevation gain and loss, and the first and last waypoint I had entered into my GPS. The main portion of the chart is the profile of the day’s hike, with waypoints and a distance scale at the bottom. Although I have since replaced this paper technique with a smartphone, it worked very well.
~ The last list of data worth keeping isn’t numerical, but is even more important. As you work through your planning you are going to come across areas or landmarks that interest you. You will be surprised how easy it is to walk past them without even noticing (e.g., the Red Cones, the Muir Rock, or the Donald Downs monument). Write notes about these places on your map or guidebook, jot a list on a separate piece of paper, or keep notes on your smartphone. Then, be sure to review the list the night before or the morning of each day’s hike. It can be quite disappointing, when reviewing your hike a few days after it concludes, that you forgot to look for something that grabbed your interest during planning.
Good hiking, Ray