“Always plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark.”
“A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.”
“I don’t know the question, but a plan is definitely the answer.”
Actually, I think that last one is about something else, but you get the idea. If you are going to successfully hike the entire John Muir Trail, you need to get a head start on your planning. In fact, even though you are at least nine months from your first day on the trail, you may already be too late! Here are five things you should be doing, now:
1. Decide if you are going to spend any nights within the park. If you are intending to start from Yosemite Valley, you will probably want to get an early start, which may mean spending the night before at Camp Curry, the Yosemite Lodge, or (for those of you who like to go a little upscale) the Ahwahnee. True, you can also get a free night in a campground with a wilderness permit, but many hikers figure that they will have more than enough nights on the ground. They want something a little more comfy the last night in civilization. I like to take a half zero-day at Tuolumne Meadows so that I can take advantage of the shower, good food, and comfy bed. Here’s the rub: reservations are made a year out for accommodations. You may already be too late!
2. If you are committed to training, start now. The great thing about starting early with a training regimen is that you can ease your way into it. Nothing will do more to lessen the chance of injury that starting small and making tiny, incremental, increases. If you are middle-aged or older, this will also give you the opportunity to see a doctor before starting and to consult with a personal trainer for some guidance.
3. Decide what weight you want to be your first day on the trail, and get at it. Don’t be like the guy who orders an extra-large pepperoni pizza – and a diet Coke. In other words, what sense does it make to spend $1,000 to save six pounds on your backpack, shelter, sleeping bag, and bear canister, when you could pretty easily take ten pounds off by losing just one pound a month? Better yet, do both!
4. Start your research to ensure you get the most bang-for-the-buck on your gear choices. You have some decisions to make: tent or tarp, sleeping bag or quilt, boots or trail runners. If you are new to this, I can almost guarantee that you will change your mind regarding SOME of your decisions. Make sure you’ve scheduled some shakedown hikes, involving a few nights in the field, to test things out and to learn how to use them. This is particularly important if you are leaning towards the ultralight options. Erecting a tarp, for example, is something you want to practice a lot before you depart Happy Isles.
5. Last, consider some training. Taking the Summer Mountain Skills Course at Mountain Education of Reno would be an excellent way to prepare.
If you take a methodical approach and if you start early, planning your hike can be almost as enjoyable as the hike itself. It does NOT need to be a source of stress. Get started, now, and you will be even better prepared for your first day on the trail.
Good hiking, Ray