Note: Because I am currently on the trail, this blog post will be a bit shorter than usual. Also, it will not reference current events because it was written in early August. I’ll be back next week with more stories from the trail!
Another hiking season is drawing to a close. It’s not impossible to hike the John Muir Trail in late September or early October, but if you do, you need to be ready (both in terms of gear and skill) for snow. Possibly, lots of snow.
With the season nearly over, what should you be thinking about if you intend to hike the JMT next year?
First, you can make reservations at Curry Village, The Yosemite Lodge, the Tuolumne Lodge, or (if your tastes run to the more comfortable) the Ahwahnee Hotel, one year and one day in advance. That means you are already well within the window for a hike beginning in July, August or September of next year.
Six months before you arrive at the trailhead you should have decided the dates of your hike, which way you are going to walk (southbound or northbound), how much time (and where) you are going to take to acclimate to the higher elevation, how you are going to get to and from the trailheads, an idea of what gear you will need, and how you will train your body to be ready.
Wilderness permits (which are mandatory) can be secured 168 days in advance. That means, for an early July start, you need to request your permit not long after the first of the year.
More important than all of this, however, is what’s going on between your ears. A thru-hike of the John Muir Trail (and the preparations for it) will tax your mental toughness as much as your physical conditioning.
I’ve met slow and fast hikers of the John Muir Trail. I’ve seen slim and not-so-slim ones, young and old, experienced and first-time backpackers. The one common denominator in all the SUCCESSFUL thru-hikers is this: determination.
It’s never too early to make the commitment.
Good hiking, Ray