My next major John Muir Trail hike won’t occur until next year. Wrapping up a fifteen-year effort to write, publish and release a book; wrapping up my “day job” here on Oahu, and moving to our new home just north of Lake Tahoe and west of Reno is keeping this year quite busy enough. I’ve spent a lifetime dreaming of living near the Sierra Nevada. Skipping a major hike this year seems like a small price to pay to finally make it happen.
My wife and I are planning a complete thru-hike in 2017 – fourteen months from now. Since we’ll be a short drive to Yosemite, there can’t be much to do this far out, right? Wrong! Here is what is on our list for the next few months:
- We have about a week to pencil out an itinerary. We need to decide how much of the hike we want to do after Labor Day. If we decide to wait later in the summer we’ll see fewer hikers and mosquitos, but will have to contend with colder nights and potential transportation and accommodations issues along the way. Labor Day comes a little early in 2017: September 4. The JMT population falls precipitously after the holiday. I suspect we’ll settle on a start date around the last day of August or the first couple of days in September. That means the Tuolumne Meadows Grill and Tuolumne Meadows Lodge will still be open, and transportation to and from Red’s Meadow to Mammoth Lakes will still be in full swing, when we arrive at each.
- Although we can’t be assured of getting a permit on the day we want, at this point we are going to assume we will be stepping onto the trail at Happy Isles on day 1. We will need someplace to stay the night (perhaps two) before, so we must decide if we are going with the convenience of Curry Village, the comfort of the Yosemite Lodge, or the opulence of the Ahwahnee. Why? Because reservations there fill up quickly in all of them, and they can be made a year and a day in advance.
- We are planning a half rest day on day 3 in Tuolumne Meadows. If we want to spend a night in the Lodge (which is really a tent cabin), we’ll need to make that reservation a year and a day out, too.
- We are going to start discussing our permit strategy. There are two ways to approach this: try repeatedly for the date and place you want and then re-arrange everything else around the date you ultimately get, or make your reservations along the way and figure out a day and place to start your hiking so that you can arrive when planned. We will go with the second option. That means we need to carefully assess what permits are available, when, and we need to be prepared to request them on the first day available. Since one of our back-up plans is to leave from either Chiquito Pass Trailhead or Quartz Mountain Trailhead, we need to be ready a year ahead to request the permit.
- The last step isn’t absolutely necessary, but has the potential to help us avoid some unpleasant situations: we will start publicizing to our friends and family that we are going to be in the woods for three weeks in September next year. That way no one will depend on us being somewhere else!
Good hiking, Ray