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
Are you on the trail this year Ray?
We’re gonna be on the trail for three weeks between Bishop Pass and Red Cones doing some fly fishing. Taking four llamas along to carry the gear. S to N 8/18-9/7..stop by if you see us. Cheers, jc
Not this year, Jack. The big event for this year is my retirement and our move to Nevada. Next year the wife and I are both going to do the entire JMT.
Congrats on your retirement and move to Nevada, Ray! Maybe someday I’ll live within day hiking range of the Sierra Nevada again!
Thanks, Ravi. You have hit upon the whole point!
(That said, I am amazed at how wonderful the Reno/Tahoe area is. When my wife first proposed it I thought it was crazy, but the whole area is so much nicer than it was twenty years ago, and doesn’t resemble what you might expect given its reputation.)
What site do you use to get that data output?
Thanks for the question, Josephine. The profile I display here was a custom made project I did before my first JMT hike. The program I used was NG TOPO, which is no longer available. (I then imported the profiles into a desktop publisher to enhance the diagrams.) There are certainly other options out there (I now use Gaia), but my real point is that I think it is worth the effort to spend some time on this sort of preparation. I found it to be quite useful out on the trail. Thanks, again!
Thanks so much for the reply, ray! Super helpful info here that I’ll definitely consider for my upcoming thru-hike this summer!