"Keep close to Nature's heart... and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean." - John Muir
Our hike will begin in Yosemite Valley
We are ready to roll. A few more last minute chores have to get done today, but we'll be on the road by this evening. Our packs are set, my starting weight (with food) will be about 34-35 lbs, while Andrea's pack will be about 25 lbs. We're pretty happy with those numbers.
Elevation profile of the entire route
It will be several days before we actually start hiking the John Muir Trail. The plan is to drive a few hours south of Salt Lake this evening and camp in the Uinta National Forest near Nephi, UT. Tomorrow morning, we'll hike up the highest mountain in the Wasatch Range, Mt. Nebo. Afterwards, we'll drive the rest of the way to Las Vegas and spend the night with my aunt.
On Sunday, we'll finally reach California, driving across Death Valley to Lone Pine. This little town is near Whitney Portal, the end of the trail. Leaving a car at the end of the trail and getting to the start via public transportation, the next step, is probably the biggest logistical challenge of this whole endeavor. There are limited buses, they don't run on certain days, and the connections don't make sense. We'll spend Sunday night at a hiker's hostel in Lone Pine, but first we'll need to get the car 13 miles up the road to the trailhead and leave it there. I plan to drop my pack at the hostel, then take the car to the trailhead, then run back to the hostel. On Monday our bus leaves Lone Pine at 6am, and gets into Mammoth Lakes two hours later (wouldn't you know, the connecting bus to Yosemite leaves Mammoth 30 minutes before we get in!). We'll have a full day in Mammoth Lakes, then will take a bus to Yosemite first thing on Tuesday morning.
The last logistical challenge is obtaining a backcountry permit. We arrive in Yosemite Valley at 11am on Tuesday, and in a perfect world, we'll be issued a permit and start hiking within an hour of getting there. I've heard from lots of people that this is a real possibility. In a less perfect world, we'll have to wait until Wednesday to start the trail (and I highly doubt there are better places to kill time than Yosemite!).
The John Muir Trail
Once we start the trail, its 223 miles back to the car. In a lot of places you'll see the trail listed at 211 miles, but technically it "ends" at the top of Mt Whitney, so you still have 11 miles from the summit back down, and we have a short detour to Muir Trail Ranch to pickup our resupply bucket after 107 miles, so our total hiking distance will be about 223 miles. Depending on exactly when we start, we'll finish on July 24th or 25th. I start my new job on the 26th.
We'll have phone service until Tuesday, and then we'll be off the grid the rest of the trip. I can't even express how excited I am getting right now. I've never done a trip of this scale before, not even close. The JMT has been my dream for several years, and the fact that we are hitting the road tonight almost hasn't sunk in yet.
Be back in a few weeks!
The terminus of the JMT: Mt Whitney, the highest point in the continental USA