This day, three years ago…
We woke up early and at 6am, were the first customers at the Alabama Hills Cafe. There’s something great about guilt-free eating, knowing that you’ll be running a caloric deficit for three weeks and, why yes you can have the pancakes and an omelet. What the heck! We gorged ourselves to the point of feeling ill, then wobbled back across to the Dow Villa, grabbed our backpacks, and waited for our shuttle.
One of the logistic challenges with hiking the John Muir Trail is transportation. If you’re lucky, you might be able to coordinate with friends who want to spend a day or two in Yosemite to see you off. Even then, you’ll need room for your crew, your stuff, and all of their gear as well.
Or you can take two vehicles, dropping one off at the end (Whitney Portal in our case) and then carpooling up to Yosemite. The problem with this is that when you finish the JMT, you’ll have to drive all the way back up to Yosemite to retrieve the other car.
Public transportation is an option, but this too, is challenging. You’ll save money, but need more time to make your way, as you switch from bus to shuttle and so forth. If you have more time than money, it’s probably the best option.
In our case, we had scheduled just enough time to drive up to Lone Pine on one day, drive to Yosemite the next day, hike the JMT and then drive directly home. That meant hiring a driver to shuttle us from Lone Pine to Yosemite Valley. We booked Mt. Whitney Shuttle, and the fare for all four of us ran a whopping $595 bucks! Split four ways, it worked out to roughly $150 apiece. Gulp!
Our driver — Richard — was awesome. He was waiting for us right at the scheduled time — 7am, and kept us entertained with his stories on the way up. When we reached Tioga Pass Road, we made a stop at The Mobil and then joined the throngs snaking our way up and over Tioga Pass.
Before dropping down into the valley, we stopped at Olmstead Point and took in the views. There were some tourists who had setup telescopes pointed at Half Dome, and you could make out the hikers clambering up the cables to the top — something we hoped to be doing this time tomorrow!
Richard drove us down into the Yosemite Valley and dropped us off at the Ranger Station. We picked up our permit (you get an email confirmation, but still have to show up in person to claim your actual permit). They grilled us about our plans and whether we had bear canisters (we did). Permit in hand, we took turns weighing our packs on the scale out front.
- Hari: 33 lbs
- Joan: 35 lbs
- Jeff: 45 lbs
- Jeffrey: 69 lbs — The Winner!?
Clearly Jeffrey was either an animal or slightly demented. Time would tell.
We headed to the backpacker’s campground. This is a small campground where hikers with backcountry permits may spend one night (since you typically have to pick up your permit the day before you start). It’s pretty close to a car camping area, but you take a beautiful bridge over a stream where there are no cars, and it’s a little more quiet. We stowed our food and smelly items in the bear locker, setup our tents and relaxed a bit.
As I laid on my back, looking up a the clear blue skies, I watched and listened as the towering pines swayed in the breeze, dancing to the rhythm of nature.
For our last dinner before the trail, Joan and I ambled over to Curry Village for a cold, hops-based beverage, crowds and pizza. This place is insanely crowded in the summer, but it’s an awesome place to people-watch. Joan got lucky, and nabbed a couple seats at the bar while I waited in line for pizza.
We made it back to the backpacker’s campground in the dark, and were surprisingly tired. Maybe it was the anticipation of what was to come, but we went to sleep pretty early.
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Tomorrow morning, we start hiking the John Muir Trail!
Originally hiked on July 26, 2010.
thank you for writing this! my friends are I are thinking of doing it one of these days and this will be an awesome read for us! 🙂
Jeff Hester says
Thanks, Carman! BTW, you’ve got an awesome photo blog! Wow… what great photos. You should definitely make plans to hike the JMT someday.
Oscar Gonzalez says
That’s cool. I’ve heard this is a great trail… but 69lbs!? Wow. That’s insanity I think.
Andrew Rachal says
Jeff this is great!! The JMT is on my bucket list. Thanks for sharing..
Great idea on reliving your trip. Love the photos and logistical info. Exactly what I needed. 69 lbs is insane! Though the guide for our Grand Canyon backpacking trip got you beat! Imagine a tall skinny girl in her early 20’s I think with at least 60! Even after offloading some food weight.
Jeff Hester says
They say youth is wasted on the young. 🙂
Next time I hike the JMT, I WILL carry less stuff.
Sarah Wilson (@MySmartPuppy) says
69 pounds?! That’s insane.
Great blog -“guilt-free eating”. Sounds like fun. 🙂
Harikrishnan Jayamohan says
It wasn’t really calculated but I guess based on body weight to pack weight I’m the ultralight backpacker….. Joan sure seemed jealous when she saw my pack weight 🙂
Jeff Hester says
We were all jealous after the first mile! And that’s one of the lessons we’ve learned; carry less and enjoy the hike more.
Anyone planning to do the JMT in 2014? I would like to join 🙂
To: Jeff Hester, do you know any backpacking group or club JMT?
Jeff Hester says
I don’t know of any JMT “clubs” and most of the hiking groups don’t attempt anything so ambitious (although I’m sure there are exceptions).
I have a friend planning to hike the JMT in 2014, and can recommend three places to look for JMT hikers:
1. Try the JMT Forum here at SoCalHiker.
2. Check out the JMT Group on Yahoo. This is an old-school email list, but it’s very active.
3. Finally, try the John Muir Trail group on Facebook. This has some overlap with the Yahoo group, but is also pretty active.
These are all good ways to express your interest, and connect with like-minded hikers.
When I was recruiting the “team” for my last JMT thru-hike, I joined a couple Meetup hiking groups and made a note of my plans in my bio. Jeff found me through SoCalHiker, and Hari found me through Meetup. Joan and I met through Meetup, so that worked well for me.
I’m thinking about another thru-hike in 2015, but no firm plans yet. I suggest moving this discussion over to the forums and keeping me posted there.
Ray Murray says
Styllista – My name is Ray Murray. I plan on hiking 1/2 of JMT in Aug 2014. I am going solo only because I don’t know anyone that wants to hike that far. If you are interested hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also look me up on FB. I am from Oklahoma.
Hey Jeff unfortunately http://www.mtwhitneyshuttle.com/ seems to no longer exist. Do you have any other suggestions? I’ve done some searching (here: http://climber.org/data/shuttles.html ) but was checking to see if there’s one I missed.