#4 - Hiking the JMT - We have a new start date and wedding date!
I’m baaaaack! It has been a while since my last post, but that does not mean that I have not been progressing on my John Muir Trail plans. As you might remember, due to the highest snow year on record here in the California Sierra mountains, I decided to push back my hike from June to September. For the most part I have just been playing the sit and wait game. Well really it has been the apply for permits and be rejected game … over and over… and over again. Let’s just say that I have grown to despise this game. Luckily I have a few other options since the permit game did not pan out the way I had hoped.
The first option did not dawn on me until it was almost too late. Let me explain the process though, so you understand what I am doing. Permits for Yosemite overnight backpacking trips go up on a random lottery in one-week blocks, six months before the date you would like to start your hike. The lottery accepts entries for an entire week before they pull the winners. On the following Monday, each lottery participant will receive an email that either says “Congratulations” or “I am Sorry…”. Chances are you will receive the latter email since 97% of applicants get denied. Those that do get the congratulations email will have until Friday to accept their permit, and this is where my second chance to get a permit comes into play. The permits that are not accepted by Friday, go back up for grabs Friday morning at 9am. This time, getting a permit is like logging in on Ticketmaster and trying to be the fastest clicker to claim an open permit. Five minutes before 9am I was on the Recreation.gov site refreshing the permits page repeatedly. Forward five days, backward five days … and repeat. I drank way too much coffee that morning and the restroom was calling me, but there was no way I was going to step away right now. Click, refresh. Click, refresh. Click, refresh. I started to think maybe this was a lost cause. Maybe I was doing something wrong. Maybe 9am was the wrong time. Maybe my webpage was not refreshing. I looked. Yes, it looks like it is refreshing. Click, refresh. Then the magic number showed up! Permits were available. A LOT of permits were available. It kind of took me by surprise and I hesitated. So many options. What day should I go for? I needed two permits to complete the trail with the way I was going to make it work. The first part of the trail only had two permits left and the second part of the trail had 10 permits left. I opted to go for the first part of the trail since I needed those two … and I got an error message. Someone had already started the process to get those permits. No! Ok, no need to worry. I refreshed the page again so I could grab two permits for the second part of the trail. By this time there were only 4 permits left! Click! Yes! I got them! I filled out the permit and paid my fees. One step closer to hiking the John Muir Trail.
Sorry for the long story about what seems to be such a minor detail, but in fact, this has been a great victory. I now have two permits for September 12th to hike out from Lyell Canyon over Donahue Pass to Mt Whitney. That covers about 195 miles of the trail. For the first 25 miles of the trail, I will need another permit. This brings me to my third option on ways to obtain a permit. My hope is that someone will decide not to hike the trail and will release their permit back into the system. Normally this would be very difficult to track since I do not have time to log in and check for released permits all day and every day. Luckily, I found an amazing website that will check for me! Wildpermits.com is a great site where you can enter dates for permits that you want to obtain, and they will watch the system and text you when a permit becomes available. I have my fingers crossed that someone will cancel their Happy Isles permits for either September 9th or 10th. These are the dates that I am watching. Wish me luck!
Do not worry though! Waiting for someone to cancel is not my last option. My next option comes into play a week before I want to start the hike. Forty percent of the permits for each trailhead are saved for release a week before each start date. These tickets are released like concert tickets instead of in a lottery. Even if I do not obtain one of those permits, I still have one last chance. I can show up the day of the hike and just hope that someone does not show up to claim their permit. If all else fails, we just do not hike the first 25 miles of the trail and we start the hike on September 12th at the Lyell Canyon trailhead in Tuolumne Meadows. The hike would still be amazing! Full disclosure… I still have two permits to hike the full trail on June 20th. I plan to hike as much of that first section as I can (snow and road access permitting) just in case I am not able to obtain the permits needed for that section. It will also give me a good chance to test out all my new gear, evaluate my fitness level and to hike a few extra portions that are not a part of the John Muir Trail (Half Dome and Clouds Rest). I am so excited!!!!
I am sure you are wondering, where does that put the wedding date? Well, our wedding date has moved as well. We will now be getting married on September 9th before we head out on the trail. We still do not know the specifics, but I am working on them. We need to decide where the wedding will take place and at what time, but I am leaning towards Glacier Point for ease of access for our parents. It is such a beautiful view! More to come on that.
In the meantime, I am still preparing for the trail. Last night I booked most of my hotel stays. I know what you are thinking. Why am I booking hotels for a backpacking trip? Well, as much as I love camping out in nature, I also value a delicious meal, hot shower, time to wash my clothes, and a good night’s sleep occasionally. Over the 21 nights planned on the trail, I hope to have 5 of those nights in a hotel. Below shows my current itinerary. David will hike the first 3 days with me until we reach Tuolumne Meadows. At that point I am hoping my friend will hike the next 3-5 days with me to either Red’s Meadow or Vermillion Valley Resort. David plans to meet back up with me at Vermillion Valley Resort for a two night stay in a cute little yurt. Squeal! I’m so excited! I have never stayed in a yurt before, and it sounds pretty romantic if I do say so myself! From that point on I will be on my own unless someone plans to join me in Independence to cover the last part of the trail to Mt Whitney.
Other than trying to get permits, booking hotels, and planning the wedding, I have also been continuing to work on refining my gear that I will be taking with me. I received my new Durston Kakwa 55 backpack, Bearikade Weekender bear can, and Hammock Gear Dyneema tarp with doors. I am still waiting for the Enlightened Equipment Torrid Pants though. In addition I also ordered a few more things. First off, I ordered a new hiking sun shirt and leggings from Ridge Merino. The Women’s Solstice Lightweight Wool Hoodie is made of wool and nylon, so it will be much better at keeping the stink away over multiple days vs my Mountain Hardware Crater Lake hoodie. I also like that it is a darker color (black) so you will not see the dirt as fast as my white hoodie. Sun shirts are amazing! It really helps to cut down on sunscreen and contrary to what you might think, the long sleeves and hood make me feel cooler because the sun is not beating on my skin. My only worry is that the black might heat up more than the white hoodie. I am going to test it out a few times before I fully commit to it. The Women’s Crowley Compression Merino Wool Tights that I purchased are also a wool blend helping to eliminate stink. Wearing leggings this time will also help with avoiding the sunburns that I usually get on my legs leaving comical lines around my knee since I wear a knee brace. Once again though, I ordered those in black, so I will be testing out how much the dark color heats me up. I also ordered a new top quilt (it is like a sleeping bag, but more like a blanket). I am super excited to say that I ordered a Trailheadz Ethereal 20 degree custom top quilt. I even splurged on a cute succulent print on the outside. I can't wait to get it!!!! I will not only be warmer, but also saving a lot of weight and looking stylish. LOL!
There you go! That is my most recent update for the trail. Hopefully my next update will let you all know that I have finally obtained the last set of permits that that I need to start the trail. Till next time!