Ours for the taking
It's funny how all the planning and preparation kind of goes out the window once you finally embark upon a journey like this. We didn't know how far we'd get on the first night, where we'd stop, when we'd start, what the weather would be, and any other number of small nuancical variables. California was on fire the likes of which had never been seen. We had no idea if the park would be open, if we could get a permit, or what to do…
Of course, I'm only speaking for myself. My plan was this.
And the rest would fall into place. We had several parcels of gear that were brand new and never used before on any trip. For myself, I had a brand new backpack I'd never used. We had a new water purifying system (steripen) and a new solar panel to charge it. I had a fair amount of camera gear. There were a lot of unknowns. And there were plenty of plans.
The plan was to park the car at the ultimate end of the trail, Whitney Portal. This way, we'd hike from Yosemite down to the car. Reach the car, and we'd feel amazing knowing we wouldn't have to deal with hitchhiking, shuttles, more hiking, etc.
Since the training pushed our schedule back and we were working with a finite timeline, we decided to drive straight to Yosemite and park there, start there. We'd work our way back at the end.
An uncomfortable amount of configuring and number crunching went in. The shuttle system on the east side of the Sierra Nevada…it's good, because it exists. But in September, when most people have gone for the summer, it only exists at odd times. There are two different shuttles. From Lone Pine to Mammoth lakes you have the Eastern Sierra Transit bus. From Mammoth to Yosemite, a different line, the YARTS bus, provides service.
Eastern Sierra operates only on weekdays in September if I recall. It departs Lone Pine at 6am and gets to Mammoth Lakes around 8:30.
YARTS departs Mammoth Lakes once daily at 7:00 in the morning. YARTS only runs on the weekends in September.
See the dynamic?
Click on the colored routes for the transit details to get an idea of this whole situation.
Note the part about how there is no transit between Lone Pine and the 15 miles to Whitney Portal, the actual end of the JMT. That's hitchhiking, friends.
Pay close attention to all of this. You'll be quizzed later.
Since the shuttle system was so convoluted, we figured that since we parked at Yosemite and would have to get back to the car using this cut up shuttle system, we'd need to be done by the 21st or so to allow enough time to get back, drive home, adjust/move back in, account for anything that comes up along the way.
Time table was set. We exchange $20 for entrance in to the park. We spend two nights acclimating, planning, and really just getting mentally ready for the task ahead.
Here's what the John Muir Trail is about most basically and explanatorily
It's a long distance hiking trail in the Sierra Nevada of California. 212 miles spanning from the tallest mountain in the lower 48, Mount Whitney, as the southern terminus to Yosemite Valley in the north. It's a trail that spans numerous valleys, mountain passes, lakes, ridges, forests. Construction began on this trail in 1915 one year after John Muir died. It was completed in 1938.
John Muir was an environmentalist, explorer, geologist, and mountain man most famous for his work in Yosemite. Wikipedia the trail and the man for more great info.
So that's what the trail is about… but It's a whole lot more than that.
It's doing something that society says is frivolous, of no
It's about saying you'll do something and getting it done, even if it is years later.
It's about leaving comfort zones.
It's about putting faith in yourself that you'll endure.
It's about jumping off a ledge with no real going back.
It's about will power, mental toughness, physical toughness.
It's testing your planning, organizing.
It's about reconnecting, or connecting period without god forsaken social media, internet, etc; connecting with the landscape and environment that is both sustaining you and trying to kill you.
Name what you're after: redemption, strength, strategic planning, salvation, forgiveness, something to be proud of, refuge, pain, triumph, friends, solitude, adventure, fear of the unknown, familiarity of living life most simply.
Name what you want, and you get it on the John Muir Trail.
Next: we step off the ledge and the actual hike begins.