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Topic: John Muir Trail Section 2, Difficulty and tips< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 24 2013, 9:17 am  Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

John Muir Trail-Section 2 Tuolumne Meadows to Reds Meadows or visa virsa.

Wondering if someone could advise me on backpacking the section from Tuolumne Meadows to Reds Meadows (or the other way around). How it compares to backpacking in Baxter State Park, Maine on the "moderate trails". My friend and I are 55 years old and just really getting back into backpacking. Last year we spent 5 days backpacking in Baxter State Park, Maine, and loved it. We found it challenging however with all the rocks, boulders, stream crossings, roots, etc. When I read the rating on this trail (JMT) I read strenuous or difficult. Is that for "avid" backpackers or for average people? I assume (and would prefer) to go shorter distances between camps and maybe stay in a camp for two nights. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Also, some people say starting at Red Meadows or near there and hiking to Yosemite is better. Which is better? Do the permits go fast? Should I apply ASAP?

I actually did hike in this area a long time ago too. Like 30 years ago. I do not remember it being too difficult, but I'm not sure our brains can be trusted from 23 years old to 55 years old on difficulty comparisons. When I backpacked last summer in Baxter (I had done this 30 years ago too and did not remember it being challenging)?  I did not climb Katahdin. I have no cartilage in my knees. People told us that hiking in New England with all the rocks, roots, and boulders and no switch backs is harder than most trails in the west ???
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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 24 2013, 9:43 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I did that section, and more, 2 years ago, when I was just turned 60.  We camped 2 nights along the way, hiking about 10 miles each day.  The portion between TM and the end of Lyell Canyon is not open to camping until you cross Kuna Creek, or near that.

We stayed in the forested part of the climb up to Donahue Pass (11056).  Camp was above 10K, so the next day's climb was not too bad.  The trail is a rolling up and down all along the way, but starting from TM makes more sense to me as it is more generally downhill from Donahue to Red's.

If coming from TM, at Thousand Island Lake stay to the right, or more straight.  The main trail off to the left is the PCT, while the Muir heads off to Garnet and Shadow Lakes.

There are lots of switchbacks, true, but there is also quite a bit of elevation gain and loss along the trail.  Hiking sticks helped me immensely.

It is a very popular trail, so I would suggest you get permits as soon as possible. I have no idea if South Bound from TM, or North Bound from Red's would give you a better chance on getting a permit.

Take care, enjoy yourself, and drop back by with pictures when you are done.  Thanks.  


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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 24 2013, 10:25 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

You will greatly improve your experience, IMO, by staying a few days at
tuolumne meadows and day hiking to see how you do at elevation.
what makes it very strenuous for many is that you are starting high and going higher, and with no way to predict how you will react and the potential lethality of elevation sickness which can require immediate evacuation - and there is no such thing as immediate evacuation - it would be best to acclimate for a while before starting to haul a pack up the pass.

Also, if your pack weighs more than 40 lbs, start to shed weight - you will be required to add a bear canister to your pack and to get all your food and trash and hygeine items into it each night. And this is imperative for this section - the bears are very aggressively seeking food here. They are easy to drive away but we had them return a couple of times a night. If not for the canister they would have had our food. You will need to rent from the park or get a larger, lighter can from Wild Ideas - they rent by mail.

The other reason to shed weight would be to decrease the work your joints and lungs will be doing, as you slowly stair step up to 10,000 feet with your pack on. It would also pay to be sure your pack fits you well and keeps the weight on the hips.

If I were you I would be talking to the doctor about what you are intending to do and determining if there are braces that would help with knee stability, and hiking 8-10 miles each weekend in preparation. Good stamina makes a big difference when going over high passes.


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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 24 2013, 10:50 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

As for the other questions - permits can be difficult. You will want to figure out when five months prior to your starting date is, and fax in starting at midnight on that day. The other tactic that would work well with my suggestion of getting a campsite in Tuolumne Meadows for a few days is to just walk in each morning - people abandon permits at a ferocious rate, and those are free to walk in folks on the morning you want to start. I've gotten permits for very popular destinations that way by being a single person in the office at the right time.

You want to do short days, and stay two nights in each spot, which may mean a week on the trail. I would suggest getting an idea of the volume of bear canisters, seeing if your intended food supply will fit in a bucket of approximately the same volume and altering your food to fit it in - I can get a week in a Bearikade Weekender but I use bear cans often, know how to pack them, and use food that is small, crushable and flowing like rice and couscous, or granola. Removing all packaging and using only ziploc bags to pack helps. Look at trailcooking.com for many recipes of packable food. Getting this straight before you get to the trailhead will take the pressure off and prevent your losing food to bears the first night on the trail, when like so many people do, you find that the food just won't fit in and you are thinking of hanging, sleeping with or just leaving food out - don't do any of these things! Please please get this piece right and get it all in the can. The reason the bears are so ridiculously bad here is just this sort of thing.

Try to camp on durable surfaces, not grass, and to camp lower - that will help with elevation issues.


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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 24 2013, 11:52 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Great trip, less than 30 miles but one of the most scenic sections of the JMT.
Not mentioned yet, (but important) is use of the YARTS (Yosemite Area Rapid Transit) bus and the Hiker bus ... comes in handy getting back to your car...Google it for schedule.
The buses start Yosemite Valley AM and travels to Tuolumne - eventually to Mammoth and the big parking lot at the mountain. Yarts also leaves Mammoth Mtn AM and goes the other way too. More too IE - TM 7:00 PM - Mammoth 9:00.
so, Mammoth to TM, or TM to Mammoth...your choice. Both work.
From MM lot, a $7.00 bus takes you down to the bottom loop (or back up)...Agnew, Sotcher Lake, Reds Meadow, DPP. Another bus (free) also makes a loop around the bottom venues...every 15 minutes, but only the $ bus from Reds/ DPP goes all the way up to Mammoth.
Free city buses in Mammoth will get you up to the parking lot on the mountain if you want to leave car in Mammoth.
BTW, suggest Agnew Meadows as a start/end point - not Reds Meadows.

On the trail, suggest taking your time - you could do it in 2 - 3 days or take as many as 10...7 days would be great, lots to see, lots of options, world class fishing too...3 different trails from Garnet to Agnew.

Any more Q's...drop me a PM,  live in Mammoth.
Mark


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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 24 2013, 11:53 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I tend to prefer starting at Tuolumne, get a day or so in at elevation and on relatively flat ground while the pack load settles in. Plus the day hikes in that area are terrific warmups and some time to sort out getting all the bear attractants (aka "smellables") into the required hard bear resistant canister, available for rent at the Tuolumne Wilderness Center where you'd be picking up your permit, can be useful.

http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/bearcans.htm

While Tuolumne campground is very large it is also very popular so following the tips on processing a reservation request through Recreatiopn.gov is important (last year, as the year before, they were gone within the five minutes it took me to check out and return to the availability section)... when they're open (lmid July onward to Fall) the rest of the Tioga road campgrounds are not reservable so there's usually something available, but traveling a distance makes a reservation a nice thing..

http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/camping.htm

Wilderness permits can be faxed any time after 5 PM the day before the first available date  Pacific Time: then when the Yosemite Conservancy people come in the next morning they take the faxed stack and work their way through.

http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/wildpermitdates.htm

"Three Ways to Make a Reservation
This year, the reservation office is open December 2, 2013 through September 2014 and accepts reservations for trips during May through September (and some popular trails in October). Reservations are not necessary for trips during November through April. We are not currently accepting online reservations.
Fax (preferred): Please complete this reservation form [400 kb PDF] on your computer, then print and fax it to 209/372-0739. (You can fax 24 hours/day, seven days/week.)

Faxes and letters will be processed before phone calls. To be considered for this priority, faxes can be received anytime between 5 pm and 7:30 am PT. Faxes and letters received by 7:30 am will then be processed randomly. Faxes received during business hours will be processed on first-come, first-served basis along with phone calls."

http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/wpres.htm

ETA: A somewhat more critical decision is WHEN. Yosemite along the Lyell Canyon and over Donohue Pass is high and the Sierra get's a lot of snow most normal or even slightly below normal years so June and before and there will be snow, mid July and onward and that diminishes significantly... FWIW Mammoth Ski Resort, nearby Reds Meadow, does not find it all that unusual to close it's snow ski season July 4th, and some years not because of a lack of snow but simply due to a lack of customers.....
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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 24 2013, 4:12 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Unless a specific section of trail was being rated I suspect the "strenuous" or "difficult" is more in reference to the whole thing ("The John Muir Trail") being a 221 mile, Happy Isles to the Whitney summit, backpack done over a longish period of time carrying a week's plus of supplies...

For Lyell Canyon from Tuolumne meadowM on out the issue is, as mentioned above, more about altitude which for some can be significant. One way to  mitigate such effects (which IMHO are more about dehydration as a consequence of the higher air being drier alongside the heavier breathing due to the lower O2 content) is to maniacally stay hydrated, which means in part selecting a water purification approach that allows for you to always have plenty of water to hand so you don't skimp.
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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 28 2013, 10:19 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I've done this section a couple of times and would agree with the tips above, especially the advice on acclimatization.  The section is strenuous but not impossible - assuming you have done some backpacking before and know what you're getting in to in terms of effort.  We did this hike with our boys back when they were 9 and 11 and they did just fine.
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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 31 2013, 11:08 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

We just did this section in August (Actually did the whole JMT). We acclimated in Mammoth Lakes and did fine.  TM thru Lyell valley is easy and flat, then comes the climb. We camped in the woods going up, but next day saw spectacular campsites further up that overlooked a lake and the mtns. Up Donahue pass is not too bad with good switchbacks, but it is up and at high elevation. Then the downhill on the other side can be an issue on some knees.
We camped at Gannet Lake because 1000 Island lake was crowded. Great views either place, but far less campsites at Gannet. From there its downhill to Reds and rather mudane being in a forest.  Would go from TM as out of Reds is all uphill.
Definitely should do some test hikes with packs and acclimate. I'm 54 and was fine with the usual precautions.


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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 31 2013, 8:22 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(GoWest @ Dec. 31 2013, 11:08 am)
QUOTE
We camped at Gannet Lake because 1000 Island lake was crowded. Great views either place, but far less campsites at Gannet.

He means Garnet Lake.

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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 31 2013, 9:36 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(GoWest @ Dec. 31 2013, 11:08 am)
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We camped at Garnet Lake because 1000 Island lake was crowded.

Just a route suggestion to avoid the 1000 Island crowd -

When coming from Tuolumne, the trail skirts the North end of both 1000 Island and then Garnet...no camping at both inlets north and crowds and bears tend to bunch up here at the few available camp sites. Hence the "crowded" comment sadly can often be all to true.

Instead, (see TOPO), when at Island Pass just a few miles before 1000 Island, go off trail and follow the small stream down South - easy - which eventually leads/follows the west shore use-trail  of 1000 Island, and camp backside (south end) of 1000 Island, just below Banner.

Amazingly, you will see no crowds or bears backside. The next day, a small knoll east pops you over to the backside of Garnet...follow the shore east-side Garnet use-trail north, and link up with the main trail again at the north inlet of Garnet...probably be the highlight of your adventure.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 02 2014, 3:10 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Thanks for all the suggestions and info. I'm sure I'll have more questions.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 27 2014, 12:09 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(markskor @ Dec. 31 2013, 9:36 pm)
QUOTE
[quote=GoWest,Dec. 31 2013, 11:08 am]
Instead, (see TOPO), when at Island Pass just a few miles before 1000 Island, go off trail and follow the small stream down South - easy - which eventually leads/follows the west shore use-trail  of 1000 Island, and camp backside (south end) of 1000 Island, just below Banner.

Amazingly, you will see no crowds or bears backside. The next day, a small knoll east pops you over to the backside of Garnet...follow the shore east-side Garnet use-trail north, and link up with the main trail again at the north inlet of Garnet...probably be the highlight of your adventure.

Love that idea!!

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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 02 2014, 2:05 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Good replies so far. I think you will do just fine. Lovely trail. Do acclimate. BTW last time I went thru 1000 Island Lake there was not a soul around....you just never know...:)

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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 02 2014, 12:46 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic.  Ignore posts   QUOTE

By the way, if you are NOT committed to the JMT for every mile, you can also hike up Walker Lake through Bloody Canyon and then hike the Lyell Canyon Trail.  Camp at Sardine Lake the first night, then over Donahue Pass the Thousand Island etc.

Permits for this route are MUCH easier to get than permits from Tuolumne Meadows.


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