Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Guide Books

I have spent many hours reading and rereading many guide books for the John Muir Trail. Of all the books I have read two stand out the most to me, "The John Muir Trail: Through the Californian Sierra Nevada" a Cicerone Guide and "John Muir trail: The Essential Guide to Hiking America's Most Famous Trail" from the Wilderness Press. These two guide books are written in very different ways and when used together give all the information I need for the hike.

The Cicerone guide was the first book I ever bought and read about the JMT. It is written by Alan Castle who has written many other guides as well. He is English and most of the Cicerone books are for trips in Europe so the book reads as if you are from overseas. It has tons of information that is great if you are traveling overseas to hike the JMT like insurance, public transit, money, and some "translations" from English to English. The first half of the book has a lot of good information about planing your trip. Everything from permit applications, regulations, food drops, and conditioning is covered. The second half is mainly a trail guide, broken into a twenty-one day, southbound itinerary. Each day has a very basic map, an elevation/milage chart (not graph), an overview of the day, and a more detailed description of the day. There is an elevation graph broken into 3 parts scattered along the guide as well. The itinerary I am planning on is loosely based on Mr. Castle's book. The book itself is bound in vinyl and is relatively small, so bringing it along is not too much of a hassle.

The Wilderness Press is an American publisher who makes some of the best backpacking and hiking guides I have read. Many of my training trips have been planned from their "Backpacking California" and "Backpacking Arizona" books. "The John Muir Trail" is written by Elizabeth Wenk. This book has the planning and preparation section at the front much like the Cicerone Guide, but it is less focused on prepping a foreigner for the US and concentrates more on the specifics of the JMT. The guide section is written for both a Northbound and a Southbound hike which was helpful for me in deciding what way to go. It breaks the hike down into 13 segments, usually ending on a major pass, drainage, or border. The author describes many of the plants and animals along the trail as well as gives some interesting history and geology lessons. Rather than lay out an itinerary, she just mentions where campsites are and which ones are really nice. There are some great charts in the Appendices, including one that describes the location of many established camp sites.

I really think that these two books complement each other very well and I would highly recommend that anyone who wants to start planning a JMT through hike read through both of these great books.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

La Jolla Valley to Sandstone Peak Area

After the last trip to Sespe, I was able to return my old backpack and sleeping pad to REI. This is a real testament to the customer service of REI. I'd had the old equipment for six years but had only used it on five or six trips during that time. I ended up getting an Osprey Kestrel 68 and a Thermarest Z-lite sleeping pad. I was very happy with the way the pack felt initially and there was very little adjusting needed along the entire hike. I filmed a review of my new pack which you can watch here:

I started on the trail around eleven in the morning and headed up La Jolla Canyon. The weather was very nice and sunny - very different from my last trip in September. I arrived at the campsite around 12:30 or so and got everything set up. The trail camps are just a table and a flat area for a tent; there's no fire ring. I chose a nice site towards the back under a small grove of oak trees (#8).

Home for the night

After eating some lunch I walked around the area and took some pictures.

Oak Leaf

Oak Branch

Another Oak Leaf

New Life

La Jolla Valley

La Jolla Valley

My two friends, Chris and Brian, arrived soon after I got back to camp. Brian had just acquired a new Osprey Atmos pack, and some other gear as well. I had fun drooling over his new toys, as well as playing with my new stuff as well. I was impressed by Brian's Jetboil system.  It boiled water very quickly. I brought some homemade beef stew I had made a few weeks ago and dehydrated. It was amazing! I was very impressed with how little space it took up and with how close it tasted to the fresh batch.  We all shared some of what we had each brought for dinner and ate very well that night.

We took a nice walk that night and gazed at the starry sky, we discussed which planets we could see (Venus, Jupiter, and Mars), and just hung out at camp. No fires are allowed here, so we were a bit cold as the evening wore on. When we went to bed, I had a chance to try out the new Thermarest pad and I loved it. It was warm and comfortable enough to sleep on. I got some sleep that night, but not too much as it was the typical "first night camping" syndrome. For me, it always takes a few nights to get used to sleeping on the ground, so these one nighters are usually semi-sleepless.

The next morning we ate breakfast and packed up our gear. I was very disappointed to find the buckle for my sleeping pad strap had broken at some point. We hit the trail a little later than I tend to like, but as this was kind of a relaxed trip, I wasn't that bothered. The morning was a tad chilly, but very clear and sunny. We made our way down to Sycamore Canyon and headed north along the main road until we met up with Old Boney Trail.


Two Wild and Crazy Guys

Playing with my camera

Quite a distance to cover

The Route

From the point you hit the Old Boney Trail, you are pretty much ascending for the rest of the day, with very few exceptions until you head down from the peaks to the road . We made our way up the mountain, where the trail gets very steep at points so we took our time. I was very happy with the way the new pack felt, despite the broken buckle. As we got closer to the peaks, the weather changed. It got very foggy and rather cold. I found it ironic that the last time I took this hike It was foggy all day and got sunny at the top, but this time was exactly the opposite.


A Long Way up

The Peaks Are Close

Misty Mountains

We stopped near Inspiration Point and had some lunch and I sent the signal from my GPS to get picked up. I changed into my Vibram Five Fingers to test how they would work on the hike. I was not ultra excited about how they felt, but that was mostly due to lots of down hill hiking from there.

3 Tired Guys

Edge of the World

The View


Lake Sherwood

Beautiful Sky!

The Mountains

We got down to the trailhead and Caryn was already there to pick us up. We were treated to an amazing sunset as we packed up our gear and took off. I was very happy with the way my gear performed on this trip. I feel that the Kestrel is going to be a great pack for the JMT, I already had a buckle sent to me from Osprey at no charge.

The whole trip is around 14 miles, with about twelve of those miles on the second day.  We also gained nearly 3000 feet of altitude the second day, which is good practice for the average day on JMT. The only thing this trail lacks is high altitude practice. Here is a 3D image of this hike as well as a link to my SPOT Adventures page.

3D view of our trek

La Jolla Canyon to Sandstone 2

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