Saturday, June 7, 2014

Food Resupply on the JMT

The first thing someone asks me when they learn that I am planning to hike the John Muir Trail in thirteen days is, "Are you going by yourself?" To which I respond "yes". The next question is, "How are you going to carry enough food?" The answer is, "No, I am not going to carry 13 days worth of food. I am going to resupply."

I haven't ever planned a hike where I had to resupply, but if I ever plan to hike the whole PCT in one season, which I do, I had better learn how to resupply. This summer's trip on the John Muir Trail is a perfect time to learn. My plan is to resupply twice. When resupplying there are lots of options, all of them require you to stop hiking and do something else.

 When I start hiking in Yosemite Valley I will be carrying four days worth of food. I will have all of it securely packed in a Bear Vault BV500 bear canister. Some people who hike the JMT start with some snacks and water and hoof it as quickly as they can to Tuolumne Meadows, where they have stashed their pack. I don't want to do that. I want to hike the whole trip with all my gear. Call me stupid, but I am going to climb the first four thousand vertical feet out of the valley with a full pack including the aforementioned four days of food. I don't intend on stopping at Tuolumne Meadows but plan to hike another ten miles and camp at the Lyell Fork bridge.

I really only need three days of food. I once heard somewhere that the weight of your pack is directly related to your fears. One of my fears is running out of food. I am actually carrying an extra day worth of food when I start. My first resupply point is at Mammoth Lakes. I plan to catch the shuttle at Red's Meadow near Devil's Postpile National Monument and ride from there into town. Many thru-hikers suggest buying your resupply food in Mammoth Lake. Again, I am ignoring (probably) good advice and not doing that. I am bringing a resupply box with me when I pass through Mammoth Lakes on my drive to Lone Pine the day before I start my hike. I am planning on finding someone in Mammoth Lakes to hold on to my box for me until I come back for it three days later. I will be picking up three more days of food here.

Seven days after I start, I plan on arriving at Muir Trail Ranch. They cater to people who want to stay at their resort, but they also provide a resupply point to thru-hikers. This is really the last 'convenient' resupply point for a south-bound thru-hiker before you get to the remote High Sierra backcountry. I say convenient because the ranch is only a mile or two off the PCT. The other options are long hikes to trailheads where you have to hitch a ride into a town down on Highway 395. I don't have the time to do that on this trip, so Muir Trail Ranch is my spot.
It's not a cheap spot, they charge a bunch of dollars to hoof your food up to their ranch from the Post Office. They have special rules about how to ship them things, such as you need to ship stuff to them in a plastic bucket. I suppose boxes have a way of disintegrating when they fall off of the back of a horse fording a stream. By the time they fish the box out of the stream it is water-logged and basically falls apart. Not so with a plastic bucket. When it falls into the stream it bounces without getting the stuff inside all wet. Another rule is that you have to tape the handle of your bucket down so that the bears can't pick it up and run off with it.  I guess Yogi and Boo Boo live near by.

There are worries and fears associated with resupply. Especially at a place as remote as Muir Trail Ranch. Like what if my bucket doesn't arrive, or they lose it? That's probably the biggest worry - to be in the middle of nowhere without food. But if I were going to play the What-if game I could come up with at least one hundred other things to worry about. In fact there are just as many things to worry about in my normal suburban life. I basically trying to ignore the what-ifs, except to the extent that I do my best to mitigate the risks. If I started focusing on them, I would stop doing most of what I do now and live a safer, more predictable, might I say 'boring' life.

No comments:

Post a Comment