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Our 2016 JMT Fail.....

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Our 2016 JMT Fail.....

Postby Snowtrout » Thu Jun 30, 2016 9:28 am

After hiking 47 miles from Tuolumne Meadows in four days, my wife and I decided to make camp at the junction of the JMT and Duck Pass Trail. As we sat there relaxing before putting up the tent, I asked my wife a question. I knew her feet were hurting from some of the blisters she acquired from the long downhill into Reds meadow but I knew that would not stop her, so I asked "Are you having fun?" She replied "no, not really. You?" I replied, "not really." We both started into a conversation about all we were doing was hiking, no exploring lakes and areas and no fishing after four days. It was at that point we realized that we were not "through hikers" or like the PCT hiking machines. We actually like to slow down, enjoy the scenery, explore the places near our camp and try to fish the creeks, rivers and lakes surrounding us. Those experiences actually relax us and make us excited to hike and see what the next day has in store for us.

8 months of planning and preparation for the JMT and we decide to tap out after 4 days. Not enjoying the trip was the biggest issue but blisters and a physical issue I developed contributed to our decision. So the next day we hiked out over Duck pass to Lake Mary where we waited for over an hour for a trolley that never showed up. We ended up walking into Mammoth (no one would give us a ride, wife said we looked like dirty hippies) only to find only one hotel room available due to the Mammoth motocross taking place. In total, we hiked about 60 miles in 5 days.

After having a few days to look back on our trip, we made these wrong planning decisions:
1. Since we were on a timeline (wife was going to Hawaii on July 12), we should have split the JMT in half and hiked from TM to Florence lake this year and hiked from Florence to Whitney next year. This would of allowed us to take a little more time and hike less mileage on some days. Plus, it should be easier to get a permit leaving out of Florence.
2. We should have hiked from TM to Reds Meadow in 4 days instead of 3. Our day 2 plan of hiking from Lyell footbridge to Garnet lake took it out of me, especially with all of the snow travel over Donahue and Island Pass. We should have stopped and camped at Thousand Island and Rosalie lake. Both were beautiful and had fish jumping everywhere.
3. Weight issues....our packs were too heavy to start with. Only wanting to do a single re-supply at MTR was a bad idea if we were planning on stopping at Reds Meadow and VVR. We should have sent supplies to both places to take 10-13lbs off our backs and feet. Lesson learned.
4. We are not hiking machines. Gotta give it to the PCT hikers, how they can wake up at 6am, leave camp by 6:30, hike all day, roll into camp around 6pm, set up camp and be in bed by 8, and then repeat the next day is impressive. We are not like that. We do hike fast but like to be in camp pretty early to relax, explore the area and if possible, fish. Both my wife and I are really "we hike to fish" hikers.

I want to thank everyone on this forum for giving me advice and information about certain areas. Also want to say that we met some great people hiking the PCT who gave us some great info and insight about life on the trail. Hearing about their crazy experiences from Whitney to TM (Silver and Glen seemed to be the sketchiest), "trail tramps", nasty hostels and seeing kites flying on Donahue pass really showed us a different side of hiking.

Through out this whole process, my wife and I have learned a lot about hiking, trip preparation, and about ourselves. We plan on finishing the trip next year but with two buckets waiting for us at MTR, we are not done with a certain part of the JMT for this year. We are heading back out to explore the Selden Pass area lakes for a 5 day fishing trip (base camp at Marie and hike into Sandpiper and Three Island, hitting Heart and Sallie Keyes on the way out).

If anyone would like info about the trail from Duck pass to TM, please ask (even though it will be over a week old). Will write up a TR after we get back from fishing for gold around Selden :D

Edit: I did write a quick mosquito and conditions report on those pages. Thanks Maverick for reminding me ](*,)
Last edited by Snowtrout on Thu Jun 30, 2016 10:24 am, edited 1 time in total.



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Re: Our 2016 JMT Fail.....

Postby maverick » Thu Jun 30, 2016 9:46 am

If anyone would like info about the trail from Duck pass to TM, please ask (even though it will be over a week old)


A "Backcountry Conditions Report" could be helpful to your fellow hikers who are considering that area for this weekend, also a "Mosquito Report" would be great too.
viewtopic.php?f=34&t=13936
viewtopic.php?f=34&t=13937

Don't take this trip as some sort of defeat but rather as an enlightening experience, you have gained some insight into the things that have a true meaning to your soul and which will allow you to enjoy the wilderness experience even more. :)
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Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: Our 2016 JMT Fail.....

Postby Jimr » Thu Jun 30, 2016 9:51 am

While you may have failed to achieve the objective, you both grew in the realization of who you are. Your future trips will be appreciated and enjoyed that much more knowing you are doing what moves you. Go for the gold.
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Re: Our 2016 JMT Fail.....

Postby sambieni » Thu Jun 30, 2016 9:53 am

Thanks Maverick -

I am headed this way tonight and would GREATLY appreciate trail reports from Red Meadows area to Thousand Islands Lake.

Great post overall. Very curious how heavy you were packing your bags - base weight and more?
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Re: Our 2016 JMT Fail.....

Postby Jason » Thu Jun 30, 2016 10:29 am

Snowtrout wrote: It was at that point we realized that we were not "through hikers" or like the PCT hiking machines. We actually like to slow down, enjoy the scenery, explore the places near our camp and try to fish the creeks, rivers and lakes surrounding us. Those experiences actually relax us and make us excited to hike and see what the next day has in store for us. :D


I've always envied the PCT thru hikers, but after reading a few books/accounts I realized that doing that kind of mileage would never be for me.

And while I TELL myself that I'd love to do the JMT some day, I'm slowly coming to the realization that you and I are in the same boat. I enjoy hiking to get to a place, but if there's something along the way that causes me to stop, that's okay too. A few years ago my wife and I hiked 3 miles in and set up camp next to a nice little creek. We spent two nights there...... fishing, swimming, day hiking and just goofing around. It was awesome! In a way it seems like a bummer that something I've always wanted to do may not actually be so......... but that just gives us the opportunity for adventures that will, in the end, bring us more happiness.

Thanks for reporting your experience and what you learned from it, these things can be helpful to others as well.
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Re: Our 2016 JMT Fail.....

Postby Wandering Daisy » Thu Jun 30, 2016 7:05 pm

I think part of the problem was too early in the season. If you had done this in September or late August, you may have had a totally different experience- no bugs, no hard water crossings, no snow. A lot of early JMT starters bailed out this year. We forget that the previous few drought years were not the normal.

I have done most of the JMT in bits and pieces simply as parts of other trips, either loop backpacks or climbing approaches. I am not sure I would want to do the whole thing. I did Roper's High Route, so the JMT might be a let-down after that. But when I get really old (I am already mildly old) a nice long hike on a good trail may be appealing. I also may have strong young grandchildren to carry all the weight for me!

When I did Roper's High Route, I took 33 days to do it and that only included one entire day off to drive from Mammoth Lakes to Cedar Grove. Most people do it in 21 days or less. There is no reason to make a thru-hike an endurance test with long daily miles. On the mid-section of Roper's Route my husband joined me and we averaged about 4 miles a day and did lots of fishing! I never felt rushed on any part of that route. In fact, I added two extra side-trips just because I wanted to see these two areas.

To each his own style. I have had lots of experience with trips of long duration and relatively low daily miles. Others prefer long daily miles so they can spend more "zero" days in town and carry lighter packs. The JMT can be done in many ways. Although I did Roper's route in one time-frame, I flip-flopped mainly due to car logistics and fitting in the mid section to agree with my husband's work schedule. I am not a "purist" and found nothing off-putting about flip-flopping the three sections.

You did not "fail", you simply figured out that the style you planned did not fit your personalities. Just do it in a different style.
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Re: Our 2016 JMT Fail.....

Postby Snowtrout » Thu Jun 30, 2016 10:02 pm

Thank you all for the replies. I chose the word "fail" because we did not complete our trip as we had planned. But with this trip failure, we learned a lot about how we could be successful in our future trips: daily trail profiles, the logistics of a long trip, food planning, gear choices, and what we like to do and visit along or off a trail. Lots of knowledge and experience was gained.

I hope leaving out of Florence next year will be easier to get a wilderness permit than dealing with Yosemite, SEKI and Whitney. Deciding in January what you want to do in June is really a pain in the butt :moon:
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Re: Our 2016 JMT Fail.....

Postby alc101ma » Tue Jul 26, 2016 9:11 pm

Thank you for sharing your experience!

I have never gone on a proper thru hike, only 3 or 4 day trips. I've always dreamed about a week+ long thru hike but wifey has no such desire. If I had to choose, though, I would rather go on a slower paced hike with my wife with lots of exploring and fishing. I guess that's part of growing, changing, and learning more about yourself. These days, most of my trips are really just back country fishing trips. Unfortunately they usually end up solo since most of my fishing buddies are not in the best shape and dread the idea of backpacking :D

Don't get me wrong, though. At some point I'd still like to try a proper thru hike. I think it would be a very unique experience that I would enjoy in a different way.
Hiking and camping in the Bay Area and up the Pacific coast. Backpacking in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Catching backcountry trout. I write articles, stories, guides, and how to's for exploring the outdoors. http://www.loveto.camp
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Re: Our 2016 JMT Fail.....

Postby balzaccom » Tue Jul 26, 2016 11:16 pm

Hey, you found out something about what you like to do, and what you don't like to do. That can only make the next trip better. How is that a fail?

Keep hiking. Keep finding what makes you happy. Do more of that. Good plan.
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Re: Our 2016 JMT Fail.....

Postby Bruce B » Wed Jul 27, 2016 7:16 pm

Thanks for the report!

I understand what you're saying. I stopped chasing miles a while ago. I'm sure I'll do it again sometime. For now, I prefer meandering. I'm generally out of the tent at 0530 to catch the morning light, but I'm rarely packed up and moving before 0830. I'd rather enjoy the morning, have some hot coffee and a nice breakfast, admire the reflections on the lake... If I really like an area, I'll keep camp there for a couple days and do some day hiking. I see so many things I'd otherwise have missed.
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Re: Our 2016 JMT Fail.....

Postby SSSdave » Wed Jul 27, 2016 10:07 pm

The primary reason people hike and backpack in the High Sierra is because of its incredible world class wilderness beauty and wonder. Oh they would say it is to climb, or fish, or relax, or photograph, or attain some challenging athletic feat, or whatever but such misses the deeper reason. I am not saying such tasks and goals are not worthwhile but rather they somewhat miss the core reason they are out there. Otherwise they would be content to hike along trans mountain highways with much less logistical issues, or about some boring mid mountain forest without views, or fish the many convenient road side reservoirs and streams, or climb peaks beside highways. Thus I personally view thru hiking goals as athletics challenges that miss the primary reason people go out into those mountains. I think some backcountry enthusiasts have a problem with being content to enjoy and experience spectacular scenery without also having something TO DO or a GOAL. Thus they find in long distance hiking a task and goal although again it isn't the primary reason they are out there whether they realize that or not. So yes you may find spending more time in those special places in the mountains that inspire and fill you with wonder is what may be a more rewarding and fulfilling experience than a task and goal narrowly focused on trails through it.
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Re: Our 2016 JMT Fail.....

Postby Shhsgirl » Thu Jul 28, 2016 7:10 am

Nope, it's not a "fail." It's an adaptation, and it's a virtue to be adaptable. I know how it feels to spend eight months working, planning and dreaming of your trip in the evenings, only to have some reality on the trip make it seem like the whole thing was a waste of time. But it wasn't! You learned invaluable lessons about what you really want to spend your time doing AND about what your body will allow you to do. This changes drastically over the years. What I could do when I was 55 was much different than what I can do at 65. I fall more--even on trail, I get dehydrated much more easily, my muscular strength is greatly diminished, and my back cannot handle the same loads. So, I adapt. Some trips have to be abandoned. Some have to be shortened. I have to be much smarter about my planning. Before, I might have enjoyed a strenuous through-hike with dangerous weather. "The more suffering, the better," was my joking motto with a hiking partner I had for a long time. Now, it's no joke. I am approaching the age where the ponies will be employed to haul me and my stuff up to a high lake, and I'll spend my time dreaming there. And that will be fine.
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