More backpacking prep: Shakeout hikes, satellite communications and a haircut

I climbed over the pass at Mount Whitney at the end of a week-long trip on the High Sierra Trail. I'll be there again soon - the John Muir Trail overlaps for a few miles at the peak. Photo by Chris LeBlanc

I climbed over the pass at Mount Whitney at the end of a week-long trip on the High Sierra Trail in 2013. I’ll be there again soon – the John Muir Trail overlaps for a few miles at the peak. Photo by Chris LeBlanc

 

My husband and I spent the weekend making last-minute preparations for our upcoming backpacking trip on the John Muir Trail in California.

We loaded books into our backpacks and scampered up and down the River Place Nature Trail, the best place in Austin to train if you’re planning a hike someplace mountainous.

The River Place Nature Trail offers lots of elevation change, if you're training for a backpacking trip. Photo by Pam LeBlanc

The River Place Nature Trail offers lots of elevation change, if you’re training for a backpacking trip. Photo by Pam LeBlanc

We zipped by REI to pick up a few things we needed, including some Injinji toe socks, my secret weapon against blisters. (That and 2Toms Blistershield powder, which I’m also packing.) We packed the Deuce of Spade, a trowel that weighs about half an ounce, that we’ll use for digging cat holes when nature calls.

We also set up a satellite communications device called a Delorme inReach, which will allow us to send short text messages to keep family members apprised of our progress, or let them know if we have a problem, even when we are out of cell phone range.

Finally, we handed over a bag of clean clothes to the friends who will meet us at the trailhead, after we finish our hike. (Thanks Ron and Leilani!) A clean pair of underwear, fresh jeans and fluffy new socks are going to look mighty good after 16 days of wearing the same things.

Tomorrow I’m cutting my hair really short. I won’t be able to use soap or take a shower while we’re on the trail, so it needs to be low maintenance. Besides, it’ll grow back eventually.

I’m excited. I’m nervous, too.

I woke up in early this morning, freaking out a little about the 11 mountain passes we’ll have to cross. I’ve got a healthy fear of heights, and sheer dropoffs make me want to belly crawl. I’ve also been battling a nagging case of plantar fasciitis, and hope that won’t slow us down too much as we make our way along the route.

We sent buckets of dehydrated food to a resupply point at the half-way point of the John Muir Trail. Photo by Pam LeBlanc

We sent buckets of dehydrated food to a resupply point at the half-way point of the John Muir Trail. Photo by Pam LeBlanc

We checked the weather reports, too. It looks like highs in the 70s and lows in the 30s at the lower elevations, and colder than that higher up. Mount Whitney, at the end of the trail, is the highest peak in the lower 50 states, and last time I was there (at the end of a week-long trip on the High Sierra Trail) it was build-an-igloo cold.

We’ll start our hike at the Rush Creek Trailhead, about 10 miles off the John Muir Trail. (It’s difficult to get a permit to start at the Happy Isles trailhead in Yosemite, where the JMT officially begins.)

We’ll merge onto the JMT at Thousand Island Lakes in the Ansel Adams Wilderness. From there, we’ll follow it all the way to Mount Whitney, and down to the Whitney Portal on the other side. There, with nearly 200 miles behind us, we’ll celebrate with the best cheeseburger of our lives.

I can’t wait to get started…


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