Solo for a few nights, 4 days and 40 miles
I highly recommend any backpacker to take a solo 3-4 night trip. You may find that you revel in the solitude. Or it may literally drive you out of the mountains in need of camaraderie. Self reliance is a critical attribute. You need to know you can do it yourself if the need arises.
40lbs on my back, equipment / food
I reduced weight from the 2017 walk through better equipment, food and needs over wants (light 15deg down bag, single person ultra-lite tent, one fly rod/reel and a dozen flies, better food choices, etc). The ole stanza “ounces equal pounds” is very true. So I reduced my “just in case” phobia. I have a little ways to go, but dropping 13 lbs from my pack was huge on my body and I never felt the “I wish I brought. . .” urge.
19 days including 3 zero days 170 miles.
This trip was set up to be as stress-free as possible. Ten miles a day with 3 zeros sounded good to all of us! My friend who wasn’t able to finish the 2017 hike with us, wanted to finish. With lighter packs, Doc Flint, GBH and I got ready. We had a friend join us for the first 5 days, so we all took our time and enjoyed every step. As our friend turned her way, the three of us continued on to finish the JMT without a hitch.
Hail/rain day one, 19 days of blue and 1 snow storm in between
Weather, what a fickle thing. The first day we had 3 rain squalls, two hail storms, blue skies in between with a 70deg start and 28deg evening. Who would have thought we would then hike for 15 straight days with nothing but blue skies and sparkling stars! Southern Sierras are amazing.
Daily grind, knowing what is ahead.
Knowing parts, sections or all of a trail may make your walk easier. The “no surprises” reduces stress levels. But it can also put you into a “been here done this” mode. Yes you may have walked this before. But were the wildflowers in full bloom? The streams running at a higher volume (or less)? Are you choosing different campsites or taking different day hikes on your zero days? Are you trying different foods, experimenting with the results of your new dehydrator, using a different fuel and/or stove, not swatting mosquitoes? Or as my buddy and I do – are you fishing (catch and release) in different spots, trying new techniques, new flies, etc? A trail you may think you know can sometimes become a brand new adventure.
Food Sharing / Gourmet Eating
I can eat the same breakfast and/or lunch for weeks with subtle variations. But I do change dinners and have a few different snacks. Now my fellow hikers chuckle at my habits and the running joke for weeks at lunch was, “Peaches, what are you having today, tuna?” Well, if it works for me. . . But we did plan for each person to cook for all every third night. This was a great way to spread (and lose) pack weight. And food diversity was great – from chicken Tika Masala to coconut milk couscous with veggies. Another would clean up and the third would supply the water. It could not have worked out any better.
As with nearly any extended trek, things change. The only deviation to this walk was that we walked out one day early. We could see/feel the weather, and it was changing. We asked a ranger and he confirmed weather was going to set in “in a day or so.” So we powered in some extra miles to set ourselves for a short exit. As temps dropped, clouds rolled in, and thunder was talking between the high peaks, we were hitch-hiking our way to town!