Monday, 9 July 2012

Heading into the Sierra Nevada

Today, after a mad rush getting organised, we leave San Francisco for Yosemite and the John Muir Trail.

San Fran shopping spree
The logistics have been complex- we arrived here a week ago with beach clothes, and have had to get equipped with new versions of all the trekking gear we already have back at home! Everything from walking boots to clothing to a camping stove and maps. It's been one massive shopping spree.
Then we've had to stock up on all the dry food we think we'll need for the next month, as there will be hardly any opportunities to resupply. This food has been divided into the appropriate days, and posted ahead in cardboard boxes to three different points on the trek- two rural post offices and one hiker friendly resort.
This means only having to carry about 4 days food at a time for the first sections, then 12 days for the last and most challenging part of the route- we're hoping this will allow us to warm up before our bags get really heavy!
Finally, there's been all the inappropriate stuff we've bought with us from Asia to deal with. Snorkels and all manner of other things we won't need for the next month or so, have been boxed up and posted to Karl's uncle near LA. Another box is heading back to the UK, and we are left with 'just' the gear we need for a month in the american wilderness.

Organising food packs
So that's why we've not had loads of time for sightseeing! We're now ready to leave the city for the next challenge -getting a wilderness permit to allow us to enter Yosemite National Park and start the trek. The american national park system means that all overnight hikers must have permits to limit the numbers in the wilderness and hopefully keep it as pristine as we would like to find it. The advice is to reserve your permit 6 months ahead... luckily for us, 40% of permits are kept back for more spontaneous people who can turn up on the day and try their luck. So we'll be queueing outside the ranger's office for the next couple of mornings in the hope of getting into the park.

Here are a few more details of the John Muir Trail which we'll be doing. It takes between 21 and 28 days, and at no point does it touch a road. Considered one of the world's greatest treks, it runs for 233 miles through the high Sierra Nevada mountains of California, from Yosemite Valley in the north to the summit of Mount Whitney in the south. That's the highest point in the USA south of Alaska, at 4418 metres. The route travels through the wilderness, which becomes more pronounced after leaving the final resupply point and last trace of civilisation after about 9 days walking. From then on, crossing high mountain country and passes, we hope to have our first true wilderness experience.

It's the longest walk either of us have ever done in one go, and we'll be carrying a lot of gear, unlike in Nepal. We've decided it's going to be challenging enough to warrant taking the opportunity to raise a little money for a good cause! Our charity of choice is Animals Asia,  inspired by both the bears in the Sierra mountains, and our recent travels in Asia. There's more info on why we want to help this charity on my just giving page you've enjoyed our blog (or just read it!), we'd really appreciate it if you visit the site and make a donation.

Our computer is one of the many things being posted away today, so I must go. I'll leave this post with some words from John Muir himself:

'Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.'


NOTE: The text on the Just Giving page doesn't appear to be working at the time of writing this. So I'm just going to copy the text in here. You should still be able to donate through the just giving page:

  • We'll be walking the John Muir Trail for over 200 miles through the Sierra Nevada mountains in California. We're lucky enough to be able to share this environment with wild black bears, who roam free in this beautiful wilderness.
    While we pack our bear-proof canisters and plan our route, it made me think about the bears who are not so lucky- those in cages being milked for their bile in Asia. It seems apt to try to raise a little for their cause, while we scan the horizon (or maybe even closer!) in hope of glimpsing their wild relatives.
    There's another reason we'd like to support the work of Animals Asia. As animal lovers, travelling in Asia has been hard at times. I've felt pretty helpless as a vet, unable to do anything for the animals we've seen suffering. Here, if you put your hand out to a dog, it cowers waiting to be beaten. In parts of Indonesia we were having to avoid eating dog. Of course people's priorities are different in third world countries, but when you see half a dog for sale in a food market (where, according to the lonely planet, they are dragged out of their cages and bludgeoned to death), it makes you want to do something. They trust us whatever we do and they deserve help where we can give it. 
    For now, the best way for us to help is by fundraising, and Animals Asia is doing fantastic work with both bringing an end to bear farming and improving dog and cat welfare in countries where not many other people are looking out for them.
    The JMT is the longest walk we've ever done in one go, and we'll be carrying all our gear and camping every night. It will take around 25 days to walk through high mountain country from Yosemite, through Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks, culminating on the summit of Mount Whitney . This is the highest point in the USA outside Alaska at 4418 metres. It's definitely going to be a challenge! I know I'm always forgetting to sponsor people for things- but we're going to be walking for almost a whole month so you have lots of time to donate a pound or two! Or, better still, do it now and spur us on our way...
    Thanks for reading, 
    Harriet and Karl

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