gear test

I generally consider myself to have been cursed with a birthday just days after Christmas, but in this case it meant I got to load up on new gear while I was prepping to apply for a JMT permit. Last week’s Grand Canyon trip provided a chance for me to finally test out my new loot.  I got to retire my synthetic sleeping bag of fifteen years and try out the North Face Blue Kazoo, a much warmer bag than I needed for this trip, but one that will be perfect for the Sierras. A grand success, my two nights in the Kazoo were indistinguishable from my nights in the hotel beds. It resembled sleeping inside what a child imagines a cloud is like.


I also got to test out my Patagonia Nano Air jacket, which I scored in a glorious online sale. The award-winning design lives up to the hype. It’s so warm, you guys. And light, and comfortable to hike in, though I mostly used it around camp or at the windy rim. It’s also way cuter than I expected— fairly form-fitting and not at all constrictive in the shoulders (unlike reports about the redesigned Nano Puff). I didn’t notice the longish sleeves one bit and loved the pockets.I did find myself trying not to snag the delicate-seeming fabric on sticks and zippers, but I have a feeling it’s sturdier than it appears. It also makes a fabulous pillow—since, in the Kazoo, sleeping in a jacket was no longer necessary!

My gear replacement epiphany was sparked by nighttime chills on a short solo trek last September, in particular at Long Lake’s 10,760 feet. Staying warm wasn’t a huge issue on this trip, but I’ll have some cold nights on the Muir Trail without a doubt—especially since I’m starting from the Mono Pass trailhead at a higher elevation than the traditional route.


things i cannot change

So I was browsing the JMT Facebook group and found this lovely piece of news:

“I called Yosemite and spoke with a park ranger to get clarification. She just called me back. Here’s what I was just told:

1) Glacier Point will NOT be allowed as a trail head for accessing the John Muir Trail in 2015. That new rule is written into the Superintendent’s Compendium. I’m told (I haven’t checked) that it can be found

2) AS OF TODAY, there is also a new rule establishing an exit quota for permit reservations originating in Yosemite and going onto the John Muir Trail anywhere past Reds. Only 30 such permit reservations will be approved each day, no matter whether the point of origin is, Tuoloume [sic] Meadows or Happy Isles. This new rule is not yet written down, but it is in effect as of today. The intention is to make sure that there are some permits available for people who want to hike and camp within Yosemite from either of those major trailheads.”

Yikes. I already knew the permit process could be dicey— I’d been advised to apply exactly six months before I hoped to hit the trail and to have backup entry points (ie. Glacier Point) in mind. But I’d always believed that as long as I did everything right, I would get to hike the JMT. Now I’m not so sure. It’s possible that despite my best efforts the universe will decide it’s not my year.

I’m trying to be okay with this. How embarrassing to have begun a blog called “Whitney Calls” only to be deferred from my quest by the cruel gods of probability. If this happens, I’ll try to see it as a blessing in disguise. With my sights set on 2016 like Hillary Clinton, I’ll pick a different solo training trip for this summer and relish the additional time to get in shape. But I’m not gonna lie, I’ll be incredibly let down.

Since Monday when I read about the supposed new regulations, other users have posted conflicting reports about the new rules. Do they even exist? Who knows? I hope this is all a misunderstanding, but it seems way too specific to not be true.

Today I woke up not only anxious about said permit process, but also about a more immediate unknown: whether my rental application for my new apartment would get approved. Yes, I found an apartment: a one-bedroom charmer on the western border of Koreatown. And when I returned home from my three-mile walk, I learned I had in fact been approved. Score one for being an adult. I couldn’t be happier to know where I’m going to be, and I’m proud I followed through and pushed through the anxiety of the process. A little bit of faith goes a long way.

I’m going to need to exercise a similar sort of faith a month from this week, when I put in my permit request for the end of July. I’ll do everything I can—multiple faxes multiple days if I have to—but if it’s not enough, so be it. The Muir Trail’s not going anywhere and I have a lot of preparation to do. A year flies by like no time at all, and it will all be all right in the end.  At least that’s what I tell myself, bolstering for heartbreak. As on the trail itself, all I can do is my best. The rest is up to the powers that be. It’s a lesson I have to learn again and again.