Statistics buffet

And now, the long-awaited feast of JMT stats you didn’t know you needed to know, dished up for your edification and entertainment… and including a compare/contrast with the AT at the end. Bon appétit!

By the numbers:

    • 210, 211, 212, or 220 miles: Length of the John Muir Trail… it depends on who’s calculating.
    • 2 feet: Width of the JMT, on average. (It’s a lot easier to thru-hike the width than the length.)
    • 43,600: Total feet of elevation gain on the JMT.
    • 176.4: Miles of the Pacific Crest Trail I hiked this summer, most of which overlapped with the JMT.
    • 355: Total miles hiked, including side trips.
    • 12: Rain drops, seven of which technically made contact after I had finished the trail.
    • 2: Times I soaked my shoes, both due to clumsiness, not abundance of water.
    • 19: Pounds of backpack base weight at trail’s end (base weight = everything but food and water).
Proof of base weight: scale provided at Whitney Portal
Scale at Whitney Portal (2 pounds heavier thanks to food… totally worth it).
  • 20: Tampons carried needlessly along the entire route.
  • 84.6 miles: Distance from Mount Whitney, the highest point in the continental United States at 14,505 feet above sea level, to the lowest point in the continental United States: Badwater at Death Valley, 279 feet below sea level.
  • 45: Hikers allowed to start the JMT southbound, per day. This quota was instituted due to drastically rising demand, from about 400 people per year in 1998 to almost 3,500 people per year in 2014. This chart gives the visual.
  • 20: People who have died while hiking or climbing Half Dome.
  • Probably more than 20: People who have died lying on the couch while fearing the risks of hiking or climbing.
  • 0: Number of “zero days” (days with no hiking), despite sincere intentions to take one. Daily miles ranged from 5 to 24.7.
  • 6: Bear scat sightings.
  • 0: Bear sightings. (Closest thing to a bear encounter: Shining my headlamp at full glare into a dude’s eyes from my tent one night because he was grunting noisily as he walked. Honestly, he really sounded ursine.)
  • 4: Nights requiring earplugs. Basically, only when people camped nearby. Usually it’s critters who keep me up, as they investigate crumbs and gnaw on gear, but in the Sierras the mice were oddly diurnal.

Items lost:

  1. A tent stake left at Rosemarie Meadows… the burly one I used for digging holes, know what I mean?
  2. Dropper bottle of bleach, probably still lying next to the brook where I left it.
  3. Dropper bottle of Dr Bronner’s soap, accidentally mailed home (so, not technically lost?).
  4. One earplug, which disappeared at the Whitney Portal campground. I must’ve pulled the earplugs out in my sleep, because one was inside my shoe the next morning. The other one had to be somewhere within the zipped confines of my tent, BUT IT WAS GONE.

Most prepared tree: This one:

Come and get me, forest fire, I dare ya!
Come and get me, forest fire, I dare ya!

Unlikeliest carnivore: A chipmunk plucking and eating a dead bird. (Sorry, no photo.)

Best support guy: One guess.

He sent me a cartoon self-portrait in the last resupply box. Awwww.
He even included a cartoon self-portrait, and fragments of a waffle cone from Sweet Peaks, in the last resupply box.

Most annoying earworm: a nameless, featureless rockabilly tune that accompanied every climb, something like this, on endless loop. Followed closely by “I Fall to Pieces” by Patsy Cline, which debuted after I started losing gear. Great song, discouraging message.

The one place on earth where the men’s bathroom has a line and the women’s bathroom doesn’t: A trail resupply stop. Thanks, male:female hiker ratio!

Books read by Kindle light:

  1. Housekeeping – Marilynne Robinson
  2. You can’t get lost in Cape Town – Zoe Wicomb
  3. You can’t be neutral on a moving train – Howard Zinn
  4. The unknown masterpiece – Honore de Balzac
  5. On the road: the original scroll – Jack Kerouac
  6. The children’s book – A. S. Byatt (but only the first half)

A brief comparison of the JMT to the AT

  • Pro: No gross shelters on the JMT. Con: No shelters at all on the JMT.
  • The JMT’s most feared menaces: the plague and overly assertive bears. The AT’s most feared menaces: norovirus and Lyme-diseased ticks. Pick your poison!
  • Much less precipitation. Karmically, the arid JMT balanced out the saturated AT.
  • Corollary: If you hang clothes out overnight on the JMT, they will be drier, not wetter, when you wake up.
  • Nobody aspires to be “hiker trash” on the JMT. Then again, a couple of weeks may not be long enough to become hiker trash or develop a taste for the lifestyle.
  • Less vegetation, fewer wildflowers, approximately one million percent more exposure.

    But the few are wondrous.
    But the few blooms are at once tough and delicate.
  • 75% less swearing. Exception: PCT thru-hiker Angeline.
  • Much more diversity among hikers. Far more Asians and Asian-Americans, plus a few Latinos, including a wonderful gentleman who tipped his cowboy hat to me, walking behind his family near Devils Postpile in pointy black cowboy boots, a classy Wrangler shirt tucked tightly into jeans with a wide leather belt and a large silver buckle. Equally few African-Americans, though hopefully that is slowly changing… rock on, Elyse “Chardonnay”!
  • Fewer bragging rights. It’s just not as hard a trail.
  • Equally friendly townsfolk and fellow hikers.

The Appalachian Trail, by percentage:


(The full post, “Statistics Junkies,” has the rest of the stats on the Zippy & Diddo AT thru-hiking journey of 2013.)

The John Muir Trail, by percentage:

jmt stats

4 Replies to “Statistics buffet”

  1. I like your music, however over and over on the trail might be a bit much. Lots of interesting little facts I would never have known! And expressed in an excellent way. Love the fire extinguisher on the tree!

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