In all of my hiking and backpacking I have never encountered a permit lottery system that is as nerve-wracking as it is for Yosemite.
This week we submit our permit request for the JMT. I have spent countless hours reading and re-reading the permit and lottery details on the official websites, as well as on other JMT forums and blogs. I’ve also had a couple sleepless nights worrying about it.
Last time we went to Yosemite, we did a short backpacking trip from Tuolumne Meadows to Happy Isles. Dan was mostly in charge of the permit process that time and really wasn’t much concerned about it, seeing as we were going the opposite direction of most hikers on that section. We filled in the form, faxed it off, and had confirmation of receiving our first choice within a day or so.
This time there’s a lot more riding on this permit. For one, due to the overwhelming recent popularity of long-trail hiking, there are a lot more people applying for permits. At the same time, Yosemite has reduced the number of hikers allowed to start at any given trailhead. They’ve also implemented a rather confusing “exit quota” for hikers leaving the park over Donohue Pass (basically, anyone on the JMT.) All this comes together to mean we have a rather small percent chance of getting our first choice on the permit.
So, what are we doing about it? First of all, we decided to make our first potential start day a Tuesday, and the Tuesday after the July 4th weekend. We’re hoping that most JMT hikers will have wanted to hit the trail the Saturday, Sunday or Monday. We also have the flexibility of starting at any of the 3 trailheads closest to the start of the JMT. These trailheads are Happy Isles, Glacier Point, and Tenaya Lake South.
That’s all for the permit I’ll be faxing in today. Then I’ll be faxing in another permit request tomorrow with 3 more options: start July 6th (a Wednesday) and start from either Happy Isles, Tenaya Lake South or Lyell Valley (Tuolumne Meadows.) We’d be allowed to spend a night at a backpacker’s camp in Yosemite Valley or Tuolumne Meadows and it would give us a bonus day in the main area of the park, which certainly isn’t a bad thing.
If we haven’t heard anything about our original permit request, we’ll send in one more with a start day of July 7th, starting from either Lyell Valley. It means skipping out on the first 20 miles or so of the trail, but at least we did do that section a couple years ago, albeit in the opposite direction. It’s better to miss out on that, than miss out on the JMT entirely.
I’m naturally hopeful that one of those 7 options will be a winner for us. There’s no plan D and I really don’t want to think about having to plan one!
What about you? Have you had any unique or challenging experiences with hiking permits? Share in the comments below!