California Here We Come, Right Back Where We Started From

Emily Woodhouse Adventure Stories, Big Adventures

Yes, there are so many songs about California that apply can apply to this year’s triumphant return to America. Believe me, I’ll be rocking out to Party in the USA in my head all the way through LA airport. It’s only a matter of weeks until I fly to the US to start my John Muir Trail adventure. Which is kind of scary, since a few days ago it was only ‘next month’ and now it’s suddenly almost upon us. Am I ready? Nearly. Am I excited? Yes. I just really hope it’s fun.

Let’s Talk Kit

I’m very nearly there with the kit. Let me give you a rundown, but first I’ll prefix this with a reality check. Yes it does sound very glamourous to be getting kit given to me by brands. Remember that for every item of kit there will be a piece of work involved: a review, an article, promotion of some sort. It would be far easier and far less effort to just buy the things straight out. But I don’t have the money to splurge on kit. I have these connections and can get these items because of my job (freelance adventure writer) and I can’t afford them also because of my job. So basically what I’m saying is if you need things to make an adventure happen, use the resources you’ve got.

I’ll do a full kit list at some point of exactly what I’m taking but here are the headlines. I’m taking a Vaude Taurus SUL 1p tent. Freestanding and very similar to my normal 3p Taurus. I’ve got a Thermarest Vesper Quilt that goes down to -6C and a roll mat to match. I have, fingers and toes crossed, a 45/50L rucksack coming from The North Face that should arrive on time. Lightweight with a detachable lid and lots of mesh pockets. I had three good contacts for a rucksack but they’re the only one who’s even responded – so let’s hope it arrives in two weeks’ time before I go! My back up plan is an Exped 60L bag, which is far too big really and doesn’t have good ice axe loops. Worst, it squeaks like crazy (ever since I brought it back from Spain) which may turn me crazy over 25 days…

On the food front, I can only fit a week’s worth of food in a bear cannister, so I’ll be topping up in shops every week. This will mean walking off trail and back again, but that’s fine by me. I’m here to experience American culture after all. My biggest possible point of failure is that I have to buy a bear cannister in Lone Pine or it’s game over. The shop I contacted said they have one but wouldn’t put one aside without me ringing them – which is a bit difficult on UK time. We’ll see. I also need to buy gas but that should be fine.

I’m going to be using a SOTO stove and pan set – a Japanese company that Alex Roddie introduced me to on the Dartmoor Way. By luck, they share a PR with Berghaus who I’ve worked with several times before. On the food front, I’m being wonderfully supplied for my first week by Firepot and Outdoor Provisions. Both legendary small businesses, run by great people.

Finally, I hopefully have a pair of lightweight walking boots (or mid-shoes, whatever you want to call them) coming soon. And you’re probably thinking: heck, Emily, that is a lot of writing and reviewing to do. Yes, yes it is. Everything else… oh no wait. I’ve got the world’s snuggliest fleece from Artilect that has instantly become my favourite. Everything else I already have – although in truth much of it is from other work. I’ve bought new baselayers and I’m still trying to solve the conundrum of an SPF 50 baselayer in a colour that isn’t hideous on me (Helly Hansen I’m looking at you). Is that it? Tell me that’s it?

Travel and Accommodation

I booked my flights to and from the States – the most expensive flights I’ve ever paid for – and have left lots of room for connections. This is not me tempting fate, but rather finally learning after missing a flight earlier in the year that cost a lot to solve on the spot. Thanks public transport. I’m going to be staying in hostels either end and will be either camping or hostelling in the middle too. My HI USA grant accommodation still hasn’t been confirmed so let’s all keep fingers and toes crossed for that too please! I don’t know what I’ll do otherwise. It should be fine, I’d just really like someone to say: yep, it’s sorted.

Slight journalistic perk that I managed to get an upgrade to extra leg room (not a real upgrade, but very appreciated on an 11hr flight) by being a journalist and asking. I haven’t managed to get a single commission up front, which means that I can’t get any assistance from the tourism board because they want a confirmed commission. So editors would rather commission post-trip and PRs need the opposite. Catch 22. But I do still hope to get some commissions when I’m back. I will have a lot to write about.

So all in all, I chased a lot of emails around in circles and then basically just booked everything myself. Very much hope I’ll get enough work from it afterwards to pay for it all.

The Route

There is still a lot of snow and it looks like I’ll be starting at the same time as the melt. Which is not quite what I’d hoped for but better than being in the middle of it, I guess. I’m preparing for long walks upriver to find crossing points and potentially the huge detour round Hell for Sure pass because of the broken San Joaquin bridge. I’m still going micro spikes and ice axe, but I’ve also bought a cheap and cheerful walking pole in case it helps with river crossings. I need one for my Winter Mountain Leader assessment anyway so let’s hope it survives.

It’s hard to plan in detail exactly how nearly a month of walking will pan out. So what I’m doing is making sure I have some boundaries for when I need to be certain places (e.g. in town once a week for food) and making sure that adds up. My restrictions are food and the length of my permit. Other than that I’m free to do what I like. That’s shaping up to mean about 10-15 miles a day, aiming to camp in such a way that I’ll go over a pass in the morning and then hike on to the next. This seems the most sensible strategy given the conditions. But it’s hard to assess the conditions without being there to see them. This whole plan may go out the window the second I arrive. We shall see.

The After Party

I should be finishing in Yosemite on my 30th birthday, spending a few days there and then spending some time in San Francisco where I was born. This has meant some excellent time spent with my parents, trawling through boxes of photographs and rewatching home videos. My plan is to recreate some photos 28 years later. Redo some hikes my parents did (one of which might have actually been an epic…) and revisit all the places I’ve been to but can’t remember. Most of that is family folklore, but some of it is touristy things like the Golden Gate Bridge.

Here goes nothing!

If you’re new to the blog (hello!) you might want to start here first. I’m a female adventurer based in the UK but born in California. This year I’m hiking the John Muir Trail to find out what is means to be American. You can keep up to date with what I’m up to on my Adventure Squad newsletter (a monthly catch up email).