How To Plan For A John Muir Trail Thru-Hike

Guys, our John Muir Trail trip is coming up so soon! It's one of those things that you plan for so long, that it feels like it's always going to be so far away. BUT, we are less than a month away. Needless to say, we are in crunch mode which means we are in full on planning mode. We have partnered with Sahale Snacks to share with you 5 ways we are getting prepared for living on the trail!

In case you didn't already know, we've been planning to hike the John Muir Trail in California for about 6 months now. The JMT is one of the most beautiful trails in the world which is named after the John Muir who is consider to be the Father of National Parks. Have you ever heard the saying, "The mountains are calling and I must go"? That is a John Muir quote.

The JMT starts at the summit of Mt. Whitney and ends in Yosemite Valley, but we will be hiking it in reverse/Southbound- so starting in Yosemite National Park and ending at Mt. Whitney. The trail is 211 miles long, and we will be hiking about 10 miles per day. This means we will be hiking for about 3 weeks! We will be in the wilderness with few options to get supplies which means preparation is very important for this journey. So let's get to talking about what we've been doing and are working on to be prepared to hike the JMT.

1. Stocking up on delicious snacks. When you are thru-hiking, you have to eat a lot of ordinary freeze dried and dehydrated meals. You do what you gotta do on trail, but it's important to have something more elevated to snack on. You want something to excite your tastebuds and help keep the morale up. Sahale Snacks make these tasty glaze mixes and snack mixes that are thoughtfully sourced and carefully crafted combination of nuts, dried fruits, and exotic spices. I seriously can't wait to try more flavors and take these on our trip! So far we have loved the Sahale Snacks Honey Almond Glazed Mix, the Maple Pecan Glazed Mix, and the Pomegranate Vanilla Glazed Mix. The glazed mixes are this sweet and salty goodness with the perfect crunch- I'm confident that it's going to be a favorite snack on trail.

2. Mailing our food to ourselves. Once we've gathered all of our meals and delicious snacks, we have to mail them to ourselves! Most of the JMT is very remote and we won't be passing any towns or stores along the way. Everything has to be planned out way in advance and shipped to different locations that we will be at along the trail. Some of the locations we will have to hike off trail (sometimes even 15 miles round trip) to get to. Seems a little exhausting, but when you are hiking 211 miles, what are 15 more miles? But really, it is just part of the deal. You hike in the wilderness and have to go a little out of your way to make sure you can eat.

3. Training with our packs on. And hiking. And strength training. We've upped our hiking game since getting our JMT permit, but honestly we could've done more. I hear that people are never really ready- I've even heard this from athletes. But we started hiking with our weighted packs and even completed a 16 mile hike in the Smokies with 25 lbs in our packs. It was pretty hard, but we did it!

4. Planning our route. Okay so yes, the John Muir Trail route is already set. But we have to plan exactly how many miles we will do each day and where we will camp. Those things are not set. We will have to schedule when we pick up our packages and when we will stay in a hotel, and what transportation we will be taking. There are a lot of logistics to figure out about each day. Thank goodness this can actually be one of the last things we do before we leave because there are a lot of things we still have to consider.

5. Finalizing our gear. You'd think by now we would have everything we need, but you'd be wrong. We have most of our main things, but we have a bunch of little things to get and organize. We have to weigh every single thing we are taking with us and make sure that our pack doesn't weigh too much. We are trying to keep our base weight (base weight is how much your pack weighs without the ever changing weight of food and water) low to help keep the hike easier on our bodies.

As you can see there is a lot to do to prepare for a thru hike! We are excited to tackle this challenge and spend so much time in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Thank you to Sahale Snacks for sponsoring this post. And for real, their snack mixes are delicious so definitely give them a try!

5 Fun Things To Do In Chattanooga, TN

Guys, Chattanooga is awesome. Casey and I have both been to Chattanooga, but mostly times when we were just passing through for an evening. So we finally went for a weekend and it was lovely! My mom flew in from Texas and we three had a pretty adventurous 2 days there. Chattanooga is a place I never knew I'd love so much, but we just couldn't stop talking about it when we left. It is a perfect weekend trip from Nashville or Atlanta (and many more places I'm sure), and now we want to tell you why you should spend some time there too!

You may also like:
We recorded a vlog while we were there of all of our adventures! You can see more details about the places we were in this footage.

First of all, let's talk about this Airbnb. This is where we stayed for our weekend in Chattanooga.

The space was insanely spacious and had a full kitchen, which we love to have when traveling! Plus there was a gas fireplace which was nice in the evenings as is was still a little cooler (as it was Spring.... yes this blog has taken a very long time to write).

If you are interested in using Airbnb for the first time, you can CLICK HERE to get 15% off your first booking!
Okay and onto the things we loved in Chattanooga that you should definitely check out!

1. The Pedestrian Bridge / If you are from Nashville you may think "why would I want to go here?" Because yes we do have one here in Nashville. But this one is different. It's one of the longest pedestrian bridges in the world and the view is especially beautiful for sunset. One end is downtown and one is The North Shore, which we will talk about later.

2. Sunset Rock / Okay so I don't think pictures do this place justice... It's a short walk from the parking lot, although you'll want to wear closed toe shoes as it's a very rocky walk down a bunch of stairs.

You drive up for a while, following directions from your phone or GPS....

And then park at the tiny lot across from this cute house. The parking lot only has 7 or 8 spots so that is something to keep in mind! We were lucky and snagged a spot right before sunset. I know there's another way to get to the rock because people were coming off a different trail than we were on, so if the parking lot is full, you have options. I just don't know those exact details! It's silent up there, except for whoever may be up there with you. But it's serene and beautiful at sunset.

3. Foster Falls / Okay this hike is kind of insane at first. I guess it depends on which way you start the loop, but the first part we did went straight down on rocks the whole time until you reach the waterfall. If you go to the waterfall overlook and head to your left, that's the route we took.

But if you aren't into hiking, you can just go to the overlook and see the falls from afar. It is far away... But if you are into doing the hike, it's really cool to see the waterfall up close and then keep walking and see all the rock climbers along the rest of the hike. There were so many of them! And we are not rock climbers, so it was really cool to watch. The hike is rocky the whole way through, so make sure you are prepared!

4. Denny Cove / So you have to hike to see this waterfall, but I think I liked this one more. The hike was harder, by far. Sometimes you don't even understand where the trail is because there are so many fallen rocks. But I don't think we saw a single soul on this trail, so at the end we had the waterfall all to ourselves.

5. The North Shore / Okay I sort of mentioned this earlier, but at one end of the Pedestrian bridge you will find The North Shore. Here, there are a ton of local shops and restaurants in one small area. It's a great place to park and walk around. We went to a lot of the shops (went 2 different times) and drank bubble tea after our walk. It is so interesting what you can learn about a place when you visit it's local shops. Even if you aren't in the market to make purchases, it's still a cool way to see a town!

Though our trip was short, we managed to squeeze in a lot of adventures and good food. It ended too fast, but I know one thing- we need to go back to explore more. These 5 things are just the baseline of things to do in Chattanooga!


How To Float The Harpeth River In Nashville (FREE)

Every summer we have a list of things that we love to do for the maximum Nashville summer experience. One of those things is floating down the Harpeth River. Something we have realized this year is that people do now know about this really fun (and free) option! Both times we've been this year we haven't seen anyone else in floats, only people in canoes or kayaks. And every time we hear that they didn't know floating was an option. Well guys, we are here today to tell you how to do the float, where to go, what to bring, and how to figure out if it's a good time to go.

First off, you are going to need a tube. (Side note, before I moved to Nashville, I had always called this activity "tubing".) And you don't want a rinky dink tube that's going to pop if it touches rock. You are going to want a pretty hefty tube. We have gone through a couple different tubes over the years, but the ones we have now are on their third year, and they were $5 at Walmart.

Now, grabbing a tube at Walmart is a great option, if they have the right thing. And I'll add that the tubes were on sale for $5, that wasn't the original price. But if they don't have what you need/want, there are plenty of great options on Amazon. As you can see in the photo above, people use all kinds of floats, but the main rule of thumb is that it needs to be a thicker tube- it may even say it's for the river. Other options that you can choose from are 1- tubes that have a bottom (or don't), 2- tubes that can connect to other tubes (a.k.a. they have little latches attached to your float by strings that click into other people's latches if they have them) and 3- a head rest or no head rest.
These are all personal preference, but our tubes are open at the bottom and have latches to connect to other tubes and no head rests. Don't get caught up on what kind of tube you get. Just get one that isn't going to pop and you will be happy on the water!

And then you'll want to get a waterproof bag to keep things like cell phones, snacks, and keys in. We always keep our phones in waterproof cases and then keep those around our necks or in the waterproof bag. I would not recommend just putting them freely in a waterproof bag unless your phone is waterproof and you don't plan on opening the bag during the float. You definitely don't want to drop your phone in the river! Or just leave your phone in the car! Just play it safe.

And one more thing! Water shoes are recommended. The bottom of the river is rocky, and it just makes it easier if you have something on your feet. We use tevas, but any water shoe will do.
Now let's talk about how you are going to get there and what you do when you do. First of all, you have to figure out how long you want to float. There are 3 main different floats I'm going to tell you about. The one we always do starts in this parking lot in the photo above. This is the Highway 70 Canoe Access entrance. You will need to have two cars because you won't start and end at the same entrance. This is why you go with multiple friends! JK, you go with friends because it's fun, but it also helps with the transportation part of the trip.

So for this trip you will take both cars to this parking lot (Highway 70 Canoe Access) and unload all the stuff you will be taking with you on your float trip. This usually includes your float, a water bottle, and a waterproof bag. We always fill our tubes with air in the parking lot and deflate them when they go back in the car. They take up a lot of space if you do it before you arrive. So an air pump that plugs into your car is a great thing to have!
Once everyone is ready to go float, the two drivers will need to take both cars to the Gossett Tract parking lot. Leave one of the cars in the parking lot and then both drivers take the other car back to the original parking lot.

Then head down to get into the water. You'll walk down this ramp to the right of the bridge and there will be stairs down into the water.

Hop in your float and let the water float you down the river! You will be floating away from the bridge.

Now how do you know if it's a good time to go floating? You'll have to check the water levels on this website. Scroll down to the "gage height". Anything between 1.5 and 3 is a good time to go. If it's under 1.5 the river will basically not be flowing and you'll be in for a very long trip. You may even have to walk part of it because it's too low. We went a few weeks ago at 1.5 and it was great! The whole trip was about 1.5 hours long, and we didn't have to walk. I did get stuck on some rocks in one section, but I was able to push off that area very easily. We went on a float trip this weekend and it was at 2 and the we were moving way faster, but somehow the trip ended up being about 1 hour 40 minutes long.

How do you know when to get out of the water? You just look for the sign that says "Kid Trip Exit". There's a little rapid right before this section and it shoots you right to the edge, so it's not hard to get out at all. The rocks gradually go into the water and create a sort of staircase, so it's pretty easy to get out! You walk up the stairs to the left and you're in the parking lot where you left the second car!

We usually leave all of our towels in this car so we can all start drying off while the two drivers take this car and go grab the car from the other parking lot. Then your float experience is over.

There are a couple more options for floating longer.... You could start your float at the same place where you just ended and then get out at The Narrows of the Harpeth. We've never done this float, but I believe it's about the same distance as the first float. You could add them together or just do one or the other. There are many options!

And you can also start at the Narrows parking lot to do a significantly longer float. If you only have one car, this is a great option, although you have to really commit to floating as it could take anywhere from 4-8 hours to complete the loop. The benefit is that when you get out, there's a little hike through the woods that takes you right back to the same parking lot you started in. So two cars are not needed.

If you decide to add the first two floats together or do the Narrows loop float, you will want to bring provisions. A floating cooler is a great option to keep the drinks cold on a hot day! Which I'm assuming it will be, because that's why we are all floating anyway right? Because it's so hot out!

One last thing to note is that the park does actually close and you can't be in the water past 7 PM. So make sure you check the water and plan your float accordingly. They usually don't let people start floating the big Narrows loop past 1 PM.

I hope this post answered some questions for you and that you now know how to do a float on the Harpeth River! It's seriously one of the things we most look forward to in the summer, so we hope you all come to enjoy it as well!