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Over-estimating your experience or under-estimating the terrain in a place like Big Bend can result in serious injury or death. Use the information and advice found here wisely. Climb/Hike/Camp/Drive at your own risk.

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Advice for backpacking in the Dead Horse Mountains

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Offline badknees

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Re: Advice for backpacking in the Dead Horse Mountains
« Reply #15 on: November 04, 2012, 06:56:13 PM »
For a first time backpacking trip in Big Bend, do the Outer Mountain Loop with a night on the south rim.  The OML has much more to see, you get the mountains and the desert, and you get to see the south rim.  Easy to cache water at Homer Wilson, cache at Juniper Canyon if you have high clearance.  Do it in three hard days if you want to explore other areas of the park.  Four days is the normal itinerary.  You can also stay out longer if you want to go check some side trails, Elephant Tusk/ Smokey Creek.

I totally agree with TAH, the OML is the best intro to the park and all of it's ecosystems, particularly if you haven't hiked in the desert before.  Four days for sure with a night on the South Rim.  The trails are easy to follow as opposed to most everywhere else where they are mostly just routes up and down washes with the occasional cairn if you are lucky.  It is very easy to get off route, especially when going up wash.

After the OML then you could explore the other areas of the park in dayhikes or go in for a night to somewhere like Mule Ears.

As we don't actually know your level of experience, it is more difficult to recommend exactly what you would be best suited for. Keep in mind that hiking routes off trail requires some navigation skills and a tolerance for getting scratched up by the aggressive plant life. I don't mean to discourage you, because the off trail hikes are the best in the park, but just make sure that for your first introduction, you are prepared. You mentioned you "followed trails".... so I would suggest that for your first trip you do that again. The suggestions given here...OML sounds real good... it is a great hike. The stuff in the Deadhorse Mtns is probably better saved for a later trip. Plenty of advice available here so keep askin'!
Not all those who wander are lost.
J.R.R. Tolkien

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Offline elhombre

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Re: Advice for backpacking in the Dead Horse Mountains
« Reply #16 on: November 04, 2012, 08:59:32 PM »
Can't go wrong with the OLM.  I would add that the days are short in January.  4 nights would be enough time to get it done at a nice easy pace.
If other countries on the planet want to see America suffer and ultimately destroyed, who are they cheering for right now?  Trump, or the leftist democrats and their media supported hate machine?

Seek out the facts for yourself.  Begin by using Startpage.com,  not google.

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Offline brave6

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Re: Advice for backpacking in the Dead Horse Mountains
« Reply #17 on: November 04, 2012, 11:13:47 PM »
Allow me to echo the words of others... with this being your first trip to Big Bend and your first time to explore the desert you might want to take a few days to just see the park and do one of the more popular/accessible big hikes.  Enjoy the South Rim for a night or two.  And overnight Marufo Vega.  Enjoy a night at Roy's Peak or Telephone Canyon.  Hit the hot springs.  Be awed by Santa Elena Canyon.

I would not recommend the Deadhorse Mountains, though.  Not as a first time trip.

This is not like other places you might have been.  You can cover the length of an entire trail and not see another soul.  On your 3rd or 14th trip to Big Bend that might be exactly what you want and need.  But on your first outting that could be a bad deal.

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Offline steelfrog

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Re: Advice for backpacking in the Dead Horse Mountains
« Reply #18 on: November 05, 2012, 09:37:03 AM »
Do the Sue Peaks

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Offline mediopelo

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Re: Advice for backpacking in the Dead Horse Mountains
« Reply #19 on: November 05, 2012, 09:39:09 AM »
The poster is definitely right about it being "likely" that a person can travel the entire length of a trail in that area without seeing another person. I remember about ten years ago when an illegal alien died of natural causes and his body lay for three months in plain sight before being reported by a hiker. And that was on the Ore Terminal Trail between Willow Tank and the terminal, the most heavily used route. 

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Offline mnhiker2

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Re: Advice for backpacking in the Dead Horse Mountains
« Reply #20 on: November 05, 2012, 10:21:18 AM »
It  seems that I should have perhaps titled my original post "Advice for a Bibe Newbie"!

I think we will do the OML. I can't think of a reason not to at this point!

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Offline catz

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Re: Advice for backpacking in the Dead Horse Mountains
« Reply #21 on: November 05, 2012, 10:58:46 AM »
I think you will really like it.

There several trip reports on the OML; you can enter Outer Mountain Loop in the search function, at the upper right of the screen.

You should plan on caching water in two places, assuming you can get to both of them in your car.  One is in the bear box at Homer Wilson Ranch, as mentioned earlier.  This is on the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, which is paved.  Homer Wilson is where the Dodson Trail meets the Blue Creek Trail.  The other place is where the Dodson and the Juniper Canyon trails meet.  There is a bear box there also.  It is located at the end of the dirt road leading to Juniper Canyon and it may be iffy for you to reach, although I think most cars can make it if they take it slowly.  If you have your four wheel drive vehicle, then no problem.  Actually, it's not 4-wheel drive that is needed as much as high clearance.

To do both caches, you will need half a day.

Otherwise, water will likely be available (be sure to heck at the Ranger Station, or check with us here just before you leave) at Juniper Spring (on the Pinnacles Trail in the Chisos) and at Fresno Creek, midway across the Dodson.  You may need to hike downstream on Fresno for a little ways to find it.

Let us know how it went! 
Wake me when it's time to go.

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Offline Homer67

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Re: Advice for backpacking in the Dead Horse Mountains
« Reply #22 on: November 05, 2012, 12:58:40 PM »
We did a little hiking in the east side of the park on our trip recently.  We hiked down Estufa Canyon to Tornillo, then took a left to Banta Shut In.  We took a full-load+ (5.44 gallons) for the way in, doing the hike over two nights (an easy ~5 miles/day). It was hot!  Fortunately there is good shade to be found due to the very tall erosion walls (45'?) along Estufa, which is more of a deep erosion than a canyon.  There are some very nice views of the del Carmens and the Chisos! Banta had plenty of water and we filtered 3 gallons for the hike out. There is a very cool "Sand Castle" formation ~3.5 miles into Estufa.  The route begins right at the campsite for KB2, on the south side of where one puts their tent.  Hiking isn't exactly correct on where the path begins; it heads south for about 1/3 mile then turns east to a fairly steep descent of about 100' into Estufa which leads to Tornillo. It is sometimes hard to follow the path before the downhill into the arroyo, so watch for the cairns. There is no sign indicating a trail at the trailhead.

I hear a more scenic route to Banta is by way of Roy's Peak Vista to Tornillo then right to Banta; I suppose one could hike in about a mile south of Fossil Bones along the main road to Roy's Peak Vista (or Tornillo) then head south. Perhaps a gps would be prudent on a hike such as this, and pack a lot of water!

Here is where Banta is located:
http://mapper.acme.com/?ll=29.33003,-103.08133&z=15&t=T&marker0=29.33003%2C-103.08133%2C14.1%20km%20SW%20of%20Sue%20Peaks%20TX
Ah Big Bend, we will soon return to reacquaint ourselves in our ritual of blood, exhaustion and dehydration. How can we resist the temptation to strip ourselves of the maladies of civilization?

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Offline 01ACRViper

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Re: Advice for backpacking in the Dead Horse Mountains
« Reply #23 on: November 14, 2012, 08:47:06 AM »
Do the Sue Peaks

a long off trail hike in the dead horse mountains is probably not the best idea for a first trip.

there are a lot of fun peak scrambles all over the park that are shorter round trip and don't require as much route finding skill.

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Offline TheWildWestGuy

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Re: Advice for backpacking in the Dead Horse Mountains
« Reply #24 on: November 14, 2012, 08:22:51 PM »
Homer67 - you would actually take a Left to Banta (go downstream) but if you did go upstream instead you would find another nice hike up to Cottonwood Springs which has reliable water and remnants of an old farming area.  I believe this area was farmed/ranched about 1890's or so.  I also believe there is an old cemetary out there somewhere around that area but have never found it.  The hike up from Roys Peak Vista or from the McKinney Springs Draw is a nice day hike and very interesting topography and geology.  Other than a few rock scrambles it is not difficult and the bushwacking is very minimal.  There are also several springs along this route and Tornillo Creek is often flowing on the surface throughout the entire route.   TWWG

 


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