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3/31/2017 - 4/3/2017 OML Trip Report

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Offline JK142

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3/31/2017 - 4/3/2017 OML Trip Report
« on: April 17, 2017, 10:39:14 PM »
After doing a ton of research and planning for months my dad, two of my brothers, and myself embarked on our trip to Big Bend National Park to complete the Outer Mountain Loop with additional excursions to the South Rim and Emory Peak.  Our goal was to complete the hike in 3 days but were prepared for it to take 4 days, particularly because my dad is 66 years old with less than perfect knees.  www.bigbendchat.com was a wealth of information and aided in our research tremendously.

From where we live we had a roughly 24 hour drive to the park.  With four of us and a suburban it made the driving easy and we drove straight through taking turns driving and sleeping.  We arrived at the Panther Junction visitor center around 10:00 a.m. on 3/31/2017 to get our permits.  From there we drove to the Homer Wilson ranch to start our trek and hit the trail around 11:00 a.m.  From recent spring reports here on the forum we were relatively confident there would be water both in boot canyon and also at Fresno creek and planned accordingly starting out with somewhere between 1 and 1.5 gallons of water each. 

Day 1 (3/31/3017)
We had planned to hike counter clockwise, but since the first day was forecasted to be the hottest one we decided to reverse our direction and go clockwise in order to try to avoid the heat of the day on the Dodson.  Due to our late start though it didn’t really make any difference as we spent the hottest part of the day in the Blue Creek Canyon which I would guess was just as hot as if we had been on the Dodson……it was hot.  Upper 90’s and dry with not a single cloud in the sky.  A beautiful hike though.  We also took time to go off trail to explore a few of the caves along the way.  Day 1 saw us hike up the Blue Creek Canyon Trail, across Colima Trail, and a short (and steep) distance up Juniper Canyon Trail to the JC1 campsite which we had reserved for that night.  Just before making the final ascent on Juniper Canyon we checked Boot Spring and found it dry, but a little walk further south confirmed there was plenty of water in the pools downstream.  My favorite section of this hike was about halfway up the Blue Creek when you start getting into some of the Cedar and Juniper trees before you really start the climb up the mountain.  Cactus and other vegetation in bloom, making for pretty flora.  9.14 miles and 8 hours later through the hottest part of the day and we were beat and glad to be at camp.

Day 2 (4/1/2017)
Got an early start right at sunrise and took day packs to hike the Southwest Rim and Emory Peak.  Our route was back down the Colima Trail we had come across the day before, then taking the Southwest Rim Trail around to Boot Canyon Trail.  Beautiful hike and well worth the extra time and miles.  Great views of the Santa Elena Canyon, Elephant Tusk, Backbone Ridge, the Rio Grande, and much more.  We even spotted the Dodson trail and Fresno creek from the rim.  On the way back up Boot Canyon Trail we stopped for about two hours to filter 6 gallons of water from one of the pools and enjoy a break.  While filtering a few people hiked by, two of them particularly memorable.  A couple came by where the wife was completely grossed out at the thought of drinking that nasty water.  Moments later a family (dad, mom, and young boy – maybe 9 or 10) came by and the boy was completely wowed at the idea we could filter that water and drink it.  He left telling us how “inspiring” we were.  We then split and my two brothers took our filtered water back up Juniper Canyon Trail to JC1 to drop those off and pick up my dad’s hat which he had forgotten in camp.  Dad and I headed toward Emory Peak.

When nearing JC1 my brothers found a sizeable black bear in our camp rifling through our tents.  We had stored all food and food containers in the bear box, but left our tents, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, etc. on the ground.  That was apparently a mistake.  They scared the bear off and found it had ripped some holes in my tent and tore up one of the sleeping bags.  Had they not happened upon it when they did, who knows what else it would have destroyed.  They packed everything up and placed as much as possible in the bear box with the remainder going into their packs and setting up a bear hang from one of the trees.  Then they high tailed it back up the trail to catch dad and I right at the top of Emory Peak.  The rock scramble at the top is really cool and the 360 degree views are super cool!  After leaving Emory peak we hoofed it back to the JC1 campsite for the night.  We had taken our time today in order to enjoy the sites and covered 11.11 miles.  At this point we determined to make it a 4 day trip and essentially split the remaining distance across the next two days.

Day 3 (4/2/2017)
The overnight turned out to be somewhat comical.  My brothers had decided to take only a bug net on the trip and my fully water proof tent now had holes in it from the bear.  Of course we got a storm.  On the way up Emory peak some rangers we passed had told us of a storm to the east.  I covered the holes in my tent with some plastic and duct tape before turning in.  It did sprinkle on us a few times through the night and the two times it seemed like it might really rain we all four crammed into my 2 person tent for a bit just in case.  Fortunately it never really rained, just some light sprinkling. 

Today we hiked down Juniper Canyon and a couple of miles down the Dodson before stopping for the night.  Due to the storm the night before it was a perfect hiking day with cooler temps and a mostly overcast sky….starting out with quite a bit of fog up on the mountain.  Along the way we stopped at Juniper spring which had some water in it, presumably from the rain the night before.  Juniper spring is a great spot and we took the time to scramble around on the boulders a bit and find a nice flat sunny one for an afternoon nap before moving on.  It was a perfectly clear night and out on the Dodson the sky was big and the stars were bright.  We smelled a skunk, but fortunately never saw it.  Only passed one group of 3 hikers today.  Covered 8.87 miles.

Day 4 (4/3/2017)
Hiked the remaining 10.33 miles across the Dodson back to our starting point at Homer Wilson Ranch.  Dodson spring was a great oasis full of shade and the spring actually had water in it.  The ranch ruins were fun too.  Found it funny that the bedframe was still there.  We stopped at Fresno creek and went down the slick rock canyon a ways to find shade and filter more water.  From there we continued the hike across the Dodson.  There’s a great panoramic view of Elephant Tusk, Backbone Ridge, the Rio Grande, and the South Rim just west of Fresno creek.  We only passed one large group of hikers who had been hiking in the area for 21 days beginning in the Big Bend Ranch State Park.  After ascending the last significant climb on the Dodson and coming to the top of the saddle we were pleasantly surprised by a very rewarding view.  One of the best of the entire hike and one that wasn’t exactly expected.  Tremendous view of Mule Ears and other beautiful scenery.  Very rewarding.  From there it’s a pleasant downhill jaunt to the ranch.

40 miles and 4 days later a wonderful time was had by everyone.  After watching the sunset from Homer Wilson Ranch we hit the road.  A brief stop at the visitor center to freshen up with a sink shower and then onto Midland to get a hot Whataburger!
« Last Edit: April 17, 2017, 10:46:07 PM by JK142 »

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: 3/31/2017 - 4/3/2017 OML Trip Report
« Reply #1 on: April 18, 2017, 12:01:06 AM »
Wowza! You guys packed an awful lot into that short trip and you did a great job of packing it all into your short trip report, JK. I'd say that on a scale of 1-10, your OML experience was awfully close to 10. You hit just about all the highlights: Blue Creek Caves, Boot Canyon pools, Rim views, Emory Peak, bear encounters, midnight storms, Chisos fog, Upper Juniper naps, Dodson ruins (nice catch of the bedframe), Lower Fresno slickrock, some awesome and surprising panoramas, and a Homer Wilson sunset. Well done!!!! And tell your dad I want to be just like him when I grow up (I have another six years  ;)).

Glad the bear left you a little bit of unmolested nylon and down. In fairness to the NPS, they do recommend pretty specifically that everything, including tents and bags, goes into the bear box when you're not in camp. But, hey, I don't do it either. You pays your money and you takes your chances.

Again, hats off to you, your brothers, and your father for a great trip, great organization, and a great attitude. You guys earned every moment of your trip.
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline mule ears

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Re: 3/31/2017 - 4/3/2017 OML Trip Report
« Reply #2 on: April 18, 2017, 06:02:14 AM »
Great report and glad you all made the loop.  Also happy that you decided to add a 4th day, it made it much more enjoyable I am sure.  Afternoon up Blue Creek is not a lot better than the Dodson heat wise, there is some shade in places though.  Nice descriptions of what you saw, sometimes pictures are not warranted.   :great:
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
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Offline JK142

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Re: 3/31/2017 - 4/3/2017 OML Trip Report
« Reply #3 on: April 18, 2017, 10:31:01 AM »
House Made of Dawn:  It was an absolute blast.  Totally agree with your assessment that this pretty much hit a 10 on the scale.  Truly an amazing experience all the way around.

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: 3/31/2017 - 4/3/2017 OML Trip Report
« Reply #4 on: April 18, 2017, 10:56:08 AM »
We only passed one large group of hikers who had been hiking in the area for 21 days beginning in the Big Bend Ranch State Park. 

21 days and still going: that's pretty mind-bending. I wonder if they were self-supporting, or using caches or some other form of assistance. Did they give you any details? Was it an Outward Bound group or something similar?
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline mule ears

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Re: 3/31/2017 - 4/3/2017 OML Trip Report
« Reply #5 on: April 18, 2017, 02:02:06 PM »
We only passed one large group of hikers who had been hiking in the area for 21 days beginning in the Big Bend Ranch State Park. 

21 days and still going: that's pretty mind-bending. I wonder if they were self-supporting, or using caches or some other form of assistance. Did they give you any details? Was it an Outward Bound group or something similar?

My guess is Outward Bound
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
http://40yearsofwalking.wordpress.com/

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Offline RichardM

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Re: 3/31/2017 - 4/3/2017 OML Trip Report
« Reply #6 on: April 18, 2017, 02:42:46 PM »
Great trip, but not good news on the bear encounter. I foresee more closures if this becomes a trend.

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: 3/31/2017 - 4/3/2017 OML Trip Report
« Reply #7 on: April 18, 2017, 02:45:06 PM »
Great trip, but not good news on the bear encounter. I foresee more closures if this becomes a trend.

Yeah I noticed that, too. It certainly tells us one thing: the denning and pseudo-denning season is over!
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: 3/31/2017 - 4/3/2017 OML Trip Report
« Reply #8 on: April 18, 2017, 04:02:17 PM »
When nearing JC1 my brothers found a sizeable black bear in our camp rifling through our tents.  We had stored all food and food containers in the bear box, but left our tents, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, etc. on the ground.  That was apparently a mistake.  They scared the bear off and found it had ripped some holes in my tent and tore up one of the sleeping bags.  Had they not happened upon it when they did, who knows what else it would have destroyed.  They packed everything up and placed as much as possible in the bear box with the remainder going into their packs and setting up a bear hang from one of the trees.  Then they high tailed it back up the trail to catch dad and I right at the top of Emory Peak. 

It's always possible this encounter could add fuel to the fire, re: bear-related trail closures. But you gotta admire the way JK's family handled it. If everyone reacted to bear encounters with such cool efficiency, there'd be a lot fewer closures. Well done, guys.
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline JK142

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Re: 3/31/2017 - 4/3/2017 OML Trip Report
« Reply #9 on: April 18, 2017, 04:10:27 PM »
I didn't ask them a lot of questions.  Mostly just small talk.  I know they had 15 gallons of water cached at Twisted Shoe.  I had seen it when we were there and they mentioned it was theirs.  It didn't sound like they had been filtering water, but rather operating from cached sources.  They all seemed to be in the same age demographic except for one guy who seemed a little older than the rest.  I would have put them all in the young adult range (17-21 yrs old) and it was a mix of male and female hikers.   They were heading around Dodson and planned to summit Emory Peak the following day.  There was somewhere between 8 and 10 of them altogether.

For what it's worth on the bear encounter, by the time we got out it was late and the visitor center was closed, so our encounter went unreported.

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Offline PacingTheCage

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Re: 3/31/2017 - 4/3/2017 OML Trip Report
« Reply #10 on: April 18, 2017, 04:51:18 PM »
Great report!  Thanks for sharing.  I'm encouraged that your Dad had no issues on the hike.  I'm just a few years behind him.

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Offline Reece

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Re: 3/31/2017 - 4/3/2017 OML Trip Report
« Reply #11 on: April 18, 2017, 07:00:30 PM »
Nice report! Now you go tell your dad, I said that was some impressive mileage especially with the heat!


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Offline dprather

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Re: 3/31/2017 - 4/3/2017 OML Trip Report
« Reply #12 on: April 18, 2017, 08:16:44 PM »
Thanks for the report
Leave "quit" at the car.  Embrace the trail as your friend.  Expect to enjoy yourself, and to be amazed.

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Offline JK142

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Re: 3/31/2017 - 4/3/2017 OML Trip Report
« Reply #13 on: April 19, 2017, 12:17:48 PM »
I passed on all the comments for my dad :icon_smile:

 


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