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Hiking the Outer Mountain Loop on WEDNESDAY!

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Offline sstrong42

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Hiking the Outer Mountain Loop on WEDNESDAY!
« on: December 08, 2007, 02:19:04 PM »
On Wednesday morning I'm heading out to The Bend for 4 days on the Outer Mountain Loop.  This is my frist time to The Bend and my first solo trip so I'm nervous, terrified, and incredibly excited.

I'll be getting to the park around Mid Afternoon on Wednesday and will be getting my permits and solo hiker stuff taken care of, and then caching my water at Homer Wilson.  I plan on camping ... somewhere that night (I'm open to suggestions), and hitting the trail before dawn the next morning.  Here's what I've got planned:

1st Day (Thursday)
Pinnacles to Emory Peak, then from Emory Peak via boot canyon to NorthEast Rim, and hopefully I'll be camping at NE4 Thursday night.

2nd Day (Friday)
Juniper Canyon Trail to Juniper Canyon camp.

3rd Day (Saturday)
Juniper Canyon Camp to Homerwilson via the Dodson!  Here's where my questions begin -- I understand it's zone camping in this area which is something I'm unfamiliar with.  What should I expect camping here?  Also, how should I handle storing my food and water on this trail since there aren't (m)any trees?

4th Day (Sunday)
Homer Wilson back to the Basin via Blue Creek and Laguna Meadows.  I might take it easy that day and camp at Laguna Meadow depending on my water situation. 

I have to be back home on the 20th, so I figure I'd spend Monday and Tuesday exploring the area and head up to Marfa so I can see the rest of the Chinati Foundation.

What should I expect with an itinerary like this?  Where might I be able to collect water as I'll be packing my steripen and filter with me just in case.  I cut my teeth in the Guadalupes last year on the Tejas and Bush Mountain trails.  How strenuous of a hike am I getting myself into?  The Guadalupes were pretty grueling but so rewarding. 

Any pointers or anything anyone can give would be much appreciated!!

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Offline jeffblaylock

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Re: Hiking the Outer Mountain Loop on WEDNESDAY!
« Reply #1 on: December 08, 2007, 02:49:37 PM »
If you do a search on this site, you'll find several threads discussing the OML and itineraries. A recap of my OML expedition begins here.

I'd advise you to cache water at the Homer Wilson ranch, as there is no reliable water source between Fresno Creek on the Dodson Trail and the Basin trailhead (Cedar Spring probably has water, but it is overgrown.).

You will enjoy yourself more if you camp in the Chisos on the fourth night and hike back down Laguna Meadow the next morning. The climb up Blue Creek Canyon is a long slog. It gains 2,600 feet, much of it in the last 1.75 miles. If you do this, you can adjust your camping along the Dodson Trail. I camped about 1/2 mile east of the trail summit. Doing so would shorten Day 3 by about 2.5 miles.

As for what to expect camping-wise, there are several reasonably obvious "cleared" areas big enough for one tent/tarp a few yards to 50 yards off the trail. By "cleared," I mean no significant vegetation with largely rocky or sandy soil. The campsites I used are marked on the custom Topo maps found at the bottom of page 1 of my trip recap. As for food storage, there is currently an active thread on the subject in the Hiking the Desert portion of the chat board.

Jeff Blaylock
Austin, Texas

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splendor and the complicated grandeur of Big Bend will still be here. Waiting for us."--Ed Abbey

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Offline jeffblaylock

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Re: Hiking the Outer Mountain Loop on WEDNESDAY!
« Reply #2 on: December 08, 2007, 02:52:32 PM »
Oh, and as for water:

Boot Spring (specifically, a small pipe below the research cabin)
Juniper Spring (overgrown but sometimes available downstream from it)
Fresno Creek (should be flowing very nicely)
Your cache at Homer Wilson Ranch

Expect to carry at least a gallon per day for your own use at any fill-up point, and don't rely on Juniper Spring for water -- should be top-off only. From Fresno, you can take enough to get you to the ranch cache. This way you provide the bulk of your water and leave more for the wildlife which depends on it where they find it.
Jeff Blaylock
Austin, Texas

"We'll be back, someday soon. We will return, someday, and when we do the gritty
splendor and the complicated grandeur of Big Bend will still be here. Waiting for us."--Ed Abbey

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Offline okiehiker

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Re: Hiking the Outer Mountain Loop on WEDNESDAY!
« Reply #3 on: December 08, 2007, 03:14:42 PM »
You will find a great deal of discussion on this very subject in various threads.  Look up the current one on food storage. 

What people think of the OML depneds upon whom you ask and what their relevant experience is.  Depending upon your level of experience and fitness the OML can be anything from a kind of long dayhike to impossible.  There is considerably less vertical on the OML than there is on many Guadalupe hikes, but the hikes down Juniper Canyon and up Blue Creek Canyon are fairly demanding. 

Coming into the park at the time you are, there should be no problem driving in to a site in the Basin Campground, and you can get your permit at the Basin Ranger station in the morning. 

Your itinerary has a serious problem, which is the complete unwillingness of the BIBE staff to accommodate people like you.  You know your itinerary, you probably will arrive after business hours and want to start your hike before business hours on Thursday.  You are not allowed to.  You must go to the Panther Junction visitor center or Basin ranger station on Thursday morning to get your permit.  You will not be able to start hiking until after 9:00 AM if everything goes well. 

If you can get to the park before 6:00 PM on Wednesday you can get your permit.  Then you can camp at the Basin and hike out as early as you see fit. 

Day 1 is perfect.  I am a bit unclear on one thing.  Are you going to hike up Boot Canyon and loop around on the South Rim to NE4, or stay on the main trail past Boot Spring directly to NE4?

Day 2 is a very short day compared with the other three.  If you are planning to hike directly to NE4 then follow the South Rim around to the junction with the Boot Canyon Trail, and back up to the Juniper Canyon Trail and head down.  I think you will find that zone camping is much preferable to camping at the car camping site in Juniper Canyon.  Hike three miles west on the Dodson Trail and camp just past the saddle at about 4,490'.  You will find water in that drainage.

Day 3 go on past Homer Wilson Ranch to somewhere around Cedar Spring.  You are unlikely to find water there.  But I do like feel of camping in the canyon there.  It also shortens your hike out.

Day 4 it is very doable to hike out to the Basin from here. 

Day 4.5  it is not an option to camp at Laguna Meadow unless you get permitted to do that in advance.  Get your permit for four nights and bail if you want to.  Don't extend your stay in the high Chisos or they may decide to charge you a considerable amount of change!  From Laguna Meadow (get an LW campsite) you can drop into upper Cattail Canyon and get water at the springsless than two miles in.

You are in for a great hike.  Not as strenuous as most Guadalupe trails, but a good survey of some of the great terrain in the park, and a good workout for most anybody. 
Funny... I have a story about that...

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Offline sstrong42

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Re: Hiking the Outer Mountain Loop on WEDNESDAY!
« Reply #4 on: December 08, 2007, 05:48:21 PM »
You will find a great deal of discussion on this very subject in various threads.  Look up the current one on food storage. 

What people think of the OML depneds upon whom you ask and what their relevant experience is.  Depending upon your level of experience and fitness the OML can be anything from a kind of long dayhike to impossible.  There is considerably less vertical on the OML than there is on many Guadalupe hikes, but the hikes down Juniper Canyon and up Blue Creek Canyon are fairly demanding. 

Coming into the park at the time you are, there should be no problem driving in to a site in the Basin Campground, and you can get your permit at the Basin Ranger station in the morning. 

Your itinerary has a serious problem, which is the complete unwillingness of the BIBE staff to accommodate people like you.  You know your itinerary, you probably will arrive after business hours and want to start your hike before business hours on Thursday.  You are not allowed to.  You must go to the Panther Junction visitor center or Basin ranger station on Thursday morning to get your permit.  You will not be able to start hiking until after 9:00 AM if everything goes well. 

If you can get to the park before 6:00 PM on Wednesday you can get your permit.  Then you can camp at the Basin and hike out as early as you see fit. 

I'll be leaving Dallas at 0300 on Wednesday morning, so I should be getting to the park around 2-3PM Wednesday afternoon.  As I mentioned in my post, I will be getting my permit when I get there, and caching my water that day as well.  I'd never be one to just set off without getting a permit, as it's suicide.

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Day 1 is perfect.  I am a bit unclear on one thing.  Are you going to hike up Boot Canyon and loop around on the South Rim to NE4, or stay on the main trail past Boot Spring directly to NE4?

I'm going to hike down Boot Spring to Boot Canyon, and wind around Southwest Rim trail heading East towards NE4.

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Day 2 is a very short day compared with the other three.  If you are planning to hike directly to NE4 then follow the South Rim around to the junction with the Boot Canyon Trail, and back up to the Juniper Canyon Trail and head down.  I think you will find that zone camping is much preferable to camping at the car camping site in Juniper Canyon.  Hike three miles west on the Dodson Trail and camp just past the saddle at about 4,490'.  You will find water in that drainage.

I'm looking at the map and I'm not quite sure I see this saddle you're talking about.   Are you talking about the drainage that's about 1.5-2 miles from Dodson Spring?

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Day 3 go on past Homer Wilson Ranch to somewhere around Cedar Spring.  You are unlikely to find water there.  But I do like feel of camping in the canyon there.  It also shortens your hike out.

Camping in the Guadalupes at Tejas made me love camping in canyons, and I love shortening out hikes. ;)

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Day 4 it is very doable to hike out to the Basin from here. 

Day 4.5  it is not an option to camp at Laguna Meadow unless you get permitted to do that in advance.  Get your permit for four nights and bail if you want to.  Don't extend your stay in the high Chisos or they may decide to charge you a considerable amount of change!  From Laguna Meadow (get an LW campsite) you can drop into upper Cattail Canyon and get water at the springsless than two miles in.

Fantastic!  I definitely planned in getting the permit for the extra night.  Which LW campsite do you recommend?  Is it easy to get into, navigate, and get out of Cattail Canyon?

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You are in for a great hike.  Not as strenuous as most Guadalupe trails, but a good survey of some of the great terrain in the park, and a good workout for most anybody. 

Well, luckily I dropped a lot of weight and got in shape for the Guadalupe trip, or else I probably wouldn't have made it 30 miles in 3 days!  I've built up a lot of strength for this trip, and my endurance is a lot better this year too.  I am definitely looking forward to the workout, and it's good to hear that it's not as strenuous as GUMO.  There were parts of that hike that were just insane.  Thanks for all your pointers, I really appreciate it!!
« Last Edit: December 08, 2007, 09:44:33 PM by RichardM »

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Offline sstrong42

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Re: Hiking the Outer Mountain Loop on WEDNESDAY!
« Reply #5 on: December 08, 2007, 05:53:36 PM »
Oh, and as for water:

Boot Spring (specifically, a small pipe below the research cabin)
Juniper Spring (overgrown but sometimes available downstream from it)
Fresno Creek (should be flowing very nicely)
Your cache at Homer Wilson Ranch

Expect to carry at least a gallon per day for your own use at any fill-up point, and don't rely on Juniper Spring for water -- should be top-off only. From Fresno, you can take enough to get you to the ranch cache. This way you provide the bulk of your water and leave more for the wildlife which depends on it where they find it.

I've been trying to figure out how much water I need to head out with.  I've got 3 4L dromlite bags, and 1 3L Platypus.  I was going to carry my Platypus in the pouch in my pack, and 2 dromlites with me, and leave 1 at Homer Wilson.  It sounds like I might want to only carry 1 bag full, and leave the other empty to collect with!  Thanks for the help!

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Offline okiehiker

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Re: Hiking the Outer Mountain Loop on WEDNESDAY!
« Reply #6 on: December 08, 2007, 06:05:10 PM »


Here is the general area.  It is less than a mile from Dodson Spring and there are spots to camp above and below the trail.  Just find a spot that is adequate and far enough from water and the trail. 

Getting in and out of Cattail is pretty easy.  LW-3 is the best choice.  In upper Cattail Canyon you will find an interesting dam and meager though adequate water supply.  This year it may in fact be quite a nice water supply.
Funny... I have a story about that...

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Offline TheWildWestGuy

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Re: Hiking the Outer Mountain Loop on WEDNESDAY!
« Reply #7 on: December 08, 2007, 10:19:07 PM »
Your plan sounds good and easily do-able.  Hiking downhill from the Rim to Upper Juniper Springs is easy and fast so if you get there early I would keep going to shorten the distance the next day.   Some pointers:
1- Boot Canyon, Upper Juniper Springs, Upper Cattail Canyon, and Fresno Creek will all have flowing water this year but not Cedar Springs (which shouldn't even be considered a spring) which only holds water for short periods after rain.   When you get to the short cutoff trail to Upper Juniper Springs you will see a metal sign saying "Juniper Camp" follow the trail and the spring is about 100' above the cement ruins.  People sometimes don't realize the spring is above them and think it is dry.   Don't camp at the springs - keep going another 1/3 mile downhill and you will find a great cleared campsite near the trail before you reach the old road.   Better views, legal, and no mosquitos swarming you all night.
2- Dodson Spring has water but its muddy and hard to get to.  Keep going the extra mile and make it to Fresno Creek - it's much better water and camping and you might even meet other humans.   By that time you might enjoy the company.
3- LW1 is the best site to get in Laguna Meadows because it has a good view of Emory Peak and the meadows.  Note the distinct treeline in this area.  Explore around the meadows and surrounding peaks if you have extra time.
4- Keep a good watch on the weather forecast because Blue Norther's can come into this area while you are on the trail and make for very cold and wintery conditions.  It might be 85 when you start hiking and 25 the next morning.   Don't freeze to death.
5- The longest stretches without water will be Upper Juniper Springs to Fresno and Homer Wilson Ranch to Upper Cattail (or the Basin).   
This is a great hike, one of the best winter hikes in the United States.  I am torn between doing it again on my next trip or going back up on the Mesa De Anguila.... TWWG

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Offline westtex

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Re: Hiking the Outer Mountain Loop on WEDNESDAY!
« Reply #8 on: December 09, 2007, 04:28:59 PM »
I spent six days doing an extended version of the OML over thanksgiving and the only advice I have is pants, long pants.  I did it in the opposite direction that you will be going and finished out with a night at NE4, very cool spot. 
resist much, obey little

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Offline sstrong42

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Re: Hiking the Outer Mountain Loop on WEDNESDAY!
« Reply #9 on: December 09, 2007, 07:01:32 PM »
I spent six days doing an extended version of the OML over thanksgiving and the only advice I have is pants, long pants.  I did it in the opposite direction that you will be going and finished out with a night at NE4, very cool spot. 

Pans I have!  Long pants, and long underwear.  I'm planning for cool to cold at night and mild in the day.

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Offline sstrong42

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Re: Hiking the Outer Mountain Loop on WEDNESDAY!
« Reply #10 on: December 10, 2007, 02:03:17 PM »
Oh, and as for water:

Boot Spring (specifically, a small pipe below the research cabin)
Juniper Spring (overgrown but sometimes available downstream from it)
Fresno Creek (should be flowing very nicely)
Your cache at Homer Wilson Ranch

Expect to carry at least a gallon per day for your own use at any fill-up point, and don't rely on Juniper Spring for water -- should be top-off only. From Fresno, you can take enough to get you to the ranch cache. This way you provide the bulk of your water and leave more for the wildlife which depends on it where they find it.

Are these spots easy to identify or do they have signage?

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Offline westtex

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Re: Hiking the Outer Mountain Loop on WEDNESDAY!
« Reply #11 on: December 10, 2007, 02:09:43 PM »
Fresno is pretty obvious and it is marked, but the others I don't know about.
resist much, obey little

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Offline okiehiker

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Re: Hiking the Outer Mountain Loop on WEDNESDAY!
« Reply #12 on: December 10, 2007, 02:12:52 PM »
You will need to have some map reading skills to find the spots where there is water.  There are no signs, but the area around the cabin at Boot Spring, the cut-off to Juniper Spring and the spot where Fresno Creek crosses the trail are all fairly easy to find.  If you cannot find your own cache at Homer Wilson Ranch then the others might be really hard!  From the LW sites the drop into Cattail Canyon is pretty easy as well.  Go downstream until you reach water.  Go back upstream until you get back to camp.
Funny... I have a story about that...

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Offline sstrong42

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Re: Hiking the Outer Mountain Loop on WEDNESDAY!
« Reply #13 on: December 10, 2007, 02:19:15 PM »
You will need to have some map reading skills to find the spots where there is water.  There are no signs, but the area around the cabin at Boot Spring, the cut-off to Juniper Spring and the spot where Fresno Creek crosses the trail are all fairly easy to find.  If you cannot find your own cache at Homer Wilson Ranch then the others might be really hard!  From the LW sites the drop into Cattail Canyon is pretty easy as well.  Go downstream until you reach water.  Go back upstream until you get back to camp.

Luckily, I do know how to read a map and use a compass.  So no worries there.  My concern though is the map I have.  It's the National Geographic map of the park, and I haven't had time to order proper topos of the area.  The National Geographic map was good enough for the Guadalupes, but I'm a bit concerned with Big Bend.

I really appreciate all your help!   You've answered most of the questions I've had.

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Offline okiehiker

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Re: Hiking the Outer Mountain Loop on WEDNESDAY!
« Reply #14 on: December 10, 2007, 02:35:24 PM »
You can buy the 7.5' maps at Panther Junction if you wish.  The NGS map is probably fine though the scale on the BIBE map is different than the GUMO map.
Funny... I have a story about that...

 


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