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More First-Timer Quick Q's

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Offline WNdx

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More First-Timer Quick Q's
« on: January 21, 2018, 11:36:10 PM »
I am planning a late February attempt of the Outer Mountain Loop for the first time. I have a few questions and I apologize in advance if they are addressed in other obvious places.

Rough itinerary:

Day 1.
Chisos Trailhead at noon
Emory peak
Juniper Canyon Zone Camp by dusk.

Day 2.
Depart JC ZC
Cedar Spring

Day3.
Depart Cedar Spring
Hike up to the Rim
Make camp at a backcountry site.

A few Q's:

1. I don't want to assume that I will make it from my JC camp to Cedar Spring. I am an able-bodied 28 year old already spending time in the gym to prepare, but I am also limited in my backpack experience to springtime 2-nighters in the lower Appalachians. The scenario is just different in so many ways and I do not want to assume that I will speed through the Dodson on Day 2. If I don't make it too far into the JC Zone on Day 1 then this could be a nearly 15 mile day to get to Cedar Spring. So, what is the camping situation even like on the Dodson, particularly on the latter half going clockwise? Is it reasonable to count on good camping short of Homer Wilson Ranch if I can't make it to Cedar Spring? Or do I want to put extra planning emphasis ( i.e. scrapping Emory Peak on day 1) to ensure I make it into Blue Creek Canyon for 2nd camp?

2. I was factoring in additional mileage for touring the Southeast Rim...until, of course, I learned that the Southeast and Northeast sections of the trail will be closed during my trip. Is the Southwest portion of the trail still open all the way to the rim itself? If there's still a sweeping vista from the Rim to be had, I will go get it.

3. Does anyone have enough Nesting Season observation under their belt to comment on campsite availability in the Chisos during that period? The closure knocks out 9 backcountry sites by my count, with only 3 remaining on the SW portion, and the closest from there in the Laguna Meadows / Blue Creek area. Wouldn't be the worst if I had to make camp back on the meadow but I also want to be reasonably assured those sites are generally available even with the diminished supply. I would probably be trying to reserve one on a Thursday night in late February and with the closure in effect I'm hoping this combines for weaker demand. Any insight there is appreciated.

4. I need to get some new boots. It has been a long time since I have bought a new pair. Does anyone have great experiences on the OML with a particular model, one that is found to suit this terrain particularly well? My brother gave me an REI giftcard for christmas so I'd like to use that toward something that they keep on their shelves if possible.

Thanks for reading.

« Last Edit: January 22, 2018, 01:03:09 AM by WNdx »

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Offline nuggetf5

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Re: More First-Timer Quick Q's
« Reply #1 on: January 22, 2018, 09:00:03 AM »
First thing that jumps out at me is if you're starting from the Basin at noon, hitting Emory Peak and making camp in the JC Zone you're going to have to haul ass to make camp with much daylight left which should be around 6:50 p.m. range in late February. Everyone has their own speed of course but there is SO much to take in visually, particularly if it's your first visit. Seems a bit ambitious to me. If you were starting at 9:00 a.m., maybe. And you really should plan a little time to find Boot Canyon pipe and Upper Juniper Spring so you don't have to carry a ton of water, but do make sure you get a water report from the forum here and plan accordingly. Guaranteed water can be an oxymoron in the park.

The first couple of camping spots below Upper Juniper Springs headed clockwise are majestic. Being surrounded in that area by the mountains is mesmerizing. Probably my favorite moments of the entire hike for me personally. This is just my opinion but that spot and anywhere on the rim you want some time to soak it in.

Shoes/boots: footwear is an individual choice. There are a few with really strong feelings here one way or the other but I think speaking for the footwear of others is not something I want to get into. Personally, I prefer high top Lowa hiking boots because they protect from the cactus, I do like the ankle support, and they have extra wides for people that really need that option. Some wear running shoes and lightweight low tops. Power to 'em. I'd just advise you always want to get at least 50-60 miles in a pair before you go on a hike like this, and some of them need to be long hikes if possible. OML is not a place to try out new shoes, that's for sure. Finding the right shoe can be difficult. I can't wear many of the popular brands others do fine with. For me it's Keens or Lowa. Anything else and I'll have black and blue toenails by the end.

Lastly, do read the Outer Mountain Loop and then re-read it. It's priceless.

http://www.bigbendchat.com/portal/forum/big-bend-national-park-outer-mountain-loop/the-outer-mountain-loop-faq-and-planning-tips/

And lastly, have a great hike and let us know how it went for you. Those of us that visit from afar enjoy the experiences of others.
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Offline RichardM

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Re: More First-Timer Quick Q's
« Reply #2 on: January 22, 2018, 09:38:09 AM »
Skip Emory Peak and add the Southwest Rim. You might consider adding another night so you won't have to rush through the hike.

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Offline Imre

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Re: More First-Timer Quick Q's
« Reply #3 on: January 22, 2018, 09:40:39 AM »
Quote
Skip Emory Peak and add the Southwest Rim.

I'll second the motion. The peak is over rated; the rim is not to be missed.
For every complex problem there is a solution that is simple, obvious, and wrong.
- H.L. Mencken

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Offline dprather

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Re: More First-Timer Quick Q's
« Reply #4 on: January 22, 2018, 02:25:52 PM »
Quote
Skip Emory Peak and add the Southwest Rim.

I'll second the motion. The peak is over rated; the rim is not to be missed.

+1
Leave "quit" at the car.  Embrace the trail as your friend.  Expect to enjoy yourself, and to be amazed.

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Offline RichardM

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Re: More First-Timer Quick Q's
« Reply #5 on: January 22, 2018, 02:34:11 PM »
Can't recommend any boots personally, but I'd say buy 'em soon and get them broken in before you hit the OML.

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Re: More First-Timer Quick Q's
« Reply #6 on: January 22, 2018, 03:19:16 PM »
Welcome, WNdx. I think your proposed itinerary may be significantly too ambitious.

If you really can't start until noon, then I recommend you skip Emory (over-rated) and camp just below Upper Juniper Spring, as recommend by Nuggetf5. Great spots there. Re-water at Boot Canyon if possible and also at Upper Juniper Spring. Second day, head down Juniper Canyon and across the Dodson to Fresno Creek. Re-water there (you may have to explore down the drainage a ways to find water, but it's there.)  Head east west down the Dodson as far as you can go and then camp. If you make it past Homer Wilson and into the lower Blue Creek drainage, all the better. Third day, head up Blue Creek Canyon (a difficult trail) up into the Chisos. You'll pass Cedar Spring (a beautiful spot, but no water). Depending upon how far you think you can go, camp either at one of the sites right after you've topped out (Blue Creek or Laguna) or go all the way to one of the Southwest Rim sites and enjoy the sunset and sunrise from there. Fourth day, take your time enjoying the view from the rim and then head back down beautiful Boot Canyon and back to the Basin.

As far as boots go, I agree it's hard to recommend boots to another person, but I can tell you that after decades of using Vasque, I switched to Keen and Oboz in the early 2000's and have found both very, very easy to break in. I now use Oboz Bridgers. A few years ago, the sole of my old Oboz Bridgers delaminated right before a 5-day early-Spring trip into Bandelier National Monument with my very young son. I bought a new pair at the Albuquerque REI the day before we left on our backpacking trip and I had absolutely no problems while on the trail. I'm now on my third pair and have found them to be easy on the feet, but burly on the trail.

Edit: I just noticed that, once again, I transposed west and east when writing this post. You guys need to warn WNdx about me.
« Last Edit: January 22, 2018, 06:34:14 PM by House Made of Dawn »
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Offline mule ears

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Re: More First-Timer Quick Q's
« Reply #7 on: January 22, 2018, 03:36:03 PM »
Welcome the board WDnx! and I just now see that HMoD offered nearly similar advice!   :notworthy:

Good advice so far.  Yes skip Emory, especially if starting at noon and you will be lucky to get up the 1600' climb to Pinnacles pass and then drop over 2000' down to the beginning of zone camping in 8 miles or more depending on how far down you get.

As some one who regularly does 15 mile days in the Southern Appalachians, this will be quite a different experience and you should either get as far down Juniper canyon as you can and/or plan to camp just up trail from Homer Wilson ranch house.  Just to make sure you know, there is no water at Cedar Spring.  I think the longest day I have ever done in Big Bend is 14 miles but then most of my time is off trail.

Yes there are great views from the SW rim, some of the best.  Your best bet to get a SW rim site is to do as you plan, at the end of your trip.  Because you can only get a permit 24 hours in advance most folks will go to the Chisos first and then come down, if you reserve several days out then more spaces will be open.  Sunrise and sunset from the rim is awesome but if they are full then the Blue Creek sites or Laguna are also nice and you could then make the rim for sunrise the next morning if you wanted.  You could even climb Emory on the way back down if you really wanted as it will be a short day.

What else are you going to do in the park?  You could add another day on the the OML if you could and not rush the middle part so much.  Also use the natural water sources as much as you can but it will be the end of the long dry winter period so you might be limited to some pools in Boot canyon, maybe Upper Juniper spring and Fresno creek drainage and of course caching water at Homer Wilson.

As to boots, what have you been wearing?  Do you like them?  Most importantly do they fit well/right?  Then get more of the same unless they are crazy heavy old school or something.  My main recommendation aside from proper fit is wide toe box to give the pinkies plenty of room to wiggle and spread and no goretex/waterproof breathable, just makes your feet sweaty in the hot desert.  I am a trail shoe wearer by the way. 

« Last Edit: January 22, 2018, 03:49:13 PM by mule ears »
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
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no shade, no water
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Offline RichardM

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Re: More First-Timer Quick Q's
« Reply #8 on: January 22, 2018, 04:10:47 PM »
Can't recommend any boots personally, but I'd say buy 'em soon and get them broken in before you hit the OML.
There have been several boot topics on this forum, but I don't recall any recent ones, although boots have been discussed in various trip and equipment reports.

As far as "best boots for OML", just make sure they have sturdy soles to protect the bottom of your feet from all of the rocks you'll be stepping on. I use trail runners and/or walking shoes these days, but am relegated to just day hikes for now. Some runners I've worn were great at handling rocky terrain, others terrible. I suppose you could carry some marbles and jacks to try out in the store.  :eusa_think:

And although I don't have any boots to recommend, I am still not a Vasque fan.
This is all I have to add to the topic: No More Vasques for me!


Moderator Note: Boot discussion followups have been moved to http://www.bigbendchat.com/portal/forum/general-outdoor-stuff-camping-equipment/hiking-boots/
« Last Edit: January 23, 2018, 09:41:56 AM by RichardM »

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Re: More First-Timer Quick Q's
« Reply #9 on: January 22, 2018, 04:13:43 PM »
You could even climb Emory on the way back down if you really wanted as it will be a short day.

+1.  A much better option for including Emory in your itinerary!
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline DesertRatShorty

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Re: More First-Timer Quick Q's
« Reply #10 on: January 22, 2018, 06:28:29 PM »
WNdx,

There are campsites every mile or so along the Dodson.

The south rim is always open west of boot Canyon Trail.

Emory Peak is worthwhile but only if you can do it comfortably. Try to add an extra day to your trip if possible.
« Last Edit: January 22, 2018, 08:02:45 PM by DesertRatShorty »
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Offline WNdx

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Re: More First-Timer Quick Q's
« Reply #11 on: January 22, 2018, 10:57:34 PM »
Thank you everyone!

Welcome, WNdx. I think your proposed itinerary may be significantly too ambitious.

I had suspected this based on the questions I asked myself over and over and that I eventually asked this forum.

I originally planned to get a 6AM start out of Midland but I'm going to adjust my plan and stay in Alpine instead. That should save approximately three additional hours for the trail. This way I should be able to cache water and get to the visitor center when it opens, and thus make it down Juniper Canyon far enough by dusk to reach Cedar Spring at a more realistic pace on Day 2.

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Re: More First-Timer Quick Q's
« Reply #12 on: January 23, 2018, 12:26:47 AM »
WNdx, I applaud your chutzpah. Even if your new schedule gets you to the Juniper Canyon/Dodson trail junction, you still have a 13 mile hike west on the Dodson to Homer Wilson and then up to the campsites on the north side of the trail near Cedar Spring. That's quite a hump. Not impossible, but very challenging in that terrain. If that's the plan you're committed to, then make sure to water-up whenever possible, including Boot Canyon, Upper Juniper Spring, Fresno Creek, and your cache at Homer Wilson. No matter what happens, you'll have plenty of water. Be forewarned that the "trail" going north and east from the Homer Wilson ranch house is very vague: don't stress out trying to follow cairns, the wash is extremely braided but all paths lead up canyon. Eventually they unite past the "Red Rocks" section (you'll know it when you see it) and lead to the Cedar Spring area. Please post a detailed trip report. I'd love to know how this turns out.
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

 


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