Big Bend Chat

Big Bend National Park Q&A => Outer Mountain Loop => Topic started by: Panther3351 on March 09, 2016, 08:41:37 AM

Title: My Recent Outer Mountain Loop Experience
Post by: Panther3351 on March 09, 2016, 08:41:37 AM
So this is my recollection of my recent trip to Big Bend and the OML.  I must start off first with admitting this was my first trip to BB and up until the day we started our OML adventure I had hiked a distance of about 10 miles with my pack loaded with about 50 pounds. 

On Tuesday, March 1st we cached water (2 gallons a piece) at both locations.  This turned out to be the smartest move we could have made.

Wednesday March 2nd we left out of the parking lot to approach the OML.  We decided to attack it clockwise so we headed up Pinnacles Trail.  This was an enjoyable hike.  We dropped our packs and headed up Emory Peak.  What an amazing experience this was.  The views were incredible.    After a short break and some lunch we hit the trail and hiked a few more hours and camped in the zone camping area on Juniper Canyon Trail.  We were approximately 2 miles from Juniper Canyon Road and our first cache of water.

Thursday March 3rd we packed up camp and were back on the trail by 730.  Soon we arrived at our first cache of water and our first big decision on water.  I chose to fill up my camel back (3L) and my two 2 quart water containers.  This would prove to be one of the best decisions I have ever made.  From here we hit the Dodson trail.  Make no mistake the Dodson is a serious trial hike.  Over the next 8.5 miles I had visions of not surviving this trip, I questioned my sanity and intelligence in taking on such a trip with such little training, and of course I thought I would just bail out at Homer Wilson, if I made it.  It was roughly 95 degrees and I was not properly prepared.  My pack was in the range of 60 pounds when I started the Dodson due to the amount of water I was carrying and the other unnecessary items I chose to bring.  The heat along with just the ruggedness of the trail and of course the elevation changes were eating my lunch.  After hiking, stopping, hiking, stopping for over 9 hours we made it to our camp.  As it turned out we were still approximately 3 miles from Homer Wilson.  This day turned out to be the most difficult day of my trip.  After finally cooling down enough to eat, I was able to eat and then it was bed time.  I must mention the stars are incredible.  There is no outside artificial light to hinder the amazing stars.

Friday March 4th, as with previous days we are back on the trail by 730.  The Dodson is still kicking my butt.  The climbs in elevations are taxing my already exhausted legs.  After about 2 hours we arrive at Homer Wilson.  It was an awesome sight to me.  When we arrived I had less than a half a liter of water left.  It was at this point I made the decision to trek on and do my best to complete the OML.  I filled my camel back with three liters and put a quart and half in each water container.  WE then headed out Blue Creek Canyon.  This is a beautiful hike.  It was very strenuous especially with basically worn out legs.  It seems like you walk forever in the riverbed.  After another 8-9 hour day we arrived at the Southwest Rim for our final night out.  The views from SW3 are incredible to say the least.  As we set up camp, two deer entered camp.  They were not afraid of us and came within 15 feet of us and were not spooked by our picture taking.  We fixed dinner and ate while sitting on the rim watching the sun go down.  This made the trip completely worthwhile.
Saturday March 5th, we hit the trial by 0700.  I was like a barn sour horse headed to the barn for dinner.  After about 3 hours of coming down Laguna Meadows I arrived back at the truck.  I was physically exhausted and happy to be back on pavement.

I write all of this to let people know the OML is a serious backpacking trip and should be taken as such.  Although I enjoyed my trip it could have been so much better if I had been better prepared and had I trained, yes I said trained, more.  I have so much to learn about backpacking but I am happy and proud to have completed the OML on my first attempt.
Title: Re: My Recent Outer Mountain Loop Experience
Post by: Casa Grande on March 09, 2016, 08:53:09 AM
Congratulations, you did it!

Yes, it is very strenuous. I don't think most people prepare themselves for it.  The up and down of the Dodson Trail can be a killer. And that last haul up Bluecreek is a bear.

Glad you lived to tell!

Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-G925A using Big Bend Chat mobile app

Title: Re: My Recent Outer Mountain Loop Experience
Post by: mule ears on March 09, 2016, 10:41:37 AM
Yes, glad that you toughed it out and made it all the way.  Next time drop about 20 or 30 pounds out of that pack and really enjoy yourself!  I agree that SW3 was the perfect way to finish up.

I assume you didn't look for water at Upper Juniper or Fresno creek.

And thank you for the report.   :eusa_clap:
Title: Re: My Recent Outer Mountain Loop Experience
Post by: ambersdad on March 09, 2016, 03:24:23 PM
Congratulations!  :great:
Title: Re: My Recent Outer Mountain Loop Experience
Post by: dprather on March 09, 2016, 04:08:35 PM
Considering the weight of your backpack, you might have good reason to count this as two trips!

Enjoy shopping for equipment of lighter weight; enjoy the rethinking process of determining how much stuff you can leave behind.
Title: Re: My Recent Outer Mountain Loop Experience
Post by: tusker on March 09, 2016, 04:43:56 PM
Great report!  I am glad that, in spite of being sorely tested, you got a lot of satisfaction and a sense that it was "worth it".  It sounds like you learned a lot, too.  Be proud.
Title: Re: My Recent Outer Mountain Loop Experience
Post by: Talusman on March 10, 2016, 07:34:44 AM
Great report. I am glad that you pushed through and made it! Our bodies can usually get more done than the mind thinks it can at times. Mule ears is right, losing half that weight alone will feel like you trained harder! Getting prepared will make a bigger difference with the training, but learning to go without half that much weight will make far easier. I feel like I can hike anywhere all day, but if I had to carry sixty pounds I'd be dropping soon as well! Congratulations on making a great effort and sharing your experience with everyone! Hope to read about a great experience you have in the park on your next trip!
Title: Re: My Recent Outer Mountain Loop Experience
Post by: Panther3351 on March 10, 2016, 02:10:21 PM
i will spend some time researching lightweight equipment and talking to experienced hikers.  I also realized i carried too much food.  Due to being so hot i was unable to eat most of the food i had packed.  It was a learning experience for sure.  I am wondering if it was really necessary to carry a bear vault, how many of you carry one when down there?  I will also reduce the amount of clothing as well.  For sure will carry clean underwear and socks for each day, but other than that i don't think i will bring anything additional clothing.  I learned that its not one little item that adds up to 55-60lbs, its a bunch of small items.  The feeling of carrying the pack when i was down to less than a liter of water was pretty enjoyable.  Thanks for all the input.
Title: Re: My Recent Outer Mountain Loop Experience
Post by: mule ears on March 10, 2016, 02:24:41 PM
Clean underwear?   :icon_eek:

Colin Fletcher used to say "take care of the ounces and the pounds will take care of themselves", yes it is the cumulative effect that gets you.  Some good threads here on BBC on lighter packs and all around the internet.  Let us know when you are ready with questions.

A good book is The Ultimate Hikers Gear Guide (http://andrewskurka.com/product/ultimate-hikers-gear-guide/) by Andrew Skurka, very to the point about options but not just about brands and models.
Title: Re: My Recent Outer Mountain Loop Experience
Post by: ambersdad on March 10, 2016, 02:57:41 PM
Being a wildlife photographer, I'm a clean freak.  Nothing I use has fragrance or added smells unless its imitating dead leaves and dirt.   ;)

Backpacking is one area where the clean freak in me takes a back seat. I will carry an extra pair of socks depending on how long I'm out.  Happy feet are very important.  Never really thought about clean underwear.
Title: Re: My Recent Outer Mountain Loop Experience
Post by: dprather on March 10, 2016, 04:55:44 PM
Clean underwear is a must!  I always bring an extra.
Title: Re: My Recent Outer Mountain Loop Experience
Post by: Talusman on March 10, 2016, 06:20:21 PM
Clean underwear?   :icon_eek:
LMAO! Yeah, I wear the sports shorts that hug tight and never thought about wearing or taking clean cotton undies into the wild with me. I do keep a clean pair of clothes for the return to the car, and fresh underwear there! Like Mule Ears said, take care of the ounces. My last 3 days out I carried tent, pad, blanket, food, water(minimal, as there are places to get it), full gear I need to climb, hike rappel, and was under 28 lbs. A lot of people sleep out in the open but I got tagged by a scorpion years ago and like my little one man tent that is less then 3 lbs. A small amount of dense high calorie foods go a long ways when you are exerting your self. Ambersdad is right, smell it up and be a part of nature!
Title: Re: My Recent Outer Mountain Loop Experience
Post by: dprather on March 10, 2016, 09:46:07 PM
Your comments about food are interesting to me.  For the first several years, I regularly threw away food after I completed trips.  I have learned from others that there are two types of backpacking eaters; (i) those who who eat like crazy on the trail, and (ii) those who have to force themselves to eat. 

I am in the latter category.  I like to backpack empty.  I eat more in a regular work-day lunch than I eat all day on the trail.  I snack more than eat full meals.

It took me several years, however, to pack as light as I eat.  When I packed, I tended to say "maybe a little more...a little more...a little more" until I had a lot more and kept throwing food away.

I am enjoying reading about the lessons on lightening-up that you are learning. 
Title: Re: My Recent Outer Mountain Loop Experience
Post by: Geezer on March 10, 2016, 10:26:42 PM
Think also about lightening your load by drinking water out of the springs on your route instead of carrying so much water. On the OML, Fresno Spring and Upper Juniper Spring usually have water. Also, in Boot Canyon, there's frequently pooled water.

Using these resources requires some intelligent planning. First, you need a water filter and know how to use it. Second, you need to track spring reports on this site before you launch to make sure you know where water will be available. Third, you should make sure you can find these springs. Finally, you need to think how these sources fit into whatever caches you plan to make.

By studying this site you can figure out a lot of this stuff on your own. But ask questions too.

Geezer
Title: Re: My Recent Outer Mountain Loop Experience
Post by: RichardM on March 11, 2016, 07:42:25 AM
Clean underwear?   :icon_eek:
LMAO! Yeah, I wear the sports shorts that hug tight and never thought about wearing or taking clean cotton undies into the wild with me. I do keep a clean pair of clothes for the return to the car, and fresh underwear there! Like Mule Ears said, take care of the ounces. My last 3 days out I carried tent, pad, blanket, food, water(minimal, as there are places to get it), full gear I need to climb, hike rappel, and was under 28 lbs. A lot of people sleep out in the open but I got tagged by a scorpion years ago and like my little one man tent that is less then 3 lbs. A small amount of dense high calorie foods go a long ways when you are exerting your self. Ambersdad is right, smell it up and be a part of nature!
This reminded me of this discussion from a few years back:
http://www.bigbendchat.com/portal/forum/el-saloacuten/how-to-convince-the-spouse-to-let-you-go-to-big-bend/msg49273/#msg49273

I prefer the "sports shorts" as well. The ones made with polypro or other synthetics are easy to rinse out and dry, if needed.
Title: Re: My Recent Outer Mountain Loop Experience
Post by: Hang10er on March 11, 2016, 10:52:56 AM
Panther,

My recent trip to BB has me thinking more and more about the idea of "backpacking".  What was it that added so much weight (other than food that you mentioned)?  If you had to go again, what would you leave out that you took?

In my research and reading so far, it looks like 3 major expenses I'd need to make to have the proper equipment to pull off something like the OML;  a good light weight 1-2 person tent, a good lightweight but warm sleeping bag, a good lightweight sleeping bag pad.  Does that sound right to everyone??

I'd say other definite needs that I don't see are really expensive would be a small burner (saw some all alloy metal ones for $20 for heating water for food/drink and a filter for water (those looked reasonable as well).

Other needs I think most campers would already have (light, first aid, backpack).

Also, he mentioned a bear vault.  I didn't see a lot of comments on that.  What do most do with their food at night?  I'm wondering about the already opened food containers I'd be caring as trash to haul out.  Having that in ziplock, is that good enough?
Title: Re: My Recent Outer Mountain Loop Experience
Post by: mule ears on March 11, 2016, 11:08:11 AM
No need for a bear canister unless you plan to leave your food unattended.  Most folks just lay their food bag a few feet away from their sleeping bag/tent.  Here is the NPS Food Storage page (http://www.nps.gov/bibe/planyourvisit/bc_foodstorage.htm).

As to what to carry lots of threads in the General Camping Equipment (http://www.bigbendchat.com/portal/forum/general-outdoor-stuff-camping-equipment/?sort=views;desc) board.
Title: Re: My Recent Outer Mountain Loop Experience
Post by: catz on March 11, 2016, 03:56:03 PM
For the OML you do not need a tent or a water filter (pills work just fine).
Title: Re: My Recent Outer Mountain Loop Experience
Post by: elhombre on March 11, 2016, 05:26:46 PM
One stupid cactus crushing monkey's camping ideas:   Tent or some kind of rain protection,  2 pair of underwear, one cotton for sleeping, and the other fancy synthetic ones for hiking all day.  2 pair of socks - alternate them each day for the fresh feeling.  Also life saver if one pair gets wet.   Quilt for sleeping in.  The BEST thing ever invented for desert and cold Colorado.   http://www.enlightenedequipment.com/  A pad to sleep on  -   Foam is light and doesn't get holes in it, but air is much more comfortable (less than 2#).  Food wise  --  learn that just because you opened a cliff bar doesn't mean you have to eat the entire thing at on stop.  One bar can be the morning and afternoon snack.  Oat meal for breakfast,  very light.  Same pair of pants the entire trip.  Real silk undershirt to act as sun shield and first layer when cold.  One hiking shirt worn the entire time (synthetic).

Most importantly, a small ration of whiskey for each night to make the pain go away.  (Note:  Lewis and Clark rationed each man 5 oz. of whiskey/ day)

No bear canister!  Stupid Ranger propaganda.
Title: Re: My Recent Outer Mountain Loop Experience
Post by: mule ears on March 11, 2016, 06:29:23 PM
Quilt for sleeping in.  The BEST thing ever invented for desert and cold Colorado.   http://www.enlightenedequipment.com/

Most importantly, a small ration of whiskey for each night to make the pain go away.  (Note:  Lewis and Clark rationed each man 5 oz. of whiskey/ day)


Dude!  You will for sure have a lighter pack than me now, quilt is 21st century!  And yes to the whiskey.
Title: Re: My Recent Outer Mountain Loop Experience
Post by: Homer Wilson on March 11, 2016, 06:44:37 PM
Get a titanium flask for your whiskey to go ultralight.
Title: Re: My Recent Outer Mountain Loop Experience
Post by: Hang10er on March 12, 2016, 09:13:00 AM
Yes, the whiskey goes without mentioning.

That "quilt" by Enlightened Equipment looks really nice.  I've been wanting to upgrade my old off the shelf from WalMart sleeping bags.  They're not warm enough in cold weather and too hot & sticky in warm weather. Plus they're no where close to light and compactable.

What makes it a quilt and not a sleeping bag? Looks like it zips closed. See something that might allow you to leave the feet area open..
Title: Re: My Recent Outer Mountain Loop Experience
Post by: elhombre on March 12, 2016, 09:58:38 AM
My "Revolution" model can be opened up all the way and used as a blanket in warm weather.  As I camp in cooler places, I start by snapping the foot box closed.  This wraps around lower legs and feet.  As I need more warmth, I can zip the foot box closed to completely cover my lower legs.  Go warmer by pulling draw strings in at the very bottom seam and the foot box completely shuts so no air moves through.  This system requires a sleeping pad of your choice.  It has small clips at the middle and top of the blanket. 2 Elastic cords attach to the two pairs of clips so that the blanket is held on to your sleeping mattress (foam or air).  Basically, you close up the quilt around you as your need for warmth increases.  It saves weight and bulk because there isn't wasted sleeping bag material under you.  We are sleeping on our mattress directly.  We use REI "Air rail" mattresses because they have a high R value.  (approx. 4.2 or so)

 We have been in them for over 30 nights now, and haven't had any problems.  Time will tell how long they will stay clean and warm, and how well they preform after washing them.
Title: Re: My Recent Outer Mountain Loop Experience
Post by: Hang10er on March 13, 2016, 05:45:20 PM
Thanks El Hombre!

Those sound really good.  After I posted my question I spent some time on their website and got a good idea of how they work.  I do a bit more camping in the warmer months than the cold but for that I can do like you said and use it as a blanket and continue carrying a sheet.  My warm month camping trips are just that, "camping trips" not backpacking.  I do plan to start increasing my winter camping trips so for that I need a better, warmer sleeping bag.  Figured I might as well get one that will work for car camping and in case I work up to backpacking. 

Since I need a pad anyway, might as well look at the option of going with the blanket/pad combo.

Still asking and researching though.