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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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OML Trip Report

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Offline randomcards

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OML Trip Report
« on: February 27, 2018, 01:53:57 PM »
Hey all, trip report from OML this past weekend.  Really really appreciate all the info on here it was invaluable and good chance I might not have finished without it.

First a couple of lessons learned....
1. This trail is no joke, water is a big issue, and I can see this trail flat out being very very dangerous for inexperienced or unprepared backpackers. 
2. I can't imagine doing this trail much past mid-march, the Dodson was pretty brutal in the afternoon already
3. I wore shorts which was stupid, although I enjoyed the coolness, zipper pants for flexibility in the desert would have been better
4. We added both Emory Peak and the South Rim (at SW3) to the trip (total mileage ended up being 43 miles due to some side trial action.  Unless you have been or plan to return I cannot imagine doing the OML without adding the South Rim, it was far and away the best part of the whole trip.
5. The trail is rough, very very rocky, and suggest you put a lot of time in prep into your shoe/sock/feet/knee plan as I think those issues are most likely to cause a stoppage. 
6. I carried a 4.5L water capacity and drank at least 2 litrer before every fill up (beginning, upper juniper, and Homer Wilson).  That was enough, although I wish I had probably 1 more liter on the Dodson and going up Blue Creek in the afternoon.
7. Make sure you have a plan for lots of electrolytes, I think that is a game changer vs. just plain water.
8. Pack light!  My pack was 10-15 lbs lighter than my buddies and I think was the difference in finishing/not finishing.  I also cowboy camped with only a groundsheet and emergency tarp (that I needed one night) which saved a good amount of weight


Water Report
1. Unfortunately we really only stopped at Upper Juniper (thanks so much for the details on how to find) and it was flowing fine and the perfect spot to refill.


Trip Report
Spent a long weekend on an epic backpacking adventure at Big Bend National Park with a couple of buddies. We may have bit off a bit more than we could chew with aspirations to hike the Outer Mountain Loop which involves hiking up into the mountains in the Chisos, down through the desert and back up into the mountains.

Started with a slow drive during the ice storm to Abilene where we gave up after seeing one too many semis off the road and the interstate shut down and got the last room in a place that almost qualified as a motel.

Made it to Big Bend early afternoon Thursday to get our backcountry permits and cache water at a spot in the desert portion of the trail. When we got to the water cache spot 3 hikers attempting the same loop who looked miserable were waiting to hitchhike out. Something about ‘blisters on blisters’….. but foolishly that only emboldened our naive resolve even more!

Started hiking at 4pm on Thursday after convincing one friend to leave the Cotsco sized package of baby wipes and about 4 pounds of extra food, but he refused to give up his full sized deodorant or zipper pants (which proved to be wise!). We set off with heavy packs  and lots of optimism.

Made it to our first campsite after the first hour of uphill hiking. They boys seemed so disappointed in the ease of the first bit on fresh legs that we decided to drop our packs at camp and attempt to make it up to the top of Emory Peak before sunset. Our navigator (me) may have slightly underestimated both the distance and elevation gain on the tiny iPhone map, and our easy 2 mile day turned into 7.1 miles with 2,400 feet of elevation gain and an hour of night hiking with headlamps back to camp. But being on top of Emory Peak at sunset was awesome!

Friday we had some serious miles to make down the mountain and through desert so we started off great. On the nicely developed trails in the mountains we crossed paths with several hikers who were likely in their 70s which both impressed us and grew our confidence even further. We started hiking down the back side of the Chisos down down down down down into the desert. Thanks to some pre-hike research on this site we were able to find a tiny pool of water on upper Juniper about 2x3 from a small spring a couple of hundred yards off the trail which allowed us to guzzle as much as possible and refill our water capacity (which for one of our crew was enough to fill a kiddie pool). We eventually made it down the mountains and were officially in the desert.

The desert was supposed to be easy right? I mean it was February, and the elevation profile looked flat compared to the huge mountain ascents and descents. We started on the 11.2 of the Dodson trail in the desert. It KICKED OUR TAILS! Every plant in the desert wants to eat you which made my decision to wear shorts look stupid, and the terrain was brutal. Tons of up and down, extremely rocky, very tough hiking, and the afternoon was punishingly hot and dry even in Feb. Thanks to our cruel taskmaster we pushed about an hour further than we probably should have to try to shorten the following day and eventually limped into perfect campsite with beaten bodies and somehow managed to put up our tents before shoveling in some food and falling asleep. It was my first night camping in the desert and it was stunningly beautiful, from sunset to sunrise with the moon and stars in-between, the solitude and wildness of it was amazing.

Saturday morning we started off a LOT slower after destroying our legs, feet, and wills over the first 2 very tough days. We managed to make good time and finished the last 6 miles of the Dodson in the desert by 1030 before the welcome respite of the abandoned ranch house where we had cached our water the first day. After guzzling about a gallon each (and a Dr. Pepper we were smart enough to cache!) we sat in the welcome shade reminiscing about when we were at the same spot less than 2 days earlier full of enthusiasm and optimism. One persons feet were destroyed from walking the rocky terrain in trail runners, Another's knees were in bad shape, and I was on a bum left knee, and we were all drained of energy.

My two buddies decided that with bad feet/knees the huge climb up blue creek was not in the cards and they decided to hitchhike back at Homer Wilson and graciously encouraged me to finish if I thought I could.

Saturday afternoon involved a brutal climb up Blue Creek of about 8 miles back up into the Chisos with an extra 10 lbs of water after reloading at our cache, gaining about 3500 feet of elevation, and most of which was exposed to the afternoon sun. The payoff was worth it though as the final mile on the South Rim and campsite at the top of the mountains was beautiful. It was pretty amazing to look down thousands of feet to see the desert we had crossed earlier that day.

After some good sleep all that remained Sunday was an ‘easy’ 6 miles downhill back to the truck. Hobbled slowly to the visitors center on shot legs and unsuccessfully tried to talk some other eager but obviously unprepared young bucks out of their attempt to start the same thing!

43 total miles and over 11,000 feet of elevation gain!

Made it home in time for dinner with a lot of good memories and sore body parts.  I think we all learned a lot about backpacking to make the next one even better!


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Offline dprather

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Re: OML Trip Report
« Reply #1 on: February 27, 2018, 02:04:45 PM »
Thanks.

Congratulations.

How many people in the entire world do you think have done something equal to what you have just done on the OML? 
Leave "quit" at the car.  Embrace the trail as your friend.  Expect to enjoy yourself, and to be amazed.

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Offline TXbywayofMS

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Re: OML Trip Report
« Reply #2 on: February 27, 2018, 02:05:43 PM »
Awesome effort. Glad you pushed through. I learned my lesson this past weekend on the Marufo Vega about desert country. The terrain is no joke. Those topo's don't show how brutal the plant life is.

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Offline randomcards

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Re: OML Trip Report
« Reply #3 on: February 27, 2018, 02:19:55 PM »
How many people in the entire world do you think have done something equal to what you have just done on the OML?

Ha I guess one more now... but I thought I researched it pretty well and it was at least 50% more difficult than I expected and I am a  'mild to moderately' experienced backpacker with some decent ultralight gear.  Definitely hardest hike I've done, especially the haul up Blue Creek Trail with a heavy water load and 2 days in...

I would say that anybody that doesn't have much experience and doesn't really research and prepare for this trip probably has a pretty high failure rate!

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: OML Trip Report
« Reply #4 on: February 27, 2018, 02:52:41 PM »
"And I alone escaped to tell thee" - Job 1:15

Well done, randomcards!!!!  This may be THE PERFECT trip report for hikers contemplating an OML.  Glad you pushed through to the end.
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline mule ears

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Re: OML Trip Report
« Reply #5 on: February 27, 2018, 07:25:10 PM »
Among other things what impressed me most is that you finished it solo!  It would have been really easy to just stay with your friends but instead you did the brutal afternoon climb up Blue Creek where you could have again taken the easy out and headed to the Basin, again you followed your wish and spent another night out on the Rim!

Great job!

Sent from my Nexus 6P using Big Bend Chat mobile app

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 congahead

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Re: OML Trip Report
« Reply #6 on: February 28, 2018, 05:23:33 AM »
Really enjoyed reading this one; thanks for taking the time to write it. Brought back memories of my own OML trek. I think we have similar thoughts about Dodson. Agree with HMoD that this should be required reading for anyone considering this trek.


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"The animals here will generally try to avoid you, but the plants will hurt you every chance they get."

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Offline randomcards

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Re: OML Trip Report
« Reply #7 on: February 28, 2018, 12:21:24 PM »
Thanks for the kind words.  The experience makes me 10x more impressed with you that go off into the more undeveloped areas of the desert for longer hauls! :notworthy: :notworthy:

The trip was always for me about trying to find something that was at the intersection of A) a beautiful varied hike in new terrain I had never experienced and B) something at the edge of my physical and mental ability to try to push that boundary.  I can see this hike being simple for some super experienced/fit folks and literally impossible for many others, for me it was right at the edge of my current ability.

Because of mostly B as well as the chance I might never make it back (don't get too many mini-vacations without the family) seemed like I had to try to finish, even though I questioned that choice a few times on the way up Blue Creek lol!

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Offline randomcards

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Re: OML Trip Report
« Reply #8 on: February 28, 2018, 01:09:26 PM »
On a related note, I have a nice PDF from a custom map done in CalTopo (1 page overview and 5 detail pages) formatted to print on letter size of the OML adding Emory one direction and the SouthWest Rim the other direction if anybody would find use in it. 

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: OML Trip Report
« Reply #9 on: February 28, 2018, 01:13:02 PM »
Thanks for the kind words.  The experience makes me 10x more impressed with you that go off into the more undeveloped areas of the desert for longer hauls! :notworthy: :notworthy:

The trip was always for me about trying to find something that was at the intersection of A) a beautiful varied hike in new terrain I had never experienced and B) something at the edge of my physical and mental ability to try to push that boundary.  I can see this hike being simple for some super experienced/fit folks and literally impossible for many others, for me it was right at the edge of my current ability.

Because of mostly B as well as the chance I might never make it back (don't get too many mini-vacations without the family) seemed like I had to try to finish, even though I questioned that choice a few times on the way up Blue Creek lol!

The first time I did the OML, I was pretty sure I was going to die.  We're all on the road to self-discovery.  And every mile is beautiful.  Hike on, randomcards!!!
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline RichardM

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Re: OML Trip Report
« Reply #10 on: February 28, 2018, 01:34:12 PM »
On a related note, I have a nice PDF from a custom map done in CalTopo (1 page overview and 5 detail pages) formatted to print on letter size of the OML adding Emory one direction and the SouthWest Rim the other direction if anybody would find use in it.
Sure. If it's too big to post as an attachment, email it to me and I'll get it online.

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Offline randomcards

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Re: OML Trip Report
« Reply #11 on: March 01, 2018, 08:27:56 AM »
On a related note, I have a nice PDF from a custom map done in CalTopo (1 page overview and 5 detail pages) formatted to print on letter size of the OML adding Emory one direction and the SouthWest Rim the other direction if anybody would find use in it.
Sure. If it's too big to post as an attachment, email it to me and I'll get it online.

Done.... email was large so let me know if it doesn't come through.

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Offline RichardM

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Re: OML Trip Report
« Reply #12 on: March 01, 2018, 12:12:27 PM »
On a related note, I have a nice PDF from a custom map done in CalTopo (1 page overview and 5 detail pages) formatted to print on letter size of the OML adding Emory one direction and the SouthWest Rim the other direction if anybody would find use in it.
Sure. If it's too big to post as an attachment, email it to me and I'll get it online.

Done.... email was large so let me know if it doesn't come through.
Yup, that was huge. I exported each page as an image and put them back in a PDF via Acrobat and the size became a bit more manageable. I also cropped each image should anyone want to reformat, etc.

OML_CalTopo.pdf

OML_CalTopo_1.jpg
OML_CalTopo_2.jpg
OML_CalTopo_3.jpg
OML_CalTopo_4.jpg
OML_CalTopo_5.jpg
OML_CalTopo_6.jpg

OML_by_randomcards.gpx
OML_by_randomcards.kml
P.S. Anybody know the current method for opening a KML file in Google Maps, preferable by specifying the URL and not having to import it? I tried using gpsvisualizer.com to convert the gpx file to a Google Map page and the downloaded version works but this one craps out with a JavaScript error.
« Last Edit: March 01, 2018, 01:51:29 PM by RichardM »

 


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