Friends of Big Bend National Park
Big Bend Conservancy

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.

+-Calendar for sale

 2019 BigBendChat Calendar on sale now!


Solo OML 02/28-03/03 + tips for first-timers

  • 12 Replies
  • 895 Views
*

Offline liljavelina

  • Kangaroo Rat
  • *
  • 1
Solo OML 02/28-03/03 + tips for first-timers
« on: March 05, 2019, 10:45:17 PM »
Hi y'all,

I just finished my first OML after three years of wanting to make the trip, and it was totally amazing. If someone could have brought me the supplies for a hot shower I could have spent another week out there! I've included the highlights, a water report, & some tips that made my hike fun & relaxing.

DAY 1: Left from Marfa around 8:30, stopped for coffee in Alpine & my customary pre-BB meal, 2 Egg McMuffins. First stop in the park was caching 1 gallon of water at Homer Wilson & heading to the basin, where I finished packing while waiting for the rangers to return from lunch. The no-nonsense lady ranger asked me how much water I planned to carry, and I told her I wanted to stay pretty light & just bring a 3L reservoir up the Pinnacles. She informed me that other hikers had reported "a trickle" at Boot Spring, and advised bringing extra water. I have an emergency gallon that lives in my truck, so grudgingly re-packed with the gallon at the bottom & started with my albatross pack up the Pinnacles around 1:30. I'm a Marfa local & very lucky to be able to visit the Rim frequently as a day hike, so I was shocked by how difficult the Pinnacles became carrying almost 16 lbs of water! I was happy to have poles to help me up the trail. I camped near Boot Canyon & quickly discovered that the ranger was right––no water out of the pipe & the water in the tinajas was very low & smelly. I collected an emergency 40 oz strained through a bandanna & treated with tablets before pumping.

DAY 2: After a night near Boot Canyon, I headed down Juniper Canyon not knowing what to expect. I was a little nervous about water as I drank my whole reservoir getting up the Pinnacles & had never collected from Juniper Spring before. The descent was steep & the poles once again came in very handy. Around lunchtime I reached the fork in the trail and quickly saw a miracle––mud in the desert! I set down my pack in one of the stone foundations & headed up the hill to try to find collectible water. I gathered several Nalgenes full from a tiny waterfall formed by the roots of a tree & laid out my tent footprint in the leaves for a siesta. The 2 hours I spent out of the sun at Juniper Springs were among the most pleasant of an already wonderful trip. I read Desert Solitaire & ate a lunch of jerky & dried mangos & listened to the many animals and bugs coming to rest at the springs.

I headed down Juniper around 2:30 PM & reached the Dodson fork around 5:30, with another small half-hour break in the shade along the way (the day reached about 90 degrees later in the afternoon). By this point, the sun was starting to go down & the first 2 miles of the Dodson were pleasant and scenic. There were many daggers blooming & the sunset was bright pink. I saw several people camping within 10 feet of the trail––is that kosher or am I misunderstanding park rules? There were many flat spots outlined by rocks along the trail, but none the regulated 100 yds away from the main trail.  I feasted on Chef Boyardee Beefaroni & after a solid day of hiking it was one of my favorite meals in recent memory.

DAY 3: I broke camp after a beautiful sunrise around 7:30 AM and headed off in search of Fresno Creek. Hiking the Dodson in the morning & late afternoon was very pleasant & made the rises much easier to tackle. I got faked out by a scummy pool off of Dodson Spring & panicked that this was the "fast flowing" creek I had heard so much about. I consulted the topo & realized that even without service, my phone gave pretty good compass coordinates––I was off, but not that off! I put my pack back on & hiked another half hour or so & reached the real Fresno Creek, which was running quickly over the trail. I had a nice break at Fresno, collected around 1.5 gallons of water & headed back on the trail. This day also got HOT so I stopped near the Smoky Creek junction for a siesta in the shade. I hung my footprint from a tree & napped with my compressed sleeping bag as a pillow. I woke up to another Big Bend miracle: clouds! The rest of my hike to Homer Wilson was extremely pleasant, and the vista from the steepest rise before the descent to the ranch took my breath away. After collecting my water, I hiked about 1.5 miles of the dry wash to get some of that section out of the way, & camped off-trail in an ocotillo grove.

DAY 4: I woke up with the sunrise & had a surprisingly easy ascent up Blue Creek. I'd hiked the trail from HW up to the Rim in October before the trail crews came out, and remembered the trail being very overgrown & hard to follow, but the NPS folks did a great job. I briefly considered going to the Rim, but only had a liter of water left & after my water-collecting experience down Boot Canyon three days prior didn't want to chance it. It was hot down Laguna Meadows, & a bit of a culture shock after days of solo hiking to start running into hordes of day hikers. When I made it back to the basin, I immediately headed to the Lodge for a beer, and enjoyed cooling down on the patio before heading to Terlingua for my customary post-hike burger at Starlight. All in all, an amazing & beautiful trip! The only disappointing part to me was that I did not see many critters––a couple deer, some geckos & non-venomous snakes. My last Chisos camp I saw 5 bears, so that was a bit of a let-down, but the wildflowers & blooming succulents made up for it all!

RECOMMENDATIONS:

- For melanin-challenged folk, I can't stress enough the importance of long-sleeve shirts & pants on the trail. I saw many very bad sunburns in the park on people unaccustomed to the higher-altitude sun. I wore linen shirts (they look goofy & formal but I find lighter & faster-drying than UA) & a bandanna to protect my neck. For everyone, long-sleeves & pants will help protect you from the many thorny things along the trail––in many places it is very narrow & run-ins with all manner of poky plants is inevitable.

- I took a 2-hr break in the middle of the day every day, and being able to take a nap & get out of the sun made all the difference. Hiking the most strenuous pace from 7-10 AM and then 5-7 PM really helped me avoid exhaustion & dehydration headaches. I also found that finding a nice place to rest & read & reflect on the trip made for some of the loveliest memories of my journey.

- Gatorade powder! Bring it!

- Make sure your first aid kit has tweezers. This is a no-brainer for experienced desert hikers, but it's the thing I reach more most frequently in my kit.

- I finally sprung for a Fillo Pillow & it was AMAZING. Camp & hike tech is so impressive!

THINGS I WISH I WOULD HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY:

- I'm not naturally an early riser & wish I would have started just a bit earlier each day. You'll never regret getting out of bed even if it's cold & hiking hot, exposed sections of the trail in the early morning hours––but you will definitely regret sleeping in & tackling most of your Dodson rises in 90+ degree sun!

- I'm not sure I would have brought a tent if I knew how much I would come to resent its weight, but I tend to get rained on in the Chisos quite a bit & I have heard some rumors about Chagas disease in the park. Certainly some pros and cons, but I regretted not sleeping out under the stars each night.

- I forgot to stretch & my calves killed by the last day! It's tempting to skip stretching altogether because a day on the trail doesn't feel quite the same as a day at the gym, but exercise is exercise & your muscles really need it.

Overall, it was an amazing experience & I encourage everyone to give it a shot! Make sure you put in your gym time beforehand, but people with a basic level of cardiovascular fitness should find this hike challenging but not impossible. To prep, I did resistance training 3x a week & at least 30 mins of cardio 6x a week, & in the month before the trip increased the cardio to a full hour. I also did a practice trip in Fort Davis to get used to the weight of my backpack two weeks before departing. I came away from my OML pretty sore, but nothing a day in the hot tub couldn't fix.
« Last Edit: March 05, 2019, 10:59:03 PM by liljavelina »

*

Offline House Made of Dawn

  • www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2YJduDyFA4
  • Golden Eagle
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 2892
  • Backpacking since '78, Big Bend since '95.
Re: Solo OML 02/28-03/03 + tips for first-timers
« Reply #1 on: March 06, 2019, 01:34:22 AM »
The 2 hours I spent out of the sun at Juniper Springs were among the most pleasant of an already wonderful trip. I read Desert Solitaire & ate a lunch of jerky & dried mangos & listened to the many animals and bugs coming to rest at the springs.

Well, that's it in a nutshell, right there, isn't it?  Well done, traveler.
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

*

Offline mule ears

  • Golden Eagle
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 4218
  • "He had to leave Texas but won't say why" McMurtry
    • 40 years of walking
Re: Solo OML 02/28-03/03 + tips for first-timers
« Reply #2 on: March 06, 2019, 06:33:45 AM »
Great recap and congratulations!  Yes those midday breaks out of the heat are crucial when the temps are high.  When the pipe at Boot spring is not running the best water is up canyon between the Juniper canyon and NE rim trail junctions, big tinajas there with usually less or non-scummy water.  Yes folks do camp right on the trail and yes the regulation is 100 yds but then again Leave No Trace guidance is to use established sites and not to make new ones so people have to make that decision.  I would always try and find an established/durable surface site away from the trail because I don't want to be hassled or to harsh others camping buzz by being right on the thruway.

Thanks again for the report and welcome to BBC!
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
http://40yearsofwalking.wordpress.com/

*

Offline hoff

  • Kangaroo Rat
  • *
  • 4
Re: Solo OML 02/28-03/03 + tips for first-timers
« Reply #3 on: March 06, 2019, 09:19:55 AM »
I camped near Boot Canyon & quickly discovered that the ranger was right––no water out of the pipe & the water in the tinajas was very low & smelly. I collected an emergency 40 oz strained through a bandanna & treated with tablets before pumping.

I hadn't considered needing to strain or tablets to treat water; should I reconsider? As of now, I will be relying solely on a Sawyer mini for filtering. Will that suffice?

*

Offline mule ears

  • Golden Eagle
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 4218
  • "He had to leave Texas but won't say why" McMurtry
    • 40 years of walking
Re: Solo OML 02/28-03/03 + tips for first-timers
« Reply #4 on: March 06, 2019, 10:04:35 AM »
I camped near Boot Canyon & quickly discovered that the ranger was right––no water out of the pipe & the water in the tinajas was very low & smelly. I collected an emergency 40 oz strained through a bandanna & treated with tablets before pumping.

I hadn't considered needing to strain or tablets to treat water; should I reconsider? As of now, I will be relying solely on a Sawyer mini for filtering. Will that suffice?

That will probably suffice because you can backflush the Sawyer but it never hurts to prefiter and carry some back up tablets.
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
http://40yearsofwalking.wordpress.com/

*

Offline wotantx

  • Jack Rabbit
  • *
  • 48
Re: Solo OML 02/28-03/03 + tips for first-timers
« Reply #5 on: March 06, 2019, 11:22:17 AM »
I never hike in the desert in shorts, and I can't believe I see people doing it. And unless it is the dead of winter when the sun is low, I wear long sleeves. I use fishing shirts, either Columbia or Magellan.

Sent from my Pixel 3 XL using Tapatalk


*

Offline House Made of Dawn

  • www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2YJduDyFA4
  • Golden Eagle
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 2892
  • Backpacking since '78, Big Bend since '95.
Re: Solo OML 02/28-03/03 + tips for first-timers
« Reply #6 on: March 06, 2019, 04:05:32 PM »
I camped near Boot Canyon & quickly discovered that the ranger was right––no water out of the pipe & the water in the tinajas was very low & smelly. I collected an emergency 40 oz strained through a bandanna & treated with tablets before pumping.

I hadn't considered needing to strain or tablets to treat water; should I reconsider? As of now, I will be relying solely on a Sawyer mini for filtering. Will that suffice?

That will probably suffice because you can backflush the Sawyer but it never hurts to prefiter and carry some back up tablets.

Always, always bring pills as a backup. A pack of pills will weigh about a quarter of an ounce (less if you ditch the outer packaging) and you’ll get a dozen or more quarts of safe water using it. You don’t HAVE to strain your source water before using pills, but the water will probably be more appealing if you do. I’ve often employed just a bandanna as a prefilter, which I carry anyway as a buff, a potholder, and a washcloth. I have several with topos printed on them, including the Chisos, Mount Rainer, Arches NP, Bandelier NM, and the Wichita Mountains NWR. I’d hate to have to use any of them as my only map, but then again, I’d rather have that than nothing.

Your Sawyer isn’t likely to stop functioning (freeze or crack or clog) or get lost, but it COULD happen. The pills are the lightest backup around. 


Sent from my iPhone using Big Bend Chat
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

*

Offline hoff

  • Kangaroo Rat
  • *
  • 4
Re: Solo OML 02/28-03/03 + tips for first-timers
« Reply #7 on: March 06, 2019, 05:54:29 PM »
I camped near Boot Canyon & quickly discovered that the ranger was right––no water out of the pipe & the water in the tinajas was very low & smelly. I collected an emergency 40 oz strained through a bandanna & treated with tablets before pumping.

I hadn't considered needing to strain or tablets to treat water; should I reconsider? As of now, I will be relying solely on a Sawyer mini for filtering. Will that suffice?

That will probably suffice because you can backflush the Sawyer but it never hurts to prefiter and carry some back up tablets.

Always, always bring pills as a backup. A pack of pills will weigh about a quarter of an ounce (less if you ditch the outer packaging) and you’ll get a dozen or more quarts of safe water using it. You don’t HAVE to strain your source water before using pills, but the water will probably be more appealing if you do. I’ve often employed just a bandanna as a prefilter, which I carry anyway as a buff, a potholder, and a washcloth. I have several with topos printed on them, including the Chisos, Mount Rainer, Arches NP, Bandelier NM, and the Wichita Mountains NWR. I’d hate to have to use any of them as my only map, but then again, I’d rather have that than nothing.

Your Sawyer isn’t likely to stop functioning (freeze or crack or clog) or get lost, but it COULD happen. The pills are the lightest backup around. 


Sent from my iPhone using Big Bend Chat

Thanks, mule ears and HMoD. Which pills in particular do you use / recommend?

*

Offline mule ears

  • Golden Eagle
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 4218
  • "He had to leave Texas but won't say why" McMurtry
    • 40 years of walking
Re: Solo OML 02/28-03/03 + tips for first-timers
« Reply #8 on: March 06, 2019, 06:50:00 PM »
I am currently carrying Katadyn Micropur in the foil packets. Got the at REI
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
http://40yearsofwalking.wordpress.com/

*

Offline House Made of Dawn

  • www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2YJduDyFA4
  • Golden Eagle
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 2892
  • Backpacking since '78, Big Bend since '95.
Re: Solo OML 02/28-03/03 + tips for first-timers
« Reply #9 on: March 06, 2019, 07:01:38 PM »
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

*

Offline House Made of Dawn

  • www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2YJduDyFA4
  • Golden Eagle
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 2892
  • Backpacking since '78, Big Bend since '95.
Re: Solo OML 02/28-03/03 + tips for first-timers
« Reply #10 on: March 06, 2019, 07:08:54 PM »
However, not passing through  a filter, the water can retain a fair amount of “local character” such as tannins from leaves, or mustiness from the soils, or even a bouquet of bison urine in certain landscapes.  I’ve learned to live with it, but my family adds flavored NUUN electrolyte tablets to the purified water to make it more appealing.


Sent from my iPhone using Big Bend Chat
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

*

Offline Hang10er

  • Black Bear
  • *
  • 511
  • "Do what you want before it's too late"
Re: Solo OML 02/28-03/03 + tips for first-timers
« Reply #11 on: March 07, 2019, 06:51:54 AM »
I usually get cramps in my calf.  Not while I'm out walking but later that night!  On my last trip I used the NUUN electorlyte tablets and think they worked well.  I didn't do any over nighters and had access to a cooler of Gatorades, but I made sure to plop one of those in my water at least once or twice a day.  Taste was a bit weak but I could see how it would help with filtered water.  I also thought it was a bit funny that the pills weren't small enough to fit in the mouth of an ordinary water bottle.  You can easily break them in half, but you'd think they would have made them narrow enough to drop them in.

*

Offline Hookim

  • Coyote
  • *
  • 105
Re: Solo OML 02/28-03/03 + tips for first-timers
« Reply #12 on: March 17, 2019, 04:37:13 AM »
Thanks for mentioning Chagas. I had no idea and have been thinking of trying no tent. Nevermind... https://marfapublicradio.org/blog/west-texas-wonders/the-cone-nose-and-chagas-disease-west-texas-realities-to-reckon-with/

Sent from my SM-N950U using Big Bend Chat mobile app


 


©COPYRIGHT NOTICE

All photographs and content posted by members are to be considered copyrighted by their respective owners and may not be used for any purposes, commercial or otherwise, without permission.

+-Calendar For Sale

 2019 BigBendChat Calendar on sale now!

Powered by EzPortal

Facebook Comments