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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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Hiking tips for beginners?

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Offline Gustafson

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Hiking tips for beginners?
« on: November 18, 2019, 04:00:36 PM »
Friends, I'll be hiking Big Bend with my 9yo daughter next week. Our fitness level is decent and we've uneventfully completed a few moderate hikes earlier this year. Aside from some typical weekend warrior hikes like Santa Elena, LMT, there's a possibility we might attempt the South Rim which would be a bit of a stretch for us in terms of sheer mileage, if not difficulty. Was hoping to get some advice on the most common problems that beset beginner hikers in Big Bend so we can be appropriately prepared.

Here are some of the things I'm starting to stress about. Be great if you can weigh in on these, and also let me know if there are any other things I need to be concerned about:

- dehydration & heat exposure (will carry electrolytes, sunblock, and hats)
- injuries to lower legs from cacti (We will have long trail pants and first aid)
- bear encounter (will carry bear spray)
- blisters / chafing (will carry moleskin patches, chafing protection)
- fatigue (will plan for breaks during long hikes, and alternate busy and light days)

Thank you in advance!

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Online dprather

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Re: Hiking tips for beginners?
« Reply #1 on: November 18, 2019, 08:54:50 PM »
You don't mention where you are from.  I am from very low Gulf-Coast country and the altitude in the High Chisos, while not nearly debilitating, is noticeable to me.

Consider hiking sticks.  I use low-tech, old-guy thick broom handles.  If you can't stand being old fashioned, you can buy expensive ones.

Many of Big Bend's trail-side and underfoot plants just don't like people .  A small multi-tool (I currently use a Gerber Dime) is useful if you need to pull tougher thorns out of the soles of your shoes.  This has saved more than one day for me.

The good news about attempting the Rim from the Basin is that there are opportunities to turn back that are still lovely hikes.  Take a look at the map and identify the usefulness of the Colima Trail for this purpose.  The truth is, though, that the toughest part of the hike to the Rim from the Basin is in the first few miles.  Many find that the Laguna Meadows trail up out of the Basin is a bit more gradual. 

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

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Offline Gustafson

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Re: Hiking tips for beginners?
« Reply #2 on: November 18, 2019, 09:28:00 PM »
Good point on the altitude difference. We’re from the Houston area, so that’s a useful heads up. Also, thanks for the suggestion of a multi-tool, and the heads up about the Colima Trail. I have trekking poles on the way, so we’re covered there. Thank you very much for your helpful response!

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Offline Hang10er

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Re: Hiking tips for beginners?
« Reply #3 on: November 19, 2019, 06:53:49 AM »
Took my daughter last year.  Do the South Rim.  Like Dprather said, don't use the word quit. 

All the trail advise was spot on, I'll send you a msg on our hike. 

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Offline Gustafson

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Re: Hiking tips for beginners?
« Reply #4 on: November 19, 2019, 09:58:38 AM »
Thank you for seconding South Rim!

A quick follow-up on thorns from underfoot plants - I've seen a number of posts here and elsewhere about hiking in shorts at Big Bend, and I'm wondering if they're talking about more well-manicured trails rather than mountain or desert hikes that are less developed? I'd love to hike in shorts, but I reasoned that hiking pants wouldn't get too oppressive this time of year.

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Online mule ears

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Re: Hiking tips for beginners?
« Reply #5 on: November 19, 2019, 10:02:56 AM »
I would describe all of the trails in the Chisos as well manicured, if you manage to encounter a thorny plant it would be because you wandered off the trail.
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Offline Gustafson

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Re: Hiking tips for beginners?
« Reply #6 on: November 19, 2019, 10:15:10 AM »
Good to know, thank you. Guess I'll order one of those convertible pants right away, so I have the best of both worlds! :D

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Offline Imre

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Re: Hiking tips for beginners?
« Reply #7 on: November 19, 2019, 04:38:51 PM »
Quote
The good news about attempting the Rim from the Basin is that there are opportunities to turn back that are still lovely hikes.
Agreed. Please don't be shy about turning around if someone has reached their limit.  What may be the six most dangerous words in the English language: "It's only a little bit farther."
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I would describe all of the trails in the Chisos as well manicured, if you manage to encounter a thorny plant it would be because you wandered off the trail.
Agreed. Except that as far as trails go, I would use the word boulevard.
Please resist the temptation to do both the rim and the peak. In my opinion, the peak is highly overrated and the rim is awesome. Don't forget to bring a couple of flashlights with fresh batteries. Just in case.  And buy a trail map! It's only US $ 1.50 with tax at the visitor center. One final comment: the park service advises one gallon of water per person per day. They aren't kidding. Better to return with a canteen half full than to return on a stretcher.
For every complex problem there is a solution that is simple, obvious, and wrong.
- H.L. Mencken

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Offline Gustafson

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Re: Hiking tips for beginners?
« Reply #8 on: November 20, 2019, 09:42:25 AM »
Thank you all for the detailed information, encouragement, and cautionary advice. I spoke to my daughter last night, and she sounded enthusiastic about doing the South Rim hike, although she realized it will be an undertaking (because the longest she's done is a 7-mi RT along a creek which was a challenge, but mostly because she got water in her shoes).

My plan is to hike up the Pinnacles Route, and take the Boot Canyon Trail toward the rim. We'll do a reality check at the intersection with Colima. If we're doing OK, we'll continue on Boot Canyon to the South Rim and return via Laguna Meadows; if not, we'll take Colima across to Laguna Meadows and hike down. No plans to do Emory Peak. The reason to start via Pinnacles is solely because downhills are harder on my knees than uphills; also, I figured this route would give us more variety. Let me know if there are any rookie mistakes in this plan.

I'm a bit embarrassed to ask this, but I could use suggestions for what to carry for lunch. Turns out my daughter doesn't fancy PB&J sandwiches, so I'm at a bit of a loss of what to carry outside of taking my camping stove and heating up a packaged meal, but I wanted to avoid carrying the extra weight and incurring a delay and instead take something that's ready to eat but also hearty enough to keep us going on the return trip. Suggestions welcome. (Besides s'mores - she already suggested that, and I've vetoed it ... haha).

Modified to add: A friend suggested not to rely on phone GPS in the park or West TX in general. Would it be overkill to get a car GPS and / or handheld GPS for hiking?
« Last Edit: November 20, 2019, 10:48:54 AM by Gustafson »

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Offline Jalco

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Re: Hiking tips for beginners?
« Reply #9 on: November 20, 2019, 01:02:01 PM »
The Chisos trails are so well burned in, I seriously doubt you'll need the GPS.

I usually take some sort of trail mix (HEB sells prepackaged or you can make your own) and/or Clif bars and munch on that as I go.  For the "sit down" lunch, I like tuna fish (you can buy it prepackaged at HEB) and fritos/crackers.  The prepackaged "little smokies" are also one of my favorites.  Unless you really want a hot meal, I wouldn't take the camping stove.

If you have a water filter, take that.  You filter water at Boot Springs (just off the trail) or in the pools along Boot Canyon.

Tootsie Rolls are another

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Offline Gustafson

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Re: Hiking tips for beginners?
« Reply #10 on: November 20, 2019, 01:46:40 PM »
Thanks for the additional answers, especially the lunch and snack suggestions. I'd like a hot meal, but am put off by the added weight and the time required. Unfortunately, don't have a water filter. We have hydration packs that I plan to carry that'll get us to 1.5 gallons. We'll carry the balance in water bottles. Is the gallon per person water requirement a year-round thing? I'd have expected one can be a bit more relaxed in the wintertime, but I've heard of a lot of anecdotes of running out of water and I'm inclined not to take chances.

Thanks again for all the inputs! Can't wait to hit the road and get on the trails!

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Offline Robert

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Re: Hiking tips for beginners?
« Reply #11 on: November 20, 2019, 01:58:22 PM »
For lunch we usually do a combination of dried sausage, cheese (you can do string cheese), crackers, granola or granola bars and dried fruit (raisins, banana chips, etc). You can also do the lunchables type products. We've also brought Pita bread and made sandwiches with a pouch of chicken and single serve ranch dressing.  Some of these items can also serve as snacks to replenish fuel at the top of the climb or take a break.  If your kid will eat veggies you could slice up carrots, celery, etc and take some dip or hummus in a plastic container or do hummus and pita chips. Any type of sliced up fruit as well, apples, pineapples, etc.

Obviously, the hotter it is, the more water you'll need. The gallon per day is just a rule of thumb, means for the whole day (breakfast, lunch, dinner and while hiking). When we backpack we usually plan for a little more but we are carrying packs and walking further. Since you won't be hiking the whole day 1.5 gallons for the two of you would be fine. Just make sure you are drinking it.

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Offline Gustafson

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Re: Hiking tips for beginners?
« Reply #12 on: November 20, 2019, 02:15:43 PM »
Thanks you for the additional ideas, and for the guidance on water. String cheese in particular. We also have some pita chips and hummus, that would work. I had to laugh at "If your kid will eat veggies ...". Oh, how I wish she did  :icon_biggrin:

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Online dprather

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Re: Hiking tips for beginners?
« Reply #13 on: November 20, 2019, 06:06:20 PM »
Lunch:

*The tuna that comes in small foil packets can be made into awesome Tuna salad with the addition of pickled jalapeno, mayo, mustard, and so on (once available for free in small packages at Buckees).

*Hard salami, hard cheese and crackers is hard to beat.

*Once upon a time, the restaurant at the Basin made lunch wraps for day hikers.

Be advised that anything you eat on the Rim is superior to anything you can buy at the best restaurant.
Leave "quit" at the car.  Embrace the trail as your friend.  Expect to enjoy yourself, and to be amazed.

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Offline Gustafson

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Re: Hiking tips for beginners?
« Reply #14 on: November 21, 2019, 05:05:26 AM »
Thank you for the additional lunch suggestions - great ideas for current and future trips. I’ll make sure to ask at the basin restaurant regarding the lunch wrap or other options and report back.

 


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