Big Bend Chat

Other Parks of the Big Bend Region => Big Bend Ranch State Park Q&A => Topic started by: dprather on February 24, 2017, 10:01:48 AM

Title: Rancherias Loop (2-19-12-17) Extended Version
Post by: dprather on February 24, 2017, 10:01:48 AM
My two very dear friends and trusted backpacking amigos Carl and Shannon and I did the Rancherias Loop (RL) at Big Bend Ranch State Park (BBRSP) recently.  This is the extended report.  I'll do this in the following sections.

1.  Liberty Texas to Ft. Davis State Park
2.  A Day and a night in the National Park
3.  Day #1 on the RL
4.  A "Morality Tale"
5.  Day #2 on the RL
6.  Day #3 on the RL
Title: Re: Rancherias Loop (2-19-12-17) Extended Version
Post by: dprather on February 24, 2017, 10:14:06 AM
Liberty to Ft. Davis State Park (enjoyable, but uneventful)

We met early (but not quite early enough) in Liberty, Texas on Friday, February 17, 2017 and hit a slow-down on I-10 in downtown Houston, but otherwise sailed along the 1-10 route.

Our new habit is to eat lunch a Lum's BBQ in Junction.  There is a Cooper's BBQ right on the access road, but Lum's is a local place and an old place.  You have to get off the highway to find it.  Highly recommended.  Ask for the medium rare BBQ brisket.

The distance simply evaporated as we enjoyed great conversation and chewed up the miles at about 90 mph+.  The 80 mph speed limit is pure fantasy.  Going 90, I was regularly passed. 

We got off I-10 at the Toyavale exit and enjoyed the beautiful drive up into the Davis Mountains. 

We spent the night at a tent camping site at Ft Davis State Park. 



Title: Re: Rancherias Loop (2-19-12-17) Extended Version
Post by: dprather on February 24, 2017, 10:36:26 AM
A Day and a night in the National Park

Our habit has been to rush, rush, rush, drive all day, and then hit the trail immediately the next day.  This time we added a relaxed day between the long drive and the beginning of the hike.  This worked very well to lose the tension and the hurry of the drive.  Highly recommended.  We will do this again.

Our day in the Park included short hikes to Swirl Tinaja, Boquillas for lunch, and then Ernst Tinaja.

We caught the first big break of our trip by snagging the very last car camp site available (it was closed when we began our conversation with the desk ranger, but opened as we spoke).  The Park was FULL, and we ended up staying the night at the Gravel Pit. 

I'll not tell you the whole story about how we spooked ourselves into believing that we were surrounded by malos bandidos at the Gravel Pit and had to perform an armed midnight reconnaissance to clear our area (sheesh - we're grown already!). 

Speaking of grown (or groan), I'm 61, Carl is 62, and Shannon is 46.  Shannon is a Houston marathon regular, and his capability allows Carl and I to stretch some limits. 
Title: Re: Rancherias Loop (2-19-12-17) Extended Version
Post by: dprather on February 24, 2017, 02:56:11 PM
Day #1 on the RL

Waking up at the Gravel Pit, showering and eating breakfast at Study Butte, and finally permitting at Barton Warnock prevented us from getting on the Rancherias Loop Trail (RL) until 11:00 A.M.  (it would have been better to have started at least an hour earlier).

The RL is more of a horseshoe than an actual loop.  The two ends of the trail (East and West trailheads) do not actually meet.  They are separated by 2-3 miles, with the East Trailhead located along FM 170 a mile+ east of Closed Canyon and the West Trailhead a mile+ west of Closed Canyon. 

We caught our first break right off the bat.  We decided to do the shuttle, taking our truck from the East Trailhead (the traditional beginning point) to the West Trailhead before we began because we knew we would be wasted when we finished, and because we assumed that there would be more traffic (for hitchhiking purposes) on Sunday.  We were correct.  Immediately after pulling into the West Trailhead parking area, I was able to flag a ride back east and arrived about ten minutes after I'd left. 

The first leg of the RL (East Trailhead to Reza Springs/Ruins) (i) begins by following a boring wash, but (ii) leaves the wash through a gap in a giant, ancient rock wall.  From there, the trail (iii) ascends to a gentle saddle before (iv) descending not gently at all into Acebusches Canyon.  The dangerously descending trail tumbles down a rock fall/boulder field. 

In Acebusches Canyon, (v) the trail follows the arroyo of the canyon bottom until it leaves the canyon by (vi) ascending the terrifying vertical canyon wall by means of narrow, crumbling switchbacks - even Parent says, in effect, that a false step along these switchbacks is the end of your trip, and the end of all your future trips.  My heart remained very high up in my throat through this tough, dangerous section. 

After the switchbacks, (vii) the trail rises between Acebusches and Panther Canyons on a high saddle before (viii) plummeting down into Panther Canyon.  The first leg ends at (ix) the Reza Ruins - where a guy named Reza and his eight-member family made a life around 1900 - and the audibly gurgling Reza Springs.

Three observations and a story (before the moral tale).

Observation #1 - the RL is covered in evidence of prehistoric and historic human activity.

Observations #2 - the RL has TONS of water.

Observation #3 - the descent into Panther Canyon, coming down out of dry desert desolation and looking down into a verdant, winding oasis of cottonwoods is very, very beautiful, as beautiful as any I've seen in desert backpacking.  Adding to the beauty are the two stark geometric adobe cubes that are the Reza ruins.  The verdant green contrasts with the desert burnt; the crisp geometric cubes contrast with the normally random lines of desert and mountain.  Seeing these, Carl mentioned Shangri-La.

Story - I positively hate ascending a vertical canyon wall on narrow, crumbling switchbacks that are maybe 6" wide and crowded by thorny plants.  These are images of my second worst fear.  I was able to complete the traverse only because I did not want to fail my friends.  By the end, I was one pumping cauldron of adrenalin, frantic, but manageably under control.       

Wanting to bleed away the adrenalin, I then took the point as the trail continued to ascend to the high Acebusches/Panther saddle.  After taking the lead, within my first two steps, I almost stepped right on a Blacktail rattler - the first of my worst fears.  The poor guy was just trying to get a little sunshine - right in the middle of the trail.  He instinctively coiled a bit at first, but his discretion was the better part of his valor, and he retreated.  He was quite sluggish from the cool weather.

So in a matter of minutes, my two worst fears were encountered, and I survived - which was nice. 

Still, my first response to the Blacktail was to scream like a little girl.  Shannon and Carl assumed that I must have at least seen a panther because my little-girl scream was, to them, far too piercing and shrill for anything less.
Title: Re: Rancherias Loop (2-19-12-17) Extended Version
Post by: dprather on February 24, 2017, 03:32:16 PM
A "Morality Tale"

Background.

Carl, Shannon, and I are "play by the rule" types, by and large content to do as we are told.  We are especially content to play by the rules in the wilderness where, we are prepared to assume, the powers that be are promulgating rules to protect the wilds and the heritage of the parks.

One of the BBRSP rules is: THOU SHALT NOT ENTER THE REZA RUINS.

The ruins are two adobe cubical houses of 100+ years age left by the Reza family who once lived by the springs in Panther Canyon.  Even though TPWD has recently replaced the old roof with a brand new metal roof, the adobe walls are not stable.  Interestingly, the adobe cubes contain relics of the Reza past, including a large iron wood-burning cook stove.  These are historical, heritage pieces and are worthy of every protection. 

Additional note: the front door of the larger of the two adobe dwellings had been taken off its hinges and left aside, (wide) opening the building.

Setting.

As we crossed the high saddle between the Acebusches and Panther Canyons, we could tell a storm was gathering behind us and coming our way.  We watched in awe as the storm first gathered as dark and boiling clouds, and then subsided, only to gather again with even more intensity.  We listened in awe as distant thunder boomed.  We could see fingers of lightening lace across the distance.  But we did not hurry.  We were too tired for that.  Besides, we're tough guys and a little rain is no big deal.

The tale begins.

Arriving at the Reza ruins, the storm arrived at the same instant.  Desert mountain rain storms are so cool - thunder, lightening, wind, and rain around you and not above you.  The rain fell in huge, piercingly frigid drops so big and hard that they almost caused you to buckle with every hit.  The drop hits fell slowly at first, but soon became a drumbeat, and then a torrent.  The cold drops were made even colder by the chilling wind.

We had not yet set up our tents.

Standing in the gathering torrent we asked ourselves if we should get inside the comfy ruins with their brand new metal roof and get out of the storm.  With the earnestness of Captian Kirk pondering the Prime Directive, we chose back and forth between entering and remaining outside, between doing as we were told and getting out of the storm. 

As the temps dropped, we could feel the beckoning, radiant warmth of the adobe walls.  As the ground outside turned to mud, the floors of the adobe buildings remained enticingly dry.  We could hear the soothing pitter-patter of the rain underneath the metal roof, wasted without anyone to protect.

Carl spoke for God.  Carl imagined God asking, "Why are you standing in the rain when I have provided you with a dry house and an open door?"

Then we...
Title: Re: Rancherias Loop (2-19-12-17) Extended Version
Post by: dprather on February 25, 2017, 08:02:10 AM
Addendum: Route-Finding Along The RL

Older reports frequently mention route-finding as an RL problem.  We did not find the route to be hard to follow at all.

We studied the maps, read trip reports, including Parent's excellent report, and paid attention during the permit orientation.

The route is pretty intuitive, and, as TPWD Ranger David Long said, who oriented us, the trail is "pretty burned-in by now." 

We had to back track after missed cairns only a couple of times.  We missed them due to overgrowth that shielded the markers from view.

Don't count on the Park's circular markers - many of them have fallen off of their rocks (the glue used just isn't working).
Title: Re: Rancherias Loop (2-19-12-17) Extended Version
Post by: Jalco on February 27, 2017, 08:43:30 AM
Excellent report.  This is a hike I've wanted to do for quite some time.  Looking forward to the rest of it.  Thanks!
Title: Re: Rancherias Loop (2-19-12-17) Extended Version
Post by: tandl on February 27, 2017, 09:53:26 AM
I agree, the traverse across the talus slope when coming out of Acebuches canyon is by far the scariest piece of official trail I have ever been on.

It might be possible to continue up that branch of the creekbed rather than ascend and cross the talus slope; the Open Trails track was laid down by someone who found a way through. You would still be scrambling up and around boulders so it might not be too much safer, and you would run the risk of finding it impassable and then having to backtrack on a section where you are already under a little bit of time pressure to make it to Panther Spring/Casa Reza before dark.   Getting lost wouldn't be an issue though since the marked trail rejoins that streambed a mile or so after the talus traverse.

Sent from my SCH-I435 using Big Bend Chat mobile app

Title: Re: Rancherias Loop (2-19-12-17) Extended Version
Post by: dprather on February 27, 2017, 12:16:55 PM
I agree, the traverse across the talus slope when coming out of Acebuches canyon is by far the scariest piece of official trail I have ever been on.

It might be possible to continue up that branch of the creekbed rather than ascend and cross the talus slope; the Open Trails track was laid down by someone who found a way through. You would still be scrambling up and around boulders so it might not be too much safer, and you would run the risk of finding it impassable and then having to backtrack on a section where you are already under a little bit of time pressure to make it to Panther Spring/Casa Reza before dark.   Getting lost wouldn't be an issue though since the marked trail rejoins that streambed a mile or so after the talus traverse.

Sent from my SCH-I435 using Big Bend Chat mobile app

Thanks for affirming the fearfulness of that talus slope, and the reasonableness of my fears.  I had read Parent's warning about that section and had schooled myself in what to expect.  I was able to "kill-off" my peripheral vision (looking down was too much to stomach) and concentrate 100% on that next important step, one step at a time.
Title: Re: Rancherias Loop (2-19-12-17) Extended Version
Post by: dprather on February 27, 2017, 01:07:34 PM
Day #2 on the RL (Monday, February 20, 2017)

After a very comfortable night, Monday dawned bright and clear.  The storm ("storm" is a bit too strong a word) the night before had freshened the atmosphere.  It was positively glorious in Panther Canyon.  No modern persons would make the Rezas's choice to live there, but Carl, Shannon and I envied them. 

We limbered up, ate breakfast over our ESBIT stoves, filled up on water from the spring (filtered, and chlorined) , and headed up Panther Canyon.

The trail above Reza is an up-hill ramble through the canyon bottom.  The trail is not bad, but there is a lot of boulder hopping and pour-off (8'-12') climbing.  The effect is pretty draining since there is very little hiking on pace and a lot of bounding, leaping, and climbing.  Most foot-falls are on hard rock - this battered our knees and the bottom of our feet. 

One of the pour-offs was extra interesting.  With a safety-net pool of water at its bottom, but with about 12' of slick climbing, it was all reach and grab for tiny foot and hand-holds.  The steepness of the canyon bottom made a by-pass less desirable than scraping knees and thighs against rock.

Note: although the RL is exposed (especially the last down-hill to the West Trailhead) we enjoyed lots of shade.  The canyon bottoms were generally shady.  We were also able to find shade by going off-trail into side washes.  In those washes, we were able to find overhanging trees.  Sitting packs-off in the cool shade of trees and on soft wash bottoms makes for great rest.

As mentioned, human history and prehistory are thick along the RL.  Above Reza, on the right side of the trail, we came to a cave/overhang that had the soot of a thousand fires on its ceiling.  It also had its uneven floor leveled-out by something like an adobe floor.  Outside its entrance was an Indian grinding stone. 

More recent human history was represented by several fence lines, and by a 300-pound hunk of iron that had been industrially fashioned into a sizable flange.  Lying in the bottom of the trail/wash about 95% of the way up from Reza, we are at a total loss to explain what it was meant for. 

The trail above Reza intersects an unimproved jeep road.  Some have criticized the RL for including this jeep-road section.  But the road is not smooth or easy, and the road travels through some gorgeous high meadow-like features.  The wilderness experience is perfectly maintained, so we didn't think that following this brief section detracts from the RL at all. 

Carl and I are 60+.  Shannon is 45 and a regular marathoner.  Shannon is solicitous of our (relative) limits.  We occasionally set him free to follow his faster pace. 

We set Shannon free when we came to the jeep road and told him we'd see him at the Rancherias Springs.  This began a humorous and very pleasant part of our trip.

To let us know that (i) he was on the right trail ahead of us, and that (ii) we were on the right trail behind him, Shannon left a collection of "trail art" (he's also an artist).  This trail art included a couple of smiley faces complete with odd rocks for eyes, our names scratched in the trail, and other really fun additions to a portfolio that the wind will soon wear away. 

Arriving at Rancherias Springs, we were surprised by their extent.  We spoke of them as a "spring complex" because the trees follow the canyon bottom for hundreds of yards.  The groves contrast abruptly with the rest of the desiccated desert and create their own inviting ecosystem beneath their multi-layered limbs.  Birds chirp; butterflies dance; cottonwood seed feather in the wind.  The smooth gravel, the cool shade, and the gurgling water (yards and yards on the surface) demand a nap.  We obliged.

Note: the RL is traditionally done as three days and two nights.  Although the days are only about six hours of hiking per, these are tough hours.  On our second evening on the RL, after arriving at Rancherias Springs, we went to bed at 7:00 and did not wake up until 7:00 the next morning (note that we crashed for 12 hours - we were that tired).  We liked the three days/two nights arrangement because it (i) got us to springs at the right times, and (ii) got us to very nice camp locations at the two springs at the right times.

That evening we feasted on my wife's instant potato soup.  An excellent cook, she prides herself on filling us up on the trail.  She has looked over several instant potato soup recipes and created her own hybrid that uses only the highest quality ingredients.  What's not to like - great friends, a great campsite, and a great meal along the great adventure of the RL?

That night we died in our sleeping bags (until early morning) and dreamed that we had the worst of the RL behind us - we were wrong.

 





   




Title: Re: Rancherias Loop (2-19-12-17) Extended Version
Post by: dprather on February 27, 2017, 03:05:48 PM
Day #3 on the RL (Tuesday, February 21, 2017) - conclusion

We did a lot of good due diligence in preparation for our RL adventure.  I have mentioned before the help provided by BBRSP staff, especially Tim Gibbs and David Long.  These guys were obviously invested in our safety and enjoyment.  Thanks to them.

We were not prepared, however, for the weather on early Tuesday morning.  We were so tired that the plummeting temps didn't disturb our sleep (I disturbed the sleep of Shannon and Carl with a noisy post-Rattler snake dream), but we were surprised that we awakened to a light freeze.  With tent condensation crusting and with fingers numbing, Tuesday morning packing was tough.  I had to talk my fingers through the usually mindless process of buttoning my shirt. 

Note: our trip included, then, a nice desert mountain thunder/lightening/rain storm, freezing nighttime temps, and then blasting sun on the last day (although temps on that day did not exceed the low 80s).  On our first day, we were protected with the shade of the gathering storm.  We did not get the full RL exposure treatment except on the final afternoon. 

We were also surprised by the trail challenges that remained on the RL.  We had, foolishly, convinced ourselves that the last day would be down-hill all the way and easy.  Not so.

Filling up on Rancherias Springs water, we set out on the last leg.  There are two pretty good sized ups before the RL begins the long wind-down toward the West Trailhead.  The trail is not difficult (even though we had one long back-track after a missed cairn), but the long down-hill is very exposed, and the traditional schedule gets you there in time for maximum exposure to the afternoon sun. 

The sunshine burned all the way through the three liters of yummy water we had when we left Rancherias Springs.  The trail is complicated by the presence of lots of loose rock and fallen boulders (much of the trail follows an old wagon road that often hangs on mountainsides, and boulder fall is very much present).  The trail is also steep in places, but not treacherous.  The broad vista view of the lowlands below is stunning and dramatic (think Dodson toward Elephant Tusk or Mesa de Anguila over toward Mexico).  Evidence of human presence takes the form of (i) several old concrete stock tanks, (ii) the wagon road, and (iii) very prominent, very large, very old historical cairns. 

Resting at the top of the second up, we encountered something we had not seen in 48 hours - other people.  Shortly after beginning the RL on Sunday morning, we had encountered three young airmen from San Angelo - they were coming out.  Other than the ghosts of the Rezas, our entire world had consisted of us three and no more for the two days since.

When a 40-something married couple came into view, their presence was very odd to us.  It wasn't that we did not welcome them.  It was just that they did not fit.  Especially the wife and her feminine voice.  For 48 hours, we had lived a man's adventure in deep baritones.  It took an odd uncomfortable second to fit them, and her, back into our world.

Note: the airmen were day hiking close to the East Trailhead; the couple were day hiking close to Guale-2.

Tough never takes a holiday on the RL, and the final mile just will not end.  Seeing HWY 170 below and even seeing cars pass by seems to stretch that final mile.

Reaching the trailhead, we shared handshakes.  We all knew that we had accomplished a special, special trek.

Then we hit the reset.  Quickly to Barton Warnock to check out, the Study Butte for a shower, to Ft. Stockton to spend the night, and then back home on Wednesday. 

I know it wasn't a dream because I still have scars and I'm still pulling out thorns.
Title: Re: Rancherias Loop (2-19-12-17) Extended Version
Post by: dprather on February 27, 2017, 03:43:22 PM
Rancherias Loop - PostScript

The reset hasn't worked.

Someone said it is re-entry trauma.

Every trip into the wilderness, underneath a backpack, meeting challenges, and coming back in good order has changed me.  My wife encourages these trips because she sees that they have changed me for the better.  They bring calm confidence to me.  They touch and restore a deep and important part of me.  They affirm a deep and important part of who and what I am.  Maybe they have become what I am, and maybe I've become something else and something better because of them.

But my RL adventure has changed me more, and I haven't changed back.   

Perhaps it is the cumulative effect of many adventures.  I don't know why.  But returning from the RL, perhaps because it was so tough and so much a challenge, and perhaps because of the two fears I faced, I'm just not the same.  It's different enough that I'm a little bit concerned.

-It's like I've crossed some Rubicon.

-It's like Capt. Willard, "When I was here, I wanted to be there; when I was there, all I could think of was getting back into the jungle", er, Bend - but in a good way.

-It's like I've experienced warp, and I'm just not comfortable with impulse any more.

I noticed it almost immediately, but not immediately.  I love my wife and was hungry to see her.  My bed was soft and I was happy to let it take me in.

But the next morning was weird.  The road from home to office, my office, my secretary, and all of the rest of the old normal just didn't seem normal.  There was a distance between me and all that.  I functioned well enough, but I was at arm's length and "through a glass darkly." 

There's even something like a ringing in my ears that separates me audibly from where I am.  In my spirit, it is quiet back on the trail.  Is that my new normal? 

The distance hasn't closed; the ringing hasn't stopped. 

I do not recall the rain storms and the freezing temps as being uncomfortable.  The backpack is not a heavy burdened memory.  I do not recall the tent, and the sleeping bag, and the Big Agnes Air Core (my wife has never adjusted to me sleeping on top of Big Agnes) as being anything other than just as restful as my bedroom.  The physically demanding up and downs or the terrifying moments do not remain as negative memories at all.  It. Was. Great.  It was greater. 

I wanta go back.  I wanta be back.
Title: Re: Rancherias Loop (2-19-12-17) Extended Version
Post by: mule ears on February 27, 2017, 03:55:49 PM
Beautiful report dprather!  The Rancherias Loop is beautiful and well watered and has all those hard parts you talked about.  Yes, that last stretch down the old road seems to go on forever and is baking hot too.

I am not sure you didn't lose the trail a bit on the second day in Panther canyon, I have read of several folks doing the same.  You should not have had to do any climbs up pouroffs from what I remember but then again it was 17 years ago.   :icon_eek:

I am sure you will re-adjust but then do you really want to?

Thanks.   :great:
Title: Re: Rancherias Loop (2-19-12-17) Extended Version
Post by: dprather on February 27, 2017, 04:05:37 PM
I think you might be correct about losing the trail.  We thought we noticed trail segments above us at times, but they didn't seem any more distinct than the canyon bottom.
Title: Re: Rancherias Loop (2-19-12-17) Extended Version
Post by: elhombre on February 28, 2017, 08:44:47 AM
I sense a priority shift:

Before
1. God
2. Family
3. Work
4. Vacation/ Backpacking

Now
1. God
2. Family
3. Vacation/ Backpacking
4. Work

 :great:
Title: Re: Rancherias Loop (2-19-12-17) Extended Version
Post by: badknees on February 28, 2017, 11:16:15 AM
Liberty to Ft. Davis State Park (enjoyable, but uneventful)

Our new habit is to eat lunch a Lum's BBQ in Junction.  There is a Cooper's BBQ right on the access road, but Lum's is a local place and an old place.  You have to get off the highway to find it.  Highly recommended.  Ask for the medium rare BBQ brisket.


+1 on Lum's. We always stop there on the way to Sonora (hunting trips). Cooper's sucks. Lum's is about 1 mile SOUTH of Junction on 377 on the west side of the road. Family run...good BBQ
Title: Re: Rancherias Loop (2-19-12-17) Extended Version
Post by: tandl on February 28, 2017, 11:49:19 AM
It definitely sounds like after Casa Reza the OP did not see where the trail exits from the streambed to the right at the first big boulder/cascade to bypass all the scrambly bits.  We missed it too when we were there at Christmas: the markers at the exit were overgrow but the wife noticed cairns above us and when we backtracked we could see the exit  easily because of the different angle.  If you find yourself needing to climb up a boulder, you missed the turnoff.  You can definitely stay in the streambed, though; the main trail reconnects with it above the spring (Panther I believe) but from above it looked like there was a lot of boulder climbing (confirmed by dprathers report) which is probably why the main trail goes higher up.  If anyone reading this wants to go to Panther Spring, stay in the streambed; where the marked trail passes the spring is too high up and too steep to descend from.  Alternatively you could take the main trail past the spring and then work your way back down to the spring once the marked trail re-connects to the streambed.  That said, the spring is irrelevant from a watering perspective since it is only an hour or so past Casa Reza and you should still have plenty of water, and Rancherias Spring where you normally camp the second night is not all that far.

Speaking of Casa Reza, there are great camp sites on the other side of the spring from the actual casas.  When you get to the part of the trail that climbs up out the beginning of the spring to the casas proper, instead continue upstream toward the spring (it is a little brushy) and look for cairns on the right leading up a small wash onto higher and flatter ground.  There are multiple cleared campsites.  According to Ranger Tim (who tipped us off to these sites) the Casas themselves are also infested with mice, which is another good reason not to camp close to them under normal conditions.

Another observation I had about the Casa Reza area is that the drop into Panther Canyon is tricky, probably the second most dangerous part of the trail.  It doesn't look that scary, but there are a LOT of loose fist sized rocks, pebbles and broken slate and the trail is deceptively steep (although there is not a sheer dropoff like on the talus slope).  It was pretty overgrown in this area at Christmas making it difficult to stay on the path over much of the descent.  Add to this the fact that you are at the end of a hard day of hiking and probably very tired (we were) and that you can see the Casa across the canyon which will tempt you to hurry/be less alert since the goal is in sight.
Title: Re: Rancherias Loop (2-19-12-17) Extended Version
Post by: tandl on February 28, 2017, 12:21:18 PM
Relating to being tired during the drop into Panther Canyon, my number one piece of advice about doing Rancherias for the first time is: do not put yourself under time pressure on the first day.  The first day is both the longest and most physically demanding of the trip.  We started out 20 minutes after first light and got to Casa Reza with only an hour left of daylight  to set up camp and get water. (We did dawdle at lunch though.)  We were there just after solstice, but the days will inevitably be short during the times of year that the weather is cool enough to make the loop possible.  We did our check-in at the Ranger station the night before and then stayed in Lajitas  overnight so we could be up and on the road to the trailhead before dawn.  If you start at 10 or later you run a real risk of not making it to Casa Reza before dark.  The descent from the Acebuches/Panther saddle down to Casa Reza will take an hour and there is nowhere you could reasonably make camp until you get to the bottom, so if you are running out of daylight camp on the saddle and make the descent in the morning, even if you are short on water.  That is not a section of trail you want to try to do in a hurry.  If your logistics dictate a late or even borderline start it would be a good idea to bring more water than you think you will need in case you can't make it to Reza.   Just my two cents,
Title: Re: Rancherias Loop (2-19-12-17) Extended Version
Post by: dprather on February 28, 2017, 12:56:46 PM
+1 on the temptation to hurry down into Panther Canyon and on the tricky trail conditions there.  The traditional schedule has you really tired at that point, and the scene below is very, very inviting, tempting you to go faster than the conditions and cautious wisdom suggest.

As far as the second most dangerous section, we thought the trail down into Acebusches from the first low saddle was hard, and is a solid candidate for #2 (Carl has it as #1, even worse than the talus slope out of Acebusches).  The trail simply tumbles down a boulder field of fallen rock.  In addition to fairly large steps off of boulders, and steps (potentially) into ankle-twisting/leg-snapping gaps between boulders, there is also much unstable footing and loose, large rocks.  Our experienced eyes repeatedly misjudged large rocks as stable when they were, if fact, loose and "rolly."  The descent is also quite sharp, with a near-vertical fall angle (check the topo).

I write about the Rancherias Loop with trepidation.   Some people read tough and automatically think that they are tougher.   The RL is not for spring-break college rookies who get it in mind that they want to be tough guys on the fly.  I strongly recommend that those who have not hardened their core on several other of the Bend's tougher trails not attempt the RL - yet.  In addition to its other challenges, the RL has no "bail-out" points mid-trail (i.e., Homer Wilson).  If you roll an ankle back in any of the tougher places, going back or going ahead are your two choices, and neither are easy.  While we were there, we were the only backpackers in the entire BBRSP.  If you roll your ankle, there will be no friendly trail angels happening by any time soon.

As far as missing the trail above Reza - we're guilty (so much for the previous entry regarding ease of following the marked trail).  But I staffed this last night over the phone with my two amigos.  We seem to recall cairns in sequence that were at least as close together there as in other parts.  I'm glad we missed the "real" trail.  By remaining in the Panther Canyon bottom, we got to see the long-used cave, we got to see the other well-watered areas, and we got to climb the pour-offs as if that was the thing to do.  Note: we had studied the trail map and were following detailed topos, and we knew were going in the right direction - we thought there was little room outside the canyon bottom for any kind of trail up higher.  Making this mistake doesn't get you lost - Panther Canyon runs higher and higher until it plays out in the high "meadows," and by that time, the jeep road is in view.  This is no complaint - the round metal disks used by TPWD to mark critical trail locations are just not remaining glued to rocks, and we saw several just laying in the trail.     

Regarding Acebusches (which refers, I think, to the wild desert olive bush), we renamed it "ouchie-bushes" and spoke of the ouchie-bushes often.  With VERY limited trail maintenance, the many thorny plants crowd the RL and are always nearby to scratch, impale, and harpoon (I'm still pulling thorns).  We encountered a new ouchie-bush on the RL about which we were previously unfamiliar.  There is a plant that allows you to swish by without too much pain, but after you pass, the limb whips back against the back of your leg leaving several needle-sized darts.  It is as if the darts are blow-gunned off of the plant and into your flesh (the darts even resemble tiny blow-gun darts - after my first experience with them, I thought that Lilliputians were after me).  The darts penetrate deeply and have to be removed one by one - they do not brush off.   

The stark contrasts of the RL remain with me as pleasant memories.  There are tough, tough (even terrifying) trail sections - that lead you to beautiful, restful oases underneath cottonwood groves.  There are dry, dry and exposed sections - that lead you to many sweet water sources.  There are very few people - yet the history and prehistory of human occupation is very evident.   

 
Title: Re: Rancherias Loop (2-19-12-17) Extended Version
Post by: dprather on February 28, 2017, 12:59:16 PM
Relating to being tired during the drop into Panther Canyon, my number one piece of advice about doing Rancherias for the first time is: do not put yourself under time pressure on the first day.  The first day is both the longest and most physically demanding of the trip.  We started out 20 minutes after first light and got to Casa Reza with only an hour left of daylight  to set up camp and get water. (We did dawdle at lunch though.)  We were there just after solstice, but the days will inevitably be short during the times of year that the weather is cool enough to make the loop possible.  We did our check-in at the Ranger station the night before and then stayed in Lajitas  overnight so we could be up and on the road to the trailhead before dawn.  If you start at 10 or later you run a real risk of not making it to Casa Reza before dark.  The descent from the Acebuches/Panther saddle down to Casa Reza will take an hour and there is nowhere you could reasonably make camp until you get to the bottom, so if you are running out of daylight camp on the saddle and make the descent in the morning, even if you are short on water.  That is not a section of trail you want to try to do in a hurry.  If your logistics dictate a late or even borderline start it would be a good idea to bring more water than you think you will need in case you can't make it to Reza.   Just my two cents,

Absolutely - we began at 11:00 AM and constantly wished for at least an extra hour that first day. 
Title: Re: Rancherias Loop (2-19-12-17) Extended Version
Post by: tandl on February 28, 2017, 10:03:42 PM
Yeah the drop into Acebuches was our pick for #3 most difficult/dangerous spot; it is more extreme than the drop into Panther Canyon, but we ranked it third because it was short.  (Yes, we spent the whole car ride back talking about our favorite parts, what we thought was the scariest, which was the coolest cairn, etc.)  Don't know how it was while you were there, but at Christmas the trail across the upper part of the Talus Slope (I think it warrants capitalization) was washed out in two spots so we had to get momentum and do the trekking-pole vault to get across, so for us it was #1.  That said, the Slope was also my favorite part.  Scary but exhilarating!  Also, the view in that spot is stunning, although I had to force myself to stand still to undo the tunnel vision for a minute so I could appreciate it once we jumped across.

I would agree that the trail was not that difficult to follow overall, we were expecting worse.  Basically for the first two days as long as you are in the streambed or on the jeep trail you are fine.  We used Gaia GPS on the iPhone, but it ended up being a security blanket more than anything, as it was surprisingly easy to stay on the trail, only backtracking a couple of times.  (Take a GPS or map and compass though, or better yet both!  As dprather said, there is no bailout or easy rescue in this area, if you get lost you could easily die.)

As a side note, another great BBRSP trip is to go up Fresno Canyon via the new Contrabando Dome Trail.  We did a two night trip there last Christmas, camping at the Fresno Cascades and hiking up onto Chorro Vista for a great view across the Canyon to Solitario and the Flatirons, with the Chisos visible on the far horizon.  Much less rugged than Rancherias while still being satisfyingly challenging; there is plenty of easily accessible water with many (early 20th Century) ruins to see along the way. 

 (Sorry for hijacking your great trail report, especially since I was apparently too lazy to take the time to write one of my own!) 

Title: Re: Rancherias Loop (2-19-12-17) Extended Version
Post by: Jimbow on February 28, 2017, 10:25:48 PM
I'm thinking the Talus Slope and my fear of plummeting to my death makes this trip an impossibility. Am I correct in that assumption?

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Title: Re: Rancherias Loop (2-19-12-17) Extended Version
Post by: dprather on March 01, 2017, 09:08:14 AM
Good for you for officially capitalizing Talus Slope.  With all of the authority vested in BBC, and with the genuine heart-pounding character of that traverse, it is now official.

Note that TANDL called it "scary, but exhilarating."  With the Talus Slope, you get a two for one.  TANDL also called it the "scariest piece of official trail" he'd ever been on.  But please also recognize that TANDL's group and my group are still talking about it with huge grins across our faces.

It's been done by everyone who ever completed the RL.  Since there is no Death In Big Bend Ranch State Park, I'l have to say that no one has taken a "disasterous" (Parent's word) crash and burn there - yet.

Can you do it?  Based on the successful experiences of those who have gone before, I'd say yes.  But let the backpacker beware.



 
Title: Re: Rancherias Loop (2-19-12-17) Extended Version
Post by: tandl on March 01, 2017, 09:10:34 AM
Don't necessarily rule it out.  Before you go ask yourself a few questions.  What is the hardest hike you have done?  Do you have experience using map and compass or GPS for wayfinding?  How physically fit/capable are you?  Have you followed cairn marked trails before?  Have you been on trails that gave you vertigo, and if so were you able to overcome it and function?  If you are happy with your answers to the above questions, give yourself plenty of time, and treat the trail with respect, you will get to hike one of the best trails in the state of Texas, maybe THE best.

Rancherias is definitely challenging and has some squirrely parts, but it is doable.  The "scary" parts are definitely scary, but not outside the range of what an experienced hiker can handle (or else they would close it).  It is the most challenging "official" trail I have ever done, but if you have ever done any bushwhacking or boulder scrambling in rough country you shouldn't have much trouble.  There is also the possibility of finding a way around the Talus Slope by attempting to follow the streambed.  You won't get lost that way, the main path rejoins the streambed after the Talus Slope, and based on the Open Hiking routes I have seen, others HAVE found a path over/around the  boulder falls in the streambed.  Just make sure to build an extra hour into your plans in case you are unable to make your way through and have to go back to the Talus Slope.  And bring more water than you think you will need in case you are unable to make Casa Reza the first night.  The second and third days are much easier than the first, and the second day is short, maybe six hours of hiking, so you will be able to make it to Rancherias Spring for the second night even if you fall short of Casa Reza on the first.

Like I said before, consider trying out the upper Fresno Canyon area first (on the Western side of the park) to give you a taste of the conditions you will face and get practice following desert Cairns.  The trail up to the Fresno Cascades is easy, and at that point you can base camp and check out some of the more difficult short hikes into Arroyo Primero and up onto Chorro Vista near Madrid Falls, into Arroyo Mexicano, or up onto Chorro Vista from behind the Crawford House.  Fresno Canyon (via Contrabando Dome) is my third favorite hike in the State, (1. Rancherias 2. South Rim 3. Fresno Canyon Complex 4. McKittrick Canyon 5. Guadalupe Peak) and is worth doing regardless of your Rancherias plans.

 
Title: Re: Rancherias Loop (2-19-12-17) Extended Version
Post by: dprather on March 01, 2017, 09:14:59 AM
 (Sorry for hijacking your great trail report, especially since I was apparently too lazy to take the time to write one of my own!)
[/quote]

Not at all!  I am greatly enjoying your contributions to OUR thread. 
Title: Re: Rancherias Loop (2-19-12-17) Extended Version
Post by: dprather on March 01, 2017, 09:37:57 AM
"We had to get momentum and do the trekking-pole vault to get across."

Yep - still there.  By that time, I was so strung out on adrenaline that I didn't notice those leaps as extra awful.

As I recall, one of those wash-outs was also especially crowded by a thorny bush, thus making that step even more challenging.
Title: Re: Rancherias Loop (2-19-12-17) Extended Version
Post by: miatarchy04 on March 01, 2017, 01:46:04 PM
First post by a new member.

Its an amazing coincidence discovering this thread, because my hike of the Rancherias Loop overlapped yours. The final day of your counterclockwise hike (Feb. 21) was the first day of mine. If you drove East when you left the West Trail head you probably say my blue-green Miata parked at the Eastern Trail head.

Though I agree with everything written here about this trail. I had a very different experience. I should note that I'm 64 years old and was hiking the trail solo. I consider myself in excellent physical condition and that proved to be a very good thing. I meant my hike to be a 3 day, 2 night event like yours but it ended up being a 2 day one night out and back from Casa Reza because of equipment failure.

I didn't have any problem making Casa Reza on day one though it was a full 9.25 hour hike. People who hav'n't done this hike may find it difficult to believe that a 6-7 mile hike takes that long, but as everyone has said it is very rugged, and I was hampered by a 55 lb pack. I was unsure about the availability of water and had 10+ liters of fluid in the pack. In hindsight that was a mistake. I should've trusted the Ranger who told me there was water in the spring at Casa Reza. But I had a new, untested method of water purification (Sterilite) and wanted to pack a 2-day supply.

The mouthpiece to my Camelbak was wedged in a 1 inch crack in a boulder during a rest stop. When I lifted my pack to resume my hike it pulled out and fell down the crack. The end of my tubing turned into a fountain of flowing water. I eventually stopped this flow by tying it in a knot, but I lost an undetermined amount of water. Failure number two I didn't realize until I got to Casa Reza and made camp. My sleeping bag, which was strapped to the bottom of my pack, had worked loose and fallen about halfway into my hike. I know this because that is where I picked it up the next day. I'd packed long underwear, and had a flannel bag liner. Since it wasn't too cold that night I was able to get a good night's sleep, but I had a decision to make the next morning. Did I want to finish the hike with a defective Camelbak and no sleeping bag? I don't like littering the trail, especially with expensive pieces of my own equipment. I decided to backtrack.

I assumed the hike back would be easier than the hike in. I'd lost about 12 lbs of pack weight (water, food, sleeping bag). I'd be descending instead of ascending, and I should know the trail, having just hiked it the day before. Unfortunately it didn't work out that way. I made several mental errors, probably because of fatigue, which made the hike out much more of an ordeal.

Like everyone here who mentions it the steep descent into Panther Canyon made quite an impression on me. Unfortunately it made too strong an impression on me. I kept waiting for the super-steep ascent out of the canyon and onto the "saddle" between Panther and Acebuches Canyons. Because I never seemed to reach this ascent, I convinced myself I was on the wrong trail. I was descending instead of ascending and although I was following cairns, they looked nothing like the ones I'd seen the day before. When I saw a cairn with a goat skull on it, I knew I hadn't seen that before and started doubling back. In retrospect it is ridiculous to think the Park went to the trouble of marking a totally separate and unmapped trail out of Panther Canyon but that is what I convinced myself.  By consulting map and compass I finally realized that I was on the right trail the whole time but I lost at least an hour. The cairns did look different because I was seeing them from the opposite side. The goat skull was on the east side of the cairn and wouldn't have been seen by anyone approaching from the West.

Worse was to follow. I actually lost the trail at the worst possible moment: during the very steep descent into Acebuches Canyon. I probably missed a switchback and continued on what I thought was trail. I saw something ahead that "sorta" looked like the trail, and something that "sorta" looked like a cairn. I worked my way over to them clutching to very precarious hand and foot holds, some of which broke lose under my weight and took a disconcertingly long time to reach the Canyon floor.  I'm not sure how high I was above the floor because I didn't want to look down.  This was way more drama than I wanted, but I eventually made my way to a talus slope that I thought I could butt-slide down. This assumption proved to be correct but I was pretty cut up (by thorns) and my shorts ripped up (by rocks) by the time I reached the bottom, shaken but with no broken bones. I was about 25 yards upstream of the point where the trail ascended out of the canyon and it was obvious why it did. The canyon had a few 4-5 foot pour offs and numerous difficult boulders. It wouldn't have been that difficult for a person without a pack, but that person was not me.

I've already gone on too long with my adventures. I made at least 2 other navigation errors, and was stung by a wasp, but I'll leave those stories till later. My advice to anyone attempting this hike is pretty much what's already been said. It may sound too obvious but follow the cairns and you'll be on the trail. If you havn't seen a cairn in 35 yards (maybe 50 in the stream beds) you are off the trail, and need to double back to the last cairn you saw. Plan on 40 temperature changes. Listen to the advice of the rangers. Bring the best map you can. The Warnock center no longer sells USGS topos so don't plan on purchasing one there. Bring a compass and no how to use it. You can do this if you are in good shape. You can do it if you are by yourself. You can do this without a lot of desert hiking experience, But if you lack all of these advantages, I wouldn't try it.

Title: Re: Rancherias Loop (2-19-12-17) Extended Version
Post by: dprather on March 01, 2017, 02:08:46 PM
Greetings miatarchy04 .  Welcome to BBC.  Thanks for your valuable contribution to this thread.

We did notice your Miata.  It stuck out by itself and because it's not a pickup truck.

I wish we had hooked up before your less-than-fortunate experience.  We'd of loved to have had you as company.  As mentioned, I am 61 and one of my amigos is 62. 

We can most definitely confirm that the traditional day #1 of the RL is a full, full day.

I admire your solo attempt.  I've done the OML solo and the Eagle Rock Loop in Arkansas solo.  I enjoy solo, but I don't think I'd enjoy the RL solo.  I don't want to overplay the treacherous aspects of the RL - it's not THAT bad.  But there are enough tough places, and places where false steps could be really bad for you, that I'd rather not take the extra risks.

We saw the goat skull and the cross bones.  Someone had time on their hands and a quirky sense of humor.   

Your experiences generally confirm that the RL is doable, but very challenging.  Those "sorta looks like trail" places are everywhere.

Wanta try it again?

Title: Re: Rancherias Loop (2-19-12-17) Extended Version
Post by: Jimbow on March 01, 2017, 02:31:30 PM
Thank you Tandl. Your list and mine overlaps almost completely.  The RL is missing. I've been forced through vertigo situations and each time they seem a little less worthwhile. I love the South Rim from 10 yards away. The drive through Rocky Mountain NP had me kissing the ground. Lol. I'm not a mountain goat.

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Title: Re: Rancherias Loop (2-19-12-17) Extended Version
Post by: tandl on March 01, 2017, 03:25:24 PM
Jimbow, you have been to Fresno Canyon?  I can't say enough good things about it, apparently :icon_smile:.  If you have done McKittrick Canyon, the sketchy spots on Rancherias will not be too bad, the saddle at the top of McKittrick is comparable in scariness to the Talus Slope, especially with the 40-50 mph gusts we had there on Christmas Day. 

miatarchy04:  That is pretty gutsy, not sure I would be comfortable on Rancherias alone!  One advantage to having two or more people on a cairn-marked trail is that you can do the"leave one person at a cairn and send the other out to look for the next" technique.  Nothing worse than realizing you are off trail, turning around and not being able to find the last cairn.  Also, having more than one set of eyes helps a lot for finding the next cairn even when not lost.

Sounds like you had a pretty tough time, but were able to get yourself out of it effectively.  Whenever I make major trail errors the hardest part for me is getting over my frustration at myself and keeping my head in the game.  It helps that my wife is my hiking partner, she is more level-headed than me.





Title: Re: Rancherias Loop (2-19-12-17) Extended Version
Post by: dprather on March 01, 2017, 03:30:30 PM
One of the disadvantages of solo is that you are never "off."  Accompanied on the trail by friends, you can share the "point," and share the load of trail-finding.  The concentration required to remain "on" is tough.  Then there is also the advantage of multiple eyes checking your work.
Title: Re: Rancherias Loop (2-19-12-17) Extended Version
Post by: Jimbow on March 01, 2017, 06:09:13 PM
Those were years back. I'm older an with each year get more hesitant. I use to fly 40 to 45 times a year for business,  now flying leaves me too stressed. I have no idea how I've gotten to this spot.

The views expressed may not be mine in five minutes.

Title: Re: Rancherias Loop (2-19-12-17) Extended Version
Post by: dprather on March 01, 2017, 06:24:31 PM
Jimbow - I'm there too.

The cautiousness that we did not like in our fathers is now ours.  So it goes.

Reading about the Talus Slope, I very deliberately buried the warnings deep I my mind.  When I arrived there, I did not let my terror simmer and boil over.  It was much more a mental challenge than a physical challenge.

I know you can do the mental part, but I'll not gloss over the physical challenge.
Title: Re: Rancherias Loop (2-19-12-17) Extended Version
Post by: dprather on March 01, 2017, 06:25:53 PM
Tandl - tell us bout your wife as your hiking partner...
Title: Re: Rancherias Loop (2-19-12-17) Extended Version
Post by: miatarchy04 on March 02, 2017, 06:41:31 AM
dprather and tandl: I thank you for your kind words. This was the first time hiking I set a goal for myself and didn't achieve it, but it is a consolation to know I hiked the toughest section of the RL twice. I can't say I prefer hiking solo, but being retired I prefer to hike on weekdays when the parks are less crowded. Finding retired people willing to accompany me has been difficult. My wife absolutely washes her hands of any type of backpacking.

As I mentioned in my original post I made multiple navigation errors. I missed the trail out of Acebuches on the second day. To be more accurate, I saw the large cairn that marked the departure point, and I even saw the second cairn behind it. I simply couldn't believe that the very steep slope behind these cairns contained a route out of the canyon, so I continued on downstream. That mistake cost about 45 minutes.  If there is one piece of advice I could drill into the heads of novices like myself it is: "Trust the cairns and go where they lead you: that is the trail." That sounds simple and obvious, but tired and exhausted people often tend to walk the path of least resistance and allow momentum to carry you along without paying attention.

An interesting story about Casa Reza that I didn't find until my return:

"Catarino Reza, a son of Victorio Reza, recalled that his father settled on Section 504, T.C. Ry. Co., about 1907 and began ranching with goats. The family lived in a shelter cave where they made a kitchen and everyone slept. [This much is in Parent's guide to the trail, though he dates the homesteading to 1911]  . . . Margarita Madrid recounted a story about Victorio's wife taking care of the goats as a young woman and leaving a baby while she tended the goats. When she came back the child was gone and had been eaten by a lion."  (Archaeological Reconnaissance on Big Bend Ranch State Park, p. 190, references omitted)

Panther (or Leon, the Spanish equivalent) Canyon got its name for a reason. Recent years have seen Panther attacks on humans in BB but as far as I know this would be the only fatality, even if it is over 100 years ago and poorly documented.
Title: Re: Rancherias Loop (2-19-12-17) Extended Version
Post by: Jimbow on March 02, 2017, 06:56:59 AM
Thank you for sharing that story.

There is a balance between trusting cairns and trusting your eyes and experience. I think we all have talked ourselves into a tough lesson or two.

"The map must be wrong"
Me circa 2007 while leading some Scouts on an orienteering adventure.

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Title: Re: Rancherias Loop (2-19-12-17) Extended Version
Post by: dprather on March 02, 2017, 09:47:45 AM
miatarchy04 - do not grieve your setback. 

My first major Bend backpacking adventure was an OML failure.  I credit that "failure" with all of the successes that I've enjoyed since.  In a very real sense, that failure was no failure at all, but a necessary learning experience.  I wasn't ready before; I got ready after. 

In this way, backpacking is not like life, it is life. 

Treat yourself gently, savor the great moments (I know there were several), critically ask the "What do I need to do better?" questions, and get back out there.
Title: Re: Rancherias Loop (2-19-12-17) Extended Version
Post by: tandl on March 02, 2017, 11:52:07 PM
"Tandl - tell us bout your wife as your hiking partner..."

WARNING - Much of the following long post is me going on about how cool my wife is!

I guess I'm just lucky.  She is really active, does triathlons and marathons, and took to backpacking like a duck to water.  (She was a camp counselor during college, so she already knew how to go to the bathroom in the woods, which for women has a learning curve to it that men don't always appreciate.)  She says she likes that she can get a workout, see beautiful places,  learn new skills that make her feel powerful and self-sufficient, and feel like an explorer, all while spending alone time with me.  She likes feeling like a bad-ass when she does a hard section of hiking, (she felt like a superhero after Rancherias!) and refers to our trips as adventures, as in "We're going on an adventure in Big Bend for Christmas!"  She knows it isn't nice of her, but she enjoys the slightly smug feeling of superiority she gets when we drive past the RVs to a trailhead, and she knows it is cliche but enjoys shopping for gear. 

She likes to organize and make lists, which I do not, so she is in charge of planning out and packing all the meals, while I am in charge of selecting and maintaining the major gear systems and planning our routes.  She is a Type-1 diabetic, so has been forced to become meticulous, careful and analytical about things, so she is a great complement to me both on the trail and in life, since I am a more loosey-goosey kind of person.  She is goal oriented where I am more go with the flow, and she can be a bit stubborn about mileage goals, etc., so it is usually up to me to be the one to make the calls about stopping for breaks or changing our plans during a hike because of the circumstances at hand.  She gets scared on steep descents and by sharp drop offs (as should any reasonable person, IMO) but doesn't want to feel later that she wimped out or couldn't do something she set out to do, so it is my role to be the voice of reason sometimes.  (Once on the Superior Hiking trail in Minnesota she twisted her ankle slightly and I had to be the one to force her to bail out and cut the trip short rather than hike another 8 miles on a swollen ankle.)

She is getting better at leaving stuff out of her pack the more she backpacks, and is recovering from what she calls "purse syndrome," the propensity to carry around a mini drugstore/hardware store in her purse "because you never know when you might need a third chapstick or a tiny screwdriver."  Her base weight is now around 12 lbs, while mine is 22-26 depending on where we are going.  My pack is a ten year old 68 liter beast that I trimmed down to a "mere" 6 lbs by cutting off all the extra straps and removing the lid, while hers is a much newer and higher-tech 2 lber wonder-pack.  (She also gets to drive the newer car, which is a thing common to all marriages apparently.)

I carry the tent, sleeping bag and pads, stove and cookpot, water purification and most of the clothes, while she carries the layers we are not wearing, rain gear, what she calls the "cosmetics bag" which has the hygiene stuff plus contacts, blood kit, back-up diabetes supplies and blood sugar control snacks, which we count as base weight since they are a medical requirement for her and go with us even on day hikes.  She also has the sunblock, chapstick, sunglasses, hand sanitizer, car keys, headlamps, cell phone and backup battery, since I am prone to losing those kinds of small items.  I carry and am responsible for packing the first-aid kit because it would weigh ten pounds if she put it together  ;).  When we load our packs for the trail she gets most of the consumables and all the stuff we need easy access to, while I have the bulky stuff since my pack has much more volume but is harder to get in and out of.  We split the water, but she often carries the 6 L Dromedary we use since it fits in her sleeve better than in mine and her base weight is so much lighter than mine.

For Rancherias we had 10 ish L of water capacity between the 6 L Drom that you can never quite get all six into, as well as 5 1 L Smart Water bottles, which we like because they are light, indestructible, and fit perfectly in the side mesh pockets of our packs.  For Rancherias my trail weight was maybe 35 lbs at start and hers was around 30.  She doesn't mind starting with her pack as heavy as mine, since she wants the workout and because she knows her pack gets lighter as we go, while mine stays the same the whole trip.

Being married to my hiking partner really saves weight because of how many things we only need one of.  We have a two person sleeping bag (Sierra Designs Duo) that weighs two and a half pounds and allows us to sleep cuddled up the way we do at home and keeps us much warmer than the bag is rated for because of two bodies in the same bag.  We put two Therma Rest air mats into its integrated pad sleeves and the setup exactly fits the footprint of our 1 lb 12 oz tarp-tent with a couple of inches to spare on the sides.  Our entire sleep and shelter setup, nose to tail, runs us about 7 or 8 lbs. If we are 100% sure it won't rain (like last Christmas at Fresno Canyon) we leave the 1 lb tarp portion behind and just use the bugnet part of the tent and sleep under the stars.  (There aren't a lot of mosquitos in the Bend, but the thought of a tarantula or scorpion crawling over our faces rules out cowboy camping.)  It also allows us to shave weight by sharing little things that COULD be shared by a regular hiking partner but would either be uncomfortably intimate, like chapstick, or require too much coordination ("I have the pocket knife, Bob has the sunblock, and Jim has the cathole spade.")

We spend a lot of our major holidays like Christmas backpacking, (family gets Thanksgiving).  We usually do a trip for her birthday, and we got married on Labor Day weekend, so our Anniversary always falls around a three day weekend, and we have spent five out of the eleven on backpacking trips.  People make jokes about the "ball and chain" or about how marriage is the end of all the fun in your life, but I'm here to tell you that its the best thing I ever did.  Some people are born rich, or good looking or really smart,and good on them, but I got lucky in love, and would not be willing to trade!
Title: Re: Rancherias Loop (2-19-12-17) Extended Version
Post by: Jimbow on March 03, 2017, 05:51:04 AM
I can echo that having a spouse who also backpacks is a great treat.



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Title: Re: Rancherias Loop (2-19-12-17) Extended Version
Post by: mule ears on March 03, 2017, 06:15:12 AM
Beautiful tribute to your wife, you sound like a lucky guy for sure.  Great distribution of responsibilities and gear too.

My wife used to backpack but after we lived in a tent for 8 months and without running water for a year and a half while building our house and starting the farm she is mostly done with camping.  We have worked together 24/7 for 35 years so when I go backpacking she is fine with some time alone.
Title: Re: Rancherias Loop (2-19-12-17) Extended Version
Post by: dprather on March 03, 2017, 08:11:42 AM
Tandl - great, great story about a great, great wife!
Title: Re: Rancherias Loop (2-19-12-17) Extended Version
Post by: VivaTerlingua on January 17, 2018, 02:22:04 PM
Failure number two I didn't realize until I got to Casa Reza and made camp. My sleeping bag, which was strapped to the bottom of my pack, had worked loose and fallen about halfway into my hike. I know this because that is where I picked it up the next day.

This is an older thread, but I just now saw it.  I found a sleeping bag once on the Rancherias Loop.  It was at the beginning of the descent into Acebuches canyon.  We were doing an out and back day hike and saw it on the way in.  We weren't sure what to do with it because we didn't know what direction the person who dropped it was going.  We would hate to pick it up and have them come back for it and it not be there, so we left it.  We didn't see anybody else the whole day we were hiking and it was still there on our way out.  We went ahead and picked it up and turned it in at the Warnock center but they did not have a report of a missing sleeping bag.  It was an inexpensive one, so I don't think anybody was out too much money but I hope they lost it at the end of their trip and not the beginning.
Title: Re: Rancherias Loop (2-19-12-17) Extended Version
Post by: Ranger Tim on January 18, 2018, 08:31:28 AM
Viva, I think that we may even still have that sleeping bag. I have found two additional bags and a tent out there and I have always wondered about the miserable nights that followed after losing such a key piece of gear. Keep your friends close and your sleeping bag closer!
Title: Re: Rancherias Loop (2-19-12-17) Extended Version
Post by: dprather on January 18, 2018, 02:53:24 PM
I have checked my stuff - it isn't mine!
Title: Re: Rancherias Loop (2-19-12-17) Extended Version
Post by: RedBuffalo on December 26, 2018, 05:59:38 PM
Great TR on the RL!  Thanks for the details!  It's now on the top of our list for this weekend!  And a cairn a watching we will go.  So, less than 1 mile per hour on the way in...  Not used to that, but will respect the trail and those who have gone before.
Title: Re: Rancherias Loop (2-19-12-17) Extended Version
Post by: dprather on December 26, 2018, 10:06:50 PM
Great TR on the RL!  Thanks for the details!  It's now on the top of our list for this weekend!  And a cairn a watching we will go.  So, less than 1 mile per hour on the way in...  Not used to that, but will respect the trail and those who have gone before.

Red Buffalo - I am an older guy whose pace is slow.  You'll probably be able to exceed my "speed."  BUT - there are a few places that will force your pace to a crawl.  Best wishes.