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Advice on Primitive Camping in Mid-April

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Offline bob_drupal

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Advice on Primitive Camping in Mid-April
« on: April 05, 2018, 01:42:25 PM »
Hi all! I had a quick question for the experts here. I'm planning on passing through Big Bend in mid-April and doing some primitive camping in the desert. For context, I've done plenty of backpacking and camping in Utah, AZ, and NM. But, never in conditions as hot as what Big Bend has in store (90 deg F +, even getting close to 100). Whew. It's a scorcher! So, my first question is: what are ya'lls thoughts on camping in 90 degree weather? From the charts I've looked at, looks like the temps stay around the 90s for the night and don't go down much until a few hours before dawn. Is that just miserable and not worth it? Also, I was considering throwing a cot out on the ground and sleeping on it, seems like a cool option temp-wise. Would the bugs (mosquitos, biting gnats, flies) make that a dumb choice? And am I asking for a scorpion or tarantula to get cozy with me?

Thanks so much!

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Offline Homer Wilson

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Re: Advice on Primitive Camping in Mid-April
« Reply #1 on: April 05, 2018, 01:55:06 PM »
2 years ago I did a solo overnight in the state park towards the end of April.  It was mostly sunny and the high got to around 95.  With no shade and scrambling around on mesas, it felt HOT!  Being from south Texas, this wasn't anything I hadn't experienced before, but it was definitely taxing.  I was able to find some rock formations that provide great shade for breaks.  In the National park desert, these may not be as frequent, especially along the trails.  At springs and seeps, there should be scrub trees for shade and large bolders and washes can give shade depending on how the sun hits.  If you have super-white skin like I do, fully cover yourself.

Night  was great, maybe one of my best nights camping ever. Temp dropped into the 60s with a breeze and was very pleasant.  As soon as the sun sets in the desert, you'll feel it cooling quick.  I slept on the ground in a bivy that I'm pretty sure I didn't zip up.  I wouldn't worry about bugs and critters out there.  You will see a lot of pale spider eyes staring at you if you turn your headlamp low.  Pretty eerie until you get used to it.

So be mindful of the temps, use proper caution, bring plenty of water, and don't over-exert yourself.  I think you can have a great time.

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: Advice on Primitive Camping in Mid-April
« Reply #2 on: April 05, 2018, 03:14:12 PM »
I've done the OML many times in late April and/or early May and never found it too hot to enjoy. As Homer Wilson points out, in good times the nighttime temps drop quickly in the desert, refreshing you. However, it should also be said that in bad times, the nighttime temps don't drop as much as you'd like and the ground continues to radiate the day's heat. In that case, you want to be up off the ground. So, if you can maintain both options (e.g, if you're car camping with the option of a cot), you're golden.  Like Homer says, I wouldn't worry too much about desert critters. I doubt you'll have any no-see-ums flying around down low in the desert (might be a different story if you gain altitude).  I always cowboy camp and I've never once been disturbed by a spider or scorpion while sleeping in the desert.

A note about the Chihuahuan desert: like you, I spent decades backpacking in Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico before my first backpacking trip into Big Bend. I was shocked at how different the heat felt to me in the Bend. The elevations are very low and so is the humidity. The temps, not so much. It sucks the energy right out of you. That said, I still think you'll have blast in mid-April.  The experience will be worth it.
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline Al

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Re: Advice on Primitive Camping in Mid-April
« Reply #3 on: April 05, 2018, 05:22:09 PM »
You might want a site on the east side of the Chisos say one of the upper Pine Canyon sites or talk to the ranger about which sites will have earlier shade as the sun sets.  Generally speaking, once the sun goes down it will get cooler.

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Offline Casa Grande

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Re: Advice on Primitive Camping in Mid-April
« Reply #4 on: April 05, 2018, 09:27:42 PM »
That's a good idea,  Al.  Pine Canyon is great.  But, April is a great time to go.   Desert blooms and relatively mild temps in the day and crisp evenings.   The bugs aren't too bad right now,  but the summer can get down right miserable just before sunset.  Once the bats come out and eat all the bugs,  you're golden.  #batsrule

sent from my Note 8 using the Big Bend Chat mobile app


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Offline House Made of Dawn

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"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline bob_drupal

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Re: Advice on Primitive Camping in Mid-April
« Reply #6 on: April 07, 2018, 03:30:21 PM »
Hey all! Thanks so much for posting your advice. It's super helpful and has helped me figure out what to bring, and also put some qualms to rest. I'm looking forward to my trip. Thanks again!! :notworthy: :)

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Offline Homer67

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Re: Advice on Primitive Camping in Mid-April
« Reply #7 on: April 08, 2018, 12:18:27 PM »
We did the OML with our 21-month old daughter in mid-April last year.  We began at the Dodson TH.  We had to be up and ready by sun up and hiked until the heat came on about 1 and siesta'd until 5.  There was still a bit of heat, but it dissipated and was bearable.  We got hamstringed by the storms that moved in each afternoon.  Once we were in the mountains it was not bad.  The rain helped; at the time Boot Spring was not flowing and the runoff pools in the southern stretch of the boot canyon trail provided all the water we needed. Sandi got to Fresno porting baby, where we had to switch, then she carried the camp. We camped 2 nights at Bl1 so that I could descend into the Basin on the day between to dispose of trash and diapers; we also spent 2 nights at SW4. It was quite a memorable time out with our daughter, her second time to visit the South Rim.

I take along a 6x8 siltarp for shade; trekking poles/paracord/stakes hold it up.
Ah Big Bend, we will soon return to reacquaint ourselves in our ritual of blood, exhaustion and dehydration. How can we resist the temptation to strip ourselves of the maladies of civilization?

 


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