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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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President's Day Weekend Trip Report 2018

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Offline slhodge78

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President's Day Weekend Trip Report 2018
« on: February 20, 2018, 09:49:11 AM »
Thanks for the advice about day hikes for our trip. The trip went well, but not exactly as planned. We arrived around 8:30am on Saturday at Pine Springs and had our choice of a couple of tent sites or 1 rv spot. Because of the wind and wanting to make our daughter as comfortable as possible, we chose the rv spot and sleeping in the suv. Pine Springs campground wasn't the best campground we have ever stayed at, but it was fine. There were a lot of people there (mostly scouts and college aged people). Besides the group of early twenties guys standing outside the restroom for more than 3 hours loudly discussing their drunken adventures and sexual conquests, the crowds didn't negatively affect our trip. Once you get out on a trail, you don't see people all that often.
Our plan was to do a warm up hike on Saturday and hike Guadalupe Peak on Sunday. When checking in at the visitor's center, the ranger advised me that Saturday would be a much better day to hike to the peak than Sunday, as the winds were expected to double in strength. We discussed this possible change in plans, but decided that we were not acclimated to the elevation so soon after arriving and would hope the forecast would change for Sunday or we would save the peak for another trip. We also wanted to get our daughter to like hiking, not make her miserable hiking up a mountain without enough air after an 8 hour drive.
I saw that there were volunteers at the Frijole Ranch that day so we decided to hike from the campground to the Ranch via the Foothills Trail. This was an easy trail with a few washes to cross. There aren't really any grand views, but if you like the details, there were plenty of interesting plants and rocks to admire. The ranch tour was nice. Our daughter really liked seeing the ranch area. The volunteers were very friendly and enthusiastic. After walking around the homestead we hiked the Smith Springs Loop. We were surprised at how clear the water was at Manzanita Spring. The hike up the Smith Spring was much more intense than the hike along the foothills trail, but very much worth it. The Smith Spring is a wonderful oasis, so unexpected in these dry mountains. The spring was running great with cascading drops following several paths down the hill. For the path back, we decided to take the Frijole Trail. This was another great trail with lots of interesting geology and washes. I love terrain like this and contemplating the process that creates it. It's like "time" in solid form. It was a longer, more strenuous hike than I had expected. Our daughter didn't really like any of the hike after the ranch tour.
On Sunday, the wind forecast had not changed so we opted for hiking Devil's Hall. Our daughter really liked this trail and I am glad we ended the trip on this positive note. It was difficult keeping up with her on the rough terrain. My hip was hurting a little from sleeping on the air mattress, but it was worth it to push through the pain to get to the this unique canyon. We had looked down into Devil's Hall canyon from the Tejas trail about 5 years ago and this was a new perspective. The Tejas Trail path seems so precarious from below. It definitely didn't feel that way when we were actually there.
Lessons learned...
1. Be flexible. We came prepared to sleep in the car or a tent depending on what kind of spot was available. We also changed our plan to accommodate the weather. It was a little disappointing to not hike the peak. I know plenty of other people hiked the peak that day and had it just been my husband and me, we probably would have. Having our daughter with us meant we needed to be mindful of her experiences. I'd rather skip the hike than sour her to these spectacular mountains.
2. Be prepared to see people. There were so many more people there than last time. Granted last time was over Labor Day weekend in 2013, the difference in crowds was crazy. Last time we saw maybe 10 other people total.
3. Remember the mountains are always changing. The main wash at Pine Springs looked totally different than what I remember last time. I guess there have been some major flash floods in the last few years. It's interesting to think that at times enough water pours down out of the mountains to scour the land like that.


Offline wrangler88

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Re: President's Day Weekend Trip Report 2018
« Reply #1 on: March 13, 2018, 09:35:29 AM »
Sounds like you had a great trip. The crowds at Pine Springs have gotten a little nuts over the past year or two. Not sure if that's a social media thing or why it's gotten so popular. My first few trips out there, there really weren't many people at all. Dog Canyon being closed to vehicles doesn't help I'm sure.

As far as the wash changing, there was a massive amount of rain in September of 2014 I think it was. Closed most of the park besides the peak and a couple smaller trails. But you weren't able to access the backcountry via Tejas. I saw videos of the water flowing out of the mountains. Looked comparable to whitewater kayaking runs. We were there a day or two after the water went down but the trails were still closed.

Nice trip. Makes me want to get back out there. The Devils Hall is great.



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