Friends of Big Bend National Park
Big Bend Conservancy

Over-estimating your experience or under-estimating the terrain in a place like Big Bend can result in serious injury or death. Use the information and advice found here wisely. Climb/Hike/Camp/Drive at your own risk.

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GMNP Trip Report May 24-28 2019

  • 31 Replies

Offline backpacker56

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Re: GMNP Trip Report May 24-28 2019
« Reply #30 on: June 27, 2019, 06:32:12 PM »
It’s good to hear from you and have your comments.  Thanks for your encouraging words.  Despite the rigors, I hadn’t had enough of the Guadalupes.  After a few days in El Paso I wanted to squeeze in an overnighter on my way back home, but there just wasn’t enough time.  On Sunday morning, June 2, with the desert cool and fresh from rain, I had to leave it all behind.  Well, one shouldn’t be greedy.

As you noted, the TarpTent worked well, and also the new Wellax air mattress. 

I’ve done this route several times without a second car, just trusting to luck to get a ride back from McKittrick with someone.  Setting out from Pine Spring without a safety net adds to the adventure, but it could get really inconvenient if no ride materialized and your schedule was tight.  Is there a Guadalupe Trail Angels network?  Probably not.

The safer approach would be to drive to McKittrick at the outset, park there, and try to beg a ride back to Pine Spring trailhead.  Then you’d know your car would be waiting for you.  Or if you had a truck maybe you could bring along a bike or scooter and ride it from McKittrick to Pine Spring on day one, leaving it locked up at Park HQ while backpacking through to McKittrick. 

Back in our college days my brother and I did this route at Spring Break as a one-nighter.  We hiked from Pine Spring to McKittrick Ridge in one short March day.  It got cold up there; our water froze in the jug.  My brother’s sleeping bag was pretty poor, and I was too warm in my U.S. Army mountain bag, so I switched with him in the middle of the night.  Then I got cold.  What we were doing didn’t seem too crazy at the time.  I remember wishing I was really strong and fit, and not challenged by a mere 11-mile hike from Pine Spring to McKittrick Ridge.  The next day we hitched a ride from a guy who was working on the Pratt Cabin.  He had driven in to the Pratt in a Park Service Jeep of military vintage and gave us a lift from there back to Pine Spring. 
"Ah, sure, I'm a gnawed old bone now, but say, don't you guys think the spirit's gone!"


Offline Jonathan Sadow

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Re: GMNP Trip Report May 24-28 2019
« Reply #31 on: June 28, 2019, 03:00:45 AM »

Do you have a recommendation for a good multi-day itinerary? Donít relish carrying multiple days of water, so had assumed would cross the park to Dog a canyon to get a refill mid trip.

I can think of several multi-day itineraries;  however, they would require packing more than two days of water.  You could go by Dog Canyon (or the McKittrick Canyon trailhead) and fill up on water there, but because of the arrangement of the trail system and distribution of backcountry campground sites, you'd have to backtrack over parts of trails and/or have to make extremely long and strenuous hikes some or all of the days out in the backcountry if you're entering and exiting from Pine Springs.  If you are able to enter and exit from different trailheads, more possibilities are available.  For example, you could go from Pine Springs along the Tejas and Blue Ridge Trails and spend the first night at Blue Ridge, then north on the Bush Mountain Trail all the way to Dog Canyon to spend the second night there and refill water.  The third day you would go south on the Tejas Trail, then turn east on the McKittrick Canyon Trail and stay the night at McKittrick Ridge, and on the fourth day you'd exit through McKittrick Canyon.  That's about as easy a four-day three-night itinerary that I can think of, and that still makes for four days of 7.5 to 8 miles each, with major climbs on the first and third days and minor ones on the first and second days.  You either need to be a really strong backpacker or carry lots of water and hike shorter distances each day.  Those are really the only alternatives the park presents.

Thanks Jonathan for the suggestions.  Am a fairly experienced and relatively light and fast backpacker, though heavy water loads obviously slow me down.  15ish seems to be a very happy spot for me. Just finished the trans Catalina and did 20 yesterday with +5100/-3500 and another 10 out this morning, so am capable of it, though conditions were basically ideal for hiking/light pack weight and Iím admittedly bushed this morning. But 7-8 a day is no issue, and honestly at that mileage I would want to have options for potential side trips. I get antsy with too much just sitting around in camp.

Well, if you wanted to push yourself, you could hike the length of the Tejas Trail from Pine Springs to Dog Canyon in a day, about 12 miles gaining 2200', losing 700', gaining 500' and losing 1600', and camp at Dog Canyon that night and refill water there.  The next day, you could then go along the Bush Mountain Trail about 10 miles, gaining then losing 900', then gaining 2400' before finally dropping 300' to Bush Mountain campground.  If you arrive early enough, you can view the sunset off Blue Ridge and see the lights of Dell City over 20 miles away.  The last day would be a relatively easy stroll of just over six miles to the Pine Springs trailhead, with a loss of 2500'.  You'd travel over one of the least-traveled sections of the park, the Bush Mountain Trail between Marcus campground and its junction with the Blue Ridge Trail.  Another possibility, although perhaps not as scenic but also rarely-traveled, is to hike from Pine Springs along the El Capitan Trail and camp at Shumard Canyon campground, a journey of almost 10 miles with an elevation gain of 700', then a loss of 1500', and return the following day by the same route (there being no other route in the area).  You can amuse yourself by exploring Williams Ranch, which is less than half a mile from the campground, or really pile on the mileage by going around the Salt Basin Overlook Trail to add another almost three miles and a loss and gain of about 750' to your hike.

Having mentioned all of that, I should point out that I've written permits for people requesting to do 15+ mile backpacks who've said that they've done mileage like you've said that you've done, only to find out later that they bailed on their itineraries, defeated by the changes in elevation, the heat and dryness, the roughness of the trails, and the weight of the water they hauled.  Be aware of your limitations, and don't be overconfident.



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