Big Bend Chat

Big Bend National Park Q&A => Hiking the Desert => Topic started by: kevint on October 10, 2013, 12:24:33 PM

Title: Desert Hiking Safety Suggestions
Post by: kevint on October 10, 2013, 12:24:33 PM
Moderator Note: this topic was split off from http://www.bigbendchat.com/portal/forum/big-bend-ranch-state-park-qa/bbrsp-rescue/

I'm not experienced enough of an outdoorsman to cast much judgment on this couple although I do think I would have fared a little better in that I'm a little geeky about  maps so I'm usually carrying something and I know how to use the GPS in my phone.  However, for a day hike, I don't usually carry much extra water and often only an orange or a granola bar to eat.  In short, in at least some areas, I am only prepared for a successful trip--not for contingencies.
 
So, I'd be interested hearing some thoughts on preparing for day hikes in Big Bend.  I understand some trails, like the Window trail would take some work getting lost from.  On the other hand, I've heard (but not yet experienced) that some other trails (Mule Ears?) are sometimes a little hard to follow in places.  How about a few general guidelines, independent of the trail, on how one should prepare for a simple day hike at Big Bend.
 
Given this story, I'll toss out a recommendation to have a decent map coving the area and knowledge of how to use it.  Also, a simple compass. And at least minimum food and water in case you have to spend the night.  Maybe a light jacket for some warmth at night and to rig some shade by day.
 
Another thing I'd say is to always try to know where you are.  Last year my family and I camped at La Noria and made a few trips to scount the area, see the old town, check out Tornillo Creek etc.  With all of the gravel mounds in that area, you didn't have to venture far before you couldn't see your campsite down in the little valleys.  My wife later remarked that it made her uncomfortable.  I shared with her that before we set out, I had made a mental note of a tall mound with a little tree on top near one of the La Noria campsites.  Also I knew that the Old Ore Rd runs pretty much north/south and that if I got lost, I just had to head east until I ran into the Old Ore and then North to the turnoff to La Noria.  I knew I could even pull this one off after dark.  In the odd event that wouldn't work, I knew that Tornillo creek heads south and under the main park road.  What I later realized is that I had never told my wife or kids that I was thinking those things.  They aren't geeky about maps like I am.  They just go wherever I take them.  I need to be explaining these things so they learn and, in case I become incapacitated, they can fend for themselves.
 
Other suggestions for novices appreciated.
Title: Re: Desert Hiking Safety Suggestions
Post by: Quixote Kid on October 10, 2013, 01:41:54 PM
I'm not experienced enough of an outdoorsman to cast much judgment on this couple although I do think I would have fared a little better in that I'm a little geeky about  maps so I'm usually carrying something and I know how to use the GPS in my phone.  However, for a day hike, I don't usually carry much extra water and often only an orange or a granola bar to eat.  In short, in at least some areas, I am only prepared for a successful trip--not for contingencies.
 
So, I'd be interested hearing some thoughts on preparing for day hikes in Big Bend.  I understand some trails, like the Window trail would take some work getting lost from.  On the other hand, I've heard (but not yet experienced) that some other trails (Mule Ears?) are sometimes a little hard to follow in places.  How about a few general guidelines, independent of the trail, on how one should prepare for a simple day hike at Big Bend.
 
Given this story, I'll toss out a recommendation to have a decent map coving the area and knowledge of how to use it.  Also, a simple compass. And at least minimum food and water in case you have to spend the night.  Maybe a light jacket for some warmth at night and to rig some shade by day.
 
Another thing I'd say is to always try to know where you are.  Last year my family and I camped at La Noria and made a few trips to scount the area, see the old town, check out Tornillo Creek etc.  With all of the gravel mounds in that area, you didn't have to venture far before you couldn't see your campsite down in the little valleys.  My wife later remarked that it made her uncomfortable.  I shared with her that before we set out, I had made a mental note of a tall mound with a little tree on top near one of the La Noria campsites.  Also I knew that the Old Ore Rd runs pretty much north/south and that if I got lost, I just had to head east until I ran into the Old Ore and then North to the turnoff to La Noria.  I knew I could even pull this one off after dark.  In the odd event that wouldn't work, I knew that Tornillo creek heads south and under the main park road.  What I later realized is that I had never told my wife or kids that I was thinking those things.  They aren't geeky about maps like I am.  They just go wherever I take them.  I need to be explaining these things so they learn and, in case I become incapacitated, they can fend for themselves.
 
Other suggestions for novices appreciated.

kevint - I'd have to recommend this book: Desert Survival Skills by David Alloway

http://www.amazon.com/Desert-Survival-Skills-David-Alloway/dp/0292704925/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1381428910&sr=8-1&keywords=desert+survival+skills

It has a lot of good info in the book, from common sense stuff (keep your head covered and drink water) to making a survival kit to take with you on hikes.

On the recommendation of the book, my wife and I have each made up a basic survival kit that fits inside a soap container (roughly 3"X4"X1"). Basic items include tweezers for those pesky thorns, survival blanket to keep warm on cold nights, shade during the day and is reflective to see by search parties, cosmetic mirror (for signaling) ibuprofen, benadryl, bandages, mole skin, etc and it all fits in that little container.
Title: Re: Desert Hiking Safety Suggestions
Post by: Desert_Dave on October 10, 2013, 03:10:36 PM
One thing I never leave without, which is small and invaluable in a survival situation, is a disposable lighter to start a fire.  In addition to being able to keep yourself warm on cold desert nights, your fire will alert the search party to your location.  You will produce a significant heat (IR) signature at night, and during the day the smoke will alert others to your location.  If you have something plastic to burn, like your trash bag, it will produce a thick black smoke that can be seen for miles.

I work in the Law Enforcement/Intelligence community for the Big Bend region, the agency I work for helped coordinate this search and rescue, and other recent S&R operations.  This is actually the second incident of missing or lost persons in BBRSP in the last ten days.

On OCT 01 2013,  two females visiting from China managed to make a 911 call from NW side of the park, near the Botella Residence.  They advised that they were lost, and out of water, and had been trying to find their vehicle for the last five hours.  Sun was setting, and helicopter air support from the Texas Department of Public Safety was dispatched to assist TXPWD Park Rangers to locate the pair.  After about 40 minutes, the pair was located and air lifted to nearby Park Rangers. 

The two could actually see the helicopter searching above them for 15 to 20 minutes before the chopper crew spotted them.  I'm not sure if a signal mirror would have worked well due to the setting sun, but it may have expedited their rescue.

Situational awareness is your best tool for self rescue, or surviving such an incident.  Knowing aprox where you are, which direction is N S E W, and how far you are from roads ect.

This most recent couple who were lost for days, could have ended way worse.  When I heard the woman was located after all that time, I couldn't believe it.  They are lucky that they found water, but washing their clothes was a mistake.  Its been getting into the 30's and 40's here at night, and hypothermia can kill.  A space blanket is a worthy addition to anyone's kit, even for a short day hike.
Title: Re: Desert Hiking Safety Suggestions
Post by: kevint on October 10, 2013, 03:38:23 PM
Thanks. Quixote and Dave.  Good input.
 
I actually have Allender's book and have a soap dish kit.
 
One funny thing I have to relate about being able to build a fire.  Last time I camped in the National Park, when we got the permit, the ranger told us the basic rules including no ground fires.  He actually was specific in saying no building signal fires.  I just thought, really, if it's life or death you expect me to not build a signal fire.  Really?  He also quizzed my 11 yr old on how long the blade on her swiss army knife was.  Very young ranger.
Title: Re: Desert Hiking Safety Suggestions
Post by: mule ears on October 10, 2013, 04:04:51 PM
To follow Quixote Kids recommendation I have two books, one is "The Ultimate Desert Handbook" by Mark Johnson that I really like.  The whole book covers lots of areas and is really good on navigation but his "necessities" list for a short day hike on an established trail has 2 qts or more of water depending on heat, wide brimmed hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, map, compass, a small flashlight, small first aid kit and a poncho or pocket sized space blanket.

The other book is Backpackers "Desert Sense" by Bruce Grubbs.  His Ten Essentials discussion includes:
Hydration- adequate water
Navigation- topo map and compass, a cell phone doesn't cut the mustard here
Sun Protection- broad brimmed hat, sunscreen, lip balm, sunglasses
Fire- means of starting a fire, a lighter is better than matches
Illumination- headlamp or flashlight
First Aid Kit
Repair Kit- pocket knife and maybe some tapes, glues, etc.
Nutrition- at least a few energy bars
Insulation- clothing for the worst conditions you might experience for that time of year and at least a windbreaker
Emergency shelter- at least a space blanket

Desert Dave is right about a signal mirror.  I use a compass with a sighting mirror that would double if need be.  He also talked about starting a fire.

Navigation is an important skill to develop but situational awareness is really important.  Staying found is fundamental, constantly rechecking with the map, knowing landmarks and having "handrails" like kevint did with the Old Ore Rd. and Tornillo creek.

... Also I knew that the Old Ore Rd runs pretty much north/south and that if I got lost, I just had to head east until I ran into the Old Ore and then North to the turnoff to La Noria.  I knew I could even pull this one off after dark.  In the odd event that wouldn't work, I knew that Tornillo creek heads south and under the main park road...

These folks were very lucky, did a few things right but made a lot of small mistakes including not having good maps and not turning back when they first knew they were in over there head and not going to make it.  They could have bought the topo maps at PJ, Terlingua store and Barton Warnock to mention just a few places.
Title: Re: Desert Hiking Safety Suggestions
Post by: Flash on October 10, 2013, 10:22:01 PM
A space blanket is a worthy addition to anyone's kit, even for a short day hike.

Yep. I usually carry a small ditty bag in my day pack that contains a space blanket, Power Bar, couple fire starter sticks and a lighter, cheap folding knife, iodine tablets, 3 or 4' of parachute cord, tiny zipper pull flashlight, sunscreen stick, small bug spray, extra AA's, etc.

Once when I was out geocaching in one of the patches of woods near Houston I got caught in a sudden downpour 1/2 mile from the car. The lowly space blanket spread out wide over my head kept me mostly dry and from getting soaked to bone by that cold thundershower.  :great:
Title: Re: Desert Hiking Safety Suggestions
Post by: steelfrog on October 11, 2013, 12:15:54 AM
Insofar as your question, the above suggestions are great. And then, there's no substitute for experience. Just go out and do stuff. Mule ears is a good one. Nearly impossible to get lost because of the landmarks. User trails branch off past the spring, heading south and up to mule ears.  Then you can head down the west side and wind your way through the washes etc. you can see Trap mist if the wayang if course mule ears so getting lost would be pretty hard.

The tough places are in Colorado and New Mexico where there is heavy forest and lots of ridges and arroyos. You need a GPS there unless you really know the areas
Title: Re: Desert Hiking Safety Suggestions
Post by: Hoodoo on October 11, 2013, 12:44:19 AM
One thing I never leave without, which is small and invaluable in a survival situation, is a disposable lighter to start a fire.

My outdoor excursions are mostly day hikes, truck camping, and river canoeing/rafting.

For starting fires I usually have either a lighter or matches and a secret weapon consisting of an old pill bottle stuffed full of cotton balls saturated with petroleum jelly. One cotton ball burns like a candle until the tinder/kindling/wood is hot enough for combustion. Works well in damp situations.

I recently needed new shoe strings for my boots and used parachute cord for the new laces.

The space blanket resides under the back seat of the truck but I think it will play a larger role in the future.

Don't forget the duct tape!

Don


Title: Re: Desert Hiking Safety Suggestions
Post by: Reece on October 11, 2013, 09:39:16 AM
Kevint: They call it "mental mapping". You create a map in your mind as you travel. Some are better at it than others. Some do it unconsciously. Some don't do it at all - they get lost. Personally, I have to make a conscious effort to stay found. Without a GPS, I might even resort to taking notes on paper in difficult terrain.

I got lost once in Big Bend Ranch, early on in my solo hiking career. My terror only lasted about 4 hours but it was a life-changing 4 hours. The terrain can be tricky - with few prominent landmarks to reference and lots of arroyos and wildlife trails. On an out-and-back walk, just glancing back occasionally to picture your way back will not suffice since all pictures look the same. Near any water source, the wildlife trails become a maze and look for all the world, just like hiking trails.

I would not venture out into the featureless BBR on foot without some planing and preparation and a good GPS for tracking. Simple map and compass navigation would be difficult because of the lack of identifiable elevations. You could do it but you would have to posses some experience and a good sense of distance. A sense of distance is key.
Title: Re: Desert Hiking Safety Suggestions
Post by: kevint on October 11, 2013, 10:24:41 AM
Then you can head down the west side and wind your way through the washes etc. you can see Trap mist if the wayang if course mule ears so getting lost would be pretty hard.

Thanks for the response Steel.  I've read the last half of this several times.  There must be some typos in here or some references I'm not familiar with.  It may need an edit.
Title: Re: Desert Hiking Safety Suggestions
Post by: salukicolt on October 11, 2013, 11:11:05 AM
During my first trip to Big Bend in 1990, I spent one night where I wasn't suppose to be. Other than carrying the necessary items for water, weather and whereabouts (see above) I had two takeaways from that experience that may be helpful to those new to the desert environment and/or desert hiking (especially those from the Midwest):

1.  Landmarks are farther away than they appear. If you are from the Midwest, landmarks, like silos and tree lines are actually closer than they appear due to humidity, dust, etc. It takes awhile to acclimate visually to the clear desert air to understand that it is quite the opposite.

2.  Understand the Alluvial fan.  The Chihuahuan desert is not the Grand Prairie, or the High Plains. What may look like a gradual slop on a contour, may not be so gradual, and if you lose the trail, and try set a bearing across what appears to be flat desert, you will be encountering canyons which will impede your route.

The only other general suggestion I have is that is important to know yourself well enough to understand your thought processes during a hike: For example, I am a natural wanderer, prone to be mentally elsewhere while enjoying the day and the hike. I have always, and always will blow past cairns coming out of a wash or arroyo. I just need to be aware that this will happen and adjust accordingly. (take frequent breaks in arroyos to scout and confirm exit points, and incorporate backtracks into my energy and time plan.)
Title: Re: Desert Hiking Safety Suggestions
Post by: Homer67 on October 11, 2013, 11:29:15 AM
I agree with Steel; experience is a key factor. 

Get out there, start with small steps and work your way up. I won't get in to the usual about research/study before one's trip; that should be a given. Get familiar, get good and when the time is right, go for a big trek!

I can understand how the recent two in BBSRP got into trouble.
Title: Re: Desert Hiking Safety Suggestions
Post by: presidio on October 11, 2013, 02:23:16 PM
the ranger told us the basic rules including no ground fires.  He actually was specific in saying no building signal fires.  I just thought, really, if it's life or death you expect me to not build a signal fire.  Really?


Yeah, he really did mean it. You would have to determine whether he said it because he was ignorant of real life, or just over-committed to the idealized world of the NPS.

Quote
He also quizzed my 11 yr old on how long the blade on her swiss army knife was.  Very young ranger.

Can't be too careful. A long blade probably means to the NPS you are up to no good.
Title: Re: Desert Hiking Safety Suggestions
Post by: presidio on October 11, 2013, 02:30:00 PM
I'm not sure if a signal mirror would have worked well due to the setting sun, but it may have expedited their rescue.

If you can see the sun, you can make a signal mirror work. It does take a bit of skill, and few folks practice using one. A low sun angle will make flashing a signal a bit more difficult than higher angles, but you certainly can do so.

A mirror can be used to flash a signal nearly 180 degrees from the sun. However, it's not too likely you would be trying to flash someone on the opposite horizon when the sun is setting...it's just a point that it can be done. All other angles are easier.
Title: Re: Desert Hiking Safety Suggestions
Post by: presidio on October 11, 2013, 02:41:01 PM

common sense stuff (keep your head covered and drink water) to making a survival kit to take with you on hikes.

It's easy to tell experienced desert folks from the tourists.

The experienced wear long pants, long sleeve shirts (even, and especially, in summer), wide-brim hats and boots.

The tourists wear t-shirts and tank tops, shorts, and sandals or sneakers, and look at you funny when they see you.

If you are not properly clothed, your well-being begins to suffer at the outset of the hike, even though you obviously don't feel it, and even though most folks never reach a state where it much matters.

However, when it does matter, you already are behind the power curve and that places much additional stress on the body and on any supplies you may have had the foresight to carry. Sunburn and dehydration happens quickly and body water loss is greatly accelerated by exposed skin. The folks recently rescued at BBRSP are good examples of this.

I even wear leather gloves when hiking so that I do not have to worry about what I might have to grab should some maneuver be necessary (I mostly hike off trail).
Title: Re: Desert Hiking Safety Suggestions
Post by: steelfrog on October 11, 2013, 05:20:13 PM
Then you can head down the west side and wind your way through the washes etc. you can see Trap mist if the wayang if course mule ears so getting lost would be pretty hard.

Thanks for the response Steel.  I've read the last half of this several times.  There must be some typos in here or some references I'm not familiar with.  It may need an edit.
  Nope.  Your two big landmarks are Trap Mountain, in the vicinity of the trailhead, and Mule Ears.  If you can see the two of them I think it would be impossible to be really lost.  And, this area has enough ruggedness and routefinding difficulty to make things interesting but I don't think you should be in danger.  Unless you do something dumb.  Then you have a good story to tell
Title: Re: Desert Hiking Safety Suggestions
Post by: Reece on October 11, 2013, 05:46:53 PM
I think I get it, Steel. You're suggesting that a beginner should hike a location with good landmarks, like Mule Ears to practice navigation with map and compass? Harder to get lost.
Title: Re: Desert Hiking Safety Suggestions
Post by: kevint on October 11, 2013, 06:06:27 PM
Then you can head down the west side and wind your way through the washes etc. you can see Trap mist if the wayang if course mule ears so getting lost would be pretty hard.

Thanks for the response Steel.  I've read the last half of this several times.  There must be some typos in here or some references I'm not familiar with.  It may need an edit.
  Nope.  Your two big landmarks are Trap Mountain, in the vicinity of the trailhead, and Mule Ears.  If you can see the two of them I think it would be impossible to be really lost.  And, this area has enough ruggedness and routefinding difficulty to make things interesting but I don't think you should be in danger.  Unless you do something dumb.  Then you have a good story to tell

I wasn't familiar with Trap Mountain. Still not sure about the mist and the wayang.
Title: Re: Desert Hiking Safety Suggestions
Post by: steelfrog on October 11, 2013, 10:56:11 PM
I think I get it, Steel. You're suggesting that a beginner should hike a location with good landmarks, like Mule Ears to practice navigation with map and compass? Harder to get lost.
. Precisely. Although, as I said, pretty rugged terrain
Title: Re: Desert Hiking Safety Suggestions
Post by: RichardM on October 11, 2013, 10:58:43 PM
Then you can head down the west side and wind your way through the washes etc. you can see Trap mist if the wayang if course mule ears so getting lost would be pretty hard.

Thanks for the response Steel.  I've read the last half of this several times.  There must be some typos in here or some references I'm not familiar with.  It may need an edit.
  Nope.  Your two big landmarks are Trap Mountain, in the vicinity of the trailhead, and Mule Ears.  If you can see the two of them I think it would be impossible to be really lost.  And, this area has enough ruggedness and routefinding difficulty to make things interesting but I don't think you should be in danger.  Unless you do something dumb.  Then you have a good story to tell

I wasn't familiar with Trap Mountain. Still not sure about the mist and the wayang.
<sigh>
Allow me to translate:  "mist if the wayang if" = "most of the way and of"
Title: Desert Hiking Safety Suggestions
Post by: kevint on October 11, 2013, 11:01:26 PM
Richard,

Thanks.  I  don't know why I couldn't get that.
Title: Re: Desert Hiking Safety Suggestions
Post by: Hang10er on October 30, 2013, 10:59:41 AM
Where's a good place for TOPO maps?  I've downloaded a few from BBRSP web site but only one has decent resolution.  In reading some of these strings it looks like you might be able to get them at the visitor's center (Warnock).  We are just doing some short 1/2 day hikes but I'd like to have a better topo to take with us.
Title: Re: Desert Hiking Safety Suggestions
Post by: kevint on October 30, 2013, 11:11:11 AM
Where's a good place for TOPO maps?  I've downloaded a few from BBRSP web site but only one has decent resolution.  In reading some of these strings it looks like you might be able to get them at the visitor's center (Warnock).  We are just doing some short 1/2 day hikes but I'd like to have a better topo to take with us.

You an always get them from here:
 
http://store.usgs.gov/b2c_usgs/usgs/maplocator/(xcm=r3standardpitrex_prd&layout=6_1_61_48&uiarea=2&ctype=areaDetails&carea=%24ROOT)/.do (http://store.usgs.gov/b2c_usgs/usgs/maplocator/(xcm=r3standardpitrex_prd&layout=6_1_61_48&uiarea=2&ctype=areaDetails&carea=%24ROOT)/.do)
 
Zoom in on the area, switch to the mode to place a marker and then click on that marker to see all the maps available.  I sometimes find that a slightly older map is of better quality and have features that are no longer carried.
Title: Re: Desert Hiking Safety Suggestions
Post by: dprather on October 30, 2013, 12:37:52 PM
My amigo and I POUR over mapS of the area we're about to travel. 

We're really not satisfied until we can recreate the field thoroughly in our mind.   

By doing this, with all of the necessary practice and skills necessary to effectively use map and compass int he first place, the terrain, criticle landmarks, and directions just sorta become part of you.  It's kinda like creating informed judgment and a test for reasonableness.
Title: Re: Desert Hiking Safety Suggestions
Post by: Picacho on October 30, 2013, 12:53:54 PM
Where's a good place for TOPO maps?  I've downloaded a few from BBRSP web site but only one has decent resolution.  In reading some of these strings it looks like you might be able to get them at the visitor's center (Warnock).  We are just doing some short 1/2 day hikes but I'd like to have a better topo to take with us.

You can download full blown USGS topo maps here.  I download them in .tiff format.

http://libremap.org/data/

Obviously the maps will be only as big as your printer.  You zoom in using the .tiff file (quality won't fade as you zoom in), take a screenshot and print it out.  Like the one I attached.

One other suggestion, if you are on a trail like Mule Ears or Elephant Tusk and you lose the trail, stop, go back and find the trail where you lost it, then look really hard for its continuation.  You will most likely lose the trail altogether if you keep going hoping you will find the trail again. 
Title: Re: Desert Hiking Safety Suggestions
Post by: presidio on November 01, 2013, 01:54:44 PM
One other suggestion, if you are on a trail like Mule Ears or Elephant Tusk and you lose the trail, stop, go back and find the trail where you lost it, then look really hard for its continuation.  You will most likely lose the trail altogether if you keep going hoping you will find the trail again.

While it does take a bit of a practiced eye, especially if the majority of hiking experience is of the maintained trail variety, picking out a faint trail actually is fairly easily doable. Taking the big view and detecting the non-natural, non-random patterns usually will reveal the correct route.

Same technique is used by archeologists to scan an area and see the things that couldn't possibly be naturally occurring.

Faint game trails and foot trails are especially apparent in desert terrain.

This is like some folks being able to instantly see rock art and others asking "where?"
Title: Re: Desert Hiking Safety Suggestions
Post by: Jonathan Sadow on November 11, 2013, 06:43:47 PM
Where's a good place for TOPO maps?  I've downloaded a few from BBRSP web site but only one has decent resolution.  In reading some of these strings it looks like you might be able to get them at the visitor's center (Warnock).  We are just doing some short 1/2 day hikes but I'd like to have a better topo to take with us.

As for the specific case of Big Bend Ranch State Park, topographic maps that cover the areal extent of the park are available at the Sauceda headquarters complex.  The rangers there can help you select the proper ones needed for your purposes.  The maps on the BBRSP website are from the "Discovery Map" of the park and only show contour intervals of 160 feet, not the 20-foot contour intervals typical of USGS quadrangle maps.
Title: Re: Desert Hiking Safety Suggestions
Post by: Robert on November 11, 2013, 08:07:23 PM
Where's a good place for TOPO maps?

I order mine from MyTopo.com. You can create customized topos with options for shading, waterproof paper, or pre-folded and can upload your routes to be printed right on the map. Potentially you could save money if combining portions of the standard 1:24k maps into one map. Not free but for about $30 I can usually get my week long trips into 2 maps.
Title: Re: Desert Hiking Safety Suggestions
Post by: badknees on November 11, 2013, 08:28:59 PM
Try this..

http://www.gpsvisualizer.com/ (http://www.gpsvisualizer.com/)

You can roll your own and if you want to print them on some waterproof, tough-ass paper, try this:

http://www.natgeomaps.com/adventure_paper.html (http://www.natgeomaps.com/adventure_paper.html) It is available in 3 sizes and available online or at REI. I've even found it at BassPro occasionally.

You can throw this stuff in a bucket of water overnight and it won't bleed, run or tear.
Title: Re: Desert Hiking Safety Suggestions
Post by: halljf on December 22, 2013, 02:48:42 PM
My wife and 21 yro daughter have been vacationing in The Big Bend since the mid-90s and discovered BBRSP 8 years ago. Our day hikes in BBRSP always include gear/provisions in case we are forced to overnight in the backcountry.  Long underwear, multiple clothing layers, bivy blankets, hi-energy bars, extra water, GPS, detailed maps, SAT phone, etc.  I also required my family to read "Death in the Big Bend" which details SAR/Rs that occurred in BBNP over the last 20 years.  This is no country for old men and/or unprepared novices.  The Big Bend of Texas is a wonderful place to visit but I do not want to die there.

J. Hall
Title: Re: Desert Hiking Safety Suggestions
Post by: steelfrog on December 22, 2013, 03:17:42 PM
So, where do you want to die?  In an antiseptic white hotel room with tubes sticking out of you, half-addled on pain meds?

BB is very much a place for old men...
Title: Re: Desert Hiking Safety Suggestions
Post by: elhombre on December 22, 2013, 03:51:37 PM
So, where do you want to die?  In an antiseptic white hotel room with tubes sticking out of you, half-addled on pain meds?

BB is very much a place for old men...

Amen, Brother, Amen...... :great:
Title: Re: Desert Hiking Safety Suggestions
Post by: Reece on December 22, 2013, 04:27:11 PM
I've often thought it would be a wonderful place to die. I've even wondered if some old men might even go there seeking a final resting place. "Missing Elderly" Last seen in a white Jeep.
Title: Re: Desert Hiking Safety Suggestions
Post by: dprather on December 22, 2013, 10:02:11 PM
I'm not interested in leaving the party any time soon, but enjoying the last round in Big Bend (if not too troublesome for the SaR folks) would be just about right, especially compared to hospital rooms, nursing homes, or bothering my kids with a slow, sickly decline.

Even my wife has sensed a Big Bend death wish in me.  Hummmm - maybe that's why she doesn't object to my BIBE trips!!!!
Title: Re: Desert Hiking Safety Suggestions
Post by: dprather on December 22, 2013, 10:18:14 PM
No place for old men - hardly (said with a sneering laugh).

I am certain that my 30-something sons are still in too much of a hurry to experience a solid Big Bend "get it."

I am grateful that my old man years have given me a taste for the finer things in life: the Santa Elanas at dusk, a Mexican coke in Boquillas, a cold morning wake-up in the High Chisos, views into another country...
Title: Re: Desert Hiking Safety Suggestions
Post by: joetrussell on December 23, 2013, 09:50:14 AM
So, where do you want to die?  In an antiseptic white hotel room with tubes sticking out of you, half-addled on pain meds?

My father died in the hospital in 1970 hooked up to all the technology that 1970 medicine had to offer. I think it took several weeks if I remember correctly. I don't know how I will go out, but if I have any control, when I cross the bar it won't be that way. Big Bend, outdoors, under the sun, I can think of worse fates.

Title: Re: Desert Hiking Safety Suggestions
Post by: Quatro on December 23, 2013, 10:16:25 AM
An interesting turn.  This thread seems to have evolved from "how not to die in the desert" to "maybe BIBE isn't a bad way to go out".  Says the man with a headstone as his avatar.
Title: Re: Desert Hiking Safety Suggestions
Post by: homerboy2u on December 23, 2013, 10:28:25 AM
Beaten by Quatro, on the comment....Thank you for saying it first. :eusa_clap:

 But let us leave behind the death wishes in Big Bend and life batteries countdowns...save those for New Years Day. If you all can.

 One thing we all have are smartphones and tablets....at least, the newer generations. Check out these apps for your Android´s ecosystems:

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.androidtrainer.survive

  This is a great application. I have it on my phone. You get caught up in traffic, have some time in the office, get bored at home or day dream of a Gringo Honeymoon...just tap your phone and learn something new for you.

 Have more time on your hands?...get the book:

https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Department_of_the_Army_U_S_Army_Survival_Manual?id=2MktAgAAQBAJ

One thing that works for me...make some benchmarks when hiking. As far as your hindsight can see when you turn back, then when it gets out of your way, just step back until you can see it again. Make another benchmark....it is a no biggie, the newbies around you stare at you as Padowans in a Buffet area. It is a great conversational round the fire at night subject...and then you add your "ketchup" over the topic and scare their living daylights of those around you.

 Their minds a re going at least 150 MPH....remember, no tv's around. It helps them in the long run. Do enjoy.

Homero
Title: Re: Desert Hiking Safety Suggestions
Post by: halljf on December 26, 2013, 09:36:26 AM
If you die there then you will burden the park staff with recovering your body.  BTW, I'll be 60 on my next bday!  Lighten up.
Title: Re: Desert Hiking Safety Suggestions
Post by: steelfrog on December 26, 2013, 10:55:24 AM
YOU lighten up.  BB is a playground.  Not ominous or dangerous as you suggest.  Dumbarses be dumbarses wherever they are.  Don't lecture us and treat us like dumbarses.  Most of us are not.  There are a few tho and they make themselves obvious.
Title: Re: Desert Hiking Safety Suggestions
Post by: The Scorpion on December 26, 2013, 01:04:06 PM
No matter your skill level and expertise, it is never a bad thing to be reminded of the dangers of Big Bend.
Title: Re: Desert Hiking Safety Suggestions
Post by: RichardM on December 26, 2013, 07:57:14 PM
YOU lighten up.  BB is a playground.  Not ominous or dangerous as you suggest.  Dumbarses be dumbarses wherever they are.  Don't lecture us and treat us like dumbarses.  Most of us are not.  There are a few tho and they make themselves obvious.
My irony meter just pegged. Can you guys behave yourselves? At least wait until I'm back from the park.
Title: Re: Desert Hiking Safety Suggestions
Post by: dillomaster on December 27, 2013, 10:22:00 AM
Thought I'd share the contents of my "day bag" - this is what I take on any day hike, regardless of how long or short I think it may be.  Ultralight hikers will cringe, but my goal is always to be able to make it through at least one "unexpected" night under the stars. In fact, when backpacking I usually just have this on the top of my pack so I can peel it off and dump my main pack when adventure calls.

Day Bag: 3 liter CamelBak. Leather gloves. Fire starting kit with waterproof matches, flint/steel and few cotton balls. Waterproof notepad and pencil. Compass. Straw style water purifier. A couple energy bars. TP and hygiene items. Pocket knife. Flashlight. Pen. Multi-tool. Survival kit. First aid kit.

Survival Kit: Survival blanket. Rain poncho (can also be used to signal.) Water purification tablets. Anti sting pen (I'm always getting tagged by something.) Signal mirror. Lighter. Chapstick (can also be used as fire starter.) Small flashlight. Survey tape (to leave a trail.) Some cordage. Insect repellent. Sun screen.  Needle and thread (for gear repairs.)

First Aid Kit: EMT shears. Moleskin. Gauze pads. Assorted bandages. Gloves. Iodine and surgical blade. Duct tape. Nail clippers. Tweezers. Hand soap. Extra strength Tylenol. Extra plastic bags. Wilderness/Remote First Aid guide.

Not Shown: I ALWAYS have with me a hat, Storm signal whistle and a compass (with sighting mirror.)  Even when just walking in a city park.

Since most searches are resolved within 24 hours, I suggest that (1) you be prepared to spend the night and (2) make your self easy to find.

Would be interested in others gear - or critique of my selection.  I can say I have used it to spend a couple long and uncomfortable nights, intentionally!  :icon_smile:
Title: Re: Desert Hiking Safety Suggestions
Post by: dillomaster on December 27, 2013, 10:26:39 AM
And forgot to mention the CamelBak has a large pocket that I use for trip specific stuff.  So in cold weather I might add an extra layer. If rain is suspect, a proper poncho. If expecting to spend the night, a tarp. Etc.

And ALWAYS a good map of the area!
Title: Re: Desert Hiking Safety Suggestions
Post by: steelfrog on December 27, 2013, 10:29:14 AM
Umm--Can I assume your machete is in your hand at all times?

 :icon_biggrin:

Looks great Dillo!  Thanks for sharing!
Title: Re: Desert Hiking Safety Suggestions
Post by: elhombre on December 27, 2013, 10:44:30 AM
I  carry some things I REALLy don't need, but I did see some redundant things you have that you may consider.

A multi tool usually has a blade in it, so a seperate knife could be left out.  Also, if you already have a blade, the trama shears could stay home.

A small lighter, one that is 1 inch long that you get a convience store works great.  I have carried one for 12 years now, and have yet to break it.  If your worried, carry two.  This would get rid of your fire starter kit.

A lighter to sterilize your blade could be your surgical blade.

The chlorine oxide tablets from Katadyn are individualy wrapped and last a long time.  That would replace your iodine and water filter pen.  Take three to refill your 100oz camelback.

The only thing I would add would be some benadryl for allergic reactions.   Use a machete to cut them in half if a whole dose is not needed.


Title: Re: Desert Hiking Safety Suggestions
Post by: BigBendHiker on December 27, 2013, 08:40:53 PM
Thanks, Dillomaster!  Your posts regarding being prepared are spot on.