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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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First timer

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Offline Chireaux

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First timer
« on: June 22, 2012, 06:54:23 PM »
Hey guys, I have been reading the forum for a few weeks trying to figure out a plan, but this is my first time to big bend and also my first time hiking/camping. I am leaving next week so would like to get some more input into the trip. My wife and I are planning on the doing the south rim trail, starting at the lodge and making the loop back (cant remember the trail names right now but do have a map). We were planning on leaving about 3 or 4 pm and hiking until dark, and then finishing the trail the next morning. Ill try to make a list of questions and get to the point instead of rambling...
1) Can I wear sandals (chacos) or do I need hiking boots?
2) Is there a chance of it being cool at night?
3) Do you actually need a sleeping bag, or just a mat of some sort?
4)Is a long sleeve shirt highly recommended?? how about pants?
5) do I need topography maps, or is there no chance of getting lost on the trail.
6) What is the best way to carry water. Do I need a camel pack or just load my back pack with bottled water?
7) I have no idea what food to bring or how to cook it, any suggestions?
8) The highs next week are 105-110 in Terlingua, Would that make the Chisos around 90-95?
I guess thats enough for now.
Any input would greatly appreciated?

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Offline kevint

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First timer
« Reply #1 on: June 22, 2012, 07:14:48 PM »
I don't have the kind of experience you are  needing but welcome to the forum and welcome to Big Bend. You'll love it!
-- Kevin (W5KLT)

"It's not an adventure until something goes wrong."  --Yvon Chouinard

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Offline stingrey

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Re: First timer
« Reply #2 on: June 22, 2012, 07:43:40 PM »
It will be hot. I would not wear sandals up the trail. We're talking at least 14 miles of rugged round trip trail here. The trail is well marked enough that you won't really need a topo to do South Rim, but from a recent report I heard that biting flies are out. Being said and because there are a ton of other critters on the ground at the moment (legged and legless), I'd recommend against just a tarp, but many people may encourage just using a tarp.

It can get cold and stormy, you never know. Keep an eye on the weather. Take something that can be multi-use. Think water shedding outerwear/pillow. Take extra socks. On the water, I normally take a camelbak bladder plus another bladder per day (100oz/day) and normally that comes out ok and leaves just enough for cooking if you factor in the two big bottles of Gatorade in the mix for added measure.

Food... Think portable and light if you've never done something like this before. Tuna packs, peanut butter packs, stuff like that. Be aware that there are bears and mountain lions. Cover the smelly food, double bag the empty packs. There should be bear boxes at the campsite you select.

Speaking of campsite... Do your homework on how far you and your wife can hike with a load on broken trail and how fast you can do it. Not specifically to figure out how rushed you can pull off something, but to know how much time it takes to get to and set up your site before nightfall. Though you can set up by flashlight, that is no way to do it on South Rim. You want to enjoy your sunset already set up and ready to go.

Camelbaks are not necessary, but they are handy. Water jugs (the lighter the better) work, but in all cases pack with respect and know that anything you take can get punctured by cactus spines if you so much as sit in the wrong place. Pants? I'd go with convertible cargo pants if you plan to be out at night. They help minimize exposure from biting critters, though I normally only put 'em on as a precaution as biting critters (flies) are NORMALLY not an issue when I've been there.

Long sleeve. I'd go with one, cotton or under armour. Darker colors are better if you want to be out at night. They are less likely to attract night time bugs if you're out shining a light or with a lantern or whatever. It will be hot during the day, but not too bad if you are from Texas and mow the yard at any time of the day because you are ok with the heat and know how to stay hydrated.

It can be much cooler at night, and drastically so if there is a storm or any other weather activity that lends to super cooled air out of the blue. Triple check the weather before you go, when you register your site, and even just before you walk up. To give you a better idea of what to expect we need more details.

How old are you guys? How often do you hike? Where do you normally hike? What kind of phobias do either of you have? There are very many potential ways to pull this trip off, but my ideal involves light food (Mountain House with a Jetboil as of late, if you don't have it, you can manage with other portable meals), a shelter of some sort, and fresh clothes to sleep in and hit the trails on the way out. But more than anything, it always factors in good boots (no more coming back with a black toenail or blisters) and even more than that an excess ration of water. I've actually sold a 100oz container of water for $20 up there (even though I offered it to the persons in need for free).

Ask away anything else you have in mind, one of us will have an answer. MY must take items are a camera and some light. Other than that, you should be set.
Get busy living, or get busy dying.

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Offline bdann

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Re: First timer
« Reply #3 on: June 22, 2012, 08:46:21 PM »
Don't underestimate the heat.  Starting out the hike in the hottest part of the day, in June, up hill.... recipe for a failed hike if you aren't in the habit of doing such things.

Bring lots of water.  A few weeks ago I did about 17 miles in the Chisos over two days.  First day I drank 6 quarts of water, not counting water to cook with.  The 2nd day I drank 5 quarts, also not counting cooking water.  I don't normally drink quite that much, but it was HOT in the afternoons.

It was very pleasant in the evenings though, low 60s.  Flies were terrible, though they backed off a bit once it got dark and you just had to deal with the mosquitos. 

Rain is really unpredictable in the summer at Big Bend, so I'd bring a tent and a light sleeping bag or blanket. 

Regarding food, bring whatever you have the ability to cook/heat on the trail.  Mountain House dehydrated meals require only boiling water and are decent tasting.  I like to make my own dehydrated meals, lots of info on how to do this around the interwebs.  Beef jerky, dried fruit, trail mix, crackers, stuff like that are also good to bring. 

Clothes: Everyone has their own opinion about what's comfortable.  In the summer, I just wear shorts and a t-shirt with a broad brimmed hat.  I wear hiking shoes, not boots.  If  you wear sandals, even if you don't kill your feet, you'll be constantly getting rocks between your feet and the sandals.  Don't wear cotton socks, go to Academy or REI and get a pair of light weight hiking socks.  Bring sunscreen for sure, long sleeve shirt if you feel you need it. 

Trail to the rim is well signed, the Chisos Trails map they sell in the visitor centers is all you need.
WATER, It does a body good.

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Offline Quatro

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Re: First timer
« Reply #4 on: June 22, 2012, 10:01:02 PM »
Proper hydration should start well before you shoulder your pack.  I start several days before a trip drinking more water than normal.  The day before I'm really pushing the water.  That means lots of stops if it's a driving day, but it's worth it.  Just before the hike I drink a quart. 
When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro - HST

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Offline elhombre

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Re: First timer
« Reply #5 on: June 22, 2012, 10:09:24 PM »
If this is truely your first time hiking/camping, stay in the campground and day hike the rim. After your set up your tent, hike up the Lost mine trail for the evening.  The next morning, day hike up the penicales trail and figure out how you feel at the top.  Then decide if you want to go further.  Carry 1.25 gallons of water per person on the day hike.  You will need it.  I strongly recommend that you first practice an overnight backpacking trip somewhere firstlike Enchanted Rock.  Some place that you can EASILY bail out of it it goes bad.  Many things will be vetted out by the first practice trip.  BB is unforgiving.  I was reminded of this last time I was out there when we found a pile of gear/food/and clothes left on the side of the trail.  Someone under-estimated the place and left a good $100 of stuff behind. 

Once you get your first trip done, you will be better prepared to enjoy the place the next time you come.  But by all means, get out there and see what it is all about!
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Offline Infosec

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Re: First timer
« Reply #6 on: June 22, 2012, 10:36:06 PM »
First you are going to love serene nature of the high desert. I am going to head into Chisos next month and here are some of the must bring
Clothing:
Synthetics NO Cotton. Think CoolMax or Omni Wick
Under Armor compression shirt underneath
Hiking boots or shoes with an aggressive tread
Light smart wool hiking sox
Convertible cargo pants - again synthetics not cotton
Long sleeve shirts - by now you can guess what material I recommend
Good hat
something you can layer on top if it gets cold

Food:
4 liters of water per/day but watch your consumption
Mountain house freeze dry + a jet boil is great for a beginner
some type of grazing food - trail mix or GORP
Cliff bars or something similar

Must haves:
First aid kit, small but well stocked with essentials
Compass and know how use it and how to read the trail map
signal mirror and whistle
Multi-tool or pocket knife
Duct tape - not the big gigantic roll. They sell mini rolls for hiking
sun screen and bug spray
two sources to make fire with
flashlight or head lamp
some type of walking stick others might say not necessary

I go with an ultra light tent with pad and 55+ bed roll.

All food in the Bear proof containers. I know there is plenty I am missing but I hate typing on these pad devices.


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Offline Al

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Re: First timer
« Reply #7 on: June 22, 2012, 10:39:43 PM »
If this is truely your first time hiking/camping, stay in the campground and day hike the rim. After your set up your tent, hike up the Lost mine trail for the evening.  The next morning, day hike up the penicales trail and figure out how you feel at the top.  Then decide if you want to go further.  Carry 1.25 gallons of water per person on the day hike.  You will need it.  I strongly recommend that you first practice an overnight backpacking trip somewhere firstlike Enchanted Rock.  Some place that you can EASILY bail out of it it goes bad.  Many things will be vetted out by the first practice trip.  BB is unforgiving.  I was reminded of this last time I was out there when we found a pile of gear/food/and clothes left on the side of the trail.  Someone under-estimated the place and left a good $100 of stuff behind. 

Once you get your first trip done, you will be better prepared to enjoy the place the next time you come.  But by all means, get out there and see what it is all about!

elhombre makes a lot of sense. 

Al

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Offline Infosec

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Re: First timer
« Reply #8 on: June 22, 2012, 10:48:40 PM »
You may or may NOT heed our advice, but if this your first time camping, the high Chisos can be difficult and unforgiving. I would follow the advice of elhombre as well. You want this to be fun, not something that turns you off from backpacking and outdoor living.

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Offline kevint

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Re: First timer
« Reply #9 on: June 23, 2012, 08:03:28 AM »
I'm more of a day hiker type and have, so far, more focused on the areas around the Chisos but one resource that this conversation has reminded me of regarding clothing issues like hats and long sleeves and regarding water needs is Desert Survival by David Alloway.  Alloway writes specifically from the perspective of the Chihuahuan desert in the Big Bend area.


I don't know the general opinion of this group here on Alloway's book but after reading it, I shifted away from shorts and short sleeved shirts.  (I didn't buy anything but I now pack at least some long pants and shirt sleeves.)  I also made sure my family had decent hats and large water bladders.  They begrudgingly agreed to the hats and the bladders until our first mid-day Big Bend hike.  My 11 year-old polished off 70 oz on the short hike to balanced rock and back.  Now everybody sees the value of the hats and bladders.  I still don't have them sold on wearing long pants and shirts.


I wish I was going to be going to Big Bend soon.
-- Kevin (W5KLT)

"It's not an adventure until something goes wrong."  --Yvon Chouinard

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Offline Casa Grande

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First timer
« Reply #10 on: June 23, 2012, 08:14:30 AM »
Lots of good advice already.  Here's my short answers:

1) Can I wear sandals (chacos) or do I need hiking boots?

You won't be wearing sandals for long if you as they'll be falling off your feet before too long.

2) Is there a chance of it being cool at night?

Yep,  there is a chance, depending on if you're in the upper Chisos around the Rim or down in the Basin.  It'll be a bit cooler at night up near the Rim.  But pleasant for me.

3) Do you actually need a sleeping bag, or just a mat of some sort?

Personal choice.


4)Is a long sleeve shirt highly recommended?? how about pants?

I don't like long sleeves myself.  Nor pants.

5) do I need topography maps, or is there no chance of getting lost on the trail.

There's always a chance of getting lost. But, if you stick to the clearly marked trails, chances are you won't.

6) What is the best way to carry water. Do I need a camel pack or just load my back pack with bottled water?

Multiple containers.  Both a camelback for immediate use and other containers for storage.

7) I have no idea what food to bring or how to cook it, any suggestions?

I prefer to take Mountain House meals and a way to boil the water for it.   Easy to make, delicious by any standard, and not much mess.  No mess kit necessary.  All you need is a little bowl to heat the water up in (Jetboil has one built in) and a spork of some kind.   I also like to take my own little mixture of nuts and chocolate (m&ms are my favorite for the trail). 

8) The highs next week are 105-110 in Terlingua, Would that make the Chisos around 90-95?

Probably.




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Offline Chireaux

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Re: First timer
« Reply #11 on: June 23, 2012, 09:44:39 AM »
Great advice so far, thanks for the replies. FYI I'm 33 and in decent shape, Although I'm more in anaerobic shape than aerobic. Im 5,7 about 170.
El hombre, not sure I'm following.
I was planning to start at the lodge and travelling down pinnacles trail until about 8 and setting up camp. Then finishing pinnacles the next evening and travelling back up the laguna meadows trail.
The first day I would hike from maybe 3-8, and the next day from maybe 6-7 to 2 ish. I figured I would have to suffer through the eat of the day so it may as well be the first day.
Are you saying it would be better to hike the pinnacles in the morning.
Do most hikers not hike during the heat of the day?

I may do a practice run as you mentioned, sounds like good advice.

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Offline Casa Grande

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First timer
« Reply #12 on: June 23, 2012, 10:56:24 AM »
I hike during the heat of the day, all be it more slowly and with more water.

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Offline Homer67

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Re: First timer
« Reply #13 on: June 23, 2012, 11:12:40 AM »
Man! I remember our first trip to Big Bend; I had been 3 times in '93, but my wife had not been.  She had also never camped.  I chose the backcountry so that the luxuries of the Basin or primitive roadside would be a non-issue. We also desired to encounter as few others as possible. I know it will be too hot now to do that.

It took us several trips to finally get things down.  I used to spend mass time with checklists --- overthinking and overpacking!  Now I compartmentalize each major area: shelter (including sleep pad/bag, tarp, etc...), food (mess kit and stove as well), water, pack essentials (snake-bite kit, bandana, head lamp, sm sewing kit, etc...), and electrolyte maintenance.

Since it will be hot, I would think about electrolyte maintenance.  As part of our pack essentials, I put a 4 oz pack of beef jerky in a zip lock and one gatorade packet for each day in each pack. We also buy a 20 oz gatorade (the packs are made for this size) as they are sturdy bottles, which we each keep handy in pockets on the outside of our packs. I would also recommend a good dinner and a small breakfast to help keep up with your electrolytes.  There are many ways to approach this...
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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Offline fartymarty

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Re: First timer
« Reply #14 on: June 23, 2012, 12:02:49 PM »
..... not sure I'm following.
I was planning to start at the lodge and travelling down UP pinnacles trail until about 8 and setting up camp. Then finishing pinnacles the next evening and travelling back up DOWN the laguna meadows trail.
Maybe my edit will help you follow better?

It's doubtful that you'll have too much competition for camping up there at this time of year,
but be advised that you can't just hike until you feel like stopping and set up camp just anywhere. You'll be making a reservation
for a specific camp site when you get your permit. I agree with elhombre, camp in the basin, hike the Lost Mine trail, then decide if
you want to tackle the Pinnacles trail. I wouldn't start the Pinnacles any later than 8:30 AM at this time of year,
(unless I was just going to Boulder meadow or Juniper flats) hiking up and up and up is exhausting enough in the shade.
If you start late in the day, I think you'll need 50% more water during the climb then you would during the morning when it's cooler and in the shade. However, I have seen experienced backpackers take off from the basin parking lot in the late afternoon. I always thought they were a bit daft, more out to punish themselves and pretend it's enjoyable, than to just enjoy the park. I've not seen that many start late in the day during the summer months.
 
 Here is some info you may not have seen. (Make sure the wife is OK with page two and three. (6-8" cat-hole, toilet paper delema et al) ;) )

If it's really important to stick to your plan, then I suggest the following: Leave at 4PM ish and leisurely backpack to Boulder meadow, set up camp and enjoy the evening. Day hike early the next morning up to Emory peak or the South Rim and return down hill (same trail that you went up earlier) in the late afternoon/early evening to your Boulder Meadow camp site. If you still have enough water then spend the night there again, if not then break camp and continue down to the basin and enjoy a well earned Cobbler a la mode at the restaurant.  :great:

I may do a practice run as you mentioned, sounds like good advice.
This would be a great idea.
Fort Worth

 


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