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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First timer

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Offline Infosec

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Re: First timer
« Reply #15 on: June 23, 2012, 12:22:16 PM »
I think its important to do plenty of research on the trails you plan to travel. Look at the topography, understand where you got the switchbacks. And paint that mental pictures with markers that help you along establish easy goals.
One of the key success factors for any high desert hike is heat management and a hydration plan. How to wick moisture from you body and how to replace the water and salts you lost. There are plenty of goog posts and other online resources that will provide you with a fact based approach.

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Offline catz

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Re: First timer
« Reply #16 on: June 23, 2012, 01:55:17 PM »
The Pinnacles Trail is generally steeper than the Laguna Meadows Trail because it tops out sooner.  Therefore, most people go up Laguna Meadows and down Pinnacles.  On the other hand, some people prefer going uphill than going downhill.  The Pinnacles is more scenic, although Laguna's not shabby. 

I would not bother with attempting the side trail to Emory Peak unless you have ruled out getting to the South Rim.

While I guess anything is possible, it is virtually impossible to get lost.  The trails--all of them--are clear, obvious, and with signs at every interchange.  The Chisos map available for free at the VC is all you'll need.

You should consider going only about halfway up and camping two nights at that spot.  In the intervening day, you can go up to the Rim, have lunch, and enjoy the views.  No, you won't get the sunset/sunrise but you won't be lugging all your stuff all the way to the rim.  Whether you go up the Pinnacles or the Laguna Meadow trail, there are campsites about halfway up.

I agree that freeze-dried food is the way to go, at least for dinners.  I find the Mountain Home spaghetti with meat sauce is actually pretty tasty, and I think the "enchiladas" are OK, but I haven't found many of the others to be very good.  But they're all hot, light, easy to fix, and gentle on water use.  The freeze-dried eggs with bacon for breakfast are also tasty--and you will get your full day's allotment of salt in that one meal!

I personally never carry a tent (we've had several discussions about that on this Board).   If rain is in the forecast, then you probably should carry one, but otherwise I don't think they are worth the weight.   Even if rain is called for, you can protect yourself by carrying a second, larger ground cloth to cover yourself with.  The few rains there are are usually brief, although they can be pretty heavy for short periods.

The flies can definitely be a nuisance, so take Deet.

As far as clotheses go, I second (or triple) the suggestion about taking convertible cargo pants.  Avoid cotton if possible.  I think a light, long sleeve shirt will be all you'll need.  Wear good-quality hiking shoes, not necessarily boots, but derfinitely not sandals or sneakers.  Good quality socks are also a must.  As is a hat, preferably one with at least a medium brim.  A cheap bandana that you can soak and then tie around your neck is also good.

Let us know how it all turns out! 

Wake me when it's time to go.

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Offline elhombre

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Re: First timer
« Reply #17 on: June 23, 2012, 02:14:25 PM »
As you may have figured out, I am suggesting that you change your plans and stay in the established car camping campground in the Chiso Basin.  Use it as your base for the time you are there.  After getting your tent up when you arrive, back track up the road a little and hike the Lost Mine Trail.  Get a feel for what the area has to offer on one of the best maintained trails in the park.  The next day, start out at first light and head up the Pinnacles trail.  At 3.3 miles you will make the ridge and you will be able to assess your condition.  If you have a little left to give, head up the Emory peak trail.  If you have a whole bunch left, keep going all the way to the Rim.  The top of ridge on the Pinnicles trail (1st decision check point) is 25% of the way around the entire Rim loop.

I would like to make one more observation.  Many people head out there with big plans to cover a bunch of miles in a short amount of time.  They walk fast with ther heads down looking at the trail the entire time so as to not stumble on the rocky trails.  I believe many miss the main point they originally came out to the area for, and that is to slow down and enjoying being some place else other than WORK.  The desert truely moves at its own pace.  For me, it unfortunatly usually takes 3 full days till I finally get myself to that slower pace.  My guess ( and hope) is that after you have been out there once, you will find that you feel refreshed by slowing down to that desert pace and you will see why so many people love the place.    :ecomcity:
For 2 years the Fake News Media, Obama's FBI, CIA & DOJ, and Swamp dwelling Politicians COLLUDED, Illegally Spied,and LIED to America about POTUS in order to overturn an election

All the while demanding censorship and removal of opposition Conservative "hate speech" voices.  Globalists Hate Freedom

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Offline trtlrock

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Re: First timer
« Reply #18 on: June 23, 2012, 02:33:44 PM »
Lots of good advice here. I'll try to add things that maybe haven't been mentioned yet, or elaborate on some...

On food, Mtn Hse is OK.

IMHO, this is better:  http://www.maryjanesfarm.org/categories/food-pantry.asp

And, this is MUCH better (tres yummy): http://www.packitgourmet.com/

If you're fairly new to backpacking, and/or are going to be heavily loaded with water, figure on a max pace of 1.5 mph going up or down, and max of 2.0mph on the flats (i.e. once on the Rim). Add in a 10-minute break for every hour hiked. Take your shoes & socks off every break! Your feet will thank you. Add in 1-hr for a lunch break, and make 2 of those 10-m breaks 30-m breaks instead, for significant snacks. Allocate 1-2 hours of daylight/twilight after you reach camp. You will be tired, hungry, thirsty. You will need to set up camp, clean up, have a snack/dinner. You will want to take photos, sit on the Rim & watch the sunset/sunrise, etc (camp at NE4 and/or SW3 if possible)

Buy or rent trekking poles. Your knees will thank you, and, without exaggeration, the success of your Rim-hike might actually depend on whether you have poles or not, given your heavy load, and your experience level. In the same vein, some hikers prefer (I do) to climb rather than descend the Pinnacles, as descending the Pinnacles (even without a heavy load) is very hard on the knees.

On water, I'd allocate 1.5g per-person per-day on the steep climb up, 1g p-p p-d on the upper flats, and 1.25g p-p p-d if descending in direct sun. You really need to use Boot Spring or the pools upstream for as much water as you can. The water will be there, and you should read through the many threads here wrt water treatment. If you don't avail yourself of this water, the climb & the rest of the hike will be needlessly brutal wrt pack weight.

Have fun whatever you do!
John & Tess

"...and I'll face each day with a smile, for the time that I've been given's such a little while..." - Arthur Lee

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Offline Chireaux

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Re: First timer
« Reply #19 on: June 23, 2012, 08:48:23 PM »
This is a great thread, hopefully it will help many other beginner hikers as well. One quick question while I'm thinking about it. Assuming I left early morning and hiked in the cooler part of the day. What does one do the rest of the day.?Are there trees to find shade in most areas...what are some ways to stay cool and relax in your down time during the heat of the day?

Oh, and A couple other questions just came to mind. Can you leave water and other belongings at your campsite? is this safe to do.

Also, could someone please explain switchbacks....?

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Offline kevint

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First timer
« Reply #20 on: June 23, 2012, 09:17:43 PM »
Switchbacks are parts of a trail that zig-zag  back and forth up a steep slope so the route is longer but less steep.
-- Kevin (W5KLT)

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

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Offline Al

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Re: First timer
« Reply #21 on: June 23, 2012, 09:44:11 PM »
Hiking in the morning will be cooler and much more enjoyable than hiking in the heat of the day.  Once you get to your campsite, there is plenty to do after you set it up camp.  Such as explore the area.  I'm fond of naps, after all it is a vacation. . .  Talk to the rangers about stuff to see in the vicinity.  Explore and take lots of pictures to share with us. 

I wouldn't be worried about theft but I wouldn't tempt fate either. The only folks even potentially near by will be like you:  there to enjoy the exercise, remoteness and nature.  Bring a small day pack to take some  water,  snack, your camera, wallet, etc. for when you explore away from the campsite.  Your stuff will be fine.

Al
« Last Edit: June 23, 2012, 10:44:14 PM by Al »

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Offline elhombre

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Re: First timer
« Reply #22 on: June 23, 2012, 09:44:29 PM »
Mmmmm.............B uena Suerte mi amigo
For 2 years the Fake News Media, Obama's FBI, CIA & DOJ, and Swamp dwelling Politicians COLLUDED, Illegally Spied,and LIED to America about POTUS in order to overturn an election

All the while demanding censorship and removal of opposition Conservative "hate speech" voices.  Globalists Hate Freedom

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Offline Infosec

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Re: First timer
« Reply #23 on: June 23, 2012, 10:21:39 PM »
My favorite are the naps, but if you time your visit to coincide with a New Moon, then you are in for the real treat. BB has the darkest skies of any park in the lower 48. I never thought that I would see darker skies than in Arches, but BB was by far the best night show.

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Offline stingrey

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Re: First timer
« Reply #24 on: June 23, 2012, 10:43:51 PM »
I hate to put it this way, but my FIRST camping experience in the park was a solo overnighter. I'd never camped in my own gear that I'd set up myself outside of a car campsite, and I'd learned everything I *thought* I needed to know here on this very board.

I went up with a roughly 3lb tent (Big Agnes Seedhouse SL3, worth every lb), and I spent TWO nights up there. The first night I stayed up on Juniper Flats somewhere (basically after the hardest first mile you'll take on the way up towards Pinnacles IMO) and then I stayed in Boot Canyon 4 the 2nd night. I took 100oz containers of water for each night I was going to be there and a couple of big Gatorades for fun and a TON of clothes for added punishment.

The things I learned in order are:

1) You can't step on your stakes to stick 'em in the ground like the "how to" videos on YouTube showed me. Not up there anyway. Maybe at Brazos Bend where the ground is soft. Otherwise the stakes go through the bottoms of your shoes and COULD have gone through your foot if you weren't quick on the retreat from that bad idea.

2) Regardless of the sunny forecast, it can and will rain on you, maybe even with mixed bits of hail and tons of reverberating thunder to accompany the lightning. It is awesome, but not so much if you are in a tarp or worse yet if you don't have a tarp.

3) The water was heavy, but it was worth it to me when I had extra to give someone who would've had to hike back down early since they'd run out. If you start out early (again, you HAVE to reserve your sites), you will allow yourself time to set up shop and ENJOY the massive trek you just took on AND you'll have plenty of water because you brought enough. Don't skimp on the water.

Everyone will tell you whatever they can about clothes, but if you are going to spend any amount of time outside, consider a long sleeve. Even if it is cotton. It holds moisture, so it will keep you wet and cool 'till it dries thoroughly if you are in the sun relaxing for a while. Wear something dark if you will be out at all at night. Minimize your tastiness to small biting insects that might fly your way based on lighter hues.

When you ask what do you do the rest of the day... There are plenty of trees in the upper areas of Big Bend's South Rim trail system. You will find shade all over up there in varying intervals. I take a small REI tripod stool to sit on sometimes, sometimes I take something more comfy. If you can haul that small bit of weight the wife would probably enjoy it, but you can get by without those comfort items.

There is a lot you can get by without. Clothes is one of the things I over estimate more often than not, but lately I pack more socks and plan on a dry set of clothes for that night/next night which doubles as the hike out outfit as well if needed. There is plenty to do up there, but if you find yourself needing to beat the heat and just chill, some people take books. If you are like me, you'll look for stuff to shoot (with your camera). You may be into wildlife, scenery, night skies, etc. There is a LOT to do, and not enough time to do it.

I cut my teeth on South Rim. If I could do it, I KNOW anyone else can do it, but you have to keep the very basics in mind... Water, your physical ability, and the upkeep of your feet. In theory you can get by without much more than that for a day or two. Everything else is based on your needs and desires from this outing. Pack some headlamps and a good flashlight or two. You never know what you'll spot at night.

I tell you what though, if you have not done South Rim or any major hike, you WILL be in for a surprise. It will be very grueling, you will stop more than you think (esp if you have never carried weight on your back to the degree you will for an overnighter in a dry area with no immediately available running water), and yet IF you allow for that to be part of the anticipated experience, you WILL be rewarded with some amazing opportunities to experience some pretty cool stuff.

Trust me... If I could do this as my first overnighter ever and make it a multi-nighter with water to spare, I am pretty sure many other people can pull it off... You just have to know what you are getting into and be ready to haul up what you want to have or leave out what you know you probably don't need to enjoy your trip. My best experience gauge is other trails. Have you done Lost Maples's loop (east I believe)? Enchanted Rock? What have you done with a moderate incline... Can you do that in one shot? With 50+ lbs on your back? Can your wife?

On leaving stuff, nobody will take stuff from your site, but there are bear boxes. If you are paranoid, you can lock your box with stuff inside it. Take a lock. I wouldn't bother. Try to grab a site near the rim if you will allow a whole day (starting in the a.m.) to get there. There are a ton of ways to slice this type of outing, but again... We have to know your actual level of exposure to previous hikes to really help here.

Some of this is mental and some of it is physical, but some good prep and advice goes a long way. Personally if I had a chance to do things over, I'd almost always opt for an overnighter on South Rim vs. doing portions of or the entirety of it as a day hike. On the flip side, like others have said, maybe prep for your outing but spend a day going up something like Lost Mine as a day hike the day before. If that scares you when it is said and done, know that you may not want to take on South Rim as an overnighter this trip around. Or if you are confident in your ability after shouldering the pack on a moderate trail system in your area, you should be able to do it as a first time outing...

IF you give yourself enough time and IF your wife is up to it. I did this outing with my ex. Both of us were challenged, but both of us made it, and when she went it was her first time to do something like this too. In that case, the same tent I had was definitely valued way more than it was for just myself. Tarps are great. Find out the level of comfort for everyone involved in this outing with regard to knowledge that rattlesnakes and other non-venomous snakes ARE out right now (in force as of a few weeks ago) and that a ton of spiders and other stuff are out because of all the recent rainfall. Not a huge deal since most people in tarps don't ever have encounters with said critters...

Lots to consider, but thankfully you at least asked the initial questions. Whatever you end up doing, please be sure to share some pics!
Get busy living, or get busy dying.

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Offline Al

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Re: First timer
« Reply #25 on: June 23, 2012, 11:14:23 PM »
Rey, next time tell us what you really think!   :iagree:

I don't know if there is a Readers Digest version, but perhaps the Boy Scout Motto, "Be Prepared" applies.  It is much much better to bring too much stuff than not enough, particularly your first trip while you are still young. 

You don't want to go to all the good time and trouble to go and hike up there to be miserable.  With experience you will become more judicious in what you haul in your pack but until then it is best to ere on the side of caution. Be sure and bring some treats to enjoy.

Al

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Online mule ears

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Re: First timer
« Reply #26 on: June 24, 2012, 07:12:42 AM »
All good info and advice.  Like stingrey, I find clothing the area that I tend to over think and bring too much.  While I would make sure I took everything that I think I would need to make a comfortable trip, don't over do it and carry so much un-necessary stuff that you and your wife are miserable carryhing heavy loads, including carrying all your water if there is water in the pools in Boot Canyon that you can filter or purify.

stingrey is also man mountain along the lines of TWWG so take that into account as far as how much load he can handle versus others.   :notworthy:

Here is a really good thread on what gear folks use including a discussion on clothes.
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
http://40yearsofwalking.wordpress.com/

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Offline kevint

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Re: First timer
« Reply #27 on: June 24, 2012, 08:22:51 AM »
Here is a really good thread on what gear folks use including a discussion on clothes.


Looked at the thread.  What's an Alf hat?
-- Kevin (W5KLT)

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

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Online mule ears

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Re: First timer
« Reply #28 on: June 24, 2012, 09:44:21 AM »
Here is a really good thread on what gear folks use including a discussion on clothes.


Looked at the thread.  What's an Alf hat?

It is just the brand name.  A wide brim with ventilation like this

temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
http://40yearsofwalking.wordpress.com/

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chisos_muse

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Re: First timer
« Reply #29 on: June 24, 2012, 10:32:51 AM »
Nice photo, ME!  :13:

 


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