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Juniper Canyon to the South Rim - A Different Kind of Trip Report

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Offline Reece

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Let me begin by saying I've only been at this about 6 years so I still consider myself a rookie. I usually hike alone so I take special care for safety and I always seem to find a way to hurt myself. This post is not about any macho chest thumping. With me, you get to see the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Chronology:
Day-1 November 26, 2010
I left Houston at 3:30 AM all loaded up and armed with a thermos of hot coffee, headed for Panther Junction park headquarters, Big Bend National Park. I took a QS, modified route west. I10 to Columbus and 71 up through La Grange with a stop at Weikel's for some cinnamon rolls. I skirted Austin to the south on 71 and picked up 290 through Fredricksburg and reconnected to I10 and a welcome 80 mph speed limit. My little 4-cylinder Frontier pickup had to strain some but it did just fine. I took 385 south at Ft. Stockton to the park. I made it by 2:30 and headed straight to the back country orientation room, forms in hand. You know, you can download the back country permit form and the solo hiker form online and fill them out ahead of time. The ranger was very nice. As he interviewed me, I think he sized me up for a potential rescue victim. He asked me about my experience level and how much water I was taking up Juniper Canyon. I said 6 liters (I took 5) but only because he told me that Upper Juniper Spring was running. I literally couldn't fit any more into my pack. He also looked into my eyes and asked me if I had a weapon, out loud, I said "No" and silently thought, "not on me." He took a picture of the sole of my boot and one of me with my pack, gave me an info tag with a  wire tie on it. "Tie this to your pack." I put in into the first aid pocket of my pack. I figure anyone who finds me dead won't mind digging through my pack for ID. He did all but fit me with a toe-tag. Now I was getting close! I headed south on Park Route 12 and then hit the unpaved portion - Glen Springs Rd. to Juniper Canyon Rd. My plan was a 5 day trip. Day1 - travel/roadside camp, Day2 - hike/backcountry camp, Day3 - hike/backcountry camp, Day4 - hike/roadside camp, Day5 - travel. There were no back country roadside sites available so I got the OK to park at the end of Juniper Canyon Rd. I had plenty of company.



I walked over to the trail sign and took few shots then, right off the bat, did something stupid. I don't know if anyone else is affected this way but when I take a long road trip and change terrain drastically, I'm a little wobbly on my feet until I acclimate to my new surroundings. I'm a flatlander so my equilibrium dial is set to "FLAT." When I drive to the mountains and switch my dial to "HILLY", I'm a little throwed off for a while. I had my reading glasses on, fidgeting with my camera with both hands, while walking back to the truck over fairly even ground. You see the picture. Somehow I tripped over a small rock and fell flat on my face. I scuffed up my arm and leg a little but did no permanent damage.







I did a little tailgate cooking and crawled into the back of my truck for the night. The 6" fatty mattress put my face a little too close to my tonneau cover so I propped it up with my trekking poles. A good backpacker has to be resourceful you know. I used my big synthetic sleeping bag since my down bag was already stuffed and in my pack. My wife let me take a couple of full sized pillows. I figured I might as well rest well for at least 2 of my 4 nights. It got pretty cold and I lost one pillow all the way to the ground at some point during the night. Finally I closed the tailgate to hold my stuff in better. Then the trekking-pole props fell down and It started feeling a little too cozy, claustrophobic, like I was in a coffin maybe. I made it to morning with the help of some Tylenol PM (I don't sleep all that well, even at home). There was frost from my breath on the underside of the T-cover but my water wasn't frozen so I figure low 30's for the night.

Day 2
I got busy cooking a tailgate breakfast on my big stove, once again, the WhisperLite wasn't coming out of the pack. Coffee and oatmeal to warm up, topped off with a big slab of pumpkin pie left from Thanksgiving, thanks to my lovely wife, Patricia.



After sunrise the temperature climbs quickly. I stripped down to a single layer of clothes and hit the trail about 9 AM, headed up Juniper Canyon with my 45 lb. pack. I met some real characters on this leg of the trip. For details see "The People" section. This portion of the trail was by far the easiest. Fueled equally by excitement and pumpkin pie, I was nearly supercharged up the initial, gradual incline. I called to mind my friend Boaz's walking advice, "Take it slow and steady, deliberately, one foot in front of the other, keeping a comfortable rhythm and you can walk all day long."

I found the "Juniper Camp" sign. I'm not sure what it originally marked. There's no camp there but there is a spring nearby. I'm thinking that in BiBe Park style, they were marking the spring with out advertising it. Boot spring isn't marked either. Basically, they want everyone to bring their own water. The way got a little confusing for me here. At the sign, the trail up Juniper Canyon takes a hard right turn while the straight line leads to the spring I found. I followed the straight line down a  little, thinking I was on the main trail until it narrowed, went through some bramble and into a forested area with a good low canopy. I think I could smell the water if that's possible. Then I ran across a wet streak in the soil where the water was trickling down so I followed it about 60 ft. up the hill to the source and found a very nice pool filled with exceptionally good water coming out of the rock face. I saw a pipe leading downhill but I didn't follow it since I had obtained my objective, water in the desert. (29° 15.012'N, 103° 16.693'W) This location is only about 150 ft. from the sign but it is 6-8 hundred ft. from where Juniper Spring is marked on most popular maps. I wish now that I had done a little more scouting and I wish I had gotten a picture here but my camera's rechargeable batteries kept crapping out on me. I think they've gotten too old to hold a charge. I can't vouch for the long term reliability of this spring but it was a beautiful spot and a body could have made a really nice, well protected camp in this area but you're not supposed to camp near a water source.

According to my map, my proposed base camp site, JC#1 was a ways past Juniper Spring so I determined to head on up, make camp and hike back down to water up just before dark. For some reason, that escapes me, the map is very deceptive here. Maybe it was the elevation or maybe it was some kind of mental distortion of time and space but the trek from the spring to JC#1 was 3 times farther and took 3 times longer than I expected.

I unloaded, pitched the tent, pulled my bag out of the stuff sack to fluff, hung my food in a giant Juniper tree and headed back down for water.

Back at camp it was supper time.

At this point, I'll address my eating problem when on the trail. When I over-exert, I lose my appetite to a mild nausea. I have to force myself to eat, especially in the middle of the day. I have made the serious mistake of not eating enough so now, in place of trail mix, I carry home made trail cookies, my own recipe, available upon request. This is a modified oatmeal, fruit cookie with dried cherries, cranberries and apricots for the antioxidant fruit. Oats, wheat flour, wheat germ, wheat bran and brown sugar for carbohydrate. Margarine and egg beaters for fat and protein. I can eat one every half hour during a hard hike and stay pretty well fueled up.

Supper was a cup of instant noodles. I can't eat big right before I lay down or there will be trouble with reflux. The temperature the second night was warmer as expected, a little too warm for my 20 degree Kelty bag. Im guessing in the high 50's. Out of the bag was too cold in the bag was too hot. That's the problem with a  mummy bag, you can't use it as a cover. The wind gusts came off and on but I slept pretty well. There must be a name for these winds. You can hear the blast roaring up the canyon long before it reaches you. Then it swirls past, vanishing just as suddenly, leaving the air as still as stone. Anyone have a name for these winds?

Day 3
I woke at first light to an already reddening horizon.

I made coffee to share with Jason (more about him in the "People" section.) Once I had downed my 2 packs of instant oatmeal, I was about ready for the push up to the rim. The wind was gusting to about 40 mph so I collapsed my tent and weighted it down with rocks. I had only my lunch and emergency provisions in my pack. I left one liter of water at camp and hung the balance of my food. I doubt seriously that it would have foiled a persistent bear but at least it was 8 ft. or so off the ground.

The hike over the hump and down into Boot Canyon was strenuous but beautiful. I ate trail cookies and sipped water steadily all the way. The temperature was in the low 70's much of the day. I found the shack and the Boot Spring pipe with no water flowing so I nosed around up stream and found a small pool that smelled slightly sulfurous but looked pretty clean, not exactly running like Juniper but drinkable. I scrambled up stream in search of something better but found only dry holes. Once satisfied that I wasn't going to go thirsty, I headed up Boot Canyon Trail for the final push to the rim. There were several large stagnant pools in Boot Canyon but nothing I'd drink except in an emergency. After 2 full days of hiking, I was really starting to get hungry for animal protein. I guess the trail cookies only go so far. I topped the grassy area at about 1:30 and ate my tunafish and crackers at what felt like the edge of the world. What a view! I'm really glad I achieved this goal. I've been thinking about it for years. I'm also glad I took QS's advice and hiked up Juniper. Hiking from the basin would have been too easy and way too crowded.



I didn't tarry, nor did I take the South East Rim Loop back to Boot Canyon like I had planned. Not wanting to risk running out of daylight, I took the shortest route, back the way I had come. I headed back to the sulfur pool and filled my 2 empty bottles. At this point, I half expect someone to say, "That wasn't sulfur, you fool! That was arsenic or radon or bear whizz." It wasn't as sweet as the Juniper water but it tasted better than a lot of the well water I've had.


Boot Spring pool

Once I had filled all my empty bottles, I hoisted my pack for the mostly downhill hike to base camp. I guess I was feeling pretty smug and self-confident at this point. I actually said out loud, "I've got the world by the tail on a downhill drag." I'm going to purge that stupid phrase from my vocabulary because not 5 seconds later I missed a foot fall and went down hard on my back and left side. 


My bent up pack - after the fall

This time I think I bruised some ribs. You can ask QS. I'm not a clumsy person. Actually I'm fairly nimble, even light on my feet you might say. Falling is not like me at all and I'm way too old to begin making a habit of it now. As I write this, 6 days later, I still can't sleep on my left side. It's hell getting old. You've probably heard that since people are living longer nowadays that 60 is the new 40. Well, I doubt seriously if that notion was hatched by a 60 year old. 60 is still 60. You don't heal as fast and your fitness is way harder to maintain. I got started back on my weight training routine today and I'm walking with QS and Boaz tomorrow morning but I expect to experience some pain in the ribs for a good while yet.

I limped into base camp at about 4:30, one tired dude. I boiled water for noodles and ate my last pack of tuna. I re-erected my tent and crawled inside for my final night on the trial. I was in too much pain to sleep so I took a pain pill on top of my Tylenol PM and a few hours later, another. A few hours after that I resorted to my snake bite medicine. That was a mistake for it induced every manner of nightmare imaginable. Every time I dozed off I experienced a nightmare vivid enough to awaken me. Whether it was the pain or the medication, this cycle went on all night long and left me pretty ragged out by morning.

Day 4
After another beautiful sunrise with hot coffee and oatmeal, I hurriedly broke camp and headed down Juniper Canyon to my truck. I had originally planned to spend the better part of this day on the mountain, hiking down late in the afternoon to sleep my last night in the bed of my truck again but I decided I had had enough.



I headed down at 8:30 and made it to my truck by 11. I threw my stuff in and drove back to Panther Junction to drop off my toe tag. I had to take the rocky road slowly since the jostling really hurt my ribs. I headed out 170 west to see my old Big Bend Ranch trail heads and for that famous view of the Rio Grande. Then it was on to the Chisos Mining Company Motel for the $59.95, no phone, no TV single. I showered and brushed my teeth for the first time in 4 days and headed over to the Starlight Theatre for beer and supper. What a pleasant place! I wanted to linger but I had to get out of there while I could still drive safely. My bed looked a little rough but it was actually pretty comfortable. I slept like a baby.



Day 5
I answered my alarm at 6, dressed and dropped off the key. I filled up my thermos at the local cafe and headed north on 118 toward Alpine and the long ride home.

The People:
1. I met two pimple faced college boys scrambling down Juniper Canyon at about 10AM, each one bare-handing a pair of sticks for trekking poles that looked to be broken from some dead fall along the trail. They wore little more than camel packs which tubes they had hanging out of the corners of their months. They made like they would pass without a word so I chided them, "Are you going to pass right by without speaking?" "Oh, sorry!" I asked, "Where are you coming from?" One said, "The South Rim." "Where are you headed in such a hurry?" "We're doing the Outer Mountain Loop." I asked, "Do you have water cached?" "Yeah, at Homer Wilson." And off they went. I can't imagine how they got most of the way down Juniper Canyon by 10 AM or where they were planning to spend the night. I guess I must be old and slow.

2. Up past Juniper Spring a ways, I met a young couple literally skipping down the trail. The guy had red hair and arms tattooed down to the wrists and gauged ear lobes. The chick appeared to be Middle Eastern. He was carrying a Nalgene bottle with one finger by the lid loop and she had what appeared to be a wine bottle by the neck. They were headed to Upper Juniper Spring just to take a look. They had planned to hike the Outer Mountain Loop from the Basin but soon realized it was too hard so they were squatting at JC1 instead. I told them I had it reserved so they relinquished it willingly. I had dropped my map a ways back so I asked them to pick it up if they found it. They skipped off down the trail and came back about an hour later, map in hand. Nice couple.

3. Early on the Juniper Canyon Trail I passed four small tents pitched within a few feet of the trail. Up near Juniper Spring I ran into the occupants, three guys and one gal. The obvious leader did not speak, only scowled. He seemed to view the old man, soloist, who knew where to find water in the desert with equal parts of awe and contempt. El jefe waited at the main trail while the friendly three followed me down to the spring to have a look and took some pictures of me filling my bottles.

4. At base camp I had near neighbor, a young soloist who set up there on Saturday evening. He came over and remarked on the excellence of my site and I gave due credit to my instructors. We exchanged kind words and turned in for the night. He was carrying only granola, trail mix and avocados with no cooking gear. The next morning I woke him at first light with an offering of hot coffee and we watched the sunrise together. As the sky reddened I mentioned that I have a psalm memorized for such an occasion and he said, "Let's hear it." While the sun broke the horizon, fanning out its rays that Sunday morning, I recited Psalm 19.

"The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.
Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.
There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.
Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun,
Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race…etc."


It brought me to tears and I believe my new friend Jason was touched as well. He  practically forced me to take a liter of water for my push to the Rim. I think he was worried about me. Since he was taking the Outer Mountain Loop, I told him he could find a 1 liter bottle on the bumper of my truck at the trailhead. He left the water but scrawled a note on my dusty tailgate. "I'm happy to have met you."

Moderator Note: base photo gallery is http://picasaweb.google.com/105551199943811771493/JuniperHike#
« Last Edit: August 30, 2013, 02:33:14 PM by Reece »

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Offline Terlingua50337

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Re: Juniper Canyon to the South Rim - A Different Kind of Trip Report
« Reply #1 on: December 05, 2010, 08:42:18 PM »
Reese..... Man, good stuff. Elaborate more.  :eusa_clap:

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Offline badknees

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Re: Juniper Canyon to the South Rim - A Different Kind of Trip Report
« Reply #2 on: December 05, 2010, 08:45:49 PM »
Congratulations on your Rim trek. Thanks for the report, it was real.
Not all those who wander are lost.
– J.R.R. Tolkien

Through the Mirror
http://mirrormagic.com

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Offline SA Bill

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Re: Juniper Canyon to the South Rim - A Different Kind of Trip Report
« Reply #3 on: December 05, 2010, 09:25:51 PM »
Great trip Reece! Great report! :eusa_clap:
  Hope the ribs are feeling better by now.
    Thanks for sharing!
      Bill
Bill - In San Antonio

Growing old is mandatory.
Growing up is optional.

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Offline TexasAggieHiker

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Re: Juniper Canyon to the South Rim - A Different Kind of Trip Report
« Reply #4 on: December 05, 2010, 09:27:02 PM »
Great report!  Glad you survived!  You ready for the next trip??

How much water is that in the picture at Boot Springs?  Was the water flowing pretty good at Juniper Springs?

Take care of those ribs!

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Online Al

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Re: Juniper Canyon to the South Rim - A Different Kind of Trip Report
« Reply #5 on: December 05, 2010, 10:20:10 PM »
Reece, I can't recall a better told or written trip report.  Thank you!

Al

P.S. Do you have any more pictures?

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Offline Verduretiger

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Re: Juniper Canyon to the South Rim - A Different Kind of Trip Report
« Reply #6 on: December 06, 2010, 05:02:30 AM »
Great report and I know how you feel as an old man and balance.  Did you find water at lower juniper spring and did you visit upper juniper spring.  Was the upper spring difficult to find.  I have not been down that trail in about 10 years. 

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chisos_muse

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Re: Juniper Canyon to the South Rim - A Different Kind of Trip Report
« Reply #7 on: December 06, 2010, 05:49:49 AM »
Told ya it would be fine! You're prolly already set to go for another... ;)
Oh, just one thing....they make an ultralight toothbrush! 

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Offline dkerr24

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Re: Juniper Canyon to the South Rim - A Different Kind of Trip Report
« Reply #8 on: December 06, 2010, 06:26:22 AM »
I've read a lot of trip reports, but this one is definitely a good one!  Thank you for sharing it with the forum group.  Makes me want to go back and hike Juniper Trail again.

P.S. I liked the way you split the report up with a separate 'people' section.  Sometimes the people you meet are as interesting as the trip itself.

Darin

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BigBendHiker

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Re: Juniper Canyon to the South Rim - A Different Kind of Trip Report
« Reply #9 on: December 06, 2010, 06:36:01 AM »
Thanks for the pictures and trip report.

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Offline dkerr24

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Re: Juniper Canyon to the South Rim - A Different Kind of Trip Report
« Reply #10 on: December 06, 2010, 06:39:23 AM »
I looked over your picasa pictures and noticed you brought along duct tape.  A trick I read was to wrap the duct tape around one hiking pole.  Keeps the roll out of your pack, and easy to get to on the pole.

Interesting choices for hiking food, a little surprised you brought along canned soups (weight).  I guess you didn't have to worry about water for rehydrating.  Definitely cheaper on the pocketbook than buying the more expensive Mountain House fare.

I swear by that Vitalyte drink mix.  I usually buy a few packs before I take a desert hike.  Seems to do a better job than powdered Gatorade.

Darin

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Offline walkingman06

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Re: Juniper Canyon to the South Rim - A Different Kind of Trip Report
« Reply #11 on: December 06, 2010, 06:55:25 AM »
Thanks for the trip report, Reese.  I agree that after 55 the body does not regenerate as fast, but we can appreciate taking things a little slower!

Keep on hiking!
Moving in silent desperation
Keeping an eye on the holy land
A hypothetical destination
Say, who is this walking man?
James Taylor
Posted from Tulsa, OK

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Offline Ay Chihuahua!

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Re: Juniper Canyon to the South Rim - A Different Kind of Trip Report
« Reply #12 on: December 06, 2010, 08:34:49 AM »
Thanks for the very enjoyable trip report.  I can't wait to get up there this weekend.

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Offline Buck

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Re: Juniper Canyon to the South Rim - A Different Kind of Trip Report
« Reply #13 on: December 06, 2010, 09:14:24 AM »
I can't help but wonder how many citations the NPS will render from this post. :icon_lol:
"Hey, how 'bout a Fandango..?"

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Offline Reece

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Re: Juniper Canyon to the South Rim - A Different Kind of Trip Report
« Reply #14 on: December 06, 2010, 09:16:41 AM »
dkerr - That canned soup was for my truck camping food. I only carry dehydrated stuff up the hills.

Aggie - The small pool at Boot was just barely big enough to dip my cooking pot into.
Juniper - As I said, I found a small pool at the coordinates I gave, probably near the source. I didn't follow the pipe down to where the spring is marked on most maps.

Since my whole photo gallery is on view, I guess I'll have to create another post to talk about food, clothing and bear scat. Actually I intended to include a few more subcategories but I went over the character limit. Thanks to the moderator for working my photos.
« Last Edit: December 06, 2010, 10:06:14 AM by Reece »

 


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