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Emory Peak trip report Ė Columbus Day weekend 2015

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Offline tx1c

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Emory Peak trip report Ė Columbus Day weekend 2015
« on: October 19, 2015, 03:16:57 PM »
(This is my first time to post a trip report,)

I had been planning a trip to Big Bend in early October for a while with a friend from church.  Iíve been hoping to tackle a lot of the unpaved roads in his Jeep.  But our less than diligent planning led to the trip not happening, at least not as I had planned. 
Iíve been dying to get back to the park since my last visit in July 2013.  So I finally just said to myself that Iím going anyway.  Two others attempts at this have been derailed by things from work.  Several friends and family members advised me not to go solo.  Iím quite confident that I would not have any of the trouble they were worried about even though Iím not an overly experienced camper.  I tried to heed their advice, but I decided I was going anyway. 
Well, the weather for the days I wanted to go turned out to be rainy.  I trusted my handy weather app to tell me this ahead of time.  So I put off my trip for a couple of days.  I was going to drive out on Sunday, hike on Monday, and then decide whether to spend another day or just come back home on Tuesday.  But then my daughter made me aware that the kids didnít have school on Monday, Columbus Day.  So things really started clicking into place.  My son is in 4th grade and has a three day weekend.  Eureka!  I can take him out, get in free, and have an awesome experience with my son!
So I had to bump up my new schedule by a day, but it was not a problem.  We grabbed lunch in town right after his soccer game and headed out of town.  He didnít allow any goals as a goalie in the first half; they won 8-2. 
We normally travel much earlier in the day and also make several fun little stops along the way to help break up the long travel.  But this was Saturday at about lunch time.  Our normal stops would really throw off our timing; we only stopped to top of the gas tank a couple of times. 
We got to the entry to the park right at about 6:00 pm.  We did the traditional photos at the sign.   

We drove on in toward the Panther Junction visitor center and discovered that the basin campground was full.  Oh no!  Thatís not part of my plan!  There were two other cars of college kids there that had never been to the park; I shared with them the information I knew about the rest of the park and available campgrounds.  Iím pretty sure they proceeded on down to the RGV campground.  I foolishly headed into the basin anyway to try my luck at just about anything. 
I meandered into the basin campground hoping to happen upon someone I have never met but know from another online forum of people I feel I can trust.  It was a long shot, and it was as fruitless as expected. 
We went up to the lodge to get wifi so I could email my wife.  While there, I inquired about the cost of rooms in the lodge.  It has been several years since we stayed there.  They said they had only one room left and gave me the price.  I mulled it over not liking any of my options.  In the interest of time in the morning to set off on our hike, I took the room.  It was a nice cool night; we stepped outside to look at the sky for a few minutes.  I donít remember ever seeing before the band across the sky that is the Milky Way; we saw it then even among everything in the basin parking lot. 
We slept well.  But I had to be up early to take care of our entry into the park and arrange for a much more budget-friendly place to sleep the next night. 
At the visitor center, they said that we were only the third ones they knew of to use the ďEvery Kid in a ParkĒ thing at Big Bend; the other two were home-schoolers.  Iím just a lucky dad who is crazy about Big Bend and has a 4th grader. 
Since I didnít want to wait around for a site open up in the basin, I went ahead and claimed one of the backcountry sites out in the rest of the park.  We got Croton Springs 1. 
Then we took off on our hike. 
While planning the original trip mentioned at the beginning of this account, I wanted to do an overnight on a South Rim hike.  But now that I was in charge of two of us, I wasnít comfortable carrying enough for two people mostly on my back.  So we were going to do an all day South Rim hike with a side trip up Emory Peak.  Iíve heard of it being done in a day. 
As we embarked from the Pinnacles trailhead we met a solo hiker who wanted to join us.  His name is Frank from Harrisburg, PA.  He is a little older than I am, in pretty good shape, and likes sharing his hikes (he said he is 71, I was way off).  We didnít mind in the least, and he was good company.  He was only planning to hit Emory Peak and come back down. 

A handful of deer sparring in the field.     

So we hiked.  As excited as I get, and as ambitious as I am about adventures like this, I feel like the weak link in the group.  I had to stop and rest more often that I would have expected.  Now we didnít have any scary moments or anything like that, and I knew it would be hard; but I was reminded of how under-conditioned I am for these hikes. 
The juncture at the Emory Peak trail was a very welcome sight.  We rested a little; I shed my big pack into a bear box and took on the smaller one my son had; it really lightened both our loads.   

And away we went up toward Emory Peak.  I got to see Boot Canyon and its namesake rock formation for the first time.  I was really looking forward to hiking through the canyon.  Our hiking buddy, Frank, bailed out about two-thirds of the way up the Emory Peak trail.  He knew his limit, and headed back the way we came. 
My son and I trekked on toward the peak.  We encountered enough people on the trails that the concerns expressed by friends and family were pretty unfounded.  We could see people on the peak as we traveled toward it.  We also encountered hikers that were coming back down.  We were not alone. 
We neared the peak and of course the ďtrailĒ gets rockier as you get closer.  There was a trio of hikers having lunch at the top of our hike.  And I couldnít believe how many ladybugs there were.  If I thought they were harmful, I would call it an infestation.   

Anyway, we got to the steep rugged part of the hike, I know, almost at the top.  But my confidence level was starting to suffer.  My son was ready to go up, and Iím sure I could have made it up, too; but my much greater concern was coming back down that part.  Some may be disappointed by turning around where we did, I have no regrets over it.  However, it does mean I have to go back and finish this little achievement.  But it doesnít have to be next in line when I go back. 
Us at our highest point:   

We were pretty worn out.  And we still had to make it all the way back down to the basin.  Needless to say, we did not make the South Rim loop this time.  Thatís another thing for another time; but it does stay at the top of my to-do list for next time. 
The last couple of miles going down were pretty rough on us.  We were sore and still needed to rest quite often.  I just knew the blisters were forming. 
Finally back to my truck, we shed out boots and just sat. 

We were so tired I forgot to take an Ďafterí picture of us. 
I had told my son that if he did well, we could eat at the basin restaurant.  The plan was to eat there anyway.  He had the kids cheeseburger and I ordered the chicken fried steak.  It was good, but I just couldnít handle eating it after our hikeÖso my son finished it for me; remember, heís nine. 
After recovering enough to move around and having our dinner, we headed out to Croton Springs 1.  I wanted to wimp out and just put our air mattress in the back and sleep in my Tahoe, but my son wanted to set up the tent.  Who am I to deny him his wishes on such a trip? We got it up just as it was getting dark.  We looked at the stars and finally fell asleep.  It wasnít quite as nice and cool as it had been the previous night in the basin, but it was plenty bearable. 
Coyotes in the distance woke me up four different times.  When I first heard them I couldnít figure out what sporting event was going on with all the crown noise and cheering.  Then I woke up and made sense of it. 
I was not aware of a Croton Springs trail until I saw the trailhead sign there by the campsites.  Itís not on any of my maps, but I have since found accounts of it here on BBC. 
We woke up, broke camp, and took off to other points in the park before we hit the road back home.  I scouted out the trailhead to Oak Springs and Cattail Falls; I didnít know Cattail Falls was an official trail.  It was already on my to-do list.  We didnít plan any more hikes because we really needed to recover from the Emory Peak hike.   

We drove on down to Santa Elena Canyon because we hadnít yet seen the river this trip.  I wanted to see it after the rains a few days earlier.  The river was at least twice as wide as it was last time I saw it.  Water also filled Terlingua Creek making a crossing to the trail a little difficult.  Not a problem for us as we were done hiking.  My son played in the mud a little before we left.   

Driving into the park on Saturday we saw more roadrunners than I have ever seen.  Itís not unusual to see them, but every time we would look down the road, weíd see another one.  My son was counting, but his methods were a little questionable; Iíd say we saw over 20 of them.  And on our Monday morning drive in the park, there were millipedes all over the road everywhere.  Not so many that they would cover the road if you run over them, but there were way more than anyone would have wanted to count.   

And another first for me is that we saw two tarantulas as I drove.  We did stop to observe the first one; it was nice and black.   

Well, we made it back to Ft. Stockton without having to buy any gas at the park or in Marathon where the prices are noticeably higher.  And we headed back home to San Antonio. 
Honestly, I think this trip could not have been any better than it was.  It was an awesome experience for both of us.  I had to break that to my buddy who couldnít go, and he believes me. 


Offline Lance

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Re: Emory Peak trip report Ė Columbus Day weekend 2015
« Reply #1 on: October 19, 2015, 03:43:52 PM »
Great report!  I'm glad you were able to finally make it out there again.
I always enjoy reading father/son trip reports and can't wait until I get to do the same with my son.
Thanks for sharing!
« Last Edit: October 19, 2015, 04:20:20 PM by Lance »



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