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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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Trip advice

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Offline margsnell

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Trip advice
« on: September 24, 2013, 02:24:43 PM »
Hello. My husband and I are heading to Big Bend for the first time in early October.  We will be driving our jeep from Maine to Austin, spending some time there, and then driving to the park. We are are in our early 30s, fit, game, with some desert experience (AZ and Utah), and extensive non-dessert hiking and backpacking experience.  I think we will have about 4 days or so in the park before we head to New Mexico.

Generally, how busy is early October? What are the chances that we will get a campsite at the Basin if we arrive around between 4pm and 7pm? We will try to get there sooner, but we are on vacation and try not to have too many time constraints. Should we plan on getting groceries in Marathon or a town closer to Austin?

Is there a time cut-off when it would be better for us to spend the night in Marathon, or similar? Is there camping near the park boundary?

Because our limited time, I think we will mostly concentrate on day hikes. Can you recommend any good remote roadside sites to stay at with good access for day hikes? What day hikes would you especially recommend?

Conversely, we might do the south rim as an overnight. Given the choice of 2-3 shorter day hikes or doing the South Rim as an overnight, which would you choose?

I think our plan right now is
Oct 8: Drive from Austin. Try to get a campsite in Basin
Oct 9: Day hikes?
Oct 10:  Day hikes?
Oct 11: Boquillas,  Hot springs, Camp Rio Grand Village
OCT 12: Leave park, but take our time driving out

Thanks for your help!

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Offline trtlrock

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Re: Trip advice
« Reply #1 on: September 24, 2013, 02:40:08 PM »
This thread can answer some of your questions:

http://www.bigbendchat.com/portal/forum/suggested-itineraries/1st-time-visitors-from-nl/msg126173/#msg126173


extensive non-dessert hiking and backpacking experience


I usually don't pack desserts either -- too bulky & too much extra weight.

 :eusa_doh:

I'm sorry -- the 11-yr old in me just couldn't resist...  ;)
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 steelfrog

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Re: Trip advice
« Reply #2 on: September 24, 2013, 03:03:52 PM »
Oct 8 night--self register in Basin campground; should have no problem getting a site; doesn't matter what time you get there

Oct 9--if you are strong hikers, the rim isn't really a good overnight; better as a dayhike.  So, since you camped in the Basin, go do the Rim (2500 vert?), with possible side trip up Emory (another 1000 vert), if you feel strong.  Take headlamps you might need them on the may down.  Go up Laguna Meadows trail and down Pinnacles.

Oct 10--depends what you want next; you could drive down to near Boquillas if u want to do the Marufo Vega loop (14 miles, not a lot of vertical; 15-1800); good dayhike; get you desert and canyon experience; or, since you have a Jeep, you could take the Black Gap road to the Elephant Tusk trailhead and hike over to and possibly up Elephant Tusk, if you are comfy with class 3/4 scrambling; you could also go around by Mule Ears and hike up to it, maybe Mule Head; those all 3 are good desert experiences.  The rim is more a mountain experience

Sounds like your other days you have a plan.  So, since you want to head down south anyways, I'd have to say dayhike Rim and dayhike Marufo Vega and you will have 2 of the premier hikes in the park under your belts.  Of those 2 hikes the MV is quite a bit easier; you might have a little more trouble ruotefinding, just have either a GPS or solid map skilz

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Offline RichardM

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Re: Trip advice
« Reply #3 on: September 24, 2013, 03:31:24 PM »
extensive non-dessert hiking and backpacking experience

I usually don't pack desserts either -- too bulky & too much extra weight.

 :eusa_doh:

I'm sorry -- the 11-yr old in me just couldn't resist...  ;)
Rats, trtrock beat me to it! :icon_rolleyes:

Oct 8 night--self register in Basin campground; should have no problem getting a site; doesn't matter what time you get there
It shouldn't be a problem that time of year and day, but there's always a first time. :eusa_shifty: You can call the Visitor Center (432-477-1158) in the park on your way down to get the latest report on the campground. If by some fluke the campground's full, you can make other plans (e.g. Rio Grande Village, Cottonwood, Study Butte/Terlingua, backcountry, etc) before wasting time driving up in to the Basin.

Oct 9--if you are strong hikers, the rim isn't really a good overnight; better as a dayhike.  So, since you camped in the Basin, go do the Rim (2500 vert?), with possible side trip up Emory (another 1000 vert), if you feel strong.  Take headlamps you might need them on the may down.  Go up Laguna Meadows trail and down Pinnacles.
If you do this as a day hike, hit the trail as early as you can. I'd rather hike with headlamps at the beginning of the hike before dawn than while trying to head down for dinner. :)

Should we plan on getting groceries in Marathon or a town closer to Austin?
Not a whole lot of choices for groceries in Marathon. I'd stock up while in Austin. Fort Stockton would be a better bet if you prefer to wait until closer to the park.

Is there a time cut-off when it would be better for us to spend the night in Marathon, or similar? Is there camping near the park boundary?
If you're getting to Marathon close to midnight, I'd say stop there. Otherwise, keep going. The Marathon Motel has camp sites. The Stillwell Ranch is close to the edge of the park, but driving down to it would take almost as long as continuing on to the Basin. There are several camping options in Study Butte and Terlingua, but again, you wouldn't be saving much travel time.

Because our limited time, I think we will mostly concentrate on day hikes. Can you recommend any good remote roadside sites to stay at with good access for day hikes? What day hikes would you especially recommend?
Pine Canyon comes to mind, but it's a fairly short hike. You'd still be driving to do other hikes.

Conversely, we might do the south rim as an overnight. Given the choice of 2-3 shorter day hikes or doing the South Rim as an overnight, which would you choose?
I'd go with South Rim as a day hike with Emory Peak thrown in. Yeah, it'll be a long and relatively tough hike, but how often will you have the chance? Pine Canyon is a great hike and since it usually requires at least a high ground clearance vehicle, your Jeep should get you there with no problems. You can work it in on your way down to Rio Grande Village. Ernst Tinaja would be another good option on that side of the park. I'd spend one day driving down the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive and doing a few hikes like Upper Burro Mesa Pouroff, Cattail Falls, Santa Elena Canyon, etc.

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Offline Geezer

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Re: Trip advice
« Reply #4 on: September 24, 2013, 09:24:21 PM »
You didn't ask, but a good exit route would be the Lahitas to Presidio river road. Very beautiful.

Geezer

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Offline mellbell64

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Re: Trip advice
« Reply #5 on: September 25, 2013, 10:09:32 AM »
Stillwell Ranch is a geat place to camp 7 miles from the park entrance.  Its only 5 miles off 385. Gas and basic provisions avail at Stillwell store. We come to BB every year from Corpus Christi and stop at Walmart in Ft. Stockton to get ice and groceries and camping supplies. No need to buy that stuff at home and haul the extra weight all that way!If you are going to the Terlingua area first-i hear theres a gourmet natural foods grocery store in Alpine.Im sure someone here can confirm that.

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Offline catz

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Re: Trip advice
« Reply #6 on: September 25, 2013, 11:03:16 AM »

 

Primitive roadside sites abound in the park.  Be advised that they are truly primitive:  no table, no water, no grill, no nothing.  Just a cleared off patch of desert for you and another for your car (a few at least have some logs to sit on).  However, you are all but guaranteed quiet and solitude.  And the stars at night will be awesome.

Every regular on this Board has their favorite primitive site(s).  Personally, I like the ones associated with Pine Canyon.  Nice views of the Chisos, easy access to the Pine Canyon hike (which I highly recommend), and quick access to the main east-west paved road.  If you decide you want to stay at one of these sites, discuss your objectives with the staff at the Visitors Center and they will fix you up with the required permit.
Wake me when it's time to go.

 


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