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Need Input From Seasoned Benders on Proposed Itinerary for October 10-19 Trip

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Offline NCDesertRat

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I posted this in the newbie "Who Are You Section" but figured I would repost it here where more people might see it.  I last visited Big Bend in 1978 and am planning a glorious solo return for 10 days in October. 

I am 56, in good physical condition (bike, hike, run - 1st  and last marathon in 2010) and have done a good bit of backpacking in desert environments in addition to the NC/VA mountains.  I will be in a Subaru Outback.  Plan to arrive in BB on October 10 and leave on October 19.  When I visited the park in 76 and 78, my brother and I backpacked  the OML, Dog Canyon/Devils Den, Chimneys and did some of the shorter day hikes.  I actually already have an intinerary mapped out for my 9 nights in the park which, as usual is probably too ambitious so I need any advice on what, if anything ought to drop.  Of course it may have to change based on backcountry sites available.  I don't plan on staying in any developed campgrounds and didn't want to go too far on primitive roads since the Outback is only sort of high clearance.  Here's my proposed itinerary, which averages out to about 10 miles a day.  I can do that but I am not sure that I want to push that hard, so what do I drop in order to smell more of the roses?:

•Day One: Devil's Den and Pine Canyon dayhikes - camp at Pine Canyon 4
Day Two: dayhike Lost Mine Trail and Windows Trail - camp at Paint Gap 1
Day Three: Grapevine Hills dayhike and backpack to South Rim via Laguna
Day Four: spend the day on the rims including climbing Emory Peak - stay at one of the NE sites
Day Five: down via Pinnacles - head to Candelilla for camp - then hike the Hot Springs Canyon trail
Day Six: day hike Marufo Vega to the Rio Grande overlook on south fork (about 10 mi rt) - stay at Candelilla again
Day Seven: day hike Oak Springs/Cattail trails - then backpack into Mule Ears area
Day Eight: hike out of Mule Ears - explore Castolon area, hop over to Terlingua - sunset at Santa Elena and camp at Ocotillo Grove
Day Nine: day hike top of Burro Mesa, then backpack to the Chimneys for the night
Day Ten: hike out and head home

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Offline trtlrock

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Not much to say wrt your plan; it's jam-packed but certainly could be done if you like driving yourself.

We found on a couple of long-distance hikes in BiBe that 6.5 miles a day was much better for exploration than 8 miles. But that was later in the year, with less daylight.

Also fwiw we've taken our Outback (carefully) up to Dodson trailhead in Juniper Canyon, and Old Ore from the north to McKinney. Perhaps the toughest for the Outback (which we wouldn't do again) was proceeding past PG3 to PG4.

Have fun.
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 jeffblaylock

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I want to push that hard, so what do I drop in order to smell more of the roses?

That's a very ambitious itinerary. I agree with trtlrock that it's doable, but there's no real rose-smelling there. Moving campsites almost daily is a chore, a time-consuming one at that.

In terms of paring down the itinerary, I'd start by looking at all the driving you're going to have to do, and all the campsite moves, and cut those down. Every hike, stop, and campsite is worthy, so to me the real question is how much do I want to move around versus how much do I want to hike, explore on foot, or "smell roses."

One idea:

Day One: Devil's Den and Pine Canyon dayhikes - camp at Pine Canyon 4 - camp at Paint Gap 1
Day Two: dayhike Lost Mine Trail and Windows Trail - camp at Paint Gap 1
Day Three: Grapevine Hills dayhike and backpack to South Rim via Laguna - stay at one of the NE Rim sites
Day Four: spend the day on the rims including climbing Emory Peak - stay climb Emory Peak and explore Boot Canyon in the morning, explore rims in the afternoon - remain at one of the NE sites
Day Five: down via Pinnacles - head to Candelilla for camp - then hike the Hot Springs Canyon trail Ernst Tinaja trail and explore Ernst Valley and the Cuesta Carlota
Day Six: Shower at Rio Grande Village store, day hike backpack Marufo Vega to the Rio Grande overlook on south fork (about 10 mi rt) - stay at Candelilla again - camp at the Split Rock campsite
Day Seven: day hike Oak Springs/Cattail trails - then backpack into Mule Ears area Exploration day -- no planned destinations or trails, just wander and drive, spend some time in Terlingua - camp at Ocotillo Grove
Day Eight: hike out of Mule Ears - explore Castolon area and the ruins along the road to Santa Elena Canyon and at Terlingua Abaja, hop over to Terlingua - sunset at Santa Elena and camp at Ocotillo Grove
Day Nine: day hike top of Burro Mesa, then Dayhike the Mule Ears Spring trail to overlook of Smoky Creek, backpack to the Chimneys for the night
Day Ten: hike out and head home

A plan like this reduces your driving and aligns the trip into generally, Chisos Mountains, East, West. The longest in-park driving day, from RGV to Ocotillo Grove via Terlingua, has no planned trails -- just following your nose. Some of the best explorations and discoveries come with no trail at all.

Enjoy your trip and post lots of photos!

Jeff Blaylock
Austin, Texas

"We'll be back, someday soon. We will return, someday, and when we do the gritty
splendor and the complicated grandeur of Big Bend will still be here. Waiting for us."--Ed Abbey

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Offline elhombre

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I know you have heard all the warnings and such, but I feel I must remind you that October is still HOT in the desert.   I would vote for Jeff's plan because it gives you more day hikes with driving some.  The time you will save not moving camp can be spent driving through out the park enjoying the views while getting to your next hike.  Staying at PG1 is a great idea as a base because it puts you in the center of roads for travel.  I also think the south end of Old Ore road is the worst and will give your low hung car a problem.  I would start with a nice 2 nighter up to the rim when you first show up.  You will be strongest then.  The rest of the week will be dictated by what you have left in your legs.  I would also spend a day in Terlingua and the road to Presidio if you have the time and haven't driven the road before.  And I also believe the beauty of the place is lost on those who don't spend time just sitting around enjoying the place they find themselves.  If you must backpack out into the desert, please come back here and post if you find any water at any of the springs.  2 inches of rain so far this year is alarming.
« Last Edit: September 04, 2011, 09:53:30 AM by elhombre »
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Offline mule ears

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I would agree with a plan like jeffblaylock proposed it would allow you to soak up the different sides of the park better.  I always try to combine the climb of Emory Peak with going up or down the Pinnacles trail otherwise you will have to make a special trip over to do it and then walk past the trail to it on the way down.  You might consider a night at TM1 on the way up or down after a night on the rims to facilitate the climb of Emory.

I will also echo el hombre in that it can still be really hot in the lower desert so you might want to adjust the schedule depending on the forecast if some days look cooler down low than others especially as cool fronts start to pass through that time of year.  And bring a good tarp to rig up some shade if need be.
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
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Offline Casa Grande

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Need Input From Seasoned Benders on Proposed Itinerary for October 10-19 Trip
« Reply #5 on: September 04, 2011, 09:06:50 AM »
Nice plan, Jeff.

I might have to steal that plan and do it myself on my next trip!

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Offline NCDesertRat

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Thanks for the input so far, folks.  I have to agree that camping in one spot for more than one night more often makes more sense.  In looking at Jeff's specific suggestions, I had a few questions.  I noticed you suggested dropping Pine Canyon (probably to focus on not shifting camp as much) but I have heard over and over that Pine Canyon is one of the best hikes in the park and I did not see it when I was there before.  Thoughts on that in terms of the other hikes I have planned?  I know I can't do everything - that's my problem, obviously, trying to cram too much in.

 I had actually originally thought I might do the Marufo Vega as an overnighter as you suggest, partly because of the glowing description of the hike in your detailed trip report and because photography is one of my focal points when backpacking - it sounds like a great late afternoon/early morning area for that.  Where is the Split Rock in relation to the north south fork junction?  One reason why I didn't plan for an overnighter there is because of the dire warnings about car break-ins and felt somehow safer only having my car there during the day instead of overnight.  Am I being too paranoid if I hide stuff as much as possible?  I also hear the heat warnings - are 90's likely in mid-October since this is supposed to be one of the hotter hikes and I would have to carry all my water? 

As for the Chisos, I also see your suggestion is not to move camp both nights.   My first night thought was SW4 with the second night moving to NE2,3, or 4 for different photographic opportunites in the late evening, early morning.  I was also timing this with the full moon for some long exposures of the views.  What are some of ya'll's (I am from NC) favorite rim campsites - if you can only pick one, which is it?  A lot of folks seem to point to NE4 but since it is a large site, is it considered bad form to snatch it up for a solo hiker if I can get it?  I also hear Mule Ears' suggestion about camping closer to Emory going up or down which I thought about but it seemed like a lost opportunity to miss two nights on the rim even though it requires some backtracking to do my plan (albeit without a heavy pack on my Emory day) and I like to walk.

Thanks again for all your thoughts.  It seems like no matter how many days I have for a particular trip, I tend to want to structure them all too much - it's a part of my nature I have to wrestle with.  El Hombre is right - stillness is a beautiful thing.

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Offline NCDesertRat

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Another question about raods.  I saw a recent post on the BiBe website that the Glenn Springs/Pine Canyon roads have just been re-graded - has anyone been down these to see the difference.  I haven't been on either before so I wouldn't know but wondered in case I leave the Pine Canyon camp or trail in my itinerary.  As for the Old Ore Road and Jeff's suggestion to explore the Ernst Tinaja and Basin area, is my Outback good that far or maybe only to the Candelilla campsite?  I actually drove that thing the entire 100 miles of the White Rim Road in Canyonlands - in low gear most of the way and very slowly, but it made it without ever getting center stuck.  I did have to do some excavation work to free up a spinning rear wheel on one particularly troublesome grade.

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Offline catz

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I basically agree with jeffblaylock's proposal for all of his reasons.  My one suggestion is that on day one (or whichever day it happens to be), rather than day hike Devil's Den, which you have done before, hike Pine Canyon instead.  It is, in my opinion, as you have heard, one of the best--and different--hikes in the park.  I think you can do that and still camp at PG 1.  The Pine Canyon hike is relatively short--maybe six or seven miles round trip--and is relatively easy hiking.  I think you could do this and still have enough time to get to and from the trailhead and PG 1.  I also concur with doing Marufo Vega as an overnighter.  Yes, it can be done as a dayhike, but I think you will feel rushed, especially if you plan on hiking the entire loop.  I don't think if you take reasonable precautions that you will have any trouble with thefts from your car.  As to where the campsite is, after you make the trail split to the right, it is about three miles, give or take.  The campsite is on the left, immediately before the trail begins a steep descent to the Rio Grande.  It's a swell site with tremendous views of the Sierra del Carmens; on the way to it, you will also have tremendous views of the Dead Horse mountains, a range that is way too often underestimated for its natural wild beauty.

When hiking to the South Rim, if you go up the Pinnacles Trail, you might be able to get water at Boot Spring and not have to lug three days worth all the way to the rim.  You could also re-fill when you go down the next day to hike Emory Peak.  But this is assuming the springs will be flowing, which given the severe drought we are in is not assured.  Check this site and/or at the ranger station immediately before your departure.

Which brings me to the weather, specifically the likely heat in the desert (highs in the mid-80's are likely in mid-October and the mid-90's would not be unheard of).  Therefore, unless the forecast shows otherwise, plan on doing the mountains first and save the desert hikes for as late as possible.  Any chance you can delay your trip until mid-November (but avoid Thanksgiving week--the park will be packed) or even early-December?  The mountains could be chilly to downright cold then but the desert is much likelier to be comfortable.

Wake me when it's time to go.

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Offline trtlrock

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fwiw, our car was broken into at the Marufa Vega trailhead on our 1st trip to BiBe. This after specifically ignoring the advice not to park there overnight. Otoh, the border has been closed since then, and that was about 10 years ago, so I dunno...  :ecomcity:

MV is great, but definitely gonna have to schlep a lot of water in with you if you make it an overnight.

I'd disagree about delaying the trip beyond October as you lose so much daylight once you're into late-Nov or December.
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 Casa Grande

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Need Input From Seasoned Benders on Proposed Itinerary for October 10-19 Trip
« Reply #10 on: September 04, 2011, 02:01:19 PM »
NE4 is definitely the best, SW3 is my next favorite as you have an awesome view of Bluecreek up on the ridge.


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Offline Casa Grande

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Offline mule ears

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Yo, NCDesertRat.  How did the trip go?  Water reports?  Pictures?  Come on now it is part of the "dues" you have to pay to play here.  :eusa_whistle:
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
http://40yearsofwalking.wordpress.com/

 


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