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Approval/Suggestions on my Itinerary

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Offline jsamis

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Approval/Suggestions on my Itinerary
« on: February 09, 2017, 02:58:27 PM »
A friend of mine and I are going to BB the week of March 12th, and since it is our first time doing the OML we wanted to make sure we weren't overlooking anything, or if our plan was reasonable. We are both in excellent shape and are excited about tackling the OML.

Sunday, March 12
leave from DFW early in the morning and arrive at BB
Cache water at Homer Wilson

First Q: should we make sure we fill out the online permit worksheet before we try and get our permits in the morning, as I keep reading that this is one of, if the the busiest time of the year. I know that it clears overnight, I more so mean in the morning.

Monday, March 13
Obtain a permit
Begin our trek
Parking lot to Emory Peak to Juniper Spring Zone CO3 camping
Total Mileage 7.4

Tuesday, March 14
Hike across Fresno Creek crossing and check for potential water
Make camp at Smokey Creek trail junction
Total Mileage 10.7

Wednesday, March 15
Hike to Homer Wilson to pick up water cache
Take Blue Creek Trail to Colima Trail to Boot Canyon up to the Southwest Rim and camp at SW3/SW4 (dependent on if we can get a permit for it or not)
Total Mileage 9.9

Thursday, March 16
Follow the Southwest Rim out back toward Laguna Meadow and Blue Creek campsites
Return to Chisos Basin Visitor Center
Total Mileage 8.2

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: Approval/Suggestions on my Itinerary
« Reply #1 on: February 09, 2017, 04:18:47 PM »
Welcome to Big Bend Chat!  Your hiking and water plan is solid. It's a lot of ground to cover each day, but sounds like you can handle it.  However, I'm not sure you fully grasp how busy/crowded it will be that week.  Probably best to double your expectation, and then double that again.  Campers will begin streaming into Big Bend on Friday night. By Saturday afternoon, it will be a torrent. By Sunday, wait times in the permit line will be an hour or more. By Monday, every spot in the Chisos will be taken.

Sooooooo.....my recommendation, if you can swing it, is leave DFW on Saturday morning. Even better, leave on Friday morning. The earlier you arrive in Big Bend, the better your chances of getting the permit you want, and even finding a spot in the campground. Each day you delay, your chances decline exponentially. Whichever day you leave DFW, leave early enough to get to Big Bend NP well before the permit office closes.  It will greatly improve your chances of getting the permit you want. Get your permit as soon as you hit the park. Then place your cache (which you can do in evening dark if you have to). A 4am departure from DFW is not unreasonable. If there are two of you in the car, trade off driving and sleeping. El Campo online reservation requests can be made starting at midnight. You should have good cell service through Abilene, so input your request while you're on the road. 

Best of luck on your hike! The OML is always worth it.
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline elhombre

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Re: Approval/Suggestions on my Itinerary
« Reply #2 on: February 09, 2017, 05:31:38 PM »
Your Monday will be very tough.  Just hard to say how long it will take to get your permit.  Your mileage is off.  3.5 to Pinnicles.  3 round trip to Emory.  1+ to turn off to Juniper Canyon trail.  At least 3 miles to get down the hill and out to zone camping in Juniper canyon.

The owners of the park have been known to close off the Dodson when the two bear boxes get full of water at Homer.  Also, they may have a ranger at the boxes forbidding you from putting any more in.  Figure out a plan to start at Homer or Juniper trail head.  You will have to carry more water which will slow you down considerably.

Be aware, the Blue Creek zone will be the first zone to fill up around the OML.

There will be water at Fresno, and Upper Juniper.  I guarantee it.

The way it was explained to me last time, when they have to make a change to your pre-entered permit, it has to be completely re-done, negating any time advantage.  This may be government propaganda because he also said I should not be accessing their system and wanted to know where we got the link.  Whatever ranger boy.......
« Last Edit: February 09, 2017, 07:48:41 PM by elhombre »
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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: Approval/Suggestions on my Itinerary
« Reply #3 on: February 09, 2017, 05:55:23 PM »
Elhombre suggests a very attractive alternative, which is starting your OML hike at the Homer Wilson ranch. This is how I first hiked the OML 20 years ago. It saves you having to cache water anywhere.  Back then, my first day consisted of Homer Wilson to JC1, but you might prefer heading to one of the Southwest Rim sites so you can watch the (almost always) beautiful sunset. Day 2 would be Southwest Rim to Boot Canyon (you can draw water from potholes in the canyon, not guaranteed but likely, and also draw water from Upper Juniper Spring, guaranteed), and then down Juniper Canyon as far as you think you can go toward or onto the Dodson. Day 3 would take you down the Dodson to Fresno Creek (water available, guaranteed) and then on to your vehicle above Homer Wilson.

That's a 3-day intinerary, which means you can add a day wherever you want and still fit within your original 4-day plan. I'd say you have two great options: 1) add a day basecamping up in the Chisos for summiting Emory Peak, or 2) add a day of basecamping near Fresno Creek so you can explore down the Fresno Creek drainage and/or the Elephant Tusk trail (you can put together various on/off-trail loops through that area). Still, Chisos backcountry sites will be in high demand, so the earlier you get to Big Bend, the better your chances of getting one. As far as zone camping, you shouldn't have much difficulty securing any of your zone-camping permits: even during Spring Break, the demand usually doesn't overwhelm the supply.

Again, best of luck, whatever you decide!
« Last Edit: February 09, 2017, 08:30:58 PM by House Made of Dawn »
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline Imre

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Re: Approval/Suggestions on my Itinerary
« Reply #4 on: February 09, 2017, 08:56:26 PM »
Quote
Sunday, March 12
leave from DFW early in the morning and arrive at BB
Cache water at Homer Wilson
What are you going to do if the campgrounds are full when you arrive? Have you reserved a campsite? It has been twenty years since I visited the park during spring break however at that time the regular campgrounds were full -- I pitched my tent in the no longer available overflow sites.
For every complex problem there is a solution that is simple, obvious, and wrong.
- H.L. Mencken

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Offline badknees

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Re: Approval/Suggestions on my Itinerary
« Reply #5 on: February 10, 2017, 07:13:50 AM »
IMO, if you leave on Sunday 12th, and arrive mid day, your chances of finding a frontcountry campground would be almost zero. You may find a roadside site. Backcountry permits will be tougher too. You would better served arriving Friday March 10th.
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Offline dprather

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Re: Approval/Suggestions on my Itinerary
« Reply #6 on: February 10, 2017, 09:09:41 AM »
In addition to the possible start at Homer Wilson, an alternative starting point is the Dodson/Juniper Canyon intersection.  It's harder to get to.  That automatically makes it less likely to have a crowd.
Leave "quit" at the car.  Embrace the trail as your friend.  Expect to enjoy yourself, and to be amazed.

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: Approval/Suggestions on my Itinerary
« Reply #7 on: February 10, 2017, 12:34:25 PM »
In addition to the possible start at Homer Wilson, an alternative starting point is the Dodson/Juniper Canyon intersection.  It's harder to get to.  That automatically makes it less likely to have a crowd.

Agreed, however that trailhead should probably only be accessed with a sturdy high-clearance vehicle (though 4WD is probably not necessary unless it's rained heavily and recently).
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline dylanderson

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Re: Approval/Suggestions on my Itinerary
« Reply #8 on: February 10, 2017, 04:28:30 PM »
Semi-hijacking as I am the friend tagging along with jmsamis.... do any of yall have any recommended reading re: big bend/backpacking in general? I'm more of a noob to the backpacking scene than my friend (done lots of camping and one intense backpack trip in colorado) and i would love to get a good book or something about big bend so to make our trip more interesting and appreciate it all more.

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Offline dprather

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Re: Approval/Suggestions on my Itinerary
« Reply #9 on: February 10, 2017, 04:56:36 PM »
Look at the books available at the Panther Junction book store - bigbendbookstore.or g.  Take a look through the offerings to see if any strike your interest.

The Bend has many layers: archaeological, anthropological, geological, historical, geographical, and etc.  I have found that my every step is made more fascinating by understanding these layers more.  If you have extra background in any of these layer/areas - start there.

Leave "quit" at the car.  Embrace the trail as your friend.  Expect to enjoy yourself, and to be amazed.

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: Approval/Suggestions on my Itinerary
« Reply #10 on: February 10, 2017, 05:17:01 PM »
Semi-hijacking as I am the friend tagging along with jmsamis.... do any of yall have any recommended reading re: big bend/backpacking in general? I'm more of a noob to the backpacking scene than my friend (done lots of camping and one intense backpack trip in colorado) and i would love to get a good book or something about big bend so to make our trip more interesting and appreciate it all more.

For some illuminating context, try the following book by Ross Maxwell (first Superintendent of the park) which is sold in the bookstore, but even better, it's available online for reading anytime at this link:

http://www.npshistory.com/publications/geology/state/tx/1968-7/contents.htm
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: Approval/Suggestions on my Itinerary
« Reply #11 on: February 10, 2017, 05:24:08 PM »
Another book every Big Bend visitor should own is Laurence Parent's Hiking Big Bend (a Falcon Guide). He covers a great deal of the park and throws in some interesting history and natural history.

If you want to spice up your trip, bring along a copy of Parent's book, Death in Big Bend, for nighttime camp reading. It's a collection of case studies of hikers' deaths.

 :icon_biggrin:,
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline Jimbow

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Re: Approval/Suggestions on my Itinerary
« Reply #12 on: February 11, 2017, 05:52:33 AM »
You beat me to it. I was going to mention Death in Big Bend. Which btw is the best of the "Death in" books. Yellowstone and Yosemite read more like dissertations by history scholars.

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Everything is in walking distance if you have enough time.

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Offline Jimbow

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Re: Approval/Suggestions on my Itinerary
« Reply #13 on: February 11, 2017, 06:00:41 AM »
To add an itinerary suggestion. Plan a backup that does not have a name in a guidebook. Read through a few trip reports for places that aren't marketed to the masses. Backup plans that are a checkmark for people are iffy as well.

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Everything is in walking distance if you have enough time.

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Offline Jim

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Re: Approval/Suggestions on my Itinerary
« Reply #14 on: February 11, 2017, 08:47:12 AM »
The way it was explained to me last time, when they have to make a change to your pre-entered permit, it has to be completely re-done, negating any time advantage.  This may be government propaganda because he also said I should not be accessing their system and wanted to know where we got the link.  Whatever ranger boy.......

It's total BS.  Sounds like a newbie ranger to me that is unaware of the Visitor portion of El Campo.  They can simply call up your pre-entered worksheet, make any campsite selection changes you want from a dropdown list, and then press the "Issue Permit" button.  No re-entering of the worksheet.

The whole idea from the beginning was to have a Visitor access URL to give backcountry info directly without using Ranger time.  This includes entering worksheets, which is a great help to Rangers during peak times.

In fact, here's a paragraph from the Park website (with the old El Campo IP address):
Quote
Another feature of this software will allow visitors
to plan their backcountry excursions on their own
device and upload it to where the ranger will be able
to access it. This feature should result in the visitors
giving more thought ahead of time about exactly
where they want to hike. We hope that it will
reduce waiting time for Backcountry Permits upon
arrival, however, it is not a reservation system. It
is easy for anyone to see which campsites are available
and for rangers and dispatch to access all permit
information immediately. You can check out this
web-based system at http://75.41.144.100

For a while, the NPS had a poster displayed at PJ showing the Visitor URL so you could enter a worksheet yourself.  So actually, the NPS gave out the link first; attached is the poster they used.

I don't know if they still have visitor WiFi available in the VCs.  They may have turned that off when the bandwidth got overwhelmed.  The El Campo server only has a DSL bandwidth of 1MB/s up, 3MB/s down.
« Last Edit: February 12, 2017, 05:27:07 PM by Jim »

 


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