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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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Big Bend Recommendations

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Offline arose10

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Big Bend Recommendations
« on: January 15, 2009, 11:05:34 PM »
Hi, all.  My friend and I are considering doing Big Bend over our spring break in late March.  Based on our travel itinerary, which we've just begun to plan, we're expecting about 4-6 days of backcountry time.  This will be the first time for both of us for Big Bend, so I wanted to reach out and get people's recommendations on fun, intense, and iconic treks in the park.  (One person already recommended the OML).  Any advice on routes, campsites, etc. - and any other advice related to Big Bend - would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks,
Alex

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Offline mule ears

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Re: Big Bend Recommendations
« Reply #1 on: January 16, 2009, 08:12:13 AM »
Welcome arose10,

Looks like you are a backpacker so check out the Hiking the Desert and Mountains sections as well as the Trip Reports and Suggested Itineraries sections.

The OML is a great intro to the park and here is a recent thread with some similar questions.

http://www.bigbendchat.com/portal/forum/el-salon/oml-in-midjanuary-t7269.0.html

Give us a little more info about what you are thinking, your ability etc. and we will all try and help. Just know that spring break is the busiest time of year in the park and so some things you may want to do could be a challenge because campsites and camping zones may be full some days. It also is beginning to to get hot in late March down in the lower desert and that will affect what you might be able to do as well.
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
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Offline arose10

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Re: Big Bend Recommendations
« Reply #2 on: January 16, 2009, 11:42:29 AM »
Thanks, Mule Ears.  I'm in my late 20's and am pretty experienced - NOLS grad, bunch of extended backcountry expeditions abroad and domestically (Yosemite, Zion, Joshua Tree, etc.).  I'll be traveling with a small group, probably around three friends who are for the most part similarly experienced backpackers.  As mentioned, this is all our first time to the park.  I think we'll probably have around five days of backcountry time, e.g. we'd be arriving at a trailhead campsite on the night of Sunday the 22nd and would probably want to exit the part around mid-day on Friday the 27th.  We'll be making the long drive to Austin afterwards.  On that note, any recommendations for a hearty dinner on the way back - or in Austin before we return to the east coast - would be appreciated, as well.

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Offline jeffblaylock

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Re: Big Bend Recommendations
« Reply #3 on: January 16, 2009, 12:05:08 PM »
Thanks, Mule Ears.  I'm in my late 20's and am pretty experienced - NOLS grad, bunch of extended backcountry expeditions abroad and domestically (Yosemite, Zion, Joshua Tree, etc.).  I'll be traveling with a small group, probably around three friends who are for the most part similarly experienced backpackers.  As mentioned, this is all our first time to the park.  I think we'll probably have around five days of backcountry time, e.g. we'd be arriving at a trailhead campsite on the night of Sunday the 22nd and would probably want to exit the part around mid-day on Friday the 27th.  We'll be making the long drive to Austin afterwards.  On that note, any recommendations for a hearty dinner on the way back - or in Austin before we return to the east coast - would be appreciated, as well.

As an Austinite, I can assure you there's no want of good food in Austin, so you won't be disappointed there. This thread discusses some of our traditional places to eat going and coming.

Sounds like y'all can take the Outer Mountain Loop with some extra time to explore Fresno Creek downstream toward Elephant Tusk or Smoky Creek downstream to your heart's desire, something like:

Monday: hike Pinnacles Trail through Boot Canyon to South Rim, spend night just off rim
Tuesday: backtrack to Juniper Canyon Trail, hike down it, and begin Dodson Trail, camping where appropriate
Wednesday: hike Dodson to Fresno Creek, set up camp, and explore
Thursday: finish Dodson Trail, hike up Blue Creek Trail, camp there or, if time permits, Laguna West or SW rim
Friday: Hike down Laguna Meadows trail to Basin trailhead

Lots of alternatives to the above, including shifting your Rim night to the end, doing Smoky Creek instead of Fresno, and so on. You will want to cache water and some food at the Homer Wilson Ranch (where Dodson Trail intersects with Blue Creek Trail) for the last part of the trip. Only typically reliable water source is Fresno Creek. There are lots of good discussions of the OML and recent trip reports on this forum.
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 catz

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Re: Big Bend Recommendations
« Reply #4 on: January 16, 2009, 08:37:15 PM »
Spring Break means the park will be as crowded as it ever gets.  Therefore, a backpack for the entire period is the best alternative because getting a drive-up-to camp site will be very difficult to come by.  The Outer Mountain Loop is the most plausible choice.  But, it could be very difficult to be able to secure a night--whether heading out or coming back--at the south rim.  But even if it proves impossible, this hike is what you should be planning on.  Just be sure that if even if you can't actually camp up there that you make it a point to at least go up for a look. 

If you choose to go on this hike, you will need to allow time to cache water and food at Homer Wilson Ranch (there's a designated box there just for this purpose).   

There is a private camp ground located outside the north (main)entrance to the park.  It's really a pretty decent place (among other things, it has a small store, gasoline, and shower facilities).  The main drawbacks are that the views are nowhere near as good as within the the park and that it makes for a substantial drive to and from the main areas of the Park.  But it at least offers an alternative if all of the park sites are full when you arrive. 

Wake me when it's time to go.

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Offline Voni

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Re: Big Bend Recommendations
« Reply #5 on: January 16, 2009, 08:44:18 PM »
That would be Stillwell Ranch:

http://stillwellstore.com/

Delightful people and place.  Be sure to visit Hallie's museum there.

Voni
  sMiling
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Terlingua, TX

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Offline Picacho

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Re: Big Bend Recommendations
« Reply #6 on: January 16, 2009, 10:43:13 PM »
I guess it would all depend on what you consider "fun, intense, and iconic treks in the park."  If you want some intense but cool bushwhacking, I can advise you on that. 

If you want a cool trail trek, do the Dodson, to Juniper Canyon, to the South Rim, to the Blue Creek Trail.  It's one big loop that will take you through the High Chisos and the northern portion of the Sierra Quemadas.

Although March isn't as hot as August, you will need a lot of water.  Even in March, it can get quite hot.  I brought a gallon with me on a day hike and it wasn't enough.  Although that was on one of my intense bushwhacking and peak bagging adventures.   

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Offline slsutton

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Re: Big Bend Recommendations
« Reply #7 on: January 17, 2009, 12:31:54 PM »
In general, I would say visit South Rim and visit anywhere in the desert lowlands. Even if you have to just zone camp in the desert, it is worth experiencing the contrast between it and the mountains, especially at night.  If you are going to do the OML and are taking the Pinnacle trail to do so, you should also take the Emory Peak trail, which is shortly after you reach the top of Pinnacle trail.  It is the highest spot in the park. tough little trail but one of the best views in the park.

 


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