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First Time BBNP trip 3/29-4/2: I've got plans A-Z! (do they all suck?)

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Offline maryclarezim

  • Kangaroo Rat
  • *
  • 2
Hi!! This is my first post in this forum, but I'm a long(ish) time lurker.

I'll be heading down to BBNP next week. I'm flying in from Chicago and renting a car in Dallas to make the drive. Keep the rental car in mind for any and all primitive car camping site recommendations, please...

My #1 hope is to get a permit in order to hike the OML (3 days/2 nights.) I have an average amount of hiking/backpacking experience, but I've never gone alone, so this seems like a solid, short first go of it! If I can't get a permit... c'est la vie! I'm flexible, and I don't think BBNP could disappoint me in any event.

Here are my top 3 plans. What do you think? Any thing I should change, any must-see's I'm missing?

Option 1
3/29: arrive in BNP around 11-noon.
Primitive campsites options: Croton, Paint Gap, Government Springs. Worst comes to worst, I'll do private camping at an AirBNB
If I magically secure a backcountry permit, head to Homer Wilson to cache water!! I plan to carry 2 gallons and cache 1.5 gallon. Should I carry more? 2.5-3 gallons? Debating still...
If there's still time, do the Window Trail Hike. If not, maybe head to the hot springs just to chill out before having an early night.

3/30-4/1 (day): OML (clockwise, bc I'm too nervous to do anything else cache wise)
Zone camping

4/1: finish OML mid day.
Hopefully, I will have been able secure primitive campsites on my first day in the park. Croton, Paint Gap, Government Springs, Rice Tank, Nugent Mnt... Candellia would be nice! It'd be great to easily do the hot springs in the evening if I'm not too dead. Any spot I can reasonably take a rental car (SLOW DRIVING) is fine by me.

Balanced rocks on the way there, maybe?

4/2: relax, final day at BBNP
Primitive campsite: Anywhere I can take the car. Croton, Paint Gap, Government Springs, Rice Tank, Nugent Mnt. Terlingua Abajo/Octollio Road would be nice.
I might head into Boquillas?
Otherwise, I'd do the Santa Elena Canyon and Balanced Rock. Any other recommendations?

I'll leave the morning of 4/3.

Option 2 - the biggest difference here is that I would theoretically start OML on 3/31 instead of 3/30, like in the first option. Everything just sort of shifts. The gist is the same.

3/29: arrive in BNP around 11-noon.
Primitive campsites options: Croton, Paint Gap, Government Springs, etc. Worst comes to worst, I'll do private camping at an AirBNB
If there's still time, do the Window Trail Hike. If not, maybe head to the hot springs just to chill out before having an early night.

3/30:
Primitive campsites: Croton, Paint Gap, Government Spring, etc. You know the drill.
Chache water at Homer Wilson for OML the next day (1.5 gallon)
Lost Mine Trail
Balanced Rocks?
Santa Elena?

3/31-4/2 (day): OML
Zone camping

4/2: Finish midday. Spend the evening relaxing.
Primitive campsite: Candellia would be great, so I could do the hotsprings. The other sites I've listed would be fine!
Hotsprings

Option 3 This is my "whatever happens, happens" plan.

3/29: arrive in BNP around 11-noon.
Primitive campsites options: Croton, Paint Gap, Government Springs. Worst comes to worst, I'll do private camping at an AirBNB
If I magically secure a backcountry permit, head to Homer Wilson to cache water!!
If there's still time, do the Window Trail Hike. If not, maybe head to the hot springs just to chill out before having an early night.

Up for grabs for day hikes:
3/30:
3/31:
4/1:
4/2:

I'd take whatever campsites are available: Croton, Paint Gap, Government Spring, Nugent Mountain, Rice Tank, Rattlesnake Mountain, etc

Trails
Full day 1: Lost Mine (4.2 miles) + Santa Elena (1.5 miles)
Full day 2: Hot Springs + Mariscal Canyon (6.6 miles)
Full day and 1/2 day- South Rim Trail (if I can get a campsite to stay over night)
Fall day 3 (if no backcountry permit): Laguna Meadow - Colima Trail (in and out 8 miles)
Full Day 4 (if no backcountry permit): Pinnacles + Emory Peak (in and out 6 miles)

I'd like to still fit in balanced rocks and the hot springs. Any opinions about which day those would fit best (given the other trails I've proposed?)

In the case I cannot get ANY campsite in the park, I'll just suck it up and camp in Terlingua. I'm used to waking up at 4 AM for work, so I'd have no issue getting to the park crazy early in order to do everything I want. It'd just suck $$ wise (and experience-wise, obv.)

Any and all advice is very much appreciated. I'm not used to such a intense lottery system for backcountry permits! I will try to get there as early as I can on 3/29 in order to see what I can get (I'm driving the 8 hours from Dallas), but I know that it's all up to fate essentially. If I can't get something 3/29, I'll get the PJ at 6:30-7:00 at wait 3/30. Honestly, if I can camp even 1 night in the backcountry that would be wonderful. I have my expectations set crazy low right now....

Thank you!!

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Offline House Made of Dawn

  • www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2YJduDyFA4
  • Golden Eagle
  • Mountain Lion
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  • 3027
  • Backpacking since '78, Big Bend since '95.
Welcome to the board!!!!!

My 2 cents: SLOW DOWN. SIMPLIFY. You're in definite jeopardy of trying to do too much for a first-time with average backpacking experience. Big Bend terrain is tough and the weather will be HOT!  Hotter than you can imagine. Allow yourself four days to do the OML.

Never carry more than 1.5 gallons of water (roughly 5-6 liters) and better to carry less. Water is HEAVY and carrying too much of it will ruin your trip.  One gallon is tough but do-able. Two gallons is HARD. Three gallons will probably end your trip before you've made a couple miles. Take advantage of natural water sources whenever possible. If you don't use or have a filter, you can use disinfecting pills or liquid drops. They work great. I've been relying solely on them for a couple years.

If Boot Canyon has water, then you should probably skip the Basin and start at Homer Wilson. You can either go clockwise up Blue Creek Canyon or counterclockwise along the Dodson. Pull water from Boot Canyon, Upper Juniper Spring, Fresno Creek, depending upon which direction you're hiking. If Boot Canyon is completely dry, then you'll probably have to start in the Basin and carry a little more than a day's water (5-6 liters) with you as you ascend into the Chisos via either the Pinnacles or Laguna. Lots of cool campsites depending upon how far you can hike with all that water. On Day 2 you can re-water at Upper Juniper as you head down Juniper Canyon, re-water again at Fresno Creek. Camp somewhere just beyond the creek. Day 3, carry enough water (2-3 liters) to get you to your cache at Homer Wilson (4-6 liters), then make camp somewhere in the washes of Blue Creek Canyon or maybe even upcanyon near the always-dry Cedar Spring if you're really, really feeling energetic. Day 4, carrying the last of your water (3-4 liters?) hike up the rest of the way through brutal Blue Creek Canyon to Laguna Meadow and then down the easy trail to the Basin for a hot meal and a cold drink. If you have time after that, make your way over to Rio Grande Village and the Hot Springs for a soak, and/or a meal across the Rio Grande in Boquillas, Mexico.

THAT is an incredibly full four days for a newbie to Big Bend.
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline House Made of Dawn

  • www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2YJduDyFA4
  • Golden Eagle
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 3027
  • Backpacking since '78, Big Bend since '95.
If all of the above sounds too overwhelming, then I'd opt for something like you've described in your final option: a collection of interesting dayhikes with an overnight thrown in somewhere. That would still give you a great introduction to Big Bend.
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline Hang10er

  • Black Bear
  • *
  • 535
  • "Do what you want before it's too late"
I think if you don't get to do the OML, it might be a good thing.

I'd do only ONE day in the Chisos and it would be South Rim.
I'd do a day on the east side (Hot Springs, cross for lunch, etc)
I'd do one day on the west side, short hikes because of the heat - Chimneys, Santa Elena, explore the roadside adobes and Castolon, drive up Old Maverick Road, and end up in Study Butte/Terlingua.  I think showering at the RV Park is as much a Big Bend experience as eating at the Star Light and taking pictures of Casa Grande. 
Grapevine Hills can be either the East or West side day. 

 

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Offline mule ears

  • Administrator
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 4309
  • "He had to leave Texas but won't say why" McMurtry
    • 40 years of walking
Welcome to the board!!!!!

My 2 cents: SLOW DOWN. SIMPLIFY. You're in definite jeopardy of trying to do too much for a first-time with average backpacking experience. Big Bend terrain is tough and the weather will be HOT!  Hotter than you can imagine. Allow yourself four days to do the OML.

Never carry more than 1.5 gallons of water (roughly 5-6 liters) and better to carry less. Water is HEAVY and carrying too much of it will ruin your trip.  One gallon is tough but do-able. Two gallons is HARD. Three gallons will probably end your trip before you've made a couple miles. Take advantage of natural water sources whenever possible. If you don't use or have a filter, you can use disinfecting pills or liquid drops. They work great. I've been relying solely on them for a couple years.

If Boot Canyon has water, then you should probably skip the Basin and start at Homer Wilson. You can either go clockwise up Blue Creek Canyon or counterclockwise along the Dodson. Pull water from Boot Canyon, Upper Juniper Spring, Fresno Creek, depending upon which direction you're hiking. If Boot Canyon is completely dry, then you'll probably have to start in the Basin and carry a little more than a day's water (5-6 liters) with you as you ascend into the Chisos via either the Pinnacles or Laguna. Lots of cool campsites depending upon how far you can hike with all that water. On Day 2 you can re-water at Upper Juniper as you head down Juniper Canyon, re-water again at Fresno Creek. Camp somewhere just beyond the creek. Day 3, carry enough water (2-3 liters) to get you to your cache at Homer Wilson (4-6 liters), then make camp somewhere in the washes of Blue Creek Canyon or maybe even upcanyon near the always-dry Cedar Spring if you're really, really feeling energetic. Day 4, carrying the last of your water (3-4 liters?) hike up the rest of the way through brutal Blue Creek Canyon to Laguna Meadow and then down the easy trail to the Basin for a hot meal and a cold drink. If you have time after that, make your way over to Rio Grande Village and the Hot Springs for a soak, and/or a meal across the Rio Grande in Boquillas, Mexico.

THAT is an incredibly full four days for a newbie to Big Bend.

Excellent advice as usual from HMoD.  First off, you will not have any trouble getting a permit for the OML, the big crowds will be gone, it will be Easter weekend but you will get there way before they do.  You may have to do your plan C ( or Hang10er's plan) if the heat rolls in (right now it actually looks okay for those days but anything can change that far out).  You do not want to do the OML if the forecast highs are much above 80.  You can still do a night in the Chisos and will be well rewarded for it.  If you do the OML definitely do 4 days 3 nights with a night in the Chisos.

Do not carry that much water, do as HMoD suggests.  If you haven't read any of the trip reports do so to get a feel and many will mention they carried too much weight.
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
http://40yearsofwalking.wordpress.com/

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Offline maryclarezim

  • Kangaroo Rat
  • *
  • 2
Thank you for the advice! If I can find a water report before going, I will keep the 1.5 gal advice in mind! I'm a little nervous to do so, but I can definitely understand the stress that 2+ gal would cause. I'm almost starting to wonder if I should just abandon OML for a series of overnights/day hikes...

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Offline Jalco

  • Mountain Lion
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  • 1062
I'm almost starting to wonder if I should just abandon OML for a series of overnights/day hikes...

You'll get a better flavor of the park w/ the overnights/day hikes.  You can pretty much divide it up between east, west, and Chisos. 

 


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