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Itinerary Advice - Big Bend 1st Timers

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Offline CDNJehn

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Itinerary Advice - Big Bend 1st Timers
« on: July 31, 2016, 04:17:34 PM »
Looking for feedback on my itinerary. It seems similar to others, but itineraries are like snowflakes ... no two are exactly the same. ;-)

I've been reading lots online and on this board, bought a Big Bend book and am HOPING I've come up with a reasonable itinerary. I basically went through the book and online trip reports and wrote down every trail that interested me, then plotted the distances/times and locations and reduced the list one by one. I've tried to estimate both how long each trail will take us and the driving distance between trails.

Trip planning fun!


I'd love some input on my plans. We were only able to get one night booked @ Chisos Mountain Lodge and will stay in Terlingua to start and end our trip to the area.

Here's our timeline:

5-October: Arrive in Terlingua (driving from Austin).


6-October: Head to Big Bend after breakfast ... we are early risers. Drive to Santa Elena Canyon (1 hour drive + 30-45 minute hike?) and work our way back to Chisos Mountain Lodge stopping at Dorgan Sublett Trail (30 minute hike?), Lower Burro Mesa Pour-Off (30 minute drive + 30 minute hike?) and Sam Nail Ranch (15 minute drive + 20 minute hike?).  Drive to The lodge for check-in (30 minute drive?). That seems like it will take us about 4 hours. Other hikes of interest were Tuff Canyon, Ward Spring and Oak Spring.
Q: Should we switch out any day one trails for Tuff Canyon, Ward Spring or Oak Spring?

Incidentally I had booked a motel room @ Chisos for one night well over a month ago and keep checking daily to see if availability on either side opened up. Yesterday I accidentally checked availability for the night we'd already booked and cottage 101 was available ... it was like finding a unicorn!!!  :-)

After check-in @ Chisos I was considering either The Window Trail or Lost Mine Trail (1.5-2 hours hike?) or Grapevine Hills (30 minute drive + 45 minute hike?).  Q: Are one or more of these doable?


7-October: Up early and hike South Rim via Laguna Meadows. Guesstimating 8-9 hours?  Drive back to Terlingua.
Q: I've read we'll need 1-2 liters of water per person for this hike. Do we need to consider brining water purification tablets for any reason?  What temps can we expect in early October? 


8-October: Pack up early and head back towards Dallas (we have to be in Dallas by 9-October so we'll just drive until we feel like stopping).  We could drive through the park at hit Grapevine Hills on the way out if we haven't made it there yet.

Q: Rather than going back the same way we came, is the drive at all interesting if we took 90 east to 277, to 377, to 41 and connect with 10 back to Kerrville and then up 16 towards Fredericksburg?  We wanted to head back that way to be able to stop at Enchanted Rock but, after 2 days of hiking, I might be DONE with rocks by then. ;-)  Unless there's something fun we'd see along that route we'll just head back via 20 through Midland/Odessa/Abilene.

Thanks!





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Offline dprather

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Re: Itinerary Advice - Big Bend 1st Timers
« Reply #1 on: July 31, 2016, 04:37:08 PM »
Santa Elena = yes

Several of your short hikes = not so much.  The exception is Grapevine Hills = it is a very nice desert hike.

Al of your times are one the very short side.  Do you really want to hurry?

Regarding water - the rule of thumb is one gallon per person per day when backpacking (although most get by on a little less).  I would not start the Rim hike with only one or two liters per person (I have given water more than once to young people who did not take enough water up there).  It is about 14 miles (round trip - give or take) and there are plenty of challenging grades (up and down).  There are also several neat things to do up in the High Chisos that will make you want to "stop and smell the "roses".  I suggest that you start your Rim hike early (like EARLY).  That way you will be able to pace yourself and perhaps take a side trail of two.  Lunch in the High Chisos is a thing to savor, not gulp down. 

Please be aware that the view off of the South Rim is in the same conversation as the Grand Canyon (that's another debate).  It is at least awesome.  It would be a shame if you did not allow yourself time to also savor that view.  I think the Rim hike award is given for wisdom and not for speed.
Leave "quit" at the car.  Embrace the trail as your friend.  Expect to enjoy yourself, and to be amazed.

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Offline Imre

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Re: Itinerary Advice - Big Bend 1st Timers
« Reply #2 on: July 31, 2016, 05:11:48 PM »
Dprather gave you good advice on the water. I would not hike to the South Rim with only 2 litres of water. Even for a day hike, I carry 3.5 litres.  Also I have never been able to limit myself to 20 minutes at Sam Nail. The whole point is to sit and wait to see what comes in to the water.
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Offline mule ears

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Re: Itinerary Advice - Big Bend 1st Timers
« Reply #3 on: July 31, 2016, 05:52:08 PM »
You can easily stop and at least look down into Tuff Canyon even if you don't walk down into it.  Same with Mule Ears view point, at least drive up and take in the view.

Know that it will be hot in the desert in early Oct. so short hikes are going to be good, Sam Nail has shade so that is a plus.  You will be seeing highs down in the desert near 90 easily.  Stop at Castolon and have an ice cream and take in the small museum/visitor center there (should be back open by then).

If get a really early start on your first day and moving along well then you could fit Grapevine Hills in before you head up to the Basin but don't do it instead of Lost Mine which is very nice at the then of the day near dusk/sunset.

Also make sure you go to the Ghost town for a beer on the porch and dinner at the Starlight and also stop into La Kiva for at least a beer and by then the kitchen should be in full swing.
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
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Offline rocketman

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Re: Itinerary Advice - Big Bend 1st Timers
« Reply #4 on: July 31, 2016, 06:37:42 PM »
I agree with the feedback so far. Slow down and take it all in unless it's a bucket list item. You can always come back. 

I did a week-long nomadic camping trip out there 4 years ago. We covered a lot of territory, moving from place to place to capture as much as we could, but still didn't see a fraction of what there is to see in the Bend. Try running through your list again and see if anything can be put off for the next time or at least be flexible......becau se you will be back.   :)
Making ice cubes FROM THE SUN!!!

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Offline Geezer

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Re: Itinerary Advice - Big Bend 1st Timers
« Reply #5 on: July 31, 2016, 10:48:44 PM »
After you leave Santa Elena Canyon on the 6th you might consider cutting out most of the short stops in favor of a hike to Cattail Falls. Search for it on this site. After check-in at the Basin, consider Lost Mine Trail. More scenic than Window Trail. Take a flashlight or two as you may finish in dark -- but the lower part of the trail is excellent. You don't say how much experience you have or what kind of shape you're in -- and sounds like your party all adults. They'd better be with this kind of schedule.

I'd take at least three quarts per person to s. Rim at that time of year. Probably four. No need for purification tablets if you do that. And take some good tape in case of blisters. Flashlights there too.

Geezer


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Offline elhombre

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Re: Itinerary Advice - Big Bend 1st Timers
« Reply #6 on: August 01, 2016, 07:57:20 AM »
Geezer is right.  Your number one goal should be the rim hike.  Spend the first day driving to Santa Elena and maybe Cattail falls.  Spend the rest of the time around the basin. 

Take it from me, a native Austinite for 38 years till we moved, it ain't all that.  The traffic is so bad now due  to idiots in the local government, you will be desperate to get out of town.  That's why we all go to Big Bend; to get away. (8 hour drive to Terlinqua)

No way you should do Lost mine trail in 2 hours.  That will simply be a workout on a trail without any enjoyment.  Big Bend is where you leave time schedules behind.

Take more water and try, and I mean really try to allow your mind and body to sit on the south Rim for 2 hours for lunch and take it in.  That's Living!
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Offline CDNJehn

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Re: Itinerary Advice - Big Bend 1st Timers
« Reply #7 on: August 01, 2016, 09:09:16 AM »
Thanks everyone for your feedback. I'm definitely hearing the quality over quantity in all of your replies and will take that to heart. I'm a planner by trade and very much a 'HURRY UP...WE HAVE TO VACATION!' person.  I'll look back through your responses and adjust.

Also, re: our experience/shape ... we are 39 & 41 and consider ourselves fit/active. Hubby walks 8ish miles/day at work and I'm a runner (15-20 miles/week).  Desert and mountains are not something we're used to in Ontario (though it IS stinkin' hot here). We have done some hiking locally, hubby used to rock climb and canyoneer, and we've spent some time hiking at high elevations in Costa Rica. Definitely VERY NEW to distance hiking, though I've run several distance races including half and full marathons.


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Offline dprather

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Re: Itinerary Advice - Big Bend 1st Timers
« Reply #8 on: August 01, 2016, 12:54:15 PM »
Quote
Take it from me, a native Austinite for 38 years till we moved, it ain't all that.  The traffic is so bad now due  to idiots in the local government, you will be desperate to get out of town.

SIGH - what Austin was compared to what Austin is.
« Last Edit: August 02, 2016, 09:11:11 PM by RichardM »
Leave "quit" at the car.  Embrace the trail as your friend.  Expect to enjoy yourself, and to be amazed.

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Offline CDNJehn

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Re: Itinerary Advice - Big Bend 1st Timers
« Reply #9 on: August 01, 2016, 05:32:58 PM »
dprather - We've already booked two nights in Austin so we're in it now. We plan to get out of town on one of those days. Traffic doesn't bother us. I commute 2+ hours per day, which is 45 minutes longer than it needs to be thanks to traffic. :(. Working near Toronto requires a degree in patience.


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Offline dprather

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Re: Itinerary Advice - Big Bend 1st Timers
« Reply #10 on: August 01, 2016, 06:14:12 PM »
dprather - We've already booked two nights in Austin so we're in it now. We plan to get out of town on one of those days. Traffic doesn't bother us. I commute 2+ hours per day, which is 45 minutes longer than it needs to be thanks to traffic. :(. Working near Toronto requires a degree in patience.


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I lived in the Austin area (Dripping Springs) from the late 70s to the mid-80s.  Those where the autumn years of the "Keep Austin REALLY Weird" era.  It's still nice.  It just isn't what it once was.  If you are into legendary night life, try the 6th Street area - it comes up occasionally in mass shootings.
Leave "quit" at the car.  Embrace the trail as your friend.  Expect to enjoy yourself, and to be amazed.

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Offline Geezer

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Re: Itinerary Advice - Big Bend 1st Timers
« Reply #11 on: August 01, 2016, 10:46:07 PM »
OK, I see you are young and fit enough. But not accustomed to desert hiking. And from Ontario. Temps in Chisos Mtns. could vary wildly at that time of year, so take some warmish clothes. Also, the desert sun will badly damage your skin. Big floppy hats and sunscreen.  Long sleeve shirts. If it's really hot, cotton is coolest fabric. But after sundown temps can fall rapidly. And take flashlights on your hikes. Never know when you might decide to run up Emory Peak and find yourself walking down to Basin in the dark. Drink a gallon of water a day.

Geezer

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Offline CDNJehn

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Re: Itinerary Advice - Big Bend 1st Timers
« Reply #12 on: August 02, 2016, 07:18:30 AM »
Absolutely right Geezer, zero desert hiking experience. The closest we've come to desert is the national park area in Aruba. ;) I'll be sure we have hats, long-sleeve shirts and sunscreen (of course).  Hopefully we'll be done before dark, but carrying a flashlight just in case is wise.

Speaking of taking a 'run up Emory Peak' ... I've read a lot of trip reports about this. Many mention the last bit is a 'scramble' and that coming back down from the peak can be difficult to maneuver. What can I expect? I'm leary of heights and risk averse. Taking a risk to me is eating dairy the day after the expiry date. I have visions of crying the entire time or being frozen with fear. Not sure I want to start something I can't finish. My husband loves rock climbing and thinks bungee jumping from a tram suspended 150' above a valley is "fun" ... so he'll be all over the climb.  Is it relatively easy to get to the base of the peaks and make a decision front there?


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Offline catz

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Re: Itinerary Advice - Big Bend 1st Timers
« Reply #13 on: August 02, 2016, 10:48:49 AM »
You can get to the base of the peak itself and decide then, of course.  While steep, the trail to that point is not otherwise that difficult (or scary).   It is only the last 20-30 feet or so where scrambling is required to get to the very tip top.  As scrambles go, it is really not that hard.  Going down a scramble is always more difficult that going up.  The very top is a little dicey because there's not much room up there and it's a long way down.

Personally, I think the view from the South Rim is better than from Emory.
Wake me when it's time to go.

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Offline CDNJehn

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Itinerary Advice - Big Bend 1st Timers
« Reply #14 on: August 02, 2016, 01:46:20 PM »
@catz - that's exactly what I'll tell my husband "we don't need to go up there, we already had a great view back at the rim!" ;)


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