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Late December 2017 - First timer - Solo

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Offline Obviouslylogan

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Late December 2017 - First timer - Solo
« on: November 30, 2017, 12:38:48 PM »
Hey y'all,

Just looking for advice on my itinerary for my time in Big Bend.
 
I've backpacked and camped a fair amount before, Isle Royale, Glacier, Rocky Mountain, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, but never solo and never in the
desert.

Pretty basic OML loop. I'm trying to not go too wild with it on my first time here, so I figured the OML would be my best bet.

However part of me wants to cut down on the free days and make this a 6 day backpacking trip instead of 4. Doing pretty much this route,
https://ericshikes.blogspot.com/p/big-bend-national-park-2013.html, but a little slower since I have the time. I'm up for a challenge and
I think that route would be fun, but not sure if it's too much for my first time here.

Here's what I have planned so far.

I'm flying into El Paso on 12/19 around 15:00.

Leaving from El Paso on 12/28 at 10:00.

12/20:    
  • Drive from El Paso to Big Bend. Arriving around 13:00.
  • Get permit for Grapevine(GH4 or GH5) or Paint Gap (PG1 or PG3) for 12/20 & 12/21.
  • Get backpacking permit for SW4 on 12/24(hopefully, I know that site is popular)
  • Drop water and food at Homer Wilson if time allows. Set up camp. Sleep.
   
12/21:    
  • -Wake up relatively early. Make my way down to Chisos Lodge for some food.
  • Sightsee for most of the day. Santa Elena, Tuff Canyon, Hot Springs, The Window, Lost Canyon.
  • Any other recommendations of must sees for this day would be great.
  • Camp at the same site I was at before. Organize gear for OML and double check that I have everything.

12/22:    
  • Wake up early, pack up camp and drive to Chisos. Eat some food, double check I have everything again, drink water, and head to the trail.
  • Hike Pinnacles > Boot Spring > Juniper Canyon > as much of Dodson as I can muster.
  • Camp along E. Dodson.

12/23:    
  • Wake up early again. Pack up camp, eat some food, head off.
  • Hike Dodson > Homer Wilson(resupply water & food) > as much of Blue Creek as I can endure.
  • Camp along Blue Creek.

12/24:    
  • Up early. food. pack up.
  • Hike Blue Creek > SW4(drop off gear at my site) > hike SE Rim, NE Rim, Colima(maybe) with only a water bottle and snacks.
  • Camp at SW4.

12/25:    
  • Early, food, pack.
  • Hike SW4 > Laguna Meadows > Chisos > Back to the car and relax.
  • Open to options of things to do during this afternoon and evening. Camping along the Rio Grande would be fun,
    but I'm not sure if the Honda Element that I'm renting could make it.

12/26:    
Not sure what I want to do during this day. I have thought of going and walking across the border to Mexico at
Rio Grande Village or even Lajitas. It's something I've always wanted to do, and I have this day completely open.
I am not opposed to driving somewhere else and camping/hiking. Big Bend Ranch State Park? Ideas?

12/27:    
Depending on where I am staying on the 26th, drive back to El Paso some time during the day. Check into my airbnb or Walmart parking lot. Sleep. Fly home tomorrow at 10:00


Thanks for your help. I can't wait to visit.

   

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Offline Hang10er

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Re: Late December 2017 - First timer - Solo
« Reply #1 on: November 30, 2017, 02:40:38 PM »
You've come to the right place and everyone else will fill you in on the OML.  I just noticed you're considering a crossing into Mexico. I don't believe you can legally cross anywhere in the area other than Boquillas.  If you have the time, I would recommend making the cross there, it's a great place to visit.  It's a little ways down from Rio Grande Village and the most unique crossing I've ever seen.  You'll get a little briefing from a Park Ranger and then walk down a sandy trail.  A Mexican will meet you with a roll boat ($5 round trip) and take you across. You'll be offered a mule or truck ride into the village (less than a mile away I'd say) or you can walk. You'll also be offered your own personal guide.  When you approach the village you'll check in with Mexican officials and then have the village to explore. There are 2 great restaurants, the Park Bar and most families have some souvenirs for sale. 

You cross back same way and go through US customs via a kiosk where you'll talk by phone to an agent in El Paso.  BE SURE you have a valid passport or passport card and don't stay after closing hours or you'll have to wait until morning.

I was lucky enough to cross a year or so before Victor, the singing Mexican passed away.  He would serenade people crossing and handle all the boat ride money.  I am curious if someone has taken his place.

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Offline catz

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Re: Late December 2017 - First timer - Solo
« Reply #2 on: November 30, 2017, 04:09:57 PM »

Your first day hiking (Basin to "east Dodson") is pretty ambitious.  Maybe should try Basin to mid-Juniper; then mid-Juniper to Fresno Creek (where there's surely water); then Fresno Creek to Blue Creek campsites (very near the rim and less likely to be taken than one of the sites actually on the rim); then day hike the rim (leave your gear in the bear box), see the views and go back to the Basin via the Laguna Meadows trail.
Wake me when it's time to go.

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Offline mule ears

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Re: Late December 2017 - First timer - Solo
« Reply #3 on: November 30, 2017, 04:52:55 PM »
Welcome to the board Logan! 

I would say absolutely no way attempt Eric's hike as your first desert trip and first solo, it is one of the the most difficult, cross country trips in the park. I have done most of that route and will be doing more of it in a few weeks so I know of what I recommend.

If you want to extend your OML you could add on some cross country down the ET trail, cut across upper Fisk canyon to the Smoky Creek trail and back to the Dodson

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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: Late December 2017 - First timer - Solo
« Reply #4 on: November 30, 2017, 05:37:52 PM »
For your free day (12/26), if you're planning to head towards RGV/Boquillas, you might also head up Old Ore Rd and hike in to see Ernst Tinaja. It's a short little walk into a canyon where there are some amazing rock folds and a large tinaja. There is also the Boquillas Canyon Trail, which is a nice easy walk into that canyon along the Rio Grande. You should be able to fill up a day doing those things on the east side of the park, including lunch in Mexico. Sounds like a great first time trip you have planned!
Making ice cubes FROM THE SUN!!!

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Offline Obviouslylogan

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Re: Late December 2017 - First timer - Solo
« Reply #5 on: November 30, 2017, 06:31:07 PM »

Your first day hiking (Basin to "east Dodson") is pretty ambitious.  Maybe should try Basin to mid-Juniper; then mid-Juniper to Fresno Creek (where there's surely water); then Fresno Creek to Blue Creek campsites (very near the rim and less likely to be taken than one of the sites actually on the rim); then day hike the rim (leave your gear in the bear box), see the views and go back to the Basin via the Laguna Meadows trail.

Thanks for the input. So you're saying skip SW4 entirely? I've heard that site is great, but if it's not all that it's cracked up to be, I'm not set on it. You're right about Basin to Dodson being a bit ambitious and I think setting the goal of mid-Juniper is smart. Also I'm assuming I should still stash water at Homer Wilson even though there's surely water at Fresno Creek. Keep that water for the desert to use.

For your free day (12/26), if you're planning to head towards RGV/Boquillas, you might also head up Old Ore Rd and hike in to see Ernst Tinaja. It's a short little walk into a canyon where there are some amazing rock folds and a large tinaja. There is also the Boquillas Canyon Trail, which is a nice easy walk into that canyon along the Rio Grande. You should be able to fill up a day doing those things on the east side of the park, including lunch in Mexico. Sounds like a great first time trip you have planned!

I think I'm definitely going to visit Bosquillas and the surrounding areas from your recommendations. That sounds awesome and the way you get across the border there sounds unique. I just got my passport and card renewed several weeks ago, so I'm all set for that.

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Offline mule ears

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Re: Late December 2017 - First timer - Solo
« Reply #6 on: November 30, 2017, 06:41:03 PM »
Definitely try to get a site on the rim, an OML without the rim is a huge mistake imho.  SW 3 is maybe the best site on the Rim, the only one with a view from the site itself

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temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
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Offline Obviouslylogan

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Re: Late December 2017 - First timer - Solo
« Reply #7 on: November 30, 2017, 06:49:42 PM »
One more question. Any primitive roadside campsite recommendations for my 12/26 night? I was thinking Ernst Tinaja and depending on the conditions I could hike it or drive. Seeing this picture, makes me more confident that the Honda Element I'll have can do it, but backup plan. Hike it.
 

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Offline RichardM

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Re: Late December 2017 - First timer - Solo
« Reply #8 on: December 01, 2017, 09:07:58 AM »
SW4 doesn't have a view from the campsite itself, but is a short walk from some of the best views from the Rim. It is also close to the pit toilet, which could be considered a plus or a minus.

The Old Ore Road from the South up to Ernst Tinaja is usually ok for passenger cars. I've done it a couple of times with a minivan. Check with the visitor center for recent road conditions when you get there.

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Offline elhombre

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Re: Late December 2017 - First timer - Solo
« Reply #9 on: December 01, 2017, 09:14:12 AM »
First, the park overlords will not allow you to store food in the bear boxes at Homer Wilson.  Only water.  You can store food in any other bear box, just not Homer.  Shoot, they may have even changed the rule again and outlawed food storage in the bear boxes at Juniper trail head too.  I'm sure about Homer though.  Just plan on carrying it.

The water in the desert either evaporates, or soaks back into the ground.  No animal will be harmed if you take some of it to drink.  Still, dropping water at Homer, and planning on getting water out of Fresno will keep you light as possible. 

Getting a site up on the rim won't be a problem 4 days out.  I would think you will have your pick of the place.

It is usually recommended that you split the park in two.  Concentrate one of your free days driving the west side, then the other free day, drive the east side (Pine canyon, Rio Grande village).  It's a big place, especially if you get out of the car and walk around.

The picture of the Ernst parking lot is not a representation of Old ore road.  I'm going to guess you will have a donut for a spare tire in that Honda.  If so, this will be your big potential problem with Ore road.  Plenty of people in the park, so if you need help, someone will surely drive by rather soon on Ore road.

Finally, Gravel Pit is a popular and easy roadside campsite to get near the river.
« Last Edit: December 01, 2017, 09:26:09 AM by elhombre »
The older I get, the more I realize what freedom really means.  May God bless America

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Offline PacingTheCage

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Re: Late December 2017 - First timer - Solo
« Reply #10 on: December 01, 2017, 05:21:36 PM »
When we were there last month we asked for SW3, which was open, but there were only 2 of us.  The Ranger said he could not give the site to only two people as it could accomodate more folks.  Your mileage may vary!

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Offline mule ears

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Re: Late December 2017 - First timer - Solo
« Reply #11 on: December 01, 2017, 05:32:32 PM »
When we were there last month we asked for SW3, which was open, but there were only 2 of us.  The Ranger said he could not give the site to only two people as it could accomodate more folks.  Your mileage may vary!

It is one of the bigger group sites but I have reserved it with only two on 12/21 once.
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
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Offline Cookie

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Re: Late December 2017 - First timer - Solo
« Reply #12 on: December 02, 2017, 09:33:37 AM »
When we were there last month we asked for SW3, which was open, but there were only 2 of us.  The Ranger said he could not give the site to only two people as it could accomodate more folks.  Your mileage may vary!
:banghead: :banghead: :banghead: :banghead: :banghead: :banghead: :banghead: :banghead: :banghead: :banghead:

 :pissed: :pissed: :pissed: :pissed: :pissed: :pissed: :pissed: :pissed: :pissed: :pissed:

They told us that about SE3 before. There is no "minimum" requirements on any campsite. Only maximums. I went back and changed our permit after being told we couldn't camp there with 3 people. The ranger that changed it back to SE3 didn't say a word about not having enough people in the group.   :willynilly:

~Cookie

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Offline Obviouslylogan

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Re: Late December 2017 - First timer - Solo
« Reply #13 on: December 05, 2017, 01:10:00 PM »
THANKS y'all. Seriously. All of your input has really helped me in planning this. I can't wait. Only two more weeks and I'll be off. I'll come back and post a trip report when I return.

I'm going to try to hitch a ride up Ore Road for Ernst Tinaja and also stay at Gravel Pit or La Clocha for my second night.

-L

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Offline coolhandsluke

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Re: Late December 2017 - First timer - Solo
« Reply #14 on: December 11, 2017, 02:09:52 PM »
Maybe we'll see each other on trail, I'll be doing a similar itinerary just not sure if I'll be stepping out on the 21st or 22nd yet pending how long it takes me to get my permit and stash water.

If you see a solo guy with red pack & trailrunners good chance that's me. 


 


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