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Planning Week Long Trip in Early February

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Offline dingbat

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Planning Week Long Trip in Early February
« on: September 01, 2019, 09:20:26 AM »
Hey Yíall
 
I moved to Texas from New Hampshire a couple of years ago and Iím in the early planning stages of my first trip to Big Bend next February. My best friend will be flying in from New Hampshire to join me. We donít get to spend too much time together anymore so I really want to maximize our experience in the park. The more I research the more paralyzed Iím becoming about setting an itinerary from the sheer amount of options so Iím seeking some sage wisdom from Big Bend veterans.
 
Some things to keep in mind:

- Weíll have all the backpacking gear to allow for extended periods away from civilization but remote/back country stuff isnít necessarily all we are after.
- Iím inexperienced with desert environments and how steep Big Bend is so Iím not sure how much mileage we can plan each day. Weíre both in our early thirties, in good shape and experienced hikers (but in NH and ME).
- I drive a Ď92 Volvo 240 station Wagon (RWD) with 200k miles so I imagine improved dirt roads will be fine but primitive roads will be a stretch or totally out of the question.
 
Weíll be arriving to Big Bend early afternoon on Saturday February 8th and will be departing the following Saturday. Iím thinking when we arrive weíll spend the day securing permits, caching water and maybe squeeze in a short sunset hike. If possible we might spend the first night in a lodge or motel in order to set up our packs and get a good night's rest for the week ahead. Are there any options outside of the Chios Mountain Lodge?
 
From what I'm reading: the Outer Mountain Loop is a must but Iím undecided on what variation weíll go for. Is caching water at the Juniper Canyon trail head a must? With my vehicle Iím not sure if it will be possible.
 
Iíve read others talk about hiking without a tent when the weather allows. Thoughts on sleeping under the stars? This is never a possibility in the northeast because the mosquitoes/black flies would eat you alive.
 
Thoughts on Mesa de Anguila and the Marufo Vega Trail?
 
Thanks in advance for your help and Iím sorry for having a million questions. I already made my first my first mistake not taking into account the moon phase before booking my friends flight- cíest la vie. I know that it is still half a year away but Iím already itching to hit the trails!  :great:

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Offline Slimkitty

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Planning Week Long Trip in Early February
« Reply #1 on: September 01, 2019, 10:02:51 AM »
Iíve only hiked a portion of Marufo Vega to get to an off trail overlook.  The portion I did hike was amazing. It was during February also, and the weather was outstanding.  I hope to one day do the whole trail as an overnight hike.  Another one that isnít mentioned quite enough is the Hot Springs Trail.  That wonít take you all day, and the views all along the rio grande are breathtaking. Youíll get a lot of great suggestions here, Iím sure.

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Offline steelfrog

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Re: Planning Week Long Trip in Early February
« Reply #2 on: September 01, 2019, 11:34:33 AM »
The 3 you mention are probably the 3 premier hikes in the park; be sure you have some sort of mapping app like Gaia and a battery backup for your phone, manage your battery well.

MV is one night ; MDA one night; OML prolly best as 2 nights; best variation is around the rim as opposed to down into/out of the Basin.  There's water in Boot Canyon and usually Upper Juniper Spring and usually one spring along the Dodson; but emergency water is usually cached at Juniper/Dodson TH is you don't find water to filter.

That's a good start for noobies.  There's also a lot of cool stuff by Elephant Tusk, Dominguez etc.


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Offline DesertRatShorty

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Re: Planning Week Long Trip in Early February
« Reply #3 on: September 01, 2019, 11:43:15 AM »
You will want to be aware of the proposed new online permit system.

I once did a trip in the White Mountains and it kicked my ass, way more elevation gain and loss than a trip to the Rockies and certainly Big Bend. Steepness will definitely not be an issue as long as you remain on trails. The main difference in the desert is that you have to carry more water. What base weights do you guys normally carry?

I highly recommend cowboy camping. It can be a little scary the first time, but people have been doing it for years obviously, and there is no risk. Make sure you have a shelter in case of rain, weight-conscious people often just carry a lightweight tarp.

As for all the route options, yes it can be daunting. Make sure you have read the OML FAQ and some trip reports. Caching at Juniper Canyon TH is not needed, and I would not want to try it anyway in your Volvo.

Marufo Vega and MDA are both great. The latter especially if you want an off trail experience.

Frankly, you'll want to watch for water reports as your trip is approaching and your itinerary may change as the water situation comes in to focus. For example, I would not attempt the MDA if there has not been much recent rain.

Final advice is to take it easy and don't try to cram too much in. Once you have been you will want to come back.

« Last Edit: September 02, 2019, 11:59:40 AM by dingbat »
I roamed and rambled, and I foller'ed my footsteps
   To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
   And all around me a voice was a'sounding
   This land was made for you and me

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Offline dprather

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Re: Planning Week Long Trip in Early February
« Reply #4 on: September 01, 2019, 04:42:58 PM »
Greetings - you've come to the right place.

You mention  "how steep Big Bend is."  Steep is only one of a few related issues.  The dryness and sunshine (even in February) catch people off guard.  Trail conditions on even the well-used OML are rugged, rough, and rocky.  The effects on knees and ankles and endurance are substantial.  I am certain there are those who have done the OML, MdA, and MV in one week.  Having done all three (not in one week) I'd say you are chewing off a chunk.  Those trails are not going anywhere.  Perhaps you should do the OML and also experience some other corners of BBNP and then come back again (and again and again and again) for the MV and MdA.

But now that you mention it, an OML, a MV, and an MbA in one week, all solo, sounds like an HMoD-level adventure/challenge/personality disorder.

Be aware: the Bend elicits two distinct responses.  Typified by contributors to this board, some people love it to the point of addiction.  Other people can't stand the place. 

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

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Offline dingbat

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Re: Planning Week Long Trip in Early February
« Reply #5 on: September 02, 2019, 11:46:20 AM »
Thank you all so much for the advice! I wasn't planning on doing all three of the OML, MDA and MV hikes. Right now I'm leaning towards doing the OML and then if we feel up to it choosing one of the MDA or MV trails. We'll fill in the rest of our stay with shorter hikes. I'll look into the hot springs trail, elephant tusk and dominguez - any other recommendations?

Concerning lodging for are there any options outside of the Chios Mountain Lodge? Nearby hotels or motels for example?


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Offline dingbat

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Re: Planning Week Long Trip in Early February
« Reply #6 on: September 02, 2019, 12:00:03 PM »
Quote
You will want to be aware of the proposed new online permit system.

I once did a trip in the White Mountains and it kicked my ass, way more elevation gain and loss than a trip to the Rockies and certainly Big Bend. Steepness will definitely not be an issue as long as you remain on trails. The main difference in the desert is that you have to carry more water. What base weights do you guys normally carry?

I highly recommend cowboy camping. It can be a little scary the first time, but people have been doing it for years obviously, and there is no risk. Make sure you have a shelter in case of rain, weight-conscious people often just carry a lightweight tarp.

As for all the route options, yes it can be daunting. Make sure you have read the OML FAQ and some trip reports. Caching at Juniper Canyon TH is not needed, and I would not want to try it anyway in your Volvo.

Marufo Vega and MDA are both great. The latter especially if you want an off trail experience.

Frankly, you'll want to watch for water reports as your trip is approaching and your itinerary may change as the water situation comes in to focus. For example, I would not attempt the MDA if there has not been much recent rain.

Final advice is to take it easy and don't try to cram too much in. Once you have been you will want to come back.

It has been a couple of years but pack weights of anywhere from 40-60 pounds were not much issue depending on elevation gain/loss.

I'll probably plan for a variety of options and then as it gets closer narrow them down based on water availability. I'll adjust further once we're in the park depending on how our legs feel and as we see first hand what hiking in a desert environment entails.


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Offline elhombre

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Re: Planning Week Long Trip in Early February
« Reply #7 on: September 02, 2019, 01:10:26 PM »
I wouldn't worry about the MDA on your first trip.  It is more of a place you get to once you have seen a good part of the rest of the park.  The OML itinerary  that the park literature describes as a 2 nighter  is too much in my opinion.  You are missing out on a night up on the rim, which is a main draw to the park.   

I've been in 96 degree weather on Valentines day, and snowed on another time in February.  With two people, you can split the tent up.  Plan on taking the tent.

The Chisos Lodge is the only place in the park for a room. 

Spend all this time leading up to your visit by going through the trips at the top of the trip report page.  Then choose what you want to do from there, then ask specific questions .
For 2 years the Fake News Media, Obama's FBI, CIA & DOJ, and Swamp dwelling Politicians COLLUDED, Illegally Spied,and LIED to America about POTUS in order to overturn an election

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Offline Hang10er

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Re: Planning Week Long Trip in Early February
« Reply #8 on: September 03, 2019, 07:19:16 AM »
We'll fill in the rest of our stay with shorter hikes. I'll look into the hot springs trail, elephant tusk and dominguez - any other recommendations?

Concerning lodging for are there any options outside of the Chios Mountain Lodge? Nearby hotels or motels for example?

Motels will all be in Study Butte and Terlingua, right outside the park.

As for shorter hikes to fill in the rest of your stay, I'd say Chimneys, Grapevine Hills (the balancing rock), Santa Elena Canyon, etc.  Also visit the fossil exhibit and soak in the Hot Springs. 

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Offline steelfrog

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Re: Planning Week Long Trip in Early February
« Reply #9 on: September 03, 2019, 08:31:29 AM »
Shorter good hikes can also include Lost Mine Trail/Peak, Devil's Den, Apache Canyon

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Offline dingbat

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Re: Planning Week Long Trip in Early February
« Reply #10 on: September 04, 2019, 01:12:50 PM »
Y'all are the best, thank you for all the suggestions!

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Offline mule ears

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Re: Planning Week Long Trip in Early February
« Reply #11 on: September 04, 2019, 06:35:58 PM »
We usually use the chisos mining co. motel for before and/or stays. For sure after for the shower right off the trail. Also the post trip beer and food at KC's? BBQ, Starlight, la Kiva, Chile Pepper, etc.

Before or after the OML (3-4 days depending but absolutely stay on the rim one night) and maybe MV, one night, think of the park as east and west sides and take the time to tour them and do day hikes.

East side options are Dog canyon and Devils Den,  Dugout Wells, Hot springs, Boquillas canyon.

West side- Cattail falls, maybe Apache canyon, upper Burro Mesa pouroff, Chimneys, Mule Ears spring trail out to the Smoky creek overlook, Santa Elena canyon

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