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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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Week after Xmas, need trip advice

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Offline peteopp

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Week after Xmas, need trip advice
« on: November 29, 2015, 10:44:39 PM »
Hey everyone.  I have a couple friends showing up from FL this Xmas holiday weekend and we want to do some backpacking in Big Bend.  Could use some advice on what you all would recommend.  Are plates are empty and willing to do just about anything hiking related, but we figured most would probably at least recommend OML as the beginning of the trip.  I believe we're looking for a 5 - 5.5 day trip, but I wouldn't be opposed to shortening to 4-4.5 days if most feel we would get tired of BB in that amount of time or could accomplish it all in lesser time.

As far as skill level goes.  I've been to philmont, backpacked Glacier National park and done numerous 'primitive' camping trips and multi-day canoeing expeditions.  As well as spent way too many countless hours researching gear, philosophies, and such.  I'm in pretty good shape. So I would probably rate myself as advanced.  The other two are about in the same boat, but this technically their first backpacking trip.  We're all 3 males in our early 30s, I think we're looking for a challenging trip, but nothing extreme. 

Off the top of our heads we were thinking OML with the optional Emroys peak and south rim.  Maybe cap it off w/ a couple day hikes.  Our concerns were water caching.  Will we need to during this time of year? I Know DFW has gotten a significant amount of rain lately. I read that one of the driving spots into OML was 1hr each way off the main road.  We really don't care to waste a lot of our day driving down a barren road just to cache water.  If the drive is scenic, we're not opposed though.

I think that's everything, if not just ask.  Looking for some advice from all the Big Bend experts out there :)

Thanks
Pete

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Offline mule ears

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Re: Week after Xmas, need trip advice
« Reply #1 on: November 30, 2015, 07:51:44 AM »
Pete welcome to the board!  You have found the right place for sure.

 :welcome:

First I am sure that you have found the OML FAQ, study it well and check out the other threads in that board and the trip report indexes.

Second, I have a feeling that the week after Xmas is going to be really busy in the park (including 20 or 30 of us gathering for the BBC 10 year anniversary, stop by and visit) so you will want to have several plans.

The key will be flexibility when getting your permit.  You will want to get your permit for the whole stay if possible.  If you get there and the zones for an OML are full then adjust by a day or two to make it work and then do day hikes before or after.  Same if you are using backcountry campsites.  There is also "zone" camping where as long as you walk a half a mile from the road you can camp just about anywhere.  Easy choices here would be Mule Ears spring area, Chimneys, Dog Canyon of course you would probably need to carry all your water for most of those.

The other thing to be flexible about is doing the OML counter clockwise instead of the standard clockwise from the Basin, or start from Homer Wilson (or Juniper canyon trailhead if you have a high clearance vehicle).  This will put you in different camping zones than all the folks who are doing the standard 3 day 2 night loop.  What kind of vehicle will you have?

As to water, while the park has had above normal rainfall, the early spring reports are not robust.  For the OML there will be water in the pools up canyon from Boot spring and Fresno creek on the Dodson has had water.  You will need to cache water at Homer Wilson for sure.  If you have a high clearance vehicle then consider starting at Juniper canyon and going CCW up Juniper, that way you don't have to go in and out to cache water there (see comment above about flexibility).

There is plenty to see and do other than the OML, especially for first timers. You can spend a whole day just driving the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive to Santa Elena canyon and back, checking out all the side trails and stuff.  A trip to Boquillas or for sure an afternoon and dinner in Terlingua/Study Butte.

Others will chime in for sure.  You will have a great time.
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
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no shade, no water
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Offline peteopp

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Re: Week after Xmas, need trip advice
« Reply #2 on: November 30, 2015, 03:39:02 PM »
Thanks for the warm welcome.  We will have a pretty high clearance Dodge 2500 4x4.  Just has street tires, but i would assume it's capable of just about any roads BB has to offer. 

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Offline TheWildWestGuy

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Re: Week after Xmas, need trip advice
« Reply #3 on: November 30, 2015, 07:07:20 PM »
I would favor starting from Juniper Canyon Trailhead and if you can get a backcountry permit for Twisted Shoe or Robbers  Roost for the night before camp in those places or zone camp 1/4 mile West from the Juniper Canyon Trailhead.  Climb up Juniper Canyon and get Colima 1 Campsite if available, if not something in Boot Canyon.  Filter water from the tinajas above boot spring and from Upper Juniper Spring.   Cache water at Homer Wilson before driving to Juniper Canyon and resupply on Day 2, then over to Fresno Creek or camp near Homer Wilson on night #2.   Fresno Creek, Upper Juniper Springs, and Boot Canyon Tinajas are reliable right now but there is no water between the Homer Wilson Bear Box and Fresno Creek or anywhere in Blue Canyon.   Don't overestimate how much mileage you can do in a day,  estimate 8-10 miles a day, 12 if you really push it.  The trails are rough and rocky and the daylight is short and some stretches are really slow going with a heavy pack.   If you don't cache water in the Juniper Canyon Bear Box at the trailhead at least stop and check for "free" water.  Often but not always there is extra water labelled "free" in the bear boxes.   TWWG

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Online dprather

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Re: Week after Xmas, need trip advice
« Reply #4 on: November 30, 2015, 10:11:55 PM »
Ditto on starting from the Juniper Canyon/Dodson trailhead.  Starting there allows you to do the toughest day on the freshest legs.

Think about this:

(Day #1) Start at the Juniper Canyon/Dodson trailhead.  Go west along the Dodson.  I get the idea that you are young and strong.  You should be able to make it all the way to Homer Wilson and a little beyond.  Pick up pre-cached water at Homer Wilson.  Camp up Blue Creek Canyon from the Homer Wilson ranch house. 

(Day #2) Ascend the Blue Creek wall (it's not really as hard as I make it seem).  When you get to the top, turn right and go enjoy the Rim.  Looking down, you'll be able to appreciate the Dodson country that you completed the day before.  The view from the Rim is truly special.  From the Rim, take the Boot Canyon trail down to the Boot Canyon campsites and spend the night there. 

(Day #3) Leave you stuff at camp and explore the High Chisos, including Emory.  If you want, you can hump down from the Boot Canyon camp back to your car at the Juniper/Dodson trailhead that afternoon.

*  By doing this abbreviated OML (you won't do the entire OML because you won't go in and out of the Basin) you'll be able to appreciate the High Chisos (the standard OML doesn't spend a lot of time in the High Chisos) and you'll be able to spend your other days exploring other areas of Big Bend.

*  This will require you to either cache and carry an extra day's worth of water from the Homer Wilson box or depend on water sources in Boot Canyon.

The OML is challenging, but your description of your skills and experiences puts you very much in the OML ballpark.    Please be aware that most of the OML is exposed desert backpacking.  Even in winter the dry air and sunshine can be very draining.  You might even be surprised by unseasonably warm temps or by really chilly temps.  If you are like most of  us, you'll put your successful OML on your life-long list of amazing experiences.

Many find that their enjoyment of Big Bend and the OML is enhanced by learning/reading about the place.  You will pass, for example, Herv Dodson's old place on the morning of your first day.  Stopping there, you'll feel much closer to Herv and his brood if you read about the history of the area and about the changes that Herv and others brought to the area.  The geography of the place is multiplied by its human history.  I can't imagine just walking around Big Bend without first learning about Big Bend.  Other topics that will enhance your experience include astronomy - you will be flat-out amazed at the Milky Way, the constellations, and the odd things that distantly whizz by overhead in the night.
« Last Edit: December 09, 2015, 05:45:17 PM by dprather »
Leave "quit" at the car.  Embrace the trail as your friend.  Expect to enjoy yourself, and to be amazed.

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Offline catz

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Re: Week after Xmas, need trip advice
« Reply #5 on: December 01, 2015, 11:31:44 AM »
Traversing the entire length of the Dodson "plus a little bit further" in one day would be a tough hike.  Doable, but tough. 

I agree, though, on this alternative to the full OML, especially if you see both the South Rim and the Boot Spring area.
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Offline BlindWilly

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Re: Week after Xmas, need trip advice
« Reply #6 on: December 01, 2015, 04:42:07 PM »
Thanks for the warm welcome.  We will have a pretty high clearance Dodge 2500 4x4.  Just has street tires, but i would assume it's capable of just about any roads BB has to offer.

Your vehicle will handle just about any road out there. I will however suggest you have at least one spare tire, if not two.
A tire patching kit and a compressor would help too.
Have fun out  there!  :great:
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Offline Geezer

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Re: Week after Xmas, need trip advice
« Reply #7 on: December 01, 2015, 10:23:22 PM »

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Offline peteopp

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Re: Week after Xmas, need trip advice
« Reply #8 on: December 09, 2015, 11:25:53 AM »
Thanks for all the input that is provided.  Still trying to digest everything.
One question though, I've heard this recommendation quite a bit from searching as well.  Why skip the basin.  Is it just frankly not worth the climb in and out?  is it country not really worth seeing?  If it's pretty scenery, i don't necessarily mind the challenge.  I'm kindof gathering there are other things in the park that would be more enjoyable given most people's limited time in the park.

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Offline RichardM

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Re: Week after Xmas, need trip advice
« Reply #9 on: December 09, 2015, 11:37:35 AM »
Thanks for all the input that is provided.  Still trying to digest everything.
One question though, I've heard this recommendation quite a bit from searching as well.  Why skip the basin.  Is it just frankly not worth the climb in and out?  is it country not really worth seeing?  If it's pretty scenery, i don't necessarily mind the challenge.  I'm kindof gathering there are other things in the park that would be more enjoyable given most people's limited time in the park.
The Basin is civilazation. Most OML hikers start and end there out of convenience. If you're starting elsewhere, the main reason you'd include the Basin is to resupply or take a break (mentally, if not physically) from the wilderness of the OML. Personally, I wouldn't consider it a necessary part of the OML experience.

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Offline catz

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Re: Week after Xmas, need trip advice
« Reply #10 on: December 09, 2015, 03:21:16 PM »
But, it IS worth seeing, especially the Pinnacles/Boot Spring portion, and especially if you haven't hiked it before.  I think most people who skip it are either more pressed for time or have hiked it several times before.
Wake me when it's time to go.

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Online dprather

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Re: Week after Xmas, need trip advice
« Reply #11 on: December 09, 2015, 05:43:30 PM »
Every scheduled trip in the Bend is a compromise.  My suggestion allows you to do some other things in the park after you complete an abbreviated OML.  I agree that any view from Pinnacles is great.  For me, leaving the Basin out enhances the wilderness experience. 

It is very doable to begin and end at the Basin and add an additional day up in the High Chisos.  That is a spectacular trip.

Anecdote: on one of my OMLs, I went into the Basin store for some mid-trip caffeine.  In line in front of me was a "gentleman" of questionable virility who was wearing a Li'l Wayne t-shirt.  The juxtaposition of the wilderness and Li'l Wayne was just too odd. 

I also agree that humping the entire Dodson "plus a little more" is a very full day.  I certainly is not necessary if you do the OML as a four day/three night trip with an additional half-day or so in the High Chisos. 

The fact is, there is a standard OML and several variations.  As mentioned, get a good map and enjoy preparing your "own OML."
Leave "quit" at the car.  Embrace the trail as your friend.  Expect to enjoy yourself, and to be amazed.

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Online dprather

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Re: Week after Xmas, need trip advice
« Reply #12 on: December 09, 2015, 09:43:33 PM »
Here is a five day/four night OML beginning and ending at the Basin.

(Day 1) Begin at the Basin.  Go up Pinnacles.  When you get to Pinnacles Pass, drop packs and do Emory Peak (this schedule assumes that you are fit).  When you are done with Emory, camp at one of the Boot Canyon sites.  Explore Boot Canyon (it's a magical place).

(Day 2) Leave your stuff at camp and explore the Rim by going up Colima trail, around the Rim, and down Boot back to your camp.  The view from the Rim is, in my opinion, in the same conversation with the view into the Grand Canyon.  That afternoon, go down Juniper Canyon until you hit the flats.  Camp somewhere between the beginning of the flats and the Dodson/Juniper Canyon trailhead.  There are legends about why some spots on the canyon walls in that area glow at night.

(Day 3) Begin at your low-Juniper camp and do about 2/3rds of the Dosdon.  There are some spectacular camp sites up to the west of Fresno Creek with awesome views of the area to the south of the Dodson and then north to the Rim.  These sites will make you want to stay forever - the high desert air is intoxicating.  In general, prepare yourself for some horizon-to-horizon panoramas.  Be sure to stop and pay your respects to the Dodson ruins.

(Day 4) Complete the Dodson, stopping to take in the view from the pass to the west of Smoky Creek (the gun-site notch to your west will be Santa Elana Canyon; the odd feature to your south will be Mule Ears).  Enjoy lunch at the Homer Wilson ranch.  Hump up Blue Creek until the point where the oaks begin to grow.  There are some really beautiful places to camp amid the oaks, very restful and serene. 

(Day 5) Hump the Blue Creek wall, then up and over Laguna Pass and then down Laguna Meadows trail back to the Basin.  Congratulations - some 2/3rds of those who attempt the OML do not complete their plans.

This schedule requires that you address water for all of those days and nights.  Even in winter, water is the #! issues in the Bend.  There are two places to cache water (a bear box at the Dodson/Juniper trailhead and another bear box at Homer Wilson ranch).  There are intermittent places along the trail to replenish from natural sources (Boot Spring, Juniper Spring, Fresno Creek).
Leave "quit" at the car.  Embrace the trail as your friend.  Expect to enjoy yourself, and to be amazed.

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Offline peteopp

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Re: Week after Xmas, need trip advice
« Reply #13 on: December 14, 2015, 10:51:37 PM »
thanks dprather.  Any estimate on how many miles that is?

Also, assuming we're coming from the north, (385), is there a 'last known' spot to get diesel?  What would be your recommendations on this?  Is it wise to even bring extra in a canister?

A little confused about camping.  I have a National Geographic map.  I thought all camping was restricted to sites, but i dont see sites on my map after you get out of Laguana Pass, instead i see 'zone camping begins'.   

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Offline mule ears

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Re: Week after Xmas, need trip advice
« Reply #14 on: December 15, 2015, 07:09:25 AM »
thanks dprather.  Any estimate on how many miles that is?

Also, assuming we're coming from the north, (385), is there a 'last known' spot to get diesel?  What would be your recommendations on this?  Is it wise to even bring extra in a canister?

A little confused about camping.  I have a National Geographic map.  I thought all camping was restricted to sites, but i don't see sites on my map after you get out of Laguna Pass, instead i see 'zone camping begins'.

You are looking at 40 miles with Emory and all the Rims. 

The only established/reserved backpacking sites are in the Chisos.  Once you drop down out of the mountains it is Zone camping and you can camp anywhere you want with limitations.  Look at the OML FAQ again for details and maps, look at Permits, Zone camping and Chisos campsites.

There is diesel at both PJ and RGV gas stations.
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
http://40yearsofwalking.wordpress.com/

 


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