Friends of Big Bend National Park
Big Bend Conservancy

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.


December 2011 is near and we hear Marufo Vega calling

  • 12 Replies
  • 2906 Views
*

Offline dprather

  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 1874
December 2011 is near and we hear Marufo Vega calling
« on: November 26, 2011, 09:09:57 PM »
What metaphor bears the weight of a loaded backpack?  What literary device first captures and then communicates the beauty and brutality of a real-deal trail?  The West Texas wilderness is no country for an old man with a casual muse for writing.  Do or die realities and desert thorns scraping thighs defy romantic reflection.  I’ll play this one straight.

I’m 56 years old.  Only a number they say, but 56 sounds suspiciously like a creaky grandfather’s age.  Even though I outscored everyone except two twenty-somethings in a recent work-related physical abilities test, I know what 56 means.  Can I keep the wolf away a little longer? 

I did a little backpacking and ended up with a broken arm at Philmont when I was a teenager, but I was never dedicated and I never developed the skill set.  Driven by fear of the wolf, I dusted off some 40 year-old memories and have returned to the trail.  Thank goodness for a willingness to keep learning.  Thank goodness for the patient mentoring of Carl, my friend who pulled me back into the wilds.  In the past few years we have logged a couple of hundred miles and, as he says, our experience is beginning to pay off.

   Our first back to backpacking experience was in 2005 on Texas’ Trail Between the Lakes with 50-pound packs overloaded with bad ideas.  We slogged 28 miles in three days of heat and humidity approaching 100 degrees and 100 percent without enough water.  At the end we were beat - but not beaten.  Thirsty and bug bit, we were curious – could we do better?

   From 2006-2009 we got better on East Texas’ Turkey Creek and Four-C Trails.  Although these trails were the smooth side of a stone preparing us for coarser grit, prepare us they did by pleasantly placing the load back on our shoulders.  And we kept asking each other questions. “Did this work?” and “Would something else work better?”  We were all in now with the driven eccentricities of old guys fighting wolves.  “You know,” Carl seriously observed, “our friends think we are crazy.”

So we drove to Big Bend in March, 2010.  The Outer Mountain Loop is a legitimate bucket list line item for hard-core backpackers, thirty miles of Pinnacles elevation gain and the shadeless Dodson.  But we were not as ready as we thought and the OML whipped us. 

When Carl said, “I can’t go any farther” in a voice that I had never heard before and hope to never hear again, I knew we were done.  Just one-third of the way through, I didn’t even have time to feel sorry for myself.  Carl was heat-loopy.  With mini-epic semi-heroism, I hiked to the River Road for help – no big deal, really, because he would have done the same for me.  Having a backpacking buddy in whom you have unconditional trust is a special blessing for both of us.  Egos bruised, we returned home in disgusted defeat to I-told-you-so wives. 

   Physically healing during the following weeks, the idea of returning to the OML slowly crept back in to our conversations.  Our trail back to emotional wellness was marked by the cairns of old questions, “Why didn’t this work?” and “Couldn’t we do better?”  Our tinkering until things were fixed combined with gut-level vengeance.  Soon we had a new date, December 2010, and plans for better equipment, lighter loads, and improved conditioning. 

When we blew past Twisted Shoe, the point of our previous defeat, Carl’s sense of vindication was visceral.  His confidence reconfirmed, he led us across the desert and over the mountains to a very satisfying but emotionally muted victory.  We bought the ticket and we enjoyed the ride: horizons in another nation, Elephant Tusk at dusk, and two unusual affirmations. 

Nearing the bottom of Laguna Meadows, we chatted with a family of day hikers.  Going our separate ways, the khaki-shorted dad called back over his shoulder.  “Say,” he asked, “how long have you guys been up here anyway?” 

We even managed to move a veteran park ranger past his dismissive distance.  Before we left the park we asked about our plans for 2011.  Hearing about our personal triumph he leaned forward and said, “If you have done the OML, then you shouldn’t have trouble with anything else.” 
« Last Edit: November 26, 2011, 11:13:42 PM by dprather »
Leave "quit" at the car.  Embrace the trail as your friend.  Expect to enjoy yourself, and to be amazed.

*

Offline SA Bill

  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 1981
Re: December 2011 is near and we hear Marufo Vega calling
« Reply #1 on: November 26, 2011, 09:27:11 PM »
Great story dprather! You all persevered and conquered. Well done.  :eusa_clap: Like you, I'm 56 years old and still kicking...just not as hard or as fast. But kicking all the same. Use it or lose it. MV was quite a hike for me and I only went as far as the Split Rock camp site. If you all are going whole hog to the river...more power to you! Good luck!
  Thanks for sharing!
    Bill
Bill - In San Antonio

Growing old is mandatory.
Growing up is optional.

*

Offline Terlingua50337

  • Diamondback
  • *
  • 440
  • West Texas road trip? Get in......... I'll drive!
    • Leeds Fine Western Art Photography
Re: December 2011 is near and we hear Marufo Vega calling
« Reply #2 on: November 26, 2011, 09:29:42 PM »
As Augustus Craw would have said: "I God"  :eusa_clap:

*

Offline Casa Grande

  • Site Founder
  • Administrator
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 5813
  • Bending It Since 1991
    • Virtual Big Bend
December 2011 is near and we hear Marufo Vega calling
« Reply #3 on: November 26, 2011, 11:14:38 PM »
Great read

*

Offline mule ears

  • Golden Eagle
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 3378
  • "He had to leave Texas but won't say why" McMurtry
    • 40 years of walking
Re: December 2011 is near and we hear Marufo Vega calling
« Reply #4 on: November 27, 2011, 06:26:27 AM »
beautifully said dprather but I actually think that this country is a place for old men.

Quote
The West Texas wilderness is no country for an old man

I think it takes the experience and patience of age to carefully make your way through a hard landscape and come out the other side intact and happy.  You have to learn how to avoid the pointy plants like dancing.  You need to learn that the path of least resistance is along the washes and not across them.  You have to develop a sense of where the water is.  You have to have the patience to take the middle of the day off when it is hot and make miles in the cool of the morning and evening.  This all comes with practice and time.

It is a great thing that you came back to backpacking after years off and that you found a good partner, it is very hard to find someone who can obsess the same way you do over the details.  The fact that you got back on that horse and completed the OML is fabulous and as the ranger said, you can move on to bigger , more complicated trips now.

My main hiking partner is 61 (I'm 55) and we have done 40 plus trips together, his only flaw is he doesn't like the desert so won't travel with me to Big Bend.  I also believe that backpacking is what keeps me motivated to move and stay in shape.

I look forward to seeing a successful MV trip report from you soon!

temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
http://40yearsofwalking.wordpress.com/

*

Offline bhodges85

  • Jack Rabbit
  • *
  • 40
Re: December 2011 is near and we hear Marufo Vega calling
« Reply #5 on: November 27, 2011, 12:58:00 PM »
I think the west Texas wilderness is a perfect place for an old man (or young) with a muse for writing.  Keep it up!  Looking forward to hearing about your trip to MV

*

Offline dprather

  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 1874
Re: December 2011 is near and we hear Marufo Vega calling
« Reply #6 on: November 27, 2011, 01:11:56 PM »
We will leave the Houston area next Sunday morning, December 4 and stop in San Antonio for a steak at the Little Red Barn.  We plan, Lord willing, to do Marufo Vega on Monday and Tuesday, December 5 and 6.  Then, on Wednesday,Thursday and Friday, we plan to go up and stay up on the High Chisos.
Leave "quit" at the car.  Embrace the trail as your friend.  Expect to enjoy yourself, and to be amazed.

*

Offline Homer67

  • Passionate Backpacker
  • Black Bear
  • *
  • 795
  • Be Amazing.
Re: December 2011 is near and we hear Marufo Vega calling
« Reply #7 on: November 27, 2011, 04:25:00 PM »
Oh man!  I cannot wait to return to Big Bend and do the N-S loop on Marufo Vega!  We hiked in and out on the South Fork last January... right before the big cold jag that came through!  I think my girl is up for it! 

MV was a good challenge for us back then, and now that we have taken on a variant of the OML, I think an MV hike in via the North fork and out the South fork would be a good way to spend a portion of our next trip! 

Our last hike really invigorated me!  I am 44 and I wondered if I could still channel the old HS fullback in me and summon what it would take to get through 28 miles (trails and excursions) with the 4-season tent and a full-load of water et al in tow. It worked out great for us!  When one has gained the experience, one can plan and study, ultimately getting the job done!
Ah Big Bend, we will soon return to reacquaint ourselves in our ritual of blood, exhaustion and dehydration. How can we resist the temptation to strip ourselves of the maladies of civilization?

*

Offline dprather

  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 1874
Re: December 2011 is near and we hear Marufo Vega calling
« Reply #8 on: November 27, 2011, 05:23:49 PM »
Homer - we are planning to go in the North fork and out the South fork on our MV trip.  Any been there done that suggestions as we prepare for next week?
Leave "quit" at the car.  Embrace the trail as your friend.  Expect to enjoy yourself, and to be amazed.

*

Offline TheWildWestGuy

  • Golden Eagle
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 1334
Re: December 2011 is near and we hear Marufo Vega calling
« Reply #9 on: November 28, 2011, 06:50:52 AM »
I would plan to filter and drink water from the River, I have done it before no problem.  This is a good loop hike and it should be easy to follow the trail in these times of drought.  There are several ~1/3 mile stretches of unusually steep trail segments on this loop but they are short.  The best campsite is on the big sandbar off the South Fork.  The trailhead parking area has a sign warning about vehicle break-in's but your vehicle is much safer here than at the local mall parking lot so don't worry too much about it.   TWWG

*

Offline dprather

  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 1874
Re: December 2011 is near and we hear Marufo Vega calling
« Reply #10 on: November 28, 2011, 07:52:03 AM »
Is That little Strawhouse loop worth taking?
Leave "quit" at the car.  Embrace the trail as your friend.  Expect to enjoy yourself, and to be amazed.

*

Offline TheWildWestGuy

  • Golden Eagle
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 1334
Re: December 2011 is near and we hear Marufo Vega calling
« Reply #11 on: November 29, 2011, 06:43:41 AM »
I think you are referencing the alternative trail loop which is used by horses to avoid one of the unusually steep stretches of the main trail.   Yes it's worth taking - I would do it on the way back/down and stick to the main trail on the way up.  But either way works fine, I am usually in more of a hurry to get to my destination than I am to go home so I will generally take side trips and extra loops on the way back.   Either direction it is signed and cairned and should be easy to find.   Be Sure to ask at PJ for one of the page-size maps on the Vega Trail that they have behind the counter when you get your backcountry use permit.  There is lots of useful information on this map and they have similar maps for other backcountry areas (eg Mesa Anguila) but you have to ask for them.   TWWG

*

Offline dprather

  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 1874
Re: December 2011 is near and we hear Marufo Vega calling
« Reply #12 on: November 29, 2011, 07:55:15 AM »
TWWG - have you done the Mesa Anguila?  That's on our to-do list.  What's it about?
Leave "quit" at the car.  Embrace the trail as your friend.  Expect to enjoy yourself, and to be amazed.

 


©COPYRIGHT NOTICE

All photographs and content posted by members are to be considered copyrighted by their respective owners and may not be used for any purposes, commercial or otherwise, without permission.

+-Calendar For Sale

 2018 BigBendChat Calendar on sale now!

Powered by EzPortal

Facebook Comments