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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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12/28-1/04

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Offline huachuca

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12/28-1/04
« on: January 14, 2007, 11:18:23 AM »
Apologies in advance for the length of this.  It will surely be of more benefit to help Cindy and me recall our visit than to you folks.  I also want to thank David and all posters here for such a great site.

And who was it here that said snow was such a rarity for BB?  

We arrived a little after 5 PM on Thursday and reservations for our site in the Basin didn't start until Saturday.  Campground availability info at the entrance station was several hours old so we called Park HQ on the drive in.  'All campgrounds full' was the response but it was unknown if any of the backcountry road sites were open - we'd have to check in person.  Approaching Panther Junction, it was evident the higher elevations ahd recently received snow.

Pulling into PJ, the campground sign showed 'Open' for Cottonwood but RGV and the Basin were full.  I went inside and was told HQ had no way of communicating with Cottonwood - sites may or may not be available.  We decided to take a chance and were fortunate enough to find the last open spot.  Just as we finished setting up, the rain came in and continued all night.  We're back at Big Bend - Life is good.

Got up Friday with the weather clearing somewhat - at least the rain had slacked off enough for me to fix breakfast outside.  Why is it that bacon, eggs and strong coffee are so much better when camping?  We needed to get a propane tank refilled so, after chatting a bit with some of our neighbors (one guy and his son were from South Africa), we headed off to Study Butte.

The propane refill turned into one of those manana things but no big deal, right?  After returning to the camper and dropping the tank, we drove up to the Basin for a burger.  From the looks of things driving in, the rain at Cottonwood was snow up here.  We're used to snow in the Smokies back east but seeing Casa Grande's upper slopes covered was something else.

While waiting for a table, I struck up a convesation with a guy and his family (wife and three kids ranging from maybe 8 to 12).  They were friom Houston (?), had just purchased a camper, were staying in Marathon and at BB for the first time.  Dad asked for recommendations on what to do/see after lunch.  I suggested and described the Window Trail.  Nah, sounded to hard to the wife.  How about the Window View Trail?  Nope, she didn't want to walk in any snow.  Maybe the Hot Springs then?  Too far to drive she said, they really needed to head on back.  I wished them well.   After nearly thirty years of marriage, I'm constantly reminded of how lucky I am each day.  For the sake of the children, I hope they get at least one more chance to visit BB.

After lunch, we wandered around the cabin area which we hadn't seen since our honeymoon in 78.  Never did figure out which unit we were in back then but the cleaning crew let us in to get a few pictures.  Spent the rest of the day driving down to RGV then back to Cottonwood with numerous stops and short sidetrips just to enjoy the Park.  Even with 4WD, I didn't want to chance the backroads.  I've been an offroader most of my life and have never found anything as sticky and slippery as BB when its wet.

It rained off and on again Friday night which just made sleeping that much better.  Another good breakfast on Saturday morning, then packed up for our move to the Basin.  Site 42 is just the right size for our 16' Scamp - enough room on the side to get our awning out and in front to park the Tacoma.  By noon we had everything setup so we drove back out to the Burro Mesa Pouroff Trail.

Things had dried off and we met six or eight other hikers on the trail.   One older lady with her son (?) and granddaughter (?) was in obviously declining health and needed a cane but she made it all the way in and back.  I think this place gives many of us a strength far beyond our normal abilities.  We spent a couple of hours here then drove down to Castolon for a visit to the store and to see who might be hanging around.  I guess the weather was keeping most folks in so we took the Tuff Canyon trail then returned to the Basin in time for dinner.

Sunday, I got up early to get a permit for our overnight stay on the Rim Monday.   While talking with the volunteer there, I learned his brother was an extension agent with NC State's School of Forestry where I got my degrees back in 74 - small world, huh?  After securing a permit for my first choice, SW-4, we struck out on the Lost Mine Trail.  This turned out to be fairly icy in spots and traffic was heavy but we had a great time and the scenery was incredible.  Two fellow hikers, a husband and wife,  turned out to be with US Fish & Game Service and were quite helpful in answering our many questions on the various birds we saw and heard.  We got back to the campground mid-afternoon and spent the rest of the day getting our gear ready for Monday's Rim Trip.

On Monday, we splurged for the breakfast buffet at the Lodge before heading out around nine AM.  Less than half way to Laguna Meadow, the trail became solid ice anywhere not exposed to direct sunlight.  Footing was treacherous at best and the trekking poles proved invaluable.  Not too many folks were out considering the number of people in the Park; we didn't see anyone else going up other than a group of six on horses and only met two couples and a pack of Scouts heading down.  I'm not sure if it was our age (58 & 55) or the ice or the slop created by the horses where the ground wasn't frozen but it took us over six hours to reach the Rim.  Observation FWIW, horses really play hell with a wet trail.  Wildlife sightings were minimal, one small white tail and a few birds, and the sky was so overcast that distant visibility was limited.

Just as we reached the Rim, the wind picked up considerably and I thought the front predicted for later in the week might be moving in earlier than expected.  We met a couple of students from Rice who'd come up the Boot Canyon Trail but had lost their map and turned the wrong way trying to find a SE site.  They took pics of our map then reversed their field.  That's age for you, in their position, my thought would have been trying to sketch a map.  It would never have occurred to me to simply take a picture with the digital camera I'd been lugging for nearly seven miles.

After arriving at SW-4 and given the uncertain weather and the restricted visibility, we elected to set up the tent without doing a lot of exploration.  Someone, presumably the previous campers, had left a bag of trash, a full propane cannister and a nalgene bottle on the ground.  We took the trash and nalgene down with us but left the fuel cannister in the bear box.  Maybe someone else can use it and we just didn't need the extra weight.  I can't fathom why anyone would expend the effort needed to reach the Rim and then leave crap behind.

The wind gusted all night long - I'd guess maybe up to 35 knots but this site is really well sheltered and we didn't have a problem.  I know hard core outdoors types generally look down on Eureka tents but I've got to give a plug to our Pinnacle Pass here - it done good and I didn't go to the trouble of staking out the fly.  The only real problem was a slow leak in one of the therma-rests - must have hit a cactus on one of our many breaks coming up.

Wind was still whipping Tuesday morning and it was still overcast but at least it wasn't snowing, raining or sleeting as I'd feared.  We took a few pictures from the Rim but decided to forego the southeast/northeast loop due to the weather and to take Boot Canyon back down.  In retrospect, definitely a smart decision.  Note to self - Icy trails are hard to ascend but they're much more difficult when going down.  Saw  a couple of nice bucks around the 'Boot' but not much else.  It may have been because we were having to pay such careful attention to our footing.  Didn't run into any other hikers until the Emory Peak cutoff and even then less than a dozen before reaching the trail head around four.  All in all a good hike and we hope to do it again someday but not in weather conditions like this.
Drove down to RGV for a shower before supper - best $1.50 each we spent on the trip then dinner at the Lodge.

Slept late on Wednesday then hit the Park shops for the mandatory 'been there / done that' tees and caps for the kids back home.  Checked with the folks at PJ and found Old Maverick Road to be passable so decided to check it out.  Got some good pictures of a jack rabbit, turkeys, javelina and a road runner - most we'd seen on the trip.  Also enjoyed Luna's Jacal and the ruins at Terlingua Abajo.  

Reservations were through Saturday but woke up Thursday morning to a heavy sleet storm that covered the ground in less time than it took to make coffee so we decided to head back east.  Even in 4WD and driving on the gravel shoulder, getting out of the Basin with the Scamp in tow was a bit dicey.  I'm not sure we'd have made it if we'd waited much longer.

Due to the weather, we didn't do some of the things we'd hoped to on this trip but that's not a bad thing.  They'll serve as the basis for planning our next visit.  Not sure how our pictures turned out but will surely be posting some in the future - probably when I'm back in the office later this month.  They're packing me off to Iowa tomorrow AM where I see the high temps are in single digits for the next day or so.  I guess rain, snow and sleet in BB isn't too bad after all.  All of you take care and best wishes for 2007.  Hope to meet some of you on a future visit.

Al & Cindy
Tarboro, NC

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Offline bdann

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12/28-1/04
« Reply #1 on: January 14, 2007, 11:29:04 AM »
Nice report! Where are all the fantastic photos?
WATER, It does a body good.

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Ray52

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12/28-1/04
« Reply #2 on: January 14, 2007, 08:18:53 PM »
I agree ...nice report and the length certainly isn't a problem.  Though I don't own one now I've also been completely satisfied with Eureka tents.  I've owned a couple of them in the past and subjected them to pretty harsh conditions without a problem.

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Offline trtlrock

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12/28-1/04
« Reply #3 on: January 14, 2007, 08:42:42 PM »
Nice report.  People who leave trash -- just boggles the mind, doesn't it?
John & Tess

"...and I'll face each day with a smile, for the time that I've been given's such a little while..." - Arthur Lee

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Ray52

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12/28-1/04
« Reply #4 on: January 14, 2007, 10:03:21 PM »
On my last trip we knew we had more than enough water for our return to the basin so left an unopened 2 litre bottle of water in the bear box at SW3.  Inadvertently, we also left an MSR fuel bottle with the pump to my Whisper-Lite stove attached :oops:   We combed the campsite before leaving so not sure how we overlooked such a brightly colored object.  I hope they were of use to someone who came behind us and if so, that they packed out the empty bottle, but I've wondered several times if it was right to leave it behind chancing that it might become litter.

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Offline huachuca

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12/28-1/04
« Reply #5 on: January 21, 2007, 06:08:28 PM »
Thanks for the kind words folks.

Ray, the nalgene we found was empty and probably left by mistake as it had a caribiner and loop attached and was covered with snow.  I'd have to assume the trash was deliberate.  Now your pump and bottle would have been a real find as mine is getting a bit long in the tooth but I'd like to think I'd have turned them over to someone at PJ.  Leaving excess water would seem OK to me as well but I'll defer to someone with more experience on that.

bdann, got a few pictures posted late today but thats a real chore with dialup.  Most of the time we had heavy cloud cover and haze so they didn't turn out as well as I'd hoped.

Take care out there - Al

 


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