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.

+-Calendar for sale

 2019 BigBendChat Calendar on sale now!


An 8 Year Old Initiation

  • 32 Replies
  • 7178 Views
*

Offline randell

  • Coyote
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 2031
  • Purveyor of Fine Hats
An 8 Year Old Initiation
« on: September 04, 2012, 12:39:35 AM »
I went to the park over the weekend with my 8 year old son.  My 8 year old, Xander, demanded I let him go.  I gave in.  I can honestly say that my 8 year old is one of the best hikers and most fun hiking partners I have ever hiked with.  He by far exceeded my expectations.  So here is a brief rundown of what we did. 

Friday, Aug 31
I picked him up at 2pm from his elementary school and we drove straight to the airport and flew to Midland.  There we rented a car.  The lady at the counter informed me that they only had smaller cars than what I had reserved.  She said the car washers had left and all of the cars were dirty except 2 doors.  I wasn't sure we could fit into a 2 door with our backpacks but we gave it a try.  Xander confirmed that he could fit in the backseat while I confirmed that I could stuff the rest of the gear in the trunk and front seat. 



So we were off.  We made good time except I made a pit stop in Grandfalls (20 miles south of Monahans) to do a drive-by were I went to school 24 years ago.  This took longer than I anticipated as Xander wanted the full tour and wanted to run on the same track I had run on so many years ago.  He didn't really have to twist my arm. 

We finally got out of there an hour later and just past Ft Stockton I got really tired.  It was after 9pm and not looking forward to arriving in the Basin at 11pm and getting to bed after midnight.  I hadn't been sleeping well (family member in the hospital) so I made an executive decision to turn around and spend the night in Ft Stockton.    Xander was mildly disappointed.  He made the comment that if he could drive he would drive us the rest of the way.  Nevertheless, 30 minutes later we were both fast asleep.  This would turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

Saturday, Sept 1
I got up at 5:45 and we were gassed up, showered, fed, and on the road at 6:30am.  Just before entering the park I was telling Xander a story about Santiago Peak when I saw the sun's first light hit it with the moon behind it, framed by nearby hills.  I stopped, backed up, and got a snapshot.



Along the road at one point I had to dodge a skunk crossing the a road.  Xander had been playing on his iPod and missed it.  We got to headquarters and got our water, permit, and changed clothes.  The ranger issuing our permit warned me to keep a close watch on Xander due to recent mountain lion activity.  I assured her I was aware of it and he would never be out of my sight, hiking in front of me the entire hike. 

Xander was taking a lot of time changing in the bathroom so I left him and went back to the car to get gear sorted.  He came out and was looking very sad, thinking I would be upset because one of his shoelaces had broken.  I told him it was no problem and we cut a length of thin rope I had to make new shoelace.  He now had some distinctive shoes (to go with his Big Bend socks)!



We drove into the basin.  I was watching closely as it was still very early in the morning.  This was my 21st trip to the park and I have yet to see a bear.  A girl in my office digs at me every time I see her because she saw a bear her first trip to the park.  As we rounded one of the first curves ascending into the basin I saw a huge tarantula!  We stopped to take a closer look as Xander has never seen one in the wild.



Back in the car, we rounded another bend and I saw a huge bear loping across the road!!!  I got no pictures as it was moving too fast but I watched it from the center-line all the way into the bushes.  Man, was I happy!  I have seen black bear in Washington and Virginia but never in Texas.  This was a very large one too.  (A few days later when we were leaving a volunteer confirmed that they were trying to track a large male bear in that area).  Xander had been kind of watching the road but looked away to find his iPod just as I saw the bear and missed it!  He was upset at himself and never touched his iPod again until we were out of the park two days later.  A short ways up we saw another tarantula (at this point we started taking notes on wildlife sightings).

We got all geared up in the Basin and were on our way shortly after 10am.  Our first REAL backpacking trip together.  We have been backpacking many times, but the hike in has never been more than 1.5 miles.  Today we planned on hiking about 7 miles and gaining some 1,500' in elevation.



Our hike up the Pinnacles trail went very smoothly.  There were a lot of mosquitoes.  Fortunately I had a large can of deep woods off to fit the bill.  After nearly running out of bug spray in Colorado last year with Xander, I made sure we had plenty this trip and we needed it.  There were also a lot of hummingbirds and wildflowers!  I don't think we went more than 15 minutes the entire backpacking trip without seeing hummingbirds.  I only brought a wide-angle lens and compact camera so I didn't even try to get photos.  One time a hummingbird zoomed by and hit Xander's ear!  A few random pics:









Looking straight up in the middle of the Pinnacles with a wide-angle lens:


Crazy amount of flowers!




We got to Toll Mountain 1 site and took a lunch break.  I actually had a phone signal here so I called my wife to say hi!  She asked where we were and I told her to look at the photo of the Madrone taken in 2007 at TM1...that's were we were.  After lunch we hiked on.  We got to Boot Spring and there was loads of water.  Xander had somehow already drained 70 oz of water so we refilled.  I let him pump.



He played in Boot Canyon for a long while, examining the water, prodding sticks into the water, and tossing stones about.  When he was ready we continued.  There was water along Boot Canyon almost all the way to the rim.  We stopped at a large pool less than half a mile from the rim and Xander studied two tadpoles for a long while.



There are a lot of people who go to the South Rim ready for military action. We saw two separate groups with cammo or thick green canvas pants and what looked like military issue boots.  They looked serious.  Then there was us.  Xander with his cammo hat with lights on it that grandpa had given him for Christmas and his 7 function outdoor tool he purchased in the headquarters visitor center (he picked one up for his six year old brother as well).

We finally made it to the rim.  The first thing Xander did...well, it was the first thing I would have tried if I were with a bunch of guys, he tried to pee off of the rim.  Unfortunately the wind was against him so he quickly gave up on that idea.



After trying to hit Mexico with a few well-thrown stones, we continued across the rim until we came to one of my secret goals of the trip.  We reached the spot where, 12 years ago, at sunset, I had asked my wife to marry me.  Now our son had come with me to revisit the same spot.  He was very impressed as I recounted the story and I was very proud that he had come all this way.



...12 years earlier...


We soaked in the views and continued on to SW3, which we had reserved specifically because this is the site my wife and had stayed 12 years earlier.  To our surprise there was a couple already there...with their tent in the prime spot!  I checked their permit and sure enough, the rangers had double-booked the site!  I was pretty pissed but at this point there wasn't much we could do.  So we set up our tent and bushwhacked to another overlook up the hill to eat dinner and watch the sunset.  It all worked out.  We ate dinner and blew some bubbles.



« Last Edit: November 16, 2015, 10:34:30 AM by RichardM »
There's nothing like a good quest to get you intimate with a place. - Tom Clynes

*

Offline steelfrog

  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 1540
Re: An 8 Year Old Initiation
« Reply #1 on: September 04, 2012, 01:20:09 AM »
You "recanted" the story?!  Oh No, a divorce!?

jk

Dude, this is an awesome story--thanks for sharing and great photos!  Xander is very lucky --you are a terrific dad!

*

Offline randell

  • Coyote
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 2031
  • Purveyor of Fine Hats
Re: An 8 Year Old Initiation
« Reply #2 on: September 04, 2012, 01:34:43 AM »
You "recanted" the story?!  Oh No, a divorce!?

jk

Dude, this is an awesome story--thanks for sharing and great photos!  Xander is very lucky --you are a terrific dad!

Good catch!  I corrected "recanted" to "recounted".  I'm in a post-BIBE blues state right now and not adapting to normal life again very well.
There's nothing like a good quest to get you intimate with a place. - Tom Clynes

*

Offline randell

  • Coyote
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 2031
  • Purveyor of Fine Hats
Re: An 8 Year Old Initiation
« Reply #3 on: September 04, 2012, 01:44:18 AM »
Sunday, Sept 2
We woke up the next morning and our neighbors departed without saying much.  They had not been happy that we had been there and we had not been happy that they were there.  I had tried to be friendly but they were pretty stand-offish.  I couldn't blame them.  They were probably more disappointed than I was.  Having children teaches you more about adapting to negative situations than just about anything (not that having children is bad but, you know, there is the whole terrible-twos, diapers, potty training, etc).

Xander requested that we return to the previous night's spot to check out the view and watch breakfast.  I was all for that.



After breakfast we continued on down the trail towards the Colima Trail.  Xander stopped to investigate some of the many wildflowers with his nifty magnifying glass:



We got back to the basin on empty.  I am really not fond of that Laguna Meadows trail.  It just goes on and on and on.  Our water had just run dry so it was perfect timing.  We stopped at the trailhead and high-fived.  He had just completed a 12.2 mile backpacking trip.  I told him he should be proud of himself and he said, "I am".  So I continued to tell him how proud of him I was. 

I was starving.  Xander said he was not hungry, so I informed him we were going to sit in an air conditioned room and drink tea and eat until I was full.  He could think of nothing to dissuade me.  As soon as he saw the menu he was hungry as well.   We wolfed some food down at the lodge and picked a site at the Basin campground - AKA - the noisiest campground on planet.  After getting our campsite situated we went for a drive. 

We stopped off at the Sam Nail place for a little walk since I had not been there since 1997.  We met a group of hikers relaxing there who had also just completed the South Rim trail and were just relaxing the rest of the day away.  They had brought some chairs with them and were relaxing, cooking some dinner on a portable stove, and drinking beer.  I looked at them in disbelief when I saw their beer and told them they should not be drinking beer at a historic site.  They weren't sure what to think until I pulled the Shiner from behind my back and took a swig...then everyone laughed. 

We chatted awhile and continued on to Burro Mesa Pouroff.  Xander wasn't really motivated to do the hike but I told him it was worth it so he went.  He decided it was worth it when we got to the end.

 

Then the most amazing thing happened.  It started sprinkling.  The temperature dropped and the creosote smell filled the air and we were in heaven.  It sprinkled the whole hike back to the car and it was wonderful.

Here is a little bit of that: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NsB7_h8deMk&feature=youtu.be

We slowly headed back to the basin.  Xander said he was ready for dinner so we stopped off at the nearest spot that looked like it had a good eating place and a view and cooked up dinner.



The views were nice:


We drove back into the basin in darkness but did not see any wildlife.  Back at camp we lay on the picnic table and stared at the sky and the millions of stars visible in Big Bend.  We listened to doors slamming and car alarms going off and cars driving by, some stopping at our neighbor's site to see if the site was taken even though there was a car parked and a tent erected.  One neighbor shut the doors on their car no less than 50 times.  I was very tempted to walk over an recommend that they just leave them open until they were done in the car as a way to save my sanity and their doors.  This was all after 10pm.

Monday, Sept 3
We woke up to the same doors slamming, car alarms, and people driving around at 6am.  We quickly ate breakfast and cleared camp to get away from the noise.  We had one more hike to do before we headed back to Midland. 

We drove out of the basin and spied a tarantula and then a black-tailed rattlesnake. 


We saw another western diamondback later but he was dead and someone had removed his rattles...

As we walked the trail I told Xander how native americans had used tie-down trees to mark meeting places.  He was intrigued by the idea and wondered if we could make one in our yard.  Just then we rounded a bend and he gasped.  "Daddy, LOOK!!!". 



Ok, so I had baited him, but it sure was a fun learning opportunity. 


Anyway, we hiked around and talked about how fences and pastures and trails worked and why they followed the contours of the land instead of going straight up and down.  In the end, I think he learned a tremendous amount on the trip.   

We stopped at Persimmon Gap and to my surprise he asked if he could have a snake guide and a book on poisonous animals (insects, mammals, reptiles).  I told him any 8 year old who could hike the South Rim could  read all the nature books he wanted. 

We headed North.  After passing Marathon I saw some rain over the last mountains before the plains.  When we reached the rain and the desert filled with the smell of rain, I saw a car on the side of the road.  At first I thought the car was in trouble as I saw two people in the middle of the road seemingly trying to flag me down....then I realized they were dancing.  As I approached they ran to the opposite side of the car and, sure enough, they were in their underwear, hugging.  After I passed, I looked in my rearview and they ran back into the middle of the road and started dancing again in the rain.  I was very jealous that my wife was not along at this point. 

Ah well, that is for another story.

We got to Midland and it was 104 degrees.  We got back home to Houston and it was still 104 degrees.  My six year old told my Xander how much he missed him (but he secretly had a lot of fun).  Xander showered his little brother with gifts (a stuffed bear and a 7 function outdoor tool, slightly used).  Xander told his mommy all about the animals we saw and how much fun he had.  We shuffled the kids off to bed and we heard the boys telling each other how much they had missed each other.  We have a lot of good times ahead, that's for sure.
« Last Edit: November 16, 2015, 10:28:38 AM by RichardM »
There's nothing like a good quest to get you intimate with a place. - Tom Clynes

*

Offline hunterhughes

  • Jack Rabbit
  • *
  • 34
Re: An 8 Year Old Initiation
« Reply #4 on: September 04, 2012, 06:41:02 AM »
Wow!  What a great trip!  I think you shared some advice with me about a year ago.  Was that you that turned a jacket into a sleeping bag for your son?  My is 19 months ( and has been up since 4 AM) and i spend a lot of time thinking of taking him on such trips.

*

Offline trtlrock

  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 1253
Re: An 8 Year Old Initiation
« Reply #5 on: September 04, 2012, 07:43:01 AM »
Like Steelfroggy, I am moved to say..."Dude!"

One of the best trip reports ever posted.

 :13:
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

*

Offline randell

  • Coyote
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 2031
  • Purveyor of Fine Hats
Re: An 8 Year Old Initiation
« Reply #6 on: September 04, 2012, 08:39:07 AM »
Wow!  What a great trip!  I think you shared some advice with me about a year ago.  Was that you that turned a jacket into a sleeping bag for your son?  My is 19 months ( and has been up since 4 AM) and i spend a lot of time thinking of taking him on such trips.

Thanks, yes, I told you about the jacket sleeping bag.  We used that for both of our sons.
There's nothing like a good quest to get you intimate with a place. - Tom Clynes

*

Offline TexasAggieHiker

  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 1207
  • The road goes on forever & the party never ends...
Re: An 8 Year Old Initiation
« Reply #7 on: September 04, 2012, 08:57:27 AM »
 :eusa_clap: awesome!

Loved the shot of your son in "the pose"

*

Offline steelfrog

  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 1540
Re: An 8 Year Old Initiation
« Reply #8 on: September 04, 2012, 09:21:35 AM »
Good catch!  I corrected "recanted" to "recounted".  I'm in a post-BIBE blues state right now and not adapting to normal life again very well.

Good Lord yes...

My wife dreads my returns from these trips because I mope around for a while once I realize that I'm back in the city...

That's a tough situation with the camp spot; was some of the Rim closed for falcons?

*

Offline Ay Chihuahua!

  • Black Bear
  • *
  • 879
Re: An 8 Year Old Initiation
« Reply #9 on: September 04, 2012, 10:30:22 AM »
Great post, Randell.  Felt like I was seeing through Xander's 8 year old eyes.

*

Offline homerboy2u

  • The Chipewa Cris tribe,Canada:
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 5103
Re: An 8 Year Old Initiation
« Reply #10 on: September 04, 2012, 11:40:42 AM »
Glad to see you back,  :dance:
Stay thirsty, my friends.

*

Offline fartymarty

  • Golden Eagle
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 1139
  • Lovin' BiBe for 48 years.
Re: An 8 Year Old Initiation
« Reply #11 on: September 04, 2012, 12:02:02 PM »
Very nice report  :eusa_clap:, I hope you complained about the double booking. I would have broke the rules and just walked to the nearest
(yet somewhat distant) flat spot and set up camp. But then, I'm not known for setting good examples for children, so you did the right thing.
I enjoyed the picture where the one shoe lace matches the flowers, nicely processed. A neat way to remember a relatively minor event
of the trip that Xander at first thought was a little more important than it really was. He's a good lookin' kid, certainly worthy of your pride.
 Sorry about your family member in the hospital. Thanks for the report.
Fort Worth

*

Offline bdann

  • Creosote
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 1863
An 8 Year Old Initiation
« Reply #12 on: September 04, 2012, 01:22:39 PM »
This is awesome. Can't wait to take my son out there!
WATER, It does a body good.

*

Offline randell

  • Coyote
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 2031
  • Purveyor of Fine Hats
Re: An 8 Year Old Initiation
« Reply #13 on: September 04, 2012, 02:21:05 PM »
I enjoyed the picture where the one shoe lace matches the flowers, nicely processed. A neat way to remember a relatively minor event of the trip that Xander at first thought was a little more important than it really was.

My wife was partial to that photo as well.  It was the "color accent" setting on my compact camera.  I was standing there watching him trying to figure out how to emphasize all of the Mountain Sage in that area in a photo.  The laces and his pack whistle/buckle just happened to be the same color.  I was pretty happy with the laces/rope.  I have not been carrying extra laces for years because I always figured the small rope I carry would work and it finally got put to the test.
There's nothing like a good quest to get you intimate with a place. - Tom Clynes

*

Offline Lance

  • Black Bear
  • *
  • 851
Re: An 8 Year Old Initiation
« Reply #14 on: September 04, 2012, 03:29:28 PM »
I can't tell you how much I enjoyed the trip report Randell!
I'm glad you guys had a great time and a chance to bond in place like Big Bend.
It makes me think of the day I will go on my first real hiking trip with my son.  Cannot wait for that day!
Thanks again man.  Well done..   :icon_smile:

 


©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

 2019 BigBendChat Calendar on sale now!

Powered by EzPortal

Facebook Comments