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Dec. 22 - Jan 7: OML, Chisos, Marufo, Mesa, Springs, etc. 1st Trip to Big Bend.

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Offline HappyJess

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I've just moved to Texas, so I figured I should start it out with a very Texas adventure. What better way to introduce myself to this beautiful land than to spend nearly three weeks in the wilderness mountains and deserts of Big Bend? Although I have not yet spoken in this here Big Bend Chat before, I'd poured over hundreds of topics in this forum in planning my trip, so thank you all for your help. This is what it ultimately turned out to be:

Dec 22: Marufo Vega; Zone Camp
Dec 23: Hot Springs; Camped at Grapevine Hills
Dec 24: No Hiking - Repairing tent/ Cache Water (see details below)
Dec 25: Start Outer Mountain Loop: Pinnacles to Dodson/ Homer Wilson via Juniper Creek Trail
Dec 26: OML: Homer Wilson's Ranch to Blue Creek Trail via Dodson Trail
Dec 27: Blue Creek Trail to South Rim; camped at SW2, explored Rims in afternoon
Dec 28: SW2 to Chisos' Basin Via Laguna Meadow's Trail (camped at Chisos Campground, for free, with different groups of new friends I made from here on out)
Dec. 29: Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, Tuff Canyon, Burro Mesa, Santa Elena Canyon
Dec. 30: The Window & Oak Springs Trail
Dec. 31: Emory Peak and the Chisos Loop via Pinnacles and Laguna Meadows Trail
Jan. 1: Rest Day, Ate a Cheeseburger and took a shower!
Jan. 2: Lost Mine Trail
Jan. 3: Cottonwood Campground
Jan. 4: Mesa de Anguila
Jan. 5: Mesa de Anguila
Jan. 6: Mesa de Anguila
Jan. 7: Mesa de Anguila

And here are the pictures and descriptions for those who like more details:

Dec. 22: Arrive circa 2 PM at Permisson Gap visitor center. When they see my excel spreadsheet with 12 days of solo hiking, they send me directly to Panther Junction with worried looks on their faces. The guys at Panther Junction had scowls on their faces, but they issued me a permit, miraculously. Did the whole "take a picture of your pack, your shoes, and give us your emergency contact" thing. Picture 1 is of me at the start of Marufo Vega, which I originally had planned on doing in two days

Dec 23, circa 2 AM: I didn't bother to check the weather, so I was greatly surprised to have 25- 30 MPH winds swarming my tent and screaming "You are going to DIE!" at me all night. My tent pole snapped, ripping the pole, and the P-cord inside of it, completely in two, and mercilessly pinching and squishing each end of the pole so much that I could not use my repair sleeve. Even if I had been able to, the wind would have likely snapped another pole in the wind. Oh, and as if I would have been able to re-set up my tent in that wind.

On the upside, I had a -15 degree sleeping bag, and the stars, despite the wind, were glorious. I packed up the tent and everything else, and crawled into my sleeping bag directly on the dirt. I didn't seep at all that night, but rather tried to enjoy the stars. It was fairly miserable, but I am actually thankful for that experience the first night. It could only get better, and it did.

Dec 23: The next day, I drove out to the ranch to cache my water, and then got to repairing my tent. I had never broken a tent pole, but I was quite proud to have finally done it! I spent the rest of the afternoon at the Hot Springs. It was very windy, and very cold, and I could see the clouds coming in over the Chisos Mountains from the Hot Springs parking lot. (picture 2)

Dec. 24: I wake up to ice encrusting my entire car and snow covering everything. It was beautiful! I was thankful to see this rare site! I heard later that the road that connects the Chisons Basin to the main road where Panther Junction was closed on Dec. 24th and Dec. 25th due to ice on the road. Lucky I got up there when I did!

Dec. 25: Started the Outer Mountain Loop circa 10 AM in even more snow. Picture 3 and 4 is of the Window and the Pinnacles trailhead, covered in snow. Arrived at my campsite near Dodson/ Juniper Creek junction right at 5 PM. I was hiking on snow-covered trails for the entire Pinnacles/Boot Canyon trails, and it didn't let up until about 1 mile down the Juniper Creek junction. The downhill Juniper Creek trail was a nice break for my feet after the climbing in the Pinnacles trail.

Dec. 26: Wake up near the junction of Juniper Creek/ Dodson trail to ice encrusting my entire tent, even though I was on the desert floor. There was lots of free food and water in the Cache box at the intersection, but I didn't take any of it as I already had WAY to much food myself. Note to self for next solo trip, Jess: All you like to eat in the backcountry is oatmeal, summer sausage, cheddar cheese,mojo bars, snickers, and macaroni and cheese. No need to bring anything else. Note to others: There are at least 6 great campsites within a mile of this intersection along the Juniper Canyon trail, and at least one on Dodson trail.

I wake up to both ice on my tent and dead camera battery. Hike the Dodson trail. Oh. Em. Gee. Greatly underestimated both its strenuousness and its beautiful scenery. The guidebook was extremely frustrating, as it said I had to watch with eagle eyes for the intersection of the Smoky Creek trail so that I wouldn't accidentally take it instead of the Dodson trail. Are you kidding?!? You'd have to be blind to miss it. There is a huge park service sign at the intersection clearly marking both trails.

Because of the recent snow, there was plenty of water at Fresno Creek, but note to future visitors: the water would be super hard to get into a water bottle, and looked like it was completely infested with lots of fun bacteria. My vote? No matter what time of year, carry all of the water you need, and forget about ever getting water from a spring. Leave it for the animals and plants that depend on it.

I left camp at around 9 AM, arrived at Homer Wilson Cache box at 5 pm, and carried 2.5 gallons .5 miles down the Blue Creek trail to a great little camp right in the wash (praying for no flash floods!)

Dec. 27: Hike the Blue Creek Trail to SW2. The wind, which I have come to hate at this point, has finally stopped, and I find myself wishing it would come back to provide relief from the sweltering heat! This, along with the Dodson Trail, was my favorite part of the OML, in terms of the views. It was quite strenuous, but well worth every step. Arrive at my campsite at around 2 pm, and set up my tent and take a stroll down to the South Rim. I am speechless to describe the absolute majesty. I must take strong mental pictures, as, again, my camera has died. SW2 was exactly the greatest campsite in the world, but it fit me, and my single-man tent, perfect fine. The wind started up again that night, and I was very well protected at this site.

Dec. 28: SW2 to the Chisos Basin via the Laguna Meadow Trail. A glorious, beautiful, easy hike to end my 4 day trek.

Dec. 28, afternoon, after grabbing a snack in the Chisos store and walking to my car, I randomly met a group of 5 guys from Dallas that had been best friends since they were in elementary school. Perhaps because we were the only people older than 10 and younger and 30 in the park, fate had us all come together, naturally, to find each other. They end up inviting me to eat with them at their campground that night, despite the fact that I had not showered in nearly a week. After spending the evening with them, I decide to delay my South Rim hike a few days until they leave and rest a bit after the OML.

Dec. 29: Wake up at 7 AM to drive to the Rio Grande Village to take a shower. $150 for 4 minute cold shower. Wish I had known at that point that I could take a shower that the Chisos Mountain Lodge for $5! After than, I return to the Chisos campground and drive the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive and hike the Burro Mesa Pour Off, Tuff Canyon, and Santa Elena Trails with my new friends. Santa Elena canyon was, as you all probably know, absolutely spectacular. I simply could not stop taking pictures! A few of them from that day are below.

Dec. 30: My new friends left, and I was again alone in the Basin. Decided to take another day to rest and kick back; my feet weren't in the greatest shape (blisters, I know, rookie mistake!) and I wanted to make sure I would be ready for my longer Mesa de Anguilla hike that I had coming up in a few days. I hike the Window Trail and see two foxes on the trail. I also see two children, about 10 years old, sitting at the edge of the window with their feet hanging over the edge. I almost hyperventilated out of nervousness. Their parents seemed perfectly chill with it. They didn't fall, luckily. Camped at the campground.

Dec. 31. Since I had delayed my South Rim and Emory Peak 3-day hike because of my new friends, I decide to get up real early and just conquer the whole thing in one day: Pinnacles to Emory Peak to Blue Creak to Northeast Rim to South Rim to Laguna Meadow back to Basin. This was a breeze with my less than 10-pound day pack, compared to my regular 45 pound pack (water weight included in both measurements). I highly recommended this rigorous day hike if you are in shape and only have one or two days in the park.

Dec 31, evening: At the campground that night, I again make some new friends. Two guys from Pennsylvania and one of their dads are there for 6 days in the park, and I was camped right next to them. They invite me over to dinner and to celebrate the New Year with them. Since I had typically been going to bed whenever the sun came down or soon thereafter, I didn't know if I would make it to midnight! But I did, and one of the guys accidentally slammed my finger in the bear box right at midnight, breaking it. Despite that, however, I laughed and was thankful for a new friends and a great and beautiful start to a new year. Around 3 AM, the winds started again, threatening to re-break my already fragile tent pole, so I pack it up and sleep in my car! ha.

Jan. 1: My new friends leave for a 2-day hike in the Chisos, so I decide to spend the day working on getting a shower, doing laundry, and working on some homework. One of the main reasons I came to the park in the first place was because I signed up for a Leave No Trace Master Educator Course that was taking place in the Mesa de Anguilla from Jan. 3 - 7, and when I was already in the park, I got an email letting me know that I had to prepare some 45-minute lessons for this class. gulp. I was able to buy some materials in the lodge store, and the also graciously let me use their printer to print out some articles I needed for my lesson. EVERYONE who works at the park, and the lodge, and the stores, is SO nice.

*****Also, please note, for those who want SHOWERS: You can take a shower that Chisos Mountain Lodge for $5.65 if you come before 10 AM!***** I wish I had known this on the morning on Dec. 29, when I drove 30 something miles, both ways, to the Rio Grande village to take a cold shower.

My server at the restaurant (I was drinking water, ha! They didn't even care that I didn't order food) invited me to go on a hike the next day when he got off work. Again, everyone that works there is SO nice.

Jan. 2: Slept in real late, called my momma from a payphone to let her know I was still alive, and continued to work on my homework. At 4 pm, I meet my new friend from the restaurant to go hike the Lost Mine Trail. I must have somehow missed the memo that this is the biggest bang for your buck in terms of energy output expense vs. views. IT. WAS. SPECTACULAR. Especially in the evening near the sunset. I enjoyed this relatively easy hike and its fantastic views it awarded me. My other friends from Pennsylvania returned that evening and had dinner cooking for me when I returned from the Lost Mine around 6:30 pm that night. So nice of them!

Jan 3: Drove to Terlingua circa 8 am to meet up with the Leave No Trace Master Educator Course people at the Far Flung Outdoor Center. Camped at Cottonwood that night, after a quick stop by the Barton Wernock Visitor Center and also a 1.5 mile hike up onto the Mesa to cache some water.

Jan 4: Start the hike to Mesa de Anguilla from the golf course. We base-camped and took small day hikes until the 7th, and also hiked down to the river. Because this was mostly classes, there is not much to say about the hiking except that we saw lots of Javelina and mountain sheep.

Jan. 7: Hike out for my last time, and start my drive back to East Texas that night! Was sad to leave this beautiful park, but I am sure I will be back again!

My pictures are far too large to post here, so I'm going to try to post them somewhere else on the site and edit this post to reflect where they are. If that doesn't work, you can view them here:

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.584915802588.2062494.70700179&type=1&l=7f04c04f65

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Offline TexasAggieHiker

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  • The road goes on forever & the party never ends...
Now that's a great first trip!   :eusa_clap:

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Offline The Scorpion

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    • My Big Bend Photos
what an awesome trip....thanks for sharing and the pics were great.

You must have taken one long shower for it to cost five bucks, it only cost me $2.50 and thats taking my time

the water heaters are not working properly at Rio Grand Village. I would have warned you ahead of time, but you never asked   :rolling:
one of the mens shower stalls got nothing but over heated water, and the rest were cold. They were to replace those water heaters down there with some from the lodge rooms. they are in the process of updating and replacing a lot of stuff in the lodge rooms in the Basin and they said some working water heaters would be moved down to RGV.

James
everything is better with bacon!!!

http://jamesb.smugmug.com/BigBendNationalPark/

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Offline SA Bill

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Great report and pics Jess! You did good.  :great:

Now...someone tell me when it became possible to score a shower at the Lodge!! I never knew they would let you do that.  :eusa_doh: Is it some secret handshake thing that you have to perform at the check in desk? Just curious because I too have made the drive to RGV mostly just to get a shower. Being able to shower at the Lodge would be sweet!
   Bill
Bill - In San Antonio

Growing old is mandatory.
Growing up is optional.

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Offline HappyJess

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About the showers: The $5.65 is for an unlimited amount of time in a room in the Chisos Mountain Lodge. As far as I know, there are no coin-operated showers in the Basin. Basically, they let you have access to a Chisos Mountain Lodge room that another guest has already checked out of, but has not yet been cleaned by housekeeping. As long as you are out my 10 am, you can take however long a shower you want. You just ask at the desk at the lodge and they even give you a towel, soap, and shampoo! I was in heaven. I also made myself and drank some of the free coffee that was still in the room. Because of the drought, however, I did limit myself to take a 10 minute shower.

I figured it was worth $5.65 to take an unlimited shower .5 miles away from my campsite, instead of driving 60 miles round trip to take a $1.50 4-minute cold shower in Rio Grande.

But thanks for the encouragement! I loved the trip.


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Offline The Scorpion

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ah...ok, I usually go out to Study Butte to shower there then hit Starlight Theater for dinner

James
everything is better with bacon!!!

http://jamesb.smugmug.com/BigBendNationalPark/

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Offline Al

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What a trip!  Nine days with no shower: very impressive!  Did "Zack" talk about hiking and guiding in the del Carmens and Maderas back in the 1990's?  You broke your finger and that was it?!

Thanks for the report,
Al

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Offline RichardM

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Great first trip and report! Love this shot of clouds coming off the Sierra del Carmens:

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Offline mule ears

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Way to dive into Texas HappyJess!  Yeah the wind can be surprising sometimes, and relentless at others.  Great first trip report and you will also get used to dipping water out of those springs, can't always carry all you need.

Hope your transition to Texas is good.  (I'm not sure we haven't met on the trails back in NC)
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
http://40yearsofwalking.wordpress.com/

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Offline Homer67

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That must have been an awesome trip...if only I could make as much time to get away!
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?

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Offline Verduretiger

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Great report and really enjoyed your pictures.  Even sent you a facebook friend request in the name of William W. Keith. 

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Offline dkerr24

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  • The worst day hiking > the best day in a cubicle.
Awesome trip report and great first time experience in Big Bend, Jess!

I didn't know either about getting a shower in the Basin.  Heck, it costs me $5 to start my truck, let alone drive to RGV! lol

Hope to see more trip reports from you!

Darin

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Offline ambersdad

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Great report. Thanks for the tip on the showers!
Having decent gear is nice, but wildlife photography is knowing your subject and getting lucky, and I love getting lucky.
https://www.facebook.com/randy.jones.33234
http://randyswildlifeandnaturephotography.com/

 


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