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Poll

Do you think that the MV would be a wise "first experience" of backpacking in BiBe?

Yes
1 (9.1%)
No
6 (54.5%)
Not only no, but Heck No!
3 (27.3%)
"That's a dayhike, son!"
1 (9.1%)

Total Members Voted: 11

Voting closed: February 02, 2014, 01:36:46 PM

Demystifying the Marufo Vega - Oct.31-Nov.4, 2013

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Offline Reece

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Demystifying the Marufo Vega - Oct.31-Nov.4, 2013
« on: November 13, 2013, 12:47:04 PM »
In Search of the Unequivocal

I began thinking about a Vega trip last February while Flash and I were driving home from our hike “South of the Dodson Trail.” You might think nine months is a long time to plan but that’s what keeps me going through the Houston summers – Chihuahua daydreaming. As the opportunity approaches, daydreaming turns into active trip planning and the good people of BBC are always there to help.

I’ll offer a summary of the Marufo Vega loop based on my limited experience in the Big Bend. MV has all the necessary elements for a satisfying overnight backpack. The following figures are approximate. The entire loop is 13 miles, 15 if you add the out-and-back to Randell’s overlook and you should indeed. The trail itself ranges from well-marked simple and well-trodden (albeit mostly by wild burros) to obscure and sparsely cairned. If I had not downloaded the track to my GPS, in this case my Garmin Oregon and my iPhone, I would have wasted considerably more time backtracking and route finding. For this 67 year-old man, the climbs were a challenge, very near the edge of my abilities. I took occasional breathers and at times I pushed on for the hope of cresting the rise or the promise of a downhill to come. From the trailhead you will experience a gradual incline getting steeper as you go. You will top the first climb after 2 mi. and an elevation gain of 700 ft. to be followed by a .75 mi. decline of 200 ft., then another 1 mi. rise of 250 ft. to the fork. Either fork will net you a near 1,000 ft. decline to the river. The north fork will get you there in 1.75 mi. while the south fork will be 2.5 mi. The river portion is 1.75 mi. in length and fairly flat. River access is mostly limited to either end of the river trail and is much easier at the south point with a well-marked route to the water. The entire loop is scenic in the extreme and Randell’s overlook will knock your socks off! Since I always hike from water to water to keep my pack weight down, river access was essential.

I’ve pretty well settled into a five-day pattern, three days in the park with one travel day before and one after.

Our late start was due to my first ever iPhone alarm malfunction. I’m sure it was user error but I still don’t know how it happened. I set a 2am alarm and a 2:15 backup but was not awakened until 3:38 when Martin called. iPhone records are kind’a cool.

We scrambled, team-drove and burned up the highway. Once we were done talking (about 8 hours worth), I broke out my audio copy of “The Crossing” by Cormac McCarthy to prep us for the country ahead. Panther Junction saw us roll in at 4:30, just under the wire! That’s when we entered the Big Bend time warp. It was as if everything stuttered, stopped, backed up slightly and began slowly rolling again, but in slow motion. We made the speed adjustment with dry pants and got permitted. See page 3 in the following topic.

http://www.bigbendchat.com/portal/forum/backcountry-camping/online-backcountry-permitting-now-available-for-bbnp/

The ranger asked me three questions. “What is rule #1 in Big Bend?” I said, “No fires?” “What are you going to do with your dog?” I answered, “I didn’t bring one.” And finally, “What are you going to do with your horse?” Puzzled, I said, “I didn’t bring one of those either.” Then it was my turn. “How many people are in zone E08?” He said, “Two.” “Two besides us?” “No…just you two…” I think that’s all I’d better say about him.



We car-camped at RGV for our first night and my first time there in 28 years, slept in, cooked a big breakfast and got to the trailhead at a way-late 11am. Good daylight management is a must when you only have 12 hours in play. Martin read the warning sign out loud as we drove up but I blocked him out. I put everything out of sight, locked the glove box, console and doors and totally forgot about it. We saddled up and stormed up the gravel wash to the trail proper. Am I the only one who hates walking in loose gravel?

For tracking we both carried map, compass and GPS. Thanks to Lance for the maps. We used them to plan our timing. Since Martin is the faster hiker and this being his first Chihuahua hike, he took the lead and did the route finding all the way out to Randell’s Overlook and back and then up to the fork where we had a serious decision to make.

I underestimated the bushwhack to Randell’s. It was taxing even with out the packs. Someone warned me that it was a “long” mile. That’s what I call a “Big Bend mile” – the kind that takes twice as long as you thought to hike. We had a little trouble finding the best route but wound up trusting our instruments, Randell’s waypoints, Lance’s track and Martin’s superior terrain and distance perception (he’s a natural). The out-and-back cost us nearly 3 hours of daylight but the payoff view was well worth it. Now it’s time for an impromptu survey; how many have been to Randell’s Overlook? Don’t be bashful.

Martin sitting on the edge of the world picking at the thorn that's been worrying his foot.


The valley coming down from the overlook.


Our tentative plan was to split up at the fork, solo to the river and camp at opposite ends of the river trail. On day two we would cross paths along the river, continue around the loop and meet back at the Jeep. I say “tentative” because we left off making the final decision until arriving at the fork in the trail. This was Martin’s first trip to the Bend and also his first solo. I’ve learned never to set plans in concrete. A rigid plan can get you killed in the wild if you let it affect your better judgment.

“We don't understand the power of nature and the world because we don't live with it. Our environment is designed to sustain us. We are the domestic pets of a human zoo called civilization.”
Laurence Gonzales, Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why

The fork in the trail


We counseled together in humble fashion and decided to go solo. There was no hubris; only the desire to experience all that MV has to offer. I opted for the north fork because it was shorter with the more difficult river access and Martin being faster on his feet took the longer south fork with slightly easier river access. TexasAggieHiker cautioned me about trying to camp on the north fork bank so I took his warning to heart and mentally prepared myself for a difficult night – good thing too.
« Last Edit: November 16, 2013, 07:13:17 AM by Reece »

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Offline Quatro

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Re: Demystifying the Marufo Vega - Oct.31-Nov.4, 2013
« Reply #1 on: November 13, 2013, 12:59:19 PM »
Great start.  Well written.
When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro - HST

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Online steelfrog

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Re: Demystifying the Marufo Vega - Oct.31-Nov.4, 2013
« Reply #2 on: November 13, 2013, 01:50:20 PM »
"The ranger asked me three questions. “What is rule #1 in Big Bend?” I said, “No fires?” “What are you going to do with your dog?” I answered, “I didn’t bring one.” And finally, “What are you going to do with your horse?” Puzzled, I said, “I didn’t bring one of those either.” Then it was my turn. “How many people are in zone E08?” He said, “Two.” “Two besides us?” “No…just you two…” I think that’s all I’d better say about him."

I can't stand this guy.  Picacho and I were going to give them some beta about the River Road and the aoudad herd on Backbone ridge, and we walked into PJ and saw him sitting three and we just turned around and walked out.  I usually try and get permits at PG or the Basin to avoid this clown.

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Offline elhombre

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Re: Demystifying the Marufo Vega - Oct.31-Nov.4, 2013
« Reply #3 on: November 13, 2013, 02:10:02 PM »
. “What is rule #1 in Big Bend?”

I thought it was not bring your gun into a federal building!     :eusa_naughty:

Keep it coming Reece.  Stories from guys like you inspire me to keep working out, and put up with the Federalies in the park.  Thanks!
For 2 years the Fake News Media, Obama's FBI, CIA & DOJ, and Swamp dwelling Politicians COLLUDED, Illegally Spied,and LIED to America about POTUS in order to overturn an election

All the while demanding censorship and removal of opposition Conservative "hate speech" voices.  Globalists Hate Freedom

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Offline Lance

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Re: Demystifying the Marufo Vega - Oct.31-Nov.4, 2013
« Reply #4 on: November 13, 2013, 03:05:09 PM »
Good report so far Reece!
Rule #1 for me is always have baby wipes.. :great:

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Offline mule ears

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Re: Demystifying the Marufo Vega - Oct.31-Nov.4, 2013
« Reply #5 on: November 13, 2013, 05:57:24 PM »
  Great start Reece!  Look much forward to the rest.

One thing, it's Randall not Rendell
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 Reece

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Re: Demystifying the Marufo Vega - Oct.31-Nov.4, 2013
« Reply #6 on: November 13, 2013, 06:41:38 PM »
We were both wrong. It's Randell. Sorry Randell.
« Last Edit: November 14, 2013, 09:25:20 AM by Reece »

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Online dprather

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Re: Demystifying the Marufo Vega - Oct.31-Nov.4, 2013
« Reply #7 on: November 13, 2013, 08:34:49 PM »
Good read!
Leave "quit" at the car.  Embrace the trail as your friend.  Expect to enjoy yourself, and to be amazed.

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Offline badknees

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Re: Demystifying the Marufo Vega - Oct.31-Nov.4, 2013
« Reply #8 on: November 14, 2013, 07:29:08 PM »
Anxiously awaiting the "rest of the story" :eusa_clap:
Not all those who wander are lost.
– J.R.R. Tolkien

Through the Mirror
http://mirrormagic.com

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Offline Reece

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Re: Demystifying the Marufo Vega - Oct.31-Nov.4, 2013
« Reply #9 on: November 14, 2013, 07:44:11 PM »
Page 2

Martin will have to speak for himself about his solo portion. All I will say is that blowing dust and wild burros figured into the mix. My trek was glorious. I only wish I hadn’t been rushed by the onset of darkness. I wish I could have lingered in the north fork canyon and taken in the beauty more completely. It’s truly a magical place. If you visit the trail on Google Earth you will see a photo named “Marufo Vega Spring” tagged there. Early on, I questioned the person who posted the photo about the real presence of water and cautioned him about the danger of giving misleading information. He subsequently annotated his photo, “no H2O when photo was taken.” When I arrived at the spot, it did indeed look “spring like.” I searched around for water and discovered a small, water-filled tinaja, well below the caves in the canyon floor. I’m pretty sure it’s a rain collector rather than a ground water reservoir. There could be a small pour off that might have formed the surface pocket. The canyon walls are extremely vertical in this area. Perhaps I should have sampled the water there but I rushed on through the steep downhill to the river.

Water on the north fork


Twilight caught me just as the tree-lined bank came into view.


I planned to camp on a wash I saw on Google Earth about a quarter mile up river, past the turn but hiking by satellite can be dicey. It turned out to be a wash all right but it was deep shifting sand and nothing I wanted to sleep on. I head-lamped it down to the river, climbing through a hard-sand cut, choked with dead river cane.

I took this shot the next morning in the daylight.


Once there, the prospects were not much better. I had a 6-foot wide, hard but wet sand ledge for a campsite. The water was about 2 feet below me and obviously had covered the ledge in the not to distant past. I marked the water level with a stick so I could check it periodically for any level changes, unfolded my ground sheet, rolled out my foam pad, blew up Big Agnes, set up my stove, and started drawing water.



After finishing the last of my 4-20oz. bottles of Gatorade, I had them all empty. I pre-filtered for silt with my 1micron polyester sock into the Sawyer gravity filter and treated with Katadyn Micropur tablets. TWWG approved river water to me but I’m thinking he was laughing up his sleeve the whole time since he didn’t warn me about the taste. I wouldn’t want to drink it on a regular basis but I’m sure one day didn’t hurt me. The best way I can describe the taste is something like diluted seltzer water with a dash of dead-sea salt and a squirt or two of burro piss and I’m fairly certain about that last ingredient.

My sleep was surprisingly comfortable for my first sans-tent night under the stars. The gently gurgling river sang its lullaby for this tired old hiker. I figured the best way to break the tent habit was to just leave it behind. I took the cure and will never pack or sleep in a tent again unless the weather is really sideways. There was the occasional thrashing noise in the brush but a flashlight failed to reveal even a single reflected retina. Martin was not so lucky with his wildlife encounters. At one point in the night I thought the sound of the river had grown louder but a flashlight check confirmed no rise in the level so I rolled over and went back to sleep. There were abundant coyote tracks at the river’s edge but no cat tracks.

Demystification to come in short order.

« Last Edit: January 01, 2014, 09:42:05 AM by Reece »

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Online Robert

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Re: Demystifying the Marufo Vega - Oct.31-Nov.4, 2013
« Reply #10 on: November 15, 2013, 12:21:05 PM »
Great report Reece, keep it coming. One of the advantages to sleeping in the open is that you have 360 degree visibility when you hear those strange sounds during the night.

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Offline presidio

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Re: Demystifying the Marufo Vega - Oct.31-Nov.4, 2013
« Reply #11 on: November 15, 2013, 06:21:23 PM »
“What is rule #1 in Big Bend?”

Easy, avoid dumba**es like this guy.
_____________
<  presidio  >
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Wendell (Garret Dillahunt): It's a mess, ain't it, sheriff?
Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones): If it ain't, it'll do till the mess gets here.
--No Country for Old Men (2007)

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Offline Reece

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Re: Demystifying the Marufo Vega - Oct.31-Nov.4, 2013
« Reply #12 on: November 15, 2013, 07:42:29 PM »
Martin's site wasn't much better. That's what happens when you set up in the dark.


Time for the demystification promised by my title. I wanted to see for myself what might cause so many hikers to get into trouble on this trail, often with disastrous results. Near as I can tell it’s pretty well summed up in the login header, “Over-estimating your experience or under-estimating the terrain.” I saw someplace where this hike was billed as a day-hike. I think maybe that’s where some might folks under-estimate it. Most day-hikes I know about are maintained to the point of resembling paved walking trails. I’d like to meet the person who can day-hike the Vega in the 12 hours of daylight we had. I’d like to shake his hand, look into his steely eyes and judge the truth for myself. Steelfrog and his family are the amazing exception to the rule. I’m not saying it’s out of reach for the young and athletic but like I told Martin, “This probably won’t be the most challenging thing you’ve ever done in your life but when you’re through, you’ll know for sure you’ve accomplished something, and likely something that will put you in some pretty good company.” Don’t forget my survey. I really want to know. I have my reasons.

To be more like Randell, I’m working on my style. I want to learn to approach my backpacks as an adventure to be experienced fully and slowly rather than as an obstacle to be overcome and bagged in record time. Someday I’d like to have enough leisure of mind to sit for an hour or two on his overlook and pan the river with my binoculars. Now that would be a nice day hike!

Morning on the river trail.


The telltale print.


Myth busting the Vega calls for one more item of serious investigation. I ran across an intriguing single footprint in the sand on the river trail. It is clearly a Chupacabra print. I know because he visited me in the moonless night. He travels mostly by starlight you know, casting no shadow, aided by keen hearing and by scent; he can do as well as us in the broad daylight. I believe him to be a much maligned and misunderstood character and quite small as evidenced by the print. He is a mischievous rascal of the prankish sort and not the blood sucking fiend some make him out to be. For instance, he crept into my camp and stole away with my blue camp cup, the one I use for my morning coffee and oatmeal. To prove the harmless nature of his shenanigans, he deposited my cup back at our RGV camp, and in plain sight! Here lies the mystery. Such antics have the power to work good or evil. To the good natured and kind hearted, his tricks are simply a source of humor but to the very cruel, mean spirited and fearful they can be deadly maddening, even terrifying to the point of inducing irrational and dangerous behavior. And so, in your rush to escape, you may lose your way, try to make for the safety of the river, jump down a short cliff and get yourself ledged out, eat cactus and cry like a baby until they find you.

World's largest cats claw bramble - had to be 8 ft. tall. Yep, that's the trail running right through the middle.


We planed ahead to set our alarms for a 6am wakeup, breakfast, strike camp and set out at 8. Sure enough we crossed paths as planned and it was a nice reunion sharing grace filled stories of the dark sacred night. Then we parted company again to finish the loop. This time we agreed we could probably make it to the Jeep by 4pm. At 5pm we agreed if the other were not there to go to RGV for fresh water and return to the trailhead. At 6pm if the other were still not there, we agreed to hike back and search. In retrospect, we should have rolled those times back at least an hour to allow for more daylight searching if needed. We actually met back up on the trail after the fork and hiked to the Jeep together.

Last view of the river, heading up the south fork.


While we were still solo coming out of the Vega, we crossed paths with a trio of 50’ish men from Vermont, first me, and then Martin, confirming the fact that I was indeed ahead. One of the guys asked if I’d heard that someone died on this hike recently. They were very inquisitive about the trail conditions and had what I thought was an untenable plan. They were going to hike to the fork, make camp for the night and then day-hike the loop the following day. I guess it would work but I don’t like camping that far from water. They didn’t seem open to opinion so I kept mine to myself. Their leader was incredulous to the point of unbelief that I had the trail downloaded to my GPS and iPhone for tracking. He had never heard of anyone doing that.

Split Rock from above


When I first advanced my MV plan on BBC, I was planning to camp at Split Rock. I wanted to set up camp and then hike to the river and back with water. TWWG cautioned me; the out-and-back to the river from Split rock is very strenuous and nothing like an afternoon stroll to fetch water for supper. After climbing it, I whole-heartedly agree. Now that WAS untenable.

Heading down to the Jeep


Day 4 of our trip was to include a tour of the Basin and the Boquillas crossing. We broke camp at RGV in a light rain and drove around until we’d had enough of drizzly sightseeing and made a dash for the crossing. The way to the river was beautiful. I believe the trees lining the path are eucalyptus, correct me if I’m wrong. The light rain made them extra fragrant. The kiosks were down so we dealt with live rangers and border patrol agents. They cautioned us to be back by 5:45 it being Sunday, or we would have to stay in Boquillas until Tuesday. To which I replied, “I can swim better than that!” They were not amused.

I haven’t been to Boquillas since ‘85 so I have little memory upon which to draw but I think the crossing may be in a different location now. I remember the burro ride being shorter, more rugged and more uphill back then. My 80-year-old father in law being small in stature fit the burro well on that trip until we reached the hitching post in Boquillas. His cinch was so loose, the whole saddle, Grandpa and all swung down under the burro with him still holding on upside down. We all got a good laugh. All but Gramps, he opted to walk back to the rowboat.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?list=UUMSIR4MRJIkWdHxcOSHjXZg&feature=player_detailpage&v=ajhHPy4ExU4

We lunched at Falcon’s and took the tour of town. It’s amazing how total immersion will bring back to mind your best Spanish. As we passed one house, two children came out selling trinkets whose entreaty we politely declined. They went back in and put the dog on us! “Get’em Pepe! Get the stingy gringos!” (Persequir a los gringos tacanos!) And after us he came, a genuine Chihuahua dog, barking and posturing like a bantam rooster. It was so funny to us (there’s the Chupacabra factor again) that we went back and paid the kids for pictures with their fearless protector. We crossed the river leaving all our cash on the Old Mexico side and better men for the experience.

That was our only stated purpose for this trip, “To come back better men” and I believe that by the grace of God, both His purpose and ours was well served.

The next stop was Chisos Mining for a room and then to The Starlight for supper. Next morning we did the breakfast buffet at the Terlingua triangle Fina and hit the road for home.

Thanks to Martin and his audio book collection, for our ride home we listened to “All of Grace” by C. H. Spurgeon, a good and hearty word for 2 men made quick to hear.
« Last Edit: November 16, 2013, 04:46:05 AM by Reece »

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Offline trtlrock

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Re: Demystifying the Marufo Vega - Oct.31-Nov.4, 2013
« Reply #13 on: November 15, 2013, 08:20:51 PM »
Nice report Reece.
John & Tess

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Offline alan in shreveport

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Re: Demystifying the Marufo Vega - Oct.31-Nov.4, 2013
« Reply #14 on: November 15, 2013, 10:13:09 PM »
beautiful Reece , enjoyed it (no pictures of the muchachos and their perro ? )

 


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