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Feb 25 - Mar 3, 2012: OML, Marufo

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Offline DesertRatShorty

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Feb 25 - Mar 3, 2012: OML, Marufo
« on: March 04, 2012, 08:59:23 PM »
Just got back from my first trip to Big Bend.  I'll try to get a full trip report up within the next few days, but for now, here is a quick water report for those heading out there soon.

Boot Canyon: lots of water along Boot Canyon Trail from Boot Spring to well south of the NE Rim junction. Small trickles were even flowing in places.  (I didn't actually find any water along the side trail marked "Boot Spring," but the water starts just south of there and is easily visible from the trail)

Fresno Creek: plenty of water starting just south of the Dodson and continuing intermittently for at least a couple miles further south, which is as far as I went.

Dodson Spring: there were a couple of scummy pools that would do in a pinch, but I'd recommend not relying on this.

Upper Juniper Spring: a small but usable amount of water.  To get here, follow the side trail marked "Juniper Camp" down to the southwest, then follow a pipe up a short incline, and look for a small bowl full of water.

There was also water in a decent-sized tinaja about halfway between Fresno Creek and Dodson Spring.

One thing I don't have a sense of is how long before some of this water dries up, assuming no additional rains in the near future. The Boot Canyon water looked about the same on Day 1 as on Day 5 of my trip. I'll include some pics of the water in my report.
I roamed and rambled, and I foller'ed my footsteps
   To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
   And all around me a voice was a'sounding
   This land was made for you and me

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Offline Casa Grande

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Feb 25 - Mar 3, 2012: OML, Marufo
« Reply #1 on: March 04, 2012, 10:26:35 PM »
Thanks for the info! Looking forward to the trip report.

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Offline mule ears

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Re: Feb 25 - Mar 3, 2012: OML, Marufo
« Reply #2 on: March 05, 2012, 06:02:40 AM »
Welcome to the board and looking forward to your full report.  Thanks for the water reports, they are invaluable.   :eusa_clap:
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 DesertRatShorty

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Re: Feb 25 - Mar 3, 2012: OML, Marufo
« Reply #3 on: March 06, 2012, 06:10:23 PM »
Okay, here's the first installment of the trip report.

First of all, thanks to all of the contributors on this forum for the wealth of information contained here.  Trip planning would have been much more difficult without it.  Hopefully this report will pay it forward to some future visitors.

In one sense, I'd been planning this trip for a couple of months, but in another, I had been fantasizing about a trip to Big Bend for a good 10 years. I finally got into backpacking last year, and as soon as I felt I had the necessary knowledge and equipment, this destination was at the top of my list. This was also my first multi-day solo trip, and my first trip outside the Midwest.

Day 0.

The trip began with a 6 a.m. flight out of Detroit on Sat. Feb 25, through Dallas and arriving into Midland at around 10:30 a.m. At this point the trip was nearly over before it began, when the rental car company with which I had placed a reservation rejected my creditworthiness.  Fortunately, the lady working the desk was kind enough to refer me to a competitor with lower standards, and shortly after 11 I had the rental and was on my way. Whew. No idea what that was about, but I'll be looking into it.

My first stop was the Odessa Academy for an isopro fuel canister. They had both MSR and jetboil brands; I opted for the smaller jetboil, which worked fine with my snow peak stove. After quick stops for water, lunch, and a couple Powerades, I was on the highway by 12:30.  With the help of my Merle Haggard four CD box set, the next four hours flew by. North of Fort Stockton, the drive is terrifically flat and boring.  South of Fort Stockton, however, the land begins to undulate as foothills transition to mountains, and with each new crest along the highway, a new and more impressive vista awaits.

I arrived at Panther Junction by 4:30 p.m, and had no trouble obtaining my permit.  My plan was to hike the outer mountain loop (OML) in five days and four nights, then spend a night at a backcountry roadside campsite, followed by two days and one night on the Marufo Vega Trail.  The ranger took a picture of my pack and the sole of my shoe with an antique digital camera that used a 3.5" floppy disk.  I asked her if they had caught that mountain lion that had recently attacked a young boy, she said yes and that they had it put down at a local vet.

By this point I was just incredibly energized. The sky was perfectly clear, visibility was fantastic, and the scenery in every direction was breathtaking.  I hopped in my car to head toward the Homer Wilson ranch house, where I would cache a couple gallons of water, but on the way there I couldn't contain myself and just had to get out of the car and snap a few pictures.  Here is the view of the Chisos Mountains looking to the south. I love the way that the sky is such a deep dark blue at higher elevations.



After caching my water, it was around five o'clock, so I decided to head down to the Santa Elena Canyon, which otherwise I would not have a chance to visit this trip. The drive down and back took much longer than I anticipated, but it was still worth it.



I finally arrived at the Basin well after dark, around 8 p.m., and enjoyed a quick hamburger at the lodge restaurant.  I then made my way down to the campgrounds where I spent the first night. This night and every night I slept without a shelter under the stars. By the end of my trip I could tell time by the position of the Big Dipper.  The night was uneventful, although at one point I woke up just in time to watch a skunk sniffing my shoes.  I mumbled something and it scurried off to the next campsite.
I roamed and rambled, and I foller'ed my footsteps
   To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
   And all around me a voice was a'sounding
   This land was made for you and me

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Offline DesertRatShorty

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Re: Feb 25 - Mar 3, 2012: OML, Marufo
« Reply #4 on: March 06, 2012, 07:31:17 PM »
Day 1

After grabbing a quick breakfast at the lodge, I parked my car at the trailhead near the Basin visitor center.  Toward the end of the previous day, Merle Haggard had run his course and I had switched over to Woody Guthrie.  As I pulled into the parking lot, his best-known song happened to be playing.  It didn't occur to me until later in the day, but the third verse was most appropriate.

   I roamed and rambled, and I foller'ed my footsteps
   To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
   And all around me a voice was a'sounding
   This land was made for you and me

It took a little time to organize my gear.  I decided to ditch the rain jacket, but brought the tarp for peace of mind. Finally hit the Pinnacles trail at 8:40 with 6+ liters of water in my pack. It's pretty tough to get in shape for this kind of climb when you live in Southeast Michigan, so I was taking it nice and slow. But then that gave me plenty of time to soak in the scenery.



On the way up I met a septuagenarian named Max who was on his way to Emory Peak.  We ended up hiking together to the top of the peak and back down before parting ways, and enjoyed each other's company.  Whenever we would stop to take a break, birds like this would always show up.



I wondered whether the ankle bracelet might be a patch to help with its addiction to hiker food.

After reaching the top of Pinnacles, I stashed my pack in one of the two bear boxes, and Max and I headed off to Emory Peak.  It's a three-mile round-trip, and we needed all of three hours to make it at our slow and steady pace.  The climb up offered a nice view of Boot Rock, Crown Mountain, and the southeastern section of the park.



On the way up we noticed a couple small patches of snow left over from precipitation about 10 days earlier. Here's me at the top, the camera aiming toward the southwest. That's Mexico in the distance. Great views in all directions.



After descending the Emory Peak Trail, Max and I said our goodbyes, and I grabbed a quick bite to eat.  Thankfully someone had left a jug of free water in one of the bear boxes, and I replenished a couple of liters.  It was clear by now that I had underestimated the water I would need before reaching my cache at Homer Wilson. I was fully aware of the tendency to underestimate water needs in this park, but somehow it's hard to appreciate this until you experience it yourself. 

As a side note, my sun hat was my favorite piece of gear. Didn't need to put any sunblock on my face or neck. My hands were a different story, however -- I'll be finding some good hiking gloves for my return visit.

Around 1:30 I continued south along Boot Canyon Trail toward the South Rim.  Boot Canyon had abundant water from Boot Spring most of the way to the South Rim.



Along the way to the rim I saw a white bat, flying in broad daylight before darting under a rock. Didn't get a picture.

My anticipation mounted as I drew closer to the rim.  I had very high expectations for the view, and started to wonder whether my expectations would be met. Quickly realizing the limits of my imagination, I was sure that my expectations would be blown away.  Now the question became by how much.  It was just over this hill . . .



Let's just say I was blown away by how much my expectations were blown away.

Here's the view from the South Rim looking to the east.



And here's the view to the south, looking over the Sierra Quemada some 2000+ feet below (where I would be in a couple of days).



I attempted a few panoramic shots and I think this one turned out the best.



I spent as much time here as I could, but the day was drawing on and I wanted to get to my campsite before sunset. I continued on to SW3 where I bedded down for the night. This is a very scenic campsite overlooking Blue Creek Canyon.



Yes, my air mattress survived the trip. I was very careful with it.

Total mileage for the day was about 9.5.
« Last Edit: March 18, 2012, 09:19:45 PM by DesertRatShorty »
I roamed and rambled, and I foller'ed my footsteps
   To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
   And all around me a voice was a'sounding
   This land was made for you and me

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Offline DesertRatShorty

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Re: Feb 25 - Mar 3, 2012: OML, Marufo
« Reply #5 on: March 06, 2012, 08:36:51 PM »
Day 2

Up with the sun again, I headed toward the Blue Creek Canyon trailhead while the shadows were still long.



The mixture of trees, desert plants, and grasses was one of the neatest things about the Chisos mountains.



I reached the Blue Creek trailhead around 9:20, and began my 2500' descent to the desert below.  The trail surface was loose gravel, with larger rocks at higher elevations and smaller rocks at lower where the trail merged with the creek bed. This once again made for some very slow going but, as before, it made it easier to stop and soak in the views.



Along the way I passed a couple of ultralight guys who were doing the OML in 3 days/2 nights.  They said their maximum packed weight including water was around 20 pounds.  I was envious, but on the other hand, I think these were the only people I passed whose packs were lighter than mine.  I saw a few people who had to have had 50 pounds or more on their back. Yikes.

In a lower section of the trail there are some red rock formations.



I reached the Homer Wilson ranch house around three o'clock, and replenished my water supply, this time making sure I had a little more than I thought I'd need before the next water source at Fresno Creek. I hiked up to the parking lot to send my parents an A-OK text (my provider is AT&T), and then returned to the shade of the ranch house to rest until four o'clock when the worst of the day's heat was starting to subside. There I saw some Rice students who I'd met the previous day going up Pinnacles.  They were doing the OML clockwise.  We are among the fortunate few whose spring breaks are a couple weeks ahead of the masses, making this an excellent time to be in the park.

With renewed energy I bounded east along the Dodson for about a mile, before finding a campsite to settle for the night. There were some semi-ominous clouds moving in from the southwest, and unsure of their portents, I set up my tarp. 



It was very windy, however, and I found it difficult to get a taut pitch, so I ended up taking the tarp down and left the stakes in place in case I needed to repitch quickly during the night.  Thankfully I didn't need to.

Walked about 8.5 miles today.
I roamed and rambled, and I foller'ed my footsteps
   To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
   And all around me a voice was a'sounding
   This land was made for you and me

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Offline Stevieray

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Re: Feb 25 - Mar 3, 2012: OML, Marufo
« Reply #6 on: March 06, 2012, 09:05:02 PM »
Wow, snow still on the Mountains from 2/16/12. Look forward to your trip report. Thanks for posting.

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Offline DesertRatShorty

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Re: Feb 25 - Mar 3, 2012: OML, Marufo
« Reply #7 on: March 06, 2012, 09:42:36 PM »
Day 3

I had camped just shy of the first significant crest of the Dodson when heading east.  So that morning I quickly packed up my things, and scampered up to the crest.  Just south of the crest one can climb yet a little higher to the top of a small hill (where there's even a small campsite). I had breakfast here and took in some excellent early morning views, including this one of Mule Ears to the south and west.



I continued eastward that morning through the ups and downs of the Sierra Quemada, as the South Rim continued to come into view.  By 11 a.m. I was at the Elephant Tusk trailhead. I was in good shape in terms of my progress, so I planned to take part of the day to hike a couple of miles down ET trail and back up Fresno drainage. The ET trail was a little more overgrown than the other trails, and the footing consisted of sharp volcanic rock which made for some sore feet. I continued south for a couple of miles to the point where the ET trail merges with the Fresno drainage, just south of Tortuga Mountain. I then headed up Fresno where I quickly found some nice pools of water.  Hiking up the creek was easy-- there were only a couple of places where I needed to use my hands to climb up.



With its dependable water, Fresno supports a considerable diversity of life, as evidenced by a variety of scat, insects, berries, cattails, and this beauty.



After waiting out the heat of the day between the canyon walls, I continued up the drainage where I was in for quite a surprise.  Probably a quarter-mile south of the Dodson, I ran into a couple of young people who were also enjoying the shade of the canyon.  We got to chatting, and wouldn't you know it, they were also from Michigan.  Turns out they belonged to a backpacking club, and their group had rented a couple of vans and driven 27 hours nonstop to get here.  One even had a book she was reading for her English class (and it wasn't a little book).  That's some serious dedication.

I told them I was a professor, and they said one of their group was actually a graduate student in my field.  Sure enough, a little further up the creek, I met one of my former students who had taken a class with me three years ago. We chatted for a while, and he asked me not to tell his advisor I'd seen him here. Small world.

After passing the rest of the group and exiting the drainage, I continued eastbound on the Dodson for maybe another quarter-mile before setting up camp.  Once again the views were outstanding.  Here's the South Rim; in the lower left corner the Michigan crew appear as little dots at the large group campsite near Fresno Creek.



Looking to the south from my campsite, one can see four of the named mountains in the lower elevations of the park.  From left to right, and with approximate distances: Tortuga Mountain (2 miles away), Mariscal Mountain (10 miles to the closest point, and the mountain itself is about 8 miles long), Elephant Tusk (5 miles), and Backbone Ridge (6 miles).



Another beautiful sunset, here reflected off of Mariscal Mountain and a distant mountain of Mexico.



I chuckled the rest of that evening at the earlier chance encounter.

About 8 miles walked today.
« Last Edit: September 09, 2018, 02:44:23 PM by DesertRatShorty »
I roamed and rambled, and I foller'ed my footsteps
   To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
   And all around me a voice was a'sounding
   This land was made for you and me

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Offline trtlrock

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Re: Feb 25 - Mar 3, 2012: OML, Marufo
« Reply #8 on: March 06, 2012, 10:32:36 PM »
Nice report & looks like you had a great time.
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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Offline mule ears

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Re: Feb 25 - Mar 3, 2012: OML, Marufo
« Reply #9 on: March 07, 2012, 05:59:39 AM »
Dude you are killing it!  :notworthy:  What a great first trip and report, I like the way it is told from the eyes of someone who has never been there before, very clear.  I look forward to the rest and some discussion of what equipment you found worked well and not.  I am a fan of those Railriders shirts too (at least it looks like one).

You did hit the park just in time, despite running into the big Michigan group.  What temperatures where you having?  Sounds like you were being smart and hiding out in the shade during the hot part of the afternoon.
« Last Edit: March 07, 2012, 07:20:50 AM by mule ears »
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 ambersdad

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Re: Feb 25 - Mar 3, 2012: OML, Marufo
« Reply #10 on: March 07, 2012, 06:11:52 AM »
Great stuff. Thanks for sharing. Look forward to reading more.
Having decent gear is nice, but wildlife photography is knowing your subject and getting lucky, and I love getting lucky.
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Offline catz

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Re: Feb 25 - Mar 3, 2012: OML, Marufo
« Reply #11 on: March 07, 2012, 11:03:01 AM »
Awesome! :13: :eusa_dance:
Wake me when it's time to go.

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Offline Homer67

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Re: Feb 25 - Mar 3, 2012: OML, Marufo
« Reply #12 on: March 07, 2012, 02:29:35 PM »
Very nice report so far!  Any video?
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 DesertRatShorty

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Re: Feb 25 - Mar 3, 2012: OML, Marufo
« Reply #13 on: March 07, 2012, 05:49:18 PM »
I am a fan of those Railriders shirts too (at least it looks like one).

What temperatures where you having?  Sounds like you were being smart and hiding out in the shade during the hot part of the afternoon.

Yes, the Rail Riders shirt also worked great. The mesh sides prevent it from getting too hot.

I didn't have a thermometer, but I don't think the lows got below the 40s, and the highs at least a couple of days were probably approaching 90.
I roamed and rambled, and I foller'ed my footsteps
   To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
   And all around me a voice was a'sounding
   This land was made for you and me

*

Offline Quatro

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Re: Feb 25 - Mar 3, 2012: OML, Marufo
« Reply #14 on: March 07, 2012, 07:03:42 PM »
Day 1

  Toward the end of the previous day, Merle Haggard had run his course and I had switched over to Woody Guthrie. 

 :great: You set a good tone for the trip even before shouldering your pack with both these choices.  Woody reportedly spent at least a summer in his youth at the Sam Nail Ranch on the Ross Maxwell road.
When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro - HST

 


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