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Feb 25 - Mar 3, 2012: OML, Marufo

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Online DesertRatShorty

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Re: Feb 25 - Mar 3, 2012: OML, Marufo
« Reply #15 on: March 07, 2012, 09:39:34 PM »
: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.

Cool, I didn't know that. Maybe those lyrics were actually inspired by Big Bend!
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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Online DesertRatShorty

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Re: Feb 25 - Mar 3, 2012: OML, Marufo
« Reply #16 on: March 07, 2012, 09:51:12 PM »
Day 4

With the early morning sun illuminating the southeast rim, I made my way toward the eastern end of the Dodson.



Passed some fence posts from the ranching days of the past.



The trail began to flatten out somewhat, and I was able to make pretty good time.



When I arrived at the trailhead, I met up with three guys I'd seen a couple days earlier at Homer Wilson.  They were caching their water while I was retrieving mine.  They were doing the OML clockwise, but unfortunately one member of their group was unable to keep anything down, and had decided to bail on the trip. They were waiting for someone who was parked there to return to their car so the guy could hitch a ride back to the Basin.

They mentioned that the previous evening on the Juniper Canyon Trail, they had encountered a day-hiking group of junior high students.  Their leader had asked them if they had a map! Sounded like a disaster waiting to happen, but they didn't know what had become of the group.

The lower portion of Juniper is also fairly flat and I continued to make good time.  By three o'clock, I had already covered 9 miles this day, and with the heat beating down, I decided to claim the next campsite I found.  I saw on the map that I was near Upper Juniper Spring, and I soon came to a fork in the trail.  It looks like the main trail continued straight, and a side trail led off to the right (north).  On the south side of the intersection was a sign labeled "Juniper Camp."  I just assumed that the main trail continued straight, and that the trail to the right was a side trail that led to some nice campsite.  So I followed the trail to the right. After about a half mile I still hadn't seen any kind of camping area, and I started to think this was one of the longest side trails in existence.  Finally, after much unnecessary walking, I figured out that I was on the main trail, and had I continued straight at the junction, I would have followed a short side trail that led down to the campsite and Upper Juniper Spring.  I met up with a couple of guys that I had been leapfrogging since the beginning of the trip, and they had made the same mistake.  I guess this is a common mistake for people doing the OML counter-clockwise.  I don't think it would be a problem if you were going clockwise.

Total mileage today about 9.5 with the pack, a couple more without.
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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Online DesertRatShorty

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Re: Feb 25 - Mar 3, 2012: OML, Marufo
« Reply #17 on: March 07, 2012, 10:04:13 PM »
Day 5

Toll Mountain glowed as I headed off for the final day of my five-day OML trip.



The upper sections of the Juniper Canyon Trail were quite pleasant to pass through.



Right where Juniper intersects Boot Canyon, I found a nice pool of water and treated 4 L for my return trip to the Basin (I would only need two of them). The water tasted odd, but it got the job done.  Also met up with this little creature.



Along the Colima Trail, there was a great example of how desert plants can grow seemingly anywhere.



I wondered if this might have come from a bobcat.



At the top of Laguna Meadows, I met up with the Michigan crew again; they had just ascended Blue Creek.  On my way down to the Basin, I also met up with a couple of guys who had just spent three nights up in the Chisos, having carried all of their water.  And they did not look like lightweight campers, so I can only imagine how much weight they had started out with.

They had some more information on the junior high group.  It turns out there were three groups of junior high students, 20 to 30 total.  They were day hiking to the South Rim in their shorts and T-shirts, and each had just a small bottle of water.  Two of the groups passed these guys one evening and when the second group passed, they shared some of their water, since their little water bottles had long since run out.  One of the group leaders was hobbling, and it was really looking like a bad situation given that it was dark, they had no warm clothing, and they were several miles from the Basin. These guys later heard that ultimately some rangers had come up and met the kids at the top of Pinnacles, and brought the injured leader down on horseback.

I made it back to the Basin around three o'clock, and headed up to the lodge for a meal.  I had underestimated my caloric needs for the OML, and had no trouble putting down a hamburger with fries and a small pizza, topped off by the "Emory Peak," an ice cream covered brownie.  Man that was good.

After that, I rinsed out my dusty socks, loaded up on water, and drove over to Grapevine Hills 2 for a peaceful rest before heading off to Marufo Vega the next day.

Mileage today about 7.5.
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 jim2

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Re: Feb 25 - Mar 3, 2012: OML, Marufo
« Reply #18 on: March 08, 2012, 08:49:28 PM »
i've enjoyed your trip report and photos very much. thanks for sharing.

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Online DesertRatShorty

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Re: Feb 25 - Mar 3, 2012: OML, Marufo
« Reply #19 on: March 08, 2012, 10:10:21 PM »
i've enjoyed your trip report and photos very much. thanks for sharing.
You're welcome! Thanks to all for the positive feedback so far. Now for the final installment.
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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Online DesertRatShorty

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Re: Feb 25 - Mar 3, 2012: OML, Marufo
« Reply #20 on: March 08, 2012, 10:50:01 PM »
Day 6, part 1.

Woke up at five o'clock this morning so I could hit the trail early and get most of my miles in before the extreme heat kicked in.  When I left Grapevine Hills my car's thermometer read 64 F, but by the time I had arrived at the Marufo trailhead it read 49. Knowing the daytime temperatures could be 90 or more, and not wanting to take any chances, I started out with 10 L of water.  I'm guessing that put my total pack weight around 40 pounds, which was by far my heaviest weight of the trip.  Thankfully, by now my legs were in decent shape, and by taking it slowly, I didn't have any problems.  I was quite pleased with my GoLite Quest.  This weight was at its advertised upper limit, and it carried just fine for that weight. 

I hit the trail heading north at 7 a.m. sharp, with the sun still well behind the mountains to the east.



The first mile or so was nice and easy, before a challenging climb of several hundred feet up the ridge to the northeast.  Part way up this climb, one can see the village of Boquillas, Mexico, looking back to the southwest across the river.



At the top of the climb, there are tremendous views of the Ernst Valley/Strawhouse trail,



and the Sierra del Carmen of Mexico.



I was headed off to the north through a notch that is visible in the distance here.



The geology of this part of the park is noticeably different. For a brief section, the trail was tiled in a cobblestone-like manner.



The trail winds through a couple of small canyons.  At one of them I took a break, and noticed evidence of the ancient sea that once covered the park.  This photo shows remnants of some shells, coral or something, and a prehistoric energy bar.



About 3 miles in, the trail splits into its north and south branches.  I hid two liters of water just off the trail at this point, and was glad to be relieved of the weight.  I headed off along the south fork, and shortly after the split the trail reached this nice open area.



Evidently "vega" means "plains" or "meadow" in Spanish, and I wondered if this might be the area that inspired the name. The ridge in the distance was inviting, and I almost ditched my plans and climbed to the top.  Cross-country travel in this area didn't seem like it would be too bad.  Oh well, maybe some other time.

The guidebook suggested bringing a wildflower guide if you hike the trail in March or April.  Had I been interested in the names of wildflowers, that would have been helpful, as I ran into at least five different varieties.



A mile or so further, I took this picture of the back side of the ridge that I referred to previously.  There are interesting caves here and many other places along the trail.



After about 5 miles, I began my descent into Boquillas Canyon.  Already from the top I could clearly see the Rio Grande.  There seemed to be some sort of creature drinking from it.  What could it be?



« Last Edit: March 08, 2012, 11:25:28 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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Online DesertRatShorty

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Re: Feb 25 - Mar 3, 2012: OML, Marufo
« Reply #21 on: March 08, 2012, 11:08:05 PM »
Day 6, part 2.

The descent to the river was steep and rocky, but I was used to going slow. Just as I reached the connector trail to the north fork of the trail, I startled some donkeys, who in turn startled me.



I knew from previous trip reports that these might be here; evidently they are Mexican, but find the cactus greener on the US side. At least they keep the trails well fertilized.

They seem to enjoy dining on prickly pears after the spines fall off.



I headed north along the connector trail, on my way to my intended campsite on the banks of the river, at the end of the north fork. Along the way, I passed a carcass on the other side of the river. I thought you might like to see a donkey carcass or whatever.



The burros may be trespassing, but if a burrito is born on US soil, what is its status?



Here's a nice view of the river and mountains looking to the south.



About 1:30 the sun was really beating down, and I found a nice shady spot to rest.  Fortunately this horse appeared to entertain me.



After resting for about an hour, I became restless and decided to make my way on to find my campsite, which was only about a half mile away.  Even though it was the hottest part of the day, I rationalized it wouldn't be too bad to just walk half a mile. On my way, I took this picture which shows the slanted geology of these mountains.  This is one of the few points in the US where you can look north in the Mexico.



Almost to the riverbank, the heat was really stifling, so I found a little shady spot among some bushes growing atop a dune, right next to the river.  Within less than a minute of sitting down, I was surprised to see a couple of Mexicans riding on horseback from the south on the other side of the river.  They were escorting a third pack animal, I'm not sure if it was a horse or donkey.  There was a bush between me and them so I could see them, but I don't think they saw me.  They continued a little further to where they were just in front of me (maybe 50 yards away), and then crossed the river, landing in the exact spot where I had intended to camp.  Here's a picture of them crossing the river through the bushes.



At this point fear had overcome me.  I figured they could just be ranch hands rounding up a stray animal, but I also allowed that they might have some criminal intent.  Anyone have any insight on this?  Was I overreacting?

They continued very slowly to the north along the US side of the river.



I waited until they were out of sight.  Still shaken, I decided to forego camping on the river, and planned to climb out of the canyon along the north fork of the trail.  It was still really hot, so I found some shade at the bottom of the side canyon containing the north fork of the trail, and waited until four o'clock. At that time, with my adrenaline still flowing, I bounded up the 2 mile climb out of the canyon in under an hour.  Along the way I saw more flowers,



this big cave that could hold a four-story house,



and lots of small caves right next to the trail. It was hard not to wonder what sorts of things might be lurking inside.



Here's a look back down the side canyon I had just ascended.



With my feet now firmly planted on higher ground, I found a nice campsite, climbed a nearby hill to have dinner, and watched another excellent sunset.



The day was as good as any other in terms of scenery and terrain.  Walked about 10 miles total, a couple more than planned.
« Last Edit: March 08, 2012, 11:32:53 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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Online DesertRatShorty

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Re: Feb 25 - Mar 3, 2012: OML, Marufo
« Reply #22 on: March 08, 2012, 11:13:21 PM »
Day 7

By virtue of my extra walking the day before, I had less walking to do today.  I slept in until about seven this morning, knowing I didn't have far to go.  Less than half a mile from my campsite, I reached the fork in the trail.  I picked up my water cache and headed back toward my car.  However, I did not take the same route. 

There are a couple of connector trails between the Marufo Vega and Strawhouse.  I took the longer of these down into the Ernst Valley, and then hiked out on the Strawhouse trail.  I would highly recommend this option to people.  The descent into the valley is very gradual and easy, whereas the Marufo has to descend that steep rocky section.  I really don't think my route took any longer time-wise.  And it had the added bonus that I got to see a new section of the park, especially the narrow canyon at the south end of the valley.  This was really a cool place to walk through.  Unfortunately my camera battery had run out the previous evening, so no pictures.

After about 4 miles of walking, I was back at my car by 10 a.m.  I ended up only needing about eight of the 10 L of water I had carried, but did not regret carrying them.  If I was day hiking this trail around this time of year, I would probably want 7 L.

Being a solo hiker, I had to report in when I was done, so I headed over to the Rio Grande Village visitor center and reported to the rangers there.  I mentioned my sighting of the Mexicans crossing the border, and they were completely unconcerned, although they did say they would pass it on to border control.  After that, I headed down to Rio Grande Village for a quick shower. Then up to Panther Junction where I donated my fuel canister (which still had some fuel in it) to a young ranger who was very happy to add it to her personal gear collection. I dallied for a while looking at books here, and again at the Persimmon Gap visitor center.  I guess I just wasn't in any hurry to leave the park. I stopped off for a late lunch at a friendly diner-style restaurant in Marathon before driving back to Midland where I would spend the night in a hotel near the airport and fly safely back to Michigan the next day.

This was really a great trip. Big Bend is just an amazing and unique place, as I'm sure anyone who has been there will attest.  I can see why people keep coming back.

Speaking of which, I suppose it's not too early to start planning my return trip. Now let's see, which other parts of the park look interesting . . .

DRS
« Last Edit: March 09, 2012, 03:21:51 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 TexasAggieHiker

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Re: Feb 25 - Mar 3, 2012: OML, Marufo
« Reply #23 on: March 08, 2012, 11:47:41 PM »
 :eusa_clap:

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Offline Al

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Re: Feb 25 - Mar 3, 2012: OML, Marufo
« Reply #24 on: March 08, 2012, 11:56:05 PM »
Beautiful photos and a step above in all the most important ways! 

Thank you,
Al

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Offline SA Bill

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Re: Feb 25 - Mar 3, 2012: OML, Marufo
« Reply #25 on: March 09, 2012, 06:17:07 AM »
Good stuff DRS!  :notworthy:
  Thanks for sharing!
   Bill
Bill - In San Antonio

Growing old is mandatory.
Growing up is optional.

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Offline mule ears

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Re: Feb 25 - Mar 3, 2012: OML, Marufo
« Reply #26 on: March 09, 2012, 07:03:49 AM »
Great job DRS and now you have been bitten by the Big Bend bug.  You will definitely have to plan the next trip now!  Like many of us here, we have been going to the park for years and still find new places to explore.

I think your Marufo Vega report was also different than many others I have read and makes me want to get down there and walk that area too.  Thanks and please keep checking in here at BBC and participating.  Your reports are already in the Backpacking Trip Reports Index.

For Homero, more camera batteries next time too!  :eusa_doh:

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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Re: Feb 25 - Mar 3, 2012: OML, Marufo
« Reply #27 on: March 09, 2012, 12:56:48 PM »
Good report.  Man, I am so excited to get back on the 19th!
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 lighter fluid

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Re: Feb 25 - Mar 3, 2012: OML, Marufo
« Reply #28 on: April 06, 2012, 05:40:13 PM »
Excellent report and pics DRS!  :eusa_clap:
"...There is a pessimism about land which, after it has been with you a long time, becomes merely factual. Men increase; country suffers. " John Graves 'Goodbye to a River'

 


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