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February 2&3 OML from Homer Wilson - Counter Clockwise

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Offline wrangler88

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February 2&3 OML from Homer Wilson - Counter Clockwise
« on: February 06, 2018, 11:34:01 AM »
A Quick Video of my trip: Much longer detailed videos to come ...


Before I begin my trip report of my recent OML trip, I just want to say thank you to everyone on the board for all of the great insight this website provides. The information and opinions from BigBendChat were remarkably helpful in preparing for my trip.

I will add my YouTube videos of this trip to this thread within the next couple of weeks. I normally donít take a lot of pictures on my trips but instead try to convey my experiences through video in a way that not only lets me reminisce on what a great time I had but also serves as a somewhat informative channel for anyone else planning to visit the area.

Originally I had planned to backpack around lake Georgetown on the Goodwater Loop with my wife for a quasi anniversary trip. However, we had already spent another night out in honor of our anniversary and her best friend was coming into town from California for the weekend. So, instead I made the sacrifice of missing out on the Goodwater Loop and was forced to alter my plans to a slightly more arid and undulating environment in West Texas at Big Bend.

I had contemplated the thought of the Outer Mountain Loop for a few years now but had never really acted on it. Instead I spent most of my time rambling around West Texas farther north at the Davis or Guadalupe Mountains. However, I made the decision that with winter quickly coming to a close, now would be my best chance in the near future to finally backpack the OML.

So I woke up at 1:45 a.m. on a Friday and left my house just south of Fort Worth Texas by 2:15 a.m.. I headed west on I-20 just as I had in every other trip to West Texas. Now the night before my trip I had still had an internal debate on whether to break out of my comfort zone the Guadalupe Mountains provided and try something new at Big Bend, or if I should go back to what I consider my home park and wander around the mountains I have become so familiar with. By the time I hit Sweetwater I had fully convinced myself that something new was in order. And I started really looking forward to Big Bend.

Part of my nervousness was absolutely due to my worry about finding water along the OML. At places like Guadalupe Mountains, I know there is no water and I carry everything I need with me. However, reading the boards at Big Bend Chat convinced me that it was possible to hike the OML without caching water along the way. I put my faith in what I had read and arrived at the park with only 3L of water in my pack (but with enough carrying capacity for 4 liters).

When I arrived at Panther Junction around 10:30a.m., I was reminded of the stories I had read online of Park Rangers giving solo hikers, especially ones not caching water, a hard time for their plans of the OML. I expressed my desire for starting at Homer Wilson. When asked where I would cache my water, I had a slight panic. This was the moment when I was to be grilled over my plans. I lied. While I admitted that I wasnít going to cache water but rather would obtain it at natural sources, I declared that I had 5 liters of water with me. I thought this would make the ranger forget the subject. I was wrong. She immediately told me that the springs were dry and instead suggested that I start my hike in the Basin and cache water.

I declined. I insisted on sticking to my original plan of Homer Wilson, counter clockwise, not caching water. After the speech of going off trail to look for water causes lost hikers and that water is the cause of 50% of hikers to quit the OML, I was on my way.

I set off from the Homer Wilson Ranch House at 11:30 a.m.. I was nervous somewhat nervous setting off across the Dodson. I had read about its brutal heat and unrelenting sun. However, I quickly came to realize it was overcast, cool, and with a pleasant breeze. The weather was absolutely perfect and would remain that way for the majority of the day.

I had a pleasant hike with short breaks to set up my camera for shots of me walking by. I enjoyed seeing the stunning colors in the rocks and dirt; as well as the beautiful desert plants I had come to love. Ocotillo are one of my top favorite things to see in the desert and the western Dodson was full of them.

I encountered my first OML hiker heading clockwise just before I reached the Smoky Creek Trail. He was a very nice man from Dripping Springs. He told me that he had taken pictures of the map on his phone but the pictures were now blurry to the point where they were hard to make out. While I do the exact same thing with the map on my phone, I had also brought along an actual map, as I was not familiar with the area. I let him take new pictures of my map. After that, he graciously offered the Ĺ gallon of water he had left over from his cache in the Juniper Canyon water box for me to use. While I didnít have to have the water, it would make it easier on me not having to carry as much out of Fresno Creek. I thanked him for his offer and we went on our way.

10 Ė 15 minutes later I met my second hiker along the trail right at the Smoky Creek Trail junction. He said he had not seen another hiker during his OML hike. I explained he was only a few minutes behind another hiker headed his same direction. It was at that point that I realized that because I was going counter clockwise, which I believe is not the NPS norm, I would meet most hikers along the OML, where as everyone going clockwise, might not if they happen to be going about the same speed.

After I began hiking again I started setting my focus on the water I needed to find in Fresno Creek. I somewhat tried pinpointing my location on the map without actually triangulating my position. I was a little worried about hiking past Fresno Creek on accident and missing my chance of water resupply for the day. I checked a drainage thinking that it may be Fresno Creek but the vegetation was too thick to continue very far downstream. So I determined this was not what I was looking for and continued on. When I came to the big drainage I was almost certain was Fresno Creek, I found a very shallow pool right at the trail. I remembered reading online that there was more water downstream. So I dropped my pack and headed down the drainage. I dropped down a small pour off but quickly halted when the next poor off was much too large for me to get down. I decided to go back to the trail and filter from the small pool there. It was the shallowest pool Iíve ever filtered from. I got only 1 liter, knowing that I could use the Ĺ gallon of water in the Juniper Canyon cache box.  As I continued my hike a few more minutes, I finally realized that I had again been short of the real water in Fresno Creek. This drainage had quite a bit more water and it was clear that this was where I should had filled up from.

Now with plenty of water for the day, I hiked on heading east. I began feeling very small sprinkles of rain. As I continued on throughout the late afternoon, I began feeling slightly bigger drops of rain. Then they became more frequent. I had decided that if it began to rain I would stop on the first site I came to and make camp. When the rain really began I happened right upon a perfect site. I looked out across the desert and could tell it was raining harder and it would soon be to my site. I began setting up my shelter, the Six Moon Designs Gatewood Cape. While setting it up, the rain really started coming down. Luckily I got it up in time to keep my tent pad and my gear mostly dry. I however was fairly wet.

I was glad the rain had hit when it had. I stated to have in my mind that I would hike on to the Juniper Canyon Trailhead and stay at the nearest site. The rain made me stop for the day, which not only allowed me to have one of the most scenic campsites of my life, but probably saved my legs for the big day of hiking I had yet to come.

When the rain let up after about 45 minutes I had enough time to cook some bean burritos and relax outside. Just about the time I was done eating and picking up my stuff from dinner, the rain began again. I crouched down inside my shelter, chugged as much water as I could hold, and laid down for the night. It was 7 oíclock. I knew I wouldnít end up with much of a sunset or night sky because of the clouds, so I didnít bother to stay up.

I wasnít quite sure how far I had come for the day. My original plan was to hike at least 7 miles. I knew I had come farther than that and couldnít have been too far from the Juniper Canyon trailhead. I wouldnít know until the next day but I was only about a 20 minute walk (I walk fairly fast) from the end of the Dodson. I imagine that I did about 10.5 miles on my first day.

The Dodson was great and definitely exceeded all of my expectations. I was very fortunate to have the cloud cover for the day. And I was excited to be able to experience a little desert rain. Oh, and the views werenít too bad either!

Day 2 to follow Ö







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Re: February 2&3 OML from Homer Wilson - Counter Clockwise
« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2018, 12:47:24 PM »
:great:  I've come to the conclusion that the best job in the world is to be your camera. You do all the work; it has all the fun. No pain, just gain. Really looking forward to the rest of your report on this trip. And especially on what you thought of the Gatewood Cape (in real rain, no less!).
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Offline wrangler88

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Re: February 2&3 OML from Homer Wilson - Counter Clockwise
« Reply #2 on: February 06, 2018, 02:40:44 PM »
Day 2 (And 20 minutes of Day 3)

After having slept nearly 12 hours (with near double digit interruptions to turn over throughout the night), my alarm went off at 6:45 a.m. I was excited to get out of my small, one man shelter, to stretch my legs and take in the morning. I was up and had made coffee and water for my oatmeal in time to watch the sunrise. And it didnít disappoint. After having no sunset or stars to view the night before, the spectacular desert sunrise warmed my soul from the chill of the early morning air.

While it wasnít overly cold during the night, I did get chilled enough that I needed to put on my toboggan. The rest of my body was a little more than warm in my down quilt.

I could tell today would bring a bit more sun than the day before. I had opted on this trip to forgo my normal Outdoor Research sun sleeves and hat and instead just brought sunscreen, a Texas Rangers baseball cap, and sunglasses.

I packed up and was ready to set off by 8:00 a.m.. My tarp was about 90% dry from the previous evenings rain showers. The ground however, was still wet. There were small pools in the depressions of rocks, fallen leaves, and prickly pears. I hadnít been sure exactly  how close I was to the Juniper Canyon trailhead the night before. After 15 Ė 20 minutes, it became clear that I was very close as the large steel water cache boxes quickly came into view. A hiker I met the previous day had offered me his leftover water cache. So I filled up with his left over half gallon. There were also several gallons that looked to be a week or two old; as well as 20 gallons in bulk containers that may have been left as emergency water by the NPS.

I left from the trailhead by 8:30. The first couple of miles on the Juniper Canyon trail were really pleasant. The walk through the tall grass was magical. The warm morning sun, dozens of dove, and grandeur of the looming Chisos Mountains combined for a very magnificent start to the day. I soon came upon the sign for Zone camping. I knew from the forums on BigBendChat that this was the place to divert from the trail to find Upper Juniper Spring. However, this is where I made my second mistake looking for water.

While the thread on BBC was correct that you turn right at the sign on a side trail to get to the spring, I had not taken into account that I was traveling backward from the original poster and was instead continuing on up the Juniper Canyon Trail. I had thought it was an awfully steep trail to get to the springs and after a couple switchbacks, my mistake had become apparent. I hurried back down to the trail junction, and turned LEFT at the sign and went to find the springs. The area the spring is in was a pretty magical place. Just at the old cement ruins stood a wonderful Texas Madrone. (My person favorite. And plentiful at Guadalupe Mountains.) Just beyond the ruins was a small boulder field that was fun to climb around. The spring was flowing enough for the ground to be muddy and a small pool to be formed at its start. I filled 1.5 liters and was on my way. I could tell now that my filter was slowing from all of the sediment from both times I had filled my bottles.

Now the real climb began. I enjoy doing most of my climbing in the morning. It makes the rest of the day easier in my opinion. The climb was long and steep but not terrible. I actually enjoyed it. And after passing a few other OML hikers heading down, I reached the top earlier than I had anticipated. I passed another OML duo of a father and son just before the Juniper Canyon 1 campsite. We talked about the trail and the previous nightís rain. We also talked about my cuben fiber backpack (as I did with more than half of the other hikers I came across on this trip.). Then I made it to the pools at the boot canyon trail. I was told by the ranger the pipe at Boot Canyon was not flowing. And I could not remember from over a decade ago if the Boot Canyon pools were to my right or left as I intersected the trail. Not wanting to pass up my last natural water source, I filtered out of the stagnant pool directly in front of me. This was the dirtiest water I filtered from on the trip. And looking back on it now, I really didnít need it.

After filling my bottle I headed toward the South Rim with other pairs of day hikers. It was easy to pick out the backpackers from the dayhikers on this trail. Every backpacker wanted to stop and talk. Or at least gave a wave and a smile. More than not, the dayhikers did not. Some pairs even seemed mad at each other or worn out from a trail that might have been more than what they expected.

Finally I reached the South Rim. There were several people on the Eastern side as soon as the trail reaches the cliff side. I opted to continue around farther West to find a more panoramic scene. The opening I stopped at for lunch provided what is the grandest view in all of Texas. What a spectacular scene it was! I spent quite a while at this spot. I ate a PackitGormet Mesquite Smoked Chicken Salad on tortillas and called my wife to check in. I listened to some 70ís country and took in the wild view.

After a while I decided it was time to go. I had had an internal debate all day whether I should finish the OML today or camp another night. I had to be home by the following night and it happened to be SuperBowl Sunday. I would like to be home before it started which would require a fairly early start from Big Bend. I knew if I stayed at my designated site BL1, and had a 5.5 mile hike out the next morning down Blue Creek, Iíd most likely miss the first of the SuperBowl. It was just before 3pm when I reached the junction with the Blue Creek Trail. I stopped for a short break and to go over my options. I could finish the trail today and hope to find a spot at the car campgrounds (and have to pay again) or I could zone camp on the Blue Creek Trail, or I could just stay at my original campsite of BL1.

I decided to start down the Blue Creek Trail. Not sure yet if Iíd finish the trail or camp somewhere farther down. The descent was steep but beautiful. The red rocks of Blue Creek were a welcome surprise. Though a little more rough than Utah, they had a certain southern Utah feel to them. One of my favorite parts of the trail. I started passing zone camping sites, though not as numerous as on the Dodson. At nearly 5 oíclock I saw the roof of the Homer Wilson Ranch House. Immediately I also saw a tentpad to my right. I stopped at the campsite to think. After a few minutes I decided I would camp here for the night. A wonderful site surrounded by red rock with a beautiful view of the sunset out in the desert. I estimated that I was 1 mile from Homer Wilson (this would later be proven as an over estimation.) I spent the last couple hours of the daylight listening to music and sitting around. Marveling at the red rocks all around. Then I stood up and took in the sunset. It did not disappoint.

Then I got a surprise I was not expecting. Because there was still a fairly large moon, I didnít expect to get a great night sky. But I had not considered that the moon would not rise for a while. After dark, I got out of my tent and took in the beautiful Big Bend night sky. Billions of stars. A great finale to the trip.

I estimated that I did around 16 miles on day 2. Though, not knowing exactly how far I still had left on the Dodson at the beginning of the day and exactly how far I still had left on the Blue Creek at the end of the day, it was hard to say.

The next morning I woke up at 6. I had all of my gear packed up well before first light. I did not want to hike down the wash in Blue Creek in the dark. I was afraid of missing an exit point of the trail leaving the wash. So I waited around until the sky barely started to lighten. I turned on my headlamp and began down the creek bed. I could have left sooner. The moon itself provided enough light to cast a big shadow. As I mentioned I had overestimated how far I was from Homer Wilson. I was to the ranch house and back to my car within 20 minutes of leaving my campsite.

It was a wonderful trip that did not disappoint in anyway. I will definitely be back to Big Bend soon. I have been bitten by the bug.




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Online mule ears

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Re: February 2&3 OML from Homer Wilson - Counter Clockwise
« Reply #3 on: February 06, 2018, 03:31:35 PM »
Great job wrangler88!  Now you have the drill down and the bug has bitten, you now have a lifetime of exploring to do and way more space to check out than GUMO.  You will get over the nervousness of finding water but it is something to work at and perfect.  That was a super light pack, base weight around 7 pounds?

Your total loop was right at 26 miles and you hit it just right.
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Offline wrangler88

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Re: February 2&3 OML from Homer Wilson - Counter Clockwise
« Reply #4 on: February 06, 2018, 08:09:38 PM »
Great job wrangler88!  Now you have the drill down and the bug has bitten, you now have a lifetime of exploring to do and way more space to check out than GUMO.  You will get over the nervousness of finding water but it is something to work at and perfect.  That was a super light pack, base weight around 7 pounds?

Your total loop was right at 26 miles and you hit it just right.

I didn't add up or weigh everything in my pack but I'd guess about 8lb base weight. I definitely have a better idea of what to expect when looking for water.

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: February 2&3 OML from Homer Wilson - Counter Clockwise
« Reply #5 on: February 06, 2018, 10:51:46 PM »
Great trip, Wrangler88. I figured you'd get bit and you did. And I agree, the Red Rocks section of Blue Creek Canyon does sort of remind of southern Utah.  Hope you made it back home before the Super Bowl started: it was a doozy.
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline Jalco

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Re: February 2&3 OML from Homer Wilson - Counter Clockwise
« Reply #6 on: February 07, 2018, 07:31:09 AM »
Great report.  Nice pics!

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Offline wrangler88

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Re: February 2&3 OML from Homer Wilson - Counter Clockwise
« Reply #7 on: February 07, 2018, 06:26:44 PM »
Great trip, Wrangler88. I figured you'd get bit and you did. And I agree, the Red Rocks section of Blue Creek Canyon does sort of remind of southern Utah.  Hope you made it back home before the Super Bowl started: it was a doozy.

I did. In plenty of time. I didn't have to rush so much. I made it out to the Mule Ears overlook before the sun made it all the way up. And checked out Sam Nail Ranch. I had enough time I should have went on another short hike. Oh well. There is always next time.

The Blue Creek red rocks were totally unexpected to me. At least how wonderful they were. It was definitely a highlight for me.

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Offline vgeh

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Re: February 2&3 OML from Homer Wilson - Counter Clockwise
« Reply #8 on: February 07, 2018, 10:47:58 PM »
Any specific reason to start OML from HW?

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Offline wrangler88

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Re: February 2&3 OML from Homer Wilson - Counter Clockwise
« Reply #9 on: February 08, 2018, 07:03:02 AM »
Any specific reason to start OML from HW?

I was on a time crunch. Starting from Homer Wilson allowed me to cut out the mileage going in and out of The Basin. I'm actually really glad hos things turned out. It allowed me to get my biggest climb both days out of the way right off the bat. Going up Juniper Canyon really wasn't too bad at all.

If I had it to do again, knowing what I know now, I'd set my trip up the same way. I really enjoyed it.

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Offline nuggetf5

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Re: February 2&3 OML from Homer Wilson - Counter Clockwise
« Reply #10 on: February 08, 2018, 08:10:22 AM »
Any specific reason to start OML from HW?

I was on a time crunch. Starting from Homer Wilson allowed me to cut out the mileage going in and out of The Basin. I'm actually really glad hos things turned out. It allowed me to get my biggest climb both days out of the way right off the bat. Going up Juniper Canyon really wasn't too bad at all.

If I had it to do again, knowing what I know now, I'd set my trip up the same way. I really enjoyed it.

I applaud this route, did it back in late October. I've done both directions. Don't pretend to speak for others but quite a few share the same that starting and ending in the Basin isn't preferred. I'm personally not that enamored with the Basin and the hike feels (to me) a lot wilder and more remote this way. Best of all, no need to cache water in my mind. Start well hydrated, fuel up at Fresno Creek. Most probably camp near the JC/Dodson intersection. I went on up JC about 2+ miles or so and found a campsite about 15 minutes from Upper Juniper Springs. From there all the way back to Homer Wilson there's sufficient water in Boot Canyon, etc. and close enough to the South Rim to complete the loop.

I thank the folks here that recommended this route.

Enjoyed the report and the great pictures!
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Offline wrangler88

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Re: February 2&3 OML from Homer Wilson - Counter Clockwise
« Reply #11 on: February 08, 2018, 04:17:09 PM »
While the South Rim was great, all of the people reminded me that I wasn't all that far away from society. The Dodson and Blue Creek made the trip seem more wild for sure. I enjoy car camping. Even at Big campgrounds like the basin. But when I backpack, I want to be far away from that. Leaving from Homer Wilson did help to keep it more wild.
I've talked to my wife about the same trip next winter. I'd set us up to leave from Homer Wilson again. It was a great trip.

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Offline wrangler88

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Re: February 2&3 OML from Homer Wilson - Counter Clockwise
« Reply #12 on: February 08, 2018, 04:18:43 PM »


Here is the video to part 1 of my OML trip. Day 1, hiking across the Dodson and looking for water. Then finding rain and taking in the views of the desert.

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Offline congahead

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Re: February 2&3 OML from Homer Wilson - Counter Clockwise
« Reply #13 on: February 08, 2018, 08:08:14 PM »


Here is the video to part 1 of my OML trip. Day 1, hiking across the Dodson and looking for water. Then finding rain and taking in the views of the desert.
Really enjoyed this report; thanks for sharing. If I ever do the OML again, I think I would do this route instead of the traditional one.


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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: February 2&3 OML from Homer Wilson - Counter Clockwise
« Reply #14 on: February 08, 2018, 09:30:09 PM »
Great video, Wrangler. Just as I hoped, it's fascinating to see the OML through the eye of your camera. And, yep, Fresno is tricky to find for a first-timer if you're approaching from the west. The only thing I really mind about the counter-clockwise route is losing that big reveal when you finally top the last high rise before Carousel Mountain. That's always a breath-taking moment for me. Other than that, I think the counter-clockwise route has everything going for it.

I'd love to hear more about the Gatewood Cape. Did you use both your trekking poles to support it, or just one? How quickly did it go up? Did it offer plenty of room inside, or did it feel cramped while waiting out the rain? Was it completely waterproof?

And lastly, any chance you could tell us a little about that tattoo on your right forearm? Looks interesting.
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

 


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