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First of three way-too-late trip reports - Mesa de Anguila, February 2017

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Offline congahead

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I’ve been a member of BBC for about six years now but have never been an active poster, although I hike and backpack frequently in both BIBE and BBRSP. My only previous trip report was recapping a three-year old trip – my first backpacking trip.

I’ve come to realize that I am a taker but not a giver on BBC – I love reading others’ trip reports but never post my own. Perhaps that’s because my treks aren’t as epic as those of Mule Ears, House Made of Dawn, and others here – mine are usually one to three nights, with some day hikes thrown in. Nonetheless, I enjoy reading about others’ short backpacks and day hikes, so I figured someone might enjoy reading about mine.

Several posters have said that it’s never too late to post a good trip report. I don’t know that mine qualify as “good;” nonetheless, here is my first one – a mere one year old. Older ones will be on their way when I can find the time to repurpose them from Facebook photo albums, emails to family and friends, etc., into a BBC trip report.

So, here goes. This one was a bit of a fail, like my first one, but I promise that the others get better! I really am pretty competent!

February 2017 - Mesa de Anguila

In December 2014, my wife, two sons and I backpacked Mesa de Anguila, and the trip was cut short for a variety of reasons. I’ve always felt like I had unfinished business there, so in February 2017 my oldest son and I returned for a planned three-day/two-night trip. Our goal was to explore the MdA more completely and make it to “The Point.” That would require a ~28-mile out-and-back, about half of it off-trail over very unforgiving terrain.

Because of the uncertainty of finding water, we carried all our water, starting out with 10 liters – 22 pounds – each. So with ~3 lbs. of food and a base weight of ~11 lbs., I was carrying around 35 – 40 pounds. Not exactly lightweight, especially for my knees on this terrain. It turns out we did find a small amount of water tucked away near Tinaja Blanca and one other place. Not a lot, but it would have been enough to survive on.

This was my third February in four years to trek in BIBE, and each time the temperature has far exceeded seasonal averages. The average maximum temperature in February is 67; it was around 80 on our trip, although it felt much hotter. No clouds, intense sun, and not a lick of shade to be found anywhere. To top it off, I usually wear long pants and a long-sleeve shirt to protect myself from the sun and the desert flora. The downside is that I overheat rapidly.

I had recently retired my Brooks Cascadia trail runners after 3+ years. A few weeks before this trek, I shopped for replacements, looking for something with a thicker sole to reduce the trauma from hiking off-trail in BIBE – namely, bruising from rocks and penetration of cactus spikes all the way through to my foot. During my visit to REI I was enticed by a pair of Hoka One One Challenger ATR3s. They felt great and had a thicker sole. I broke them in over the next few weeks with training walks around the neighborhood (on smooth sidewalks) and the incline treadmill at home. It seemed I had made a good choice. Boy, would I turn out to be wrong.

One hour into the hike, I was so overheated I changed from long-sleeve shirt and long pants to shorts and t-shirts, slathering on the sunscreen. I was already developing a hot spot on one foot, so I covered it with Leukotape. Thirty minutes later I developed a hot spot on the same spot on the other foot, so I stopped and put Leukotape on it. At ~14:00 it was so hot we decided to take a break in a dry wash with a high enough bank and just enough shrubs to provide a smidgen of shade. We hung out there for two hours rehydrating and waiting for it to get cooler. I re-examined my feet to discover the hot spots were now blisters. I bandaged them up as best I could.

We resumed our hike at about 16:00 and 90 minutes later got to our predetermined point to begin going off-trail en route to our destination. Foolishly, I was too lazy and too hot to switch back to long pants, choosing instead to painstakingly navigate my way in shorts through some really rough and tedious terrain. I learned that what looks flat on the topo may in fact be an endless series of 39-foot, 11-inch rolling hills covered with all manner of plants with nicknames like “shin dagger” and “horse crippler.” After a half-mile and 30 minutes, I’d had enough for the day. We found a great, flat campsite in a rocky dry wash. I arrived with blood running down both shins from multiple cuts. I checked my feet; the blisters had now become large blisters. I lanced them both– one leaked blood instead of clear fluid – and doctored them up again.

We’d covered only eight miles that day.

After dinner and several hours staring at a spectacular, new moon night sky, I slept like I normally do while camping – poorly. The next morning, we hung around camp for a while taking pictures of the spectacular view into Mexico. As we broke camp, we inventoried our water. We had each consumed six liters. That’s 60 percent of our three-day ration on day one. I’m not a mathematician, but I knew that was not sustainable. To top it off, I was also rapidly consuming my foot care supplies at an unsustainable rate.

We still had about six miles to go – all off-trail – to our destination at the scenic lookout. We could not depend on finding any water. My feet were killing me, and by 09:00, it was brutally hot. We considered leaving most of our stuff at camp to lighten our load to attempt a 12-mile round-trip day hike and come back to our camp for another night, but that wouldn’t have addressed any of our issues.

So we regrettably made the wise choice to admit defeat at the hands of MdA yet again. We spent most of the day retracing our 8+ mile route to the trailhead, averaging 40-minute miles.

No matter how uncomfortable I’ve ever been while backpacking, I always think, “It’s better than being in the office.” On this trip, I actually considered that I might prefer the office over the discomfort I was feeling. We spent most of our trip just surviving, although we did see some spectacular views, both day and night. We were also treated to a rare sighting of Big Bend native bighorn sheep.

Despite the experience, the funny thing is that a few days later I was ready to go back when it’s cooler, I’m better prepared, and I have different shoes. Other than footwear selection, I don’t think I made any amateurish mistakes. Sometimes conditions just aren’t right.

I am back to my trusty Cascadias for nice, well-maintained trails, though I am considering upgrading to something sturdier for traveling off-trail or on the rough trails of the Bend.

And, I still want to make it to The Point.
« Last Edit: February 06, 2018, 04:32:14 PM by congahead »
"The animals here will generally try to avoid you, but the plants will hurt you every chance they get."

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Offline Reece

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Re: First of several way-too-late trip reports
« Reply #1 on: February 05, 2018, 03:20:34 PM »
Thanks Conga, that was a fun read. I like your humor! I could almost feel those blisters. I understand the old gnawing “unfinished business” thing.


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Offline mule ears

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Re: First of several way-too-late trip reports
« Reply #2 on: February 05, 2018, 03:49:54 PM »
Great and never too late report.  You must have been up on the MDA when we were suffering in the heat over on the eastern side of the park.  Good call to abort the mission until a better time.  Sorry about the feet, good to know about the Hoka Ones, I have looked at those in the past.
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: First of several way-too-late trip reports
« Reply #3 on: February 05, 2018, 11:55:38 PM »

And, I still want to make it to The Point.

And you probably will! Because you knew when to quit, you're still here to try again. As someone recently said to me, "the best hike is the one you return from." I've hiked many a trip with my son, and my number one priority is always getting him home. Looking forward to many more reports from you, Congahead. Thanks.
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline congahead

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Re: First of three way-too-late trip reports - Mesa de Anguila, February 2017
« Reply #4 on: February 06, 2018, 05:27:31 PM »

And, I still want to make it to The Point.

And you probably will! Because you knew when to quit, you're still here to try again. As someone recently said to me, "the best hike is the one you return from." I've hiked many a trip with my son, and my number one priority is always getting him home. Looking forward to many more reports from you, Congahead. Thanks.
Thanks, HMoD. These days, we have role reversal - my 24-year-old son’s priority is getting his 53-year-old father home!


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"The animals here will generally try to avoid you, but the plants will hurt you every chance they get."

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Offline Robert

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Re: First of three way-too-late trip reports - Mesa de Anguila, February 2017
« Reply #5 on: February 06, 2018, 06:46:34 PM »
Nice report.  Man, I would not want to be out on the Mesa in the heat. Glad to see another leukotape convert. I start my hikes with my feet already taped up and blisters have been very rare unless I miss a spot. 

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Offline alan in shreveport

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Re: First of three way-too-late trip reports - Mesa de Anguila, February 2017
« Reply #6 on: February 06, 2018, 09:49:44 PM »
check out Lowa boots

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: First of three way-too-late trip reports - Mesa de Anguila, February 2017
« Reply #7 on: February 06, 2018, 10:54:24 PM »

And, I still want to make it to The Point.

And you probably will! Because you knew when to quit, you're still here to try again. As someone recently said to me, "the best hike is the one you return from." I've hiked many a trip with my son, and my number one priority is always getting him home. Looking forward to many more reports from you, Congahead. Thanks.
Thanks, HMoD. These days, we have role reversal - my 24-year-old son’s priority is getting his 53-year-old father home!


Haha! As it should be, my friend. As it should be.

"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline congahead

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Re: First of three way-too-late trip reports - Mesa de Anguila, February 2017
« Reply #8 on: February 07, 2018, 12:09:26 PM »
Nice report.  Man, I would not want to be out on the Mesa in the heat. Glad to see another leukotape convert. I start my hikes with my feet already taped up and blisters have been very rare unless I miss a spot.
Yes, I’m a big fan of leukotape. I always put it on known hot spots before a trip, and I’ve never had any problems. The problem with this trip is I developed blisters where I had never had them before, and I waited too late to put the tape on.


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"The animals here will generally try to avoid you, but the plants will hurt you every chance they get."

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Offline mbender

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Re: First of three way-too-late trip reports - Mesa de Anguila, February 2017
« Reply #9 on: February 07, 2018, 07:04:56 PM »
Boots, boots, boots!  :eusa_naughty:

Hey, it's a year old to you... but it's still new to the rest of us!

 


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