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First time BiBe- Modified OML 1/1/15-1/4/15

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Offline Kendrick

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First time BiBe- Modified OML 1/1/15-1/4/15
« on: January 11, 2015, 09:48:36 PM »
Disclaimer: My wife and I have done many, many day hikes together but this was the first time for backpacking for either of us. This was also our first time to BIBE. I will be quick to admit that our mistakes were plenty, my hubris was at times rather unsafe, and we were blessed to come out unscathed. Please be wiser than myself and do not attempt to repeat our actions especially if you lack proper experience. In addition, we spared some amenities that I own in the interest of saving pack weight due to the large amount of water we were carrying. Big mistake. If you own a Jetboil or equivalent, donít be stupid in an attempt to cut down pack weight. TAKE IT WITH YOU. We really, really missed warm drinks and food during the colder stretches of our adventure. That being said, we enjoyed a wonderful adventure in a beautiful park that did not disappoint under some, at times, challenging circumstances.

Drive 12/31

Left Tulsa area around 200. Was hoping to make it to the park by 1400 with plenty of time to get permit, campground, cache water, etc. The weather had other plans. It snowed almost the entire way out of Oklahoma. Then just outside of Wichita Falls we ran into the great sheet of ice that had become Western Texas. Driving speeds were reduced to ~30-50 mph for large sections. We finally rolled into the park at 2000 and thanked God we had made it safely. Naturally everything was closed and given the date we werenít surprised to find all campgrounds taken. We decided to hold off on caching the water till the next morning b/c the drive and slept in the car in the Basin (a fact that seemed to irk the ranger the next morning).

Day 1  1/1/15

Woke up around 530 and after a bit of cleaning up we headed off to Homer Wilson to cache our water. The sky was just starting to lighten as we were driving back to the Basin and we got a few decent pics of what Iím guessing is a rare sight in BIBE.


Office opened at 830 and I spent a decent amount of time explaining our itinerary to the very friendly but concerned park ranger. In her words ďThis weather is outrageous for the park. We are looking at extreme colds and precipitation. The Basin weather is not a good reflection of what you will experience along the Dodson. You are also attempting a trail that has a 50% failure rate. People die on this trail and I have Marines each year that quit the OML.Ē As a parting thought she mentioned ďJust remember, no one hikes the OML to enjoy it. They hike to achieve it.Ē Iíll admit that her words were pretty intimidating but I was determined and I had come well-prepared (or so I thought) so she consented and hour later we were on the trail. Iím also guessing that failure rate is more attributed to summer attempts at the loop when the heat is brutal.

To those who keep up on such issues, the ranger made no mention of the need for bear canisters but did iterate the need for extreme care in the storage of food or scented items in the backcountry. Also, no rangers that we saw on the trail asked about bear canisters. Of the OML hikers we crossed paths with (4 groups the 1st day and 2 groups the 4th) only one had a canister. Just food for thought.

Our plan of attack for our modified OML: Basin -> Laguna Meadows -> Colima -> Boot Spring -> Juniper Canyon -> Dodson -> Blue Creek -> tail end of Laguna Meadows -> South and Northern Rim trails -> Boot Spring ->  Emory -> Pinnacles -> Basin. 3 nights and 3.5 days with leaving by noon on the last.

We started up Laguna Meadows pretty close to 1000. The sky was overcast but the weather was pretty nice in the 40s and 50s. After some early issues with her pack, Leighann and I really started to enjoy the trail. It is absolutely beautiful! The vegetation in the Basin appeared to have been spared the freeze and frost we had just seen earlier that morning on our Homer Wilson run, some of the trees were still changing color, the occasional moments of sunlight made the forest glow, and we saw deer several times that came within 10 feet of us.

Made it to the top and lunched by the Blue Creek Fire sign around noon. Enjoyed a really nice walk across the Colima and got started on the Juniper trail close to 1330. Somehow I had anticipated that the vegetation wouldnít be near as dense up in the mountains and that I would have essentially a near 360 view of the Basin. It was a pleasant and welcome surprise to see so much greenery in the midst of the surrounding desert. After a short, albeit tough, initial climb we enjoyed the gentle decline along the trail and the excellent views of the next dayís desert hike. As I mentioned in the earlier post, there was ample water at Upper Juniper but we hadnít packed any purification devices and we had adhered to the 1 gal/person/day suggestion and had plenty. The trail had a few spots where it looked like it was partially washed out. Saw a few down trees along the switchbacks but no serious obstacles along the trail. I did notice that the trail was much rockier than expected. The loose rocks made me very happy that my wife had her ankle supporting hiking shoes and me a little envious that I had only worn trail runners. I was also very pleased I had brought a hiking pole. I had never used one on previous hikes but thought the support might help.

We made in to the flatter section of the Juniper Canyon trail close to 1615 and put on the afterburners to really try to make it to the Dodson so we could search for a campsite before dark and beat the incoming storm. We passed many nice campsites along this stretch that were right off the trail. However, for some reason, I had it stuck in my brain that campsites were required to be 100 yards from the trail, creek beds, or historical landmarks. Still not sure where I got the part about needing to be 100 yards from the trail. Needless to say, as we hiked along I kept looking for a space that I estimated to be 100 yards off the trail, relatively flat, and large enough to support our 2 man tent.

At 1715 we still hadnít reached the Dodson (I swear a pedometer would vindicate my belief that the trail is longer than the stated 6.2 miles). The storm was practically upon us and the wind had really kicked up. I saw clearings available on what looked to be the side of canyon walls and set off across the scrub. With a degree of challenge we set up our tent on very rocky soil at about a 30 degree pitch. The incline would prove memorable. At around 6 the sleet rolled in, shortly followed by lightning and high winds. As we lay there trying not to slide off our sleeping pads I kept remembering all the warning signs we had seen about desert lightning and fatalities and how we were pretty exposed with our nice aluminum-framed/lightning rod tent. Itís pretty funny in hindsight but I was rather worried at the time.

After the storm passed around 2100 I went off in the dark to find a place to stash our food bag. I had been warned that I would be hard-pressed to find a tree large enough to hang the bag from when in the Dodson area. That proved quite true. I eventually gave up and stacked a number of very large rocks on it a good distance from camp. It was untouched in the morning.

Day 2  1/2/15
After an uncomfortable nightís sleep with the perpetual sensation of the sleeping bags sliding off their respective pads (this proved to be the funniest memory of the trip) I woke up early to check on the status of our food bag and hopefully hit the trail early. The forecast when we got our permit stated that freezing temps and rain were expected all day. A lovely way to enjoy the Dodson for sure.

The pictures failed to capture it but the previous nightís precipitation turned into a solid sheet of ice on our tent. All that matters is that we stayed dry and warm.

Instead of rain, there was a super thick fog that pretty much obscured sight beyond 50 feet. I kept expecting the sun to come out eventually and lift it but it never did. With the exception of about 30 min of touch-and-go sunlight around just before noon, it stayed overcast all day. My feelings on the matter were mixed. I was thankful to not have the rain but disappointed I couldnít see any of the surrounding landscapes (another reason for me to come back). I was also a tad worried because the ranger had made out that the Dodson was near impossible to navigate without a topo, compass, and the skills to use them. She point blank told me that the trail was frequently obliterated by cattle that cross the border and that I would need to use landmarks to make sure we didnít get lost. Not great news to the man who canít see farther than 50 feet from the trail.


The rangerís warning proved to be too harsh though. The trail was not difficult to follow. at. all. Not because Iím some kind of awesome trail finder but rather itís due to all of these little rock cairns that are all over the trail. This is where I pay my little homage to all those who have gone before me. Thank you, thank you. You made all of the potentially confusing parts of the trail no big deal. Another big thank you because it saved my butt while in super thick fog.

The Dodson trail lived up to everything that I had heard going in. Thick, overgrown (pants are a must), very very up and down. But itís also beautiful. The portion we could see through the fog was awesome. All the plants were covered in a very thin layer of ice that melted off throughout the morning. I was a little disappointed I saw very little wildlife along the trail. Other than a few birds, we saw no lizards, rattlesnakes, tarantulas, rodents, or javelinas. Probably a weather issue and a visibility issue.

The fog did make it essentially impossible to know how much ground we had covered. It turned out that were only about a half mile short of the Dodson when we had turned in the previous night. But we felt like we had good progress throughout the morning and shouldnít have any trouble finishing the Dodson before the day was over. That was before the weather turned sour.

After lunch around noon a pretty heavy rain started up. Heavy enough to make it through my gore-tex and my wifeís rain suit. I think it was trying to make up for having not rained all morning. We hiked at a slower pace in the rain for several hours but around 1400 the temperature dropped and the winds picked up. The rain seemed to be coming down darn near horizontal from the way I was getting blasted in the face. With no end to the weather in sight and long-since numb fingers and toes we decided to look for a campsite. We found one right along the trail. Still laboring under the belief that park rules forbid us staying at this campsite I prepared a spiel about us just waiting out the rain should some ranger find and confront us. It proved to be moot. It took Leighann a very long time to get warm and the temperatures dropped quite low that night. I worried about hypothermia for her but all ended well. At around 10 the rain cleared out, I went and buried the food bag in similar fashion to the previous night, and set all of the dayís wet clothing over various limbs of cacti to dry. The clouds started to clear out during this time and the full moon came out in its glory. I was hoping to see the views of the night sky that BIBE is famous for but since the moon was full I was limited to just the brightest ones. Maybe next time.

Not reaching Homer Wilson that night didnít prove to be an issue. I donít think it even warmed into the 40ís while we were on the Dodson thus our water consumption wasnít as heavy as predicted. We had plenty left to get us to the cache the next day.

As a side note, trash bags make excellent pack covers for rain. All of our clothing and gear in the bags stayed dry.

Day 3  1/3/15

My brilliant idea for drying out the gear yield solid ice socks, gloves, and rain gear that were frozen to their respective cacti. We collected our gear with care and set out early, eager to get back on schedule and unsure how far we had left to reach Homer Wilson. With the rain also went the fog. Now we had incredible views of surrounding canyons to enjoy along with the sunrise on our hike to Homer Wilson. I estimate that we ended up camping about 2 miles short of the ranch. We covered that distance in no time and got our water. Due to the amount we had left over from our cool-weather hiking plus the amount we cached we ended up leaving 2 gallons for hikers in need.

Started the Blue Creek trail around 930. The sun was out, temp climbed probably close to the low 50s, and we were making decent speed. The not-so-great sleep thus far on the trip was beginning to take its toll but we were in good spirits when we started our slow climb out of the desert. Once again there were lovely views all over in Red Rock Canyon. The frequent rock cairns were helpful at a few questionable points again. In my humble opinion the cairns doing the loop clockwise look a little nicer and numerous compared to counter-clock. Totally doable either way but just an observation.

After an early lunch I hiked up to a cave. I believe it is the same one that MetalMan referred to in his OML trip report from a few years back. The cave was cool but the climb is steep on very loose rock. All I know is we expended a lot of energy trying to get up there. Probably more than we had to spare. We then started the serious climb portion of the trail. It was a number of issues but the climb really got to Leighann. Between still getting over some URI from the holidays, exhaustion, heavier packs due to water resupply, her asthma, and the elevation, the climb out was rough. To make matters worse she was starting to come down with a fresh cold. But she was a trooper and just took it slow and steady with frequent rests.

Part of our plans were to do the Southeast and Northeast Rim trails that day but we made it up the canyon quite a bit later than expected. We decided to skip the Rim for the day and do that instead of Emory on our hike out. We had booked SW2 as our site for the night and made it there close to 1730. The site as a whole is very large and very secluded as the park description reads. I donít think the space for the tent was super large. The earth is rocky enough that finding a stake hold can be challenging at times (not as bad as the first night). It was nice to have a bear box in camp. I heard a lot of activity in the forest around us that night and was glad we had our food secured. The views from the camp are disappointing in comparison with whatís nearby for SW3 and 4. We wanted seclusion and got it, but next time Iíll probably opt for SW4 since it is SOOOO close to the South Rim.

The wind really kicked up that night. Had to check the lines several times that night because the fly was moving more than I had ever seen. Everything was in place, it was just really harsh winds. And the temperature dropped. I have no idea how low it got because the weather monitoring stations arenít up in the mountains but I do know that Leighannís 20 degree bag + silk liner + 4 layers of clothes wasnít enough to keep her from shivering through the night. I didnít fare any better in my 40 degree bag + liner. The wind chill was brutal. We apparently werenít the only ones to get really caught off guard by the cold. I can think of at least 5 groups of hikers we saw the next day who all commented to varying degrees on the bitter cold overnight up in the mountains.

Day 4  1/4/15

We got up around 430 and cleaned up camp in the dark. We got out early enough to hike the Rim trails and be there for sunrise. Words donít do justice to what one feels when they look out from the South Rim. I snapped a ton of pictures, some of which didnít take and none of which managed to capture the feeling of that spot. Even though we needed to be headed out I just couldnít be pulled away. The sense of awe is magical in that spot and it makes a person feel extremely small.



 
Eventually we left and enjoyed the beauty that is along the Boot Canyon trail. As was reported earlier, water was in abundance along this section but also quite frozen at points.


We made it to the Pinnacles by 1000. I was very tempted to make a solo stab at Emory but the reality was we both needed to get home and get rested for a week of work. We made good time down the trail. I didnít find this section of our adventure overly scenic so I didnít take many shots. I slipped on some rocks on the trail in Boulder Meadow not far from our car and sprained my LCL. Nothing too serious. Limped the rest of the way to the car and was on the road out by 1130 and home in about 12.5 hours. 41 miles in 3.5 days. More with our excursions off trail in spots.

Final thoughts: Weíll be back! We had an incredible time along with many great and humorous memories. The photos just donít do justice to beauty or majesty of the park. Many thanks to all who have posted on the board both previously to give good info and trail reports and also to those who have taken the time to reply to our suggested itinerary and other questions. We miss the park already.
« Last Edit: January 17, 2015, 03:08:36 PM by RichardM »

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Offline Kendrick

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Re: First time BiBe- Modified OML 1/1/15-1/4/15
« Reply #1 on: January 11, 2015, 09:50:59 PM »
Hmmm none of my photos went through. I had about 15-20 to add. Any suggestions? When I clicked the add photo icon I just got an [img] put in the paragraph and nothing else.

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Offline elhombre

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Re: First time BiBe- Modified OML 1/1/15-1/4/15
« Reply #2 on: January 11, 2015, 11:07:33 PM »
Congratulations!  Glad you had a great time and survived the weather.  It was a TOUGH week to be in the desert for sure.  Much less backpacking.

FYI:  No one camps 100 feet from the trails.  All those spots you past were the campspots. Selective enforcement of rules.  You signed your permit and that is one of the rules in that list on the back.

There are no Cows crossing the Dodson trail and making it hard to follow.  Ranger must had dremt it.  It actually is a pretty funny thing to say.

Leaving your food far away from you is the opposite of what they want you to do.  You must have it with you.  Only hang it up away from camp WITH a bear container.   There is not one report of a bear coming into someone's camp when it is occupied the past 14 years we have been going there.  Deer, armadillo, fox and mice, yes.

 Don't post any pictures of your food storage method or you are liable to get a ticket in the mail.

Everyone I hike with does the Dodson to enjoy it.  But I can understand why the ranger said people do it to achieve it.  This is evident by asking many backpackers if the springs were running.  The last time I was out there, none of them but one group knew where the springs were (including Fresno, the trail crosses over it), didn't see the upper Juniper camp sign, and some didn't stop to see the Dodson house ruins.  They were just walking and staring at the trail.

Glad you persevered and weren't dissuaded by the ranger's retoric.  Hope to see some of the ice pictures!
« Last Edit: January 11, 2015, 11:14:32 PM by elhombre »
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 Buck

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Re: First time BiBe- Modified OML 1/1/15-1/4/15
« Reply #3 on: January 12, 2015, 07:16:18 AM »
You guys win some kind of award.  :notworthy:
"Hey, how 'bout a Fandango..?"

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Offline RichardM

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Re: First time BiBe- Modified OML 1/1/15-1/4/15
« Reply #4 on: January 12, 2015, 07:39:35 AM »
Hmmm none of my photos went through. I had about 15-20 to add. Any suggestions? When I clicked the add photo icon I just got an [img] put in the paragraph and nothing else.
Check out http://www.bigbendchat.com/portal/forum/photography-gear-and-tips/how-to-post-pics-on-big-bend-chat!/

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Offline dkerr24

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Re: First time BiBe- Modified OML 1/1/15-1/4/15
« Reply #5 on: January 12, 2015, 07:49:24 AM »
The best way I've found to post photos to this site is to first upload them to photobucket and then copy the link from Photobucket to your post here.   This method also does not clog up Big Bend Chat servers with photos.

Great trip report, sorry to hear you had pretty lousy weather for your hike.  I lucked out and had gorgeous weather when I hiked the OML in Feb '09.

That ranger sure was full of a lot of doom & gloom.  Most of them just ask a few questions to get a feel for your experience, then ease off on the rhetoric.  The ranger that issued my permit joked and said 'If you don't turn in your permit in 3 days, we'll have to come looking for you at the bar in Terlingua!'.  :)

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Offline alan in shreveport

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Re: First time BiBe- Modified OML 1/1/15-1/4/15
« Reply #6 on: January 12, 2015, 08:01:02 AM »
What a trip (great report), glad you both made it relatively in tact. You need to visit the park again during the fall or spring when the weather is generally more cooperative. I'm looking forward to your pictures.

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Offline steelfrog

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Re: First time BiBe- Modified OML 1/1/15-1/4/15
« Reply #7 on: January 12, 2015, 08:40:54 AM »
Great job!  Quite an epic for your first overnight.

On the sleeping pads, I don't blow them up all the way--don't slip off that way.  And I usual use 2--on the bottom a closed cell foam, on top of that a blow up.  They are very light, just strap them to outside of your pack.

And Sea to Summit has a great very comfy blow up pillow out that's new.  Best one out there IMO

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Offline 01ACRViper

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Re: First time BiBe- Modified OML 1/1/15-1/4/15
« Reply #8 on: January 12, 2015, 10:39:15 AM »
it's amazing what some of the volunteers will make up when telling people about trails in the park

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Offline tusker

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Re: First time BiBe- Modified OML 1/1/15-1/4/15
« Reply #9 on: January 12, 2015, 11:04:52 AM »
A great tale well told.  Nicely written with honesty and good will.  You obviously did not let the rough parts spoil your appreciation for the beauty and wonder of it all.

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Offline mule ears

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Re: First time BiBe- Modified OML 1/1/15-1/4/15
« Reply #10 on: January 12, 2015, 04:07:17 PM »
Kendrick well done and it was a tough week to be out on the trail!

You will get the pictures figured out but I agree with dkerr24 that the best way is to put them some where on the web and then paste the URL into the post using the image button.  Using the BBC server is slow and cumbersome.

That ranger or volunteer is definitely not one of the smart/good ones with those answers and information.  Definitely no cattle obliterating the trail, that is just outrageous along with the hiking the OML to suffer statement.   :eusa_doh:

You will be back and with better weather and a stove, I agree with the enjoyment of hot meals.

By the way, more technically 38 miles not 41, at least from the Trails Illustrated mileages.  I am sure it felt like 50 at times!
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
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Offline badknees

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Re: First time BiBe- Modified OML 1/1/15-1/4/15
« Reply #11 on: January 12, 2015, 06:41:24 PM »
Great report and it sounds like you got to see a different and uncommon view of the desert. Thanks for the post. Get those pictures up!

PS. "She point blank told me that the trail was frequently obliterated by cattle that cross the border and that I would need to use landmarks to make sure we didnít get lost"  :eusa_naughty: :willynilly: :vomit:

That is the first time I've ever heard that tale!

You'll get reliable info here, but from a volunteer or neophyte ranger......not so much!
Not all those who wander are lost.
Ė J.R.R. Tolkien

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Offline Jalco

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Re: First time BiBe- Modified OML 1/1/15-1/4/15
« Reply #12 on: January 13, 2015, 07:57:07 AM »
Thanks for the trip report!  Very well written and it just inspires me to get out there again.  Soon!  :great:

I'm still laughing about the cattle obliterating the trail.  Those are some very determined cattle to make it that far north

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Offline Reece

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Re: First time BiBe- Modified OML 1/1/15-1/4/15
« Reply #13 on: January 13, 2015, 09:41:15 AM »
Maybe thats's the same ranger that told me there were no tinajas in Boot Canyon. I got the feeling she didn't really want me hiking in the park.

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Offline Homer Wilson

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Re: First time BiBe- Modified OML 1/1/15-1/4/15
« Reply #14 on: January 13, 2015, 10:33:13 AM »
Maybe thats's the same ranger that told me there were no tinajas in Boot Canyon. I got the feeling she didn't really want me hiking in the park.
I'm pretty sure it's the company line over there to always say there's no water. Although usually they'll follow up with a little hint about where there is water.

Kendrick, well done! I can't even comprehend being cold on the Dodson trail. Sounds brutal. I'm looking forward to seeing more pics!

 


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