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OML Report - 2/27/09 to 3/2/09

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Offline RikD

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OML Report - 2/27/09 to 3/2/09
« on: March 04, 2009, 07:31:10 PM »
I headed straight to my car where icy cold beverages had been stowed in a cooler from three days before.  The ice cold, effervescent, energy drink had to have been one of the most refreshing things to ever hit the back of my throat.  I sat there on the curb next to my car for about five minutes in a daze, and then said: Wow, what a hike - I can't believe we just did that!

So this is the report on my first, but not necessarily the last, Outer Mountain Loop trek.  I went with an experienced hiker (Alexi), who's in shape enough to run a marathon, and had attempted the OML back in November.  He unfortunately had to cut the trip short due to some untimely blisters.  I had also been to the Park a month prior to scout around and get a feel for things.  Together with our combined lessons and many helpful suggestions here on BBC, this turned out to be a successful and safe journey.

Before jumping into the detailed story, here are some facts for the statistically inclined:

1. Total time from beginning to finish: 74 hours
2. Total distance (according to the 60CSx): 33.7 miles
3. Total pack weight (without water or food): 28lbs. (yes I know it's a bit heavy...)
4. Total Water capacity: 7.5 liters
5. Average estimated total weight of pack on the trail: about 31lbs.-40lbs.
6. Daily temps: 30's-40's night, and 40's-70's day
7. Small creek near Dodson house - small water flow (but smelly even after filtering)
8. Fresno Creek - Flowing nicely with cold fresh water
9. Total water consumed - about 16 liters for each of us.

On the next post, will start with the story, and plenty of pictures...

-Rik
« Last Edit: March 09, 2009, 12:48:40 PM by RikD »

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Offline SA Bill

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Re: OML Report - 2/27/09 to 3/2/09
« Reply #1 on: March 04, 2009, 09:01:16 PM »
Glad you survived the trip and looking forward to the report....and pics!?
  Bill
Bill - In San Antonio

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Growing up is optional.

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Offline RikD

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Re: OML Report - 2/27/09 to 3/2/09
« Reply #2 on: March 04, 2009, 11:00:51 PM »
Arrival at the park

The arrival time was very late - as expected.  We rolled into the Chisos Campground site at about 12:30AM.  Neither of us had been to the campground on our previous trips, so we fumbled a bit driving in a couple of circles until we got to campsite #55.  So with whispers and headlamps we setup the tent in about 5 minutes right next to the car, threw down the Thermarest, sleeping bag and tried to get some sleep.  The morning came quickly, and with a total of maybe one or two hours of combined sleeping was completely woke up by people heading to the nearby restroom.  So we got up, and quickly realized that we had setup the tent in the gravel parking area without realizing there was a small path to a cleared area with a smoothed dirt spot for a tent.  Doh!  The people walking by must have been wondering why we put our tent next to the paved road.  Oh well, it did minimize our noise and made for a very quick camp breakdown.  So off to the Chisos Lodge restaurant, where we both opted for the all-you-can-eat buffet.

After the hearty breakfast, we registered and paid for our backcountry permit at the visitor's center near the convenience store.  They wanted us to register the campsites in advance, so we picked Juniper Canyon 1 (JC1) for the first night, Fresno Creek (C04) for the second, and Laguna Meadows 4 (LM4) for the third.  They of course mentioned that we should plan to bring all of our water as it was likely we wouldn't find any out there in this extremely dry spell they have been in for several months.  This turned out not to be true, but we planned for it any way.  Note also that our plan was for a clockwise OML.  In hindsight, it would have been better to go the other direction, as I think it would have been an easier hike - and as others here on the forum have suggested (more on that later).  The only real problem is water.  It would have also been nice to cache water at both Homer Wilson Ranch and the Juniper/Dodson trail intersection. The park volunteer called in the final selections over a two-way radio, we paid the money, and were off.

Our first stop was Homer Wilson Ranch to cache 4 gallons of HEB spring water, some clothing items, food, and other assorted snacks in a marked grocery bag stapled shut.  Then back to the basin, I drink a 20g protein drink, change into the hiking clothes, start the Garmin 60Csx, and we hit the Pinnacles Trail - next stop Toll Mountain 1.
« Last Edit: March 04, 2009, 11:02:49 PM by RikD »

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Offline dkerr24

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Re: OML Report - 2/27/09 to 3/2/09
« Reply #3 on: March 04, 2009, 11:40:08 PM »
I have to agree... that can of Monster energy drink tasted mighty good after 3 days of drinking water that tasted like the inside of my Camelback.

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Offline DJ

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Re: OML Report - 2/27/09 to 3/2/09
« Reply #4 on: March 06, 2009, 09:56:20 PM »
There is water at Juniper Spring which really limits the amount you need to haul from the Basin. You can filter at Juniper Spring and Fresno Creek and pick up a stash at Homer Wilson and never have to haul too much...at least not uphill. The most I carried was departing Juniper Spring downhill toward the DodsonTrail.

DJ
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Offline mule ears

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Re: OML Report - 2/27/09 to 3/2/09
« Reply #5 on: March 07, 2009, 07:19:50 AM »
RikD, in the words of the late Paul Harvey, "and now the rest of the story" ?  :eusa_whistle:
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 RikD

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Re: OML Report - 2/27/09 to 3/2/09
« Reply #6 on: March 08, 2009, 06:49:14 PM »
Day 1 - Pinnacles to Juniper Canyon



So the three day hike begins on the Pinnacles Trail. I am carrying almost 8 liters of water, plenty of food and snacks to bring the weight of my backpack to just over 40 pounds. I had done this before with about a 10 pound pack, and am now feeling the difference that weight can make - especially in water consumption. Combine this with the 2 or 3 hours of sleep, and it added up to a rather slow and tiring climb on this first day of hiking. However, the views and fresh air more than made up for it all. :icon_biggrin:





Things got a bit easier as we passed TM1, and headed for Boot Canyon.



So goal today would be to make it to JC1, a mere 6 miles or so. Part of me felt like pushing on to the zone camping area, but once we made it to the campsite - dropped the pack and called it quits for the day.



Hungry, tired, and thristy, I made some "Natural High" chicken enchiladas and hot tea. The Natural High brand was recommended to me at REI, and have to say it was pretty good - seasoned just right. As we ate our dinner a number of deer (maybe six) started to come in close to the campsite. They would continue to graze on the grass nearby well into the dark. Since it was close to being a new moon, the nights were very dark for our three nights on the trail. This first night as we peered off into the darkness with our LED headlamps, the eyes of the deer reflected back. It was kind of eerie, but cool to see these curious sets of eyes floating in the darkness in all directions around from the camp. They would just stare, then cock their head to the side then to the other. The temperatures started to fall rapidly, and the wind picked up as well. I estimated that it got down to the low 30s. In any case, even though I was pretty tired, my sleep was not as restful as hoped due to the gusts of wind rushing through the trees and hitting the tent.

So after my second night of about 3 hours sleep, get up and prepare coffee and Mary Janes Natural Oatmeal. I am sure this oatmeal was good for my health (as I'm supposed to be watching the diet), but it won't be too soon that I'll feel like eating it again... In any case we finished up, and started breaking down camp by 8:30AM for a 9:00AM departure.

« Last Edit: March 09, 2009, 12:50:24 PM by RikD »

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Offline RikD

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Re: OML Report - 2/27/09 to 3/2/09
« Reply #7 on: March 08, 2009, 06:52:21 PM »
RikD, in the words of the late Paul Harvey, "and now the rest of the story" ?  :eusa_whistle:

I have been meaning to get "aroun-tuit" for the past few days, but keep getting sidetracked...  :eusa_doh:

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Offline RikD

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Re: OML Report - 2/27/09 to 3/2/09
« Reply #8 on: March 08, 2009, 08:34:22 PM »
Day 2 - Juniper Canyon/Dodson to Fresno Creek

After our slow going and tiring first day, this second day would turn out to be the longest and with the most mileage covered. We were on a mission to get to Fresno Creek where we believed there should be some water, even though being convinced by the park officials to not count on it. For some reason, I felt very energized despite the lack of sleep the previous two nights. Part of this was the cool morning air and the steady downward trek of the Juniper Canyon trail. In the first 3 hours of hiking we had covered almost the same distance as the day before.



Note the one trekking pole pointing to where we had just come from.

There is water at Juniper Spring which really limits the amount you need to haul from the Basin. You can filter at Juniper Spring and Fresno Creek and pick up a stash at Homer Wilson and never have to haul too much...at least not uphill. The most I carried was departing Juniper Spring downhill toward the DodsonTrail.


DJ - Interesting point here. After arriving at the Juniper Springs trail turn off, we had actually discussed going down to see if the spring was flowing. From the map, it didn't look like it would take too much time, but we opted to just push on - time working against us if we were to make it to Fresno Creek. We each still had about 4 liters of water. If Juniper Springs (and Fresno) could have been counted on to be flowing before the outset of the entire hike, I would have certainly brought less capacity, as the extra weight made the hike all that more difficult.

The trek through Juniper Canyon was very scenic.



We continued to stop about every hour or so to swap out our socks. Even though this was a hassle, I am sure that it saved my feet in the long run. By the end of the trip I had four blisters that tried to crop up on my feet. But they were all managable due to the this hourly sock swap and generous use of moleskin. It also gave us some time to take in the scenery and get in a few tasty snacks. This one was my favorite! :eusa_drool:



We pushed on towards the Dodson trailhead.









At about 12:30PM, we made it to the Dodson Trailhead. I am sure this is a familiar sight to those plying the OML route...



We took some time here, since there was a nice place to sit and have lunch. I should mention here the food item that was the most enjoyable for the hike. Alexi brought some summer sausage and some very hard, sharp cheese called "Dubliner". This type of cheese can keep for days without refrigeration. I brought some low carb Mission tortillias, and together we made some very delicious backpacker sandwiches out of these three items.



With time working against us, and now we're getting just a bit stressed about the water situation - not knowing if Fresno is really flowing or not. So we pushed on down the Dodson Trail.







With our water now down to a bit less than 2 liters, and the sun starting to go down, we pushed ourselves to Fresno Creek. However, with about 1.5 miles left to go, we stopped to visit the old Dodson ruins.





While scouting the area, I went up to see if the Dodson Spring was flowing, while Alexi had found another small water source near to the old house. When I got back, he was already pumping some of the water with a Katadyn filter. I filled up a one liter Platypus bag, and noted an odd smell to the water. Should note here that both Alexi and I had been in the US Navy, and the smell/taste of the water reminded us of something from that past. Sometimes during flight ops, an aircraft would dump their jet fuel in the sea, and the ship's water intake would take this in. For a day or so the water would have this very light kerosene aftertaste - however deemed drinkable by the engineering staff due to it's miniscule and acceptable PPM ratio. In any case, Alexi drank about a half liter of this water and never experienced any side effects. Being a bit more cautious, I decided to use use this questionalble but cold water to wash down my hot salty forehead - a very welcome refreshment! Here is a picture of where this little water source was at (hiding under the thick vegetation):



After paying homage to Dodson, we moved onto Fresno Creek where we passed a group of 8 or so hikers seemingly from Europe (with British and other accents). It was a quick hello/goodbye, as the sun was setting quick. In about 15 more minutes and a total of 12 miles for the day, we made it to Fresno Creek where there was plenty of water. The campsite was deserted, and we had the place to ourselves. Ahhhh... water heaven!



I poured out the remaining jet fuel tasting water on a nearby thirsty looking plant, and filled my Platypus bottles with this very fresh tasting spring water. Should also note here that I had one 2.5 liter Platypus, and two 1.25 liter Platypus bottles. While filling up my 1.25 liter bottles, I accidently slipped in the silt along the water way dropping the two bottles I was cradling in my left arm. When I went down to pick them up, both of the plastic caps had gotten broken! Doh!! :eusa_doh: This effectively took my capacity down to about 5 liters total - which was a good news/bad news kind of thing. As it turned out, I ended up lightening my load and that made the rest of the hike easier, but I had to take it more easy on drinking so much. Note that we still had 2 gallons apiece waiting at Homer Wilson. Notwithstanding the mishap, we enjoyed the very nicely cleared camping area near to the creek.







The night here at the Fresno Creek camping site was quite impressive. We killed all the lights, leaned back on a big "comfortable" rock and reviewed all of our astronomy lessons acquired decades ago. One very interesting site was that of the thumbnail moon. The lit thumbnail portion was at the bottom of the moon. As it set behind the mountain ridge to the west, the very bottom of the thumbnail became shrouded with the two points sticking up looking like sharp glowing eyes. I wish I could have taken a picture, as it looked just like the head of an angry alien creature glowing and pulsating in the heavens.

I was truely tired this night, having only logged a total of 6 hours sleep at most in the past 48 hours, and hiking about 18 miles with 40lbs on my back. Tonight I would actually get about 6 hours of much needed sleep.
« Last Edit: March 09, 2009, 02:03:35 AM by RikD »

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Offline DJ

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Re: OML Report - 2/27/09 to 3/2/09
« Reply #9 on: March 08, 2009, 08:57:43 PM »
It is very interesting to read about your trip that took place just days after mine. Please , continue........... .....
Tranquility, solitude, serenity...

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Offline walkingman06

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Re: OML Report - 2/27/09 to 3/2/09
« Reply #10 on: March 08, 2009, 09:20:34 PM »
This is an outstanding trip report RikD.  Brings back a lot of memories.  Thanks for taking the time to write it up.  I'm looking forward to the rest.
Moving in silent desperation
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A hypothetical destination
Say, who is this walking man?
James Taylor
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Offline Al

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Re: OML Report - 2/27/09 to 3/2/09
« Reply #11 on: March 08, 2009, 09:29:35 PM »
It is also interesting that the spring at the Dodson cabin had a hydrocarbon taste.  Given your knowledge of such things, sounds like it might be kerosene related.  Have you reported your observation to the park?  Might be worth checking out further, if for no other reason than to caution future hikers.

Al

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Offline RikD

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Re: OML Report - 2/27/09 to 3/2/09
« Reply #12 on: March 08, 2009, 10:06:16 PM »
Day 3 - Fresno to Homer Wilson to Blue Creek Canyon

This third day of the hike, would turn out to be a 10 mile, 11 hour trek, and be the most painful as well. As mentioned before, I was nursing 4 blister wannabes on both feet, an infected ingrown toenail, very sore calves (despite the ibuprofen and stretching), and serious pain between the shoulder blades. The pain in the shoulder blades was very sharp. It was at this point that I upped the dosage of ibuprofen to 600mg about every 4 hours. From Fresno to Homer Wilson I came to realize that my trekking pole technique was causing the problem. Basically I had the poles extended a little too far, so shortend them up a bit and only used pressure for climbing the steeper trail inclines.

In any case, the trail between Fresno Creek and Homer Wilson Ranch was very cool - I think my favorite part of the entire OML trail. For those that have done this part of the trail know that there are three medium level climbs until you finally crest to the valley area where HWR is located. I noticed myself drinking more water, and running out of breath more easily now. The only thing I could attribute the breathlessness to was the extra ibuprofen. Ibuprofen is a blood thinning agent, and I was wondering if my physical hydralics were needing more energy to push up the hills. So I started taking more carbo gel shots. I brought an assorment of different flavors and products: PowerBar, Gu, Accelerade, etc. These gel shots got me over the humps literally...



After the third medium hill climb we got to see the fantastic vistas offered before descending to HWR.





We took an extra long "sock changing" break here, where Alexi turned on his cell phone and got enough bars to make a phone call back home. We then took the winding trail down, down, down to HWR.











We finally got near the bottom, where we crossed several washes. This was the area where Alexi had run into a western diamondback rattlesnake back in November. Today there would be no snake photo ops - just cairns...



In any case we finally made it to HWR. We dropped off the backpacks and I removed a small fanny pack that is part my Alps backpack. We loaded a few items that were to be left at the bear box and our water bottles and proceeded to the cache. I had wondered just how honorable the honor system was for leaving water in the cache, and sure enough it was all there. We filled up all of our bottles, and there was plenty left for a quick dousing of my overheated head. Wow, very refreshing! After loading up we headed back down to Homer's ranch house and relaxed for a while on the shady porch.



For those who have been to HWR, it's interesting to note the sturdyness of this house. The horse corral still stands about 50 yards from the house as well. After reminiscing about Mr. Wilson's life in this area and cooling my feet off on the cold concrete we arranged our packs and loaded up for Blue Creek Canyon.



Putting the packs on at this point seemed quite heavy after loading up all the water. However, the difficult part was yet to come - the never ending upwards trek through the loose gravel. We ended up calling this the "Blue Creek Gravel Crunch". Once again, going back to our US Navy analogies, we likened our current slog to being in a Navy Seal training program - it couldn't be much worse.



Despite the crunchy trail conditions, the scenery in this area was just awesome!







Our goal for this day was supposed to be Laguna Meadows 4 (LM4), but as we slogged up this trail it became quite evident that we simply were not going to make it. After about 2 miles, and passing one suitable zone campsite we started looking for the next one. I was reaching the point of exhaustion - a combination of too much ibuprofen, and a lack of electrolytes. We finally found what would be the second of three zone campsites along the Blue Creek Canyon trail.



After dropping the packs, I started feeling very dizzy, and all of my muscles started to lock up. Alexi suggested that I quickly get some food, and that turned out to be the ticket. I had another Mary Janes Natural selection, this time Black Bean, Corn, and Cheese Chowder. This turned out to be kind of salty and loaded me up with the electrolyes my body was craving. After eating, we quickly setup the tent, and I had my deepest sleep of the hike. I don't know if I was just getting used to sleeping in my new sleeping bag, being extremely tired, or a combination of both. In any case, I just cratered for a solid 8 hours of sleep.
« Last Edit: March 09, 2009, 01:13:38 AM by RikD »

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Offline Al

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Re: OML Report - 2/27/09 to 3/2/09
« Reply #13 on: March 08, 2009, 10:32:59 PM »
Very detailed and excellent.

Al

PS - Like aspirin, Ibuprofen can reduce the ability of blood to clot and seal a cut, among other side effects, but is not reported to reduce the hemoglobin concentration in the blood and its ability to transfer oxygen, unless you really do a number on yourself . . . Sounds like you were getting, understandably, very tired.
« Last Edit: March 08, 2009, 11:03:26 PM by Al »

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Offline TheWildWestGuy

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Re: OML Report - 2/27/09 to 3/2/09
« Reply #14 on: March 08, 2009, 10:48:12 PM »
Nice Trip Report but it's kind of extreme to make it from Fresno to Laguna Meadows in 1 day with a resupply point at Homer Wilson Ranch.   Not that it could not be done but why rush it and not enjoy Blue Creek and make the side trip up to Alum Cave?  I like to sit in the shade of the back porch at HWR and the Red Rock View from Cedar Spring knowing that I don't have to face the harsh switchbacks up Blue Creek Canyon until the next morning.  Those switchbacks are worse (In My Opinion) than the Pinnacles trail because there are more false summits and you think that you are "almost there" when you are still 13 switchbacks away. Please keep posting and I look forward to your next post....TWWG

 


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