Friends of Big Bend National Park
Big Bend Conservancy

Over-estimating your experience or under-estimating the terrain in a place like Big Bend can result in serious injury or death. Use the information and advice found here wisely. Climb/Hike/Camp/Drive at your own risk.

+-Calendar for sale

 2019 BigBendChat Calendar on sale now!


OML Trip Report: Counter-clockwise from Homer Wilson Ranch: Dec 5-7, 2016

  • 8 Replies
  • 1859 Views
*

Offline evidog

  • Kangaroo Rat
  • *
  • 9
We took Mule Earsí advice and went with counter-clockwise from Home Wilson Ranch, 3 days/2 nights. We went with no bear canister and had no trouble. Lots of scat on the Dodson and early on the Juniper but none up high and no bear sightings.

We arrived at BBNP on Sunday early afternoon, Dec. 4rd to temps in the low 50ís, pouring rain and dense fog, so we didnít really get a taste of what there was to see as we drove in. We secured our permit at Panther Junction without any questions and since we thought that camping in the Juniper Zone was off-limits due to bear activity, said weíd camp the first night on the east end of the Dodson and then reserved site SE1 for night 2. Without a high clearance or 4WD vehicle, we didnít stash any water, since we were leaving from HW. We did leave some water in that box in case somehow we couldnít make it back to the car a few feet up the hill  The Ranger who gave us the permit didnít seemed concerned about our water, we were carrying a gallon each for the first day, as I said Iíd check the water reports, and the pouring rain would only help, but another we talked to later that day jumped on the scare tactics, while also telling us he hated backpacking, so we werenít too worried.
Iím embarrassed to say we slept in the car that night! We had a site at the Chisos Basin Campground, but a freeze was predicted and setting up, sleeping in, and then packing up and carrying a wet tent--it continued to pour rain (were going to go tarp only, but given the iffy weather figured we should take the tent), we didnít feel it would get us off to a great start. Luckily it didnít freeze so the drive to Homer Wilson wasnít treacherous out of the Basin, but the rain continued, often heavy until about 11am. We decided we were pretty confident in our time and mileage for the day and that if we left by noon, weíd reach where we wanted to camp without too much trouble.

Day 1: We headed out around 11:30am on Monday, Dec 5th on down the Dodson. I have to say I was a little apprehensive that the trip would be a nice challenge, but not terribly enjoyable or as scenic as it could be in Big Bend based on previous posts in this forum, but it was quite the opposite. As the fog lifted and the sun came out, it seemed like a different incredible view at every turn. Being able to see where you are going over the next few days is also pretty neat, so very cool to be able to look up at the South Rim as we went. We think we saw a Mountain Lion, but canít be sure. We surprised something white/tan and it darted away. Not sure what else it could have been with that size and color. The only other wildlife that day was a massive tarantula, though we saw plenty of fresh bear scat. There was tons of water on the trail. Fresno Creek was going nuts and there were plenty of other moving sources after the rain. We decided not to get any water as we had only hiked a half day that day and werenít even close to needing any, plus water seemed abundant.We made ourselves a nice camp just after the Dodson turns north around 530pm (10/11 miles) and enjoyed a beautiful sunset and flyless night in the tent. The moon was bright, but the stars were still great. The temps had gotten up into the 60ís that day and dipped into the low 40ís that evening.

Day 2: We left camp around 8am on Tuesday, December 6th and within a km encountered the other OML hiker we had heard was out at the same time, a solo doing the traditional route. Not sure what was going on since he had camped in the Juniper zone and planned to do the same in the Homer Wilson zone, both of which we thought were off limits. The sun was out, but not too warm in the morning and we ascended Juniper without too much trouble. I thought it was one of the best cut trails Iíve been on in terms of elevation and placement of switchbacks, just enough to keep the edge off the climb, but not so many you feel like youíre going too much extra distance. We passed on Upper Juniper Springs and filled up about halfway at Boot Springs where we also had lunch. We then stashed our packs in a bear box and took a very worthwhile detour up Emory Peak. Iím not sure Iíve ever hiked such a relatively short/quick peak for such excellent vistas! We barreled back down to the bear box, filled up the rest of our water and headed the rest of the way to the rim, making it there around 5pm. (14.5 miles)
We enjoyed sunset and dinner on the rim with some deer friends who were involved in some serious mating antics. The site very close to the rim, but without a view, but thereís a great log positioned in a clear area right across the trail from the campsiteís little path that was perfect. We were surprised not to see any bear scat on the rim as there had been numerous recent bear sightings in that area. It didnít get much colder that night, again lows in the 40s, but the wind was pretty strong.

Day 3: We headed back out to our sunset spot for sunrise and breakfast on Wednesday, December 7th and then got going again around 8:30am, making it the west of the way around the rim for more great views then down the Blue Creek Trail, more deer sightings, and back to the car by about noon. (8 miles) By that point it was over 70 degrees.  The trip took us just about 48hrs without pushing it for us and with the addition of about 5 miles for Emory Peak.

Iím sure the struggles on the OML are in warm weather, when there is little water to be found, but we had a blast and enjoyed every minute of it! We canít wait to come back to Big Bend for more!

FOUND on the trail: Saw/survival saw with very specific identification tag/sticker. If you lost one, let me know what the ID says and weíll send it to you.

REQUEST: We picked up quite a bit of trash on the loop. I assume most blew away and was not simply discarded, but we hope people will be more careful out there. Our finds included a number of Ziplocs, used Bandaids, granola bar wrappers, wipes, etc.

QUESTION: Any thoughts on what seemed to be a conflict between park and OML hikers/what Iíve seen on this forum. Park says do not keep camping in spots right on the trail that have clearly been worn away by previous campers. We were surprised at the number of very established spots we saw right on the trail. Our Dodson sight was probably 150ish meters off the trail and was decently clear for setting up the tent and we were able to leave it looking almost completely untrammeled when we left.

EXTRA: On Wed night we stayed at this wacky little place called Tin Valley Retro Rentals outside Terlingua. You can find it on Airbnb and I highly recommend it. We stayed in a converted school bus, a bit Into the Wild style. We left there to drive back to OK at 6am on Thursday morning and had snow and temps in the 20s all the way north until we reached Abilene, so it looks like we fit our OML trip perfectly in between a couple of different fronts.
Thanks to all for the input and advice. You helped make our first trip to BBNP a memorable one 

*

Offline Jimbow

  • Black Bear
  • *
  • 583
Re: OML Trip Report: Counter-clockwise from Homer Wilson Ranch: Dec 5-7, 2016
« Reply #1 on: December 16, 2016, 10:25:46 AM »
Nice report and great trip.  Seeing some of the views through fresh eyes makes me eager to return. I know I've blasted through areas that use to fill me with awe.

The campsite question is a tough one. In one corner is set up in established spots don't scatter and create new ones. In the other corner is scatter and don't create worn spots.

Sent from my SM-G925T using Big Bend Chat mobile app
Everything is in walking distance if you have enough time.

*

Offline evidog

  • Kangaroo Rat
  • *
  • 9
Re: OML Trip Report: Counter-clockwise from Homer Wilson Ranch: Dec 5-7, 2016
« Reply #2 on: December 16, 2016, 10:57:50 AM »
Yeah, Jimbow, I guess I just wish so many people had not camped right on/off the trail like that, because now it makes it very tempting for others to just set up in those spots. I think it also depends on where you camp. There are some places, especially along the Dodson where there's too much thick brush to find a suitable spot easily, but where we were we had plenty of options.

*

Offline Robert

  • Golden Eagle
  • Black Bear
  • *
  • 999
  • He who limps is still walking. - Stanislaw J. Lec
Re: OML Trip Report: Counter-clockwise from Homer Wilson Ranch: Dec 5-7, 2016
« Reply #3 on: December 16, 2016, 11:17:30 AM »
Great trip report. Thanks!

The official regulation is:
Quote
Open zone camping: Be at least 0.5 mile and out of sight from any road and at least 100 yards from any trail, historical structure, archeological site, dry wash, or cliff edge.

However, flat, clear spots (no rocks or vegetation) are very hard to find on the OML and following the regulation rules out most of the good spots. If you enforce the letter of the law you will encourage people to disturb the natural features (another regulation) to clear a spot to camp.

Obviously, I've read the rules (as it is a part of getting the permit) but I've never had anyone explicitly say not to re-use an existing campsite. On my first OML trip I asked the ranger where was a good place to camp in Blue Creek and he told me to just camp in the dry wash, which of course, is against the rules. So I'm not sure if your experience was as a result of a new shift to try to alter OML camping behavior or it was one person emphasizing the letter of the law.


*

Offline evidog

  • Kangaroo Rat
  • *
  • 9
Re: OML Trip Report: Counter-clockwise from Homer Wilson Ranch: Dec 5-7, 2016
« Reply #4 on: December 16, 2016, 11:21:21 AM »
Interesting feedback, Robert. The ranger mentioned those trailside spots in particular and that we should not camp there, which I already knew since I'd read up. Perhaps the ranger in particular, or a new push. I know they were all saying that the park has never seen traffic like it has with the NPS100 this last year, though of course the vast majority of that is not in the backcountry. I agree it's tough to find clear spots on much of the OML. As I said, we happened to already be planning to camp on the east end of the Dodson that first night. The pic with the tent in it was pretty much entirely clear. Other than some bootprints that we tried to brush away, there wasn't much visual evidence of our stay that night.

*

Offline dprather

  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 2476
Re: OML Trip Report: Counter-clockwise from Homer Wilson Ranch: Dec 5-7, 2016
« Reply #5 on: December 16, 2016, 11:34:27 AM »
Thanks or the report.  I'm glad you had a great time.
Leave "quit" at the car.  Embrace the trail as your friend.  Expect to enjoy yourself, and to be amazed.

*

Offline mule ears

  • Administrator
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 4378
  • "He had to leave Texas but won't say why" McMurtry
    • 40 years of walking
Re: OML Trip Report: Counter-clockwise from Homer Wilson Ranch: Dec 5-7, 2016
« Reply #6 on: December 16, 2016, 04:11:32 PM »
Glad the counterclockwise worked well, of course you landed just as they lifted the closures of Blue Creek and Juniper zones.

Sent from my Nexus 6P using Big Bend Chat mobile app

temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
http://40yearsofwalking.wordpress.com/

*

Offline congahead

  • Roadrunner
  • *
  • 76
Re: OML Trip Report: Counter-clockwise from Homer Wilson Ranch: Dec 5-7, 2016
« Reply #7 on: December 31, 2016, 12:10:11 PM »
Thanks for the report; glad you enjoyed the OML. Now you have to keep coming back and trying all the other great trails (and non-trails)!

Re: the "campsites" along Dodson. When my wife and I did OML in Nov. '15 (going the traditional route), we used one of several near the Juniper Canyon/Dodson junction. While we always try to follow the rules and know you're supposed to camp at least 100 yards off a trail, doing so in this case would mean creating additional "worn spots," as mentioned above in this thread.  We decided using the existing ones was the lesser of two evils. So did the two other OML parties that showed up at the junction within an hour of us.
"The animals here will generally try to avoid you, but the plants will hurt you every chance they get."

*

Offline House Made of Dawn

  • www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2YJduDyFA4
  • Golden Eagle
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 3028
  • Backpacking since '78, Big Bend since '95.
Re: OML Trip Report: Counter-clockwise from Homer Wilson Ranch: Dec 5-7, 2016
« Reply #8 on: February 11, 2017, 06:17:04 PM »
Just getting around to reading this, Evidog. Sounds like you two had a near-perfect trip. I really enjoyed seeing/feeling the OML experience through your eyes/words.  A trip well done - with grit and grace.  That rain and fog you encountered on your first day had me pinned up on the ridge of the Deadhorse Mountains for three days. It was a monster storm up there. I wondered if it had hit down low as well.  Now I know.  Thanks for the excellent trip report.  Looking forward to more from you all in the future.
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

 


©COPYRIGHT NOTICE

All photographs and content posted by members are to be considered copyrighted by their respective owners and may not be used for any purposes, commercial or otherwise, without permission.

+-Calendar For Sale

 2019 BigBendChat Calendar on sale now!

Powered by EzPortal

Facebook Comments