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OML Trip Report - October 5 - 10

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Offline Ranchero

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OML Trip Report - October 5 - 10
« on: October 17, 2009, 11:07:44 PM »
Hey Folks -

I got back from BIBE Sunday afternoon, October 11. The short story is that I completed my first solo hike of the Outer Mountain Loop. It was a pretty awesome trip, and I want to say a big "Thank You" to the many folks who answered my questions while I was planning this adventure. Your help is much appreciated, and helped me feel confident in my planning.
 
For those who only want the "water report": I found water in pools in Boot Canyon, and Fresno Creek was flowing. I didn't see water anywhere else on the trail.
 
Here's a more detailed breakdown:
 
05 October, Day 1:
Drove out from Austin. Left at 4:35 am, arrived at Panther Junction about noon. Got all my camp sites reserved. Registered as a solo hiker - had my picture taken and filled out all forms. Drove to Homer Wilson Ranch house. Cached 12 liters of water and 2 days worth of food in the bear box there. Drove out to Twisted Shoe campsite for the night. Cached 6 liters of water in the desert at the intersection of the Juniper Canyon Trail and Dodson Trail. Had a flat from sharp rocks. Glad I had a good spare! Slept well in the truck.

Cached Water at HWR:



Twisted Shoe Campsite



Oops! That's a Flat!


 
06 October, Day2:
Awoke to a rattlesnake sleeping in a nice coil right next to my driver's side door. Broke camp and headed out before daylight. Made it back onto the hard top by about 8am. Drove back to the Chisos Basin. Loaded up my pack with gear, 3 days worth of food, and 12 liters of water. Started hiking up the Pinnacles Trail at about 10:00. Topped out at the Toll Mountain camp site at about 12:35. It was harder than I thought, and I drank more water than I had planned. I setup camp, ate some lunch, and then did the Emory Peak Trail. I climbed the final "rock scramble" up to the peak. It was pretty cool. Had a poor night's sleep because it was windy and the constant flapping of the rain fly against the tent kept me awake.

Nothing Wakes You Up in the Morning Like a Rattler!



Such a Sweet Face!



Morning Sky on Juniper Canyon Road



Whitetail Buck on Pinnacles Trail



View from Near Summit of Emory Peak



View of Basin from Summit of Emory Peak


 
07 October, Day 3:
Easiest day of the trip. I hiked from TM1 up to campsite NE4 on the Northeast Rim. I hiked thru Boot Canyon and found some puddles of water there. Since I drank more than planned (about 4 liters) the previous day, I didn't have enough to make the rest of the trip without re-supply. I filtered a few liters of water to get me back to a safe level. I cached 6 liters of water at the intersection with the Juniper Canyon Trail, where I would pick it up the next day. Hiked on up to my camp at NE4, which was an easy climb. Very nice camp. I hiked around the rim a bit and took in the awesome views. Another bad night's sleep. Just after bedding down, thunder started rumbling pretty fiercely. You know you are close when you hear the lightning, then the thunder almost simultaneously. Then it started raining hard. Then it started sleeting. Then a bit of a break. Then really hard rain. Then hail - HAIL! It was about nickel-diameter and I thougth it would rip thru the thin nylon of my ultralight tent, but no problems. I knew I was in trouble, because I had intentionally put my tent in a nice flat spot that seemed to hold water when it rains. Like a fool, I didn't think it would rain. Pretty soon, the floor of my tent looked like a waterbed with the water filling up underneath the floor. Fortunately, the floor didn't leak, and I have a waterproof sleeping bag. I piled most of my gear inside the sleeping bag with me to stay dry and waited out the rain. After an hour or so, it seemed done. I got out, pulled up the tent stakes, and dragged the whole tent and enclosed gear uphill about 10 feet. I staked it back down and bedded down for the rest of the night. Deer stomped and snorted outside my tent half the night. I guess I was just not meant to get much sleep this night.

Water Puddle in Boot Canyon Where I Filtered Water



Campsite NE4



View of Elephant Tusk and Tortuga from SE Rim



After Rain, Sleet, and Hail, Some Deer Came Thru Camp


 
08 October, Day 4:
The hardest day. I knew this was going to be a tough day, so started early. I awoke at 4am and was hiking down the trail at 5:15 under the light of my headlight. After about an hour, I had retrieved my water cache at the head of Juniper Canyon Trail. The first part of JC is a decent climb. Then started down Juniper Canyon. After a good bit of hiking, it started getting light. Short story is that this is a very awesome hike with spectacular scenery. Hiked thru Juniper Canyon, down into the desert. Made it to my Juniper Canyon cache by about 10:15. I felt pretty good about that. I loaded 6 more liters of water into my pack. I only wanted to hike about another 4 miles to a saddle above Fresno Creek before going down for the night, so I thought I was doing great. I took my time re-sorting my gear and packing that extra 6 liters of water. I now had more than 12 liters of water loaded, which should be plenty for 2 days of hiking. By about 11:15 or so, I set off down the Dodson Trail. This became the toughest part of the whole trip. Now the sun was fully up, I was in the hot desert with no shade anywhere in sight, and was toting an awfully heavy load. I thought the trail would be relatively flat. It turns out it is primarily uphill, with a lot of up and down through rough washes along the way. It's a tough hike, I had a heavy load, it was danged hot, and I had already hiked about 10 miles when I started. Oh, and less than a mile into it, I was greeted by a rattlesnake in the middle of the trail. I eventually went thru a dry creek with a tiny bush casting a postage stamp sized spot of shade. I shed my pack and rested as best I could. There were mountain lion tracks in the sand in front of me, which I thought was pretty cool. I didn't rest long enough, loaded my pack, and staggered off. I eventually found another, shadier resting spot an hour or so later. I again tossed off my pack. This time, I pulled off my sleeping bag to use as a pillow, laid down in the cool shade, and took a nap for about an hour. Thus refreshed, I again set off. After climbing up and down several more washes, I arrived at the high pass above Fresno Creek. I setup camp, but there was no shade anywhere in sight. I had heard there was supposed to be water in Fresno creek, but when I got there, I was too tired to walk down into the canyon to check. After setting up camp, though, I decided to go check it out. I took my water filter and a 1 liter Nalgene bottle with me. What a blessing! There was cool shade and FLOWING water in the creek! It was an amazing sight. I rested in the cool shade, filtered a liter of water, drank about half, topped it off again, and then took the long uphill walk back to camp. The view from camp was awesome. Too bad a Norther blew in during the night. The tent nearly imploded on itself during the night and I got almost no sleep. Fortunately, I had staked the tent well, and I didn't blow off the ridge. I covered about 14 miles this day. I was glad that I was able to do it, but humbled a bit, since it was a lot harder than I had planned toward the end.

Dawn on the Juniper Canyon Trail



Early AM on the Juniper Canyon Trail



The Fabled Stairs on Juniper Canyon Trail



The Boot as Seen from Juniper Canyon Trail



Hiking Along the Dodson Trail



First Shade I Found Along the Dodson



Mountain Lion Tracks on the Dodson



Shady Spot Where I Rested for an Hour



View From Campsite on the Saddle Above Fresno Creek



An Amazing Sight: Flowing Water in the Desert at Fresno Creek


 
09 October, Day 5:
Got up early again and headed out under headlight illumination at about 6:25. There were a few hard climbs before I reached the highest point on the Dodson Trail, where I surprisingly had cell phone reception with my AT&T phone. I called my fiancee from this spot. It has a breathtaking view covering Mule Ears and Santa Elena canyon. The temperature was pretty cool up there. I took off toward my cache at Homer Wilson Ranch. This took longer than I expected, and it was almost noon by the time I got there, and again hot with little shade. Fortunately, HWR has a nice old ranch house that is very cool (in the temperature sense). I spent over an hour there, resting and retrieving my food and water for the rest of the trip from my cache. I took off up the Blue Creek Trail by 1:30. This part of the trail is extremely poorly marked. This was the only time that I took a wrong turn. But it was a neat deal. I found a little canyon that was very shady and cool. I only went maybe a quarter mile before realizing my error, backtracking, and getting going in the right direction. There wasn't really a trail at this part, and I was just following dry washes. I had taken the wrong one at one point. I proceeded thru the "Red Rocks" portion of the canyon, which was interesting, and eventually arrived at a spot that looked like a likely camp site. I setup my tent at about 4:30 pm. I had a great night's sleep this night - finally!

Early Morning on the Dodson Beyond Fresno Creek





I Suppose if I was Bear Grylls I'd Eat This Guy, But I Left Him Alone



Views from the High Point on the Dodson Toward Homer Wilson Ranch






Most Restful Spot I Found in the Red Rocks Section of Blue Creek Canyon



I Didn't Eat This Guy, Either



View from Campsite for Night 5

 
10 October, Day 6:
Again up early and on the trail by 6:45. After a mile or so of hiking thru Blue Creek Canyon, started the climb out. It's pretty steep and long, but I was fired up this day. I topped out on Laguna Meadows Trail by 9:00 am and felt exhilarated. I had reserved a campsite on the South Rim for that night in case I was too tired to continue on. But I felt more than fine. So instead of heading 2 miles up the trail to the camp site, I took off toward the Basin about 3.5 miles away. I really started feeling it and was cruising along pretty well in the cool morning air. I arrived at the truck at about 11 am, feeling great that I had "solo'd the OML"!

View Toward HWR in Early AM at Beginning of Climb on Blue Canyon Trail



Poor Photo, but Looks Like ... Bear Dung?



Finally Back at the Truck in the Basin - I Soloed the OML!


Finally, I drove back to Alpine.  I overnighted at the Ramada Inn, and thoroughly enjoyed a shower, a soak in their hot tub, and a refreshing swim. Went to Saturday Mass at Our Lady of Peace in Alpine. Headed back to Austin Sunday morning. My spare tire showed no issues on the return trip.

I thoroughly enjoyed my trip. Now I'm wondering what to do next  :icon_biggrin:

Thanks!

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Offline RichardM

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Re: OML Trip Report - October 5 - 10
« Reply #1 on: October 17, 2009, 11:20:14 PM »
Great report and pics!

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Offline Al

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Re: OML Trip Report - October 5 - 10
« Reply #2 on: October 17, 2009, 11:47:12 PM »
Exceptional and very well documented!  Thanks.

Al

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Offline The Scorpion

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Re: OML Trip Report - October 5 - 10
« Reply #3 on: October 18, 2009, 09:22:59 AM »
great report!!! and i loved the pics. the OML is on my todo list one of these days

James
everything is better with bacon!!!

http://jamesb.smugmug.com/BigBendNationalPark/

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Offline dlinenberger

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Re: OML Trip Report - October 5 - 10
« Reply #4 on: October 18, 2009, 11:02:56 AM »
Great report. For some reason the pictures would not show on my screen.
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view (E. Abbey)

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Offline walkingman06

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Re: OML Trip Report - October 5 - 10
« Reply #5 on: October 18, 2009, 11:23:20 AM »
Wow, Thanks Ranchero!

What a great trip report.  Thanks for sharing.  I'm glad you did it and had a good, safe time.
Moving in silent desperation
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A hypothetical destination
Say, who is this walking man?
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Posted from Tulsa, OK

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chisos_muse

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Re: OML Trip Report - October 5 - 10
« Reply #6 on: October 18, 2009, 12:12:53 PM »
Now THAT"S a trip report!  :eusa_clap:

Congrats on completing the OML!  :icon_biggrin:

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Offline dkerr24

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Re: OML Trip Report - October 5 - 10
« Reply #7 on: October 18, 2009, 02:20:17 PM »
Ranchero... great OML trip report!  

I agree with you that the Dodson trail is surprisingly tougher than expected.  A lot of up and down mostly dry washes.  I did this hike back in Feb, and also found flowing water in Fresno Creek.  

I did the OML in a slightly different fashion that required less water caches.  I do not have a car capable of driving the rough road to the Juniper/Dodson trailhead.  One of these trips, I'm going to borrow my Dad's Jeep Wrangler and really get the backcountry experience.

I started out with only one water/food cache at HWR.  My hike began from the basin, up the Pinnacles trail and bypassed the Emory Peak climb (did it on a previous trip).  Night #1 was spent about 3/4 of the way down Juniper Canyon trail.  Next day, I hiked west on the Dodson trail, stopping to resupply water at Fresno Creek, then camped Night #2 at the intersection of the Dodson and Smoky Creek Trails.  Day #3 was the toughest, as I hiked from there, stopped at HWR to pickup 1 gal of water and some food from the bear box, then hiked all the way up Blue Creek to Laguna Meadows.  That was a LONG day in full sun.  Night #3 I camped in LW1 which has an awesome view east looking at Emory Peak.  Day #4, I broke camp and did the short hike back to my car in the basin parking lot.

Went through the same permit process, as I also hiked the OML solo.  The ranger I spoke with said the only water I could count on would be in Fresno Creek.  

Thanks for sharing your trip experience with us.
« Last Edit: October 18, 2009, 02:23:53 PM by dkerr24 »

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Offline TheWildWestGuy

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Re: OML Trip Report - October 5 - 10
« Reply #8 on: October 18, 2009, 03:27:10 PM »
Great trip report Ranchero - makes me feel like I was right there with you - which I wish I was!  I have spent a few quiet evenings enjoying the waterworks in Fresno Creek as the Alpenglow creeps across the South Rim and the Sierra Quemada's.  It's a enchanted place, very special and very very quiet.  Did you see any other backpackers on the OML?

That picture of the rattlesnake coiled right below your truck door gives me pause - we all need to remember what might have coiled up outside before we just step out at night.  Imagine if you had just stepped out at 3 am to go to the bathroom and stepped on that!   Talk about the unexpected.   Few things could be worse for a solo backpacker than getting a wet bite by a Diamondback in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere.  Good thing you spotted him first or your trip might have ended a lot sooner than you expected... TWWG

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Offline Ranchero

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Re: OML Trip Report - October 5 - 10
« Reply #9 on: October 18, 2009, 08:02:13 PM »
Hey Folks -

Thanks for the kind words on my report. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Dkerr24 - I like your itinerary. For this trip, I really wanted to spend a night at NE4. Now that I've done that, I'm thinking that when/if there is a "next time", I'll do something closer to what you did. A few of the folks who couldn't quite find the motivation to go with me this time seem to now be more motivated  :icon_smile:

TWWG - Good observations on the rattler. I grew up in "the country" where rattlesnakes were common. At a young age, my parents drilled into me that I should always look where I'm walking, putting my hands, etc... I do a lot of outdoor stuff here in Texas where snakes roam and have never been too worried about getting bitten. But on this trip - being solo, and alone out in the desert far from any help - I was extra vigilant. That first night, I was shining my light very thoroughly before I took any steps. As I bedded down in the back of the truck for the night, I even laughed at myself for how paranoid I was being. But the next morning, when I saw the snake right by my driver's side door, I felt pretty justified in my vigilance.

I saw another snake not too far down the Dodson trail from the trailhead at Juniper Canyon. He was sitting right in the trail. He was not aggressive in the least, but if I had not been watching closely I may have blundered right on top of him. I have to admit that in the past, I have had some self-righteous laughter at the expense of folks who I considered to be overly spooked by rattlesnakes. But after these two incidents, I was very vigilent regarding snakes for the rest of the trip!

I saw very few folks on the OML. I saw a few day hikers at the start as I hiked up the Pinnacles trail. I saw a total of 5 folks as I climbed to Emory Peak. The next day as I hiked from TM1 thru Boot Canyon over to NE4, I saw not a soul. As I hiked around the Rim that day, I saw 2 groups of 2 day hikers at a distance. After that, I didn't see a single soul until I got close to the Homer Wilson Ranch House. From about a quarter mile, I saw 3 or 4 folks at the ranch house. At least one of them was wearing a backpack. They were leaving and heading up the hill toward the parking lot. As I arrived at the ranch house, I heard car doors slam and a car drive away. As I hiked up Blue Canyon Trail, I saw the bootprints of at least one hiker coming down from the Chisos. This was the first human footprint I had seen in the trail since leaving NE4. I didn't see anyone as I hiked up Blue Canyon trail. I finally saw some other folks on the last day after I had crossed the Chisos and was about 20 minutes down Laguna Meadows Trail from the top of the climb. The closer I got to the Basin, the more folks I ran into, which was as expected since it was a Saturday and close to the Basin. In summary, once I got away from the lower parts of Laguna Meadows and Pinnacles trails close to the Basin, I saw only about 8 folks total and all of them were at a distance. This low level of human contact was perfect for me. I was looking for some "alone time" in the natural world and was pleased to find it  :icon_biggrin:

Thanks!

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Offline mule ears

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Re: OML Trip Report - October 5 - 10
« Reply #10 on: October 20, 2009, 10:42:10 AM »
Great report and pictures, love those early morning hikes before the sun comes up. Sound like you planned well. The OML is a great way to get away from the crowds and to see the wide range of ecosystems the park has in one trip.
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
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no shade, no water
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Offline homerboy2u

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Re: OML Trip Report - October 5 - 10
« Reply #11 on: October 20, 2009, 02:10:16 PM »
Ranchero;

 Why don't you give us a quick rundown of the equipment you took hiking?
Stay thirsty, my friends.

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Offline dkerr24

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Re: OML Trip Report - October 5 - 10
« Reply #12 on: October 20, 2009, 02:53:02 PM »
I noticed you used trekking poles.  A pair of trekking poles has become one of my most appreciated pieces of backpacking gear.  They really help take some of the stress off the legs, plus they can be used to clear a path in some of the brushier sections of the trail.  I figured I'd tear up a pair of REI nylon pants on my OML, but the poles were ideal for bending aside the really thorny vegetation before I walked through.

My poles have saved me from numerous falls as I've been able to use them to catch my balance.

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Offline sleepy

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Re: OML Trip Report - October 5 - 10
« Reply #13 on: October 20, 2009, 03:04:32 PM »
looks like an REI Flash backpack.

great trip.  thanks for the photos and stories.  lot's packed into on stroll!
It's never too late to be what you might have been-Geroge Elliot

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Offline Ay Chihuahua!

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Re: OML Trip Report - October 5 - 10
« Reply #14 on: October 20, 2009, 03:34:11 PM »

 


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