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Outer Mountain Loop Trip Report, Nov 5-9 (long!)

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Offline bswiz

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Outer Mountain Loop Trip Report, Nov 5-9 (long!)
« on: November 10, 2015, 11:08:36 AM »
Sorry for my long-windedness.  Here's a quick summary for the impatient:  3 of 4 of our group finished (other groups had dropouts also), possibly toughest trail I've hiked, got searched by Border Patrol on the drive home!

Big Bend Outer Mountain Loop Trip Report – Nov 5-9

Blood, Sweat, Tears, and Border Patrol (mostly Sweat!)


We got a late start out of Austin and didn’t arrive at Panther Junction until around 10pm, only to find signs saying the Basin campground was full.  We decided to head to Cottonwood since we could cache water on the way back to the Basin in the morning.  Got ourselves set up in the dark pretty quickly, and another group arrived shortly after and set up next to us.  They were obviously new to camping and camp etiquette, asking us if they could have a campfire and then talking, laughing and yelling (by now well after 11pm) until my friend finally called over for them to stop.  On the upside the sky was clear and the stars of Big Bend delivered a great sight to fall asleep to.

In the morning we again got a later start than I had hoped, leaving Cottonwood around 9am.  A quick stop at Homer Wilson Ranch to cache some water (where we overheard a volunteer on the phone talking about someone wandering disoriented and alone on the Dodson) and then on to the Basin to get our backcountry permit.  We finally started the hike about 10:30am – I had hoped to be on the trail by 9am.  Heading up Pinnacles was tough but manageable with my buddies pushing ahead at a much faster pace than my wife and I.  We reached Boot Spring to find it wasn’t flowing but there were pools just below the spring that we topped off water from.  Soon we were heading down Juniper Canyon trail, with my friends again setting a fast pace.  My wife and I were a bit annoyed that we didn’t get an earlier start and now we were having to try to rush to keep up.  That resulted in my wife slipping on some rocks and falling, which hurt her knee and would ultimately end her hike.   The downhill was really hurting her knee and slowed us down even more – we finally got to the Juniper Canyon trailhead around 6pm and set up camp in the first site past the bearbox. 

Day 2 we were up and ready to go by 8am.  My wife was having doubts about finishing but agreed she could make it to Homer Wilson Ranch where we would figure out what to do from there.   After my friends again took off ahead of us, we ran into another group of 4 hikers who told us there was no shame in dropping out – they had done so 2 years ago on a previous OML attempt.  It was a long day on the Dodson Trail.  In the area of Dodson Spring, we saw what looked like an abandoned pack on the trail.  We finally got to Fresno around 11:45 – my buddies had been waiting about an hour.  After topping up water in the pools downstream of the trail, we were again moving by about 12:45.  The second half of the Dodson was tougher than the first, luckily the sun was behind the clouds most of the day making it much more tolerable.  The rugged beauty of the desert is on full display on the Dodson, especially at one point where we climbed a ridge to reach a panoramic view of the desert beyond, including Mule Ears off in the distance.  My wife was still struggling with her knee and we knew this would be the last day of hiking for her.  She volunteered to let me finish Day 3 with my friends and she would wait at Homer Wilson for us to come back and get her.  The last couple miles of the Dodson seemed to go on forever, and we finally arrived at the ranch a bit after 6pm, meaning we had been on the Dodson over 10 hours – a very long day.  My friends had been waiting a couple hours and had retrieved the water cache.  We found a campsite a bit up Blue Creek and crashed.

On the morning of Day 3 as we were packing up, 2 of the guys from the group we’d met on the Dodson the day before walked by and said the other 2 from their group had dropped out and could offer my wife a ride back to the Basin if she could get back to the road in time.  She headed off back towards the ranch, while I set off with my 2 friends to finish the OML.  We made pretty good time, reaching the top of the rim before noon, and then starting down Laguna Meadows Trail.  We ran into a ranger on horseback on LM and told him about the pack we had seen on the trail so he could radio it in.  We flew down LM trail, reaching the Basin by 1pm, where we found my wife waiting.  She had managed to catch a ride with the 2 guys, who had then bought her lunch while she waited for us – thanks, kind strangers!

We decided to camp that night at the Basin, and while talking to the ranger, we asked again about the pack we saw on the trail- apparently an older guy had ditched it while hiking and waited until he got home to call the park and tell them about the pack he left.  The rangers were planning to go get it to mail it home to him!

After grabbing a campsite in the Basin, we drove to the other side of the park to soak in the Hot Springs – first time in this part of the park, and it felt great after the long hike.  Then a quick shower at the Rio Grande store before heading back refreshed to our campsite.  We had all decided to try to cowboy camp, but it got cold and quite damp, so my wife and I set up our tent at the last minute.  Turned out to be a great idea because everything was soaking wet in the morning from condensation/humidity.  One buddy had given up and moved into the truck in the middle of the night while the other had stuck it out cold and wet in his hammock.  Started heading out of the park by 8am.

But the trip doesn’t end there… we hit the Border Patrol checkpoint outside the park and were told to pull over for a secondary inspection.  Then asked to leave the truck and give the agent our IDs.  They said the dog had detected something and they would be searching the truck.  We were there about 30 minutes while they tore everything in the bed apart.  Most of the guys were decent but one of them was trying to intimidate us with statements like “You guys been smoking marijuana, because I can smell it!” and “OK, so you smoked it all?  Which one of you smoked it?  If you weren’t smoking, why do you have Visine [actually my contact eyedrops] and a lighter?”.   They finally gave up the fruitless search and we were free to go.   We couldn’t help but think it was a waste of time and that the agents probably thought we got away with something instead of just admitting they had made a mistake. 

All in all, it was a great but very tough trip.  As opposed to my Grand Canyon trip last year (with the same group minus my wife), I don’t at all feel the desire to go back and do this one again someday.  I would definitely go back to Big Bend to do some day hikes and maybe car camp, but I can check the OML off my list!

Side note:  Of our group of 4 and two other groups of 4 that we encountered hiking the OML, we know of at least 4 total that dropped out at Homer Wilson Ranch.  Testament to the challenge of this hike!



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Offline tx1c

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Re: Outer Mountain Loop Trip Report, Nov 5-9 (long!)
« Reply #1 on: November 10, 2015, 01:01:34 PM »
Nice report. Good to know you can check that off your list.
Hope your wife has recovered well.

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Offline dkerr24

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Re: Outer Mountain Loop Trip Report, Nov 5-9 (long!)
« Reply #2 on: November 10, 2015, 01:28:40 PM »
I know exactly what you mean about not needing to do the OML another time.  That's one I checked off my bucket list, never to repeat.  That long stretch along the Dodson seemed to go on forever, much like the long stretch of Clear Creek trail in Grand Canyon.

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Offline bswiz

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Re: Outer Mountain Loop Trip Report, Nov 5-9 (long!)
« Reply #3 on: November 10, 2015, 02:25:14 PM »
Nice report. Good to know you can check that off your list.
Hope your wife has recovered well.

Thanks.  My wife's knee is feeling much better after getting off the trail!  She actually said the last day was the best - getting the ride back to the Basin and sharing lunch with the guys, and talking with all the people she met while hanging out while waiting for us.  She's normally fairly introverted, but she said sitting around with nothing to do for a few hours except talk to strangers can change that quick! 

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Offline TheWildWestGuy

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Re: Outer Mountain Loop Trip Report, Nov 5-9 (long!)
« Reply #4 on: November 11, 2015, 09:40:08 PM »
Whether you love or hate the OML depends a lot on whether or not you are prepared for the hike physically and logistically.  Having enough water and knowing where the water is available is key.  You can't  carry 30# of water in your backpack and you can't realistically assume you will only drink 2 or 3 liters per day.  More like 4 or 6 liters per day or more.   

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Offline Casa Grande

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Re: Outer Mountain Loop Trip Report, Nov 5-9 (long!)
« Reply #5 on: November 12, 2015, 10:24:07 AM »
I'm glad I did the whole OML once, just to say I did it. I have no desire to do the "OML" again, but I will definitely do all of the different sections again.  I love the Dodson, the Pinnacles, Juniper, Boot, Blue Creek and Leguna. I intend to do them over and over until my legs won't work anymore. Never in two days again.

-posted using Tapatalk mobile forum app-


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Offline bswiz

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Re: Outer Mountain Loop Trip Report, Nov 5-9 (long!)
« Reply #6 on: November 12, 2015, 11:01:30 AM »
I'm glad I did the whole OML once, just to say I did it. I have no desire to do the "OML" again, but I will definitely do all of the different sections again.  I love the Dodson, the Pinnacles, Juniper, Boot, Blue Creek and Leguna. I intend to do them over and over until my legs won't work anymore. Never in two days again.

-posted using Tapatalk mobile forum app-

That's pretty much my feeling.  We saw some really nice campsites along the Dodson that would be great to hike into from Homer Wilson, spend a night or two, then hike back out.   

Which raises another point / question - the ranger said the rules are to camp out of site of any trail (100 yds minimum, if I recall).  Does anyone actually follow this rule?   Every site we saw was right on the trails, I can't see how you could camp anywhere else given the amount of scrub growing everywhere. 

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Offline TheWildWestGuy

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Re: Outer Mountain Loop Trip Report, Nov 5-9 (long!)
« Reply #7 on: November 12, 2015, 09:13:30 PM »
That's the official rule but realistically every single campsite on the Dodson is less than 100' from the trail.  It's better to use these established sites than try to clear/construct new one's anyway.    99% of the ground is rocky, sloping, or filled with cactus and cats claw.  TWWG

 


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