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Quick OML Trip

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Quick OML Trip
« on: December 02, 2011, 06:38:54 PM »
My son and I attempted the OML in March of this year. I sprained my foot coming down Juniper Canyon and limped all the way to Homer Wilson before calling it quits.

I wanted to try again this week, burning the last of my vacation days. The main objective was to hike the section of the trail that I had not seen before, from Homer Wilson up Blue Creek to the rim. I also wanted to refresh my memory of the rim since I had not been there in about 20 years. The knowledge gaind from this trip would be used for planning a second attempt with my son at a later date.

Instead of the traditional loop startingat the Basin my plan was to use The Dodson/Juniper junction as my starting point based on Quicksilver's recommendation. This is the same starting point that Homer67 used. I liked the idea immediately and it took a little while for the brilliance of initiating the loop at the Junipr/Dodson trailhead to sink in; using this junction as the starting point would allow me to traverse the Dodson with a light pack and, drum roll, to only have to climb up to the rim once!

The original plan was to take my time leaving Midland this past Monday, the 27th, drive to Panther Junction, get my permit, cache water and food at Homer Wilson, and go to the trailhead and just kick back; starting the loop the next morning. I planned on a three night trip with a fourth night just in case.

I was very concerned about water, especially on the rim. And after consulting with some of the members on the board I decided to hike across the Dodson in a day with snacks and water for that leg plus reserves. I knew that I could get water at Fresno if needed and I wanted to reach Red Rocks for the first night out.

But after checking the weather one last time before I left I was concerned about bad weather coming in at the end of the week. As an aside, the forecast was right; it is cold, cloudy, and misty here in Midland today (Friday) and the weather hit last night. I threw in extra cold weather gear and hit the road.

As I drove to Panther Junction considering my options I decided that it would be best to break trail as soon as I could and cover as many miles down the Dodson possible before sunset. I felt that doing so would allow me to beat the weather even if my trip took 4 nights.

After reaching the trailhead I repacked my gear and hit the trail, later than I would have liked, at 2:20PM. I carried 4 liters of water, and food for the evening and breakfast along with a few snack. The conditions were perfect with mild temperatures and light winds. Here is the view of the South Rim Starting out.

I made Fresno in great time and I saw the pools of water that others have described. They are easily seen to the south of the trail as you descend into Fresno Creek. I didn't stop at Fresno because I had plenty of water and the sun was rapidly dropping.

Elephant Tusk was brilliant in the evening sun.

When I hit the trail I thought that it would be nice if I could make it all the way to the Smokey Creek junction. It was soon obvious that the only way I could do that was to hike with my headlamp like Champion does. After brief consideration I decided that this was not a good option for me; going down the river bead hunting for cairns with a headlamp was just too risky.

The winds were supposed to blow Tuesday morning and after making the climb from Fresno and then another small climb I descended into a small bowl. I immediately knew that this was the perfect place to call it a night and that it would offer great protection. The sun was setting on the south rim.

And here is a shot showing of the evening camp. The hills you see in this shot extended arount the campsite.

Luckly, the wind didn't blow on Monday night and it was calm on Tuesday morning. I hit the trail at 8 and made it to Homer Wilson at 11:15. I took a 45 minute break there and loaded 10 liters of water and food and snacks for three nights.

I was a bit intimidated heading up Blue Creek. I had my Zero degree bag, extra warm weather gear, and an extra camera and lens; it was the heaviest pack that I have ever carried. I didn't know what to expect and based on DKerr's comments about this section I didn't expect it to be good.

It was a tough climb for sure and I surprised by and really enjoyed the Red Rock area, the high grass lands, and the tree covered area that reminded me of portions of GUMO. And thankfully the weather was perfect all day. 

I made my permitted site of BL1 as darkness set in, setting up camp and having dinner by headlamp. I really enjoyed using the bear box to cut down the clutter in my tent, that was a real luxury in my book. I crawled in the tent beat but very happy feeling that I had conquered the beast. I started reading and quickly put the book away, turning in at 8:15.

I took it easy the next morning and hit the trail at 9. I really like the view of Emory Peak.

I want to thank Ranger, Katie, for doing a great job of helping me come up with a revised plan. So far I was on track and the permitted stop for night 3 was NE4. I also had the option for a 4th night in Juniper Canyon.

My pack was still heavy but manageable and because most of the climb was behind me, I was at SE1 at 11am and well ahead of schedule. I met three young guys from Omaha. They made the trip to BIBE on short notice and were planning to do the OML. It was obvious that they weren't quite ready and they knew it.

In the Oilfield the definition of an expert is anyone who has done something twice. And even though I had not completed a full OML circuit I had technically completed all the legs of the OML and was half way to being an expert  :icon_lol:. They asked about the OML and I shared my experience with them and answered their questions the best that I could. They had busted a water bladder and said that they were going to go down to the basin, get another bladder, and then start back up. They mentioned that they did not cache water at Homer Wilson because they didn't think that they would need it and they were not aware of the oncoming weather.

They were just so excited and enthusiastic that you couldn't help but like them. I knew that I could get by without it so I gave them my water bladder and told them that they had options. I suggested that we go down Juniper together and once there I could go cache water for them at Homer Wilson if they decided to continue o the OML, or they could ride out with me and make other plans for the rest of the week. They talked it over and agreed to go down with me since they were supposed to be on Juniper that day anyway. We agreed to play it by ear and since it was on their permit I mentioned some possible campsites including what Quicksilver calls the "special place."

I was worried about water on the rim based on the sparse reports and Quicksilver had assured me that there water would still be available in the Tinajas above Boot Springs. He was right, there was plenty; it wasn't the best looking but I would have used it in a heart beat if need be.

We reached the Juniper Springs junction and broke for lunch. I gave them a quick warning and we started up "Face Plant." I decided right then and there that whoever designed that portion of the trail was having a bad day when they did. I know it isn't THAT bad but I hate that section.

We were rapidly becoming friends as we descended Juniper Canyon. It is a beautiful hike and their excitment, enthusiasm, and sense of adventure was contagious. I am glad that I met Dan, Zack, and Mike and that we were able to share the trail.

We stopped at the secret place and talked things over. Since everyone was in good shape and since there was plenty of daylight left we decided to push on to my truck.

We did stop and find Juniper Springs. I wanted to know for sure where the spring was located for future trips and they wanted to see what the spring looked like. From reports I was expecting a 2gpm flow. I have experience in this area and honestly can say that I don't can't see that level of flow. There were two pools that looked like they held about 10-20 gallons each and I couldn't see moving water. But once again, there was water there and it was usable.

I had plenty of water and the rest of the gang unsure about using water from the spring. I suggested that we just split my water up and they readily agreed.

The rest of the trail was uneventful. I warned the gang about the catclaw area and they turned out to be a non-issue. The trail easily passed through them right now.

I took this final shot of Juniper Canyon as we reached my truck at 5 o'clock.

We were all beat and tremendously satisfied in our own way. The Omaha gang decided to call off the OML and to go back to the basin and regroup. They really enjoyed the drive out and were excited to be so close to Mexicio. I dropped them off at the basin and it was a great day for all of us. I headed for home and pulled into the driveway a little after 11.

BTW, I remember a discussion of a Bear Box at the Juniper/Dodson campsite. I don't recall the conculsion of that discussion but there is a bear box there that is the same size as the one at Homer Wilson.

Another great thing about this trip was that others were finally able to track my progress via SPOT. I finally have the hang of the SPOT system and it performed great. I had an "incident commander" who is experienced in SAR activities, at least members from this board, and several family members keeping an eye on my progress. Jeff Blaylock (?) mentioned using SPOT recently in BIBE and I now have the confidence in this system to recommend it to all.

Even though the trip didn't go as planned it met my objective of scouting the trail for future trips. The biggest shock is that I made it around in two nights. I can't believe it; I am far from a super man. All I can say is that I had the perfect starting point and that I didn't have to climb the rim twice. I had one leg with a light pack, one heavily loaded leg, and a final load that rapidly depleted. I had perfect weather. And even though I didn't make any side trips, I didn't push or put myself in any risky situations. Although I was self suported on water, I could have carried a little less on this trip if I had used the Tinajas and Juniper Springs. On the other hand I could have easily required more water, a lot more, with warmer weather.

I saw some amazing sights that I had not seen before and look future trips. From now on I will take the time for some side trips and extended sight seeing in this spectacular region.

Before I end, I thank everyone on this board for their help in making this a trip to remember. DKerr once commented that he wondered if anyone ever got much out of his posts. I can assure him and you that we do. Keep the posts a comin'.




  • Guest
Re: Quick OML Trip
« Reply #1 on: December 02, 2011, 07:01:11 PM »
Good report Randy!  I was tracking your progress whenever I had a moment at work, and then as soon as I got home, and exchanging email commentary with QS.  When I saw you at Homer Wilson at 11:15 I didn't think there was anyway you'd be spending that night so near the rim.  I'm impressed and have to disagree with one point, you are Superman! :notworthy:  That's a tough hike up Blue Creek Canyon!

Like you, I'm also a fan of Darrin's trip reports.  I've found them to be spot on and a great tool for planning. 


Offline dkerr24

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Re: Quick OML Trip
« Reply #2 on: December 02, 2011, 09:53:24 PM »
Glad to hear you had a successful trip, Randy.  Success is measured more than what you accomplish in trail mileage, sounds to me that the assistance/guidance you provided to the 3 hikers was even better.

Thanks for the kind feedback on posting trip reports.  Posting them helps me to remember what I did each day on a backpacking trip, plus writing notes each night on a notepad gives me something to do when I'm bored of the book I brought along. :)



Offline TexasAggieHiker

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Re: Quick OML Trip
« Reply #3 on: December 02, 2011, 11:03:41 PM »
BTW, I remember a discussion of a Bear Box at the Juniper/Dodson campsite. I don't recall the conculsion of that discussion but there is a bear box there that is the same size as the one at Homer Wilson.
The park must have recently put it back.  It wasn't there a year ago when I was last there.  The park removed it when they changed the campsite into a parking area.  I'll be there in a couple weeks to check it out.

Congrats on your trip!


Offline SA Bill

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Re: Quick OML Trip
« Reply #4 on: December 03, 2011, 07:44:00 AM »
Great report Randy! Glad you had a good experience and saw what you needed to see. Sounds like it was a good trip. I looked for your truck but my own trip was kinda abreviated. Sorry I didn't get to run into you.
Bill - In San Antonio

Growing old is mandatory.
Growing up is optional.



  • Guest
Re: Quick OML Trip
« Reply #5 on: December 03, 2011, 09:17:59 AM »
Great report and images Randy!  You have inspired me to start planning my own OML quest.  Time to cross it off the bucket list and "get it done"! 

I want to commend you for helping the inexperienced hikers with guidance and water.  This is no hike to take on without some due diligence.



Offline Homer67

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Re: Quick OML Trip
« Reply #6 on: December 03, 2011, 11:02:09 AM »
Very nice!  Great report!

We decided to start our hike at the Juniper Canyon/Dodson trailhead because we did not know whether there was a cache box there or not.  We also wanted to avoid the Basin and take on a hike that felt more remote; climbing up the Chisos only once was nice, too! We also had JC1 reserved in case we needed it! I am glad we started at the Dodson trailhead --- so beautiful and remote!

We went in with a "full load" of water (Sandi - 1 gal, a 3-L bladder and a 20 oz bottle, me - 2 gals, 3-L bladder and a 20 oz); this worked out well!  We rolled into the Homer Wilson with ~4 oz left in Sandi's hydration bladder.  We had more than enough for the rest of the hike once we reloaded. Sandi did a great job with the food; she planned it all.  When we finished we had only a bit of granola and a couple of gatorade packets left in our packs. 

We took our time, stopping often to catch our breath (I would also fire off a few photos, the reason for such trail coverage!) In the end, I came out with 533 photos and 33 short videos!

More than two weeks later, I am still high from it!
Ah Big Bend, we will soon return to reacquaint ourselves in our ritual of blood, exhaustion and dehydration. How can we resist the temptation to strip ourselves of the maladies of civilization?


Online mule ears

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Re: Quick OML Trip
« Reply #7 on: December 03, 2011, 02:45:02 PM »
Nice report and you did a good job in keeping a steady pace and that climb up Blue Creek is a pain for sure!  Those 3 guys were lucky you came along and helped them work through their situation.

Thanks.   :eusa_clap:
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water



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