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Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #225 on: January 11, 2018, 06:17:52 PM »
Brass Balls, 2 between thigh pockets; you sure those aren't titanium? Because what you did was amazing!

Sent from flat land

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"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #226 on: January 11, 2018, 06:27:30 PM »
DEETS AND REGREETS


Well, first and foremost, I regret that I didn’t finish the g*d d*mn hike. Second, of course, I regret that I didn’t rescue the kitten. In retrospect, I‘m almost certain I could have done it safely, without injuring me or the kitten, or endangering the completion of my trip. That belief will haunt me for the rest of my days. I was presented with a challenge – a test, if you will – and I failed. Morally, intellectually, physically, I proved to be weak. And that, I guess, is my third greatest regret – my weakness. Having now attempted two major trips in Big Bend in two years, I have to admit I may be losing a step or two. I’m just not the man I used to be.  Ten years ago, I think I would have rescued that kitten without a second thought. And the kitten isn’t the only example of my declining effectiveness.


Almost as alarming is my reaction to the rain and fog I encountered the day I crossed over the Deadhorse Mountains into Ernst Basin. That crossing sapped my strength and will. And if there is one thing that has always distinguished me, it’s my will power. Yet it took all the strength and will I could muster to reach that first canyon in Ernst Basin; that was the revised goal I set for myself that day, and I made it. But by the time I entered into that canyon, my tank was empty and I was done. And this was less than 36 hours after luxuriously sipping tea and watching the sun rise over my little camp at the eastern end of Telephone Canyon, celebrating my just-completed packraft of the Rio Grande from one end of the park to the other – without a doubt, one of the happiest moments of my life.  The Bend giveth and the Bend taketh away.


Whereas abandoning the kitten was clearly very bad for the kitten, I didn’t suffer even a scratch while doing it (at least on the outside). But making camp in that canyon might have killed me. Let me count the ways. 1) I made camp in the wash of a narrow canyon draining a wide basin sandwiched between two very high, rocky mountain ridges…in a torrential rainstorm. I didn’t think it’d flash flood, but it could have. And I probably would have died. 2) I made camp in the wash of a narrow canyon draining a wide basin sandwiched between two very high, rocky mountain ridges…in a rainstorm…and a massive windstorm. The chances of anything other than a four-season alpine tent surviving the inevitable Venturi Effect were pretty slim.  3) I made camp in the wash of a narrow canyon draining a wide basin sandwiched between two very high, rocky mountain ridges…in a rainstorm…and a windstorm…and I pitched my tent so that its tall entrance faced upcanyon, into the wind.  The chances of my tent surviving the night went from pretty slim to impossibly slim. 4) I made camp in the wash of a narrow canyon draining a wide basin sandwiched between two very high, rocky mountain ridges…in a rainstorm…in a windstorm…with the entrance pitched into the wind…using a non-free-standing tarptent with its stakes buried in the wash’s loose, wet gravel.  The chances of my tent surviving the night just went from impossibly slim to absolute zero. 5) I made camp in the wash of a narrow canyon draining a wide basin sandwiched between two very high, rocky mountain ridges…in a rainstorm…in a windstorm…with the entrance pitched into the wind…with a non-free-standing tent using stakes buried into loose gravel…with the temperatures plunging to well-below freezing. Even in the most sensitive of Little Leagues, five strikes and you’re out. It was inevitable that I’d spend the night leaping out from under my collapsed tent, frantically trying to re-erect it in the freezing wind and pummeling rain. And without a decent pair of gloves to protect my frozen clumsy hands. Leaving my real gloves behind in RGV turned out to be a really unfortunate decision.


If the flash-flood doesn’t kill you, the hypothermia will. It’s a miracle I lived.


So why was I so stupid? Well the simplest answer would be: because I have become stupid. The more comprehensive answer would be that I was exhausted, and hungry, and mentally-fatigued, and already borderline hypothermic – possibly all made worse by the fact that I’m older and less resilient these days. The most complicated answer would be that ALL of those things are true, but all of those things were immeasurably worsened by my preoccupation with and depression about the kitten.


Still, I survived my own stupidity. And was rewarded with a freak snowstorm. Again, I was in a bad way made even worse by the terrible night, and I think I panicked a bit and hurried too fast to make it out of that canyon, out of the Ernst Basin, and over the Cuesta Carlota into the hopefully more hospitable desert beyond. Again – I was the victim of my own stupidity. If I’d been in top form, I’d have made it out of Ernst Basin in fine shape. But I was tired and hungry and mentally-fatigued and hypothermic and depressed and in a hurry. I made a mistake – I misjudged my footing in the snow – and it cost me. It cost me the rest of my trip. Again – it’s a miracle I wasn’t hurt more badly. I made it out to the main park road and to my cache, and – thankfully, miraculously – two friends were headed to that same spot to do me a big favor. In the end, the favor was even bigger than they’d bargained on, and I will be eternally grateful for their kindness and goodwill.


WHAT WORKED?


Well, first or all, my friendship with Mule Ears and Scott. Otherwise, I might not be sitting here, writing this.  Second, my relationships with my family, my co-workers, my friends, and the many people that counseled and advised me while I planned this trip or made logistic sacrifices on my behalf. I am but the tip of a huge iceberg of effort. I’m sparkling up here in the sun and they’re all hidden, underwater, holding their breath, supporting me.


Another thing that worked outstandingly was, ironically, my knees. Both functioned perfectly throughout nine days on the river and three days of hard hiking on tough terrain with a pack that was at times almost as heavy as the one that nearly defeated me last year when I struggled across Dagger Flats carrying over 3 gallons of water. It's nice to know that I can still carry 60lbs if I have to. Not once during this year's trip did I feel a twinge of pain or any sign that my knees might not be up to the tasks before me. Not until the misstep and tumble in Ernst Basin. And though the damage I suffered in that fall exacerbated a previous knee injury, that’s not to say that my previous injury ended my trip: even a perfectly healthy knee could have been damaged by that twisting fall.  My knee didn’t end my trip; my own stupidity did.


As for particular pieces of gear that worked: it’s pretty much the same list as last year. I’ll stick with my beloved Integral Designs Silshelter: it’s windproof, rainproof, and snowproof. Anything short of apocalyptic hail and I should be fine. It’s failure in the Ernst Basin rainstorm was due to me, not it. At just under 13oz for the tarptent and 8 stakes rubber-banded together, it’ll continue to come with me on wilderness adventures as long as it stays in one piece.  When it finally goes to gear heaven, I’ll probably replace it with a Six Moons Designs Deschutes. My sleep system: two indestructible (but occasionally airborne) 48” Thermarest RidgeRest closed-cell foam sleeping pads (total 18oz with an r-value of 5.6) and my Feathered Friends Winter Wren Nano down bag with overfill (33oz). Using this system, I sleep like a baby on anything but razor rocks or lumpy bunchgrass. I can toss and turn and adjust to my heart’s content. I can use the pads as a seat between me and cold hard rocks or ground. And my sleeping bag, with its arm and foot holes, can double as a parka if the weather turns arctic. My Outdoor Research Helium II raincoat: incredibly light, tough, breathable enough, and it never failed once. My Oboz Bridger boots: I can’t wrap my mind around how other hikers like Mule Ears or DesertRatShorty use light trail runners or approach shoes in Big Bend. They must have tougher feet than mine. Nor can I imagine engaging in some of the rougher bushwhacking I’ve done while wearing lightweight shoes. I get an enormous sense of security and comfort from wearing medium-weight footwear that I know is impervious to all the things in Big Bend that are evolved to hurt me.  With my Oboz, I never have to worry about my feet; they survive everything I ask of them without costing an ounce of my mental energy. That leaves me free to concentrate on what’s ahead of and above and behind me. My Vargo titanium cookpot and everything that goes inside it: I think I’ve dialed my messkit almost to perfection. It’s light (13oz, including everything but the food and water), it’s compact (a lidded cylinder, approximately 4in by 6 in), and all my cooking/eating gear fits inside of it (a titanium stove attached to a 110g fuel canister, bic lighter, bandanna/pot holder, and folding spork) except for the titanium windscreen sleeve which is wrapped tightly around the outside of the cookpot. A Basecamp odor-barrier bag for carrying food and other “smellies”. A week, maybe even two week’s food fits easily inside, the bag is translucent which helps when searching for something, it’s odor-proof to discourage critters, it’s tough, and it only weights 1.7oz. Quick-cook ramen noodle soups: man, I love these. They’re insanely cheap, can be re-packed down to next-to-nothing, weigh even less, but still satisfy me with their hot, spicy broth and noodles. I augment them with dehydrated veggies and chia seeds, and usually pair them with jerky and peanut M&M’s to make a well-rounded meal. Ramen is quick to cook, easy to eat, and there’s almost no clean-up and no trash left over. But, hands down, the best backpacking meal I ate during this trip was the Jamaican Style Jerk Rice with Chicken from Backpacker’s Pantry. My god, it was tasty and filling! Also I love GU gel with caffeine: extremely easy to eat (even while paddling or climbing), offers a little pick-me-up during the day, and saves me from having to bring coffee or any coffee-making gear. And my own homemade jerky: it’s so kick-ass. It’s cheaper and healthier than store-bought. And I can vary the recipe as much as I want. My daily food intake for this trip averaged about 1200 calories and weighed about 1.25lbs. I know it seems low, but it actually worked fine for me, and kept my pack weight down. The Deuce of Spades toilet trowel: only .6oz and perfect. This year I even used it once as an emergency tent stake. My Petzl e+LITE: still the best little microweight headlamp around, as long as you only expect it to light your immediate campsite. I wouldn’t take it mountain climbing.  CalTopo customizable maps: they do everything I need and want, and more.  But, then again, I like my maps on letter size Rite-in-Rain paper. And, lastly, my tiny Rite-in-Rain journal (.8oz) along with my even tinier Fischer Stowaway pen (.15oz): taken together, they make a very workable sub-1oz journaling system.


WHAT DIDN’T WORK?


First of all, my new Sony point-and-shoot camera which broke the night before I began my trip. Not being able to take photos along the Rio Grande was a huge bummer, particularly because most of it is so rarely traveled or reported on.  Admittedly, it would have been tough to operate a camera while rafting through the canyons, but I’m sure I could have gotten at least a few good photos of the mind-blowing scenery. I bought the Sony specifically to replace my old Panasonic Lumix point-and-shoot, which I felt fell short on anything other than macro shots. I’m still searching for the right lightweight, compact camera: all I want is to be able to take point-and-shoot wilderness photos like DesertRatShorty. Secondly, the jury is still out on the Carson 7x18 monocular (1.7oz). On this trip the monocular took the place of my Leica 8x32 binoculars (22.3oz).  The monocular was barely adequate for basic wildlife-watching and route-finding, but it did cut my packweight down by a much-appreciated 20 ounces. If I thought I was likely to encounter a lot of good wildlife on a trip, I would probably opt to bring a pair of compact binoculars like my Nikon Trailblazer 8x25 (10oz). Thirdly, the jury is also out on my new Montbell Superior Down vest. At 5.5 ounces, it’s close to half the weight of my old Mountain Hardwear down vest, and more than twice as packable, but it’s also about half as warm in temperatures below 35 degrees, I found I needed to cover it with an overlayer (like, say, my raincoat) for it to really insulate and warm me. Of course, there are a few more obvious things that didn't work, like "don't forget your Gorilla Tape" or  "don't hit yourself in the mouth with your paddle" or "don't flip in a rapid" or "don't tie a dumbass square knot" or "don't abandon a kitten" or "don't leave your gear unweighted in a windstorm" or "don't head down a river if you don't know how to get off of it" or "watch where you put your foot in a muddy creek bed, pinhead" or "pitch your tent like you know what you're doing, moron" or "watch where you put your foot in the snow, idiot".  But nobody's perfect, right?



Next up: Final Thoughts

« Last Edit: January 13, 2018, 10:37:13 AM by House Made of Dawn »
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #227 on: January 12, 2018, 12:57:50 PM »
FINAL THOUGHTS


I thought the river would kill me and the backpacking would be easy. You may remember that I actually said to myself at one point: once I get on foot, I can handle anything Big Bend throws my way. But, as some other folks that know a thing or two about wandering the wilderness wrote in a very old trip report: “pride goeth before the fall”. And it did, literally. Turns out it was backpacking that did me in. Big Bend is a dangerous place and it only takes a moment of inattention to get yourself into a world of hurt.


The fall I took in that Ernst Basin canyon was the end product of a cascading series of unfortunate events: my abandonment of the kitten and subsequent grief, the fog over the Deadhorse, the terrifying night of rain and wind that repeatedly collapsed my tent and, finally, the snow. Each of those things took a toll on my mental and physical stamina and the effects were cumulative. And probably more consequential than they would have been if I wasn’t over sixty. Or if I hadn’t been traveling solo.


As Badknees and Mule Ears pointed out in another thread, solo makes everything harder. The absence of a partner takes away a confidante, a sounding board, an extra hand in an emergency, a back-up when things go bad, and any checks and balances on one’s wilder ideas, impulses, and fears. I love being alone in the wilderness, but the solitude doesn’t come without real, tangible costs. I suspect that if I’d been traveling with a partner, I’d have rescued the cat, or if I hadn’t, I’d at least have had someone with whom to talk it out. I’d also have felt more confident working my way over the Deadhorse ridges in the fog. I wouldn’t have made camp at the end of the day in the gravelly bottom washes of a narrow canyon. If my tent had still collapsed in the wind and rain, I’d have had a second pair of hands to help re-pitch it. And the next day, in the snow, I might not have been rushing so madly to get out of Ernst Basin and into the desert beyond.  But I didn’t have a partner, and the rest is history.


Am I ready to give up going solo?  Nope. “As a dog returns to his vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.” (By the way, that’s from the same awesome trip report I quoted above). I still like the challenge and intensity of going solo. If my trip reports sometime seem as if they were written by House Made of Drama instead of House Made of Dawn, it may be – in part – because the highs are higher and the lows are lower when traveling the wilderness alone. And the longer one is alone, the longer it seems. Sixteen days is a long time in the wilderness.


Of course, as I’ve pointed out so many times before, no one ever REALLY travels alone. In many cases, the “wilderness” through which we travel was once settled land. People LIVED there. We're walking in the world our ancestors made. Big Bend National Park is a perfect example. That it is now public land and accessible to people like me is something for which I am profoundly grateful. I’m also grateful to the thousands and thousands of people that made it so, and continue to make it so. This year, just as in the past, my interactions with NPS rangers, TPWD rangers, and various law enforcement officers both current and retired, were professional, smooth, and friendly. Many went over and above to help me out. In my experience (ymmv) that is the rule rather than the exception.


So many other people helped make this trip a reality. So many BBC users - people that are much better and more experienced backpackers and boaters than me - whose own trip reports provided invaluable details and advice on the park. So many who responded to private message requests for information. And David and Richard for making it all possible by keeping this site alive. Mule Ears and Scott, of course, who were willing to do so much for me: in the end, they may have saved my life and certainly saved my dignity. My friends and family who said “yes’ to my absence for an entire month. And lastly, and above all, my wife. A woman I love so much because, among other things, she’s always been less interested in telling me I am right than in helping me figure out what is right.


The final day of my trip, I left Big Bend NP around 2pm. Once I reached Marathon and reliable cell service, I called home, telling my wife only that I’d cut my trip short because of a hurt knee and was on my way home. When I finally arrived in Dallas around midnight, it was cold and wet as I walked up the steps to my front door. I could see a single light on in the den. My wife was sitting beside it on the couch, asleep. The kids, I thought to myself, must be sound asleep in their rooms: tomorrow is a school day. As I was closing the front door she stirred, woke up, and walked sleepily over to give me a welcoming kiss.


She put one had on my cheek, and then stopped short. “What’s wrong?” she asked. “What do you mean?” I replied, not really getting her drift. “I don’t know,” she said, scanning my face and then looking directly into my eyes, “You’re... someplace else. It’s like you’re not quite back home again. What happened?”


“Well….” I sighed, feeling tears rise in the corners of my eyes, “it’s a long story……”
« Last Edit: January 12, 2018, 02:58:55 PM by House Made of Dawn »
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Offline elhombre

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #228 on: January 12, 2018, 01:14:05 PM »
Your story brings up a recurring thought that I get reading about Big Bend backpackers.  And it comes down to this idea:  Maybe Big Bend is not an ultralight backpacking venue.  Many of us give advice to newbies all day long on BBC about how they must be prepared for the desert.  Think water, shelter, sun protection, weather protection, ect.  I think that in the quest for ultralight practices, some basics are being relegated to the idea of “What are the chances I’m gonna need that?  Not very likely, so I can skimp it down to the minimum.”  The ultralight attitude lulls people into leaving more and more behind, because they didn’t use it last trip.  This has them hiking right on the edge of the positive side of survivability IF all things go as planned.

Most of us have experienced the ferocious and un-forecasted winter cold fronts.  You must carry enough extra clothes to stay dry and warm.  Life depends on this.  It’s worth the extra weight. 
A real shelter will block the wind and can be 10+ degrees warmer inside. 

You must drink/carry enough water.  Hiking all day in the desert is not the time to ween your body off the stuff.  Hot or cold weather.

FOOD !   From caloriesperhour.com - #185 guy, pack weighing #21-42,  walked 8 hours, 5371 calories.
Fitwatch.com  8 hours, moderate load – 5639 calories
A person can survive a few days in caloric deficiency  ie.OML.  Then the body starts eating itself up making us weaker and weaker.  And how about the effects on the brain?

In the fire service, there is a term LODD,  Line Of Duty Deaths.  The investigations always point to many small events that build up and occur in only a certain way that eventually accumulated to the deadly event.  I think some of the decisions made to go ultralight are becoming these small events.  Counting ounces is not the problem, it’s under estimating the severity of problems that can occur out in the desert that you think your ultralight stuff will overcome.

It seems that you are looking for all the reasons for this trip, in your own perception, was a failure.  I take the attitude like a pilot takes about a landing;  “Any trip you can walk away from was a successful one.”

As a monkey banging on a keyboard, and a man with numerous experiences and scars to prove it when it comes to making bad, stupid decision, I think much of your difficulties can be attributed to the low caloric intake, and being half frozen.  The fact you are solo magnifies the necessity to carry a larger, and thus heavier “safety net” in your pack. 

Next time when you get out there, and we all know there will be a next time, I think that if you would put your cashes closer together and fill them up so you can stop and use it as a real honest to goodness rest stop.  Hang out for the afternoon.  Eat till your FULL.  Drink water, Gatorade, and anything else your heart desires so that you give your body a chance to restore it’s reserves.  You’re right, we are all getting older, and we can still do the adventures. They just need to be tweaked a little in respect of distance, time, and supplies needed for each days work.

Thanks for taking all the time to bang out the trip report!
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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #229 on: January 12, 2018, 01:40:50 PM »
Your story brings up a recurring thought that I get reading about Big Bend backpackers.  And it comes down to this idea:  Maybe Big Bend is not an ultralight backpacking venue.  hiking right on the edge of the positive side of survivability IF all things go as planned.

Most of us have experienced the ferocious and un-forecasted winter cold fronts.  You must carry enough extra clothes to stay dry and warm.  Life depends on this.  It’s worth the extra weight. 
A real shelter will block the wind and can be 10+ degrees warmer inside. 

You must drink/carry enough water.  Hiking all day in the desert is not the time to ween your body off the stuff.  Hot or cold weather.

FOOD !   From caloriesperhour.com - #185 guy, pack weighing #21-42,  walked 8 hours, 5371 calories.
Fitwatch.com  8 hours, moderate load – 5639 calories
A person can survive a few days in caloric deficiency  ie.OML.  Then the body starts eating itself up making us weaker and weaker.  And how about the effects on the brain?

In the fire service, there is a term LODD,  Line Of Duty Deaths.  The investigations always point to many small events that build up and occur in only a certain way that eventually accumulated to the deadly event.  I think some of the decisions made to go ultralight are becoming these small events.  Counting ounces is not the problem, it’s under estimating the severity of problems that can occur out in the desert that you think your ultralight stuff will overcome.

It seems that you are looking for all the reasons for this trip, in your own perception, was a failure.  I take the attitude like a pilot takes about a landing;  “Any trip you can walk away from was a successful one.”

As a monkey banging on a keyboard, and a man with numerous experiences and scars to prove it when it comes to making bad, stupid decision, I think much of your difficulties can be attributed to the low caloric intake, and being half frozen.  The fact you are solo magnifies the necessity to carry a larger, and thus heavier “safety net” in your pack. 

Next time when you get out there, and we all know there will be a next time, I think that if you would put your cashes closer together and fill them up so you can stop and use it as a real honest to goodness rest stop.  Hang out for the afternoon.  Eat till your FULL.  Drink water, Gatorade, and anything else your heart desires so that you give your body a chance to restore it’s reserves.  You’re right, we are all getting older, and we can still do the adventures. They just need to be tweaked a little in respect of distance, time, and supplies needed for each days work.

Thanks for taking all the time to bang out the trip report!

Thanks, elhombre. That's a fascinating take on my trip. You may have a point.

While you and I probably skew a bit more toward the "old school" of backpacking (I was, after all, seriously considering the Seek Outside Divide 4500 and I'm still using my Osprey Double-Wide...I mean Aether), I may have cut my food supplies too much. I think it's an open question that I'll have to think about. 

Bear in mind, I've ALWAYS been someone that can go with less food and water and sleep than others, whether it's in the wilderness or in civilization. It's just one of my idiosyncracies.  I was never hungry on my trip, not in the least.  I've always found that if I bring more than 1200-1500 calories/day, I just don't eat them. But maybe I'm missing the bigger picture: I might need to force myself to eat more food just to keep my brain functioning in top form. And that might mean making the other adjustments you suggest.

The pivotal mistake I made during this trip, the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back, was making my camp inside that Ernst Basin canyon, on a narrow gravelly wash.  That decision led to exhaustion, hypothermia, panic.  It pushed my equipment inventory to its limits and maybe beyond. Change that one thing, and everything else changes for the better: I probably would have finished my trip. So the (very legitimate) question is: was I stupid enough to do that because I was underfed? It's possible.
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Offline badknees

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #230 on: January 12, 2018, 01:44:45 PM »
Quote
I might need to force myself to eat more food just to keep my brain functioning in top form. And that might mean making the other adjustments you suggest.

My thoughts precisely. I noticed that your caloric intake was meagre at best. While you know your own hunger signals, the physics/chemistry of metabolism indicates that you were short of fuel.

Just sayin'
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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #231 on: January 12, 2018, 02:09:49 PM »
Quote
I might need to force myself to eat more food just to keep my brain functioning in top form. And that might mean making the other adjustments you suggest.

My thoughts precisely. I noticed that your caloric intake was meagre at best. While you know your own hunger signals, the physics/chemistry of metabolism indicates that you were short of fuel.

Just sayin'

The sad truth is that I usually arrive at the trailhead with several tens of thousands excess calories stored in a secret container carried somewhere between my sternum and my....brass. I count on those calories to augment what I carry in my backpack. If I ever manage to show up in the shape I'd like, then I may have to up the meal plan.
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Offline mule ears

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #232 on: January 12, 2018, 03:17:40 PM »
Your story brings up a recurring thought that I get reading about Big Bend backpackers.  And it comes down to this idea:  Maybe Big Bend is not an ultralight backpacking venue.  Many of us give advice to newbies all day long on BBC about how they must be prepared for the desert.  Think water, shelter, sun protection, weather protection, ect.  I think that in the quest for ultralight practices, some basics are being relegated to the idea of “What are the chances I’m gonna need that?  Not very likely, so I can skimp it down to the minimum.”  The ultralight attitude lulls people into leaving more and more behind, because they didn’t use it last trip.  This has them hiking right on the edge of the positive side of survivability IF all things go as planned.

Most of us have experienced the ferocious and un-forecasted winter cold fronts.  You must carry enough extra clothes to stay dry and warm.  Life depends on this.  It’s worth the extra weight. 
A real shelter will block the wind and can be 10+ degrees warmer inside. 


I would disagree to a point.  The same statement I am sure has been uttered by high mountain folks ("it's too windy, too cold, potentially too snowy") or wet climate places ("it rains too much, the thunderstorms are too intense, etc.").  Ultralight is as much about equipment and weight as it is about experience and how to use it and yourself.  There is a whole discussion about "Stupid Light" where people do carry too little or too flimsy for the possible conditions.   I think more properly there are people who should not attempt ultralight in Big Bend or anywhere else.

I am cautious with inexperienced people to leave too many things out of the pack, especially sleeping bag warmth, maybe an extra layer, etc.  But especially in the desert most people bring too much sh*t, particularly clothing and food and then compound it by carrying too much water and refusing to learn about and use the natural water sources.  It is just as dangerous for those people with stupid heavy packs to struggle with them especially in the heat.  Easier to fall and get hurt or get heat exhaustion.

On my last trip, sure I rolled the dice with no rain gear and my lighter sleeping bag but the forecast was pretty bomber and I had plan B.  I didn't do the same on my 25 day hike across Utah when you could not be sure what might happen past the 7 day forecast so I brought my heavy bag and rain gear, neither of which I needed for the 12 days I was out and probably wouldn't have knowing how the rest of the weather turned out.  But I was using experience to determine that.  Same with food, we increased our food a bit as the trip went on knowing our appetite would increase with time and diminishing fat reserves.  Most people bring too much food and just carry it around.  You cannot force food down if you are not hungry or don't like it.  I usually bring several options with me in the clothing dept. and sometimes sleeping bags and will make the call at the trail head for trips shorter than a week or so.  I have no idea how many calories my standard backpacking diet has, I just know it has always been plenty.

HMoD's equipment list looked pretty good for a trip of that duration and difficulty and solo.  I would have a left few things out but not much, like the extra T-shirt but that is minimal.   And I would had to have different and more interesting food but that is me and he clearly enjoys Ramen noodles and GU packets. 
« Last Edit: January 12, 2018, 03:33:59 PM by mule ears »
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
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Offline badknees

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #233 on: January 12, 2018, 03:25:31 PM »
Quote
I might need to force myself to eat more food just to keep my brain functioning in top form. And that might mean making the other adjustments you suggest.

My thoughts precisely. I noticed that your caloric intake was meagre at best. While you know your own hunger signals, the physics/chemistry of metabolism indicates that you were short of fuel.

Just sayin'

The sad truth is that I usually arrive at the trailhead with several tens of thousands excess calories stored in a secret container carried somewhere between my sternum and my....brass. I count on those calories to augment what I carry in my backpack. If I ever manage to show up in the shape I'd like, then I may have to up the meal plan.

I have that problem too!

But still, it takes time to metabolize the "inner tube" and when your blood sugar level drops, fatigue sets in...
Not all those who wander are lost.
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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #234 on: January 12, 2018, 03:35:38 PM »
Quote
I might need to force myself to eat more food just to keep my brain functioning in top form. And that might mean making the other adjustments you suggest.

My thoughts precisely. I noticed that your caloric intake was meagre at best. While you know your own hunger signals, the physics/chemistry of metabolism indicates that you were short of fuel.

Just sayin'

The sad truth is that I usually arrive at the trailhead with several tens of thousands excess calories stored in a secret container carried somewhere between my sternum and my....brass. I count on those calories to augment what I carry in my backpack. If I ever manage to show up in the shape I'd like, then I may have to up the meal plan.

I have that problem too!

But still, it takes time to metabolize the "inner tube" and when your blood sugar level drops, fatigue sets in...

True.
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #235 on: January 12, 2018, 03:36:20 PM »
HMoD's equipment list looked pretty good for a trip of that duration and difficulty and solo.  I would have a left few things out but not much, like the extra T-shirt but that is minimal.   And I would had to have different and more interesting food but that is me and he clearly enjoys Ramen noodles and GU packets.

I really DO like Ramen. I tolerate GU. The extra t-shirt was mandated by the river conditions. I got soaked by oversplash everyday on the river. First thing I would do after beaching, was strip off my soaked shirts and pants and briefs, and change into fresh briefs, t-shirt, and fleece, and usually add socks before putting my river shoes back on over them. That's what I slept in. The wet stuff was laid out to dry overnight and then, the next morning, I'd change back into it before getting back into my raft. Worked really well.

The extra t-shirt and socks also came in VERY handy after I got soaked multiple times during the night that my tent kept collapsing in the Ernst Basin canyon. Gave me something else to change into before I started off into the snow the next morning.

In general, I am a firm believer in intelligence and common-sense as the two most important things to take with you into the wilderness. There is no substitute. They weigh nothing, and they're often (though not always) worth several pounds of equipment. However, the one thing they may not be a substitute for, is calories.
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline mule ears

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #236 on: January 12, 2018, 03:43:12 PM »
HMoD's equipment list looked pretty good for a trip of that duration and difficulty and solo.  I would have a left few things out but not much, like the extra T-shirt but that is minimal.   And I would had to have different and more interesting food but that is me and he clearly enjoys Ramen noodles and GU packets.

I really DO like Ramen. I tolerate GU. The extra t-shirt was mandated by the river conditions. I got soaked by oversplash everyday on the river. First thing I would do after beaching, was strip off my soaked shirts and pants and briefs, and change into fresh briefs, t-shirt, and fleece, and usually add socks before putting my river shoes back on over them. That's what I slept in. The wet stuff was laid out to dry overnight and then, the next morning, I'd change back into it before getting back into my raft. Worked really well.

The extra t-shirt and socks also came in VERY handy after I got soaked multiple times during the night that my tent kept collapsing in the Ernst Basin canyon. Gave me something else to change into before I started off into the snow the next morning.

In general, I am a firm believer in intelligence and common-sense as the two most important things to take with you into the wilderness. There is no substitute. They weigh nothing, and they're often (though not always) worth several pounds of equipment. However, the one thing they may not be a substitute for, is calories.

True that!  Good point of the extra shirt, hadn't thought about the river portion being that way.  :great:
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
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Offline Lance

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #237 on: January 12, 2018, 05:40:20 PM »
House,

Your trip report is single-handedly one of the best to ever grace the pages of BBC. I sincerely mean that. The river, the emotion, the landscape. It was all riveting. I felt like I was right there with you. In my eyes, your 16 days will never be looked at as a failure, so don't be so hard on yourself. You've reminded to stop and truly enjoy the experience while I'm there. Thank you for that and thanks for taking the time and effort to write such a beautiful narrative.

I really like this part of your story. Such great writing.
Quote
Another thought – first formed during my cross-park hike a year ago – reoccurred to me.  Every step I take in Big Bend, every piece of land I tread upon, has been trod upon before, countless times throughout history, by other humans – most of them far tougher and stronger than I could ever hope to be. We are surrounded by the dead and their dreams. And someday, perhaps a day not too far away, we will join them as a part of the mysterious living landscape. Everything so important to us today will dissolve like snowflakes, subsumed into the vast tapestry of history, an infinitesimally tiny and anonymous piece of the foundation of the future.

I live in the DFW metroplex. If you ever have some free time maybe we could meet up and talk shop. I would enjoy that.

Lance

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #238 on: January 12, 2018, 11:43:33 PM »
House,

Your trip report is single-handedly one of the best to ever grace the pages of BBC. I sincerely mean that. The river, the emotion, the landscape. It was all riveting. I felt like I was right there with you. In my eyes, your 16 days will never be looked at as a failure, so don't be so hard on yourself. You've reminded to stop and truly enjoy the experience while I'm there. Thank you for that and thanks for taking the time and effort to write such a beautiful narrative.

I really like this part of your story. Such great writing.
Quote
Another thought – first formed during my cross-park hike a year ago – reoccurred to me.  Every step I take in Big Bend, every piece of land I tread upon, has been trod upon before, countless times throughout history, by other humans – most of them far tougher and stronger than I could ever hope to be. We are surrounded by the dead and their dreams. And someday, perhaps a day not too far away, we will join them as a part of the mysterious living landscape. Everything so important to us today will dissolve like snowflakes, subsumed into the vast tapestry of history, an infinitesimally tiny and anonymous piece of the foundation of the future.

I live in the DFW metroplex. If you ever have some free time maybe we could meet up and talk shop. I would enjoy that.

Lance

Thanks, Lance. That's one of my favorite parts, too. I'd love to get together and talk shop. I admire your trips and your approach to them enormously. Let's PM and make it happen. Though, the school year is often a tough time for me. Might have to wait until school's out again.
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #239 on: January 12, 2018, 11:46:30 PM »
I meant to post this earlier, but completely forgot. Here's a Caltopo of my trip. I didn't place a line on the river. I figure everyone can figure that route out pretty easily - it runs downstream - and there are LOTS more rapids than I marked. And I did create route lines for each of my hiking days.

https://caltopo.com/m/DG0J
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

 


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