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Solo Reverse OML Oct 29-31

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Offline nuggetf5

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Solo Reverse OML Oct 29-31
« on: November 03, 2017, 09:58:51 AM »


Greetings fellow hiking pals. Trip report that may be more than you want to know, but here goes. This was my second solo OML, the first being a year ago mid-November. It was my third trip to the park in three years to hike. Full photo album here on my Flickr account so only inserting a few photos to break up things, and not always in the best order: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mandolincafe/albums/72157688779723494/with/38081016226/

Day 1

Departed Homer Wilson at 7:30 a.m. Rental car said it was 44 degrees outside. Still dark but the sky was clear and a bit of visibility with a half moon, but the headlamp was on for a good 30 minutes. Since there was no wind had optimal temperature to get over the first big climbs while avoiding the inevitable heat. Trail conditions from a year ago changed quite a bit. Mother Nature has been aggressive in terms of erosion throughout good portions of the OML and the plants are much more grown over parts of the trail, many cairns appear to have been washed away. In particular, of no surprise, Blue Creek appears to have moved much closer towards the Homer Wilson home which made me question in my own mind how many more years it will be before the creek reclaims it. My first visit two years ago to the house I remember a good distance between it and creek. No more.

A couple of park rangers told me a trail maintenance crew was scheduled for the following week for the Dodson.

The boxes at Homer Wilson for stashing water are overflowing with outdated containers from as far back as April and May. Photo below shows a bit of that. Can't guarantee it'll be there a few weeks from now but if you're walking by and thirsty, go for it. Took off more than hydrated with only 28 ounces of water and made Fresno with a gulp to spare... only recommended in very cool weather and if you know the trail. Had it been hot would have carried 3 x that at least.



Within the first 30 minutes I had lost the trail (sheesh), couldn't locate any cairns and though wasn't lost, was unsure where I needed to be. Finally spotted the trail to my left uphill, started rough climbing and about a third of the way to what I thought was the trail came across where I needed to be. To be honest, I was like, "how can I not find the trail a mile plus from Homer Wilson?" That was the worst moment of the trip and coming so early was a bit disappointing, but soon forgotten.

View from the trail :)


Made Fresno Creek in good shape and time in spite of missing the trail many times, only for brief moments usually, and the washes are particularly dicey. Had stripped off a light wool t-shirt and waterproof windbreaker and was down to a single long-sleeve light wool zip front the rest of the day which kept exposure down. Fresno Creek was a minor trickle so headed downstream from the crossing maybe 20-30 yards and there were clear pools with running between rocks and easy to find 3-4 inch deep pockets where you could fill your water bottles.

After a 45 minute break and some dried mangoes (*great* idea picked up in the active food thread) took on the second half with 56 ounces of water knowing I'd try to make it within less than a mile of Upper Juniper Springs the first night. That's a big day but being fresh and hydrated at the start helps--avoided alcohol the night before which helps (but no fun). I'd also consumed a lot more water so didn't tap into what I was carrying for an hour or so. The second half was a little better in terms of trail condition but again, the trail is overgrown much beyond my experience last year. Had to be extra careful at all times. Backs of my hands got a good amount of cactus scratches still visible from home with hands on the keyboard.

It was starting to heat up but I made the Dodson/Juniper Canyon junction at 2:35 and took a nice long break. Unlike Homer Wilson, the bins at the junction had not a drop of water, but an amazing amount of trash and general crap that included spent food containers, empty food packet meal containers and empty water bottles. A sad mess. Took a picture, I'm not going to post it.

Lots of erosion on the first three miles going up the initial Juniper Canyon climb. Some of it made it hard to walk directly onto the original path, and the grass was much more overgrown but no trouble following the trail.



At this point I was getting tired but it was early and remembered the trail as being fairly gentle the next three miles towards the springs. Off I go hoping for one of the spots just below the spring I'd read others talk about. By the time I reached the next to last spot just below Upper Juniper I was physically finished for the day and didn't know if this was the spot talked about but it turned out to be magical. Entirely surrounded by mountains, decent view down as far as the eye can see South and just off the trail. Had a nice tree for shade so took out my Pro-Lite mattress pad, inflated it partly and used it for a seat and leaned against my backpack.

Heard there was a naturally started fire in Juniper Canyon back several months. Barely noticeable but once in awhile you'd see the evidence. I think this picture was taken there.


Day 1 was very, very long, but it worked out fine. Turned in early and read an entire book (a short one) before getting to sleep.

Number of hikers seen today: 0

View a dusk from camp:




Day 2



Beautiful night, not too cold, very little wind, so optimal, and what a view to wake up to! Broke camp at 8:00 a.m. using the very last of my water at breakfast for some kicked up Irish instant oatmeal with dried blueberries and an instant coffee. Arrived at Upper Juniper 15 minutes up the trail and found one other camp spot between where I stayed and the springs. Assuming this is the one so many here remark about. It's great, too, but the foliage is overgrown and you couldn't see the canyon below without some serious effort.

The springs are seeping water out of the rock and shale so lots of mud surround the area, no big runoff from the rocks like last year so made dips into the rock "sink." Seems someone may have added new rocks to the basin but maybe not remembering correctly from last year. After filling two 28 ounce bottles for the climb and drinking a bit on break cleaned out leaves and a few rocks and sticks for the next visitor.

Upper Juniper Spring


Interestingly, the upper section of the canyon seemed maybe a bit better in terms of trail grass, but there are probably 10 trees that have fallen into the path between the springs and the summit, but none really make for much of a problem and some are easily stepped over. Not a huge deal.



Made the top in two hours and the water was gone. Weather was warming and with only another half mile before Boot Canyon felt I'd planned to water situation well. Really didn't want to carry any more water than necessary up that last 2000'. Boot pipe was running nicely, filled each 28 ounce bottle in about a minute and for this stop added a big 64 ounce bottle that would collectively need to get to Homer Wilson. The weather had been pretty nice so felt confident in this amount. Originally the plan was to climb the Northwest Trail which I'd done two years ago but my legs by now told me to make a bee-line for the South Rim.

Lots of water up Boot Canyon


Other than three hikers I saw in Boot my decision to skip the Northwest Trail climb turned out to be a good decision both in terms of I'd never made that straight shot to the Rim, and I met a young guy who had just started as a 3 month intern/volunteer with the park as their social media person. My Bic lighter shot craps that morning and after chatting with him awhile he offered me his, allowing me to have a warm breakfast the following morning--much appreciated. He was headed back to the basin and wouldn't need it so gave it to me. I returned it to the rangers the following day after completing the hike since everyone seemed to know him. Told them to pass on a very appreciative THANK YOU!



Had the South Rim to myself and arrived there around 2:00, took a nap, stowed my gear and did some day hiking up and back in both directions. After crossing the Dodson twice in two years I now understand better what I'm looking at. My first visit to the rim two years ago it was all pretty but I didn't have a clue where the trail was. Unless I'm mistaken, you can see the Dodson/Juniper Canyon intersection and the road leading up to it, you can see Fresno Creek (there are distinctive rocks on the hill facing East), and I *think* I'm seeing the top of the large hill directly behind Homer Wilson place. Someone correct me if this isn't so. Weather was just beautiful, the view great with just a little haze, and total peace. A great afternoon and early evening.

Met a trio of kids from Sweden on an extended vacation, two guys and a girl. They asked for a recommended day hike and I told them about Cattail Falls but to ask the rangers first for additional directions. Found out they made the hike because two days later I'm in Boquillas, Mexico for lunch, walk by a restaurant and there they are. Fun to run into folks you meet on the trail elsewhere.







Number of hikers seen today: 8

Day 3

Late in the evening of Day 2 the temperature dropped sharply, and around midnight dropped some more, and the wind began to howl. The tent shook violently. And then something walked through my camp at 1:15 a.m. waking me and scared the living bejesus out of me. I'm from Kansas. We don't have things that desire to eat you in the wild. First thought was someone coming in late, but not at 1:15 in this wind. Was it a hoof sound? Can only assume a deer, but I'd eaten packaged wild salmon for dinner and had thoughts of a bear would be attracted to that.

Memories of my pre-trip bragging to some hiking friends about the *ultimate* cup of coffee at sunrise looking over the rim while quaffing my morning Joe went bye-bye. I could tell it was overcast so I did as much prep inside the tent as possible (including making breakfast, something I don't advise doing--tent stove inside tent) and hit the trail at 7:30 a.m. in total darkness with head lamp. Had walked a good mile of the trail going West the evening before so knew it was easy enough. It wasn't as cold as I'd feared by guessing in the mid to high 30s. With the brisk wind coming off the rim it was miserable. Heat exposure can certainly be dangerous, but at least you can stop and rest. When you get chilled, you're screwed, and you don't dare stop.



Once I turned toward Boot Canyon the sun had risen but was still obscured. The weather eased a bit. Had two heavy wool layers and wind/rain gear on, ball cap over the hood, gloves, and stayed that way for about two hours. More erosion obvious in the trail between the rim and the initial Blue Creek descent but because this trail is used much more and wider, not a problem. Once going down the very top of Blue Creek the trail was in good shape. I was able to peel off one layer about half way down, and the coat once I'd completed the steepest section, but the gloves remained on for another hour.

Always enjoy looking for "faces" in the cactus


I really like the section just below the steepest descent because there are lots of bird nests, interesting turns, and the cliffs are great. Very unique. And as we've all observed, the final few miles of gravel can be tedious in spite of the nice views. I sort of gave up trying to find the trail at times because this section you can pretty much march ahead and usually find the trail once in awhile. I think many cairns have been washed away.

This bird nest doesn't look like much but inside was the most perfectly constructed little home.


Ended up at Homer Wilson around 11:15 and it felt great to walk up the hill to the car. No blisters, no bruises, no lost or black and blue toenails, just a few good scratches on the hands due to the foliage being so tall and sore thighs. All in all, a great time, felt like I prepared really well and keep my pack weight well under 20 lbs. for almost the entire distance.

Number of hikers seen today: 0

So different going a different direction and for the second time. I made a conscious decision based on the recommendations of others here to skip the basin, and glad I did. Just doesn't add that much to me and I come here in part for the solitude. I run a large web site mostly by myself with a few part-time employees for a living so coming here and getting off the grid is exhilarating and refreshing. It's the anti-internet.

Other people's trash I picked up on the trail and returned to the basin trash receptacle:

Two identical blue water bottle caps coming down Blue Creek... assuming their accompanying bottles were nearby
Empty sardine can minus lid on Dodson
Spent Chapstick minus the lid on Dodson
A large metal bolt that appeared it could have come off an older backpack on the Dodson
Couple of empty protein bar wrappers

Day after tripped down to Boquillas for lunch and a visit to the Marufo Vega trailhead. You can guess where this is headed.

« Last Edit: November 03, 2017, 10:05:06 AM by nuggetf5 »
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Offline mule ears

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Re: Solo Reverse OML Oct 29-31
« Reply #1 on: November 03, 2017, 12:40:17 PM »
Great report and you really did manage your water needs/carry and pack beautifully!  You will enjoy the MV for sure!
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
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Offline dprather

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Re: Solo Reverse OML Oct 29-31
« Reply #2 on: November 03, 2017, 02:25:09 PM »
Great report - thanks.
Leave "quit" at the car.  Embrace the trail as your friend.  Expect to enjoy yourself, and to be amazed.

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Offline DesertRatShorty

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Re: Solo Reverse OML Oct 29-31
« Reply #3 on: November 03, 2017, 04:46:36 PM »
Well done and thanks for being such a good steward and packing out the trash you found.
I roamed and rambled, and I foller'ed my footsteps
   To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
   And all around me a voice was a'sounding
   This land was made for you and me

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Offline rocketman

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Re: Solo Reverse OML Oct 29-31
« Reply #4 on: November 03, 2017, 05:57:42 PM »
Great TR! Love the details! Looking forward to the next installment.
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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: Solo Reverse OML Oct 29-31
« Reply #5 on: November 05, 2017, 09:01:34 PM »
This is a beautiful trip report, Nugget. One of best I've read in a long time. I'll second what others have said: impressive water management. Great decisions every step of the way. And wonderful comments. I enjoyed sharing the trail with you (vicariously).

And: "wasn't lost, but was unsure where I needed to be" is the story of my life, especially in the Bend.



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

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Offline PacingTheCage

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Re: Solo Reverse OML Oct 29-31
« Reply #6 on: November 07, 2017, 01:40:32 PM »
Graet report Nugget and appreciate the detail and helpful information! Your photos are great too! 

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Offline horns93

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Re: Solo Reverse OML Oct 29-31
« Reply #7 on: November 08, 2017, 11:52:27 AM »
Thank you, Nugget, for the excellent trip report and info. I recall exchanging a few messages back in the summer about your OML trip planned for the fall. I'm glad to see your trip turned out well. It's my turn next week  :victory:

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Offline horns93

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Re: Solo Reverse OML Oct 29-31
« Reply #8 on: November 08, 2017, 11:58:53 AM »
Here is a picture of that fire in Juniper Canyon you are referring to, as seen from the BCT.

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Offline nuggetf5

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Re: Solo Reverse OML Oct 29-31
« Reply #9 on: November 08, 2017, 08:16:47 PM »
Thank you, Nugget, for the excellent trip report and info. I recall exchanging a few messages back in the summer about your OML trip planned for the fall. I'm glad to see your trip turned out well. It's my turn next week  :victory:

I remember that discussion. Have a *great* time on your hike and be sure to tell us about it. Thinking the crew they were talking about doing trail maintenance may done by the time you do your hike. That's a good thing as it's in need. One note: if you're starting at Homer Wilson, make sure you go clear up to the house to find the trail. I turned right at the sign which is back about 50 yards and sends you down the wash into never-never land.
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Offline nuggetf5

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Re: Solo Reverse OML Oct 29-31
« Reply #10 on: November 08, 2017, 08:17:32 PM »
Here is a picture of that fire in Juniper Canyon you are referring to, as seen from the BCT.

Excellent photo, horns! Thanks. What a marvelous ecosystem to walk through, and natural fire really is a part of it and has been for longer than we can comprehend.
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