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South Rim Loop, Lost Mine Trail, & Big Bend Ranch SP10K race: Solo trip Jan 14

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Offline DrStack

  • Kangaroo Rat
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I just returned from my most recent trip from Big Bend NP over MLK weekend Jan 14-18th. What an amazing trip. This was a spur of the moment decision and I could not find anyone to join me so I decided to try my first solo overnight backcountry hike. I have day-hiked solo plenty of times but this was my first out and back solo. Last time I did the South Rim a group of friends and I went UP Pinnacles and DOWN leguna meadows and stayed at SE4. This time, however, I wanted to stay on the SE rim since I have heard such great reviews of the site. I decided to go UP Leguna Meadows and DOWN Pinnacles.

Plan:
Thurs: Houston to Big Bend
Fri: Leguna Meadows to South Rim, SW3
Sat: Boot Canyon down Pinnacles, recover, Lost Mine trail
- Primitive Car camping CS2
Sunday: Planned to do Santa Elena Canyon and Hot Springs but got roped into running the Big Bend Ranch State Park 10K. Hit up the Hot Springs, then back to Houston

Water Report
Boot Canyon had plenty of pools of non moving water, plenty of moving water between some of the larger pools, and many pools which were stagnant and green with algae. Most pools were frozen.

Water & Gear
I brought 9L of water total, the same amount I had brought on my South Rim overnight trip in September. This time, I only drank 6L of the water which left me with 8 lbs of unused pointless weight. Better to be safe though...

Pack weight was ~15 lbs + 5 lbs in food and 20 lbs in water = 40 lbs +/- 3-4 lbs of clothing I was switching between wearing and carrying. This was the heaviest pack I have carried on an overnight hike!
New Shoes: Soloman Trail Runners XA Pro 3D. Amazing. First time wearing these shoes and I had no trouble, no sore feet, no blisters. Amazing.
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Thursday Jan 14th, 2016
My last pair of hiking shoes were not suited for the sharp rocky terrain of the Chiso's so I had ordered a new pair of trail runners from Amazon on Monday and the only thing keeping me from leaving on Thursday was FedEx with my shoes! Once they arrived at 4PM :icon_eek: I was off from Houston for a 10 hour drive to Big Bend. I arrived at 3AM to the park entrance, snapped some National Park signage photos and decided to head to the Lodge to sleep in my car until the Chisos Mountain Lodge restaurant opened at 7AM.



Because my trip was last minute, I had no reserved campsites in the basin and it was completely full according to recreation.gov website. I had originally planned on going to a walk in site in Rio Grande Village but by the time I arrived there with an hour drive both ways it was not worth it.

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Friday Jan 15th, 2016
After having a hearty breakfast, I went to the Ranger Station to pay the entrance fee and get my backcountry permit I had reserved online. The permit computer system was down, however, and was not back up until 9:30 AM delaying my start time. Luckily I was able to video chat with my kiddos over WiFi and reassured my wife I would be okay on the mountain all alone. My kids were really excited and hoped I would see a bear and/or a mountain lion. I, on the other hand, was hoping the exact opposite. It is frustrating that all the information you fill out online does not cross over to when they print your permit. According to the IT lady the volunteer talked to over the phone, this is an issue they are going to try  and fix, but until then, the permit has to be filled out on the computer in person. I don't know if this is anyone else's experience but the same issues happened last September 2015.



Hiking up Laguna Meadows was such a nice slow climb compared to the grueling elevation gain of Pinnacles. I had not planned on summiting Emory Peak so I was not concerned with timing on the way back as I was hoping to do Lost Mine Trail before sunset. On the way up, at the area after the major climb, there is an area of black sand with a little side trail heading up to a small hill where I had a nice lunch looking over the basin.






At the Laguna Meadows composting toilet I had the nice visit with the donkeys who carry our sh!t down.


Finishing the climb to the campsite was not difficult and had a great time stopping to enjoy the amazing views. Crazy enough, I had 4 bars of cell reception so I called my wife and kids back home and we video chatted while watching the sunset together.




SW3 campsite is amazing. It is rocky but has amazing views has a nice rocky outcropping to sit, enjoy dinner, dinner and watch the sunset. It was WINDY! My rain fly over my tent blew off twice pulling my stakes from the ground. Around 2AM it dropped to 29 degrees F and I had to go out of my tent and put my guy lines through my rain fly and weight them down with rocks instead of my stakes. Even with a 30 degree bag, rain fly, layers of long johns and underarmor, I was freezing because of the wind.





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Saturday Jan 16th, 2016

One of my leisure items I need for a good night sleep in the backcountry is a pillow and I had just bought a great new ultralight pillow... but I forgot to put it in my pack before heading out! After a cold, windy, and fitful sleep, I bit the bullet and took a Benadryl which knocked me out to world. When I woke up at 10AM, everything in my tent had a nice thick layer of dust covering it, including my face and in my ears. Because of the cold, my water was frozen and my stove had a slow time waking up and making coffee. At the composting toilet and trail marker, there was a path I followed to the tip of the rim with amazing views. I set up my tripod and attempted to take a few pictures of myself over the rim.





At the junction of the Boot Canyon Trail and Northern portion of the rim, I decided to head down boot canyon since I have not hiked that portion of the trail and, because of my late start, the extra 2.5 miles of the northeast rim might prevent me from hiking the Lost Mine.

The water in Boot Springs was frozen solid in a few places but where the sun was hitting, the water was flowing beneath the thin top layer of ice. I was stopped by a Ranger who was checking backpackers' permits.

At the junction of Pinnacles and Emory peak I was regretting that I had not planned to summit. My last trip we saw a sow and 2 of her cubs foraging for food on the trail! I did not expect to see any more bears but I surely wanted to see the views of the park from the summit. Next time, for sure. The trail was surprisingly empty around this time, perhaps due to the cold and wind, but for the 15 mins I was stopped for a hurried lunch, I did not see a single hiker.



Making it back to the Chisos Basin at 3:30 PM, I re-energized, drank a beer and a Gatorade, rested my feet in the heat of my car while I drifted off to sleep. Thankfully, I set a timer and woke up with enough remaining light to still complete the Lost Mine. The park map said 3 hours round trip but I figured with sunset at 6:30 I would be able to make it in 2 hours if I booked it.

Ditching my heavy overnight pack, I put on a lightweight day pack and hit the trail. I felt like a speed runner not carrying 20 lbs of gear and 20 lbs of water! Quite early on I realized how amazing the views of the park were from this trail and decided I will have to hike it again on my next trip with my wife. I had the trail to myself on the way up and only passed about 3 people who were coming down. I climbed the large rock at the top and almost fell asleep until another couple of hikers came up and I took their picture then headed down. I got to my car just as the light was failing clocking in at a total time of 2 hours 15 minutes.







By this time I was craving a hot meal not from my camp stove so I drove back to the Chisos Lodge but it was closed for dinner because of a dark skies private event! The internal struggle of setting up camp in the desert, drinking beer, and watching the stars was calling but I desired a burger more. The drive to Starlight Theater went quickly enough watching the dark roll in over the desert and the last light backdrop the Chisos. Little did I know the Starlight Theater was going to be packed! There was a 2 hour wait for table service. Instead, I sat on the porch enjoying the feeling of being around civilization when I had a nice conversation with a man who was handing out packets for the Big Bend Ultra 50K, 30K, and 10K. He convinced me to sign up for the 10K the next morning at 8:30 AM! With that to look forward to I went to the bar, grabbed a chair, and had the best damn cheeseburger with a fried egg and Big Bend Brewing Company Porter I have had! Sitting next to me was a couple of grad art students from Texas State, one of which had bought a small parcel of 5 Acres at Terlingua Ranch and they were planning on camping there that night. When they got to the Ranch, he tried finding his parcel but they were not marked and he had no GPS coordinates so I invited them to stay at my car camping site. After 2 more Porters and great conversations with a local park fire fighter and a guy named Mike, I headed back to the desert to set up camp. Thankfully the desert had no wind to speak of and was not nearly as cold as the mountains. Throughout the night it only dropped into the low 30s. I realize now my sleeping bag is getting old and probably does not live up to its 30 degree rating.

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Sunday Jan 17th, 2016

Hurriedly I woke up with my alarm, packed up my gear and drove to Big Bend Ranch state park. At a balmy 33 Degrees F, I made it to the starting line and had an amazing run through the trails of BiBe SP. I do not envy the 50K'ers who had a crazy elevation gain and decline on their trail. As I was finishing the 10K, the first 30K finished came in at a crazy speed of 2 hours and 20 minutes, on a trail run, in the freezing cold, in the desert and mountains. That is a robot. This was by far the smallest race I have ever run and the most fun. The sense of community was amazing and I am for sure signing up for the 30K next year! http://www.bigbend50.com




Wanting to minimize my drive through the dark back to Houston, I knew I only had time for either Santa Elena Canyon or the Hot Springs. Knowing the Canyon was closer to the west side park entrance, I still chose the hot springs because what is better than Nature's Jacuzzi after a weekend of hiking and a 10K run?

What an amazing trip! To top it off, at the Buccee's between San Antonio and Houston, I stopped for coffee and was planning on taking a 30 minute nap in my car, but as I was filling up my coffee a lady collapsed at the fountain drinks. An amazing nurse helped me give her CPR until the EMS showed up!

Until next time big bend!


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Offline mule ears

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  • Mountain Lion
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  • "He had to leave Texas but won't say why" McMurtry
    • 40 years of walking
Wow!  Next time can you manage to pack in some more things?   :icon_wink:

Thanks for the great report!
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
http://40yearsofwalking.wordpress.com/

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Offline Homer Wilson

  • Black Bear
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That second sunset shot is amazing! Mark it for the calendar.

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Offline Jalco

  • Mountain Lion
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That second sunset shot is amazing! Mark it for the calendar.

+1 on the sunset shot.  I also loved the shot of the burro.  On my trip in September, a donkey was on the trail ahead of me as I descended Pinnacles.  I never saw him, but he left plenty evidence of his passing (pun intended)  :icon_biggrin:

Congrats on a action-packed trip.

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Offline Andreas

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  • A gun gives you the body not the bird. HD Thoreau
Thank you for posting this awesome TR & beautiful photos! Enjoyed both VERY much.
"Any time you're throwin dirt you're losin ground."

Cormac McCarthy, No Country for Old Men

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Offline dprather

  • Mountain Lion
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I especially like the picture of you smiling so naturally by your tent.  The Bend does that to faces, doesn't it!
Leave "quit" at the car.  Embrace the trail as your friend.  Expect to enjoy yourself, and to be amazed.

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Offline TheWildWestGuy

  • Golden Eagle
  • Mountain Lion
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Great trip report,  I think you should plan to do the Outer Mountain Loop on your next trip, you are fit enough and can do it either solo or with a friend.  You will love it but be prepared for it.   TWWG

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Offline Casa Grande

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I especially like the picture of you smiling so naturally by your tent.  The Bend does that to faces, doesn't it!

I'll have to second that.


Sent from my iPad using Big Bend Chat mobile app (beta)

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Offline DrStack

  • Kangaroo Rat
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Thank you everyone for the kind replies! Big Bend, and remembering trips to big bend, do put a HUGE smile on my face. Thank you to everyone on this forum since the advice, trip reports, and pictures were indespencible in preparing for a trip and deciding when and how to go.

@wildwestguy, I plan on doing the OML in October!

I am going back March 5-9th with my wife, 4 year old daughter, and 2 year old son! Surprised there were campsites still available on recreation.gov this close to the spring break rush. Although we could not find any in the basin, we did manage to snag one in Rio Grande Village. We have carried them on our backs through Smokey Mountain NP and plenty of State Parks around Houston area. I cannot wait to bring them out to Big Bend!





Any advice, tips, or do not miss day hikes for young children is greatly appreciated!

Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-N910A using Big Bend Chat mobile app


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Offline ambersdad

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Great report. Thanks for sharing.
Having decent gear is nice, but wildlife photography is knowing your subject and getting lucky, and I love getting lucky.
https://www.facebook.com/randy.jones.33234
http://randyswildlifeandnaturephotography.com/

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Offline tusker

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Thank you!

 


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