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The O.M.G. Trip (aka the O.M.L.) - Jan. 1-4, 2008

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Offline Casa Grande

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The O.M.G. Trip (aka the O.M.L.) - Jan. 1-4, 2008
« on: January 12, 2008, 12:09:13 PM »
Two years ago, in January 2006, I weighed about 185 lbs.; 33in waist; and a pretty flat stomach.  Fast forward to January 2008: 260 lbs.; nearly a 40in waist; and, well, not so flat.  Apparently, sometime this fall, I decided it would be a great idea to hike the harshest, furtherest, and largest elevation change I have ever hiked whilst being in the worst physical shape of my life.    :eusa_doh:

Sarah, Zac, Grayson and I rode into the west side of the park on the 31st of December.  We managed to get to Panther Junction in a timely manner and was surprised at the absence of backcountry permit seekers.  Much more opportunity to get what I wanted this time.   I secured my permit and off we went to cache the water for my hiking party at the Blue Creek Ranch.  Afterwards, we went on down to Castolon to catch a lunch.



I haven't been to the Cottonwood campgrounds my unimpressed introduction to it during my first trip in 1991.  It was filthy, loud, vulchers at every picnic table and smelly.  On a whim, we decided to head on over and check it out as we had some time on our hands.  I'm glad we did..unlike the rest of the park, the Cottonwoods were turning a bright orange.



And we saw an ugly wild turkey.



Later that evening we checked into our reserved camping spot in the Basin Campgrounds.  We were to meet up with my hiking party consisting of my Brother-in-law, his brother, my SEVEN YEAR OLD nephew and a friend of theirs I had never met.  We were all to do the very ambitious OML the next morning.

The wind came sweeping through the Basin around 8pm that night and the temps plummeted to about 35 degrees that night.  Our little "New Years Party" would be ending early.  We all turned in well before midnight.  The next morning, Sarah, Zac and Grayson went back up to Alpine and the rest of us grabbed a last minute breakfast buffet at the restaurant.    We loaded our gear on our backs and off we went via the Pinnacles for lunch at Boot Canyon.



The Boot Spring was as dry as a bone and it was getting to be close to 3pm before we even arrived there.   Personally, I was doing O.K. but knew we had a pretty good jaunt ahead of us before sun would set.  We were Zone camping down in Juniper and none of us really had a clue where we were camping that night.  We headed up the trail to Juniper Trail.  The climb to the top was a b!tch!  My 70 plus pounds of blubber was finally taking a toll and we weren't even out of the mountains yet!  As we crested the top of the trail about to make our descent into the Canyon, the sun began to drop fast, and so did the temps down to about 32.  We hiked down into the Canyon with our headlamps on for about 2 hours with our breath escaping from our warm mouths.  We made it to a camping area around 8pm and we were bushed.

The next morning we woke up at sunrise and to our dismay, we hadn't made it down into the Canyon as far as we liked.  The temps had plummeted passed freezing and much of my water was frozen.  We were on our second day and already behind schedule and slowly running out of water.  We did not cache at Juniper.  We hiked passed Juniper Spring and decided to waive our search for water there, thinking we would make it to Fresno by night fall.  We finally managed to get down to the Juniper Canyon/Dodson intersection, but it was already 3pm....still, way behind schedule, we would be lucky to get to Fresno, our next water supply, before dark.  This was not to be.  As night fell on us just East of the Dodson Spring, we aborted any further attempts as we were not up for hiking at night as we had the night before.

The overnight temps on the Dodson weren't nearly as cold as the night before, probably upper 30's, lower 40's and not much wind. It was a much needed and very restful night.   As usual, we slowly lumbered out of our bags and it was well after sunrise before we even started packing.   We were now officially out of water and Fresno was a good 2.4 miles as the crow flies according to my GPS.  Heck, for all I knew, the Rangers and the BBC members were wrong about Fresno, maybe it was dry. What if it was? What do we do then?  The Dodson was already proving to be a rough ride for us and we weren't even half way over it yet.

I managed to get my stuff together first and decided to head out ahead of my party to find Fresno.  I was totally out of water and had a good 2 hour hike, by my best estimate to Fresno.  I had to get there, pronto.  So, I headed out on my own down the Dodson that morning and would meet back up with them at Fresno.







It was a nice morning.  A solo hike with nothing but me, my camera, my overpacked sack on my back, and my increasing aches and pains.  I began wondering, what if I miss the "exit?"  What if there isn't any water?  I can totally see how one could loose their sense of things when one has no water, is in an unfamiliar place and panics.  Luckily, I knew where I was, and I had near complete trust in what I was told by the Rangers and the BBC board that "there would be water in Fresno."  As I got closer and closer to Fresno, my thirst and hope was increasing.   I bounded over the trail just knowing there would be an oasis waiting for me just on the other side of the hill.  And there was.  A 7-11 in the desert! The Fresno had water!  I could even hear it babbling across the rocks!  AHH!! Water!  Just as I descended into the Fresno Creek arroyo,  a medium sized black bear came bounding out of the trees and up the hill in the opposite direction from me.  Surprise!  Someone else was apparently thirsty that morning too!  The bear sprinted away from me like Jesse Owens.  I fumbled for my camera, "I've got to get a shot of this one!"  Just as she was about 100 yards from me, she stopped and turned to me.  I grabbed my zoom and snapped away a couple of pics:



I got 'er!  After taking her pic, she continued her sprint further and further away until she disappeared over the hill towards the Rim.  Wow, that was awesome!  And I was the only one to see it.....my co-hikers will be pissed they missed it.  After recharging my system with the best water I have ever tasted and about 45 minutes after my arrival, the rest of my party came over the hill and descended into Fresno.  I told them what happened and although they were shocked too, they were more interested in water....can't say I blame them.

Up to now, this whole trip had been a complete mis-calculation.  We mis-calculated our time, terrain, condition and our map reading skills.  We mis located where we were on the map nearly every time.  The sun was already descending fast.  It was nearly 12 pm at Fresno and we finally made it out of there after a long pit stop at around 1:30pm.  The climb out of Fresno was a b!tch.  My feet really hurt, my breath was short and I was clearly way too out of shape for this trip. But, I was in it and had to complete it now.

We finally made it to the top of the descent into the Blue Creek Ranch...night was falling on us again.  Our destination was the Ranch, but we obviously weren't going to make it before dark.  Although the view was amazing, we were exhausted.



Finally, around 7pm, one hour after dark, we made it to our Blue Creek Cache, not that we really needed it now, Fresno gave us enough juice for the rest of our hike.  We definitely should have cached at Juniper instead.  Live and learn.   Feet killing me, back killing me, legs like rubber, and lung capacity not so good.  But we finally got off that Dodson....smooth sailing now all the way to the Basin....ha, ha.

The next morning, our 4th day, we decided to get out early.....9am by our standards that is.  This should put us into the Basin around noon...nope, not even close.   This day would prove to me to be the hardest day  yet.  Not just of this trip, but for all trips I have ever taken.   Going up the Blue Creek Trail after 3 days on the OML was way more than my fat ass could take.  I got all the way to the switchbacks in fairly descent shape.  I was huffing and puffing, but O.K.    The switchbacks going up Blue Creek liked to have killed me.  I had to stop every few feet to catch my breath.  I was leaning on my Sotol staff with all my might.  Too boot, I mis-calculated the amount of water to take and was nearly out.  I hadn't even made it to Leguna Meadow yet.  I told the rest of my party to go on and I would meet them at the top, or not.  It took all the strength I could muster to get up that trail, but I did it. I made it to Leguna and I had never been so happy to see it in all my life!  The rest of the trail, of course, was a cake walk compared to what we had just done, all be it without water.    After 6 grueling hours, we finally made it back to the Basin.  I was craving everything to eat and drink. After calling my wife, I headed for the store and bought a Dr. Pepper and Sprite.  I chugged both of them as we headed up to the restaurant for the best darn hamburger and fries ever!

I will likely never attempt a Backpacking excursion like this again unless I get back under 200 lbs and learn to carry light.  The OML was good, but I've been there done that and I'll likely not attempted it again for a long time, if ever.  We had very little day light to make decent mileage, we were too slow, and our water plan was flawed.  The trip was not without it's great moments:   the stone steps in Juniper, Fresno, the view from the Dodson over the Blue Creek Ranch, and the sight of Blue Creek Canyon, even though I was in major pain, was a beautiful sight to see with Santa Elena standing proudly way off in the distance. (Sorry, too exhausted to even get my camera out for that one.) 

My parting words of advice for those that want to do the OML:

1. Get in shape.
2. Cache at Juniper.
3. Never under estimate the terrain.
4. Never over estimate your abilities. (sound familiar?)
5. And have someone standing by to pick your gear up at Blue Creek so you won't have to lug it up that mountain!

New Interactive Panoramas:
Juniper Canyon
Rock Stairs
Sunrise on the Rim from Dodson Trail
Fresno Creek
Blue Creek Canyon <---Hope you like this one...just about died taking it!



« Last Edit: January 12, 2008, 12:40:11 PM by Casa Grande »

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Offline Al

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Re: The O.M.G. Trip (aka the O.M.L.) - Jan. 1-4, 2008
« Reply #1 on: January 12, 2008, 12:22:34 PM »
David, great trip report. Very insightful for those of us who are not the TWWG or Okiehikers of the world.  You have explained why as one gets older and to the extent one gets out of shape ZONE CAMPING is the best way to enjoy the desert.  One doesn't have to get from Point A to B yet one can ENJOY the desert rather than one's entire life being about putting the next foot in front of the other.  Just pick a zone where one can hike in, set up camp, and explore the area by day hiking from your base camp and day hike to a spring or even hike back to the vehicle to get water and resupply.

Al
« Last Edit: January 12, 2008, 12:25:03 PM by Al »

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Offline homerboy2u

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Re: The O.M.G. Trip (aka the O.M.L.) - Jan. 1-4, 2008
« Reply #2 on: January 12, 2008, 12:47:26 PM »
Wow....just spectacular my friend. What shots...maybe that is why you still are Casa Grande. I loved how the curtain of colors falls down on the panos, when they load up. I hope you have some more. :eusa_clap:
Stay thirsty, my friends.

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Offline Casa Grande

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Re: The O.M.G. Trip (aka the O.M.L.) - Jan. 1-4, 2008
« Reply #3 on: January 12, 2008, 12:56:16 PM »
Thanks, Yall.....
Here's a profile of the elevation change for the OML:

« Last Edit: January 12, 2008, 01:06:13 PM by Casa Grande »

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Offline badknees

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Re: The O.M.G. Trip (aka the O.M.L.) - Jan. 1-4, 2008
« Reply #4 on: January 12, 2008, 01:10:41 PM »
Hey David,

Glad you got to see the bear, :eusa_clap: even if the rest of your party didn't.
Thanks for the photos and the self-criticism. It makes us remember how unforgiving the Bend can be if we aren't realistic about our capabilities.

Don't feel bad, I have about 25 lbs I would like to leave at the trailhead before I hike. Unfortunately it is attached at the waist. :icon_redface:
Not all those who wander are lost.
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Offline SA Bill

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Re: The O.M.G. Trip (aka the O.M.L.) - Jan. 1-4, 2008
« Reply #5 on: January 12, 2008, 01:16:29 PM »
I feel your pain CG! I too am not in as good a shape as I should be and I'm older than I once was. They say that growing old is not for the faint of heart. I agree!!

Thanks for enduring this ordeal to share with us! The panos are wonderful!!

Once, in my younger, more foolish days, two buddies and I did the S Rim as a day hike for "fun". Nearly killed us and we were in decent shape and fairly well prepared for such a hike. Of course we underestimated our water needs and we ran out several miles from the Basin. We were really dragging' by the time we made it back. That gave me a good understanding of how things can go wrong in BB. Thankfully, we made it okay but it could have turned out badly. Glad you all survived!!
   Thanks for sharing!
       Bill
Bill - In San Antonio

Growing old is mandatory.
Growing up is optional.

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Offline Casa Grande

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Re: The O.M.G. Trip (aka the O.M.L.) - Jan. 1-4, 2008
« Reply #6 on: January 12, 2008, 01:29:35 PM »
One little post-script I forgot to add:

Now, more than 7 days after the end of the trip, both of my big toes are completely numb.  No, really, I cannot feel my big toes at all!   :icon_eek:

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Offline bdann

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Re: The O.M.G. Trip (aka the O.M.L.) - Jan. 1-4, 2008
« Reply #7 on: January 12, 2008, 01:45:08 PM »
Nice report David, I know what you mean regarding biting off more than you can chew when not in good shape.  It can be a real b!tch.  I smoked HEAVILY for many years, during that time every hike at Big Bend would get worse.  My legs were fine, but my lungs just couldn't take it anymore.  Here I was 27 years old and 20 yards on the Pinnacles Trail and I'm completely winded.  I quit a little over two years ago and now, slowly, I'm getting my lungs back, every hike is getting easier.  Anyway, not exactly a direct comparison to your experience, I just know how it feels to be doing something you used to be really good at, and just barely make it through. 

Congrats on the bear pics!  The panos are awesome as usual.   :eusa_clap:
WATER, It does a body good.

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Offline Roy

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Re: The O.M.G. Trip (aka the O.M.L.) - Jan. 1-4, 2008
« Reply #8 on: January 12, 2008, 01:51:40 PM »
Hey David,
Glad you got to go, and (really) glad you got out OK.  Very nice panos :eusa_clap: and trip report.

Last time I did the South Rim was 2003;  I'd just turned 50, knew it was gonna be a long day but wouldn't have missed it for the world.  Don't know when I'll make it again, but I will.  (So will you.)

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Offline TheWildWestGuy

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Re: The O.M.G. Trip (aka the O.M.L.) - Jan. 1-4, 2008
« Reply #9 on: January 12, 2008, 02:02:55 PM »
Great Report David, but your being too harsh on yourself.  It's not your "robust" size it's the fact that you guys didn't get moving early enough and burned a lot of daylight before taking your first steps.  It's hard to muster the troops on cold mornings but I like to set my alarm for 15 minutes before daybreak and have my stove, coffee, and heat-and-eat items at the ready and while they are warming up I break down the tent and get packed up.  Never pass up Upper Juniper Springs on the OML - it's reliable water, close to the trail, and a long ways to Fresno.  Even if your full-up from Boot Canyon stop and force yourself to drink as much as you can.   
Sounds like a great and memorable trip,  I have yet to see a bear myself and seeing one in the Sierra Quemada is especially rare - must have been one of those illegal alien Mexican bears heading to the Chisos.  How do you know it was a female?
Love the Pano's especially the stone staircase in Upper Juniper Canyon - when you see this at dusk it reminds me of something straight out of Lord of The Rings... TWWG

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Offline homerboy2u

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Re: The O.M.G. Trip (aka the O.M.L.) - Jan. 1-4, 2008
« Reply #10 on: January 12, 2008, 02:21:52 PM »
.  How do you know it was a female?

 Must have been the skirt and leg warmers that gave her away...probably some lipstick too. :icon_lol:
Stay thirsty, my friends.

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Offline Casa Grande

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Re: The O.M.G. Trip (aka the O.M.L.) - Jan. 1-4, 2008
« Reply #11 on: January 12, 2008, 02:51:51 PM »
It's not your "robust" size it's the fact that you guys didn't get moving early enough and burned a lot of daylight before taking your first steps.

yep, a lot of factors played against us and that was certainly one of them!

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Offline jr ranger

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Re: The O.M.G. Trip (aka the O.M.L.) - Jan. 1-4, 2008
« Reply #12 on: January 12, 2008, 03:29:43 PM »
Amazing photos and great depiction! You shouldn't beat yourself up so much, though. Even those who are in great shape and have lots of experience have had trouble on the OML. Something in my gut tells me that you will do this again, the way you wanted to do it the first time. I'm sure you can look back after the toes have feeling again and seperate the moments, as opposed to the experience as a whole. How did the 7 year old do?
Thanks for creating this forum, CG, and a big "Thanks for Sharing"
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"Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished."

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Offline Casa Grande

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Re: The O.M.G. Trip (aka the O.M.L.) - Jan. 1-4, 2008
« Reply #13 on: January 12, 2008, 04:07:58 PM »
How did the 7 year old do?
 

Well, he completed it.  Not without three days of hearing, "Are we there yet?"   :willynilly:
I'm not positive, but unless I'm proven otherwise, I believe he's the youngest in Modern History to make that trek.   :eusa_think:

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Offline BigBendAg88

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Re: The O.M.G. Trip (aka the O.M.L.) - Jan. 1-4, 2008
« Reply #14 on: January 12, 2008, 07:09:00 PM »
David,
Fantastic pictures!
Motivating trip report.

I was surprised that you mentioned that a 7 year old went with you.  What did he carry (weight wise)?  My son is 7.  Not that I am going to take him on that hike when I go, there is plenty that I can show him before the OML.  I was more just wondering what he carried.

Thanks again.

Bill

 


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