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TX National Parks Trip Report

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Offline vgeh

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TX National Parks Trip Report
« on: February 05, 2018, 09:26:04 AM »
Thank you Mule Ears, Peter O, Metal Man and others who helped me by sharing your trip reports, sharing your map and answering my questions.   Planning and preparation is the key for having safe and fun adventure and you guys in this forum made my planning and preparation easier.

I would caution everyone to lower your expectation as my trip reports are far far less interesting and informative than all the reports I came across in this forum. As I was delaying to write the report, i thought I will post whatever I could in the last weekend and then answer any questions. Another caution, please don't use any part of my itinerary without proper research of the route and carefully accessing your experience and ability. Whatever you do at BB and GUMO is going be fun and a great experience so hike your own hike.

Here is the short summary https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Jlj1PNwqw5pJFivAVxN_C9VWZSGlxcH7un3crsVdAbU/edit?usp=sharing
23rd to 25th Dec - GUMO
27th to 30th Dec - BB

If you have any questions about my trip, please let me know.

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: TX National Parks Trip Report
« Reply #1 on: February 05, 2018, 09:40:53 AM »
Vgeh, again, I have to say I am so impressed with your skill and hardiness. You are one tough, tough hiker. I don't think I could do what you do. I've already commented in an earlier thread on what an amazing accomplishment your GUMO peaks hike was, and I'm almost as impressed with your BIBE hike. The thing that really stands out is that you never take the easy way, you always take the path you find most interesting, no matter how hard it may be. Well done!

One thing I noticed in your linked report: the graphical pie chart shows 0.0oz for clothing. I know you're an ultralighter, but did you really hike naked?  :dance:
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline mule ears

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Re: TX National Parks Trip Report
« Reply #2 on: February 05, 2018, 01:13:44 PM »
His zero weight was for clothing worn so it is not included in his base weight but it lists what he wore.  Super minimal pack and weight but if you are going to knock of 20 mile days that is what is required.  vgeh, you certainly hit the weather just right, not too hot or cold.  Your barely 5 liters of water was cutting it close but if not too hot and not cooking then one can get by.

I would love to hear the ranger/permit story.  I am sure that he couldn't believe that you could do that kind of mileage.  My guess is his last name was Smith.  Most folks can't or don't but many certainly do.  Good job and thanks for the report.  As Skurka would say you are an Ultimate Hiker and not an Ultimate Camper.  You would also follow his motto of CFP (constant forward progress). 

Thanks for coming back and giving us a report, well done!

« Last Edit: February 05, 2018, 01:25:17 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 vgeh

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Re: TX National Parks Trip Report
« Reply #3 on: February 05, 2018, 07:24:44 PM »
Vgeh, again, I have to say I am so impressed with your skill and hardiness. You are one tough, tough hiker. I don't think I could do what you do. I've already commented in an earlier thread on what an amazing accomplishment your GUMO peaks hike was, and I'm almost as impressed with your BIBE hike. The thing that really stands out is that you never take the easy way, you always take the path you find most interesting, no matter how hard it may be. Well done!

One thing I noticed in your linked report: the graphical pie chart shows 0.0oz for clothing. I know you're an ultralighter, but did you really hike naked?  :dance:


Thank you! Sorry I totally forgot to check back the comment to post I submitted in GUMO sub forum.
Yes, it is good to take the less travelled and more interesting paths often in adventure(or life in general).  Robert Frost should definitely be a hiker to come up with that quote. haha.

Like Mule Ears already replied, the worn clothes don't affect the BW analysis. Also my hiking wear is pretty standard that I wear pretty much for every weekend hikes to multi day trips. For me functionality is the preference than weight so I am not going to change pant to short for weight savings. Yeah If I find lighter pants then I would switch.

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Offline vgeh

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Re: TX National Parks Trip Report
« Reply #4 on: February 05, 2018, 09:54:49 PM »
His zero weight was for clothing worn so it is not included in his base weight but it lists what he wore.  Super minimal pack and weight but if you are going to knock of 20 mile days that is what is required.  vgeh, you certainly hit the weather just right, not too hot or cold.  Your barely 5 liters of water was cutting it close but if not too hot and not cooking then one can get by.

I would love to hear the ranger/permit story.  I am sure that he couldn't believe that you could do that kind of mileage.  My guess is his last name was Smith.  Most folks can't or don't but many certainly do.  Good job and thanks for the report.  As Skurka would say you are an Ultimate Hiker and not an Ultimate Camper.  You would also follow his motto of CFP (constant forward progress). 

Thanks for coming back and giving us a report, well done!

Yes, I think many things were favorable to me like weather, springs, etc. Lucky me  :icon_smile:
The 4.7L water was very calculated water carry based on springs, weather, my drinking habit, and few other things. I consumed 2 whole watermelons, 5(6?) cucumbers, 2 boxes of blueberries and drank lot of water from the time I hit road from Columbus, IN. I cameled up at most of the springs when I refilled during hike. I think my general water consumption habit played a big role in deciding the mere 4.7L water for this trip. I don't need lot of water or I don't drink lot of water whether I am hiking or staying home or at work.


So here is my permit story. I went to the backcountry permit office and there were 5/6 people already waiting with 2 rangers issuing the permit. I took the token and was stretching my muscles. After 10 minutes, I knew it is going to take more time than I thought so decided to sit rather than stand the whole time waiting. Both the rangers who were issuing the permit at that time were women.  I could hear pretty much everything what the rangers and the person getting the permit were talking. From my observation, 5 out of 6 people are tourist type people who came to BB without much planning. Couple of them seemed unprepared for BB backcountry. Not that this is bad or I hate those people, but it is relevant to the story behind my permit. So the rangers were explaining everything to these people which was basically all the risks about backcountry activities. One guy from Europe  who got primitive roadside camping did not know what a hammock was or maybe it was just a language barrier. Only person who seemed prepared and researched the trail was a girl(20s - early 30s solo hiker) who I think got a permit for Marufo Vega backpacking. After the girl left, it was my turn.
I smiled, said hello and then told the ranger that I would like to get permit for wilderness/zone camping. Next few minutes the ranger explained things which was basically what is zone/wilderness permit. I nodded(Indian way  :icon_lol:) and said yes that is exactly what I need and humbly acknowledged that I already knew that stuff. Then reluctantly she took the Natgeo Map and asked my itinerary/zones for permit.  When I told her I need permit for such and such zones, I could see the change in her facial expressions. I was little worried now and wasn't sure If I would get the permit or not. The rangers started to share all the scary stories and some of them were, "No one ever hiked from Mule Ears to Mariscal zone in a day in my 7 years experience here", "BB is very remote", "People often die in desert underestimating BB", "No one will come looking for you if something happens", "You are asking for a death wish" and etc.. I am not going to say that the ranger was wrong, maybe I would do the same if I was in the ranger's position that day.
So this went for like 15-20 minutes, before she gave up because of my calm and determined approach to get the permit. She called someone and asked for help. In few minutes, arrived a lean (maybe tall) women from the back door(facing me) and sat next to the ranger facing me. This person is the Chief Ranger(Lisa) and she asked about my itinerary. When I told just the zones, the Chief Ranger(CR) asked for more details. About how I am going to Mariscal from Mule Ears and such. I did not share too much details but told the "Dominguez  trail", "Elephant Tusk Trail", "Dodson Trail" "Smoky Creek Trail" and said plan on off trail hiking connecting these trails. I did not tell that I going to hike the Mariscal Canyon or Mountain. The CR specifically asked how I plan to get back to Dominguez  from Mule ears and to Mule Ears from Dodson and how I am going to manage water. I replied with basic answers and not detailed all things. This is also where I lied. I told that I am carrying all the water! Sorry I had to lie about water so that I don't add another factor that complicates my permit process. I know the rangers don't want to hear backcountry hikers relying on desert springs. With all the discussion the CR is bit convinced and said that the route is tough and the mileage is aggressive but not impossible.
The CR told the ranger that she is okay with issuing my permit! The golden words!! Then the CR shared some stories about her hiking at Nepal, gave her business card to me and asked to share my experience. I forgot about it until now as I am recalling the day. I better send her a short thank you note now. The CR also recommended me to fill out solo hiker form and she left.

Even after the CR's approval, I think the permit issuing Ranger is not totally convinced. She took in zone details from me and asked me to complete the solo hiker form in the computer. I started typing out the details but I did not have my phone to enter my friend's phone number for the emergency contact. The solo hiker registration requires picture of me with my backpack and my shoe prints. So went back to my car to bring those things. Completed the solo hiker form and the ranger asked another ranger(male) to help with pictures. I guess this goes back to my above observation that she was not convinced with my permit so maybe just sentimental that she did not want to take my picture(potentially my last picture, haha). After taking my pictures, I was finally given the permit. I thanked both the rangers and left the office.

I would say my permit experience was not a bad one. It was a just long process which the rangers, myself and the people waiting behind me all did not wanted to experience. I am going to assume that the rangers want people to enjoy the park without any bad incidents so this long permit process is likely to happen if itinerary is aggressive. Also how can a ranger feel confident enough if the plans look sketchy like mine? I am sure many BBC hikers who got zone camping faced similar issues.

Andrew Skurka's Google Talk video is one of the very few long videos that I watched in youtube. Unless I find something interesting to do when I camp, I am going to stay on the more hiking and less camping approach. Very unlikely I will find one that is going to be as interesting and fun as the hiking. Also, I am primarily a solo backpacker and an introvert so even on a busy trails, I tend to avoid people. I did not remember reading CFP from Skurka(just googled and found the article). But I think it is very common approach for anything in life. I would assume any person would follow CFP on things they have passion.

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: TX National Parks Trip Report
« Reply #5 on: February 05, 2018, 11:40:27 PM »
Vgeh, I too am an introvert and always prefer solo hiking. And though I could never match your strength and endurance, I completely understand your choices. I'm impressed with the way you handled your permitting process. My grandmother always told me, "you get more flies with honey than with vinegar". That might get lost in translation, but basically it means "a pleasant attitude will get you farther than a foul one". I'm sure you'll read a lot of folks commenting here about what jerks the rangers were. But I think you've put your experience with the rangers into the proper context. However, I will say that the rangers cannot, according to edict, mandate that you fill out a solo hiker form. It's entirely optional on your part. Nor can they, to the best of my knowledge, deny you a backcountry permit as long as you agree to abide by all the applicable regulations. That said, I believe you handled yourself quite well and certainly accomplished all you said you could. The Chief Ranger's confidence in you was well justified. Each time a hiker like you - accomplished, prepared, organized, and fit - completes their ambitious permitted hike, it provides more evidence of what's possible in the backcountry of Big Bend. Thanks for stretching the fenceline for the rest of us.

p.s. - please do send a note to Chief Ranger Lisa. It can't hurt and will probably help.
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Offline mule ears

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Re: TX National Parks Trip Report
« Reply #6 on: February 06, 2018, 07:13:15 AM »
Great story vgeh!  Like HMoD said you handled it well and for the most part I don't blame and understand the rangers caution because unfortunately there are a lot of people who come to Big Bend and are totally clueless and unprepared for what it is like and they do have to do quite a few rescues.  The interesting thing to me is that I have 1) never been around back to the permit room and 2) have never had a ranger question any of my trip plans but maybe it is because I am older and now have graying hair.  Like you I do have exact information about zones and routes and water sources so that helps.  I would have told them what water sources you planned on because the idea of carrying enough water for a long trip is foolish and impossible and they should see through that but often don't because that is the answer they want to hear.

I am also mostly on the hiker side but do enjoy camp time but at the end of a long day.  I also usually hike with at least one person so you have to coordinate styles and morning and evening practices.  Like most solo hikers, when alone, I tend to get up and get going earlier and then just walk and walk until near dark and then stop, always results in higher mileage days.  As you know the secret to high mileage days is not speed but just grinding out the hours, 10 hours or hiking at 2 mph is...20 miles.

My main take away from Skurka's CFP is that he hates back tracking on any route or day, classic thru hiker mentality, I know AT thru hikers who don't walk out to view spots because it is not getting them on down the main trail.  No rose smelling for them, just CFP.

Thanks again for the report and stories, best of luck on you future walks.
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 House Made of Dawn

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Re: TX National Parks Trip Report
« Reply #7 on: February 06, 2018, 10:14:56 AM »

I don't blame and understand the rangers caution because unfortunately there are a lot of people who come to Big Bend and are totally clueless and unprepared for what it is like and they do have to do quite a few rescues. 


+1 
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Online wrangler88

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Re: TX National Parks Trip Report
« Reply #8 on: February 06, 2018, 11:45:40 AM »
Enjoyed both trip reports. You are a monster hiker. Wish I was in that kind of shape!

I don't have a terrible opinion of rangers as I do understand they have to deal with people that have no idea what they are doing. I have had some less than stellar interactions with them before. More like a lot of them (mostly at GUMO) don't really seem interested in talking. Which is okay I guess. I feel foolish for it now but I also lied about how much water I carried with me on the OML so that they wouldn't ask questions. Overall, my recent ranger experience at BB was fairly positive. Not the most friendly person I've ever talked to but not bad at all.

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Offline vgeh

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Re: TX National Parks Trip Report
« Reply #9 on: February 07, 2018, 10:08:47 PM »
Vgeh, I too am an introvert and always prefer solo hiking. And though I could never match your strength and endurance, I completely understand your choices. I'm impressed with the way you handled your permitting process. My grandmother always told me, "you get more flies with honey than with vinegar". That might get lost in translation, but basically it means "a pleasant attitude will get you farther than a foul one". I'm sure you'll read a lot of folks commenting here about what jerks the rangers were. But I think you've put your experience with the rangers into the proper context. However, I will say that the rangers cannot, according to edict, mandate that you fill out a solo hiker form. It's entirely optional on your part. Nor can they, to the best of my knowledge, deny you a backcountry permit as long as you agree to abide by all the applicable regulations. That said, I believe you handled yourself quite well and certainly accomplished all you said you could. The Chief Ranger's confidence in you was well justified. Each time a hiker like you - accomplished, prepared, organized, and fit - completes their ambitious permitted hike, it provides more evidence of what's possible in the backcountry of Big Bend. Thanks for stretching the fenceline for the rest of us.

p.s. - please do send a note to Chief Ranger Lisa. It can't hurt and will probably help.
.

Yes, I have come across similar quote/saying in the past and try to apply in life  ;D The Chief Ranger recommended me the solo hiker form and I personally don't see an problem with it so I agreed. I don't carry spot or any emergency bacon and my family members are overseas so makes my situation more serious in case of trip related problem or emergencies. Like you said the ranger would not have denied my permit If I had said no to the solo hiker form.
I just sent a thank you note with few trip details to the Chief Ranger via email.

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Offline vgeh

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Re: TX National Parks Trip Report
« Reply #10 on: February 07, 2018, 10:27:14 PM »
Great story vgeh!  Like HMoD said you handled it well and for the most part I don't blame and understand the rangers caution because unfortunately there are a lot of people who come to Big Bend and are totally clueless and unprepared for what it is like and they do have to do quite a few rescues.  The interesting thing to me is that I have 1) never been around back to the permit room and 2) have never had a ranger question any of my trip plans but maybe it is because I am older and now have graying hair.  Like you I do have exact information about zones and routes and water sources so that helps.  I would have told them what water sources you planned on because the idea of carrying enough water for a long trip is foolish and impossible and they should see through that but often don't because that is the answer they want to hear.

I am also mostly on the hiker side but do enjoy camp time but at the end of a long day.  I also usually hike with at least one person so you have to coordinate styles and morning and evening practices.  Like most solo hikers, when alone, I tend to get up and get going earlier and then just walk and walk until near dark and then stop, always results in higher mileage days.  As you know the secret to high mileage days is not speed but just grinding out the hours, 10 hours or hiking at 2 mph is...20 miles.

My main take away from Skurka's CFP is that he hates back tracking on any route or day, classic thru hiker mentality, I know AT thru hikers who don't walk out to view spots because it is not getting them on down the main trail.  No rose smelling for them, just CFP.

Thanks again for the report and stories, best of luck on you future walks.


Yes, I partly blame my age for the long permit process. Young mostly is related to inexperience and sometimes overconfidence, haha.

 I never want to increase my hiking pace. I hike at moderate pace but build up the stamina and endurance to hike for longer duration. I hike with people who are much faster than me and I always wonder how they can manage to walk at that faster pace. If I have to catch up, i would need to jog. I tried hiking at faster pace but I get tired quicker so I don't try hiking faster anymore.

I don't get the logic behind Skurka's CFP. Yes, sometimes it is better to take a shortcut rather than backtracking but not always. I hike for views so I rarely miss a view on my route. Maybe if I have to hike couple of miles for a view, then I would probably not go for it but thats rare. But everyone have their own hiking philosophy so CFP works for them.

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Offline vgeh

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Re: TX National Parks Trip Report
« Reply #11 on: February 07, 2018, 10:43:16 PM »
Enjoyed both trip reports. You are a monster hiker. Wish I was in that kind of shape!

I don't have a terrible opinion of rangers as I do understand they have to deal with people that have no idea what they are doing. I have had some less than stellar interactions with them before. More like a lot of them (mostly at GUMO) don't really seem interested in talking. Which is okay I guess. I feel foolish for it now but I also lied about how much water I carried with me on the OML so that they wouldn't ask questions. Overall, my recent ranger experience at BB was fairly positive. Not the most friendly person I've ever talked to but not bad at all.


Thanks! I have watched some of your youtube videos while planning for my TX trip. Good to see you the forum. I guess almost all that go to GUMO or BB for actual hiking would be part of this forum. You make nice videos.

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Offline presidio

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Re: TX National Parks Trip Report
« Reply #12 on: February 14, 2018, 07:39:11 AM »
When I told her I need permit for such and such zones, I could see the change in her facial expressions. I was little worried now and wasn't sure If I would get the permit or not. The rangers started to share all the scary stories and some of them were, "No one ever hiked from Mule Ears to Mariscal zone in a day in my 7 years experience here", "BB is very remote", "People often die in desert underestimating BB", "No one will come looking for you if something happens", "You are asking for a death wish" and etc..
She called someone and asked for help. This person is the Chief Ranger(Lisa) and she asked about my itinerary. When I told just the zones, the Chief Ranger(CR) asked for more details. About how I am going to Mariscal from Mule Ears and such. The CR specifically asked how I plan to get back to Dominguez  from Mule ears and to Mule Ears from Dodson and how I am going to manage water.

An incredible display of handholding and validation by desk jockeys. Completely unacceptable.

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The CR told the ranger that she is okay with issuing my permit!

Awesome. They let you do something they cannot prevent you from doing. The NPS does not get to be "okay" with your hike plans.

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I would say my permit experience was not a bad one.

Your tolerance for a huge load of administrative BS is a lot higher than mine.

None of this babysitting occurs when you hike on USFS or BLM areas.
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<  presidio  >
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Wendell (Garret Dillahunt): It's a mess, ain't it, sheriff?
Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones): If it ain't, it'll do till the mess gets here.
--No Country for Old Men (2007)

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Offline presidio

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Re: TX National Parks Trip Report
« Reply #13 on: February 14, 2018, 12:23:29 PM »
there are a lot of people who come to Big Bend and are totally clueless and unprepared for what it is like and they do have to do quite a few rescues.

I agree about the clueless and unprepared clientele, but "quite a few rescues" needs some statistics to substantiate.

Those statistics should only include genuine backcountry rescues and eliminating anything occurring elsewhere (falling down in the visitor center, dying in a tent in at RGV, or while stamping your passport or buying trinkets and needing medical evacuation doesn't make the cut).

Nor does the occasional rescue/recovery of hapless illegal aliens qualify as that is a law enforcement issue, plus they didn't get the grilling from the desk jockeys before starting their hike and, in any event, were not there for recreation. That would inappropriately skew the numbers relative to the inquisition that apparently now occurs during permitting process.

Maybe a funny hat lurker would enlighten us as to actual backcountry numbers (probably not).
_____________
<  presidio  >
_____________
Wendell (Garret Dillahunt): It's a mess, ain't it, sheriff?
Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones): If it ain't, it'll do till the mess gets here.
--No Country for Old Men (2007)

 


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