Jan 28, 2014 at 2:08 pm #1312562
I had no idea what to expect. The signs warned of death around every corner. Hiking in West Texas can be described like this: if it doesn't bite, scratch, sting or cut you, it's a rock…in which case you'll either stub your toe or break your ankle on it.
So I thought what a great idea to invite some hiking friends down from Chicago to join me on an alternative Outer Mountain Loop hike!
We set out from the western edge of the Dodson trail and headed up the Blue Canyon trail to meet up with the South Rim. I had hiked with some folks at Big Bend Ranch a few weeks previously and they insisted I modify the OML to include the South Rim…saying it was worth it. So instead of the standard start from the basin, hike to the Dodson and back into the basin, we spent the first day hiking to the rim.
I'm pretty good at topo maps, so it came as a bit of a shock that I seemed to miss the southern-facing 3000' climb right on day one, with four days of food and fuel and 7L of water in my pack; it seems like something I should have noticed when planning the route…
But stopping to rest my shaky legs and attempt to catch my breath as we approached 7500' allowed me to take a lot of pictures….yeah, that's why I kept stopping…photography……
My companions were all 10-15 years my junior…including one who is a professional triathlete. Needless to say, I was bringing up the rear, making myself feel better with the HikeYourOwnHike refrain…..
But honestly, the scenery was so stunning, the sunset on the rim was simply devine, and I was treated to two peregrine falcons enjoying the view from a large branch just off the trail. Of course, they tolerated my taking off my pack, crunching through the dense underbrush and cacti…but the instant my camera turned on…they looked directly at me, I'm sure they chuckled, then they flew away.
We camped on the Rim that evening, had a lovely but rather cold night (my inaugural Enigma voyage!) and had a lovely sunrise view when we headed out in the morning…
Then we headed down a bit into a surprising canyon full of water frozen solid; not at all what we expected after a sweltering day yesterday atop the rim. It was pretty cool to see all these pools of solid green ice, all the dense trees, even yellow leaves on the ground! Wow was this not what I expected from Big Bend!
We stopped to top off water (our first water source) from a trickling stream and enjoyed some of my new favorite snack: candy corn and peanuts, thanks to my Chicago peeps. Eventually we headed back out of the canyon and up to the rim of Juniper Canyon, where we would lose all that altitude gained yesterday.
Since we were doing a modified version of the loop, we needed some way to get water at this point. My brother likes to ride dual sport motorcycles in Big Bend, and the junction of Juniper Canyon and the Dodson Trails also meets up with a jeep trail. So he hauled in 7 gallons of water for us…which was apparently a funny story in itself – seems as tho he was not expecting the weight of 7 gallons in his panniers to be as unbalanced as it was, and he took a spill in the gas station parking lot. He gave me his rear blinker light to prove it.
Anyway, he was able to stop by, drink a rum and coke in front of us, then head back to his motel for a beer and a shower.
We woke early to one of the coolest sunrises I've seen, watching the colors change over the mountains in Mexico.
After a crazy slow start (I'll call it leisurely), we started the 11.5 mile hike along the Dodson, up and down the whole way. We did find a running spring in one of the drainages, and actually saw TWO other backpackers!! The only backpackers we saw the whole trip. The weather was simply perfect – so very nice for my friends who escaped the Polar Vortex of Chicago!!!! But even in January I was sweltering…I cannot imagine being here any later than say, March.
We kept looking for a good place to camp, but ended up about 10 minutes from the car, camped in a dry riverbed. There were a few decent spots for 1-2 tents, but nothing for 3. Since we were so close to the trailhead, and it was Saturday night, we actually did have a nighttime hiking visitor who also thought the riverbed looked like a good spot for the night.
We ended the trip with another breathtaking Big Bend sunset, amazing moonrise, and crisp night of tarantula-free sleeping……..Jan 28, 2014 at 2:23 pm #2067269
@millonasLocale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Nice pictures. Big Bend is awesome! If you go down to the Rig Grande there it is also kind of Tolkeinesque, with the river going straight into a canyon with straight walls apparently the land rose around the river.
Did you see any Golden Eagles? They seem to have a ton there.Jan 28, 2014 at 2:26 pm #2067272
Jen, nice pics! Looks like I might have to visit Texas after all.Jan 28, 2014 at 2:41 pm #2067277
@abhittLocale: southern appalachians or desert SW
Jen, nice report and glad that you made it to the Nat. park to see how different it is from the State park. I am always happy to see folks do a nontraditional OML (vs. the NPS suggested itinerary) You could have saved your brother the bike ride by getting water at Fresno creek but maybe he just wanted to ride in anyway. Come on over to Big Bend Chat and give us a trip report or just join in the discussion.
I will be out there next week, can't wait.Jan 28, 2014 at 3:01 pm #2067281
I saw a pair of peregrine falcons, but tho they were nice enough to wait for me to shed my pack and tiptoe through the dense sticker bushes between me and the cliff they were perched on…they took off the second I switched on my camera. Bastards.Jan 28, 2014 at 3:46 pm #2067295
@woodpeweeLocale: Central New York
Wow! Thank you so much for posting this :) I love the pictures.
I'm also a desert noob and will be flying down to do the OML solo in a few weeks. How cold did it get at night while you were out there?Jan 28, 2014 at 5:02 pm #2067320
@ngatelLocale: Southern California
Be careful, it can become addicting.Jan 28, 2014 at 5:03 pm #2067321
"they took off the second I switched on my camera. Bastards."
Well now, after reading that, how can I say no!Jan 29, 2014 at 5:45 am #2067464
@paulmagsLocale: People's Republic of Boulder
Thanks for posting. It is a place I've always wanted to spend time at. It is a bit of a drive from where I call home. So that is on he "Someday" list. :)Jan 30, 2014 at 8:56 am #2067895
@sharaldsLocale: Gallatin Range
Aside perhaps from Austin, Big Bend is the only place I've ever been drawn to visit in Texas and your TR certainly solidifies the desire to visit and walk in that spectacular looking place.Jan 30, 2014 at 11:33 am #2067939
@acrosomeLocale: Back in the Front Range
Any chance you could put some carriage returns between those photos, and text as well? It all just runs infinitely off the right side of my screen… :)Jan 30, 2014 at 11:41 am #2067943
@pitsyLocale: Central Texas
Dang, Jen! You've been here like three months and already seen more of Texas than I have in my whole life! Thanks for the trip report and pictures.Jan 30, 2014 at 11:48 am #2067946
"Any chance you could put some carriage returns between those photos, and text as well?It all just runs infinitely off the right side of my screen… :)"
Looks great on Windows XP and FireFox 22.Jan 30, 2014 at 11:50 am #2067949
"Any chance you could put some carriage returns between those photos, and text as well? It all just runs infinitely off the right side of my screen… :)"
Strange. Read this report a day or so ago from a Mac using Chrome with no problems. I'm on a PC now using Explorer and see what Daniel is talking about.
Edit: Gorgeous country and wonderful tr btw.Jan 30, 2014 at 12:02 pm #2067955
Thanks for sharing this beautiful trip. I just wish Big Bend was close to anything…something. I didn't even go out that far when I lived in Austin.Feb 1, 2014 at 8:12 pm #2068825
Ok…I tried to fix the pictures. I also added more commentary, as I found it exceedingly difficult to type a nice trip report and add the pictures. So for next time…add the photos, then write the report.
Hope it works!!Aug 14, 2014 at 9:36 am #2127594
My father and I are planning to complete the OML Feb 2015. We also want to include a night on the SW Rim. Any itinerary suggestions to accomplish this while possibly going counter clockwise on the loop? CCW seems ideal to carry the least water weight while climbing Juniper and Blue Creek.Aug 14, 2014 at 10:05 am #2127605
@paulmagsLocale: People's Republic of Boulder
Thanks for sharing. Big Bend is a place that has intrigued me quite a bit.
Have to make it there someday.
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