Big Bend National Park 1/10/13-1/17/13

11:23 p.m. on February 4, 2013 (EST)
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I recently went to Big Bend National park for an extended mountain bike and backpacking trip and it was a fiasco.

My plan failed in the first 30 min of our adventure. We were going to be  mountain bike touring on the jeep roads of Big Bend; hauling all of our water, gear and food for a 10 day trip. Once on the ground my companion had difficulty carrying their weight over the terrain and I assumed a larger load on my rig almost causing a catastrophic failure to my bicycle within the first 1/4 mile( I had a 50 pd backpack and 160pd (75pds overloaded) singletrack BOB trailer after the redistribution of gear). Luckily I have rode single track for years and saved the bike and gear.  A 4x4 turck accompained us and brought us the 1000 miles of driving to the park. I evac-ed for the truck once I realized my companion and myself were too deep in and completed out intended loop via truck instead of bikes.

On the backpacking portion of the trip I busted my pack straps 5 miles in due to carrying too much water weight (Chihuahuan Desert). After repairing the pack my companion experienced altitude sickness at only 5500 feet causing me to call off the climb of Emory Peak (7000'+) via Juniper Canyon. The next morning on the desert floor, along the Dodson Trail, my ISO/Butane compressed gas stove malfunctioned while cooking breakfast. The canister was expelling gas even when off. Rather than risk burning the national park to the ground I let it run its course and waited a whole 2 hrs, patiently waiting for the canister to empty.

I called the trip off that afternoon and drove out for the National Park Lodge and a nice 3 course meal. That's the short version...

I did get some nice time lapse courtesy of the GoPro2 and from the video you would never know the adversity I endured.

I hope you enjoy the video.


1:53 a.m. on February 5, 2013 (EST)
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I backpacked in Big Bend in Jan a long time ago, maybe around 1990.  I went with some field geologists and we followed 7 1/2 min USGS quads to the next waterhole.  We carried slightly more than a days water.  Winter was the cool and wet time of year, so we figured any springs shown on the map would have water and they did.  Our plan was if we ever could not find a spring we were looking for we would backtrack to the last known water source.  We found all the springs, followed no trails, saw no other people and had a really great desert adventure.  Water is too heavy to haul around unless you have no other choice.   In a sense a trip like that heightens your ability to read topographic maps because knowing where you are at all times really matters.

11:07 a.m. on February 5, 2013 (EST)
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Must really be a dry area to have to carry so much water weight?  And even tho you were going for 10 days why so much weight between your bike and pack? I bike/hike tour 8 months of every year (since 1982) and even when I am carrying enough food for 2 weeks I only have about the 50 lbs you had on your back. But I carry it all on my mtn bike. Whats all the extra gear on your trailer? I don't use trailers just two racks front and back. I average 15 lbs of gear and 4 one liter bottles which is 8 lbs of water, then about 14 lbs of food for a weeks worth of wilderness forestry road riding. 

I tour and hike from NW Wyoming to SE Arizona from early September to late December then turn around and ride back to Wyoming again in the spring in April. Been doing this 30 years.

How was Big Bend otherwise than your troubles? January sounds like the time to go maybe? I usually hike the Grand Canyon in Dec/Jan during its coolest months tho the Tonto trail and Colorado are still around 40-60 degrees in mid-winter. Like a summers day in NW Wyoming.

12:11 p.m. on February 5, 2013 (EST)
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The necessity for so much water weight  was because I had no information on the state of the springs (though now I know that glen springs has been running for almost 100 years and so have a few others). The rangers when I had called offered no clear info, they seemed to be covering their butts by telling me to be prepared. Had I known the reliability of the springs I would have had little trouble. I rationed 4 liters a day per person + .5L for cleaning/cooking. So that was about 85L of water between the 2 of us. My companion was also a photographer. She had 3 separate cameras, tripod, telephotos, lenses and batteries. She had 1 DSLR and 2 MD format Slide Film Cameras. We also carried a 10 pd 4season mountaineering tent because I have been in desert wind storms before and knew it could be an issue. All of our main dinner meals also were not dehydrated food, we brought pre cooked soups with all of their water content in, just heat and eat. Thats where all the weight came from. There was a total of 200+pds of gear, food, water.

The park was wonderful but it has that classic desert problem that you really need to step back to enjoy the beauty. On the micro level it is a desolate barren place.

11:20 a.m. on February 6, 2013 (EST)
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I feel like George Carlin- "you brought too much stuff."

I moved to Nevada from Wyoming in 1987 to support the gold mining industry. 

Looking at the desert requires that you "calibrate" your brain to see the beauty.  Then you are surrounded by it.  Good weather, good views, good light.  The desert is a natural place for a photographer, and they can often help the rest of us see things with a trained eye.

10:22 a.m. on February 11, 2013 (EST)
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Oh, that's a bummer, Mumblefords. 

I've had a few trips go drastically different than planned, and it is always mildly infuriating at the time, but great learning experience in the long run. 

my companion experienced altitude sickness at only 5500 feet

Wow, that's bizarre. Have they ever been over a few thousand feet before, or experienced altitude effects before?

April 24, 2018
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