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The Outer Mountain Loop (Big Bend NP)

"The Outer Mountain Loop refers to the 30-mile circuit formed by combining the Pinnacles, Juniper Canyon, Dodson, Blue Creek, and Laguna Meadows Trails. Although you can start/end this trip in the Chisos Basin, Juniper Canyon, or the Homer Wilson Ranch, most hikers begin from the Basin and hike the trail in a clockwise direction. Sections of this trail are extremely steep and there is almost NO flat and level hiking. The loop is Big Bend's signature multi-day backpacking trip and takes you through a wide variety of habitats and scenery, from piñon/juniper/oak woodlands of the Chisos, to stark and rugged desert in one of the most wild and remote corners of the United States.

Difficulty: Strenuous; severe elevation changes and primitive trail
Distance: 30 miles (side-trips to the South Rim or Emory peak can add up to five additional miles).
Time: Allow at least three days

Let's Talk About Safety Concerns along the Outer Mountain Loop
Each year, park rangers are called to respond to multiple medical emergencies along this route. Most are the result of severe dehydration and heat stroke. Visitors have died here. This is a hike for experienced desert backpackers only, and would be a very poor choice for an "introductory" hike to Big Bend. Remember, this hike will always be there. Only after you have explored some of the other strenuous hikes in the park (South Rim, Marufo Vega, Smoky Creek, etc.) and feel the utmost confidence in your abilities, should you plan a trip across the Sierra Quemada (the burnt land) of the Outer Mountain Loop. It will take you a minimum of 3 full days of hiking to complete this entire loop. Side excursions to the top of Emory Peak and/or a visit to the South Rim will add a day.” (http://www.nps.gov/bibe/planyourvisit/bc_ou...)

Itinerary:

Wednesday, March 21st: Drive to Marathon (or fly, then drive) and camp at the Marathon Motel. http://www.marathonmotel.com/index2.php?camping=yes

Thursday, March 22nd: Rise at 5 AM. Drive to Homer Wilson/Blue Creek Ranch in order to cache water for the hike. Proceed to Panther Junction, arriving by 8 AM, to obtain our permit. This will be our meeting place if you stay somewhere other than the Marathon Motel on Wednesday night. Start the hike immediately following obtaining the permit. This is important, since we will be covering 11 miles, not counting the side trip to Emery Peak this day. This is a long day, but it will set us up nicely for the remainder of the hike. Start hiking the Pinnacles, climbing 1700 feet in 3.4 miles to the high country of the Chisos. Make the side trip to Emery Peak if you wish, leaving your overnight pack in the bear boxes at the start of the trail to the peak. On the Juniper Trail, after an initial climb of  2 to 3 hundred feet, the last 5 miles is easy hiking. We will be following a downhill path towards the bottom of Juniper Canyon. We’ll camp in the desert, near the end of the Juniper Trail.

Friday, March 23rd: This will be a 10 mile day across drainages of the Chisos Mountains. Up and down with a total of 2000 feet of climbing for the day. Hopefully, Fresno Creek will be flowing so we can drink up and stock up on water around midday. Pick up water cache at the end of the day and camp at Red Rocks Canyon.

Saturday, March 24th:  A 9 mile day, not counting the side trip to the South Rim. Climb 2500 feet in 5.5 miles up the Blue Creek Trail back into the high country. Make the side trip to the South Rim, or continue down the Laguna Meadows Trail for 3.8 miles back to our vehicles. Drive to the Stillwell Store and RV Park for showers and camping. Check out their website. We should have a good time. Fires are allowed and there is a live band and dance scheduled for Saturday night. http://stillwellstore.com/

Sunday, March 25th: Travel day

Water considerations: Keep in mind that the hotter the day, the more water we’ll need for this hike. I just called the park and the Park Ranger did not know if Fresno Creek was flowing or not. I’ll check back later. We should be able to start with 5 to 6 liters, take some from Fresno Creek, and cache 6 quarts per person at the Blue Creek Ranch. I’ve done this hike three times before, and there was water at the creek each time. If not, we’d be carrying two days worth of water, and that would obviously make the hike more difficult. I’d still be willing to give it a go. Please check your email leading up to the trip. I may be sending out some important information.

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  • Tom

    Had a great time! Thanks to everyone who made it. Let's do this one again in a couple of years!

    March 27, 2012

  • Al D.

    I'd like to do this hike again in cooler weather. Day one had spectacular scenery and the climbs and decents were a great workout. Day 2 (the so-called easy day) the Chihuahuan Desert (aptly named the Angry Chihuahua by Tom D) kicked our butts due to exposure to sun and heat. We arrived at the Homer Wilson Ranch and crashed in the shade and breeze of the ranch house porch until just before dark. Then we hiked .5 miles to camp. We left camp at the crack of dawn on day 3 and managed to climb most of the way up to the South Rim in the shade before the sun could hit us as we were on the West side climbing Eastward. The 4.4 mile (rt) side trip to the South Rim lookout was pleasant and well worth the effort. It was hot by the time we started the four mile home stretch down to the cars. When we arrived at the trailhead nobody wanted a cold beer. We all had sports recovery drinks and water. I rate this hike "strenuous" due to the heat and extra water weight that you are required to carry.

    March 26, 2012

  • Tom D.

    Great trip and fun with friends! A little too much drinking the last night for me lol!!

    March 26, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    Great trip! Thanks for organizing it Tom.

    March 26, 2012

  • Tom D.

    My therapist says there's plenty if water on the CDT at Gila. Hmmmm.... :0

    March 17, 2012

  • Tom

    Actually, I think it was suck on a rock. That is, when the Forest Rangers at the Gila tell you there is water at springs when there isn't.

    March 17, 2012

  • Tom

    Bring your own water for the cache. I'll check this weekend and send out my recommendation for water requirements. You could just chew on a rock instead of drinking water, but I like to make sure that I bring enough! Ask Tom D. what it's like to chew on rocks.

    March 16, 2012

  • Theresa

    Donna, my cell number is[masked]-2564. If u still want to carpool, call me and we can make arrangements. This is gonna be a great trip!:)

    March 15, 2012

  • Kevin

    I am possibly going to Zion next month though. I should be in shape by then.

    March 15, 2012

  • Kevin

    @Donna, No I'm not gonna be able to make it::( I want to go bad but I just don't feel I had enough recovery time after my UP3 surgery.

    March 15, 2012

  • DONNA

    Thanks Kevin. Hope you're right. going?

    March 14, 2012

  • Kevin

    Donna, I only show it to be 8.5hrs from Addison area (to Marathon). Generally this is the max and based on 55 mph still. Going 80 it should take only 7.5 to 8 hrs max. Unless you stop allot.

    March 14, 2012

  • DONNA

    Camp per itinerary. We may end up sleeping in car its an 11Hour drive????

    March 14, 2012

  • Theresa

    That would be great. Where do u want to reserve a room?

    March 14, 2012

  • DONNA

    Theresa I will wait for you if noone responds otherwise I prefer to leave early. Need to reserve motel room...or not

    March 14, 2012

  • Theresa

    I wasn't able to get Wednesday off. The earliest I can leave is 1630. If that works for anyone let me know. Thx.

    March 14, 2012

  • Tom D.

    We could do a carpool of 6 if u want me to rent a van or SUV. I know a guy...

    March 14, 2012

  • DONNA

    I have the Best supervisor! I get to sleep! Yes I definitely want to carpool....

    March 14, 2012

  • DONNA

    Pretty sure I can get off and prefer to leave earlier

    March 14, 2012

  • Theresa

    When will u be leaving?

    March 14, 2012

  • Tom D.

    I'd like to leave by 10am if everyone's ready. ;)

    March 14, 2012

  • Tom D.

    I have a carpool with John Shannon and Kerry if anyone wants to jump on.

    March 14, 2012

  • Theresa

    7 pm is ok with me.

    March 14, 2012

  • Theresa

    I could definitely share a ride. That way we could both get some sleep. A third rider would make it even better.

    March 14, 2012

  • DONNA

    Trying to get all day Wed off....MAY have to work till 7pm. Will prob be off. I would like to carpool for sure. If I can't get at least 4-5hrs sleep. I will stay home

    March 14, 2012

  • Theresa

    Has everyone already arranged rides? Is anyone leaving Wednesday early evening? I could use a ride or a driving partner.

    March 14, 2012

  • Kevin

    Good point. Hmmmmm...

    March 9, 2012

  • Kevin

    The 10 day forecast is putting the temps at around 90 deg. This would be my first backpack since the surgery so I'm gonna have to change my RSVP to be on the safe side and give my carpoolers time to re-organize. Maybe next year I'll be able to go. I have not been to Big Bend at all so I am looking for an opportunity to make it. Y'all have fun and post lots of pictures.

    March 9, 2012

  • Tom

    I'll be taking 1/2 day off, and leave town at 1 PM on Wednesday.

    February 12, 2012

6 went

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