Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Big Bend 2011, Part 1

It's been over a month now since I returned from Big Bend, so I guess the tale has steeped long enough...

Following last year's amazing trip to Big Bend, the same four guys - Mark, Harris, Johnny and I - decided that we wanted to go on another camping trip, at a location to be determined later. We had talked about going out to the Guadalupe Mountains to hike Guadalupe Peak, the highest mountain in Texas (at 8,717 feet).  But for some reason, none of us could really get all that excited about it as much as we tried.  So at a lunch meeting in July, three of us (Johnny lives in another town) started talking about where we should go this year.  The choices also included Big Bend Ranch State Park and the Davis Mountains.  Big Bend wasn't really even on the radar.  But going back to Big Bend came up, and the more we talked about it the more we realized that we were getting excited about the idea of going back.  There was a LOT of stuff that we wanted to do last year but couldn't.  There were entire areas of the park that we hadn't even driven to, much less hiked.  So, we decided to head back to Big Bend.  And best of all, we were able to reserve the exact same cabin we stayed in last year.  Bonus!

We would be going on the exact same weekend as the year before, also, because of Mark's travel schedule.  Most people would consider heading out into the desert to hike and camp in August a foolhardy prospect, but we knew that up in the Chisos Mountains, where we would be staying, that it would still be relatively cool.  On the desert floor, however, it was above 100 degrees every day.  But as it turned out, we were in the midst of one of the longest, hottest summers on record, so 100-plus degree heat didn't really scare us much.  After all, the temperatures hovered around 104 degrees in Brenham for more than a month straight (and as it would turn out, it was actually a few degrees cooler in the desert than in Brenham, which hit 110 degrees that weekend - but I'm getting ahead of myself).

Our plan was to try to make this year's trip as different from last year's as possible.  So instead of going on one big long overnight hike, we decided to go on several shorter (and theoretically easier) day hikes.  Johnny requested a trip to the nearby town of Terlingua, so that was certainly on the agenda.  Mark mentioned hiking the Lost Mine Trail and I wanted to hike into Santa Elena canyon (we couldn't last year because the river was up and we would've had to swim across to get to it).  I also requested a hike to Grapevine Hills to see a rock formation called "the balanced rock."  Johnny mentioned Pine Canyon, Ernst Tenaja (and going for a run on a mountain trail).  The tenaja (more on that later) sounded great, but none of the rest of us a.) are in as good a shape as Johnny is b.) like to do things that make us want to vomit and die and c.) are complete badasses who would ever consider running in the freaking mountains.  There's a reason there's a legend surrounding Johnny Johnson.  Chuck Norris has nothing on this guy.

So our agenda would be:
Day 1: Travel and hike to "the window" for sunset
Day 2: Lost Mine Trail, Pine Canyon Trail, Ernst Tenaja
Day 3: Casa Grande (hiking up the back side), Santa Elena Canyon, Terlingua
Day 4: Travel back

The proposed agenda was grouped by location in the park, more or less.  The best layed plans, as they say.  Things would change a little.  But I'll get to that soon.

So the agenda was set.  A trip to REI and Academy, several posts on Facebook and a month later and we were ready to go.  Or so we thought...

Part 2: "Cannibalism and sloth" coming soon...

No comments: