I was up at 6am to try to get an early start. I was poorly organized, and didn’t hit the trail until 8:30am. It was a nice morning, not too warm.
I started out the backcountry hike with a 45# pack (due to the extra water), with a 2,000′ climb to start and a 3,000′ descent to end the day. The campground/lodge for the park is in a beautiful basin in the mountains, and it was really neat to see it on the hike up, along with neat pinnacles near the top of the trail.
I made it up the Pinnacles Trail by 10:15am no worse for the wear, beating most of the sun on the trail. After a short break, I went down the Boot Canyon Trail. I found Boot Canyon to be very cool with the wash filled with big boulders. This canyon could easily have been mistaken for the North Carolina mountains (sans water).
I headed up the Juniper Canyon Trail, surprised at the steepness and slipperiness of the initial part of the trail. Also, (a common theme), I was surprised at how prolific the vegetation was along the trail. Dry, but lush, to the point of being overgrown. I thought this was the desert! I took a break for lunch at what I thought was the peak right before the JC1 campground, but found out another little rise after JC1 to the clear top of the trail before the long descent.
The first couple miles of the descent was a very lush forest, very green due to the water that rushes down when it does rain (it hadn’t for a month or so). I ran into the first hikers of the day, one guy coming up the trail destined for campground SW4, and two younger, clockwise hikers that came from SW4 this morning. I forged ahead, getting leap-frogged by the two younger guys after a couple more miles.
After a couple thousand feet of descent, the trees gave way and I was mostly in desert. I was really surprised how dense the vegetation was, and also that several plants were starting to bloom (late March/April is the peak in this area). The weather warmed up to around 70 (but overcast), so I was starting to strain and took more breaks. This part of the trail is rather monotonous, and drags on. I ran into a few other hikers about to coming up the canyon in the opposite direction, including one I recognized from Big Bend Chat.
Around 3pm and the 11 mile mark, I reached the junction with the next trail (Dodson), where a dirt road also terminates and there is a small parking lot for those who want to drive in an hour or so and use this as a starting point. There was one car in the parking lot and the two young guys were just departing the area when I arrived. The views back at the mountains were stunning.
I wanted to knock off as much time as possible from the next days’ desert hike, so I continued 0.7 miles up the Dodson Trail to a campsite I found (this is zone camping – basically find a spot in the desert and use it) with a beautiful view of the mountains. By this time, it was completely overcast (no sunset or stars tonight), and I set up camp, ate, and was in the tent by 8pm. I was asleep by 9pm.
11.9 miles on the first day. If interested, the GPS track of the day.