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Hiking in Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park

I spent 3 full days wandering around the desert of Texas, in the sun and the heat and it was…fun! I know that for many MSers the idea of walking around in the hot sun without shade doesn’t sound like much fun, and in fact, it had me very nervous before I left, but I had a total blast. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t without issue, it just means I had planned and prepared a lot in order to make sure my hike would be as successful as it possibly could be.

First I started with water.  I bought a hydration day pack (think Camelbak) that could hold up to 3 liters of water. Now that is a lot of water but I dehydrate easily so many people might not need that much water and it is important to consider how much you’ll need because water is heavy! For me the extra weight was worth the piece of mind that I wouldn’t dehydrate out on the trails. If you’re hiking in a place that has access to running water then this won’t be as much of a concern.

blog2Next was the heat. Granted it was only about 65 degrees outside, but with the temperature combined with a lack of shade and physical activity that meant it got hot fast. I did not bring a hat (because I don’t like them) but I would recommend bringing a light weight hat to shield you from the sun. Also a bandana to wet with water and tie around your neck is a huge tool to keeping your body temperature down. At one point during our hike we were doing a lot of uphill hiking and because I’m not in prime shape it was extremely difficult on me. Even though the outside temp was in the high 50’s my internal temp was rising fast. I stopped for a couple minutes, wet a bandana and tied it around me neck and almost instantly I could feel my temperature going down and my comfort level going up.

The last two things that I brought with me I think were the most vital. An understanding hiking partner and a lot of patience. There were times along the trail that I had to stop because I would feel myself getting dizzy or overheating and I had a great partner in that they had no problem stopped with me or waiting for me. What I learned the most about hiking is that it really is at your own pace and when I realized I was pushing too hard I just scaled it back and kept on going. I really proved a lot to myself in this trip. blog3 At one point we were hiking uphill for about 6 miles and 6,000 ft of altitude and about 3 miles in I wanted to give up. My body temp was too high, I was tired and getting really fatigued and was very close to just saying “I’m done”. But I realized that all I need was a break so I took that one and many many more before I reached the top of that mountain. But when I did this was my view!

I feel very fortunate to have been able to hike 30 miles in 3 days! It was a good reminder how helpful exercise can be and that I do know my limits. More importantly it proved to me that I CAN do it! It may take me a while, it may be slow and its definitely not pretty but I can do just about anything I want to do. I know some of us have limitations and may not be able to hike an actual mountain but what is your personal mountain? What is a goal that you’d like to accomplish despite living with MS?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Laura Kolaczkowski
    5 years ago

    Jackie, well done! It sounds like you thought this through before you set off into the park and that it wasn’t just patience and a partner that made it successful, but also a lot of planning. Thanks for sharing a bit of your adventure. ~Laura

  • RachelB
    5 years ago

    Jackie, kudos for the way you handled BBNP, and kudos for your magnificent adventure!

    My husband and I first visited the park in 1986. It was June, and, boy was it HOT! I didn’t yet know that I had MS, but, looking back, I had been having symptoms for three years.

    We hiked up Pine Canyon (trail accessible from Glenn Springs Road – unimproved dirt), and I thought I was going to faint. Really. We also did an overnight trip through Santa Elena Canyon and backpacked to Laguna Meadow in the Chisos Mountains.

    I can attest that this is one of the rugged-est parks in the national park system. But ohhh, so worth it! The experience was so enjoyable that soon after we returned home, I bought 40 acres of ranch land just north of the Persimmon Gap entrance of the park. Every chance we got, we took our children to our “squat,” as the local ranchers call small acreage, for vacation time. The peace and quiet was such a respite from Dallas hustle, bustle and noise!

    I’m 59 years old now. Twenty years ago I moved to Fort Davis in the Davis Mountains to be closer to one of my favorite places in the lower 48. The mountains are cooler than Big Bend, and they have plenty of charm of their own. Several times a year I pack up some gear and head for Big Bend National Park. Over the years I’ve learned some tricks for dealing with the heat and the exhaustion. (If you’re just tooo hot, and a wet bandana doesn’t quite cut it, put a couple of pieces of ice in that thing and tie it on your head!) I’ve even taken newbies there on tour of some of my favorite seldom-visited attractions, meaning off-the-beaten-path places that require four-wheel drive).

    Thank you for sharing the story of your adventure. It truly warmed my heart. I hope you can return to BBNP again soon.

  • Tracey
    5 years ago

    Jackie- you accomplished one adventure-onto more. I think people worry about what they can’t do. I try to focus on what I can. I have hiked around Monument Valley, the Grand Canyon and the Appalachian Trail. I biked the Creeper Trail, New River Trail and Greenbrier Trail. Every time took planning, equipment, support and common sense. I feel going outside to these beautiful areas help stave off the depression that MS can inflict. Keep walking!

  • Kim Dolce moderator
    5 years ago

    Jackie, I’m almost as breathless reading this as you must have been actually doing this thing!

    I climbed my own mountain recently trying to juggle managing MS with being my ill mother’s caregiver. I did indeed realize how much I am able to do if I push and pace myself. It’s a wonderful feeling 🙂

    Congratulations on reaching the heights of your potential 😉


  • k8kix80
    5 years ago

    Thanks for sharing, love the pics! Congrats on this achievement!

  • Christie Germans
    5 years ago

    Great job Jackie! My personal mountain is indeed a mountain – hike to base camp of Mt. Everest. I totally cannot wait! Best, Christie

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