Treks – Padre Thru Hike – March 2018



I was discussing South Padre and how much I miss it with my coworker this morning, and I wondered if anyone had hiked the entire island. I think most of you know at 113 miles long, Padre Island is the longest barrier island in the world. I spent a few minutes looking around on the internet, and I could not find a single person who claimed to have done this. The reason (I am guessing) is the 800 foot wide Mansfield Channel outside of Port Mansfield (see below).

There are a handful or options for getting around this channel:

  • Earn our stripes, throw our backpacks in some dry bags and float the channel (with tide coming in like in picture)
  • Have dad hook up with someone in Port Mansfield, boat out to us with supplies, and take us across (about a 10 mile trip one way).
  • Have dad 4wd my paddleboards to us on the North side for us to cross, we cross, he drives all the way up North Padre, out, over to highway, down to South Padre and up to pick them up (okay this one is a little ridiculous)
  • Pack rafts

So now the things we will need to figure out …

  1. How can we make water out of salt water?
  2. What kind of fishing kit should we bring? Is bay side fishing easier than coastal fishing?
  3. Are there camping restrictions/limitations on the National Seashore (I have read there is, so this can make our lives hard)
  4. When should we do it? Spring and deal with some of the smaller spring break crowds? Fall and deal with hurricane season?
  5. How do we handle channel?
  6. We plan on staying in a condo and living it up when we get to South Padre. Do we reserve in advance and have a schedule? Do we meet family there already? Do we just grab what we can?
  7. Are there other parts of the island that we will have to plan around (I think some areas are less than 100 feet wide)
  8. How do we stay in comms with Dad? What is the coverage like down there?




Just got off the phone with the national seashore folks and I got some info:

  • No camping restrictions
  • Usually no fire restrictions in March/April
  • No catching and eating crab
  • All you can eat fish though if you can catch them
  • Still need to figure out the water issue (no stashing water or food because coyotes will dig them up)
  • March April water temps 68-72, air temps in mid 80’s (she recommended early April, we will also miss spring breakers)
  • Absolutely should not swim or paddlebaord channel as the current is high, and it is loaded with sharks.
  • No Man-O-War season
  • Last year had a lot of March storms

I called Padre NS today and spoke to some rangers regarding the water situation, They were fine with us burying water if necessary, and advised me to talk to the Law Enforcement Ranger line (949.9239) when I asked them if they could bring us a gallon of water during regular patrols. They were out today so I will call tomorrow.
The only other gotcha is that if we decided to use a quad to go down the island to bury water, it has to be street legal, because Padre National Seashore is A TEXAS HIGHWAY (WTF).


I just got off the phone with the Law Enforcement division down there …

  • They probably CANT bring water daily, because their schedule is not reliable. She asked for my email and said that she might find a deputy volunteer though to bring us water. If that happens they will email me and coordinate.
  • Two things on the Mansfield channel, the deputy had actually swam that, said there are no sharks, and the current isn’t bad at all, that we just need to wait for the tide to come in. She also said there are kayaks and small boats all over the damn place down there and that if we waived some money around, we would find a ride across rather easily. This doesn’t help with the resupply problem though

Trip Decisions:

  • Had to do this right, meaning we needed to swim channel, not really on resupply at channel
  • Decided not to use inflatable mattresses (which we also would have used to float channel) due to weight, and likelihood they would be popped.
  • Decided to drive up early the morning of the trip, set off at 10:30




Trip Milestones:

  • Packery Channel – 0 M
  • Whitecap Beach 1.25
  • MBob Hall
  • Pier 2.4 MR
  • Road 10.5 M
  • Road 13.2 M
  • Malaquite Campground – 13.9 M
  • Big visitor center – 14.34 M
  • Park Road 22 meets beach – 15.03 M
  • Road – 18.47 M
  • Road to plant -20.96 M
  • Road – 21.97 M
  • Rood to plant – 27.75 M
  • Road – 30 M (Yarborough Pass)
  • Small Road – 39.93 M
  • Small Road 44.23 M
  • Narrow passage between Bay and Coast – 59.36 M
  • Mansfield Channel – 75.1 M
  • No Beach 87.79 M
  • South Padre Island Main Road – 98.0 M
  • Adventure Park – 98.6 M
  • Edwin King Atwood Park – 103.7 M
  • Claytons Beach Bar – 105.62 M (across from Sea Turtle Place)
  • Pearl South Padre – 109.48 M (Schlitterbahn)
  • South Padre Jetties – 110.57



  • Friday, 3.23 Fly to SA, spend the night
  • Saturday, 3.24 shop, eat
  • Sunday, 3.25 Head up to Padre early in the morning. Begin trip in earnest, boots on beach around 8:30. Party/gathering with beer (and lots of water) at the 4 mile marker (4wd sign or so) on National Seashore (19 mile day). Dad would have to find something to do all day while we hiked, perhaps he can set up camp a little early and get a fire going. We might be able to get a car in another 5 miles or so, which would make the next two days easier.
  • Monday, 3.26 wake up, grab supplies and leave, stop near a small road at 44.23 miles for camp (25 mile day)
  • Tuesday, 3.27 Hike about 25 miles (stop near mile marker 70)
  • Wednesday, 3.28 Hike 5 miles to Mansfield channel, cross, camp around mile marker 90 (20 mile day + channel)
  • Thursday, 3.29 Hike remaining 20 miles to south jetty, including a stop (1/4 mile inland at Whataburger) A resupply meetup with dad (where we cam dump shit and get water and snacks) would be great around 10 AM. Sleep somewhere down in the valley at a hotel, possibly at Padre
  • Friday, 3.30 head back to SA
  • Sat, 3.31 recover
  • Sun, 4.1 flight



Cook Kit

  • Foil for fish
  • Coffee
  • Tobacco
  • Large (50 oz) water bottles (skinny Smartwater)
  • Fishing Lures
  • Long Spork
  • Bowl
  • JB Coffee press
  • Jetboil

Med Kit

  • 10 Pepto Tabs
  • Chapstick
  • 10 800 MG
  • A couple of neosporin packs
  • 10 Execedrin Migrain
  • 2 Large bandages
  • 6 small bandages
  • Vinegar bottle/spray
  • 10 oz of sunscreen + mosquito spray
  • Mosquito spray
  • 1.5 rolls of TP
  • A couple of alcohol wipes
  • Hand sanitizer
  • a couple of zip lock bags
  • 1 large trash bag
  • 3 cold and flu jells
  • Gauze with velcro (small)
  • small packet of ALO
  • Bug bite stuff?
  • Toothpaste and toothbrush
  • Journal and Pen
  • Firestarter stuff
  • Wet Wipes?


Trip Blog:

  • 3.17.18 – Met Daniel and his parents at REI, went out to eat at Pappasitos, lounged around parents house, had difficulty sleeping due to anxiety of trip
  • 3.18.18 – Left at 6 AM or so to head to Padre. Stopped to get has and snacks. Once on Padre island, stopped at Target as a last minute thing to get pants. I figured the Parka pants I brought would be useless and that I should have some pants for cold weather/sun protection. We set foot at the Jetty on the north end of the island at 10:30. We started great, very excited about conditions of the beach and the trip in general. Feet got pretty sore quickly, realized that even sand is hard on feet down near water, had to rotate from walking near water to up in the softer sand. I regretted bringing old shoes quite quickly. We had ice cream from an ice cream truck a few miles in, and took a break around 10 miles. We both began the hike with shorts, and both of us were getting burned so we went with pants from there on out (me in my new, fancy target PJs). We also learned rather quickly that underwear needed to go away to prevent chaffing. We crossed paths with 3 bulldogs, and a handful of people who were interested in our trip. One couple, Joanne and Ed, followed us a little in their car after talking to us, so they could flag us down and give us raisins, well-wishes and maps. Daniel bonked a little at 14 miles, mostly due to us skipping lunch. We ate snacks and had some vitamin I and were on our way. The last 4 miles or so of our trip were a death march. Both of us had enough walking and were ready to reach camp. It was nice to see Dad’s flashlight flashing off in the distance as we approached mile 19 around 6:40. We set up camp, got a fire going and drank some fluids. During the day we each had about 50 oz of water so we needed to hydrate prior to the next days push. I had no appetite whatsoever and got into a little bit of a funk once the sun set. We begin reciting stand up comedians and laughing around the campfire. I was not looking forward to my dad leaving and hucking so much water the next day. The wind was annoying me a little as well. There were lots of little man-o-war on the beach. It was nice having Dad around. Hat things were awesome.
  • 3.19.18 – We awoke early to help my dad pack up, and to make sure we got everything out of his truck. I was having some stomach issues, so I had to duck off into the dunes a couple of times. We both pounded down as much fluid as we could prior his departure. I recall feeling profoundly sad/alone as I watched him drive down the beach at 7AM. I felt like we really needed to spend more time together. I was kind of at a weird place mentally. Eventually Daniel and I packed up, slung our water-loaded backpacks over our shoulders (maybe 12 lbs or so each) and began heading down the beach. About 200 yards down the beach Daniel had to stop and tend to a foot issue. When he say down I noticed his pack was wet, and that his Camelback was leaking water (this was a very alarming thing). We left a couple of 50oz water bottles with the beached BBQ grill we camped next to, so I dropped my pack and ran back to retrieve them in hope of saving Daniel’s water.  When I came back I noticed Daniel’s half-dollar sized blister on his foot.  Once we got going again some clouds rolled in and it looked like it was going to rain for a little bit. Our pace was painfully slow because Daniel was trying to figure out a way to walk that wouldn’t hurt. About an hour in, I decided I needed to fight my funk with some music since Daniel isn’t really a chatty guy for the most part, especially so when he is in a bad mood.  The music really picked up my mood, and I began planning/imaging achieving each of our milestones over the next couple of days or so. I kept thinking we just needed to knock out 15 miles and end up at mile mark #20 at the end of the day (40 miles into the trip). I then figured we could put down another 15 the following day, and 20 with a lighter load the day after that. That would put us close to the channel, where we could bribe fishermen for water on either side. I didn’t like having to rely on people for water but I was confident we weren’t going to die of thirst or anything even with our massive 150 oz/day water needs.  We met a young couple (forget his name, from Waco, and Ivy I think from Kansas), talked with them a little while and took some photos, and we were on our way. I was hoping after talking to them we would hit our stride, but we had been hiking for about 4+ hours, and had not seen a marker indicating we had put down 5-6 miles yet.  Our pace slowed even further and I noticed Daniel had a descent limp. Eventually he said “I have to be honest with myself, I am done for today up here at this clearing”.  I let those words process a little bit as a wave of emotions crashed over me. Is he hungry? Are his feet that fucked up? I wasn’t exactly loving life either at the moment, and I’ve hiked enough with Daniel to know he more than able to tough out some difficult sections when necessary. I figured I would just sit with him and think things over. After sitting for a while we discussed 3 possibilities.
    1. We camp there together, relax all day and see if he felt better the next day. I like this idea initially though it would have made finishing much harder since we would have to beg for water 3-4 times now instead of twice.
    2. He could hitch a ride up to 20 mile marker and set up camp, and I would continue and meet up with him. We both really liked this idea since it would not jeopardize completion, though I always feel a little uncomfortable leaving behind/splitting up with hiking partners for a variety of reasons. I imagined what we would do if we woke up and he was still too beat up to continue. Would he hitch again, could we finish this way?
    3. Eventually we began discussing the third idea, come to terms with the fact that we underestimated the hike, hitch back to the visitor center, camp there were we have water and service, and call in the reinforcements. That was a difficult decision for me.  One one hand I was tired of quitting or being forced to quit either by my own moods or the inabilities of others to continue. This had happened too often recently, and each time I decided to turn back with hiking buddies instead of continuing because I felt it was the right thing to do. Daniel had been there for me during rough stretched on the Colorado Trail though, so I recognized at the very least I owed him as much. I also began questioning the ultimate goal of the trip. Was I there to “check a box”, to be able to say I did something that may not have been done before, to stroke my ego or was I there to enjoy my time away from life/work? That is a loaded question that I still do not have answers for. I was ready and willing to face some of the expected “type 2 fun” stretches, but would I be willing to endure days of type 2 fun to check the box? We hadn’t even swam or fished or did anything else to enjoy being on the beach because we had been pretty exhausted at the end of the day. After thinking on it some more I realized we had long surpassed the rule of 3.
      1. We were going slower than our 22.5/MPD planned pace.
      2. We needed to 2/3 times as much water per day to stay hydrated
      3. The temperatures the first two days topped off at 90 and no rain (free resupply) in the forecast
      4. Hardly anyone on the beach
      5. Daniel’s foot/leg were a mess

    We chose to hitch a ride back and try to salvage our vacation.  After a nap and some 45 minutes or so of waiting, we saw a truck heading north on the beach and flagged them down. I offered them money for a ride and they seemed a little insulted (okay so Daniel was right about     that). We raced down the beach and had to endure the nut-punch of having to drive past a handful of people we met earlier in the trip, each of which we proudly proclaimed to “we were going to the end”. That was when the defeat really set in. At the visitor center I walked in a met with a ranger who was asking me about my trip, and who told me that I needed to discuss our trip with a senior employee there because she could give us a bunch of advice. I waited for her and she came out and we began our discussion. The take-aways were:

    1. We should not attempt the trip. Hell she wanted me to promise we would not continue. She was very opinionated at made it known on about 6 occasions that she was the most experienced one there. She said we could not possibly carry enough water and that we could not rely on people for water since no one could get past the 40 mile mark driving
    2. We should consider doing his in December when the temperatures would be much lower.
    3. She asked me what we would do in the event of an emergency, I told her I had a SPOT device, and she informed me that “Satellite services do not work south of Corpus” (this is when her credibility went South for me)
    4. She informed me that there are large cat footprints (bigger than her hand) that she has seen between miles 18-25. I informed her this was not an issue for us since we are accustomed to this kind of thing hiking in Colorado.  She reinforced her statement.
    5. She told me that Cocaine drops are often found and that Border Patrol would harass us. Again not an issue/worry for me. Neither one of us had any reason to be concerned about that.
    6. She said swimming the channel was an awful idea because of sharks and large ships. When I told her I spoke to someone at the station who had done just that and who said it was fine, she got salty and reiterated that she had been to “60” more than anyone else.

    I talked to her about our stills, about hiking at night, and our supported hiking idea (which she was all for). Eventually I was just reached the point where I was just getting more and more mad Daniel and I decided to head up to the campground. We got there and found out that the campgrounds at Maloquite were quite possible the shittiest campgrounds we have seen. Ants everywhere, stickers everywhere, and rocks everywhere. We had difficulty finding a place to pitch our tents. Daniel headed over to the visitor center to call his parents, and I called Laura to inform her of our failure. Always comforting Laura responded with a deriding “ha” which was made me instantly not want to talk to her. I hung up and laid in the shade and watched some seagulls nearby. There were leathery RV people all around us looking at me, sitting in their old chairs, and doing what leathery RV people do. There was also a 14-ish year old boy on an old bicycle with a praise Jesus shirt, riding around the RV lot in circles with a weird look on his face. He looked like he just came from the 60’s with his bike, haircut and facial expressions. I couldn’t put my finger on it but something about him was deeply unsettling.

    Eventually the guy who ran the campground swung by looking for someone and I asked him if we could camp on the beach and he said we could. Daniel and I relocated when he got back from speaking with his parents, pitched our tents, and in about 10 minutes Daniel was out. I took some time to play with my solar still kit and fish. The fishing kit was nice and effective though I was using the wrong kind of bait so I didn’t catch anything. Eventually Daniel awoke, and we fired up the Jetboil and ate as we talked. Around 10 PM or so a shooting star flew overhead from Northeast to Southwest that was bright enough to illuminate the entire beach as if it was day. I don’t think I have ever seen anything like that.

  • 3.20.18 – Around 4 in the morning a cold front blaster out of the North. I awoke to the loud roar of my rain fly flapping and and tearing stake out of the sand in 60MPH winds. I jumped out and try to secure everything around the camp site that wasn’t secure (shirts and cookware and such) and then turned me attention to my rain fly. I fought it for a few minuted before realizing there abso-fucking-lutely nothing I could do to re-stake it. I wrapped my sleeping bag up in the fly and laid in the mesh of my tent and slept until 8. By the time I awoke the winds had calmed to about 35 MPH or so. Daniel and I had to help each other shake out all of the sand and pack up. We heading to the visitor center where we met his parents and headed to the nearest Whataburger. I felt kind of silly in their presence.


Lessons Learned:

  • Hat covers were great
  • Moods were extremely volatile
  • Need new footwear or inserts!!!!!!!!!!, even beach sand was hard on feet
  • Need non-gore tex shoes
  • Went through liquids/water at alarming rate (150 oz a day or so)
  • 20-25 miles a day was a little much for a sustained trip perhaps
  • Having cardboard and sharpie to make signs might be necessary
  • Could leave Jetboil possibly since we only used it one time (for Coffee)
  • Beach tent stakes were a life saver (need to buy more)
  • The water was actually comfortable at 67 degrees
  • Only tried solar still for a few hours late, no luck, will continue to test
  • Used the survival fish rod, worked pretty well, didn’t catch anything, perhaps get a shrimp lure
  • The solar charger is acting a little weird when in that clear dry bag. Will need to test some more
  • Night hiking might be the way to go
  • Need support vehicle every 15-20 miles up through 40-45, also across the channel
  • Music was a good thing
  • Slept pretty well on Thermorest pads, so no need for inflatable pads
  • Was told March was a tough month and often cars cannot get past 40Miles, need to call ahead to get conditions of the beach
  • Was told there were “Large hand sized cat paw prints between 18-25 miles”
  • Border patrol will be pretty active down from the cut and below
  • Bring an extra pair of inserts/shoes/and plenty of socks to keep with support team
  • An easy to pitch awning would be nice
  • A wind screen of some sort would be nice
  • Need about 100-150 oz of fluids PER DAY
  • Need to take more breaks
  • Heavy packs slowed us down from 2.5 MPH to about 1-1.5 MPH
  • Temps on a couple of days approached 90
  • Worry about Dad being out on beach all day alone when supporting, need to recruit others
  • Can do our supported hikes without Jetboil, most of the food, tent, and other non-necessary items
  • We spent so much time walking that we could not enjoy the beach/trip
  • The first 20 miles were nice (Especially first 15)
  • Can eat at Bob Hall Pier
  • Ice cream truck!
  • Coyotes all around our camp
  • Don’t wear shorts
  • Don’t wear shorts again
  • SPF 100 sunscreen needed and lots of it
  • Mosquitoes did not seem to be a problem, though I was bitten by something all over my legs (no idea what)
  • Need to bring cards, horseshoes, or some form(s) of entertainment for the support crew
  • Up our camp cooking/drinking game
  • Bring shemagh to prevent neck burns?
  • Need to check in with visitor center agents next time.
  • There were many, many baby man-o-wars washed up, though they didn’t seem to be stinging people
  • Beach was absolutely pristine, no sea weed, no tar
  • Needed better camp options for charging devices
  • Need to stretch
  • 80% of the time we were cranky was because we were hungry/in a calorie deficit
  • More vitamin I (need to take regularly)
  • There is a hut/cabin around mile 40 that can provide shade shelter. It is manned in April by Ridley Sea Turtle research team, no water.
  • Always pitch the fly of the tent well, since a 60 MPH wind storm can blow in any given night.
  • Check moon schedule for night hiking potential
  • Keep pushing, however slow, as long as it is safe
  • Treat blisters early, look into Vaseline
  • I should have used Daniel’s non chafing stuff much earlier
  • Can bring a small grill