Big Bend Chat
The Big Bend Chat Archives => Big Bend National Park Q&A => Topic started by: trtlrock on December 15, 2006, 10:57:55 PM
My wife & I are planning a 16-day hike around the Chisos; 2/10/07-2/25/07.
FYI we're looking to "mosey" on this trip. Each day we'll break camp by about 9:30am, hiking about 2 mph. Figure on 2 hours for lunch & other assorted breaks; should get us to camp by 4:30-5:00pm each day. Lots of time for snapshots & general meandering...
We'll be pre-dropping lots of caches, so water availability & pack weight issues will be minimized.
Any thoughts are appreciated...
Hike out of Study Butte & enter BBNP via Joe Black Spring. Roam around Indian Head area & then head east...
Thread through Slickrock Canyon into Onion Flat. What are the chances of water in the springs SW of Slickrock Canyon?
Head through Onion Spring & Dripping Spring, then beyond Paint Gap Hills into the flats...
OK...here's a question. We're thinking from looking at the topo that we'll be able to hike out to the end of the Grapevine Hills Trail, to the balanced rock, and then bushwack down from there wrapping around to the Neville Spring area for camp. Can anybody confirm if this is do-able with just our aging legs & Leki poles? We have no climbing gear or skills in that area.
Check out Neville Spring, Quail Spring, and then thread back north to Grapevine Spring & beyond into the Tornillo Flats. Probably camp near Exhibit Ridge. Does anybody know if there's likely to be water in Tornillo this far west? Also, isn't there a huge petrified tree somewhere in this area? [The one I've seen pics of with the snake guarding it]. If someone could e-mail me with the exact location of this tree...we would very much like to see it. E-mail is trtlrock at lynxconnect dot com.
Cross 385, checking out the Fossil Exhibit, then wending our way up to what looks like a viably flat mesita which should offer a good view for that night's camp.
Basically a day off. Move camp a few miles south to Hannold Draw, picking up our caches enroute. Then lollygag the rest of the day, checking out Black Peaks, McKinney, Tornillo, etc.
Head down Tornillo to Banta Shut-In. Topo looks like we can climb up the east side at Banta, getting to flat areas for our campsite that might have a view, as opposed to camping down adjacent to the creek itself. Can anyone confirm this?
Head out Estufa Canyon, then bushwhack south to Dugout Wells Area. The bushwhack looks like it could be grueling -- any thoughts?
Head towards Juniper Canyon & the Dodson Trail. Try to stay off the roads, and cut the big corner heading up to beginning of Dodson with what looks like it could be an exhausting bushwhack. I would definitely like some feedback about what type of vegetation to expect in this area, and whether the bushwhack is feasible...
1st half of the Dodson. Plan to take it slow & enjoy it, snapping lots of pics. Am really counting on finding water at or near Fresno Creek or Dodson Spring. Thoughts on the exact location of this water?
dayhike around the Fresno Creek area.
2nd half of the Dodson, ending up with a campsite near Blue Creek entrance. A fairly short day, allowing for some sunset exploration of the Red Rocks area....
Check out Sotol Vista Overlook, and then hike down the road & then off-road to Lower BM Pouroff, then around Burro Spring, and on to the flats near Tule. I'd love to think we could descend Sotol Vista without having to actually hike down the road, but the topo implies otherwise, and I don't want the extra mileage of using Blue Creek to get west & then having to head north. Thoughts?
Check out Tule, then arc through three springs (one of which is Red Ass) enroute to the Chimneys. Hope to get water at one of these springs (thoughts?). Check out the Chimneys & then go XC across Black Mesa. End up ascending a mesita (I think) for a bit of a campsite view...
Head up Alamo Creek to Rt.118, and, if we've got enough energy, hike around Maverick Mtn as shown & back into Study Butte. If not, just walk the road or hitch to SB...
Here's a pic of the whole route (approx. 135 miles)
Any comments, suggestions, potential revisions, questions etc would be appreciated...
Thanks, John & Tess
The park issues permits for up to 14 days, so you may want to consider trimming two days off of your hiking itinerary. In addition, the backcounty use fee will be in effect by that time, so expect to pay $10 for the 14-day permit.
The Zone map (http://www.nps.gov/bibe/parknews/upload/BC_Zones.pdf) and the backcountry planning worksheet (http://www.nps.gov/bibe/planyourvisit/upload/BC_worksheet.pdf) may be helpful in perparing your intinerary and to make the permit process go much smoother.
sometimes it's the most basic things you forget.
I'll just trim out the 2 off days; now the trek totals 14 days.
Sounds like a great trip John. The website technically says 14 consecutive nights, that would lead one to believe 15 days is possible. You could easily shave off a day, most likely somewhere in days 3-8. I too am interested in doing a trip through those northern reaches and will be interested to see answers to your questions about water and route from Slickrock canyon through Grapevine spring. I would be surprised if there is any water in upper Tornillo creek drainage between Grapevine and McKinney.
In Dec. 2004 we crossed the eastern side of the park coming through Banta Shut-In. You can easily climb up the east side (we did it as a day hike) but I don't remember any really flat areas to camp but wasn't looking for a site, and the ground was very rocky. The views of the Chisos from there are great tho'. We camped on the big sand bar just upstream of the Shut-In very nice camp as long as the wind doesn't blow. Walking through the Shut-In itself was not more than ankle deep for maybe a 100' yards (cold as it was 22 degrees that morning!)
We went up Estufa and then did the cross country to Dugout and a cache. The cross country is easy and straight forward with just lecheguilla and creosote bush to wind around. The windmill pump at Dugout is not working so we also cached water there too. We then continued cross country towards the Juniper Canyon Rd. and the Dodson trail, cutting the road corners and only walking it part way past the Pine canyon turn off. We camped just north of the little hill which is just north of Chilicotal Mtn. Tremendous view there of every thing, especially south. That day was only about 9 miles at the most by my figures.
We then did the cross country across the alluvial fans towards Juniper canyon road, about 4 miles. Very easy again just lechiquilla and creosote bush to work around. I would recommend hitting the road below the Dodson junction as if you go higher you do end up working your way through and up and down some washes with more vegetation.
The only other change would be your route past Burro Spring to Tule spring to the north of the hill, Okie Hiker showed quite a pouroff on that route. I will be very interested to read the trip report especially the spring report.
Looks like a great itinerary… a few thoughts…
I have found Christmas Spring to be more reliable than the ones by Slickrock Mtn. I will be there next week and will give you a report when I get back.
Onion Flat is very easy hiking, and you could camp near Christmas spring and make the hike across the flat to Paint Gap Hills from there.
The route through the middle of Grapevine Hills should be no problem for you.
It is unlikely that you will find water that far west in Tornillo Creek. It is very likely that you will find water when you get into the Javelina Creek/Black Peaks area.
The flat above Estufa Canyon is also easy walking. You may have to avoid a little lechugilla and jumping cholla.
At Fresno Creek go downstream and there is a 100% chance of water.
I have done the cross-country route UP to Sotol Vista a couple of times (I don’t like road walking to much either. It is totally hideous, but then I like hideous!
Post a report when you get back!
Thanks mule ears & okiehiker for the feedback -- just what I was looking for. Okiehiker -- can you elaborate on whether we can safely & easily scramble down from the Burro Spring area? The topo is simply too crowded to tell. Parent's book implies you can, but it could be that he means circle around from about 10:00 to about 7:00 before you can reach the bottom. If that's the case, then we may want to pass south of Burro Spring & bypass the actual spring. The proposed route was just scenic; not needing or counting on water from that spring anyway...
As far as descending Sotol Vista as far to the north as possible, without resorting to the road...well...if Okiehiker calls it hideous that's all I need to know! :lol:
You can definitely safely do the trail to Burro Spring safely, and relatively easily. There is trail essentially all the way. When you reach the pour-off above the spring stay left. If you are attentive you will find a trail that take you all the way down into the lower section of the drainage. I love that hike. There is a wall of almost black tuff-like rock to your left less than half a mile from the pour-off. The pour-off itself is quite dramatic.
The spring is not too scenic but also not too badly overgrown (unlike Red Ass and some other areas of the park.) Although any place you find water in BIBE is a special place!
That's an amazing plan especially for a husband and wife couple. You guys must be in really good shape! I would recommend you invest in some chaps or at least snowshoeing gators to protect your lower legs on all that cross-country hiking. You might want to have a back up plan that involves hiking up Juniper Canyon into the Basin in case you decide to bail out early.
I have been to Slickrock and it has a small but reliable spring near its entrance which is more reliable than the springs further downstream. Even in very dry periods it seems to hold at least a small amount (1-2 gals) of water but I wouldn't say its 100% certain.
You can climb up the East Side of Banta Shut In (from the North) but its very rocky and rough with no good camping spots. The West side is lower but may be a bit easier. Banta is a reliable water source and a cool place to hang out in the shade. I have found (and removed) trash left by illegal aliens along the course of Tornillo Creek including at Banta Shut In, but (judging from the volume, age, and distribution of the trash), I would say they are passing through this area very infrequently (once or twice a year maybe?). Probably in small groups of 2-4 men. That said keep your wallet, car keys, etc.. on your person or in sight at all times and try to avoid contact with them if you can.
Dodson has water but it's muddy and overgrown, best to keep going to Fresno if you can. Upper Juniper Springs isn't on your route but it is also 100% reliable (just in case). If you want a day-off you could basecamp near Fresno and dayhike down to Elephant Tusk or down into the lower parts of the Fresno Creek drainages (very scenic, lots of water, a few scattered tree's, and comparably easy hiking). Tule Springs, Burro Springs and Pena Spring are also reliable.
Sounds like a great adventure just make sure you have a backup plan (or two or three). I am sure you could find someone in the Basin who could give you a ride back to Study Butte if you needed it (a little $$ would assure it). Good Luck and please post a trip report when you get back.. TWWG
Thanks for the additional feedback & ideas -- keep 'em coming!
Okiehiker -- Burro Spring sounds more dramatic than I thought; we'll definitely keep it in the plan & count on scrambling down & out as you suggested.
TWWG -- good idea about potentially bailing out into the Basin. We'll have the maps with us to do so if necessary.
As to Banta; overall the feedback implies that the scramble up to the east is probably more grueling & time-consuming than I had hoped. Also (not surprisingly), it's obviously not flat up there. While the view would be nice, the driving force behind the idea was that I envisioned a sleepless night otherwise; worrying about flash floods & the like. We'll wing this when we get there, but it's obviously wider than I thought just upstream of Banta & the sandbar sounds nice.
A day off @ Fresno does sound appealing; maybe we'll swap that with the Upper Burro Mesa day off. We might do UBM as we're caching anyway.
No, we are NOT in really good shape! :lol: But we're in decent enough shape to do this on a "mosey" basis. The key for us is to keep the days short (about 8.5 miles per day), the packs light (ultra-light methodology & mucho caching), and to listen to our naturally risk-averse inner voices (i.e. no climbing!). When we're done, of course, we'll be in much better shape! :wink:
Hmmm...still would like to know where that petrified tree is -- hint, hint! GPS on this tree would be GREAT!! Hint, hint. Since that info may be "sensitive" you could e-mail me at trtlrock at lynxconnect dot com.
Thanks again, John & Tess
Thanks -- I now know where the tree is. We appreciate it...
The scramble up the East Side of Banta is not really bad but there is no place to camp up there. It's worth the 30-45 minutes (roundtrip) to hike up it from the North side of the shut-in because the view from the top is very good and especially interesting because you can look down into the water-filled slot from above and see the Chisos in the distance. There is also a very neat blackrock (Hornfels) spring at the North entrance that paleo-indians used to mine for spear points. You will also notice schools of small fish in Tornillo Creek and at Banta these are small (1-2"), very active little Tornillo Creek Snail Darters and they have been living in this area since the Pliestocene. There are plenty of good camping spots on sandbanks that are elevated enough above the floodplain to allow you to rest assured and most people camp on the South side of the shut-in.
I would much rather have a day off at Fresno Creek rather than Upper Burro Mesa even if it ment packing more weight on the Dodson Trail. If you read Parent's book you can follow the trail downstream to a spring in the Fresno drainage where the trail turns and goes up a small rise into the Elephant Tusk Drainage. This Fresno Creek Drainage is a great dayhike from a basecamp near the Dodson and you can either go downstream into the water-cut canyon (which often has a running stream) or go upstream into the narrower canyon that twists and turns in the heart of the Sierra Quemada. In either case the hiking is easy as the canyon has a sand bottom and only a few climb-around points. You can also access Tortuga Mtn or Elephant Tusk from this same route system and almost all the drainages have springs and water in them so there is usually lots of wildlife and changes in plant life. It's one of my Top 10 places to go in the park and tempts me on every trip to return to this area (but then I never get to see something new!).... TWWG
TWWG -- consider us persuaded :) . We'll spend a day at Fresno Creek area. I was worried about pack weight, but with caches at the beginning & end of the Dodson, and water at Fresno, it shouldn't be a problem.
Maybe the NPS can install an AC receptacle near Fresno so we can recharge our camera batteries? :wink:
We may miss UBMPO, but that can be bundled w/Apache, Sam Nail, Cattail, Oak & the Window on another trip...
You made the right choice. I like Burro Mesa but on a "day off" it has little shade to offer and not much (comparably speaking) change in plant life, springs, or wildlife. You need to keep going (through-hiking) on Burro Mesa or you might get bored.
At Fresno Creek you can make a nice basecamp on the East Side of the drainage just as you round the high hill that descends ~200' into the valley floor. You will find a flat 'cleared' spot with great views of the South Rim from Below at this location and avoid the "closed-in" views of the bottom of Fresno Creek where the Dodson Trail crosses it (where most people camp). It's worth the extra weight in food and gear to spend the night in this special spot and this area offers a wide variety of experiences, water sources, side trips, or you can just sit around and drink "liquid painkiller" and stare up at the Alpenglow coming off the South Rim at sunset before lighting the camp stove and making a slow casual dinner with the absolute silence of the Sierra Quemada's broken only by the quiet hiss of the camp stove. This is truely one of the most silent places left in Texas.
I have even backtracked on dayhikes back to Dodson Springs to I could explore the old ruins at a liesurely pace and hike downstream from the trail crossing where a series of springs (with tree's) exists only 300-500 yards south (but out of view) of the trail. If you keep hiking down this drainage you can pass below Tortuga Mountain and back into the Fresno Creek drainage and make a "loop hike" out of it (~1/2 day or so). I planned to summit Tortuga Mountain via this route on a prior trip but (due to weather and fatigue) never made it and shot right up from Elephant Tusk to the Dodson over to Smokey Creek. Looking at the summit of Tortuga from the highpoint near the junction of the ET and Dodson trails I swore an oath to return and summit Tortuga someday. Maybe next spring - time for a new notch in my hiking stick.. TWWG
I am fascinated by this string...I can't wait to see your trip report and pictures...
I've been to the park over 30 times and have never tried anything like this...mostly due to time constraints. I keep saying "one of these days". You have some great resources here on this board...as you can probably tell.
TWWG is right that is a beautiful place to camp and the old Dodson place is an interesting stop (we camped next to the house in 1973 on our first trip).
With all the places you have hiked in the park it looks like you have plenty of good desert experience. If you haven't used caches before here are some ideas:
I have had good luck using five gallon buckets with lids for caches (the NTS inspectors at the airport always look through them when I fly and leave nice little notes that they have been there). They are large enough to easily hold 3-4 days worth of food and additional supplies (for two people) and the critters have never tried to get into them. I use gray or non-white ones so they can't be seen easily by the two legged critters. I tape the lid on to seal it and always put a waterproof label on that says "this is a food re-supply for hikers coming through the week of _____. Please do not disturb." I then hide it under some bushes to further disguise it and keep it cooler. We have just placed gallon or larger water jugs next to it and nothing has tried to get into them either. Just be very careful to note exactly where your put it! and of course pick them up after the hike. Okie Hiker may have had other experiences with caches in Big Bend too.
I too carry an ultralight pack but even then when we started our eastern side of the park traverse with 3 days food and 3 gallons of water (no water for the first 2 and a half days until Banta Shut-In) the pack still weighed in at 45 pounds. You should be able to hit lots of springs and it looks like at least 8 fairly easy places (road crossings) to choose from to set caches so hopefully you can keep the pack weights more respectable.
Thanks again for the tips & suggestions everyone. You are right, Vince, the collective expertise & willingness to share here at BBC is just staggering...
This is what the internet is all about!