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The most remote place in Big Bend?

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Offline mule ears

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The most remote place in Big Bend?
« on: January 08, 2012, 10:36:32 AM »
After my last trip I had a friend say/ask “well you are never really very far from a road” to which I answered that there were a fair number of roads but also some very large roadless areas too.

Then Al said this:
Quote
Bouldering off trail with a full pack in one of the most remote areas of the US

It got me to thinking about exactly how far one could get from a road in the park.  I pulled out multiple maps and it quickly became apparent that it could only be one of two places.  The two largest roadless areas are 1.) the Chisos and the Sierra Quemada at 183,000 acres and 2.) the Dead Horse mountains, east of the Old Ore road at 134,000 acres.

Details on the parks roadless areas

As big and vast and remote as we all feel like Big Bend is, none of these areas is even close to being in the running for the most remote place or places in the lower 48 states (from Backpacker magazine).

Quote from: Backpacker magagzine
As the crow flies, the farthest you can be from a road in Idaho’s River of No Return is a mere 15 miles; in the Escalante and Bob Marshall it’s even less. Astonishingly, in the entire continental U.S., coast to coast, Mexico to Canada, there is only one place left where you can get more than 20 miles from a road: in the greater Yellowstone region

I don’t have a “spatial analyst extension to access the Euclidean distance tool, and a Lambert conformal conic projection, with a raster 100mx 100m cell parameter” but I did some measurements on my National Geographic Topo software and, as the crow flies, the most remote place appears to be up in Fisk canyon (where the yellow diamond is), just NW of Dominguez Mtn. just a bit over 6 miles from the nearest road.  A lot of us have been by this place over the years.



The second runner up is very near the crest of the Dead Horse mountains not far from the mouth of Arroyo Venado and just under 6 miles from the nearest road.  This is assuming there are no roads close to the river on the Mexico side (I couldn’t find any maps that showed roads on that side).  Within the park anyway it qualifies.  The only person I know of who has been near this spot is mountaindocdanny.



I also found this interesting publication from the USGS on the Distance to Nearest Road in the Conterminous United States and if you blow up the map on page 2 you can see the darkest green areas in Big Bend are also where I have estimated them to be.

Anyway, interesting stuff and food for thought.
« Last Edit: November 13, 2016, 08:32:18 AM by mule ears »
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Offline Casa Grande

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The most remote place in Big Bend?
« Reply #1 on: January 08, 2012, 10:46:15 AM »
It is an interesting question.  Back more than 21 years ago, before the widespread use of cell phones, satellite radio and GPS, I was on my first trip. One of the most appealing things about the place was the "remoteness" of the park. There weren't even any radio signals except, of course, the one beaming from the top of Emory Peak. 

In the last 5 or so years, I have felt the "remoteness" less and less. For me, it's more of a state-of-mind than about distance.  In recent years, there has been more cell coverage in the park, you can listen to live news from your sat radio and if you have a sat phone, you can call anyone you want from any place you want. 

In my opinion, the evolution of technology has made and will continue to make the park less "remote."   It's sad, but true.  You want to remember the "good ole days" of feeling how remote you are?  Leave the technology in your car (or at home.)

I guess it depends on 4 factors:

1. Population of Humans
2. Amount of modern man-made objects and distance from.
3. Access to technology.
4. Geographic obstacles, ie. canyons, etc.
« Last Edit: January 08, 2012, 11:04:13 AM by Casa Grande »

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Online steelfrog

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Re: The most remote place in Big Bend?
« Reply #2 on: January 08, 2012, 11:08:25 AM »
Alls I know is, camping near the base of ET last weekend was waaaaay cool, especially compared with Dallas.

Very very sad though the way the wildlife have been affected by the drought.  And the vegetation.

A TPWS guy told me 80% of rattlesnakes state-wide have died

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Offline TexasAggieHiker

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Re: The most remote place in Big Bend?
« Reply #3 on: January 08, 2012, 11:18:53 AM »
Here's a Backpacker article from not too long ago on the most remote spot in the US.  http://www.backpacker.com/september_08_destination_nowhere_yellowstone_most_remote_spot/articles/12566
20 miles from any road in the Yellowstone area.

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Offline fartymarty

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Re: The most remote place in Big Bend?
« Reply #4 on: January 08, 2012, 12:07:21 PM »
Anyway, interesting stuff and food for thought.

That's for sure!

After my last trip I had a friend say/ask “well you are never really very far from a road”

If the remark was meant as a statement about the encroachment of civilization into the even the
remotest harshest areas of the country then the distance "as the crow flies" would be relevant. I took
the initial remark as (re-interpreted) "well you are never really far from a road and some help if you need it".
If you are with a hiking buddy that needs help in a big big way, and your Spot/Sat phone isn't working and hiking
out the fastest most reasonable path is the only way to get help,.....

...what then becomes the most remote area of the park?

Off the top of my head the MDA near the point seems pretty remote (10+ miles?) (especially if the road below is closed/flooded once again so you
can't signal to those below for help).
 In a way I'm lucky, having done so little off trail hiking, all I have to do is get out of view, around a bend or down a gully,
from the sight of a trail or road that I start feeling very remote and cut off from the civilized world. When I went just a little
off trail to Randell's overlook, I felt like I was in outer Mongolia except with a much better view.
For me the excitement and exhilaration of remoteness in BiBe is still there (I'm not implying that it isn't the same for the rest of you)
but I don't have to hike very far to receive it.  :icon_smile:

Thanks for sharing this info ME.  :13:

Fort Worth

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Offline Hoodoo

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Re: The most remote place in Big Bend?
« Reply #5 on: January 08, 2012, 07:09:45 PM »
Anyway, interesting stuff and food for thought.

Hmm, well if you are in need of help, being on a dirt road in BiBe can still be a loong way from anywhere.

For me solitude is not so much how far the nearest road is but realizing what it takes to get back to civilization, or how long it might be before someone passes this way again.

I think I feel the most solitude/remoteness in BiBe on about the 2nd day into a float trip through one of the canyons where the only practical way out is down river! :dance:

Don

Don
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Offline TheWildWestGuy

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Re: The most remote place in Big Bend?
« Reply #6 on: January 08, 2012, 07:16:49 PM »
Interesting thread but I would still put Upper Fisk Canyon and the Fresno Waterworks as some of the most remote areas of the Lower 48.  You can't measure straight-line distance and have to take into account other factors (like rough dirt roads vs paved roads).   Upper Fisk Canyon is a LOT more than 6 miles from the nearest road on foot, maybe more like 12 or 14 miles.  I do feel a bit like Technology has invaded some of the last wild places left in the Lower 48 though, it's getting harder and harder to find those wild places and they are getting smaller and more "managed".  TWWG

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Offline badknees

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Re: The most remote place in Big Bend?
« Reply #7 on: January 08, 2012, 08:21:23 PM »
Interesting thread but I would still put Upper Fisk Canyon and the Fresno Waterworks as some of the most remote areas of the Lower 48.  You can't measure straight-line distance and have to take into account other factors (like rough dirt roads vs paved roads).   Upper Fisk Canyon is a LOT more than 6 miles from the nearest road on foot, maybe more like 12 or 14 miles.  I do feel a bit like Technology has invaded some of the last wild places left in the Lower 48 though, it's getting harder and harder to find those wild places and they are getting smaller and more "managed".  TWWG

I have to agree. When you are in upper Fisk, it is, and feels like the back of beyond. No footprints and a long way back whichever way you go.
Not all those who wander are lost.
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Offline stingrey

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Re: The most remote place in Big Bend?
« Reply #8 on: January 09, 2012, 07:35:34 AM »
No matter how you slice it, my all time favorite memory of the remoteness of the park was told to me by a friend of a friend... During this trip they drove into the park and stopped maybe every 100 yards or so to take pictures of ANOTHER rattlesnake 'till they finally quit stopping "unless the next one" was bigger, scarier, different, etc. During the whole drive in they had the road to themselves. During that one outing in particular, they said they were basically alone on EVERY trail... Even South Rim.

During said trip (which may or may not have even actually happened one July now long ago), these said visitors who will remain nameless told me that they stopped somewhere on 385 and sat in the middle of the road at night in July and broke out some Crown and Dr. Pepper AND their folding chairs and stared up at the Milky Way and had some sips of their drinks... From the middle of 385, the main road into the park... And for almost an hour they just watched the stars, drank some drinks (they may have pulled out the Crown, but they may not have had any of that, maybe it just got pulled out to get to the Dr. Pepper), and let their ears and eyes become accustomed to the nothingness and the everything.

To be near or far from a road does not translate to remoteness for me. To be far from every care in the world including the care that someone may drive up on you on a highway and run you over right where you sit... Drinking a beverage... And KNOWING that you can see (and even hear) said approaching car for miles if one should present itself.. And SEEING each other by the starlight of the Milky Way... The way that story was described to me, THAT story probably captured just how remote the place is for me.

Then there was the one I heard about some guys sitting in the middle of the Rio at Santa Elena Canyon having a drink or two while sitting in reclining chairs at sunset... As a million bats flew out of the canyon and as the nighthawks skimmed over the river back towards the entrance of the canyon...

For me, the most remote place in Big Bend... Is under its night skies.
Get busy living, or get busy dying.

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Offline jeffblaylock

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Re: The most remote place in Big Bend?
« Reply #9 on: January 09, 2012, 11:04:44 AM »
When you are in upper Fisk, it is, and feels like the back of beyond. No footprints and a long way back whichever way you go.

Except, when I was in Fisk Canyon, there were footprints. YOURS!
Jeff Blaylock
Austin, Texas

"We'll be back, someday soon. We will return, someday, and when we do the gritty
splendor and the complicated grandeur of Big Bend will still be here. Waiting for us."--Ed Abbey

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Offline badknees

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Re: The most remote place in Big Bend?
« Reply #10 on: January 09, 2012, 12:56:04 PM »
When you are in upper Fisk, it is, and feels like the back of beyond. No footprints and a long way back whichever way you go.

Except, when I was in Fisk Canyon, there were footprints. YOURS!

True, sorry to ruin your wilderness experience :icon_wink:
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Offline mule ears

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Re: The most remote place in Big Bend?
« Reply #11 on: January 09, 2012, 03:29:55 PM »
All great observations on the subject and some points of view that I would not have at first considered.

My main objective was just theoretical and one has to narrow down the possibilities of how to define it and from an existing road seemed to be the most obvious.  Of course it would never be in a straight line so on the ground would certainly be further.  I agree with Marty that there are certainly harder places to get to, especially if you need rescue other than by helicopter.  The point of the MDA would be more difficult than upper Fisk canyon or the Dead Horse mountains. 

Both of those locations are fairly straight forward to get to.  The closest route to the Fisk canyon location is ~8.4 miles up the Dominguez spring trail from the river road.  The Dead Horse mountains spot is ~7.6 miles up the Strawhouse trail from the Boquillas road including a bit over a mile or so to the east up the ridge.

I do also agree with David and others that it is also a state of mind concept.  Starting with the fact that Big Bend is literally at the end of the road and the idea that you can go no farther south lends that remote feeling to it too.  I also believe that technology has changed the perceived feel of remoteness too with Spot receivers, cell phones, gps, etc.

I remember when I first went in the 70's there were no metal trail signs on the backcountry routes and not even very many cairns so the sense of no development was greater.  When I first came to the metal sign at the junction of the Mule Ears and Smoky Creek trails sometime in the 90's I was a bit heartbroken and the intrusion of "civilization".

Good stuff, keep thinking wild.   :eusa_think:
« Last Edit: December 30, 2012, 09:39:43 AM by mule ears »
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Offline Al

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Re: The most remote place in Big Bend?
« Reply #12 on: January 09, 2012, 08:00:39 PM »
As stingrey points out so well, remoteness is also very much a matter of perception.  One of the things that struck me the first trip was when we stopped by the side of the road on a calm night to relieve ourselves.  The incredible stars, the distant views, the mountains, the cactus were absolutely striking to this southeast Texas boy.  As we were doing our business we heard a car coming, OH NO as we hurried to finish. I swear it was at least 10 minutes before the headlights finally topped that last hill.  A fond memory to this day. 

Is it less remote today than is was 10 years ago? Yes.  Is it less remote than it was 25 years ago?  Yes.  etc., etc., etc.  But in the grand scheme of things it's still pretty darned remote for a park in the lower 48!

Al
« Last Edit: January 09, 2012, 09:00:47 PM by Al »

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Offline Juan Cuatro Lados

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Re: The most remote place in Big Bend?
« Reply #13 on: January 10, 2012, 06:40:44 AM »
It's still entirely possible to have a seat and a drink - or a nap -
in the middle of 385 on a July night, if you've never been in BIBE
during mid-summer you'd be astounded how empty it is.  For the most
remote spot I'd nominate North Telephone Canyon, have never known
or heard of anyone wandering around in there.   Good question .....

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Offline Verduretiger

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Re: The most remote place in Big Bend?
« Reply #14 on: January 10, 2012, 07:14:23 AM »
And just when you think you are the only person for miles around......relaxin g in a wash on Smoky Creek Trail on my way to Mules Ears, I am thinking that I am alone in the world when above comes 15 Outward Bound trainees and their leader whooping it up and having a great time.  You are never as alone as you think you are. 

 


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