Big Bend Chat
Big Bend National Park Q&A => General Questions and Answers => Topic started by: sleepy on February 05, 2007, 05:24:05 PM
Does anyone have knowledge of current water availability in springs along Elephant Tusk trail? Maps show several and one very close to trail. I am planning a late February solo trip. I would think with the wet winter, it shouldn't be a problem. How about Smokey Creek? I don't have my itinerary down yet, so I'm flexible. I'd like to be out for 3-4 days.
there was a lot of water in upper smokey creek in November, but only a few places that were deep enough to filter. lots of seeps. not sure on the ET springs, but Fresno Creek is very reliable.
I am 100% certain that you will find water at both ET and Smokey Creek this time of year. It has been a very wet winter and I have found water in both places even during very dry years.
At ET the first spring will be where the trail bends around and close to the NE side of the Tusk and you will see tree's. There will probably be water flowing down the small canyon for 1 mile or more and may be flowing as far south as where the trail crosses it coming up to the East side of the Tusk (see Parent's book). This makes a great dayhike but be prepared to get wet. The second spring is about 3/4 mile further updip along the arroyo from the first spring and there is a very nice campsite slightly above the 2nd spring with a "table rock". You will actually have better views of the Tusk and better Alpenglow at this 2nd spring than at the first spring so I highly recommend going a little further to this spot rather than grabbing the first spot you come to. You can do several dayhikes around the NW flank of the Tusk or over into Fresno Creek Canyon from a basecamp at the 2nd spring. Don't expect any company - this area is seldom visited and often only by dayhikers/climbers.
In Smokey Creek you will find water in 2-4 springs some of which are marked on the topo maps and some of which do not appear to be on the maps? Coming from the South end (Mule Ears) you will find water about 4-5 miles in at the Mtn Front where you first enter the narrow fissure in the blackrock. This is a very reliable spring. Further north along the trail you will likely find water in several tinaja's near the large pour-off with a couple tree's and in another blackrock spring about 3 miles south of the Dodson trail junction near the north end of the canyon before you open into a large treeless valley - the "basin" of the Sierra Quemadas. There is no water in this large basin/bowl but as you exit the north side of it you will come to a large pour-off which you will have to climb around and if you down down below the pour-off you will find water in several potholes and tinajas in this area. North of this spot to the Dodson junction there is commonly water in potholes but I would not count on it. Once you join the Dodson there is no water going west to Blue Creek or East until you reach Fresno Creek so be prepared for a long dry stretch.
Or course bring a water filter and always carry a significant reserve of water in case you run into trouble, get lost, etc... When I am solo backpacking in these areas I normally carry a days-worth of water at all times even though most of these springs are only a few hours apart at most. Let me know if you want any more details.. TWWG
thanks WWG, i knew you'd have the skinny on it.
I'm understanding you are describing an ET approach from Dodson. Is that correct? Would you do this as an out and back, parking vehicle at Juniper Canyon? I can see making a big ol' loop, but it would require using Black Gap, Glenn Springs and Juniper Canyon Roads, much of it in open desert. It seems the interesting parts of the trail are Dodson and upper ET trail.
As for Smokey Creek, I can see parking at Homer Wilson parking lot, taking Dodson to Smokey Creek following down to Mule Ears back west to Mule Ears parking lot and hitching back up to HW parking lot. Is that crazy? The lower part could be Mule Ears to Smokey Creek, head south to a trail (above Triangulation Station) that cuts back west to Ross Maxwell to a trail that turns right back to Mule Ears trail. These all appear on Tails Illustrated map.
The first time we went to Elephant Tusk we started at Blue Creek Overlook went down Dodson to ET trail and then down to ET and then back. We did this as a 4 day hike. If you wanted to start at the Juniper Canyon trailhead you could do a loop by going back from ET to Robber's Roost cross country and then back to your vehicle.
As far as your Smokey Creek hike, I've done exactly what you described, including the "hitching" a ride back to Blue Creek.