Big Bend Conservancy
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I wish I could say, but I have not yet been up there this season. I would imagine that the brush is probably very thick and encroaching the road, making what I call the "cowboy carwash", which isn't great for your paint but great for your 4x4 credibility. I would also be prepared to dig out approaches across creeks where necessary. As always, make sure you have a good map, don't travel alone, and bring two spares!
Well, looks like I'll have to do a trip report on conditions up there.
Trip reports, especially for the remote stuff, is always appreciated!
I'm 3 weeks away from visiting and curious as to any conditions I might need to be aware of due to all the rains.I'd be mainly curious if anyone has info about the NW side of the park in the Cienega mountain area. Is Alamito Creek running high, if at all?I think that would be the main impediment to getting into that area from the Casa Piedra trailheads.My group will be heading into that area on the 29th & 30th after touring the Solitario trails. (I know, ambitious plans!)
Alright, so I finally got up into the panhandle for a few site visits and I got eyes on most of the roads between the East and West Casa Piedra Trailheads and the vicinity of the Cienega Gorge. Overall, and in a very general sense, the roads in the panhandle area are in the worst condition that I have ever seen. Not only are they heavily eroded from the last four years of monsoon rains, but they are also heavily overgrown by brush and ground cover making navigation exceptionally difficult. We accessed the gorge area via a Polaris Ranger UTV (which the public is not permitted to use btw) and still had a very long and difficult day of banging around those roads and dragging the frame at every deep crosscut creek crossing. There are numerous VERY steep creek-ramps getting in and out of Alamito Creek that I simply cannot imagine navigating in my stock work truck or my Tacoma. Anyone navigating the roads in the extreme NW corner of the park will want a high clearance 4WD with a short wheel base, and should bring a pick, shovel, high-lift jack to repair the numerous (dozens) scoured creek crossings that can drop as much as three feet. I'd definitely go as a group too for that matter. The only upshot I can think of is the fact that I got 3 bars on the 4G cellular network out of Presidio, so at least comms are present. If you go, don't skimp on your planning and make good decisions while you are out there!
A few more notes.I have Verizon, and there is a tower north of the Cienega Area that seemed to cover the NW section of the park.(I did a Facebook Live video, hope you can see it)Also, you said something about barely being able to see the trail, you weren't kidding! A few times I had to back up and scan the grass, ground or dirt to look for evidence of the trail. The good thing is I had created GPS tracks and imported them into the GAIA app on my tablet. We didn't create any new trails or damage any land.The trails were eroded and overgrown. We had two Toyota FJ Cruisers and one Toyota 80 series Land Cruiser. We all handled the terrain with no problems. The only 2 places I saw danger was a downed branch on the Cienega creek on the south side after all the overgrowth. We did drive up on the bank then immediately back down to go around it. The bank was soft and we almost had a roll over. Experience and a good spotter took over in that situation.The 2nd location was leaving Casa Ramon on the south side of the train tracks. There is a steep bank to drive up (Or down if you are arriving from the south) and if it's a wet day, it would be a sloppy mess. That whole area was silty loose soil and I would fear vehicles could get mired in it.
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