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Anyone hiked this hike south of Mule Ears?

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Offline trekker314

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Re: Anyone hiked this hike south of Mule Ears?
« Reply #15 on: December 02, 2008, 10:11:33 PM »
If the choice was between this loop and the K-bar to Banta Shut-in and back which would you choose?

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Offline TexasGirl

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Re: Anyone hiked this hike south of Mule Ears?
« Reply #16 on: December 02, 2008, 10:13:04 PM »
FWIW the blue-highlighted portion of the trail is shown on the NatGeo Trails Illustrated map I have, which was revised in 2002.  
As a matter of fact, I _do_ have an opinion on that....

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Offline Robert

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Re: Anyone hiked this hike south of Mule Ears?
« Reply #17 on: December 03, 2008, 03:10:46 PM »
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If the choice was between this loop and the K-bar to Banta Shut-in and back which would you choose?

I'd go with the Banta Shut-in because of where you end up. It is a pretty dramatic piece of geology with (usually) some flowing water. The other hike would have a lot of good scenic views for most of the way with at least one guaranteed water feature (Mule Ears Spring).

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Offline trekker314

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Re: Anyone hiked this hike south of Mule Ears?
« Reply #18 on: December 03, 2008, 03:43:03 PM »
Paranoid as usual:  Is K-Bar road near the campsite a safe place to leave a car unattended for two days (one night)?

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Offline jeffblaylock

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Re: Anyone hiked this hike south of Mule Ears?
« Reply #19 on: December 03, 2008, 03:52:32 PM »
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If the choice was between this loop and the K-bar to Banta Shut-in and back which would you choose?

I'd go with the Banta Shut-in because of where you end up. It is a pretty dramatic piece of geology with (usually) some flowing water. The other hike would have a lot of good scenic views for most of the way with at least one guaranteed water feature (Mule Ears Spring).

There was a lot of water (for the desert, anyway) flowing through Banta last week. We hiked to it from Roy's Peak Vista campsite, where our truck was undisturbed. I expect your vehicle will be fine at K-Bar -- just don't leave anything valuable in plain sight.
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 travii99

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Re: Anyone hiked this hike south of Mule Ears?
« Reply #20 on: December 05, 2008, 10:39:42 PM »
I have left vehicles near the Homer Wilson Ranch and the Mule Ears overlook overnight several times and had no problems. 

On a side note, since we are thinking of backpacking through this area over the holidays, does anyone know if there is a place to find historical reports of spring worthiness?  Or to see if anyone has recently visited a springs like the one at the SE corner of this hike?  We want to make it leisurely but the longer we spend out the more water we have to haul.   Thanks!

TS

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Offline travii99

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Re: Anyone hiked this hike south of Mule Ears?
« Reply #21 on: January 04, 2009, 10:43:52 PM »
Well we just got back from the loop hike from Mule Ears Overlook, to Smokey Creek, then south to the old unnamed wagon trail that heads back over to the highway (new years 08-09).  It was quite warm but that didnít stop us.  I will report on two things, the spring I questioned earlier, and the old wagon trail in blue on the map.
The unnamed spring in Smokey Creek south of Mule Ears WAS flowing as I suspected.  The spring seeps out of the center of the wash in several places and flows over a rock outcropping.  It seems as if the water is forced to surface at the narrow canyon with rock floors after flowing underground until that point.  Anyways, it emerged in several places and had a decent flow.  Once it went over the short rock drop-offs, it flowed over the gravel/sand streambed for another hundred feet before simply vanishing underground again.  Based on the amount of rain, or complete lack-there-of that I can find about the park, I was impressed to see this spring flowing so well.  On the other hand, there is no permanent vegetation growing within the small streams.  I am not sure if that is due to it getting washed away in flash floods, too much trampling by animals, or if it means that the spring doesnít flow that often (which goes against flow with the utter lack of rain).  Anyways, see attached photos.  We purified a few liters to fill our bellies and were on our way south to try to find the trail back west to the highway.
We immediately missed the fact that we were supposed to stay to the right immediately after the spring so we eventually cross countried it to regain the trail.  Using the 7.5 topo map as a guide, I quickly realized just how little detail there is with the 40í elevation intervals in an area as complex as the area south and west of this spring.  Luckily, using GPS saved the day and we virtually found the trail on top of a small hill.  I soon realized that it looked like the GPS was accurate and we were actually directly on the trail, but it was two parallel trails.  I realized it might be an old wagon trail which would not be surprising.  Once we ran across a large old piece of lumber (one which no sane person would hike in with) my theory was supported.  We followed the wagon trail somewhat easily for a bit.  Once one knew what to look for, you could see the alterations to the terrain which flattened the road bed and moved the big rocks.  It was a fun challenge at this point to follow the route of an old abandoned, barely visible wagon trail.  Once it dropped down into the drainage, things changed.  Kairns began to appear which truly helped, but they were not kept up and at times the trail would be completely lost, especially to a novice eye.  Without the TOPO mapís trail in the GPS, it would have been difficult to follow for most people.  
This trail crosses several washes before making a slow ascent up a hill and out of the wash.  Where to begin the ascent is very ambiguous as it is a featureless uniform hill.  The valley beyond, which the trail follows, is also blocked by the hill leaving the location for the best ascent even more ambiguous.  It would have been even harder to decipher if one had been disoriented in the washes prior to ascending.  At this point, I would expect MANY to give up on following the trail and just hike up.  They would figure it out, but hike extra distance doing so.  Anyways, one great benefit to following an old road bed is that it was actually visible from the wash as a nice yellow/gold line going up the side of the hill.  This was unexpected and we verified it as we hiked it.  But to someone wayfinding, or going this way for the first time, just knowing that the line on the hill IS the actual trail, then there is no real need to wayfind across the washes, just aim for the trail on the hillside.
After seeing this, I am not surprised that the trail is visible on Google Earth in places.  While actually hiking it though, it is a bit difficult to see at times.  Anyways, following it up the hillside was relatively easy.  We left the trail once we go to the top and hiked south to camp along the ridge overlooking the Rio.  Upon returning to the trail the next day, the trail was very easy to follow as you just follow the canyon depicted on topo  maps and watch for kairns.  From here, the hike is straight forward all the way to the highway (which you can see before you make the final descent into the wash).  
On a side note the day we hiked through Mule Ears, a lady told us she heard a mountain lion in Smokey Creek wash.  Sure enough, as we hiked, we followed HUGE lion tracks pretty much all the way to the spring.  Itís amazing how large their paws are!
« Last Edit: December 14, 2009, 01:55:17 PM by RichardM »

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Offline mule ears

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Re: Anyone hiked this hike south of Mule Ears?
« Reply #22 on: January 05, 2009, 07:50:49 AM »
Great report travii99! We had heard about the mountain lion in the area but saw no tracks at all last month. I glad you made the loop and it sounds like the GPS really helped. I need to get down and check that spring out sometime.
Thanks, Mule Ears
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
http://40yearsofwalking.wordpress.com/

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Offline Robert

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Re: Anyone hiked this hike south of Mule Ears?
« Reply #23 on: January 06, 2009, 04:08:35 PM »
Thanks for posting your report. I'm thinking of taking this route later this month instead the Mule Ears trail (we'll be coming out of the Basin). Did you leave a vehicle where the trail intersects Ross Maxwell Drive or did you loop back to the Mule Ears overlook?

If you did go back to Mule Ears I'd be interested in hearing if there was any semblance of the road/trail indicated on some maps. Not that I need one but it is nice knowing if there is something to follow.

 


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