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Dominguez Mountain Pass

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Offline Drifter

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Dominguez Mountain Pass
« on: June 09, 2007, 03:51:26 PM »
Has anyone hiked from Backbone Ridge valley over the Dom. mt. pass to get to Dom. spring and campsite?  If so , are there any tricks to the route or is it pretty straight forward by following the drainage. Thanks.
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Offline TheWildWestGuy

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Dominguez Mountain Pass
« Reply #1 on: June 10, 2007, 03:50:48 PM »
Yes I have done that route but from Dominquez Springs to Elephant Tusk.  It's a rough cross country route but follows Fisk Canyon and other arroyo's most of the way.   The worst parts are the cross-country between the ET drainages and the North side of Dominquez Mtn.
I went down a steep dry canyon between pts 4310-4722' over to a line of springs on the NW side of Backbone Ridge and then North and around the North side of ET.   A better route would be to have kept following the drainage and gone between pts 4285-4310' which would have been a bit smoother and not as scary.
Once you get into the drainage on the North side of Dominquez Mtn (between pts 4420-4722') it's easy hiking in the sandy arroyo but with minimal shade.  Once you make it to the drainage coming North from Dominquez Springs (Fisk Canyon) there is a relatively large reliable spring at the junction and (usually) there are intermittent springs and tinajas in Fisk Canyon down to Dominquez Springs.   Their are sometimes springs and tinajas between ET and Fisk Canyon but these are unreliable during dry periods so don't count on them.  During wet periods there are flowing creeklets with small waterfalls and "whitewaters" in many of the drainages on the West and NW sides of E. Tusk.   This is a really special place especially during wet periods after heavy rains.
I did this route as a 3-night solo backpack starting at Mule Ears, over to Smokey Springs, across "Jacks Pass" to Dominquez Springs, over to ET, then up to Fresno Creek and back to Mule Ears via the Dodson Trail and Smokey Creek Trail.   Did not see or hear another person until I returned to the Mule Ears Parking Lot.  You could do it as a long dayhike from ET to Dominquez and back to ET but plan on 8-12 hours of hiking time round-trip to ET not counting ET to the ET trailhead.    This is probably best as a fall or spring trip not summertime.   This is one of the best but most remote routes in the Sierra Quemada's so don't count on seeing anyone.  There are several springs of differing reliability along this route and there are no easy bail-out's once you leave the ET-Fresno trail.   One of these days I am going to write up a post of Tips and Side Trips in this area because there are several interesting dayhikes you could do from a basecamp near Spring #2 at Elephant Tusk.   See Parent's book for a write up of the established trails... TWWG

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Offline mule ears

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there are several different ways
« Reply #2 on: June 10, 2007, 04:41:14 PM »
I have taken the northern route as described by the WildWest Guy only we followed the drainage between 4420 and 4722 (north of Dominguez) even further up and dropped down north of 4310 and headed on north, west of 4285 and 4233 to pickup the Elephant Tusk trail on up to the Dodson.

If you mean the Dominguez Mtn. pass to be the area between 5156 (Dominguez) and 4586 past the point 4226 where the topo shows an area of green (sorry no trees there) I have also done that as a day hike from Dominguez spring.  We went up the drainage between 5156 and 4586 just north of 3985.  Over the top (great views of ET and Backbone), just west of 4226, and dropped into the drainage that heads east, straight to the base of Backbone Ridge.  Both drainages (going up and down) are easy but boulder choked in places, nothing difficult or technical.  We then headed down canyon and cut back over to the Dominguez wash (Fisk Canyon) and back up to the springs.  Did it in a very long afternoon, probably 10 miles round trip.

How are you coming/getting to the base of Backbone Ridge?
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no shade, no water
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Offline Drifter

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Dominguez Mountain Pass
« Reply #3 on: June 11, 2007, 01:07:52 PM »
Thanks WWG , I have followed the northern route to get to ET. after using Jacks Pass (God rest his soul) to get to Dom. spring.  What a great view back toward Mule ears from the top.  That photo is one of my favorites.  Thanks Mule Ear, the southern route is the one I am interested in. I have hiked this area solo and with companions since 1995 and I can't seem to move on.  I am always interested in other's trip reports of other areas of the Bend but the 66 square miles on this 7.5 represents what is wild and a little bit dangerous to me.  I know that can be said about the Dead Horse and The Mesa but everything south of the rim is what holds the Bend magic for me.There is always a side drainage or canyon to explore and I really like the places with no boot prints.  
Mule Ears, this Nov. I will park at the ET campsite and then take the trail to just north of the Tusk.  There is a slot that I will take to get to the Backbone andthen take the drainage to the east that appears to climb to the pass on the south side of Dom.Mt. I will pass Backbone Ridge spring 1 and2 (spbbr1) and hopefully rewater or at least top off.  Camp at Dom. and then take the northern route back to ET trail and my jeep.  
I also want to try the route through the cutoff canyon (drainage) between Smoky spring and the deadend end of the Smoky Creek trail.  One trip a buddy and I needed to get back to the truck at Mule Ears sooner than later and we were at the junction sign at the turnoff at the bottom of Smoky.  We followed the established trail but if we could have known the hidden drainage was walkable I think it would have been shorter and he would have not had to sleep another night in a completely soaked down bag.  A water bottle let go inside his pack, it was 22 degrees and sleeting .  
Thanks again for the help and let me know if I can return the favor.
If you climb mountains, no explanation is necessary, if you don't , no explanation is possible.

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Offline Robert

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Dominguez Mountain Pass
« Reply #4 on: June 11, 2007, 02:14:32 PM »
Good thread. I've hiked the northern route coming hiking down Fresno creek from junction with Dodson on the way to Dominguez. This will really test your route finding abilities as the drainages can get confusing.

We left the ET trail almost as soon as the trail entered the ET creek wash hiking up from between 4457 and 4233. The thinking I had was not to get too far down any wash in order to minimize the amount of climbing to get over to Dominguez.

We entered the Dominquez side by going between 4310 and 4420 and as WWG says it was pretty easy walking down to the junction where the spring is.

I've also hiked Jack's Pass, camped by ET spring #2 which has a great view of ET, and hiked from Dominquez across the southern flank of the Punta and back up through San Jacinto spring.

I agree Drifter that this area has a pretty strong hold on me and I keep coming back to explore more of it.

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Offline Drifter

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Dominguez Mountain Pass
« Reply #5 on: June 11, 2007, 05:27:53 PM »
Hey Robert, don't forget there is a Bender party on Sat. the 23rd at the Saucer.  Maybe we could exchance routes and thoughts on new ones.  I have been wanting to try the alternate southern route to ET off of Dotson.  The problem is that it looks like there are many pouroffs which works best not solo.  Nice to know there are others that "get" this section of the park.
If you climb mountains, no explanation is necessary, if you don't , no explanation is possible.

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Offline TheWildWestGuy

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Dominguez Mountain Pass
« Reply #6 on: June 11, 2007, 08:21:46 PM »
Another good side-trip in this area is to hike either upstream or downstream in Fresno Creek starting from the Spring where the trail begins to climb up and over into the ETusk drainage (see Parent's book).   If you go upstream it's a sandy winding arroyo with a few small springs, studded tree's, grape vines, and some very large dead Junipers that probably died during a bad drought in the 1950's.   I have gone 2-3 miles upstream on this route.   Or go downsteam and you will hike a wider less twisting arroyo studded with lanceleaf cottonwoods, cattails and flowing springs.   After about 2 miles downsteam you will enter Fresno Canyon and flowing water has made several nice "tub" size stone pools in the slickrock which is a perfect place to stop for an hour or so.   I have never gone further than about 2 miles downstream but plan to return someday and circle around further downdip and cut over to the ET trail.  Looks good in Google Earth.    There is also a nice watered canyon leading South from Dodson Springs that circles around below Tortuga Mtn that I have hiked in - mostly easy walking with occasional creeklets and lots of wildlife.
You guys should bring your maps and guidebooks to the SA BBC Gathering.   I personally like to trade books with people so that I have something new (and free) to read and the maps are always nice to have on the table to discuss routes and side trips... TWWG

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Offline Drifter

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Dominguez Mountain Pass
« Reply #7 on: June 11, 2007, 08:59:31 PM »
I will bring pictures , maps  and obsession . I look forward to meeting you guys.
If you climb mountains, no explanation is necessary, if you don't , no explanation is possible.

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Offline jeffblaylock

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Dominguez Mountain Pass
« Reply #8 on: June 11, 2007, 11:09:45 PM »
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I will bring pictures , maps and obsession


I won't be bringing any cologne :D but I will bring my topos. This is an area I want to explore around Thanksgiving, and this thread is already giving me ideas.
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 mule ears

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Dominguez Mountain Pass
« Reply #9 on: June 12, 2007, 06:41:37 AM »
I've been down in this area three times, each from a different direction, always in early March.  I think it holds peoples imagination because it is so remote and hard to get to (unless you cheat and drive into the Dominguez trail head  :wink: )

In '89 we did a recon of the area, base camping at Smoky spring and went up canyon to Jacks pass.  Missed the turn off to the pass and ended up climbing the peak just south of it, 5168, with awesome views.  Same trip we did an afternoon day hike up the first side canyon to the north from Smoky spring over to, as Drifter describes
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the route through the cutoff canyon (drainage) between Smoky spring and the deadend end of the Smoky Creek trail
then back around the front of the escarpment overlooking the wide Smoky Creek drainage.  There are nice springs just above where it pours off and down into the Smoky Creek drainage.  We worked around it on the side slopes on the south side without much trouble.

I've been there in a really wet year ('91-'92 one of the wettest on record) and the washes were all running like trout streams. We came in the Dodson from Homer Wilson ranch, down the Smoky Creek trail, over to and down Fisk canyon then turning east via TWWG's northern route to the ET trail (a reverse of Robert's route description) and back up to the Dodson and west back to the truck.

I was also there in '98 after 6 years of severe drought and the only water we saw between Mule Ears spring and Dominquez spring going north on Smoky Creek Trail over to and then down Fisk canyon to Dom. Spring. was some trickles in the black rock section of Smoky Creek trail that TWWG describes.  Even the spring at the junction of Fisk Canyon and the northern route around Dominguez Mtn. was dry
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We entered the Dominquez side by going between 4310 and 4420 and as WWG says it was pretty easy walking down to the junction where the spring is
.  We carried two days worth of water out of Mule Ears Spring just in case Dominguez spring was dry as the most recent spring report was at least 6 weeks old.

On the way back to Mule Ears spring we went around the front of the Punta de la Sierra past the spring SW of San Jacinto Spring.
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and hiked from Dominquez across the southern flank of the Punta and back up through San Jacinto spring
 It was one of the best days of cross country hiking I have ever done (and a long one something like 18 miles).

TWWG is right about there is plenty (generally) of water resupply oppourtunities and the cross country routes are fairly easy, as long as you are good with a map and compass, with few pour offs and those you can usually get around without much trouble.

Wish I could make the gathering in SA but it is a long way from North Carolina for a beer!
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
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Offline TheWildWestGuy

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Dominguez Mountain Pass
« Reply #10 on: June 12, 2007, 06:50:20 AM »
Drifter - I think the "cutoff canyon" that empties out near Smokey Spring has a big pour off that will prevent you from through-hiking it.   At least that is what it looks like to me in Google Earth and the topo.    The pour-off looks to be near the mouth of the canyon around 3600' contour to the SSW of point 4685' (Sugarloaf Mtn).    I plan to explore this area someday by taking the Smokey Creek Trail to the "junction sign" on the East side of Sugarloaf Mtn, then head downstream as far as I can get (to the pour off), then backtrack slightly and go cross-country across the West flank of Sugarloaf to rejoin the Smokey Creek Trail just North of the first blackrock spring in the narrow slot that cuts through the face of the Sierra Quemadas.    I have already 'placemarked' several interesting features along this route to explore and in many places you can see fragments of old horse trails in Google Earth.   Of course everything looks easy in Google Earth because you can't see the 5-10' ledges, catsclaw, or other obstructions.    I agree with all of you though - the Quemada's are the heart and soul of Big Bend for those of us that want to get away from the South Rim crowds and experience the Park the way it was before the automobile made it accessable to everyone.  Unlike the Sierra del Caballo Muerta or Mesa de Anguila the Quemada's have plentiful water and springs, tree's, grapevines, bears, toads, and historic structures.  :D Even after several trips into this area I still have more unexplored country to roam on future trips.   Thanks for giving me some fresh ideas.   Sorry I won't make it to your SA BBC gathering, have fun and get some more ideas to post... TWWG

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Offline Robert

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Dominguez Mountain Pass
« Reply #11 on: June 12, 2007, 02:32:56 PM »
WWG- I've done the same Google Earth analysis that you've done looking for new routes. Here's Jack's description of hiking down trail from the signpost in the wash.

"In Reply to: Smokey posted by Robert on December 17, 2003 at 11:36:53:
Yes, once on the trail, its a short hike to the sign, as you know,the topo is incorrect. At the sign, go left and follow the wash. These is a seep at the first turn. The long drop off is easy to get around. Look for the trail on the left. Its easy to follow. Its goes up and around and leaves the wash before dropping you back in. When you're above the wash, you can see slot where it disappears downstream. That where the big drop off is. When you get to it go left. You'll pick up a trail that takes you up, around, and starts you down, then is gone. Its a scramble. Pick out your best path among the rock and thorns. Its a little dangerous, but I've done it 3 times and I'm still kicking. Once down, you'll be in a steep walled canyon with a little scrambling and hiking, you'll be out to the rock chimney in no time. Robert, you'll be amazed at how fast this route is. Its been years since I've taken the trail, but I think this route is at least 30% or more shorter."

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Offline 01ACRViper

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Dominguez Mountain Pass
« Reply #12 on: June 12, 2007, 06:55:15 PM »
man, i have to get back to the park and down into this area :( the only times i've been in the sierra quemada ar to climb peaks, never to explore. makes me feel like i missed out :oops:

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Offline Drifter

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Dominguez Mountain Pass
« Reply #13 on: June 13, 2007, 06:14:41 PM »
Hey Jeff,  did I miss something? or is cologne an inside joke from the last SA bender?
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Offline jeffblaylock

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Dominguez Mountain Pass
« Reply #14 on: June 13, 2007, 06:49:26 PM »
Quote from: "Drifter"
Hey Jeff, did I miss something? or is cologne an inside joke from the last SA bender?


Not an inside joke :cool:

Quote from: "Drifter"
I will bring pictures , maps and obsession


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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