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Elephant Tusk to Smoky Creek?

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Offline wild.open.spaces

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Elephant Tusk to Smoky Creek?
« on: November 19, 2010, 05:38:45 PM »
I'm planning a trip over Christmas break and want to see some new places I haven't seen before. I had the thought of starting my hike at Homer Wilson Ranch and spending the first night at Fresno Creek. Second day would be going down Elephant Tusk Trail and camping near ET. Third day would be hiking across the desert from ET to Smoky Creek Trail (third night spend somewhere along Smoky Creek Trail).

Has anyone hiked from ET to Smoky Creek? Judging from the topo map, it doesn't appear to be too difficult in terms of terrain...my plan would be to stay north of Backbone Ridge and Dominguez Mt. and head straight west, staying in the lowlands between the other high spots that appear on the map.

Any thoughts??

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Offline mule ears

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Re: Elephant Tusk to Smoky Creek?
« Reply #1 on: November 19, 2010, 06:06:28 PM »
Has anyone hiked from ET to Smoky Creek? Judging from the topo map, it doesn't appear to be too difficult in terms of terrain...my plan would be to stay north of Backbone Ridge and Dominguez Mt. and head straight west, staying in the lowlands between the other high spots that appear on the map.

Any thoughts??

Not sure of what you mean by "stay north of Backbone Ridge and Dominguez Mt. and head straight west, staying in the lowlands between the other high spots that appear on the map"

But there are several threads on going over "Jack's Pass".  I have gone from Dominguez Springs around to Smoky Creek/Mule Ears south of the Punta de Sierra and north of Dominguez Mtn. from Fisk Canyon to the ET trail as discussed here:

http://www.bigbendchat.com/portal/forum/hiking-the-desert/dominguez-mountain-pass/

And many have done the north end of Fisk canyon over the divide to the Smoky creek trail

Give us more info so we can hone in on your proposed route.  And by the way, welcome to the board!
« Last Edit: November 19, 2010, 07:04:57 PM by mule ears »
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Offline wild.open.spaces

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Re: Elephant Tusk to Smoky Creek?
« Reply #2 on: November 19, 2010, 07:00:12 PM »
I will send a more detailed map later tonight. Thanks for the comments!

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Offline badknees

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Re: Elephant Tusk to Smoky Creek?
« Reply #3 on: November 19, 2010, 08:16:14 PM »
I have travelled the section from Dominguez Spring, north through Fisk Canyon, and turned back west, just north of PT. 4368'. From there I linked up with the Smoky Creek trail just east of 4028'. This section is relatively good with 4 pouroffs to climb around. I believe TWWG has hiked east from the drainage that passes between 4420' and 4722' on the north side of Dominguez toward the ET trail.

Another option would be to follow Fisk Canyon south, turn west, and cross over Jack's Pass (between 5030' and 4660'), then follow the drainage to Smoky Spring... linking up to Smoky Creek and the Mule Ears trail. The view from Jack's Pass is superb and the hike from there to Smoky Spring offers complete solitude.

View from Jack's Pass looking toward Dominguez Mtn with San Vicente Mtn and the northen tip of Mariscal in the right background

« Last Edit: November 22, 2010, 05:48:19 PM by badknees »
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Offline Al

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Re: Elephant Tusk to Smoky Creek?
« Reply #4 on: November 19, 2010, 08:43:29 PM »
A bit off topic but perhaps of topical interest if you like zone camping from a base camp. 

I hiked from River Rd to Dominguez Spring a couple of times back in the 80's.  The hike in is not strenuous but it is arduous due to its length.  QS as you described, it is a relatively flat long hike.  But once there it is a very nice place for a base camp because it is remote, has reliable water, a great campsite and there are a number of interesting day hikes from there.  Such as up Dominguez Mt. 

Al


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Offline Robert

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Re: Elephant Tusk to Smoky Creek?
« Reply #5 on: November 19, 2010, 10:20:42 PM »
When I hiked from the ET trail over to Fisk I purposely stayed as far north as possible to reduce the amount of elevation I had to deal with. So I chose to exit the ET drainage close to where the trail exits to go up and over to the Fresno drainage. But there appears to be other options when coming from closer to ET.

For the most part you'll probably end up coming into upper Fisk canyon from the east via the big drainage that is on the north side of Dominguez Mtn. There is also a spring at the convergence of the two washes which may or may not be running. From there the easiest route is to continue north and then north-west up the wash and over the low saddle to the west and down the wash to the Smoky Creek trail.

Hopefully you have some experience in the area because the washes coming from ET can be confusing especially when going up stream. Then the route going from Fisk over to Smoky Creek has a pouroff that needs to be skirted.

Jack's Pass will be a challenge going east to west as you have a steep climb and the southern route across the front of the Punta is a long slog across the grain of a multitude of washes. But they are all doable.

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Offline wild.open.spaces

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Re: Elephant Tusk to Smoky Creek?
« Reply #6 on: November 19, 2010, 10:25:40 PM »

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Offline wild.open.spaces

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Re: Elephant Tusk to Smoky Creek?
« Reply #7 on: November 19, 2010, 10:27:09 PM »
The red line is my proposed route from ET to SC. Where is Fisk Canyon that several have posted about??

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Offline Al

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Re: Elephant Tusk to Smoky Creek?
« Reply #8 on: November 20, 2010, 12:24:35 AM »
When I hiked from the ET trail over to Fisk I purposely stayed as far north as possible to reduce the amount of elevation I had to deal with. So I chose to exit the ET drainage close to where the trail exits to go up and over to the Fresno drainage. But there appears to be other options when coming from closer to ET.

For the most part you'll probably end up coming into upper Fisk canyon from the east via the big drainage that is on the north side of Dominguez Mtn. There is also a spring at the convergence of the two washes which may or may not be running. From there the easiest route is to continue north and then north-west up the wash and over the low saddle to the west and down the wash to the Smoky Creek trail.

Hopefully you have some experience in the area because the washes coming from ET can be confusing especially when going up stream. Then the route going from Fisk over to Smoky Creek has a pouroff that needs to be skirted.

Jack's Pass will be a challenge going east to west as you have a steep climb and the southern route across the front of the Punta is a long slog across the grain of a multitude of washes. But they are all doable.

Robert has been there and knows of what he speaks. 

I have hiked to the saddle south of Elephant Tusk and north of Dominguez Mt. several times from the ET trail head.  The drainages will eat your lunch . . . Rule of Thumb, always hike as far up a drainage as appears reasonable, BEFORE attempting to cross.  The "shortest" distance between two points is definitely NOT a straight line. 

Being a base camp kind of guy, we set up our base camps in the saddle between ET and DM and day hiked from there.  We have had good luck with the two springs marked on the 7.5' map west/south/west of ET and wish you the same.

Al
« Last Edit: November 20, 2010, 12:35:54 AM by Al »

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Offline Robert

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Re: Elephant Tusk to Smoky Creek?
« Reply #9 on: November 20, 2010, 01:12:46 AM »
Where your route takes a 90 degree turn to the north is in the wash within Fisk Canyon.

When that part of the route turns back west you enter the low pass between the Fisk drainage and the one Smoky Creek trail is in.

At the beginning of your route you appear to show that you plan on cutting across several washes. This could be a lot of work and I would recommend staying in washes as much as possible as Al suggests. It might be easier to stay in the washes that run just to the west of ET and head a little further south. Then jump over to the bigger wash that runs west of that one when you get close. Then start working your way back upstream.


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Offline wild.open.spaces

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Re: Elephant Tusk to Smoky Creek?
« Reply #10 on: November 20, 2010, 07:56:51 AM »
I will have more time this afternoon to examine everyone's responses ad re-route my path if necessary. If I am understanding everyone correctly, my suggested route is doable and of reasonable intensity/difficulty (i.e., not something that is extremely challenging and will put my life in danger in terms of drop offs, etc.).

For those that have been in the area and know the terrain (I've been in parts around, but not exactly the spot I have mapped out)....how long might you anticipate my suggested route taking?? I'm figuring it's in the area of 7-8 miles....sound correct??

Again, thanks for everyone's responses. I wish I could head out there right now, I am so excited!

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Offline wild.open.spaces

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Re: Elephant Tusk to Smoky Creek?
« Reply #11 on: November 20, 2010, 08:01:16 AM »
Another question...where is Jack's Pass that several have mentioned in this post?

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Offline badknees

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Re: Elephant Tusk to Smoky Creek?
« Reply #12 on: November 20, 2010, 08:24:39 AM »
I will have more time this afternoon to examine everyone's responses ad re-route my path if necessary. If I am understanding everyone correctly, my suggested route is doable and of reasonable intensity/difficulty (i.e., not something that is extremely challenging and will put my life in danger in terms of drop offs, etc.).

For those that have been in the area and know the terrain (I've been in parts around, but not exactly the spot I have mapped out)....how long might you anticipate my suggested route taking?? I'm figuring it's in the area of 7-8 miles....sound correct??

Again, thanks for everyone's responses. I wish I could head out there right now, I am so excited!

I would agree with Robert that staying in the washes as much as possible will make your trip easier from ET to Fisk. It looks like your track is about 7 miles to the junction of the Smoky Creek trail. I suspect with rests and stops and exploring this is an 7-8 hr hike. Of course, that could be different based on your level of conditioning and whether or not you are "hiking through" or stopping to smell the roses.

Jack's Pass is about 1 mile WNW of Dominguez Spring between pts 5030' and 4660', south of your intended track. To cross the pass requires that you hike south through Fisk Canyon and turn west near Dominguez Spring. This route will take you through Smoky Spring and eventually to the Smoky Creek trail very close to the Mule Ears
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Offline Robert

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Re: Elephant Tusk to Smoky Creek?
« Reply #13 on: November 20, 2010, 10:24:45 AM »
Quote
My only fear is of having to "climb", since my shoulder will never be the same.

QS, I only used the term "climb" to reference the 1000 feet of elevation gain from Dominquez spring to Jack's Pass. It is not technical. When coming from Smoky Spring you have a similar gain but it is spread out along the entire route with only 400 feet coming in the final ascent to the pass. The last few hundred yards of gain on the Dominquez side are steeper and no trail except for a few faint game trails.

 Like I said in a previous post, I only did this going west to east so for me the hike down was only "dicey" in the first little bit coming off the pass with some questionable footing, loose gravel mainly, and after that it gets much easier and the only worry is to pick out your path through vegetation and some small drainages. Your goal would be to get back into the main wash in a place where the vegetation has thinned out enough to walk in.

I don't think anyone has identified the "best" way down or up as most if us have only done this once. Jack apparently hiked it several times as he commented on the different ways to ascend the pass from the main drainage on the western side. The nice thing about going east to west is once you are at Jack's Pass you just follow the wash down to Smoky Spring. In reverse, you have to concern yourself with staying in the right wash.


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Offline mule ears

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Re: Elephant Tusk to Smoky Creek?
« Reply #14 on: November 20, 2010, 11:02:42 AM »

For those that have been in the area and know the terrain (I've been in parts around, but not exactly the spot I have mapped out)....how long might you anticipate my suggested route taking?? I'm figuring it's in the area of 7-8 miles....sound correct??


I would agree with Robert that staying in the washes as much as possible will make your trip easier from ET to Fisk. It looks like your track is about 7 miles to the junction of the Smoky Creek trail. I suspect with rests and stops and exploring this is an 7-8 hr hike. Of course, that could be different based on your level of conditioning and whether or not you are "hiking through" or stopping to smell the roses.


I walked from the confluence of the side wash north of Dominguez Mtn. with Fisk canyon, over to the ET trail, where is begins it's climb over into the Fresno drainage, and then on up to the Dodson in a day and it was not too bad.  Definitely stay in the washes as much as you can, much faster.
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