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Mule Ears Peak Hike

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Offline RedBuffalo

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Mule Ears Peak Hike
« on: January 09, 2007, 09:10:04 PM »
We're planning a spring hike to Mule Ears Peak.  We were froze out of going on our 2005 trip by 29 degree temps (slept in and ate a hearty breakfast at the Big Bend Motor Inn).

I know the trail to the spring is pretty clear, but what about after that?  Years ago I bailed out of going further towards the peak - I found myself "wondering the desert" and backed out before it go too dark.

Any suggestions on the best route to the peak or is the trail well defined.  I read where the rocks on the actual peak are pretty dangerous.  I'd like to get a little south of it and take some photos with the south rim of the Chisos in the background.

It would be great to hear from someone who's been there before.  My hiking partner does have a topo of that area.

Thanks!  skd

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Offline Picacho

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Mule Ears Peak Hike
« Reply #1 on: January 09, 2007, 11:34:55 PM »
The best route is to keep on hiking past the spring I'd say about 3/4 of a mile, maybe a little less.  You will reach a high point or pass on the trail, then start to descend down some steep switchbacks down into Smokey Creek.  There are some trails heading off to the right directly towards Mule Ears near the pass, but don't let them fool you, they dead end.  

After descending down into Smokey Creek, there will be some fairly large dry washes heading down (south/southwest) towards the Mule Ears.  Follow the larger ones to the base of Mule Ears.  This will require some bushwhacking so I would recommend long pants.  At least bring them with you in a pack if you decide you would rather not have your legs ripped up.  

From there you will ascend two pretty nasty scree slopes up to the saddle between the two Ears.  They are nasty but they are average for Big Bend so don't be discouraged.  There is a high point between the two Ears.  You will want to make the saddle on the south side (left) of this high point.  If I were you, I would be satisfied with this.  The middle point which I call Mule's Head is a big pile of ulta-loose rock that you will find not worth the risk.  Mule's Head is not much higher than the saddle anyway.  

You can make a bushwhack from the Mule Ears directly towards the spring; however, it will require lots of up and down bushwhacking and at least two canyons with routefinding necessary to safely descend and ascend.  I did this only because I wanted to find out about the possible route.  If I were to do it again, I would say going back the way you came even though it is longer distance wise will be shorter and less painful time wise.  

For a pic of the backside of the Mule Ears, click on the Album link at the top of the page, click on "The Mountains", then find the picture that says Mule Ears zoom from Dodson Trail.  

If you need any more info, PM me.  I have quite a few more pics if you want to see any more.

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Offline RedBuffalo

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Mule Ears
« Reply #2 on: January 10, 2007, 06:28:29 AM »
Thanks for the details.  I'm taking that post with me on the trail!

What would be the estimated time to the saddle from the spring?  I call myself an average / above average hiker (short leggs, big heart).  I have hiked the south rim a few times, emory peak, lost mine, windows pour off, and others.

I'll look for Smokey Creek on the topo.  Are those swithbacks you mentioned an actual trail?  Smokey Creek sounds like the major landmark for heading down the big washes.

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Offline Roy

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Mule Ears Peak Hike
« Reply #3 on: January 10, 2007, 10:34:41 AM »
Smokey Creek trail branches off to the right just before you get to Mule Ears Spring;  I seem to remember a metal sign but it's been a while.

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Offline Picacho

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Mule Ears Peak Hike
« Reply #4 on: January 10, 2007, 06:57:06 PM »
Quote from: "Roy"
Smokey Creek trail branches off to the right just before you get to Mule Ears Spring;  I seem to remember a metal sign but it's been a while.


Not correct.  The Smokey Creek Trail branches off about 1/2 mile after the spring.  The Mule Ears Trail rises to a pass after the spring, then will descend down some switchbacks down into the very large Smokey Creek drainage.  

I would say you could probably get from the Spring to the Smokey Creek Trail in about 20 minutes.  If I remember correctly, you don't go quite to the Smokey Creek Trail, although you probably could and it wouldn't be a big deal.  I believe the dry washes heading towards Mule Ears head off to the right just before you get to the Smokey Creek Trail.  I am guessing if you made it to the Smokey Creek Trail and made a right to head south, you could take the trail until you were east of the Ears and then bushwhack straight west over to them.  

Your progress to the Spring should be fairly rapid as well.  You will have some ups and downs but not that bad.  It's about 3 miles to the Spring and I believe I did it in about an hour and 15 minutes.

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Offline Roy

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Mule Ears Peak Hike
« Reply #5 on: January 10, 2007, 07:26:06 PM »
Glad you set that straight, Picacho. I remember going down into the drainage but that half mile is gone from my memory;  seems like it was just around the corner.  Is there a sign or was I remembering that wrong too?:  :oops:

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Offline randell

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Mule Ears Peak Hike
« Reply #6 on: January 10, 2007, 08:27:56 PM »
I'm glad some of the people on the board remember this stuff.  All I remember about hikes is that I went on it and there were pretty vistas.  If I didn't take lots of photos I'd be in really bad shape.
There's nothing like a good quest to get you intimate with a place. - Tom Clynes

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Offline Desertwalker

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Mule Ears Peak Hike
« Reply #7 on: January 10, 2007, 10:05:21 PM »
I hiked the Mule Ears to Smoky Creek Trail back in November. It was a great hike. The views were awesome especially when you get to the highpoint that drops down into Smoky Creek.

About half way between Mule Ears Spring and the drop-off to Smoky Creek, the USGS map shows the trail turning northward. This is wrong. the trail continues in a east\southeast direction. But in any event, the trail from the Spring to Smoky Creek was not hard to follow. Every time I became concerned about whether I was following the trail I would see a rock cairn.

Although I returned by reversing my route, I noticed the Trails Illustrated map shows a loop trail back to the Mule Ear Trailhead. It looks like you would have to go down Smoky Creek for about 3 miles to find the westerly trail back to the Trailhead. The map shows the trail going almost all the way to Ross Maxwell and then it turns northward where it joins the main trail. On my way back to the Trailhead, I tried to see where this loop met up with the main trail but didn't have any luck. The USGS map doesn't show a loop. Does anybody know if this loop really exists?
When you came into this world, you cried and the world rejoiced. You should live your life, so when you die the world cries and you rejoice - Old Indian Saying

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Offline RedBuffalo

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Mule Ears Peak
« Reply #8 on: January 11, 2007, 06:24:55 AM »
I've been looking at Google Maps / Satelite view.  You can easily see the trail to the spring from the parking lot, but I'm not exactly sure which of those springs is Smokey once you get out there.  Hard to decifer dry washes from trail as they are often one in the same in that area.  I'll need to wait and study my partners topo.

skd

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Offline TheWildWestGuy

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Mule Ears Peak Hike
« Reply #9 on: January 11, 2007, 07:16:00 PM »
Be careful climbing around Mule Ears Peaks, there have been fatalities over the years from rocks being kicked down on climbers (1980's?) and also from heatstroke/dehydration (2005).   It's a very oven-like place in warm seasons with lots of dark lava rock and very little shade.   I have circum-navigated it by taking the main trail to the first big drainage past the springs (~1/2 mile) and then down and around the west and south sides.  I do NOT recommend this route, very rough, lots of loose rock, cactus, and full sun exposure, no water.   The route following the main trail down to the Smokey Creek Trail junction (YES there is a large metal sign with direction arrows above the junction which is in the arroyo), and then South and up the drywashes leading up closer to the Peaks is the best route.  No water of any kind exists past Mule Ears Springs but the route is fast hiking and relatively easy.   The section of trail that drops down from the Smokey Creek Overlook to the Trail Junction/Signpost is what I call the "desert garden" where the trail smoothes out and meanders around and through the scenic outwash plain and a large variety of cactus are growing.
I have some photos of MEP's and the trail junction in my photo albums at the msn groups BigBendPhotos site.   Just google BigBendPhotos and you should find it OK.... TWWG

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Offline Roy

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Mule Ears Peak Hike
« Reply #10 on: January 11, 2007, 08:01:37 PM »
Quote from: "TheWildWestGuy"
YES there is a large metal sign with direction arrows above the junction which is in the arroyo

Thanks TWWG; it's not full blown Alzheimer's yet :)

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Offline RedBuffalo

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Thanks!
« Reply #11 on: January 11, 2007, 08:28:27 PM »
Thanks for the added info TWWG!

I did locate your snaps on the MSN group site.  I'm beginning to get a clearer picture of the trail.

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Offline Picacho

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Mule Ears Peak Hike
« Reply #12 on: January 12, 2007, 02:51:36 PM »
Here is a pic from the Saddle of Mule Ears down into Smokey Creek.  You can see the many dry washes moving from left to right (south and downhill) towards Mule Ears.  Pick up one of these from the Mule Ears trail after descending into Smokey Creek and it will lead you to the promised land.  The Sierra Quemada (SP?) Mountains are in the background.


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SHANEA

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« Reply #13 on: January 12, 2007, 03:08:42 PM »
Now that is a neat photo - looks like "batman"

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Offline RedBuffalo

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Man.......
« Reply #14 on: January 12, 2007, 09:48:24 PM »
Picacho,

OK, I see, you've got it.  I mean, you've been there....  And from one photographer to another I really like that image.  It means way more to me wanting to be that close to the "ears" than most folks to BB.  

Now, don't take this personal or anything, but your photo stands as a silent challenge. Like, hey, RedBuffalo - what are you gonna do?  

This is definately one of my favorite shots of the peak.  Those shadows say it all!  Only way to get those guys is to be there - in the saddle.!

Hopefully this image will find it's way in to this post (first timer on image post).  I can't tell you how many cactus burrs I pulled out after trekking up the hill to get this photo as the sun was setting.  



OK, I admit it, maybe this whole silent challenge thing is entirely in my head.  But, don't spoil it for me - I'll spend a lot of time between now and then thinking about and preparing for the trek.  Not to mention working the photography when I get there.  Hopefully, I'll be able to match your photo sometime mid - spring.

Red Buffalo

 


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