Big Bend Chat

Big Bend National Park Q&A => Hiking the Desert => Topic started by: RedBuffalo on January 09, 2007, 09:10:04 PM

Title: Mule Ears Peak Hike
Post by: RedBuffalo 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
Title: Mule Ears Peak Hike
Post by: Picacho 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.
Title: Mule Ears
Post by: RedBuffalo 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.
Title: Mule Ears Peak Hike
Post by: Roy 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.
Title: Mule Ears Peak Hike
Post by: Picacho 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.
Title: Mule Ears Peak Hike
Post by: Roy 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:
Title: Mule Ears Peak Hike
Post by: randell 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.
Title: Mule Ears Peak Hike
Post by: Desertwalker 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?
Title: Mule Ears Peak
Post by: RedBuffalo 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
Title: Mule Ears Peak Hike
Post by: TheWildWestGuy 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
Title: Mule Ears Peak Hike
Post by: Roy 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 :)
Title: Thanks!
Post by: RedBuffalo 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.
Title: Mule Ears Peak Hike
Post by: Picacho 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.

(http://rrraven.com/Pages/BarryFiles/Big%20Bend/020MuleEarShadowSmall.jpg)
Title: Now
Post by: SHANEA on January 12, 2007, 03:08:42 PM
Now that is a neat photo - looks like "batman"
Title: Man.......
Post by: RedBuffalo 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.  

(http://www.duprephotography.com/big_bend/Images/BigBend02.jpg)

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
Title: Mule Ears Peak Hike
Post by: Picacho on January 12, 2007, 11:37:15 PM
If you want the shadows, you'll have to be there pretty late.  I left the Mule Ears Trailhead at about 3:30 p.m.  I arrived back with the light of my headlamp.  Mule Ears saddle is a cool place to be.

I definitely want to see your photos when you get back from your trip.  That other one is great.
Title: Shadows
Post by: RedBuffalo on January 13, 2007, 08:47:42 AM
I'm wondering what the shadows may be like around 9 am shooting towards the west from the saddle?  That would sure make a nice dyptic of our photos.

My plan is to hit the trail and shoot the sunrise along the way and make a half day out of the Mule Ears hike.  Eat lunch down at Castolon and hike Santa Elena and photograph Terlinqua Abajo in the afternoon then return along the Ross Maxwell for a sunset op looking towards the Window pouroff (sometimes the Chisos go purple / magenta opposite the sunset) and see what may take place to the west as the day ends.  Should be a full one.  

But, the main focus for me will be Mule Ears.  We all, the three of us, put together a wish list of places to go and I only had one item on my list - Mule Ears Peak!  I could probably make a day out of that one just watching the shadows throughout the day and scouting several vantage points.  I'll be traveling with two partners and not everyone shares my enthusiasm for spending time in the desert. Give me a granoloa bar and a pack of tuna and I'm good for the day.

Anyway, I hope I come back with something to show; however, as I get older the experience is starting to have more value than the picture taking.

As a side note, I'll be taking a full day pack, camera holster pack, and new hiking boots to test out for a trip to Glacier NP this summer.  I've got my eyes on a nice trek towards Grinnel Glacier.  It'll be nice to see how the pack, boots, and camera gear make it to Mule Ears Peak.

Thanks again for the helpful info. - those washes look like ant trails from the saddle.........  I assume we're looking at about 1-2 miles of trail in front of you there.  Any tricks to getting up in the saddle?

Ok, I can't seem to end this post.  I went back and looked through my pictures from my last overnight at the South Rim.  Would you take a look at this photo and tell me if I have Mule Ears Peak marked correctly.  I know it's hard to see, but that should be the general direction.  It looks like an ant from that view! I assume that the South Rim is in full view from Mule Ears?  I have a picture in my mind of Mule Ears Peak in the foreground and the Chisos in the background - would that be possilbe?  How far south of the peak do you think I would need to go to get that picture. Man, I hope I'm not hounding you too much on all this.



(http://www.duprephotography.com/big_bend/Images/SouthRimEars.jpg)

(http://www.duprephotography.com/big_bend/Images/EarsCrop.jpg)
Title: Mule Ears
Post by: moose58 on January 13, 2007, 09:51:34 AM
Thanks Picacho, listening to RedBuffalo go on and on about the cactus needles is scarring me. And, I am afraid that I will be the victim of an extreme day of hiking. Once you challenge him, all bets are off. LOL! He has only been talking about this trek for months now to me. But, in all seriousness, it is images like these that help us enjoy BIBE even more and pick out new targets within the park. Hats off for both images guys! Great job! :D
Title: Mule Ears Peak Hike
Post by: Roy on January 13, 2007, 10:23:34 AM
That's Mule Ears alright.

A note;  after my last mistake, I went back and looked at the WikiMapia site;  Mules Ears is marked incorrectly there.  I don't know how to delete it, but marked it a wrong. Maybe someone who knows more could delete the whole entry.
Title: Mule Ears Peak Hike
Post by: Picacho on January 13, 2007, 10:48:58 AM
COOL!  Not only are the Mule Ears in your pic (full size one), but just to the left is Picacho.  I've been looking for a pic of Picacho from the Rim.  We just climbed Picacho on December 28th.  And yes, there is a great view of the Chisos from Mule ears.  Check it out below.  I am guessing also that a hike down the Smokey Creek trail would land you both the Mule Ears and the Chisos.  If you are taking a digital camera, zoom in optically as far as yo can go and put it on max pixels.  Then if you need to zoom any further you can do it in Photoshop.  

(http://rrraven.com/Pages/BarryFiles/Big%20Bend/021ChisosfromMuleEarsWeb.jpg)

It might be a little far, but a summit of the flat top mountain to the right in the pic would probably be a great summit for pictures of just about everything.  

Somewhere along the trail after the spring I took this shot that has picacho in it along with the flat top mountain and the Chisos.  

(http://rrraven.com/Pages/BarryFiles/Big%20Bend/MuleEarsPanoSmall.jpg)

As far as getting up to the saddle, nothing major but the first part up is on NASTY scree, but if you are used to Big Bend it won't be a big deal.  The final part up has scree but not as bad as the beginning.  Here is a shot of the flat top mountain and the Mule Ears from the north along the Dodson trail as we were heading towards Picacho.  As you can see, there is a ramp on the northeast portion of the flat top mountain that would make it easy to climb.  I tried to figure out which peak it was on topozone but I couldn't figure it out.  It is definitely unnamed.

(http://rrraven.com/Pages/BarryFiles/Big%20Bend/007FlatTopMuleEarsWeb.jpg)
Title: Mule Ears
Post by: RedBuffalo on January 13, 2007, 02:25:06 PM
Thanks for the additional photos and information!  It'll be nice to get deeper in to this side of Big Bend.  I drove the River Road once back in 1989, but haven't done any hiking in that region.  The scenery towards the Chisos is astounding - talk about being in the middle of it....

I'll have to leave "flat top" for anyother adventure.  How many miles roundtrip was that Picacho hike?  Did you have to make your own trail for that one or is there something established other than washes?  Looks a little tchnical to get to the top of that guy.
Title: Mule Ears Peak Hike
Post by: Picacho on January 13, 2007, 05:53:35 PM
It's about a 7 mile round trip via trail, then the actual climb up and back on Picacho was a bushwhack but I am not sure how far, may 1.5 miles round trip bushwhacking.  So maybe a round trip of 8.5 or 9 miles.  There is a lot of 4th class, then there is a 5.4 short pitch near the summit that definitely requires rope unless you like some serious exposure.  It took us 11 hours, although some of that was route finding, it wouldn't take nearly as long now that I know the correct route.  I posted a video of the climb on the La Kiva message board.
Title: MEP Google Earth
Post by: RedBuffalo on January 14, 2007, 07:37:25 AM
Google Earth doesn't show the MEP in true form (no ears) so I wanted to confirm that I have it right.  I know, my topo is on the way, but it's a rainy weekend here in Lufkin so I had the time to work this up.

Check out these two images.  The blue labels are from Google.  Is my route anywhere close?  I see that wash cutting through that land mass - is that the route?  Also, I assume the large wash leaving Mule Ears Spring is Smokey Springs; however, Google has it much further to the east.

Image One:


(http://www.duprephotography.com/big_bend/Images/MEP_1.jpg)

Image Two w/ my yellow markings:

(http://www.duprephotography.com/big_bend/Images/MEP_1b.jpg)

I know, it's not like I can't see where I'm going - follow the ears, but I wanted to cut down on as much route finding as possible.
Title: Mule Ears Peak Hike
Post by: Roy on January 14, 2007, 09:29:50 AM
At the risk of screwing up again, and because the weather sucks here, too, I'll take a shot at this.

The trail segment leading east from ME Spring is not Smoky Creek Trail;  it's that 1/2 to 3/4 mile I forgot about in my first post.  

The trail you've marked cutting through that mass brings you in west of MEP; I think it's the dead end Picacho talked about; you need to keep going east.

Smoky Creek Trail runs roughly north/south along the braided stream bed east of MEP;  the washes that he described leading to be base of the talus slope are in that area.

Don't know what kind of maps you're waiting on, but the park keeps a fair supply of 7.5 min. maps on hand.   You might be able to order them from the online book store.
Title: Mule Ears Peak Hike
Post by: Bobcat on January 14, 2007, 12:20:58 PM
Here's a shot I took of the east side of ME.

(http://i57.photobucket.com/albums/g231/bertzo/esmc-1.jpg)
Title: Mule Ears Peak Hike
Post by: bdann on January 14, 2007, 12:46:41 PM
Quote from: "Bobcat"
Here's a shot I took of the east side of ME.


Nice.  I like.
Title: Coming in from the East aye!
Post by: RedBuffalo on January 14, 2007, 08:01:37 PM
Roy,  Thanks for clearing that up.  I can see where Smokey Creek runs down along the east side.  It just seemed too far out east to me on the Google map.  Smokey Creek looks super wide so that shouldn't be a problem once we drop down in to it.  I'm waiting on my cousin to mail me his topo of that section plus my copy of Hiking Big Bend, which also describes the trail and is on loan to a friend.  I feel a little lost without my resources....
Title: Mule Ears Peak Hike
Post by: Picacho on January 14, 2007, 08:54:03 PM
Red Buffalo

The route you got on the second Google Earth image is the approximate route I took to get back which required bushwhacking down and through a couple of canyons.  The light color is the canyon areas.  My recommendation is to keep going further down into Smokey Creek and come up the east side rather than the west as in your route.  Bobcat's photo shows a perfect view of the east side of Mule Ears.  The first part up which you can actually make out in the photo is steeper and looser, the second part up to the saddle is not that bad.
Title: Re: Coming in from the East aye!
Post by: RichardM on January 14, 2007, 09:41:18 PM
Quote from: "RedBuffalo"
I'm waiting on my cousin to mail me his topo of that section plus my copy of Hiking Big Bend, which also describes the trail and is on loan to a friend.  I feel a little lost without my resources....

In the meantime, there's always Topozone.com (http://www.topozone.com/map.asp?lat=29.1461&lon=-103.4014).
Title: Re: Coming in from the East aye!
Post by: bdann on January 15, 2007, 07:55:33 AM
Quote from: "RichardM"
Quote from: "RedBuffalo"
I'm waiting on my cousin to mail me his topo of that section plus my copy of Hiking Big Bend, which also describes the trail and is on loan to a friend.  I feel a little lost without my resources....

In the meantime, there's always Topozone.com (http://www.topozone.com/map.asp?lat=29.1461&lon=-103.4014).


Or this site - http://www2.tnris.org/datadownload/download.jsp

You can download full size 24k topos for the entire state of Texas ....very nice.   I think Jeff Blaylock had posted that link once before.
Title: Topo
Post by: RedBuffalo on January 15, 2007, 08:11:32 AM
Richard: Thanks for the link.  I finally worked with that site and got a good view.  DesertWalker mentioned the USGS map directs north when it should actually head east / southeast (see post of page 1).  I can see where it goes pretty far north before dropping in to Smokey Creek so I'll be on the lookout for signs / cairns after a 1/2 mile or so past MES.  

Picacho: Knowing that you did the Picacho summit trek, I'll take your advice any day (sticking to the Smokey Creek trail vs. traversing those canyons)!  Also, the route to the saddle on the left of the above photo does look a little more stable.

All this is starting to making a good case for me to go GPS?  Maybe when Canon offers one built in to the 5D....(or have they already done that?).  That would be cool to take a pictures and have the GPS data recorded on the memory card.

Bobcat: I really like the rock formations to the right of MEP in your photo - looks pretty tricky getting over there though.

Once again, thanks for all the post and information shared on this thread.  I'm sure someone out there is saying "If RedBuffalo has to ask so many questions maybe he shouldn't be going out to MEP."  To my defense, I still recall my desert wandering from my 1991 trek out there.  And, I did read a news article where they found some fella from New York - well, the remains of him anyway - some seven years after his disapperance....
Title: Google Markup
Post by: RedBuffalo on January 15, 2007, 08:22:24 AM
Anyone want to take my first Google image and mark up the trail from MES to MEP?  Yeh, it's another rainy cold day in Lufkin with not much going on.
Title: Re: Google Markup
Post by: SHANEA on January 15, 2007, 09:47:55 AM
Quote from: "RedBuffalo"
Yeh, it's another rainy cold day in Lufkin with not much going on.


Wonder what it will be like in 12-24 hours  :shock:
Title: Re: Topo
Post by: RichardM on January 15, 2007, 09:54:29 AM
Quote from: "RedBuffalo"
Once again, thanks for all the post and information shared on this thread.  I'm sure someone out there is saying "If RedBuffalo has to ask so many questions maybe he shouldn't be going out to MEP."  To my defense, I still recall my desert wandering from my 1991 trek out there.  And, I did read a news article where they found some fella from New York - well, the remains of him anyway - some seven years after his disapperance....

And more recently, Peter Bastien:

Quote from: "BIBE News Release Digest 2005 (cached by [url=http://72.14.209.104/search?q=cache:yXR5Mnrom0wJ:www.nps.gov/bibe/parknews/upload/NRdigest_2005.pdf+%22Peter+Bastien%22&hl=en&gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=10
Google[/url])"]REMAINS FOUND BELIEVED TO BE THOSE OF MISSING HIKER AT BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK

On March 24, 2005, visitors hiking in the Mule Ears found a muddy backpack and brought it out to rangers. Rangers returned to the site with the hikers, because the area was the focus of an extensive search in June, 2004, for Peter Bastien of Dallas. Rangers later in the day located the skeletal remains, clothing, and identification of Bastien. The family has been notified of the tentative identification pending the results of dental record examination.

On June 3, 2004, patrol rangers noted a Ford Taurus parked at the Mule Ears parking lot. Overnight backpackers routinely use this area for extended hikes and thus on June 7, 2004, when the vehicle was still in place, an investigation and lengthy search was begun.

The investigation revealed the vehicle owner to be 37-year- old Peter Bastien. Search operations were expanded several days to include ground search teams, helicopters from Marfa Border patrol and the Department of Public Safety from Midland, the park’s own aircraft, horses, and tracking dogs. The operation was managed under the incident command system.

As of June 14, 2004, all likely areas, clues, and leads had been followed as far as possible without success. The search effort is continued in a limited extended capacity with ground searchers having searched approximately 5,600 acres, and 33,000 acres searched by air.

“The discovery of the remains believed to be Mr. Bastien after a long and exhaustive search effort will hopefully allow the friends and family of Mr. Bastien to find closure, as it will for park staff who committed their time to the search effort,” said Superintendent John H. King.

There were reports that his skeleton was "disarticulated" and found in a cave on the side of Mule Ears Peak.  Some folks speculated that a panther may have been involved, either before or after his demise.  Don't forget to leave a note on the dashboard of your car stating where you're going and when you plan to be back.
Title: Repeat
Post by: RedBuffalo on January 15, 2007, 10:02:20 AM
Man, that's scary - one badly spranged ankle or snake bite on a solo could end anyone as dinner for a panther / mountain lion.  Wonder if he was taking that route that Picacho mentioned and that I had marked up?

Repeat request: "Anyone want to take my first Google image and mark up the trail from MES to MEP?"
Title: Re: Repeat
Post by: Picacho on January 15, 2007, 01:36:55 PM
Quote from: "RedBuffalo"
Man, that's scary - one badly spranged ankle or snake bite on a solo could end anyone as dinner for a panther / mountain lion.  Wonder if he was taking that route that Picacho mentioned and that I had marked up?

Repeat request: "Anyone want to take my first Google image and mark up the trail from MES to MEP?"


I'll do it.  Just waiting on my computer to defrag.  :-)
Title: Mule Ears Peak Topo w/ Trail
Post by: RedBuffalo on February 05, 2007, 05:52:18 AM
Well, I finally got my Hiking Big Bend book back from being on loan and a Mule Ears Topo borrowed from my cousin.  Along with Google Earth and references from you guys experience posted here we were able to mark up the topo to, hopefully, correctly display the trail.

Check out this mark up and let me know what you guys think.

(http://www.duprephotography.com/big_bend/Images/MuleEarsTopo.jpg)
Title: Mule Ears Peak Hike
Post by: Robert on February 05, 2007, 09:44:10 AM
(http://www.bigbendgallery.com/uploads/files/mule%20ears.JPG)

The trail is a little north of where you marked it. The trail descends through and to the left of a narrow rocky notch in the escarpment via a section of switchbacks. As you get closer to the canyon floor the trail goes down a fin to the "creek".
Title: Thanks
Post by: RedBuffalo on February 05, 2007, 12:31:05 PM
Thanks for the clarification!  All this data is surely to cut down on any bushwacking.
Title: MEP; Monday March 12, 07
Post by: RedBuffalo on March 08, 2007, 05:13:47 AM
All set for hiking MEP.  After consulting Laurence Parents' Hiking Big Bend National Park it looks like a 9 mile round trip going out to the actual peak.  We'll be heading out early with lots of water and lunch.  I'll post a report later on this month hopefully with some decent photos.
Title: MEP Saddle Trip Report
Post by: RedBuffalo on March 24, 2007, 09:15:14 PM
I'll preface this report by saying the hike was everything I had hoped it would be; challenging, rewarding, and a sweet ending to four full days in Big Bend.

Moose58 and myself Left the trail head at approximately 8 am.  There were at least three camping groups off trail from the trail head to Mule Ear Springs.  The last group was huddled around a fire and if I hadn't been so focused on the task at hand I may have yelled out a Big Bend attitude at them (Most of my thoughts are all bark and no bite in my older age - they seldom make it to the audible stage.)

Reached Mule Ear Spring at 8:50 registering 1.88 miles on the Garmin 101 (Notice to all the GPS gurus - don't laugh at my little Garmin unit - it does just what I need it to do).  There were several yuccas blooming along this stretch of the trail.

I reached the switchbacks at 9:20am at 3miles, while Moose58 stayed at the spring.  We lost radio communications after about the second up and down past the spring.

(http://www.duprephotography.com/images/MEP01.jpg)

Met a group of three guys coming back from the east side of Smokey Creek to refill their water at MES for another two days out.  There's something special about the view through the switchbacks.  You descend in to the vast openness of Smokey Creek - the view is awesome.  At the end of the switchback is the first full eastern view of the famed Mule Ear Peak, which looks much different than the western view.

(http://www.duprephotography.com/images/MEP02.jpg)

I left the Smokey Creek trail at 9:30 am and 3.35 miles because the trail took an easterly turn and I bushwhacked various stream beds towards the base of MEP.  Actually, it was pretty easy walking, but I couldn't help using bushwhacked - it sounds so, well, Big Bend.  I placed a waypoint where I left the trail, which later proved to be very helpful.  My distance at the base was 3.68 miles.

Picacho's information was very helpful in making it to the saddle.  I went the south shoulder route and slowly made my way up the two slopes.  I would caution "trail hikers", which I fit in to, wanting to make it to the saddle because these scree slopes are difficult to climb - there is no trail.  You will be on all fours, you will need work gloves, and you will slide.  I was gratefull I didn't kiss a snake. For me, it was surely challenging being solo and the only reason I didn't turn back was because of my experience the previous day of making it to Casa Grande Peak.  Without that behind me I truely believe I would have turned back.  Folks with rock climbing skills like Picacho probably call it a piece of cake.  I'd call it a 45 degree angle with mucho loose rocks....  Oh, and the elevation from base to saddle is 2,920 ft and 3,591 ft respectively - that's over 600 ft. or 60 stories as my cousin Joey puts it. My distance at the saddle was 4.3 miles, which is .62 miles from the base.

(http://www.duprephotography.com/images/MEP08.jpg)

I reached the base of the south ear and traversed around the western edge of the saddle to see a rendition to Picacho's image of the "shadowed" Mule Ears.  I know I must have dreamed about that image for weeks leading up to this hike.  At no time did I ask myself "What in the world are you doing?"  If you do try this and ask yourself that question then that may be a good sign to turn back - just a thought.

(http://www.duprephotography.com/images/MEP05.jpg)

While at the saddle, I enjoyed relief, rest, and accomplishment - in that order. Here are two shots of what I am calling the north ear and the south ear.

(http://www.duprephotography.com/images/MEP03.jpg)

(http://www.duprephotography.com/images/MEP04.jpg)

I was considering hiking out to the south of MEP for a better shot of the MEP w/ the Chisos Mtns; however, I knew once at the saddle that I would be good to finish out the hike back.

Here is Smokey Creek w/ the south rim of the Chisos.  The drop off from the eastern side of the saddle is basically down.

(http://www.duprephotography.com/images/MEP06.jpg)

I did have lunch on the western side of the saddle in order to soak up the shade, but I had to dig my heels in to secure my seat.  While at the saddle, I tried to ping Moose and was greeted by a female spanish speaking voice - she kept talking on-and-on like Tokyo Rose (I almost turned it off....).

Coming down was just as difficult as trekking up.  I had flash backs of the Casa Grande rock slide.  The slope just plain looked steeper going down.  I second guessed my location for going down several times and finally conceded to going down sideways and often backwards.  At one point, I sat on my right heel with my left leg extended out straight and rode the scree down like a surfboard.  I know these images don't tell the story, but I'm trying to give an accurate picture of what the downhill looks like.

(http://www.duprephotography.com/images/MEP07.jpg)

(http://www.duprephotography.com/images/MEP9.jpg)

My little Garmin 101 proved to be worth its weight in gold.  I should say diamonds because it's pretty light.  I was able to backtrack to the point I left the Smokey Creek trail to the "T."  How refreshing is it to exit the desert on to a trail and see your own boot prints leaving that same trail.... Oh yeh.....you know it doesn't get much better than that (OK, this is my first real GPS experience).

Moose58 pinged me shortly thereafter and he was looking at the east side of MEP from the trail a mile or so from the spring.  I was on my knees with a few cacti blooms.  It was good to hear a familiar voice.

(http://www.duprephotography.com/images/MEP11.jpg)

Met back up with Moose at the spring and headed back to the trail head at 2:05 pm where Joey was waiting on us in the parking lot.  Total distance 8.97 miles and 6:05 hours.

(http://www.duprephotography.com/images/MEP10.jpg)

What a great hike this was for me.  I know, there are lots of them in Big Bend, but for me, this one was special.  Maybe it was the unfinished business 13 years ago, maybe it was the level of difficulty (for me), or maybe it was the solitude?  I do know that when you don't want a hike to end you have a special hike!  I can count those on one hand.....

Thanks to all the entries on this post that helped make this one possible. Oh, and thanks to Moose for digging out that Shiner Bock from the cooler that wasn't suppose to be there....
Title: Mule Ears Peak Hike
Post by: BigBendHiker on March 24, 2007, 09:27:18 PM
Great pictures and report.  That Shiner Bock had to have tasted good after that.  What a treat!


BBH
Title: Mule Ears Peak Hike
Post by: Picacho on March 24, 2007, 10:27:57 PM
Glad I could help in getting you there.  If you are not a professional photographer, you should be.  Those pics are stunning.  

I guess I was in the park a little earlier than you.  I did some bushwhacking of my own.  I'll have a full trip report maybe by tomorrow but for now you can look in in the Trip Report board and the report is called Spring Break 8.
Title: Shadows
Post by: RedBuffalo on March 26, 2007, 12:33:03 PM
Thanks for the comments.  I do have my own photography business and went to LSU for my MFA in Photography.  I use a Canon 5D.

It just dawned on me that my shadow photo is looking west and yours is looking east.  If you get a chance post that one here for a comparison.
Title: Mule Ears Peak Hike
Post by: Picacho on March 26, 2007, 05:02:20 PM
I left the parking lot at 3:30 p.m., thus the reason for the shadow pointing towards the east.  

(http://rrraven.com/Pages/BarryFiles/BigBend/020MuleEarShadowSmall.jpg)
Title: Mule Ears Peak Hike
Post by: Hayduke on March 26, 2007, 05:22:36 PM
In that last picture it looks like Commissioner Gordon is signalling Batman!
Title: Re: Coming in from the East aye!
Post by: xseption on November 15, 2007, 11:33:43 AM
Or this site - http://www2.tnris.org/datadownload/download.jsp

I tried the link but to no avail! I got the "404 Page not Found"

anyone have the correct link?

:azn:
Title: Re: Mule Ears Peak Hike
Post by: RichardM on November 15, 2007, 12:52:01 PM
Or this site - http://www2.tnris.org/datadownload/download.jsp

I tried the link but to no avail! I got the "404 Page not Found"

anyone have the correct link?
I found it in about 20 seconds after backing up to http://www.trnis.org (http://www.trnis.org).
Try http://www.tnris.org/datadownload/download.jsp (http://www.tnris.org/datadownload/download.jsp)
Title: Re: Mule Ears Peak Hike
Post by: xseption on November 15, 2007, 04:12:08 PM
I found it in about 20 seconds after backing up to http://www.trnis.org (http://www.trnis.org).
Try http://www.tnris.org/datadownload/download.jsp (http://www.tnris.org/datadownload/download.jsp)
Thanks! I found something along those lines. It is just hard to find the right quadrangle to print out.

~ edd