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Thoughts on Telephone Canyon and Strawhouse Trails ???

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Offline Daryl

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Thoughts on Telephone Canyon and Strawhouse Trails ???
« on: March 01, 2007, 12:53:47 PM »
I'm considering solo hiking Telephone Canyon and Strawhouse Trails.  I've never been to area of the park but have long wanted to get a closer look at the Sierra del Caballo Muerta.  My schedule will be fairly open to spend anywhere from 2-5 nights on the trail.  I'll be carrying a sat phone for emergencies and to call my wife at the end of the trail for a ride back home.

Any comments or suggestions on the trails, likely camp areas and side trips to points of interests would be greatly appreciated.

(admin note: moved from "hiking the mountains" forum.)
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Offline Casa Grande

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Thoughts on Telephone Canyon and Strawhouse Trails ???
« Reply #1 on: March 01, 2007, 01:15:08 PM »
the only thing i'd like to add is, ditto!  but, for me, i'm afraid that trip is gonna have to be put on hold for quite some time.....looking forward to your report!

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Offline jeffblaylock

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Thoughts on Telephone Canyon and Strawhouse Trails ???
« Reply #2 on: March 01, 2007, 01:25:14 PM »
This thread might help get you started.
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 Daryl

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Thoughts on Telephone Canyon and Strawhouse Trails ???
« Reply #3 on: March 01, 2007, 02:12:20 PM »
Quote from: "jeffblaylock"
This thread might help get you started.

Thanks Jeff.  That thread was helpful and inspirational.  Sounds like the Doc had a great time.
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Offline Daryl

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Thoughts on Telephone Canyon and Strawhouse Trails ???
« Reply #4 on: March 01, 2007, 03:08:52 PM »
OK, maybe I'm getting in over my head.  Some of the comments on this thread have me starting to reconsider my plans.  Sounds like water refill options are limited and unreliable.

I'm now leaning more toward two or three separate two day hikes so I don't have to worry about finding water.  Any thoughts on the following, less ambitious hikes?
    1) Telephone canyon -hike in day one, camp, hike out day two.
    2) Strawhouse trail fromn so trailhead -hike Marufo Vega trail and back to Strawhouse then north on day one, camp, continue north as time allows then back south and out on day two.
    3) Ernst Tinaja and Earnst Basin on day one, camp, reverse route on day two
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Offline mountaindocdanny

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Thoughts on Telephone Canyon and Strawhouse Trails ???
« Reply #5 on: March 02, 2007, 10:41:16 AM »
The best way to enjoy this area is a multi night trip. Even the periphery of this area is only lightly used. The terrain is tough. On my trip I didn't make the distance I planned on, although that was largely due to the presence of water letting me alter my original trip itenerary.

If you do decide to explore the area, the trail heading east from the trailhead at Telephone Canyon is well marked and easy to follow up until you get to the pass at the eastern head of Telephone Canyon. Trail crews have cut vegetation away from the trail through here and it is frequently marked with cairns.

Once you descend into Telephone Canyon the trail becomes very faint to nonexistant. Cairns and attention to your topo will help you find the general route. If that fails you can always just follow the bottom of the little feeder canyons (though they tend to be a little brushy).

In the canyon proper there is no obvious trail, though none is needed. The bottom is wide and braided channels allow for mostly vegetation free walking. Great areas to explore would be the north fork of Telephone Canyon (extending up towards the Sue Peaks), upper Heath Creek or North Telphone Canyon.

If you decide to head down the Strawhouse Trail, make sure you follow your topo closely, as the cut off is not well marked (there is a small raock cairn). The ascent up out of Telephone Canyon is off trail through pretty thick vegetation. Once you make the small pass at the head of the Strawhouse Trail there is a spectacular view. The descent down the Strawhouse Trail is easy.

Don't count on finding water in the area. The only reason I did was it had rained pretty heavily the night before I headed out. Carrying 3 days worth of water is pretty easy as long as you leave the luxury items behind.

Enjoy, there is a very high chance you won't see any signs of people in this area. I did find an abandoned high dollar pack and gear (including water supply, glasses, a high dollar camera) down in Telephone Canyon. Bad things can and do happen in this area so be careful, but enjoy.

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Offline Daryl

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Thoughts on Telephone Canyon and Strawhouse Trails ???
« Reply #6 on: March 02, 2007, 07:17:20 PM »
Thanks for all the great info Doc.  I was really inspired (and cautioned) by your trip report and blog, plus the report from OkieHiker.  I'd love to take the same route you did only continue down the Strawhouse trail to the southern trailhead.  I have the advantage of being local, so my wife can drop me off then pick me up wherever/whenever I decide to come out.  But, the mileage is too high for me to carry the water.
Quote from: "mountaindocdanny"
Carrying 3 days worth of water is pretty easy as long as you leave the luxury items behind.
I plan to carry three days water and food, but stay out only two.  I always carry extra just in case.  If things go bad, I'm prepared.  If things go well, I can stay out a second night.
Quote from: "mountaindocdanny"
Enjoy, there is a very high chance you won't see any signs of people in this area.
That's what I'm hoping.
Quote from: "mountaindocdanny"
I did find an abandoned high dollar pack and gear (including water supply, glasses, a high dollar camera) down in Telephone Canyon.
Did you report this?  I wonder if it was truly abanoned/lost or just stashed while the owner went on a short day hike.  I'd hate to find the owner while I'm out there.
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Offline mountaindocdanny

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Thoughts on Telephone Canyon and Strawhouse Trails ???
« Reply #7 on: March 04, 2007, 09:09:44 AM »
Quote
I did find an abandoned high dollar pack and gear (including water supply, glasses, a high dollar camera) down in Telephone Canyon.


The pck had been out there for probably 6 months or so looking at the weathering. The food was rotten in the pack as well. It was packed for a multiday journy and still had a day's worth of water left.

I did report it, but never heard anything back.

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Offline TheWildWestGuy

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Thoughts on Telephone Canyon and Strawhouse Trails ???
« Reply #8 on: March 04, 2007, 03:19:38 PM »
That's interesting about the Abd Pack MtnDocDaddy.  I too have found such a thing last April in Juniper Canyon.  It was about 2 miles above Upper Juniper Springs where the trail starts to switchback and was about 10' off the trail on the uphill side.  It had spiderwebs and a layer of dust on it but the zippers weren't rusted so I am guessing it was only sitting there a few days or weeks but definately was not just left there for a day hike.  Deerstalker and I looked through the pack for ID or some clue as to who it belonged too.   No ID, no cell phone, looks like the owner just dropped it in frustration and walked back to the Basin and left for home.  It did have some strange stuff in it like a Portable Propane Heater (the big kind used in boats and when car camping), and a nice brand new set of Binoc's along with women's clothes and shirts with Houston sports logo's on them, and jeans size 32.  I am guessing someone's '06 Spring Break hike of the OML didn't go so well.   I reported it to the rangers and they recovered the pack but had not had any reports of missing hikers or Abd gear.   It was a nice new REI pack also.   Amazing that people will just drop $100's of dollars worth of gear and not even bother telling the rangers about it.  They (apparently) don't make any effort to retrieve it or hire someone to get it they just walk away and leave it.  Next time I am at least going to eat the freeze dried ice cream... TWWG

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Offline Bull

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Thoughts on Telephone Canyon and Strawhouse Trails ???
« Reply #9 on: March 04, 2007, 04:23:07 PM »
Just to reinforce others comments, as if that was necessary, I made part of this hike Christmas ’06.
No water available
You will NOT travel the distance you have planned (Strawhouse is almost all in the draw – you’ll spent days walking in smooth stone & sand)
I did not ever put my TOPO map back in the pack – carried it in hand the entire trip.
No or extremely little shade – pick your weather carefully
You will be out there by yourself
In my opinion – THE best part of THE park!
Bear boxes....did someone say bear boxes?

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Offline Daryl

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Thoughts on Telephone Canyon and Strawhouse Trails ???
« Reply #10 on: March 04, 2007, 10:25:45 PM »
Quote from: "Bull"
Just to reinforce others comments...
Thanks for the input.  I'm glad to get all the advice I can (especially the precautionary stuff -better to learn the easy way :lol: ).
Quote from: "Bull"
No or extremely little shade – pick your weather carefully
I'm waiting for the nights to get a little warmer, but before the days start getting too hot.  Also, I won't be packing a tent, so I need to avoid any rain (not usually a problem out here :D ).  If I miss the weather opportunity this spring, I'll wait for the fall.  I'm saving the mountain trails for summer.
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Offline mule ears

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« Reply #11 on: March 05, 2007, 08:29:11 AM »
As part of a cross the eastern half of the park hike in mid Dec. 2004 we walked up Strawhouse to Telephone canyon trail and west across to it's terminus and onto Banta Shut-In (then on).  If I had someone to drop me off and pick me up, like Daryl does, then I would go in Telephone and on down Strawhouse.  It is much easier to follow the trails/routes headed down canyon/wash than up, plus it is down hill  :wink: .

mountaindocdanny is right on about the trails.  Very easy to follow Telephone trail over to the top of the pass over the Sierra before you drop down into the head of Telephone canyon.  After the pass it is lightly cairned but gets less and less clear as you drop down into the side wash that leads into Telephone canyon proper.  Then it is just a matter of making your way down the braided wash to the side wash up to the top of Ernst Valley.  There was a medium sized cairn on top of a large boulder at the confluence.  

As described in Parents book, the side canyon/wash at the start of the northern end of the Strawhouse trail is dense with vegetation but there is a faint trail on the left side (going up wash) with many small cairns that makes it fairly easy.  Once you get to the top there is a huge cairn at the pass.  Going down Strawhouse all the way to the road is in the wash with no cairns.  Easy going and not too bad for wash walking.  Going up Strawhouse it is very confusing as to which wash to to stay in as you near the top and I had to check to topo often (and still wasn't sure until we reached the top and the big cairn), again going down wash is much easier.    The only water we found on this whole route was a 3 foot diameter rock pool at the confluence of one of the major side washes from the east (left side going down wash), this was about a quarter of the way down the Strawhouse.  2004 was also a very wet year so I would not count on it or any other unless it rains just before you go as it did for danny.

On our trip we started at the south end of Strawhouse walked for 6 hrs. and about 7 miles to above the boulder section (which is easy to walk through) and camped.  Then the next day spent 4 hrs. to the junction with Telephone canyon, then 2.5 hrs. to the trail out of the canyon.  Another hour to the top (awesome views!) and then another hour down to the junction with the Ernst Basin trail where we camped, 13 miles.  Next morning it took 1.5 hrs. to get to the Telephone canyon trail head and campsite (TC2), 3.5 miles.  24 miles and about 16 hours walking.  We were carrying 2.75 gallons of water and about 50 pound packs at the start.   Even in mid Dec. it was in the 80's in lower Ernst Valley with the only shade in the short narrow canyon sections in the lower half.  Have a great time you will see no one  :D
« Last Edit: January 01, 2008, 07:29:35 PM by mule ears »
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
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