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Tips and Trails in Upper Smokey Creek, Sierra Quemada

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Offline TheWildWestGuy

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Tips and Trails in Upper Smokey Creek, Sierra Quemada
« on: May 18, 2007, 07:19:54 AM »
Here are some tips about hiking in the Upper Smokey Creek area of the Sierra Quemada's and some information about other cross-country routes in this area.
Water Sources: The Sierra Quemada's actually have more live flowing springs and water sources than anyplace else in the Park.  All springs marked on the topo maps are reliable even during dry conditions and during wet conditions these springs will form continous flowing creeklets down the major drainages.   Bring a filter and always carry some reserve water just in case.   The longest stretch between water is between Mule Ears Spring and the first "blackrock spring" in the slot canyon that cuts through the front of the Sierra Quemadas (~6-7 miles).
Route Tips:  The official NPS trail does a long detour around the peak 4685' before rejoining a drainage and continuing North.  Look for 2 large cairns on the East side of the drainage which is actually the official trail detouring around some small pour-off's.   This sidetrail climbs up the flank of the drainage and has great views looking back towards Mule Ears that you will never see down in the drainage.  If you decide to hike the drainage instead it's fairly easy (for a human) to get around the pour-off's so the sidetrail was probably built for horses.   If your hiking South-North be careful not to miss where the trail makes a sharp turn out of the main drainage into a small sandy arroyo on the South side of the big "bowl" about 3 miles north of the "junction".   See Parents book for details.  
Interesting Features:   Besides the beauty of this hike there are a number of other interesting features.   As you round Peak 4685' and drop into the unnamed drainage you will see a 4x4 signpost marking the junction.  Drop your packs here and head 40' downstream and you will find a large calcite pegmatite full of pink, rose, and white crystals which is worth a stop for a few minutes.  Just remember to leave everything there, besides you don't need rocks in your pack anyway.   North of this Junction there are several large drainages coming in from the East that you can easily hike-up for 1/2-1 mile or so.  Most of these drainages have tree's in them and are interesting to poke around in.   Watch for rattlesnakes on this hike as it is prime habitat for them.
There is also the ruins of an old dam and stock pen on the South side of the "bowl" if you follow the main drainage up for about 1/2 mile above the cut-off arroyo where the trail turns West and starts to climb.   No house or ruins of any structure though, at least not that I could find.
Cross Country Routes:  If you continue North towards the peak 5291' you will re-enter the Smokey Creek drainage and if you go West down the drainage you can actually get all the way South and re-connect to the official NPS trail where it left the drainage to veer SE around peak 4685'.  A side canyon leads from the area of the "corral" on the Dodson trail down into this drainage and you could short-cut several miles by taking this route directly south from the corral.   The junction of this drainage with smokey creek is marked by cairns and 3 strands of barbed wire crossing the drainage.  There are some small (4-6') pour-offs and ledges on this route but nothing any reasonably fit hiker couldn't easily traverse.  The floor of the canyon is sandy with minimal cactus brushbusting needed.   Other cross country routes exist leading off the official trail over to Dominquez Springs and Smokey Spring.  You can identify them easily on your topo maps and/or fly them in Google Earth.   Dominquez Springs is always reliable and there are also reliable springs up the main canyon beside Dominquez Mtn (Fisk Canyon).   Smokey Spring is not reliable and is often little more than wet mud during dry times and small weak pools of water during wet times.    There are lots of neat little side canyons, tree's, slots, and pools of water along this trail which makes it one of my top 10 in the Park.   Unless you go during Spring Break or some other peak visitor time you will probably not see or hear any other humans once you pass Mule Ears Spring or the Blue Creek Ranch.  Be prepared to save yourself and be your own first responder on this hike, nobody else is going to be out there... TWWG

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Offline Casa Grande

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Tips and Trails in Upper Smokey Creek, Sierra Quemada
« Reply #1 on: May 18, 2007, 08:14:07 AM »
sweet!  thanks for that, TWWG!  This is on my short list of thing to do...

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Offline BIBE FNG

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Tips and Trails in Upper Smokey Creek, Sierra Quemada
« Reply #2 on: May 18, 2007, 12:35:25 PM »
Quote from: "Casa Grande"
sweet!  thanks for that, TWWG!  This is on my short list of thing to do...


CG, you sure do write that quite often.   :wink:

Just how long has your short list become? :D

Regardless, I'd love to do that hike, as well.

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Offline BIBEARCH

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Re: Tips and Trails in Upper Smokey Creek, Sierra Quemada
« Reply #3 on: May 24, 2007, 07:59:13 AM »
Quote from: "TheWildWestGuy"
Water Sources: The Sierra Quemada's actually have more live flowing springs and water sources than anyplace else in the Park.  All springs marked on the topo maps are reliable even during dry conditions and during wet conditions these springs will form continous flowing creeklets down the major drainages...  ...Be prepared to save yourself and be your own first responder on this hike, nobody else is going to be out there... TWWG


Be aware that during extended dry periods, many of these springs DO dry up!  ALWAYS check with the NPS before relying on water sources in this remote backcountry. Over the past 25 years, my wife and I have spent many seven- to ten-day trips off trail in the Quemadas and have found on several occasions that "There ain't no water at such-and-so spring."  

Unfortunately, because the area is so seldom visited by NPS, current spring data may not exist at the ranger stations. The Science & Resource Management Division attempts to revisit every spring in the park by doing surveys every 5 years to check on water flows, vegetation, human use, and exotic species. We've been treating Tamarisk infestations in the Sierra Quemada for several years and have pretty good information about specific drainages where treatment has been done. And, we've found these springs to occasionally be dry.

Be prepared

T
The opinion expressed above is my own and not that of the National Park Service or the Federal government.

"Government of the people, by the people, for the people . . . people hey, that's us!"? - Swami Beyondananda

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Offline Casa Grande

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Tips and Trails in Upper Smokey Creek, Sierra Quemada
« Reply #4 on: May 24, 2007, 08:10:36 AM »
Quote from: "BIBE FNG"
Quote from: "Casa Grande"
sweet!  thanks for that, TWWG!  This is on my short list of thing to do...


CG, you sure do write that quite often.   :wink:

Just how long has your short list become? :D

Regardless, I'd love to do that hike, as well.


yeah, well...my short list is becoming a bit long...unfortunatel y, it may be a while before I get to shorten the list.

 


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