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Expert Advice Needed for Upcoming Trip

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Offline jeffblaylock

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Expert Advice Needed for Upcoming Trip
« on: November 13, 2007, 11:09:35 PM »
I'm headed out to the Bend for a four-day weekend sometime before the end of the year. I have several options -- all of which I have not done before -- for the trip and thought I would ask the experts. So here goes:

Option 1. Marufo Vega, with some off-trail exploration to the southeast (Thinking about Pt. 3427 and the wash between Pts. 2968 and 2965). Since the off-trail part would be slow, I was thinking about 2 nights, which would leave one. The next day would be an overnight trek out to the Banta Shut-In from K-Bar.

Option 1A. Only one night on MV, with an overnight at K-Bar, followed by a night near the Shut-In.

Option 2. A two- or perhaps three-night backpack on and off the trails in the Smoky Creek area, roughly from the Mule Ears parking area to the peaks, down to Smoky Creek, cutting cross-country to Dominguez Spring, picking my way back over the mountains to roughly San Jacinto spring, then back to Smoky Spring and back to the trailhead. This description is incomplete, but I don't have my topos in front of me, and it's hard to visualize an off-trail route looking solely at LParent's book.

Option 2A. Add a trip to the Elephant Tusk area.

Option 2B. Add a daytrip to Indian Head.

Option 2C. Incorporate a portion of the Dodson Trail and upper Smoky Creek trails by hitching from the Mule Ears overlook to the Homer Wilson Ranch.

Option 3. A combination of 1 and 2. One night along the MV. Two nights in the Sierra Quemada.

Option 4. None of any of that hard stuff. I mean, come on, it's a vacation, a chance to relax. Enjoy local flavor in Terlingua/Study Butte. Visit Indian Head. Do stuff like Burro Mesa pouroff, Ward Spring, other checklist kind-of items I haven't managed to do in 24 trips to the Bend.

Thoughts? Especially from those of you who have gone off-trail in the Sierra Quemada (Okiehiker, I've got your trip reports in my head.)?
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 Al

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Re: Expert Advice Needed for Upcoming Trip
« Reply #1 on: November 13, 2007, 11:40:57 PM »
Sounds good to me.  My goodness!  BiBe is about getting away from it all and not worrying about anything but the basics of life away unlike our typically complex and distracted existence. 

We figured out years ago that you can spend the rest of your life, given the opportunity and desire, and never see it all.  Roll the dice and go for it!

Al   

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Offline Sanjuro82

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Re: Expert Advice Needed for Upcoming Trip
« Reply #2 on: November 14, 2007, 12:57:28 AM »
If you are into slot canyons, I know of a pretty cool one that is off of the Marufo Vega trail.  Let me know.

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Offline TheWildWestGuy

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Re: Expert Advice Needed for Upcoming Trip
« Reply #3 on: November 14, 2007, 07:12:53 AM »
I think I like Option 3 the best - 1 night on the Vega Trail and 2 nights in the Sierra Quemada's.  I think 2 nights on the Vega Trail would be too long.  If you camp overnight near the river or at the Splitrock campsite on the South Fork you will be back at your vehicle ~noon the next day leaving you enough time to hike into a nice campsite in the Sierra Quemada's.   
For the Sierra Quemada's I would recommend parking at Mule Ears and going up to the Dodson Trail and back, 1st night short hike into Mule Ears/Smokey Creek area, 2nd night up closer to the Dodson, then hike out the next day.   I would not try to go X-country solo to Dominquez Springs, I have done this route but it's harder than it looks on the topo's.
Banta Shut In is also another nice alternative, though ~8 miles to the Shut In you can make good time and if you leave K-Bar parking lot by ~1-2 pm you should be able to make it to the Shut In by ~4-5pm and make camp in daylight.
There should be flowing Springs at Banta, Mule Ears, Smokey Creek, Upper Smokey Creek, and ~Smokey Spring but not anything along Vega except the River.   Nor anything between Smokey Spring and Dominquez Springs.  I have drank out of the Rio Grande on the Vega with no ill effects but bring a filter.. TWWG

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Offline Robert

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Re: Expert Advice Needed for Upcoming Trip
« Reply #4 on: November 14, 2007, 12:59:30 PM »
I agree with WWG that you probably shouldn't go solo off trail in the Sierra Quemada until you get more experienced. I recommend getting the northern portion of Smokey Creek trail hiked first as he recommends. Maps in the area don't give you a true picture of pouroffs and drainages which can add significant time to your hikes.

I like the idea of a one nighter on Marufo Vega and a trip to Smokey Creek. However, you'll have to be pretty disciplined to be able to return from the first hike and immediately start a second one. So if it were me, I'd spend the second night car camping and clean/rest up and get an early start the next day. You could hike over to Smokey Spring and spend the night for your third night out. You could also explore up canyon from Smokey Spring or go up Smokey Creek to the blackrock canyon before returning.

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Offline Drifter

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Re: Expert Advice Needed for Upcoming Trip
« Reply #5 on: November 15, 2007, 10:21:12 AM »
Jeff, If you want to make it to Dom. spring the easy route is from Smokey Spring , thru the Sierra de Punta drainage and then up and over Jacks pass.  No pouroffs and the views are incredible. One trick is to go down the pass by going to the left and finding the old fence line instead of heading straight for the spring. The direct route takes you through the forest of Spanish daggers.  I needed a transfusion when I finally got to the spring.  You can then leave the spring going NW by following Fisk canyon until it turns west and meets up with the Smokey trail right at the metal trail sign. There are two pouroffs that you need to climb up and around. Take the well marked trail back to Mule ears and then back to the truck.  One good hard day to Dom. Spring, one day back to Mule Ears and then a morning back to the truck.  I have done it solo but it is more fun with company.  I just got back and the springs in and around Elephant tusk are running hard.  Just a thought.   
If you climb mountains, no explanation is necessary, if you don't , no explanation is possible.

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Offline xseption

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Re: Expert Advice Needed for Upcoming Trip
« Reply #6 on: November 15, 2007, 07:31:32 PM »
Concerning option 1a, the one night in the Shut-In:

If memory serves me right, there are very few (and I am talking very, very few) areas where there was any sort of clearing to lay down a sleeping bag (much less a tent) except the river bed of course. The riverbed is wide and there are several areas near shore that is higher than the riverbed which might do ...

Of course, that is if memory serves me right since it has been a few months that I trekked Estufa Canyon to the Banta Shut-In. That was one I should not have done solo ...

~ edd
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Offline trtlrock

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Re: Expert Advice Needed for Upcoming Trip
« Reply #7 on: November 15, 2007, 08:26:24 PM »
Concerning option 1a, the one night in the Shut-In:

If memory serves me right, there are very few (and I am talking very, very few) areas where there was any sort of clearing to lay down a sleeping bag (much less a tent) except the river bed of course. The riverbed is wide and there are several areas near shore that is higher than the riverbed which might do ...

Of course, that is if memory serves me right since it has been a few months that I trekked Estufa Canyon to the Banta Shut-In. That was one I should not have done solo ...

~ edd

Just north of the Shut-In there's several flat sandy vast areas on the east bank, raised well above creek level.  These would be a great places to camp.  Here's a pic:



This is literally a 2-minute hike up Tornillo from the Shut-In...
John & Tess

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Offline okiehiker

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Re: Expert Advice Needed for Upcoming Trip
« Reply #8 on: November 15, 2007, 08:55:45 PM »
There is plenty of excellent camping in the Banta area, both above and below the shut-in. 

My personal preference is to camp below water sources, as no matter what you tell people about bathroom protocol, never underestimate the possibility of someone sh****ng just above your water supply.   :eusa_sick:



This is one very nice spot below the shut-in on the west side

But be careful of the sand monsters

Funny... I have a story about that...

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Offline xseption

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Re: Expert Advice Needed for Upcoming Trip
« Reply #9 on: November 15, 2007, 09:25:38 PM »
both places seem to have been in places where water once flowed ... so I am wary of them

~ edd
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Offline trtlrock

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Re: Expert Advice Needed for Upcoming Trip
« Reply #10 on: November 15, 2007, 11:54:35 PM »


Just north of the Shut-In there's several flat sandy vast areas on the east bank, raised well above creek level.  These would be a great places to camp.  Here's a pic:



This is literally a 2-minute hike up Tornillo from the Shut-In...
[/quote]

where you see the tarp set up in this pic is a good 6-8 feet above creek level, quite steep walls...creek depression can be seen in background...
John & Tess

"...and I'll face each day with a smile, for the time that I've been given's such a little while..." - Arthur Lee

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Offline jeffblaylock

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Re: Expert Advice Needed for Upcoming Trip
« Reply #11 on: November 15, 2007, 11:56:21 PM »
Thanks for the advice, folks. It is quite helpful.

Here is the proposed route for on- and off-trail exploring of the Smoky Creek area. Click on the small map for a larger, legible version.



This may be too much to do on this particular trip, given that the first hiking day necessarily includes hiking back to the Marufo Vega trailhead and then driving to the Mule Ears trailhead. That probably means a first night campsite in the vicinity of Smoky Spring and a second night near where my off-trail route intersects the Smoky Creek trail. That's an awful lot of off-trail hiking for one day, as TWWG noted. Perhaps the second day should be a day-hike to Dominguez Spring and back to the campsite at Smoky Creek? Or maybe save Dominguez for another time and just explore Smoky Creek?

I'm curious if others have trod these routes, or others that might be better or more appropriate for the time I've got. Drifter, I don't know if I've captured the route you indicated in a prior post, since Jack's Pass and Sierra de Punta drainage are not identified on any of my maps.
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 Hayduke

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Re: Expert Advice Needed for Upcoming Trip
« Reply #12 on: November 16, 2007, 12:29:44 AM »
Hi Jeff,

Just a few thoughts based on my past hiking in that area...

- The Smoky Ck Trail as your map shows it is now in a different place - it goes around the N side of Sugarloaf Mtn (the oblong peak just above the word Smoky) rather than S of it.

- There's a pouroff on your off-trail route - maybe a mile E of the intersection w. Smoky Ck Trail - that you may not feel comfortable jumping down. You can get around it my going up steep slopes to the N and parallelling the wash for 50 ft or so. But still a little exposed.

- Driving from MV trailhead to ME and then backpacking to Smoky Spring sounds like a long day. W/o the drive I think it's reasonable.

- I think hiking from Smoky Spring all the way around back to Smoky Creek Trail is too much for a day. You'll also want time to poke around the ruins at Dominguez if you haven't been there before. IMO its also too long to do this as a dayhike from Smoky Spring.

- Expect to encounter a short but dense brushy section just E of Smoky Spring as you enter the mountains.

- As part of a shorter route you might include the draw just ESE of Goat (and drop Dominguez).

Good luck!

HD

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Offline TheWildWestGuy

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Re: Expert Advice Needed for Upcoming Trip
« Reply #13 on: November 16, 2007, 06:59:57 AM »
I think I agree with Hayduke on this one Jeff.  It's going to be a lot harder and slower than you think on those off-trail routes.  I am always shocked by what slow progress I make off-trail and the cats-claw is thick this year.   If you haven't been up the Smokey Creek Trail to the Dodson intersection I think this would be a better choice.  You could make it into a partial X-country loop by leaving the trail on the way back and staying in Smokey Creek until you re-intersect the trail again near Sugarloaf Mtn.   A lone cottonwood tree is growing below a pour-off at this intersection point so it's easy to find.  You will find flowing springs first at the "Blackrock Springs" where the trail enters the front of the Sierrra Quemada's about 3 miles from Mule Ears.  You will also find some fine flowing "trout streams" almost continuously from north of Sugarloaf Mtn almost all the way up into the big bowl before you re-enter Smokey Creek.  You will see a lot of water on this route.  The best campsites for your first night (assuming you do the Vega Trail) would be near the base of the Mule Ear Peaks (about 2 hours hike-in) or ~10 minutes below the "Blackrock Springs" which would be more like a ~4 hour hike-in.... TWWG

 


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