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A few Dodson trail questions

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Offline raptor()

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A few Dodson trail questions
« on: March 10, 2009, 01:42:37 PM »
Hi, thanks for taking the time to read this.  I am planning a 2 night, solo trip in April along the Dodson trail, from Juniper to the Homer Wilson ranch and have a few questions that I'm hoping you experienced folks can answer.


1.  Are there any kinds of shuttle services available?  I would like to park at the ranch then be driven to the Juniper trailhead.  If so, how much would something like that cost?

2.  I'll be on the trail for two nights.  What would be good places to camp?

3.  How much water should I bring?  I've heard that there is nearly always water at Fresno creek.

4.  Regarding clothing, I usually hike in nylon pants but would it be wiser to go with cotton considering all the desert plants?

5.  With two nights on the trail , I'm hoping to have ample time to explore along the way.  Are there any side trails, ruins, or other points of interests that would be fun to explore?

6.  I have a good map of the trail, but are there any confusing parts that I should be aware of?


Any other tips or advice would be greatly appreciated!  Thanks in advance.

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Offline TexasAggieHiker

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Re: A few Dodson trail questions
« Reply #1 on: March 10, 2009, 02:03:59 PM »
1. check out www.desertsportstx.com for a shuttle.  won't be cheap
2. there is a nice campsite at the junction of the Smokey Creek trail.  (allows you to go down the smokey creek trail to do some exploring)
also a nice site at Fresno Creek. and several along the trail between fresno and Juniper Canyon
3. at least a gallon a day.  Fresno should have water for filtering.
4. don't wear cotton!!!  cotton gets wet (sweat) and stays wet, then it weighs a ton.  the trails are in good enough shape that you shouldn't have any problems. 
5. Smokey Creek Trail, Elephant Tusk Trail, Dodson Ranch ruins
6. keep an eye out for cairns and don't accidently wander down a drainage off the trail.  The trail is really well marked.

Now, April could be very dicey in terms of weather.  The desert can easily hit the upper 90's or higher.  Heat stroke becomes a real threat then.  Watch the weather and be prepared to change your plans.
« Last Edit: March 10, 2009, 02:07:18 PM by TexasAggieHiker »

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Offline Picacho

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Re: A few Dodson trail questions
« Reply #2 on: March 10, 2009, 02:16:06 PM »
You might find water if you hike down the Smokey Creek trail a short ways.  It's been very dry lately, so that may be questionable if it doesn't rain anytime soon. 

I usually wear blue jeans when I am bushwhacking.  If it's not going to rain, they won't get wet.  Blue jeans are the best at shaking off the things that like to grab you.  Bring some shorts though as most of the Dodson is pretty decent.  It will be very hot, so you will need lots of water. 

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Offline DJ

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Re: A few Dodson trail questions
« Reply #3 on: March 10, 2009, 02:59:47 PM »

2.  I'll be on the trail for two nights.  What would be good places to camp?

3.  How much water should I bring?  I've heard that there is nearly always water at Fresno creek.

4.  Regarding clothing, I usually hike in nylon pants but would it be wiser to go with cotton considering all the desert plants?

5.  With two nights on the trail , I'm hoping to have ample time to explore along the way.  Are there any side trails, ruins, or other points of interests that would be fun to explore?

6.  I have a good map of the trail, but are there any confusing parts that I should be aware of?


2. There are several camp sites along the Dodson Trail. Fresno Creek is a good spot and in mid-February there was water flowing. From what I have heard from others, Fresno Creek always has water.

3. Again in mid-February, there was water at Smokey Creek (about a 1/2 mile down the trail), water at Fresno Creek, and water at the old Dodson House. I would not carry much water at all.

4. For most of the Dodson Trail, the brush has recently been cleared back. Watch out for the cat's claw...it is mean and it is everywhere.

5. Smokey Creek, the Dodson House, and, if time allows, a trip to Elephant Tusk (this would require several hours.

6. The trail is well cairned so you should not have any trouble. There is one spot close to the Homer Wilson Ranch HQ where you are in an arroyo that you need to pay attention for the cairns so you hop out when you are supposed to.

DJ
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Offline raptor()

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Re: A few Dodson trail questions
« Reply #4 on: March 10, 2009, 03:25:25 PM »
Thank you all for your responses.  I called desertsports and as you said - it won't be cheap!  In fact I may need to look at doing another trail alltogether.  I will only have 2 nights to hike and really wanted to do a good desert hike (I did the south rim last year so I didn't really want to do the whole OML.)  Anyone have any recomendations on another desert hike that woud be a loop?  I prefer the western and southern parts of the park.  Maybe a route starting/ending at Mule Ears parking lot or Chimneys? Thanks again!
« Last Edit: March 10, 2009, 03:28:09 PM by raptor() »

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Offline Robert

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Re: A few Dodson trail questions
« Reply #5 on: March 10, 2009, 04:07:52 PM »
Most of the trails are going to be out and backs. I'd start at Blue Creek and hike to Fresno and make a base camp on day one. Hike over to the Dodson place after you have set up camp. On the second day hike down the Elephant Tusk trail until you get to ET. On your way back up the trail when you get to the Fresno Creek drainage just stay in it and return to your camp. On your last day you could drop your pack at the Smoky Creek junction and hike a ways down this trail before finishing up.

It's going to be hot in April and it you'll appreciate camping close to water.

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Offline raptor()

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Re: A few Dodson trail questions
« Reply #6 on: March 10, 2009, 04:34:22 PM »
Robert, that looks like a really good route.  How long would the hike take on the first day to get to the camp?  Also, coming back up the ET trail, is the Fresno drainage easy to spot and then follow back to that camp site?

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Offline catz

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Re: A few Dodson trail questions
« Reply #7 on: March 10, 2009, 04:57:45 PM »
Another possibility and one that I have done so I know it is reasonably doable:

Start at Juniper, hike 1/2 mile or so beyond Fresno Creek; camp

Hike to a mile or so beyond Homer Wilson (through the red rocks); camp

Hike up Blue Creek, cross the Chisos, then down Juniper. 

When we did this, we started hiking very early the third day (like about 7:00) and were back at the Juniper trailhead about 3:00.

Regardless, I want to re-iterate what other have said about the weather in April in the desert:  it will likely be very hot.  Get started as early as possible each day.  Consider not hiking at all between, say, 1 and 5, and then if more mileage is needed heading out again after 5 or 6.
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Offline Robert

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Re: A few Dodson trail questions
« Reply #8 on: March 10, 2009, 06:35:07 PM »
Quote
Robert, that looks like a really good route.  How long would the hike take on the first day to get to the camp?  Also, coming back up the ET trail, is the Fresno drainage easy to spot and then follow back to that camp site?

Its about a half day hike to get to Fresno. The hard part is the climb up to the high pass soon after you start. You end up with almost 1000 feet of elevation gain. This part of the trail is very open and has no shade so if you wait too late in the day it will get very hot.

The ET trail junction is just below the high point as you begin your descent down to Fresno. It is about 500 feet of elevation loss to the creek. So in the morning you will have to climb back up to start the trail. If you look at the topo map you will see that after a mile or so the trail ends up back in the Fresno drainage just before getting to Tortuga Mountain. There will probably be a cairn marking the spot where the trail enters the wash but nevertheless if you look around and use Tortuga as a mental marker you will have no problem spotting this on your way back.

Continuing on down the trail the wash passes under Tortuga and soon trail exists the wash and climbs out and along a plateau before descending into the drainage that goes by Elephant Tusk. There might be a couple of springs along the way that are flowing as you approach the Tusk. Another option would be to see how far you can get down Fresno. Just make sure you don't go down anything you can't come back up.

On your return when you get to the spot in the Fresno drainage where the ET trail exits, just stay in the wash and you'll eventually come to your camp. There is no trail but it will be a piece of cake.

The day you get to Fresno explore a short ways down the canyon so you'll recognize where you are on your return should you choose to come back this way. It's not likely that you would miss your camp but it will make you feel a little more confident.
« Last Edit: March 10, 2009, 06:41:03 PM by Robert »

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Offline dkerr24

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Re: A few Dodson trail questions
« Reply #9 on: March 10, 2009, 07:16:48 PM »
Another possibility and one that I have done so I know it is reasonably doable:

Start at Juniper, hike 1/2 mile or so beyond Fresno Creek; camp

Hike to a mile or so beyond Homer Wilson (through the red rocks); camp

Hike up Blue Creek, cross the Chisos, then down Juniper. 

When we did this, we started hiking very early the third day (like about 7:00) and were back at the Juniper trailhead about 3:00.

Regardless, I want to re-iterate what other have said about the weather in April in the desert:  it will likely be very hot.  Get started as early as possible each day.  Consider not hiking at all between, say, 1 and 5, and then if more mileage is needed heading out again after 5 or 6.

Good advice, but how is the person supposed to get to the Juniper Canyon/Dodson trailhead??  Going to need a 4x4 or at minimum a vehicle with decent ground clearance to get there.

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Offline raptor()

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Re: A few Dodson trail questions
« Reply #10 on: March 10, 2009, 07:57:48 PM »
Great information Robert, thank you. 

For everyone who mentioned the heat, I do plan on bringing and drinking a lot of water.  I'm also considering bringing an umbrella along to hike in the shade during the really hot times of the day. 

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Offline sstrong42

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Re: A few Dodson trail questions
« Reply #11 on: March 19, 2009, 09:57:47 AM »
I'd take more than a gallon with you if you're hitting it this late in March.  I was there around this time last year and it was unbelievably hot on the Dodson.  I consumed almost 2 gallons of water that day.  I plowed through 6L in December '08, so make sure you take plenty of water and electrolyte tablets. 

 


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