Friends of Big Bend National Park
Big Bend Conservancy

Over-estimating your experience or under-estimating the terrain in a place like Big Bend can result in serious injury or death. Use the information and advice found here wisely. Climb/Hike/Camp/Drive at your own risk.

+-Calendar for sale

 2019 BigBendChat Calendar on sale now!


Report: (Pin)Cushioned Bushwhack

  • 26 Replies
  • 6270 Views
*

Offline dprather

  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 2477
Report: (Pin)Cushioned Bushwhack
« on: December 07, 2012, 08:57:06 PM »
I am now open to derision for suggesting that the Hayes Ridge/Pine Canyon Pour Off bushwhack was in any way cushioned.

In some ways we succeeded; in other ways we failed; in still other ways this was our best BIBE trip ever.

Briefly:

Day 1: from the Juniper Canyon/Dodson Trail parking lot to half way up Hayes Ridge - the map is not the field.

Day 2: conquering Hayes Ridge - no subtitle needed.

Day 3: down Pine Canyon Road, across Glen Springs Road, up Juniper Canyon Road and back to the car - how to turn 1700 feet of vertical into 12 miles of horizontal.

Day 4: finding Swirl Tinejas and drinking a Coke at the Stillwell store.

Leave "quit" at the car.  Embrace the trail as your friend.  Expect to enjoy yourself, and to be amazed.

*

Offline SA Bill

  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 1999
Re: Report: (Pin)Cushioned Bushwhack
« Reply #1 on: December 07, 2012, 09:47:56 PM »
Please...more!! :eusa_pray:
   Bill
Bill - In San Antonio

Growing old is mandatory.
Growing up is optional.

*

Offline TheWildWestGuy

  • Golden Eagle
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 1342
Re: Report: (Pin)Cushioned Bushwhack
« Reply #2 on: December 08, 2012, 08:53:26 AM »
You forgot Day 5 - Living to tell about it.  Now that's a bushwack.

*

Offline badknees

  • Actually, I was there once
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 4394
  • I think I know that place
    • Through the Mirror
Re: Report: (Pin)Cushioned Bushwhack
« Reply #3 on: December 08, 2012, 09:22:25 AM »
Where are the pics? :icon_smile:
Not all those who wander are lost.
J.R.R. Tolkien

Through the Mirror
http://mirrormagic.com

*

Offline dprather

  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 2477
Re: Report: (Pin)Cushioned Bushwhack
« Reply #4 on: December 08, 2012, 09:34:00 AM »
DAY ONE - FROM THE PARKING AREA AT THE INTERSECTION OF THE DODSON TRAIL & JUNIPER CANYON TO HALF WAY UP HAYES RIDGE - THE MAP IS NOT THE FIELD.

We left East Texas on Sunday, December 1, ate Mexican food at San Antonio's Alamo Cafe, crashed in a questionable Uvalde motel, and arrived at BIBE at noon on Monday.  We got our permits at Panther Junction, and rolled into the trail head at about 3:00.  Our revised plan was to go from the trail head over Hayes Ridge into Pine Canyon, then up and over the Pour Off into the Basin, up Pinnacles, down Boot and Juniper Canyons, and back to our car in three days. 

Ominous note: rangers and volunteers gave us "that look" and asked us to file a solo hiker form.

Data: my backpacking amigo and I are nearing 60.  We are not Far Flung Adventure leaders, but we are life-long outdoorsmen with decades of adventures under our boots.  We regularly backpack trails in Central and East Texas, in Arkansas and Louisiana, and have done the High Chisos and the Outer Mountain Loop.  We have accomplished enough to know "can" and have been humbled enough to know "can't" and "shouldn't." 

We left the parking area at 3:30.  We had all we needed but no more in our packs.  Our course was a few degrees east of due north.   

The map had not lied to us, but the field was a jumble of ankle-grabbing desert plants, loose rock, and uneven terrain.  Every plant out there has thorns, many of which are still in our legs, and the area between our ankles and thighs is a rugged trailmap of scratches.  We had studied the topo, but the inclines were a bit more than we had expected.  As we topped the smaller "front range" ridges between the parking area and Hayes, our progress was a little slower than planned.  Still, the weather was great, the company excellent, and spirits high.  What's not to like?

As sundown approached, we were still climbing a steep slope.  With no possibility of setting up tents on loose rock and slippery hill sides, we were getting tense.  But just as the sun sat behind the Rim we topped a rise and happily found ourselves on a flat-topped spur.  We first called the oblong 40" X 60" site "Blessing Camp" because we really needed to find that place.  We later settled on "Ocatillo Camp" because we shared the flat area with so many ocatillo plants (great places to hang sweaty shirts).

Ocatillo Camp blessed us with one of those unspeakably special Big Bend evenings.  The last rays of sunlight illuminated Crown Mountain above us and the del Carmens to the east.  We could see almost the full length of Juniper Canyon and as far out on the desert floor as our vision could wander.  Instead of immediately setting up camp, we stood, circling until full dusk to take in all 360-degrees of amazing.   The crest of Hayes loomed above.   

Darkness brought the light of a million stars.    Visibility was great and so many stars emerged in so many layers that we had a hard time distinguishing familiar constellations.  I described the canopy of stars  to my wife as being as thick as an East Texas forest. 

Shooting stars came at 15-minute intervals on a very flat north-south trajectory.  A planet was bright enough to hurt eyes and cast a slight shadow.  Later, as I bedded down, the dense canopy of stars seemed to blend with the mesh on my one-man tent and I slept with the sensation of the stars surrounding me.  I'm not sure if they came down or if I was lifted up.

Mini-willawaws shook our tents deep in the morning.  From high up on Crown the softly screeching violin shrill cascaded down the valleys, rising in intensity until they snapped and rattled thin tent walls.  The spectral sounds then swirled away down the mountain as if mocking us by running down the slope we had so recently struggled to climb. Still silence followed with comforting confidence in tents that have withstood worse.  Again and again the shrieking winds returned, enhancing but not disturbing sleep.  In the morning my amigo, CarlF, called them "just another achiso," more ghosty companions of the desert mountain night.   

Drifting in and out of twilight sleep, I thought of all of those who had enjoyed Ocatillo Camp in Big Bend's past and those who would do so in the future.  Perhaps Paleo Amerinds had practiced ritual there in the divine presence.  Maybe Chisos Apaches had watched for Juan de Algalde's punishing troopers from that high perch, or maybe some of those Spanish and Indian troopers had used Ocatillo Camp as their perch to spy out the  Mescaleros.  In a later generation of Indian wars, Buffalo Soldiers might have camped there.  Military engineers mapping the frontier, cowboys, prospectors, Mexican revolutionaries, shepherds, CCC boys, hunters - any of them might have camped there too.  And maybe in the future some other Peter Pan backpackers who defiantly refuse to grow old and give up the trail will earn the blessing of Ocatillo Camp at the end of another hard day. 

This is the romance of Big Bend.  You earn it and own it and share it with the stars and whipping winds and with like minds today and the ghosts of yesterday for a split second - or is it an eternity?  Then you wake up, lace up, strap on and move on up the ridge.       







« Last Edit: December 10, 2012, 12:22:38 PM by dprather »
Leave "quit" at the car.  Embrace the trail as your friend.  Expect to enjoy yourself, and to be amazed.

*

Offline badknees

  • Actually, I was there once
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 4394
  • I think I know that place
    • Through the Mirror
Re: Report: (Pin)Cushioned Bushwhack
« Reply #5 on: December 08, 2012, 01:49:13 PM »
Excellent start. Keep it coming. :eusa_clap:
Not all those who wander are lost.
J.R.R. Tolkien

Through the Mirror
http://mirrormagic.com

*

Offline mule ears

  • Administrator
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 4381
  • "He had to leave Texas but won't say why" McMurtry
    • 40 years of walking
Re: Report: (Pin)Cushioned Bushwhack
« Reply #6 on: December 08, 2012, 04:43:59 PM »
Beautiful writing and written description of the place, look forward to more.  You may become the poet laureate of BBC or can co-own it with sleepy.   :notworthy:
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
http://40yearsofwalking.wordpress.com/

*

Offline bhodges85

  • Jack Rabbit
  • *
  • 40
Re: Report: (Pin)Cushioned Bushwhack
« Reply #7 on: December 08, 2012, 06:11:10 PM »
Looking forward to more.

*

Offline Homer67

  • Passionate Backpacker
  • Black Bear
  • *
  • 825
  • Be Amazing.
Re: Report: (Pin)Cushioned Bushwhack
« Reply #8 on: December 08, 2012, 06:52:29 PM »
Very nice!
Ah Big Bend, we will soon return to reacquaint ourselves in our ritual of blood, exhaustion and dehydration. How can we resist the temptation to strip ourselves of the maladies of civilization?

*

Offline dprather

  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 2477
Re: Report: (Pin)Cushioned Bushwhack
« Reply #9 on: December 09, 2012, 12:03:49 AM »
Thanks all - it comes from the heart.

Day 2(a) - CONQUERING HAYES RIDGE.

To say that Hayes Ridge gave us all that we wanted is true, but incomplete, and is not compeletely fair to us.  We went over the top and safely down the other side, so I guess we gave Hayes Ridge all it wanted too.

Disclaimer - I know that a lot of ya'll have done tougher bushwacks than our's. 

Tuesday morning broke early on Ocatillo Camp with untinted sunrise pouring into tents.  The previous half-day had limbered and not stiffened us.  After a quick breakfast and a quick camp clean-up we were off.

From south to north from Juniper Canyon, Hayes is actually a rising series of smaller ridges ending in The Big Boy.   Leaving camp we topped the next to last ridge quickly and looked across the broad valley toward the final rise.  The valley between had a spacious, sweeping "Out of Africa" savanna look punctuated by large dark boulders here and there rolled down from above. 

Dropping down was steep and tricky with still more loose rock.  The last drop to the bottom was even more tricky since the wash at the bottom had cut a shear wall against the slope.  The good news was that the wash had also undercut some ledges as it stair-stepped down toward the northeast.  We call all such restful places to sit "CCC benches," kidding ourselves that the CCC boys had us in mind (they didn't) when they cut those nice places to rest (they didn't do that either).

Our rest was fitful since we had a clear view of the challenge ahead.  It was easy enough to pick a low saddle over the last ridge off of the topo, but the map was still not the field.  Instead of a smooth, even slope, the way up was a tangle of washes, more boulders, shear walls, scree fields, and a mathematically increasing incline. 

We eyeballed a line that would first take us straight up for one-half the distance.  Then we would angle off to the right for another third, weaving up and down to avoid the random shear areas and the worst scree fields.  Finally, we would ease up and over a narrow pass between a too-steep section and a larger shear.

The theory was good, but the practice was awfully challenging.  We had seen lots of plants on the slope and had thought we could count on some of them for foot holds.  It turned out that most of them were long dead and useless for footing.  Instead of providing short stair-steps, the washes were filled with boulders and ledges that were actually tougher to climb because the steps between the rocks were too far apart to safely step between.  The steps in the washes required stretches that were too long and had us dangling instead of safely moving up. 

Negotiating the loose rock from the size of gravel up to fist-size and the chalky, crumbling ledges was the only option.  Slips were more common then sure steps.  Maybe one step in five was firm.  My internal mantra was "every step counts - every step counts - every step counts."  And, looking down the steep  and getting steeper slope, every step surely did count for a lot.

There was another issue for me.  Although I will not admit to fear of heights, I will admit to a healthy (maybe not so healthy) respect for steep places.  I overcame that fear/respect by telling myself to go up to a point so high that it would be more dangerous to go down than to continue up.  The trick kept me climbing but did nothing for my sense of alarm.  I kept going but I was tense.  My amigo did a great job of cheerleading me through the tension. 

The last 200 yards were super, super tough.  Slipping and sliding on hands, knees and the tiptoe edge of boots, we occasionally grabbed on to a few living plants, and they all had thorns.  After it was over we compared notes and we had both told ourselves that we had been stuck before and it didn't really hurt that bad.  Yes - the slope was so treacherous that handfuls of thorns were preferable to all other options.

Another challenge came for our Houston-area lungs - our thighs screamed for air.  Resting was not restful  because every stop was awkward and uncomfortable.  Resting was actually just relaxing against the grade as it approached 60-degrees and then carefully pushing against the slope to get footing again.  But climb we had to so climb we did.  The last third of the way was so difficult that we could not even let go to sip water.

Then we noticed a few scattered trees above us.  The steep grade was decreasing and allowing trees to take hold.  My Civil War reenacting son tells me that this is the "military crest," the slowly flattening crest before the final crest.

All of a sudden our steps were easier.  We could stand and walk.  We could see blue sky on the other side.  And then we were there - at the top and looking down into the vast trans-Hayes southwestern reaches of lower Pine Canyon. 

Challenges met are almost always anticlimactic to me.  This one was.  The brilliant sunlight provided the only fireworks.  The awesome view was our only reward as we found a great spot to depack and eat lunch.  It was about noon.  We could see forever.     
           

     
« Last Edit: January 12, 2013, 02:33:01 PM by dprather »
Leave "quit" at the car.  Embrace the trail as your friend.  Expect to enjoy yourself, and to be amazed.

*

Offline trtlrock

  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 1263
Re: Report: (Pin)Cushioned Bushwhack
« Reply #10 on: December 09, 2012, 12:39:21 AM »
I always feel really, really uncomfortable the few times I've had to climb or traverse 45-55 degree slopes, sometimes with just a thin layer of marble-size scree on top of crumbly rock. You have done a great job evoking exactly how tense I feel in these situations, especially hiking solo.

Glad you had a buddy.

Looking forward to the rest of your report -- love your writing.   :great:




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

*

Offline Casa Grande

  • Site Founder
  • Administrator
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 6251
  • Bending It Since 1991
    • Virtual Big Bend
Report: (Pin)Cushioned Bushwhack
« Reply #11 on: December 09, 2012, 09:30:27 AM »
Nice report.....breath is baited....

*

Offline Flash

  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 2053
Re: Report: (Pin)Cushioned Bushwhack
« Reply #12 on: December 09, 2012, 01:01:35 PM »
I have been trying to guess on the map where you guys camped and your route up Hayes. Any chance you might sketch the general path at some point? Enjoying the saga so far.  :icon_cool:

*

Offline dprather

  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 2477
Re: Report: (Pin)Cushioned Bushwhack
« Reply #13 on: December 09, 2012, 02:40:37 PM »
Again - thanks to all.  The place is inspirational to me and writing about it is a joy.  I have pictures coming, and I'll try to include a map.  If any others can add a map that would be fine with me.

Day 2(b) - Looking down Hayes Ridge; looking up the pour-off.

One of the great advantages of even(ing) temperaments is that accomplishments and disappointments can all be taken in stride.  The last half of Tuesday, December 3 was a time to be taken in stride.  Our emotions would slide from the "high" on Hayes to a "low" at the pour-off.

We could see all across Lower Pine Canyon, and we could see a network of washes closely following the direction we needed to go.  These were the detail steps.  We wanted to get down safely and then cross the broad canyon to Pine Canyon Road, and from there up Pine Canyon Trail to the pour off.  We still planned to go up the pour-off and over to Lost Mine Trail that afternoon. 

Compared to the steps we had been taking, the wash was a superhighway.  Our scratched and experienced trail legs firmly beneath us, we were able to descend Hayes quickly.  The smoothness of the wash also quickened our pace as we headed off in a northerly direction to intersect the road.

A word about quickness, age, and difficult paths.  We have developed an informal way of estimating our pace across different kinds of terrain.  Our scale is as follows.  We multiply the numbers by the mileage.

~1 = the pace of healthy 30-somethings over a moderate trail.  Their pace equals the actual mileage.
~+1/2 = our pace equals mileage times 1.5.  One mile to them, in other words, is 1 and 1/2 miles for us.
~+1/2 for every additional challenge (steepness, loose rock, the dense vegetation off trail, etc.).

When we get out of the car and walk on smooth ground we automatically multiply miles by 1.5 to make our time estimates.  The trek over Hayes had so many challenges that we were multiplying mileage by a factor of 3 and we were right on as we traveled down the wash and bushwacked across to the road up Pine.

All was still well.  As we ate lunch at PC3, a pickup truck passed going up the road toward trailhead.  The guys on the truck shouted to us that we looked like we had it made.  More on those great guys later.

The slog up Pine Canyon Road was slow going.  Heat and and increasing grade slowed us.  Our legs, tired from the morning effort up Hayes, also slowed us.  Our rest stops were very productive though.  The backside of Crown Mountain is the real crown.  Casa Grande above and beyond was gorgeous.     

One of the great strengths of our backpacking partnership is that we renegotiate plans as easily as we take steps.  Not stepping briskly up the road and tired, we decided to alter plans.  Instead of ascending the pour off and sleeping in the Basin that night, we would go as far as the pour off that afternoon, eyeball the challenges, make plans for tomorrow's climb, and make a stealth camp somewhere up in Pine.  It was not to be.

Reaching the trail, we met the four pickup truck guys coming back down.  Hunting at Terlingua Ranch, they had taken the afternoon off for sightseeing.  As happens so often, the meeting turned into a long chat.  Parting, they asked us if we needed water.  We didn't, but took six half-liter bottles "just in case."  As it turned out, that water didn't save us, but did save us water worry and dry mouths.

And then the disappointment.  A little longer up the trail and we were able to see the pour-off and beyond.  We were stunned.  All options for going up were far steeper and much rougher than we had imagined.  The rangers and volunteers had been right (for us at least). 

We looked at each other and decided that we had to change plans again.  Briefly, we knew that the pour-off-to-LMT had been done before and that we might be able  to do it, but that we just did not want to do it.  It was too imposing, too steep, too rough.   

We're not there to impress anyone.  There was no fussing and no kicking against the rocks.  There were not even many "dang-its."     

We had again found "can't" and 'shouldn't," and deep-down we were satisfied that our decision was right. 

Sigh.

On to the next problem.

Make new decisions.

What was "Plan B" to get back to the car at the Juniper trailhead? 

Night fell on us at PC4 and looking at a potentially unpleasant Wednesday.  At least we had enough water.

       





Leave "quit" at the car.  Embrace the trail as your friend.  Expect to enjoy yourself, and to be amazed.

*

Offline Geezer

  • Black Bear
  • *
  • 668
Re: Report: (Pin)Cushioned Bushwhack
« Reply #14 on: December 09, 2012, 11:06:39 PM »
Like Flash, a sketch of your route on a map would enlighten me.

Geezer

 


©COPYRIGHT NOTICE

All photographs and content posted by members are to be considered copyrighted by their respective owners and may not be used for any purposes, commercial or otherwise, without permission.

+-Calendar For Sale

 2019 BigBendChat Calendar on sale now!

Powered by EzPortal

Facebook Comments