Monday December 9th - Chisos Basin to Ash Spring to Sanderson - Part 2
For the next 10-minutes or so, I was scanning the north bank looking for a way up so I could head over to Skree Tinaja and then catch the service road from there back to the truck. About 0.1 mile downstream, I found a promising spot where I began working my way up the steep rocky hill.
Reaching the top about 2:10, I stopped to scan my surroundings. Although I had intended to go straight over to Skree, once on top, I decided to see if I could get over to the top of the Big Pouroff. I now shifted my focus to head toward the canyon edge and take a good look all around me.
Right of center seems to be Little Christmas Mountain.
Panning to the left we see the course of Ash Creek Canyon and what look like piles of skree.
Farther left still there is a skree covered hillside
Leftward again, we see the head of the canyon. The big pouroff is obscured here by that ridge of fractured rock coming in from left.
This meant I had better to get myself up and over that rocky ridge.
Climbing over it.
More stuff to get over.
Looking down over the jagged edge at the large flat boulder below on which I ate my lunch earlier.
Looking down the canyon below the big pouroff.
Got to get around all this brush.
Pretty wicked looking place from above.
Reached the bottom of the canyon above the pouroff about 2:25 pm.
Getting from the base to the top of the big pouroff took me about 30-minutes and 0.3 miles of hiking.
Long view that shows the fractured rock "walls" along the north (right) side of the canyon.
The canyon is much more open above the pouroff.
Stepping back from the edge and looking out into the desert beyond and Burro Mesa.
Leaving the top of the pouroff about 2:25 pm, I walked up the canyon a little ways, maybe 75 feet.
I had to climb back over the top of the hill I had descended earlier. Here I have reached the top of the broken ridge about 150' northeast of where I had crossed it earlier.
Skree tinaja was about 300 yards away but I had to drop down about 200 feet along the way and zigzag my way to it. Skree is out of sight here, but lies near the green tree right of center. I had to go left around the ocotillo then down the hill through shallow bowl in the middle and cross another section of broken ridge.
Skree, grass, and Ash Canyon
and down the other side
working my way around
Looking back where I came down.
Then got to work my way through this big beautiful mess.
Soon found a hole to escape through.
There she blows! I began threading my way down a tall grass covered band of rocky hillside between two large skree fields, which end at the flat or bowl in the center where Skree Tinaja is found.
Taking in the view before heading down the hill.
The world beyond Skree Tinaja. Two poles indicate the path of the Oak Spring powerline and the service road below it is faint, but can be made out by starting at the left pole and following the brown line to the right.
Looking to the northeast as I work my way slowly down the tallgrass covered slope, which hid many cobble-sized angular chunks of skree.
Following the grassy strip downward to the bottom.
Looking back up the hill I had come down.
Looking more or less east ward.
At 3 pm, I wrote in my log, "No visible water," and intended to start heading out as I reached the flat at the bottom.
I was stopped in my tracks when I glanced into the same dugout hole I had seen dry in March 2019, and saw water! It was at least 2-3" deep in that animal dug hole.
Viewed from the other side.
That really isn't super murky.
Looking back at that funny strip of tallgrass on an otherwise skree-covered hillside that I had just descended to the tinaja.
After leaving Skree, I walked over to and began following the Electra Loop service road for about 1/4 mile to the junction with the access road I had followed in from the main park road. Only problem is when I reached the waypoint, the road continued on straight, but I was expecting a road turning to the left and there was none to be found. Stumped, I set my GPS to a waypoint on my outbound track and decided to go cross country until I eventually rejoined the service road proper. I was a bit annoyed, but it was no biggie. Even without a GPS, if necessary I knew the landmarks that would take me back to the truck. Strange thing is I had noticed ATV tracks coming into the grassy bowl from just past the waypoint and then curving away to my right. Later I realized I had the expected intersection completely misconstrued in my head, but oh well, I got to ramble offtrail some more instead.
About 3:20 pm, I am descending into and then walking across a flat.
After crossing the flat, here I look back where I came from.
Suddenly, I heard the sound of a flushing critter. Looking up, I saw the hide end and tail of a large coyote about 15 feet in front of me rapidly accelerating away from me. He must have been hunkered down behind the prickly pear in the foreground.
Coming up on a rise, I stopped to look about me. There to the northeast, lit up by the afternoon sun was the Big Drop, looking like a dam or a levee.
Zoomed in of the Big Drop as I call it. The roadbed can be seen climbing along the bottom of it at an angle.
Looking back toward the rolling hills over which I had come.
Skree Tinaja is just below the two brown patches of grass on the upper right hand corner.
What is this spiky bush/tree? It looks like it is related to mesquite, but I am not sure.
Admiring a back-lit cholla plant.
As I was winding along, about 3:35pm, I spotted a patch of lava, then looked just beyond it and realized I had regained the service road.
The walking just now got way easier.
The sky had been increasing in cloudiness and the light had grown dimmer. Here I am looking toward Little Christmas Mountain and in the direction of the truck.
Shot of the clouds while trying to find the sun.
Then there was this thing next to the service road I spotted while descending a gravel terrace.
No other poles anywhere near there. This one is cut off four or five feet from the ground. No sign of any hardware ever being attached to it. This is a small mystery to me.
A few minutes later, I spotted this. Someone get the crime scene tape.
Passing through a low silty spot, I saw the same sort of ATV tracks again.
At 4 pm, I reached the spot where I had left the service road earlier in the day when I jumped over to Ash Creek. Then about 4:15 pm, I stopped to take a some final photos starting with this one looking back at the North Chisos.
Looking toward Little Christmas and the Christmas Mountains with the park road now not very far away.
Croton Peak to the NNE.
Reached the truck at 4:27 pm. After stowing my gear, I drove straight to PJ and arrive there at 5pm. Temperature there was 70 degrees. After using the facilities, I hit the road north on US 385, passing Lone Mountain on the left. Clouds were really starting to stack up, but there was a bright line across the vallay ahead of me.
I pulled right over to check it out as sunshine broke through in unique ways. Blotches of light appeared to the NE at the base of what I am guessing was part of the Dead Horse Mountains beyond Dagger Flat Road.
A fantastic crazy sundown light show as I drove on down the road.
What a great way to drive on out of the Park!
About 6:30 pm, it started raining approx. 20-miles south of Marathon with the temperature dropping to 55 degrees as the cold front rolled in. The weather station at Persimmon Gap measured 0.32 inches that day. Arriving in Marathon at 6:45, it had dropped to 48 degrees and was raining. On top of that, since it was Monday, the barbecue place unfortunately was dark and closed. Drove straight to Sanderson arriving about 8 pm, where I gassed up at Stripes and then checked in across the street at the Outback Oasis Motel. Dinner was picnic style from the food box and the ice chest. Bedtime was about 10 pm.
The hike to Ash Spring was a very satisfying ramble today consisting of service roads, creek bottom, pouroffs, cross country navigation, and surprise water at Skree Tinaja. I had considered making Bailey Spring part of this hike, but that was just a bridge too far and will very likely be part of a trip in the near future.
Total hike time: 6 hours
Moving time: 3.3 hours
Measured distance: 6.4 miles
Elevation change: 1200 feet
To be continued...