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Dec 26 - Dec 31st Plans: From Desert to Mountains

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Offline gglauser

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Dec 26 - Dec 31st Plans: From Desert to Mountains
« on: November 02, 2018, 04:20:43 PM »
Hey BBC, I'm looking at heading back out to Big Bend this Dec for some backpacking. I'm really torn because I want to explore more of the desert, but at the same time I really want to get back up into the Chisos Mountains. So I've decided to compromise and do a little of both. The only catch is that I will have to find a shuttle from the basin to homer wilson ranch. Below is my preliminary trip. I'd love to hear everyone's thoughts and comments. TIA!

Dec 26: Drive to Big Bend
Dec 27: Leave car in Chisos and find a ride to the Homer Wilson Ranch. Hike down to the Dodson and over to Smokey Creek Trail. Hike down Smokey Creek and camp somewhere near the intersection of Smokey Creek and Mule Ears Trail.
Dec 28: Hike over to, and up Jacks Pass. Camp on top of Jacks Pass
Dec 29: Hike down to dominguez spring, then up Fick Canyon, and over to Elephant Tusk Trail. Then camp somewhere close to the Dodson Trail and Elephant Tusk trail intersection
Dec 30: Hike the Dodson, to Juniper Ridge trail, and up to the Southwest rim. Camp up on the south rim.
Dec 31: Hike down to the Chisos Basin, and drive home.

Things I'm wondering:
- How easy/hard will it be to find a ride/shuttle down to Homer wilson ranch from the basin?
- From reading past trip reports, there seems to be water near the junction of Smokey Creek and Mules Ear trail, Dominguez Springs, and along Elephant Tusk. Are there any other areas I should look for water sources?

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Offline elhombre

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Re: Dec 26 - Dec 31st Plans: From Desert to Mountains
« Reply #1 on: November 03, 2018, 09:11:37 AM »
I would suggest doing the OML counter-clockwise as a 4 nighter.  Plan to use the extra night along the Dodson with exploring done down Elephant Tusk trail.  Look at the map and see what creek beds you may want to walk down to get to a Southern point.  Maybe staying around the southern side of Tortuga Mountain.  Adler Spring is reliable, and I have always found water below Zapata Tuerto Spring at the Fresno creek side of the intersections of the two creek beds.

Easier planning because there is no need for a shuttle.  And you will have a great chance at having your pick for a campsite on the rim for the last night.  Also, if you take the Pinnacles trail up and use Colima to get over to Homer, you can see how much water is in Boot creek for your last night in a few days.  That way you know if you have to hump water up from Upper Juniper spring.

The only water I know of near the Mule Ears trail and Smokey Creek trail is Mule Ears spring, and Smokey Spring.  I would count on Mule Ears for sure, Smokey I have never used.  Jacks's pass is not a place I would plan on camping at either due to topography.  I have looked it over before and it would take a lot to kick out a flat spot up there.

One thing to consider, Elephant Tusk trail was so overgrown last year, it is pretty well gone in some places.  I haven't seen any trip reports on it as of last year after we were out there.  If I wasn't familiar with the trail, I would have never known it was there.  The creek beds are fine, it is all the other areas.  Consider it all off-trail hiking.
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Offline Al

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Re: Dec 26 - Dec 31st Plans: From Desert to Mountains
« Reply #2 on: November 03, 2018, 07:37:30 PM »
There's not much to the Elephant Tusk Trail.  There's a saddle on the south side of Elephant Tusk that makes a nice campsite.  The springs marked on the 7.5 minute map around Elephant Tusk tend to be reliable although it's been a while since I've camped in that area we never had a problem finding a marked spring with water.  Be sure to purify.  You never know what's upstream.

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Offline DesertRatShorty

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Re: Dec 26 - Dec 31st Plans: From Desert to Mountains
« Reply #3 on: November 05, 2018, 04:51:58 AM »
Sounds like a fun route. Why not just return to your starting point via Blue Creek?

I don't think there has been a report on water from the Sierra Quemada so far but I'd guess many of the springs are flowing based on rainfall totals this year.

As elhombre said no water near the mule ears and smoky creek trail junction.  You'd have to hike 3 miles round trip to mule ears spring so instead  I would just head on to smoky spring which should have water. See mule ears' report from last year where he details many of the springs along the smoky creek  trail.

Re: the elephant tusk trail, it is marked by occasional cairns but beware it has been rerouted slightly in places since the USGS topo was created. Study satellite imagery and you can see some differences, and be prepared to bushwhack. The trail is particularly hard to follow the two miles south of the Dodson, after leaving the ET drainage. You'll be close to the Fresno water works so you might want to check that out.

One final suggestion have a way to acquire water that is trickling across a rock. I use a one liter platypus with the top cut off. Many of the springs may not have pools to dip a bottle in,  or the pools will be scummy.
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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: Dec 26 - Dec 31st Plans: From Desert to Mountains
« Reply #4 on: November 05, 2018, 10:22:48 AM »
One final suggestion have a way to acquire water that is trickling across a rock. I use a one liter platypus with the top cut off. Many of the springs may not have pools to dip a bottle in,  or the pools will be scummy.

That is EXCELLENT advice.
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Online presidio

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Re: Dec 26 - Dec 31st Plans: From Desert to Mountains
« Reply #5 on: November 05, 2018, 11:27:55 AM »
One final suggestion have a way to acquire water that is trickling across a rock. I use a one liter platypus with the top cut off. Many of the springs may not have pools to dip a bottle in,  or the pools will be scummy.

You also can use a bandanna to soak up low flows.
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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: Dec 26 - Dec 31st Plans: From Desert to Mountains
« Reply #6 on: November 05, 2018, 12:05:15 PM »
One final suggestion have a way to acquire water that is trickling across a rock. I use a one liter platypus with the top cut off. Many of the springs may not have pools to dip a bottle in,  or the pools will be scummy.

You also can use a bandanna to soak up low flows.

You can; and I've done it.  But it's awfully slow going, especially when drawing from a trickle across a hard surface.  It's a good way to deal with an extremely shallow puddle, though.  Another great reason to always carry a bandanna.
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline RichardM

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Re: Dec 26 - Dec 31st Plans: From Desert to Mountains
« Reply #7 on: November 05, 2018, 03:59:11 PM »
One final suggestion have a way to acquire water that is trickling across a rock. I use a one liter platypus with the top cut off. Many of the springs may not have pools to dip a bottle in,  or the pools will be scummy.

You also can use a bandanna to soak up low flows.

You can; and I've done it.  But it's awfully slow going, especially when drawing from a trickle across a hard surface.  It's a good way to deal with an extremely shallow puddle, though.  Another great reason to always carry a bandanna.

[at the camp, Mattie tastes the water]

Mattie Ross: That tastes like iron.

LaBoeuf: You're lucky to be where water's so handy. I've seen the time I've drank out of a filthy hoofprint - and was glad to get it.

Rooster Cogburn: If ever I meet one of you Texas waddies who ain't drunk water from a hoofprint, I think I'll... I'll shake their hand or buy 'em a Daniel Webster cigar.

[points to LaBoeuf's shaggy horse]

Rooster Cogburn: How long you boys down there been mounted on sheep?

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: Dec 26 - Dec 31st Plans: From Desert to Mountains
« Reply #8 on: November 05, 2018, 04:09:29 PM »
One final suggestion have a way to acquire water that is trickling across a rock. I use a one liter platypus with the top cut off. Many of the springs may not have pools to dip a bottle in,  or the pools will be scummy.

You also can use a bandanna to soak up low flows.

You can; and I've done it.  But it's awfully slow going, especially when drawing from a trickle across a hard surface.  It's a good way to deal with an extremely shallow puddle, though.  Another great reason to always carry a bandanna.

[at the camp, Mattie tastes the water]

Mattie Ross: That tastes like iron.

LaBoeuf: You're lucky to be where water's so handy. I've seen the time I've drank out of a filthy hoofprint - and was glad to get it.

Rooster Cogburn: If ever I meet one of you Texas waddies who ain't drunk water from a hoofprint, I think I'll... I'll shake their hand or buy 'em a Daniel Webster cigar.

[points to LaBoeuf's shaggy horse]

Rooster Cogburn: How long you boys down there been mounted on sheep?

 :rolling:   Guilty.
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline gglauser

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Re: Dec 26 - Dec 31st Plans: From Desert to Mountains
« Reply #9 on: November 05, 2018, 10:04:07 PM »
Sounds like a fun route. Why not just return to your starting point via Blue Creek?
I can't believe I didn't think of that! That's perfect. I'm actually going to be meeting some friends who will be camping on the SW rim the same night as me, and said they would bring me some water. Thanks for the tips about the cut off water bottle. I also have a the life straw, katadyn be free water filter, and chlorine tabs.

 


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