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A Bear of a trip!

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Offline Cookie

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A Bear of a trip!
« on: April 14, 2014, 07:20:08 AM »
So I will begin the TR at a happier place than getting permits. We parked at the basin, donned backpacks, and went to our happy place! We had an uneventful climb up Laguna Meadow, leaving around 4pm. We had LW3 for two nights and then a move to LW1 for the last night. We had passed the turn off many times for these sites, but never checked them out. As we passed LW2 we stopped and chatted with a Dad and his 3 grown sons, out for a weekend together. After looking at their tent spots, we were glad this spot was already taken. After a few minutes we headed on to the end of the trail to set up camp. By the time we got the tarp down and pads set up (we left the tent at home for this one) we headed up a big hill behind #2 to watch the sunset. I was surprised that we had a view down the canyon to the lodge. We listened to the birds sing and watched the sun set on Emory Peak, Casa Grande and the basin below.



We had three nights for this little excursion. Our plan was, first full day, hike Cattail Canyon to the big pour off, then climb up to Ward Mountain.  Then run the ridge as far down as would could. We brought leather gloves because we knew the bushwhacking was going to be thick.  The second full day we wanted to make it to Fandango Falls.  I was really looking forward to exploring this area because the only off trail bushwhacking we have done was mainly out in the Quemada's.





We were on the trail by about 9am, heading up the hill behind our campsite. By the time we hit the top of the ridge the bushwhacking had began. I was very happy to have my new super light Flash22 backpack from REI. I had got it for our last trip and it was awesome again.  You can take the foam backer piece out of it when shoving it in your big backpack.   So we fought our way over the ridge and down into Cattail Canyon.









We were also hoping for water, and soon came across pool after pool. The canyon was beautiful, rugged and steep. We wound our way down the canyon to the 25 foot pour off. There is an old pin for repelling, but I don't think I would trust my life on it.



Our next objective was Ward Mountain. We had used Google Earth (thanks Lance) to try and figure out the best way up, and found two possible options. Of course things always look different once you are there, but we found the gulley and started scrambling up the side of the hill. Once we made it part of the way up, it wasn't quite as thick, but I have never done so much crawling and scrambling in all directions to break through the undergrowth. I don't think Hiker would have enjoyed this trip as much as our Quemada adventures. We made it up on the ridge and headed over to Ward. The visibility was pretty bad, and the views were not as clear as we had hoped. Still, we could look down and see Ross Maxwell, the water tank near Oak Spring, and out across the desert. We made our way down the ridge past Ward and had lunch looking down into Cattail Canyon.




 










 It was nice to see everything so green. It had been years (maybe 10) since we had been to BB in April. After we ate we continued down the ridge a bit more, to see how far we could make it. It definitely started to drop down and get steep.

 


 


We doubled back the way we came and got ready to head back down into the canyon. As we descended from Ward, we looked across the canyon to the ridge directly across from where we were, and ElHombre spotted a bear watching our progress.



 








We made some noise so he would know we were coming. He/she? seemed content to watch us as we came down. We guessed he was pretty young, maybe 150 lbs, and seemed to be pretty healthy. He was much skinnier than the fat bear Elhombre had seen on the trial at Upper Juniper last November.  Once we were about half way down our side, he got up and started coming down from his side. We were amazed how easily he maneuvered down the steep canyon wall. We made it to the bottom and started heading up canyon, checking behind us often and being noisy.





We didn't catch site of him again that afternoon. We bushwhacked our way back up the ridge and was loving the heavy work gloves, they made all the difference. We spent about 9 hours exploring the area and were back at camp in time for the sunset and adult beverages, with a side of Wasabi Almonds. An excellent day!
 
Day two the plan was to ridge run above Fandango Falls as far as we could, then find a way to drop down in to that canyon and make it to the pour off.

to be continued........
~Cookie

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Offline Andreas

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Re: A Bear of a trip!
« Reply #1 on: April 14, 2014, 07:38:48 AM »
Great TR and wonderful photos, especially liked the bear and the cacti blossom close-ups. Thanks a million for sharing!
"Any time you're throwin dirt you're losin ground."

Cormac McCarthy, No Country for Old Men

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Offline Juan Cuatro Lados

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Re: A Bear of a trip!
« Reply #2 on: April 14, 2014, 08:14:37 AM »
Great stuff, thanks!

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Offline steelfrog

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Re: A Bear of a trip!
« Reply #3 on: April 14, 2014, 08:41:39 AM »
Awesome Cookie!

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Offline Hayduke

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Re: A Bear of a trip!
« Reply #4 on: April 14, 2014, 09:22:36 AM »
Cookie, looks like some fun exploring! I did something almost like this nearly 20 years ago but I followed the ridge from S of Laguna Meadow and stayed on it all the way to Ward. I was soloing.

At a low point in the ridge I had a clear view into the Cattail drainage and saw a mother bear and 2 cubs. Hey, maybe the grandmother of the one you saw, lol. It would have not taken much for the mama bear to catch up with me so I just kept moving. Looking forward to the rest.

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Offline Lance

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Re: A Bear of a trip!
« Reply #5 on: April 14, 2014, 11:49:16 AM »
As always, great work you two!
We did Ward Mountain on Saturday.  Got to the summit around 6pm after hiking from the basin and leaving from our campsite LM1.
Made it back to camp around 8 before it got dark.  Didn't realize there were two more sub-peaks beyond Ward, I just skipped them and went back to camp. 
Descended back into Cattail down a drainage to the SE of 6935.  Was somewhat worried I would enter below a impassable pouroff, but that didn't happen.
The next day we decided to skip Laguna Canyon and did 7140 & 7150 and then down to the dam and back to LM1.
Crazy topography back there.
Look forward to the rest of the report!

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Offline Buck

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Re: A Bear of a trip!
« Reply #6 on: April 14, 2014, 02:24:41 PM »
Awesome trek.   :notworthy:  You really feel like your on top of the world up there, don't you! Eagerly Looking forward to the next installment.

"Hey, how 'bout a Fandango..?"

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Offline Cookie

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Re: A Bear of a trip!
« Reply #7 on: April 14, 2014, 06:48:05 PM »
We headed up behind camp again, but took a different route to make it to the ridge. Again, the gloves were awesome. The course we took was a bit steep, but doable, and after a while we were on the ridge heading down. It was really beautiful, with the canyon dropping off on either side, and I was surprised at the sight of thick green trees down in the canyons.









 

We were heading to “Simmons Point” for lunch. We were getting really close, and even ElHombre commented he didn't think we would make it out to the point, but now it was just a few minutes away.
 

He was climbing ahead of me over a rise and stopped dead in his tracks. He looked down at me and said “BEAR!” and started yelling and banging his hiking poles together. So, we are on this ridge, with about a 200 ft. drop off on both sides. Elhombre slowly backed down the little rise, and we are both making a LOT of noise and sticking together. We backed up about 10 feet and here comes the bear over the rise looking at us. We quickly realize we must have inadvertently cornered him up on this ridge, and this was not good. He stayed where he was, and we slowly backed up. Once we had about 20 feet between us he started coming towards us again. He wasn't aggressive, even looked a bit dopey, but, this was a wild bear and we were in his territory. We were slowly working our way around the cactus, rocks and down climbing to get a little more distance between us. We finally hit a spot that looked like we could drop down into the canyon on the Fandango Falls side. We lost site of him going around some brush.  Once again, we moved quickly, but this time we headed down the side of the canyon. We made it to the bottom, and saw him moving up on the ridge, away from us. I tried to get a picture at this point, but my hands were shaking so bad, I only got a partial of his ear.



 I am not sure how long the encounter was, maybe 10 minutes, maybe 20, but I thought we made so much noise there would be rescue parties being launched to come save us. I will say that the little cheap whistle that was on my pack strap makes a very shrill annoying noise that seemed to work very well.

After checking our britches, we discussed options for the rest of the afternoon. We definitely did not want to return on the ridge we came down. We decided to head down to Fandango Falls, and if needed we could climb out on the other side and run the ridge back to camp. The pour off was breathtaking!





 



We even saw the Fandango Frog in the puddles.


After a nice break it was time to head back to camp. We started heading up the canyon to try and find a spot to bushwhack up to the ridge. The growth was really thick  down inside one of the sections in the canyon and made for slow going. We even saw a tree that the bear had put his mark on, about 6 ft up too. I am glad to say we did not see ol “Billy” again that day, but there was a lot of checking over my shoulder just to make sure. Our ascent up the ridge was steep and thick.

 
We finally made it up to the top of the ridge and trekked back towards our camp site. The weather was cloudy, and then we began to hear thunder. We even had a few sprinkles, but nothing heavy.

A look at the route we hiked that morning, right below the rock face.


 
As we were heading down towards camp, we ran into two gals that were doing research on mountain lions. We chatted with them about their projects, which is collaring all the mountain lions. I believe they said they have two collared so far. They were out setting up wildlife cameras in that area to track them. She said a guy from NM uses dogs to track and tree the lions.  Then they shoot' em with darts. After that, the dog handler climbs up the tree, grabs the now sleepy lion to keep him from falling, and lowers him down.  Now that is a hell of a job.
 
We made it back to LW1 for the night. This spot was a little flatter, but had lots of TP all over the backside of the camp. We headed back up the hill one more time for our last sunset. We had to backtrack from the night before because I had lost my knife at some point the previous evening. ElHombre with his eagle eyes actually was able to find it on our way up! I was overjoyed—it had been a Christmas present and I was really bummed when I realized it was gone.
 





So it was the perfect ending to an awesome weekend. We enjoyed the evening birdsong, a beautiful 6 point buck grazing nearby, and the stars coming out.




We were on the the trail in the morning, after lingering a bit and not wanting the trip to be over, by about 9am. It only took us 1 ½ hours to hike out. We were back to civilization and heading home all too soon. Another awesome trip to the Bend, and as always I love the fact there are still new areas to see and explore after all the years we have been going there.

~Cookie

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Offline trtlrock

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Re: A Bear of a trip!
« Reply #8 on: April 14, 2014, 07:13:26 PM »
Great report!
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 steelfrog

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Re: A Bear of a trip!
« Reply #9 on: April 14, 2014, 08:12:29 PM »
I am speechless Cookie!  Thanks for sharing!

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Offline TexasAggieHiker

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Re: A Bear of a trip!
« Reply #10 on: April 14, 2014, 10:32:41 PM »
AWESOME!  So many bears, I'm jealous.

I HATE that so many people refuse to carry out their TP!   :icon_evil:

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Offline mule ears

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Re: A Bear of a trip!
« Reply #11 on: April 15, 2014, 05:55:55 AM »
Great trip, some rough walking for sure, thanks!
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
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Offline Cookie

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Re: A Bear of a trip!
« Reply #12 on: April 15, 2014, 06:45:14 AM »
I HATE that so many people refuse to carry out their TP!   :icon_evil:


 :banghead: :banghead: :banghead: :banghead: :banghead: :banghead:
What I don't get is thinking your campsite is a bathroom, even dogs don't do that. Someone had done their business and left their TP 10 ft. from the Bear Box in LW1. I just can't figure out someone who would hike all that way and enjoy seeing TP all over the ground. It was much worse up above the campsite. I was happy to say in all our bushwhacking I didn't see any TP off trail!

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Offline Buck

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Re: A Bear of a trip!
« Reply #13 on: April 15, 2014, 09:17:09 AM »
Fantastic trip - love the shaking hands part!  Where would you say you dropped off the ridge into Laguna Canyon: how far above the pour-off were you and how difficult was it descending to the lip? 

Simmons Promontory will be there for you next time. 

Jose' is getting lonely.
"Hey, how 'bout a Fandango..?"

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Offline Homer67

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Re: A Bear of a trip!
« Reply #14 on: April 15, 2014, 12:50:57 PM »
Awesome hike and a great report!
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?

 


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