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Another week of day hikes: 30 January – 4 February, 2020

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Offline congahead

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Another week of day hikes: 30 January – 4 February, 2020
« on: February 14, 2020, 08:55:00 AM »
My wife and I spent another great week dayhiking in the national park. It was ostensibly a birthday gift for me, but she enjoys it at least as much as I do. This was my 18th trip to the park, unless I’m forgetting some.

I guess I’m getting soft in my old age, because instead of backpacking we once again lived in the luxury of the Big Bend Casitas and ate out every night. The casitas are certainly pricier than other local options like the Chisos Mining Company Motel, but they’re very nice.

We left Houston at 09:00 on Thursday the 30th, taking I-10 the entire way instead of opting for US90 like we often do. Had lunch at Cooper’s in Junction; it was fine but I think Lum’s is better.

Arrived at the casitas around 6:30. Unloaded and ate next door at Rio Bravo. It was tastier than I’d remembered.

We slept in every day and left the cottages between 07:00 and 08:00.

Friday, 31 January

Day 1 we entered at Maverick, stopped a PJ to review the latest books, and then went to Persimmon Gap to hike Dog Canyon and Devil’s Den. I’d done for former twice and the latter once; my wife had done neither.

First was Dog Canyon. IMO, it has among the highest ROIs of any hike in the park – minimal effort, maximum beauty. We hiked through the canyon and continued to the park boundary at the barbed wire fence.

Here’s the Mrs. with Dog Canyon to the west behind her.



To get to Devil’s Den, we eschewed the “back” route and opted to hike back out to Nine Point Draw, then follow it to the wash that leads to the den. We also decided to walk on the rim above the den instead of into the den itself. It was quite windy up there.



I tried to follow the ridge up to Point 3470 but got confused and ended up walking to some boulders at the top of a shorter point just east of 3470. I briefly considered trying for 3470 but was tired of all of run-ins with the cacti.

The view from up there was fantastic.



We have had numerous run-ins with every type of nasty plant in the Bend, and we’ve lost every one of them. After this trip, we remain 0-for-cactus. On our return to the car, a particularly nasty cactus leapt up and aggressively attacked Mrs. Congahead’s shin. Her idea was for me to pull it out … with my bare hands. I used my trekking poles instead.

We hiked back through Nine Point Draw again, instead of through the Devi’s Den wash. I tried the latter a few years ago and IIRC the wash was clogged with all kinds of flora.

On the way back we noticed this cool marker to Dog Canyon, which we’d missed on the way out.



Total for the day: 10.60 miles.

Dinner at the Starlight. First time I’d had their chili – very tasty.

That night we gathered around the fire pit at the Big Bend Casitas, sotol margaritas in hand, and meet an independent filmmaker from Dallas, and his wife, along with two couples from Austin who were there to enjoy one of the ladies’ birthdays. I’m kind of introverted, but always enjoy making small talk with strangers there – strangers I’ve never seen before and will never see gain.

Saturday, 1 February

Today was a day for exploring new territory for us: Estufa Canyon to the Banta Shut-In on Tornillo Creek. I’d read about this in Parent’s book and wanted to try it for a while.

We once again putzed around in the morning and did not arrive at the trailhead until about 9:30. It’s at the end of K-Bar road, at the KB 2 campsite.

Parent’s book says to find the remnants of an old road heading east from the campsite. If you can find it, your eyes are better than mine. We looked for it for half an hour. Finally, we noticed the actual trailhead, which is not a road, but a clearly marked trail, that heads SSE from just behind the bear box. Duh. We still weren’t sure we were on the right trail until it turned eastward after about a half-mile. It was easy scrub walking, following the cairns. We missed one and wasted another 10 minutes trying to pick up the trail again (we finally did).

After about 1.5 miles, the trail ends and drops fairly steeply into an unnamed (as far as I know) wash that eventually leads to Estufa Canyon. The drop was a bit too steep for the Mrs. to walk it confidently, so she did what she always does in this situation: drops to her bottom and scooches down the hill. Laugh, but she’s never sprained an ankle while hiking. You can kind of see her here.



Another half-mile or so and we’re at the intersection with Estufa Canyon, where we hang a right. A neat hike with lots of interesting geology that looks like sand castles in many places.





The ground was fairly tightly packed, and the weather was cool, which made for some fast and comfortable hiking. Along the way, we started doing math (not my strong suit) and realized that our late start would likely have us returning after sunset if we go all the way to Banta Shut-In. And that’s if we pick up the pace, and don’t hang out in the Shut-In at all.

We thought about it for a minute and realized we should turn around short of our goal. We still had a good 4-ish miles to go and didn’t want to rush the experience. Better off to do it again when we can get an earlier start, or when we can backpack it, and enjoy some down time at the shut-in.

We had an enjoyable hike back, walking and talking side-by-side. In fact, Mrs. says this was her favorite part of our trip because we actually talked while hiking. We made it back to the car with daylight to spare.

Total for the day: 9.63 miles.

Dinner at the La Kiva. Again at the fire pit (and again with sotol margaritas), we met four guys who are there for a guys’ weekend of hiking. Cousins and brothers. One of them said he is a second or third cousin of the late Richard M. Their grandfathers were brothers. Said he never met Richard M., but knows about him. Small world.

Sunday, 2 February

So the plan was to hike the first 6 – 7 miles of the Telephone Canyon trail to where it drops into the canyon, to scout out the first part of an overnighter my son and I are considering.

Again we got off to a late start. Hey, we’re on vacation, and it’s in the 30s every morning.

A ranger had told us to approach TC from the southern end of Old Ore Road, so that’s what we did. We bounced around for 30 minutes getting to Ernst Tinaja. Again I did math and realized we’re still at least an hour away from the TC trailhead, which would put us on the trail around noon. We’d be lucky to make it to the drop off into the canyon before sundown … then we’d have to hike back and drive another 90+ minutes to pavement.

Ain’t happening.

So we turned around and drove 30 minutes back to pavement.

Plan B: Hike the first 5-ish miles of the southern end of Strawhouse, at least to the canyon, to scout out the last part of the overnighter my son and I are considering.

We didn’t even make it to the Marufo Vega cutoff before we began running out of steam. 20 miles over the first two days had left us tired.

So we decided that Sunday (or at least the second half of it) shall be a day of rest.

We go back to PJ and look around the bookstore some more, then grab some snacks at the nearby gas station.

Dinner at Chili Pepper, then back to the fire pit, where we met with the four guys and the Austin quintet and trade yarns. One of them kept us up to date on the Super Bowl via his phone.

No photos from this day.

Total for the day: 3.34 miles

Monday, 3 February

Okay, this was our last day of hiking, so we needed to make it count.

We were looking for something new, and one of the workers at Far Flung suggested Indian Head. I’d read about it on BBC before and planned to do it on previous trips but somehow always forgot.

For those of you who don’t know about it (it’s not in Parent’s book or any of the official park literature, as far as I know), the trailhead is easily reached via Indian Head Road right behind the gas station in Study Butte. The trail itself begins at the park border, marked with a barbed wire fence and the appropriate signage.

The highlight is a collection of petroglyphs of various ages. We were initially behind a tour group (also of various ages), but they turned around when the trail reaches Indian Head Spring, which has a decent supply of water.



We wanted to keep going, but the trail across the wash past the spring was a bit too sketchy for our tastes, so we backtracked and found an easier place to cross the wash before we picked up the trail on the other side.

The trail quickly ends in another wash. We decided to walk north to another park boundary just for the heck of it. So we followed a couple of washes until we got to the barbed-wire fence.

We then turned around for our return trek, which is where one of the funniest (now) moments of the trip occurred. It was another instance of my wife catching fire in the desert, although completely different from the first time: https://www.bigbendchat.com/portal/forum/your-trip-reports/trip-report-the-chimneys-feb-10-11-2018/msg160561/#msg160561

My wife has frequently pointed out to me that taking a leak while hiking is infinitely easier for me than for her, due to different plumbing configurations. On our OML trip a few years ago, she even expressed envy at the male anatomy and wished – just for the duration of the hike – that she were similarly equipped.

Apparently, even after two kids and 30+ years of marriage, I still do not fully appreciate the differences between the male and female anatomies, at least while hiking. The result of this is that when she needs to go #1 and tells me to wait, I wait what I deem the appropriate amount of time to accomplish the task and then resume my hike, whether she is finished or not.

This makes her angry.

Well, apparently I’d done this one too many times, so when it happened again on the way back to the trailhead, she’d had enough and let me know about it.

In case there are children reading this, I won’t provide the actual transcript of her comments, but they went something like this: “STOP! I WOULD APPRECIATE IF YOU WOULD WAIT FOR ME TO FINISH! WHEN YOU NEED TO GO, ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS $#%& YOUR *(&*@!,  WHILE I HAVE TO PRACTICALLY DISROBE! YOU DO THIS ALL THE TIME AND IT &^%$ ME OFF!”

Fortunately this happened off-trail in a remote portion of the park.

There was a good amount of silence for the first few minutes after that, when we resumed hiking. Then, after I acknowledged that she was right, apologized and promised not to ever do it again, we both started laughing about what we now refer to as the “meltdown in the desert.”

After we got back to the car, we headed to the Ghost Town, had some drinks and did the self-guided tour that we hadn’t done in many years. We also spent quite a bit of time in the cemetery.

Then we drove back into the park because this was our last day. As we drove down Ross Maxwell, it started to rain, heavily for a few minutes. It’s something we don’t get to experience much in the Bend. We stopped at Sam Nail and ran into the four guys on the guys’ trip, who had just finished Cattail Falls. A further drive down to Sotol Vista to soak in our last few minutes until our next trip.



That night we ate at High Sierra.

It stormed heavily that night for a while, so we eschewed the fire pit and drank margaritas on the porch of the cabin and watched a lightning display to the south.

Total for the day: 4.05 miles

Tuesday, 4 February

Got up early and drove back to Houston.

I keep thinking that one day, perhaps, I’ll get tired of Big Bend. But after 18 trips there, it hasn’t happened yet. My wife refers to BB as her “thin place,” a phrase from Celtic spirituality used to describe a sacred place where the distance between heaven and earth is so small that they are practically one.

I can’t think of a better description.
« Last Edit: February 22, 2020, 06:43:59 AM by congahead »
"The animals here will generally try to avoid you, but the plants will hurt you every chance they get."

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Offline DesertRatShorty

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Re: A week of day hikes: 30 January – 4 February, 2020
« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2020, 09:29:36 AM »
I'm not able to see the photos currently, even with clicking the link.

I used imgur.com for my last trip report and it made posting images very easy, much less clicking that Flickr.
I roamed and rambled, and I foller'ed my footsteps
   To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
   And all around me a voice was a'sounding
   This land was made for you and me

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Offline congahead

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Re: A week of day hikes: 30 January – 4 February, 2020
« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2020, 09:42:25 AM »
Thanks, DRS. I just set up an Imgur account and tried inserting the first photo using both the Insert Image and Insert Hyperlink tools. Insert Image doesn't seem to be working; perhaps Insert Hyperlink is (works for me, but then again it's my account).
"The animals here will generally try to avoid you, but the plants will hurt you every chance they get."

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Offline mule ears

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Re: A week of day hikes: 30 January – 4 February, 2020
« Reply #3 on: February 14, 2020, 11:26:07 AM »
congahead I fixed the first imgur picture by right clicking on the image in imgur and copied the image address and then it worked with the image insert button but it doesn't let me see the google photos.
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: A week of day hikes: 30 January – 4 February, 2020
« Reply #4 on: February 14, 2020, 12:58:12 PM »
These are from 2016.  Clearly, some wag is using Dog Canyon as their own personal canvas.  I say, more power to 'em. 

Dog Canyon Cairn 1 by The Complete Walker, on Flickr

Dog Canyon Cairn 2 by The Complete Walker, on Flickr


I keep thinking that one day, perhaps, I’ll get tired of Big Bend. But after 18 trips there, it hasn’t happened yet. My wife refers to BB as her “thin place,” a phrase from Celtic spirituality used to describe a sacred place where the distance between heaven and earth is so small that they are practically one.

I can’t think of a better description.

Nor can I.   I've said it before, and I'll say it again: you are a lucky man, Congahead.  Here's to many more happy trails for you and Mrs. Congahead.   :great:
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline tortuga

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Re: A week of day hikes: 30 January – 4 February, 2020
« Reply #5 on: February 14, 2020, 06:32:56 PM »
Thanks for posting this report.  I only day hike—don’t have it in me to backpack.  It was nice to read about the adventures of people like me.

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Offline alan in shreveport

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Re: A week of day hikes: 30 January – 4 February, 2020
« Reply #6 on: February 14, 2020, 08:59:32 PM »
Really enjoyed your report. I'm also a day hiker, as my back won't allow anything more. Lots of ground to cover , none the less.

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Offline congahead

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Re: A week of day hikes: 30 January – 4 February, 2020
« Reply #7 on: February 15, 2020, 09:00:18 AM »
Yeah, I used to think that day hiking was less worthy of trip reports (and of effort, in general) than backpacking.

Truth is that I do both and enjoy both, but my dayhiking to backpacking ratio is at least 2:1 - and it will probably grow as I get older.

There are trade-offs and plusses/minuses to each.

The two biggest plusses of dayhiking to me are 1) carrying less weight, and 2) indoor plumbing.

Bottom line is I just like walking around outside.
"The animals here will generally try to avoid you, but the plants will hurt you every chance they get."

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Offline dprather

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Re: A week of day hikes: 30 January – 4 February, 2020
« Reply #8 on: February 15, 2020, 10:43:01 AM »
You and your wife have ( :icon_rolleyes:gasp :icon_rolleyes:) moments??????
Leave "quit" at the car.  Embrace the trail as your friend.  Expect to enjoy yourself, and to be amazed.

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Offline congahead

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Re: A week of day hikes: 30 January – 4 February, 2020
« Reply #9 on: February 20, 2020, 07:40:17 PM »
You and your wife have ( :icon_rolleyes:gasp :icon_rolleyes:) moments??????

Ha! Yes we do, and the overwhelming majority are great ones!
"The animals here will generally try to avoid you, but the plants will hurt you every chance they get."

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Offline Girl on Fire

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Re: Another week of day hikes: 30 January – 4 February, 2020
« Reply #10 on: February 23, 2020, 04:34:31 PM »
I decided to join BBC so I could add additional context to Congahead’s post about another fiery moment in the Big Bend a couple of weeks ago. It was more of pot boiling over, emotional moment, on our last day hiking.

(BTW, I am no longer “Mrs. Congahead,” but “Girl On Fire” with my own BBC identity and account, based on a previous experience documented here http://www.bigbendchat.com/portal/forum/your-trip-reports/trip-report-the-chimneys-feb-10-11-2018/msg160561/#msg160561. I can’t believe it’s been two years since my Girl On Fire moment in Big Bend. Thanks Quatro for the username suggestion.)

Different anatomies make for very different experiences when needing to heed the call of nature or “make water “ in the desert. My male hiking partner’s (congahead) experience goes something like this: He feels the urge, looks around to make sure the coast is clear, props his trekking poles on a nearby bush, steps off trail, turns his back toward the trail to appear to be studying a plant, slightly adjusts his hiking clothes to accommodate the activity, “waters the desert,” readjusts his hiking clothing, steps back on the trail, picks up his trekking poles, and resumes hike.

My experience goes something like this: We pull into the trailhead parking area. If it is empty I am celebrating in my mind, if it is full of cars the anxiety level inches up because this makes “watering the desert” even more complicated. If I see an empty Boy Scout van I am almost at panic attack level knowing the simple act of peeing has become a monumental task. Experience tells me Boy Scouts hike in groups of 3-4 and hike at various speeds having groupings of Scouts on a trail for a distance of a mile and a half from the fastest to slowest. At this point I get out of the car and curse myself for hydrating so well before the hike, pray for a miracle to “hold it” the entire 10 miles of hiking, and start off on my enjoyable hike into the desert.

My prayer isn’t answered- I need to “make water.” I start looking for a break in other hiker travel (if hiking a trail with Scouts this is a hopeless undertaking). I start scouting for a good spot - plant coverage is a plus to keep a full-moon-rising experience to a minimum (if Boy Scouts are on the trail, my bum sighting will be a story told in the back of the troop van on the way home.) I also have to be aware that too much plant coverage is dangerous and can cause injury to my delicate regions. Now I need to find my clean tissue paper and my pee baggy to pack out all paper from the watering experience. At this point I take off my pack because balancing in the desert is hard enough with just body weight, I drop my trekking poles, grab my pee essentials, turn to my hiking partner and appoint him lookout, head off trail to scouted spot, practically disrobe as I pull down my pants and assume a deep squat most CrossFitters would envy. I have to keep my feet spread and my hiking pants pulled away from the stream while still allowing for balance. As I begin to “water the desert,” I am praying I judged the slope of the ground correctly and do not end up having the “water” pool around my feet. About the time I achieve the point of no return (Every! Single! Time!), my lookout yells, “Hello there,” as if speaking to another hiker. There is a 1% chance of another hiker on the trail and a 99% chance my lookout thinks he is funny. I manage to accomplish my task and stand up without losing my balance. I even manage to put the used paper into the pack out pee baggy without losing it in a gust of wind. I pull my pants back up and head back to the trail only to find my pack and trekking poles lying abandoned - my lookout has disappeared. I guess I used up what he thought was the appropriate amount of time for the task and he resumed hiking without me. I angrily put on my pack, pick up my trekking poles and scan the environment for the person I thought was my hiking partner. I see the top of his head in a distance and try my best to catch up.

This is typical for my experience, except for the last hike, last day a few weeks ago. We were off trail and alone and I boiled over when I found he moved on without me yet again. He had a hard time keeping a straight face once I finally caught up to him. He heard me coming long before he saw me. Evidently, I say funny things when angry.

And I still want to go back and hike some more.


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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Another week of day hikes: 30 January – 4 February, 2020
« Reply #11 on: February 23, 2020, 05:23:31 PM »
Welcome, Girl on Fire!!!! I am so very happy you are here.




Sent from my iPhone using Big Bend Chat
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline Lissa

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Re: Another week of day hikes: 30 January – 4 February, 2020
« Reply #12 on: February 23, 2020, 06:09:55 PM »
This trip report absolutely made my day. until I read the origins of “Girl On Fire” and that was better.

also - can incredibly relate to your experience.  I especially like how the trail will be empty for hours and then the people emerge from nowhere when you step off trail for a break. Can’t count how many times that has happened.

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Offline congahead

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Re: Another week of day hikes: 30 January – 4 February, 2020
« Reply #13 on: February 23, 2020, 06:40:05 PM »
This will be our trip report format from now on ... I'll post something, then Girl On Fire will have equal time for rebuttal.  :icon_smile:

I will vouch for the fact that her hiking partner can be a jerk at times. :icon_rolleyes:
"The animals here will generally try to avoid you, but the plants will hurt you every chance they get."

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Offline tortuga

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Re: Another week of day hikes: 30 January – 4 February, 2020
« Reply #14 on: February 23, 2020, 06:50:13 PM »
I can completely relate about peeing on the trail.  I like to get there early before the crowds arrive for that reason!  I avoid the most popular places, especially on weekends. 

 


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