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Around Slickrock Mtn, Croton Peak, Paint Gap Hills and Grapevine Hills Dec. 2018

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Offline mule ears

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Really enjoyed this one, ME. You undertake BB treks that Iím not ready to even consider yet. But you may inspire me to one day do something more ambitious. I often wonder how Iíd do solo. I donít think I would get ďscared,Ē but think itís highly likely Iíd get lonely. Even though I go to BB to get away from other people, having at least one other person with whom to experience the desert is alway nice.

Thanks congahead, this was a really enjoyable walk.  You will get there on longer off trail walks, your short ones, like around the Chimneys area, are how we all started doing off trail.  I started backpacking by myself (without adults) at 13 but didn't really start doing these long off trail walks until I was 48, some of the years delay was time and money to get away but "practice makes perfect" the more you do the more comfortable you get with it.  Now that I am in my early 60's there is some imperative to get these trips done while I still have the stamina.  Experience also reduces most fear factors, even when with other people.  My biggest fear these days is becoming temporarily misplaced but with good maps and my tiny gps for location it is almost cheating and too easy, especially in a place like Big Bend where you can usually see some major landmark.  I am not afraid of animals (short of grizzly's, which we all should be wary of ) and with the availability of decent weather forecasts one can really tune in the equipment needed.  The only other fear would be random humans but generally if you are off trail you will not run into them either.

You would be surprised by the lack of loneliness at least for a week or less.  You spend so much time with route finding and navigation and as Colin Fletcher would say "managing your own little economy" that you don't really miss people other than maybe in the evenings in camp which is why many solo hikers walk dawn to dusk and get into camp at dark, eat and go to sleep and start the next day at first light.  If you add in something like serious photography and you can really burn up the spare time.  Like I said earlier, I do enjoy having at least one other person with me to share both the experience and the decision making as long as they are fairly experienced.  While I usually plan and "lead" most of my trips I don't want to have to be fully responsible for my hiking companions because that would diminish the experience for me unless it is an easy weekend trip on trails.

The other part is extensive pre-trip research, which because I am flying in from such a long distance, at some expense, I don't want to screw up and waste time by not having a really clear plan and idea of what I am going to do.  I love maps anyway but I spend hours studying maps in Caltopo, revising routes, measuring distances, drilling down at potential obstacles in Google Earth, reading trip reports, etc.  For long trips like these I develop a detailed day to day trip plan with general route, camp locations, mileage, water sources and a link to the Caltopo map which I share with both my hiking partners but of course leave with the wives.  I know that Robert, HMoD and others do the same thing.  You will get there too.

Here is this trips plan:

Across NW Big Bend, 70 miles, 10 days gone

12/7, Fri. SW 2212 6:30 Fly in late morning to San Antonio 10:20, Thrifty rental car, lunch at De Weseís Tip Top Cafe chicken fried steak, get fuel canister (REI Huebner Oaks) and last things, drive to Marathon (5 hrs by I-10), Marathon Motel (866)386-4241 , eat at Brick Vault BBQ and Brewery.
 
12/8 Sat. Trail Day 1- breakfast in Marathon, drive to park by 9:00, get permit, drop caches, park at Fossil Bone head up Tornillo Creek by 12:00.  Start with 2-3 qts pick up 2-3.  Camp near Seco spring 8.5 miles. NO2.
 
12/9 Sun. Trail Day 2- On up to Dripping Spring water (pick up 6 qts.) or water at Painted Hills spring (if no water then will have to head towards cache through Paint Gap will add 2 miles to the day), camp west side of Onion Flat, 11 miles. NO1.
 
12/10 Mon. Trail Day 3- over to and down Rough Run to Dike Tinaja (water), 11.5 miles. NO1.

12/11 Tues. Trail Day 4- leave with 3 qts., up Dike tinaja wash pick up food cache, then over to Cottonwood creek, camp Slickrock canyon, 8.5 miles. May swing by Swirl Tinaja then up towards Cottonwood creek, adds ~2 miles.  NO1.

12/12 Wed. Trail Day 5- carry 5-6 qts. from Slickrock, back track to Croton Springs and up to camp east of Croton Peak, 10 miles.  Day hike Croton Peak (3 miles rt), NO1.

12/13 Thurs. Trail Day 6- South of Paint Gap Hills, water cache at road (6 qts.), NW to Lorn Spring area, 9.5 miles.  Geminid meteor shower peak. NO2.
 
12/14 Fri. Trail Day 7- Grapevine Hills (water probably at Neville spring) to Avery Canyon back to car, 11 miles.  Night in Terlingua, Chisos Mining Co. motel, 432-371-2254

12/15, Sat. Drive back to San Antonio via US 90, late lunch at Heavyís in Hondo (6 hrs).  La Quinta Airport

12/16, Sun.  Fly home in the morning.  SW 4375 7:00, arrive RDU SW 1497 12:40

National Park- (432) 477-2251

Full moon, Dec. 22nd, New moon Dec. 7th, light just after 7:00, dark just after 6:00

Average Dec. temps at Panther Junction 63 and 39.  Record high 81, low 26
Walk by ~20 springs
Need 4.8 oz. fuel, could try and stretch one 4 oz. canister
Need 6 breakfast, 7 lunch, 6 dinners.  In small bear can 3 B, 4 L, 3 D
« Last Edit: January 21, 2019, 03:20:26 PM by mule ears »
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
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Offline elhombre

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Thanks for taking the time for posting a great trip report.  I know it has been a wet year, but did you come away with a good idea of which springs are solid ones to count on?
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Offline mule ears

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Thanks for taking the time for posting a great trip report.  I know it has been a wet year, but did you come away with a good idea of which springs are solid ones to count on?

Thanks el hombre and for the tip on the satellite phones. 

I would say the only real solid one is Dike Tinaja spring.  The place in Tornillo I have labeled as trtlrock water I think has pretty consistent water from looking at various years on Google Earth.  Both Dripping and Painted Hills springs are probably good in average years but not dry years.  Slickrock canyon can hold a ton of water but I would say that after Feb. in most years it could be dry.  Unfortunately that is about it.  I had planned on water in Tornillo, Dike and Slickrock and then water from my cache if Dripping was dry and for the last two days.
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Hang ON!  STOP THE PRESSES!!!




There was clearly water running down the wash a few days ago, this guy did not make the swim.




Grasshopper Mouse, probably the Southern species (Onychomys torridus)... you can tell Grasshoppers by the short tail.


I was doing a little Big Bend wildlife research tonight. I happened to be scanning the mammal list when I noticed that the status of Onychomys, the Grasshopper Mouse genus, is listed as EXTREMELY RARE, with only one known specimen from Big Bend National Park.

So I did a little more reading. Grasshopper Mice are always scarce. I discovered that there are no known records of the Northern Grasshopper Mouse (Onychomys leucogaster) in Brewster County, and that the Southern Grasshopper Mouse (Onychomys torrida), after careful DNA analysis, has been split into two species. There are no known records of the original, Onychomys Torrida, in Brewster County, and there may only be a single record of the split-off species, Onychomys arenicola, or Mearns Grasshopper Mouse in the county, and that specimen was taken years ago near Gano Spring in BBNP. In the grand scheme of BBNP, Gano is not that far from the part of Rough Run where you found your specimen, ME, and it's in generally the same kind of habitat (a little scrubbier).

Now I'm pretty darn sure your photo is of a Grasshopper Mouse, but I'm an ornithologist, not a mammalogist.  Nor can I say for certain which Grasshopper Mouse species that might be, but any way you slice it, that's an EXTREMELY RARE find. And, even better, ME, you have an excellent photo of it and you know almost exactly where you found the specimen.  This info should be forwarded to the BBNP wildlife biologist. Unfortunately, the park is closed right now, and Raymond Skiles, who held that position for years, has just retired.  Still, this needs to get to somebody in the park ASAP.

Here's a link to an online checklist of mammals in the park. 

https://visitbigbend.com/mammals/

Here's a link to the species account from Davis & Schmidly's Mammals of Texas.

http://www.nsrl.ttu.edu/tmot1/onycaren.htm

As well as a longer, more informative link from the same source, but about the very similar Northern Grasshopper Mouse

http://www.nsrl.ttu.edu/tmot1/onycleuc.htm

Lastly, check out this Nat Geo video about the Onychomys genus (ignore the Sonoran part) and then tell me you're not blown away.......



That is totally awesome!  I had no idea that there were mice that were meat eaters and scorpion killers to boot, throw in the wolf howl and that is one fearsome mouse!  I am sorry I didn't roll him over and take a picture of the backside.  I will report it after the government shutdown.  Thanks HMoD, I know you are feeling better now when you are up at midnight researching mice!

Hahaha!  I AM feeling better. I was planning on going to bed at 10pm, but decided to check the status of porcupine in Big Bend before I hit the sack. Scanning the mammal list, I noticed it only featured one Onychomys mouse and it WASN'T the torrida species I'd told you about. In fact, it was a species I'd never even heard of.....well, you can imagine the rabbit hole that sent me down. Next thing I knew, it was midnight and I'd discovered your mouse was about as rare as anything gets in Big Bend. The cool thing, ME, is that photo you took will probably go down as only the SECOND specimen of that creature to ever be found in the park, maybe even the whole county. It's a big deal...and we almost overlooked it.  Thank goodness for BBC and trip reports!!!
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Offline House Made of Dawn

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I knew it was too good to be true. Just found a monograph published by Texas Tech in 2006, summarizing a year-long mammal inventory of the Harte Ranch property, just north of Persimmon Gap. They collected 13 specimens of Mearnís Grasshopper Mouse (O. arenicola). So.....not quite as rare as the earlier checklist indicated. Still, if I were you, Iíd report your sighting and see what the BIBE staff say about it.


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

Thanks for the TR ME! Good stuff.

Looking at your Neville springs pic; is that what I thought was the old officer's cabin? I have a photo of it from 2007 but it had an entire wall still standing. And I believe the post was only foundation lines in the ground under that cottonwood tree.


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Offline mule ears

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It does look like the same place with part of the wall around the chimney fallen down.  I didn't look for the post building foundations near the cottonwoods, figured it was further up the hill from the spring area.  Oh well I guess I will have to just go back!

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Offline badknees

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It does look like the same place with part of the wall around the chimney fallen down.  I didn't look for the post building foundations near the cottonwoods, figured it was further up the hill from the spring area.  Oh well I guess I will have to just go back!

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Post foundations


Spring in Feb 2013

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Offline mule ears

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It does look like the same place with part of the wall around the chimney fallen down.  I didn't look for the post building foundations near the cottonwoods, figured it was further up the hill from the spring area.  Oh well I guess I will have to just go back!

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Post foundations


Spring in Feb 2013



Thanks BK, I must have walked close to them as I wandered back and forth up on the benches above the spring.
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
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Offline Talusman

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The other part is extensive pre-trip research, which because I am flying in from such a long distance, at some expense, I don't want to screw up and waste time by not having a really clear plan and idea of what I am going to do.  I love maps anyway but I spend hours studying maps in Caltopo, revising routes, measuring distances, drilling down at potential obstacles in Google Earth, reading trip reports, etc.  For long trips like these I develop a detailed day to day trip plan with general route, camp locations, mileage, water sources and a link to the Caltopo map which I share with both my hiking partners but of course leave with the wives.  I know that Robert, HMoD and others do the same thing.  You will get there too.

Thanks for such a detailed explanation of your planning and what another, within a massive collection of great trip reports, great trip report. A guy who lives that far way and spends that much time, money and effort to come all the way out here, loves this place beyond what most can comprehend. I am glad to know that others spend so much time pouring over maps and planning. I'll spend massive amounts of time looking over maps, satellite, etc. trying to figure out all I can before I go. One thing I have found in Big bend and Guadalupe Mountains, especially up high and into the canyons, is nothing I study ever covers all the details and I find surprises everywhere that an change my plans. How often do you find landscapes presenting obstacles, surprises, blessings and wonders that you could not account for in all your planning? And what were one or more of your biggest surprises? Thanks again for sharing a great trip!
« Last Edit: January 16, 2019, 01:13:11 PM by RichardM »
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Offline mule ears

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The other part is extensive pre-trip research, which because I am flying in from such a long distance, at some expense, I don't want to screw up and waste time by not having a really clear plan and idea of what I am going to do.  I love maps anyway but I spend hours studying maps in Caltopo, revising routes, measuring distances, drilling down at potential obstacles in Google Earth, reading trip reports, etc.  For long trips like these I develop a detailed day to day trip plan with general route, camp locations, mileage, water sources and a link to the Caltopo map which I share with both my hiking partners but of course leave with the wives.  I know that Robert, HMoD and others do the same thing.  You will get there too.

Thanks for such a detailed explanation of your planning and what another, within a massive collection of great trip reports, great trip report. A guy who lives that far way and spends that much time, money and effort to come all the way out here, loves this place beyond what most can comprehend. I am glad to know that others spend so much time pouring over maps and planning. I'll spend massive amounts of time looking over maps, satellite, etc. trying to figure out all I can before I go. One thing I have found in Big bend and Guadalupe Mountains, especially up high and into the canyons, is nothing I study ever covers all the details and I find surprises everywhere that an change my plans. How often do you find landscapes presenting obstacles, surprises, blessings and wonders that you could not account for in all your planning? And what were one or more of your biggest surprises? Thanks again for sharing a great trip!

Thank you much Talusman, Big Bend is surely one of my favorite places on earth.  Everyones contributions on BBC makes it even more so.

Many times I am surprised by the on the ground reality vs. the map or satellite.  Like you said the more vertical the environment the more surprises.  There have been many large and small.  The absolutely boulder choked bottom of Arroyo Venado in 2017 completely took me by surprise and even today looking at it on satellite and knowing what it is like it does not look it is that way.  Of course the biggest still might be walking to the top of Bryan's Falls in 1974, from the topo there is almost no indication that such a drop could be there of course that was pre satellite viewing days.
« Last Edit: January 16, 2019, 01:14:45 PM by RichardM »
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
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Offline Lance

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ME, the format of your trip reports are the best. With the maps and photos it sure makes it easy to read and follow. As always, thanks for taking the time to write them up and share.
I marked the tinaja you found on the BiBe GE Project.

Now off to read HMOD's latest trip report, which will probably take a few days to get through.  :icon_lol:

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Offline mule ears

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Thanks Lance, I was just trolling around at the Google Earth Project, I probably need to spend some more time there.   :great:

You been to the park lately and done anything interesting like you always do? 
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Offline Lance

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You been to the park lately and done anything interesting like you always do?

Nothing recently unfortunately. I got tortured by Steelfrog on the OML in August, that's about it. Going during Spring Break with the family though, so that will be good.

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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You been to the park lately and done anything interesting like you always do?

Nothing recently unfortunately. I got tortured by Steelfrog on the OML in August, that's about it.

 :rolling:

Going during Spring Break with the family though, so that will be good.

IIRC, you have a young son, Lance.  That should be a really great family trip. 


And I second your and Talusman's comments on ME's trip reports. They were some of the very first I read on BBC, and it's fair to say that they went a long way toward changing how I approached backpacking in BiBe.
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

 


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