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Flash Aug. 9-16, 2014 Trip

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Online Flash

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Flash Aug. 9-16, 2014 Trip
« on: September 05, 2014, 11:21:16 PM »
August 9–16, 2014 Big Bend Trip Report
 
With a busy summer at my job, two teenagers working, and one in summer school, I got the chance to take a week of vacation before the school year started up in late August.  With the support and encouragement of my wife, I gathered up food and gear, planning to bring equipment for both backpacking and car camping. I had a list of things I wanted to do, but wanted flexibility depending upon weather, whims, and fancies.

Day 0 – Saturday August 9 - Houston to the Sanderson via I-10 and US 90

My plan was to drive from Houston to Sanderson, stay at the Outback Oasis Motel, and then prep my gear for a 2-nighter in the Chisos Mountains the next day. Getting an early start, I hopped on I-10, stopped at the rest area west of Columbus, shot right on through SA turning onto US 90, and then had lunch in Castroville at Bill Miller Bar-B-Q. Back on Hwy 90, I drove to Uvalde stopping for a gas and a leg stretch along the Leona River. Reaching Del Rio, I took the new Loop 79 bypass, and uneventfully passed through the BP Inspection Station. When I reached Comstock, it happened. After viewing all the BP facilities, I did a U-turn and decided to head north up TX 163 into the Devil's River country that I had recently been reading about. Driving about 12-miles, I found a historical marker for infamous Deadman's Pass, site of many an ambush. It was time to get back on task, so I turned around heading back to Comstock and continuing westward.

Stopping at the Pecos River Bridge.




Viewing the huge railroad trestle across the Pecos River about 4-miles away from the overlook at the site of Vinegaroon.




Moving on to Langtry, I drove around the windy streets determined to get a better view of Eagle Nest Canyon. Impressed, I am thinking I would like to try hiking from the River back up to US 90 sometime and see if I can check out one of the rock shelters that are obvious in the distance along the creek.

Three shots of Eagle Nest Canyon. In the first one, I believe this may be the Eagle Nest Cave above which was the original eagle nest in days of yore that gave creek, canyon, and cave their names.









Next reaching Dryden and I had to stop under the old store and walk about for a bit.




Finally, I reached Sanderson and the Outback Oasis Motel where with little fanfare, Roy checked me in, thinking I may have been awakened him from his nap. There being no eating places open, except for Stripes across the street, I gassed up there and then bought a plate of pretty okay enchiladas to take back to my motel room.

Unloading the backpacking gear that was stored in bins, I went through my checklist and made my last minute selections. Due to a chance of thundershowers still indicated for Sunday afternoon, the pack cover and rain gear were now a definite go. The hammock, chair, and two cans of beer were of course included. Not knowing the water situation for sure, I loaded 9-liters of water. Thinking that should be enough, but I was also planning to get more from either Upper Cattail or Boot Canyon, if available.

Once the pack was loaded and all watered up, I took a break and walked around outside for some fresh air, enjoying the somewhat cooler evening and the almost, not quite, super moon. Strolling around to the west side of the complex, that's when Roy spots me and calls me over to where he is sitting with three merry friends unwinding after a day of tending deer feeders on their hunting lease. Waving a huge mostly empty bottle of tequila, one smiling hospitable fellow refused to let me go without having at least one shot of his very special tequila. These guys and Roy were quite a hoot to say the least. Finally, after no less than three rounds of their generosity, I thanked them all, said goodnight, and this lightweight trundled off to bed.

To be continued...
« Last Edit: November 08, 2014, 08:29:10 PM by Flash »

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Offline Hoodoo

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Re: Aug. 9-16, 2014
« Reply #1 on: September 06, 2014, 01:04:16 PM »

 Viewing the huge railroad trestle across the Pecos River about 4-miles away from the overlook at the site of Vinegaroon.


The huge railroad trestle shown in your photo is only the trusses on the top of the bridge. It looks similar to the Highway 90 bridge from below.
Can't seem to imbed images from panoramio, so here is a link
http://www.panoramio.com/photo/21930880?source=wapi&referrer=kh.google.com
Moderator Note: Let's try this:


To be continued.
Patiently waiting…
Don
« Last Edit: September 06, 2014, 01:09:14 PM by RichardM »
Don
Fort Worth

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Offline dougstar

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Re: Aug. 9-16, 2014
« Reply #2 on: September 06, 2014, 04:55:04 PM »
I will be doing Devils River kayak trip in October.  Not the whole thing just Del Norte SNA to the newer Big Satan SNA.  Have been wanting to do it for some time.   I will post the details :)

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Online Flash

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Re: Aug. 9-16, 2014
« Reply #3 on: September 06, 2014, 07:45:48 PM »

 Viewing the huge railroad trestle across the Pecos River about 4-miles away from the overlook at the site of Vinegaroon.


The huge railroad trestle shown in your photo is only the trusses on the top of the bridge. It looks similar to the Highway 90 bridge from below.
Can't seem to imbed images from panoramio, so here is a link
http://www.panoramio.com/photo/21930880?source=wapi&referrer=kh.google.com
Moderator Note: Let's try this:


To be continued.
Patiently waiting…
Don
Hoodoo, how entirely different the bridge looks from the angle of your photo. Thanks for the link. It also led me to photos of the 1882 rail bed and tunnels along the Rio Grande that apparently pre-date the current and original high bridges. I'm a sucker for this historical stuff. On some future trip, I would like to drive over to the rail bridge and check out the water tower. etc.

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Online Flash

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Re: Aug. 9-16, 2014
« Reply #4 on: September 06, 2014, 07:55:12 PM »
I will be doing Devils River kayak trip in October.  Not the whole thing just Del Norte SNA to the newer Big Satan SNA.  Have been wanting to do it for some time.   I will post the details :)
dougstar, at the time of my road trip, my younger son was planning to go on a canoe/fishing trip of the Devil's with his cousins and uncles, that would overlap with my trip, so I couldn't resist the side trip to take a peek at the country he would be heading into. More on this later...

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Offline Reece

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Re: Aug. 9-16, 2014
« Reply #5 on: September 07, 2014, 06:29:05 AM »
Ah-hah the old "bin packing" trick. Sounds like a heavy pack. Looking forward to the next installment.

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Offline ds9writer

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Re: Aug. 9-16, 2014
« Reply #6 on: September 07, 2014, 08:57:38 AM »
My grandfather was the railroad section foreman for the Devil's River area WAY back (maybe 1910s or 1920s) - my dad told a story of how his dad was checking something on the old high bridge (not the newer one in the photos, but just as high and probably a lot more rickety!) when a train came through a little early.  My grandfather had to crawl down to the support beams below the tracks and hang there as the train passed overhead.  And this was way before the dam, so it was still just the Devil's river and the water level was much lower!
You don't travel to see different things,
You travel to see things differently.

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Online Flash

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Re: Aug. 9-16, 2014
« Reply #7 on: September 07, 2014, 10:24:46 PM »
Day 1 – Sunday August 10 - Sanderson to the Chisos Basin, then the Basin up to Laguna West

Next morning, I got up, packed, and then loaded the truck, strapping in my backpack like a passenger in the backseat. Last thing I did before leaving was to file my back county permit request online using the El Campo system. Requesting LW1 for two nights, I was first in the queue! Okay, it is summer and things must be slow. Checking out of the Outback Oasis, I headed down the highway toward breakfast in Marathon. It was so pleasant out that morning, driving with the windows down, temps in the upper 60’s, watching the sun rise in the rearview mirror, and the desert air smelling so nice as I drove out of Sanderson Canyon and onto the plains of Marathon.

Had a good breakfast at the Marathon Coffee Shop and a pleasant chat with Nancy and Francine that run the place about local history, Crawford's, Stillwell's, Rooney's, etc. This is a house along a back street that I kind of liked.

 
Arriving at Persimmon Gap, I stopped at the Visitor Center to get my park entry permit, but was told I would have to go to PJ for the back country permit. 

Somewhere along the Tornillo Flats part of the road, my eye caught a couple posts off to the right in a flat.  Having zipped on by that spot several times before, I decided this time I would stop, back up, and park, to take a closer look.

Kind of surreal.

 
A significant benchmark from 1943, but no legible elevation.

 
Puzzled over the indecipherable writing made with small stones nearby.

 
At Panther Junction, I got my back country permit in record time after informing the Ranger I was already in the system. Once outside, I topped off my empty gallon water jugs at the tap out front and then headed for the Basin Road. Turning up Green Gulch toward the Basin, within a few miles I noticed the sotol forest was dense, healthy looking, and by the looks of their broad tops, well watered.





 
The clouds were gathering over the Chisos. I better get going. My aim was to get the tent pitched before any late afternoon rains came.

 
Before proceeding into the Basin, I had to stop at the pullout to check on things back home.

 
Parking the truck in the Basin parking lot, I had a lunch consisting of cold smoked brisket, cheese, and some raw carrots, and then hit the trail right at noon. I brought along 9-liters of water, 2 beers, a packable chair, hammock, plus a pack cover, rain gear, and tent. This was not exactly following the packing light mantra, but I wasn’t sure there would be water to collect. Since I was only going about 3.5 miles to Laguna and I wanted to enjoy relaxing in camp, I wasn’t worried about the extra weight. Off I went to LW1 hiking along the Laguna Meadow Trail. Somewhere in the lower switchbacks, I met a couple coming down from the South Rim. Earlier in the Basin, I had seen a family of five returning from the mountains.

Toward top of the last set of switchbacks, roughly 2 pm, it started to rain. First it was a few drops, but after a few minutes the rate was beginning to pick up. Just before the pass, I dropped my pack and installed the pack cover. A bit later, I stopped and put on my rain jacket before reaching the LW turnoff about 2:10 pm. It was coming done pretty steadily now, so I thought I better get moving, proceeding to LW1 in the rain. Once there, I hung the pack off the ground under a piñón pine and hunkered under that tree hoping and waiting for the rain to blow on through. The rain increased however. Resolutely, I told myself there would be no turning back now. Got to get the tent up, I thought to myself.

Unzipping the bottom of the pack, I wrestled out the tent, dropping several items on wet the ground, but then stuffed them back in inside and covered the pack back up. This was the first time I tried this, but I setup the tent poles on the footprint and then pitched the fly over the poles, without installing the tent first. By this time the rain was pouring down and tent site was flooding. A glance around LW1 told me the other potential sites were too sloped. Needing the site to drain, I grabbed a big branch and scraped out three narrow trenches with the heavy stick, cutting them through the retaining edge of the tent site. Immediately the ditches began draining the site of the standing water, while I hunkered some more under the tree by my pack. Finally the rain let up considerably from pouring to a steady hard drizzle. Quickly, I scrambled under the fly and, strange as it may sound, pitched the tent from under fly, which managed to keep the inside of the tent mostly dry. Tossing the essential items from my pack into the tent, I put some stuff in the bear box, and then left the rest in the pack under the cover hanging on the side of the tree.

Finally, I got in the tent out of the weather, sitting there in the door of the tent with my feet out in the vestibule, where I took off and left the soaking wet boots and socks. The rain jacket got stripped off and wadded up into the corner where I also put my soggy hat. Soon after this, about 3:30 pm, though up until this time it had not stopped raining, the 2nd wave of rain hit. Conscious of the fact there was water visible beneath the tent floor and above the footprint, I started arranging things to keep dry in case the floor happened to begin leaking. First I inflated my sleeping pad and placed sleeping bag, pillow, and clothes bag on top, getting them off the damp floor. Next I piled the rest of the gear on top of a garbage bag I laid out on the floor.

Once that was done, I must have stared into space for quite some time as I listened to the sound of rain drumming on the tent fly. Sitting on the floor, I began to be aware that I was becoming increasingly chilled. I was secretly hoping the wet clothes would just kind of wick themselves dry somehow, now that I was in out of the rain. Around 4:10 pm, when rain let up from the 2nd wave, I unzipped the fly, took a peek outside to check things out, and then began taking my first pictures since leaving the Basin:

Peeking out at Laguna West

 
Trying to stay dry inside

 
Boots outside the door where they belong

 
Just maybe I will make it

 
I better dry out this log

 
Wet stuff piled in the corner

 
Damp camp after the 2nd wave had passed. One of my ditches in the foreground…

 

 
After 45 minutes or so, still drizzling outside, it became clear to me that my feeling cold was potentially serious business and that I had better do something about so I could get warm. That’s when I peeled off the wet clothes, dropped them into the corner, and dried myself off best I could with a washcloth from my clothes bag. I then put on dry underwear, a t-shirt, and then a long-sleeved fishing shirt. I was sure glad I had taken the fishing shirt off earlier in the day and stowed it, otherwise it might not have dry for me to wear. Not wanting to get my dry clothes wet, I sat there on a plastic bag to keep my rear dry, thinking about how cold I was still feeling.

About this time, the rain increased a couple notches, so there was nothing left to do but get under the sleeping bag and on top of the pad. That would get me off that cold tent floor. So I inflated the air pillow, pulled the down sleeping bag out its stuff bag, and lay down on the air pad with the sleeping bag on top of me. Boy did that ever feel good. I lay there, listening to rain, and dozed off and on as the rain slowly slacked off. Finally, the third and what was to be the final wave of rain came. I must have repeatedly dozed off, since I was pretty exhausted, but awoke when the rain suddenly let up, having been in a half dream state. After waiting a bit, I peeked outside and could see the sky had gotten lighter with small blue patches here and there beginning to appear in the distant southern sky.

Having no dry pants, I was glad there were no neighbors as I emerged from the tent in underwear, long-sleeved shirt, and wet boots to survey the situation.  Grabbing a 25’ piece of line out of my pack, I quickly strung a clothesline across the campsite. Emptying out the remaining items in the soggy pack, I began hanging up the wet stuff: t-shirt, underwear, pants, socks, hat, rain jacket, daypack, tent bags, bandana, etc. The more essential wet items went on the line; the few dry things went into the tent or the bear box. Wet stuff that could wait till tomorrow went on top of the bear box. The pack cover and pack got hung from trees. Taking the same stick I had used earlier, I cleaned out the drainage ditches in case more rain came.

Around 6:00 pm, I took a second set of pictures:

The LW1 campsite complete with clothesline after all the wet gear was hung out to dry.

 

 

 
Viewing the LW1 campsite from connecting trail.

 
The weather continued to clear some and the rain appeared to be over for now. Looking from the connecting trail toward the southeast with Emory Peak on the left, the Southwestern Rim on the right in the background, and part of Point 6950 on the far right.

 
View southwest toward LW2, LW3, and Upper Cattail with Point 6950 to the left and Point 7150 on the right in the background.

 
Looking westward acroos Laguna West with toward Point 7070 in the backgound.

 
Now it was time to get busy with dinner. I setup my camp chair, and began boiling water. Once that was going, I tried to organize the bear box and the tent a bit better while I waited. Once water was boiled, I dumped it into the Mountain House pouch and messed around with stuff while it soaked. Oh, that hot Chicken Teriyaki with Rice sure felt good inside me and warmed up my bones. After dinner and clean up, my main chore was watchfully tending the clothesline to take advantage of the sporadically appearing evening sun.

The rest of the evening, I walked about the campsite area or lounged in the chair enjoying a can of Hopadillo IPA.

Late in the evening just before bed, I decided to put everything away, whether dry or not, in either the bear box or the tent. I did not want to lose what little dryness I had obtained to a passing night shower. On a previous trip, I learned my lesson about not leaving my laundry hanging out while away from camp or overnight. I did not want to start over, since my pants were almost dry.
About 9:15 pm, grateful I had survived the wet and the cold, I crawled into that nice toasty down sleeping bag. There was no view of super moon until the wee hours of the night, when it later broke through the clouds. Somewhere in the depths of sleep that night, I did awake to hear the pattering sound of a rain shower on the tent, before drifting back to sleep.

To be continued…
 

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Offline ds9writer

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Re: Aug. 9-16, 2014
« Reply #8 on: September 08, 2014, 06:37:37 AM »
Wow!  Sounds more like a trip to Colorado (I've had similar rain-soaked experiences there) than the desert!

Can't wait to hear more...
You don't travel to see different things,
You travel to see things differently.

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Offline mule ears

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Re: Aug. 9-16, 2014
« Reply #9 on: September 08, 2014, 07:30:11 AM »
Great report so far Flash, thanks!  Having only experienced light snow or a few light sprinkles on all my Big Bend trips it is great to read of rainy experiences.  I was wondering how long it would take for you to give it up and just take a nap while it rained but inertia has to take over eventually.

Look forward to the rest.   :13:
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Offline Lissa

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Re: Aug. 9-16, 2014
« Reply #10 on: September 08, 2014, 09:11:11 AM »
Really enjoying your report and look forward to the rest.  And always happy to read another 'rain soaked in Big Bend' trip report.

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Online Flash

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Re: Aug. 9-16, 2014
« Reply #11 on: September 08, 2014, 09:15:15 PM »
Ah-hah the old "bin packing" trick. Sounds like a heavy pack. Looking forward to the next installment.
Yep, the bin packing trick indeed. Somehow I can concentrate on packing a bit better in the motel room the night before than at home, make last minute gear decisions, check the weather one last time, etc. The pack was not heavy, it had my beer inside.  ;D

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Online Flash

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Re: Aug. 9-16, 2014
« Reply #12 on: September 08, 2014, 10:02:45 PM »
Wow!  Sounds more like a trip to Colorado (I've had similar rain-soaked experiences there) than the desert!
The High Chisos were really pretty green and lush this trip and that rain sure cooled things down.

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Online Flash

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Re: Aug. 9-16, 2014
« Reply #13 on: September 08, 2014, 10:11:34 PM »
I was wondering how long it would take for you to give it up and just take a nap while it rained but inertia has to take over eventually.
mule ears,  I think I was in some kind of mild zombie-like shock after all that hustle to get the last 1/2 mile over to my campsite in the rain and then get the tent setup.  :icon_lol:   That nap was the best medicine.  :great:

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Online Flash

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Re: Aug. 9-16, 2014
« Reply #14 on: September 08, 2014, 10:14:49 PM »
Really enjoying your report and look forward to the rest.  And always happy to read another 'rain soaked in Big Bend' trip report.
Lissa, I was starting to think I'm the only one who gets rained on up there in the mountains!  ;D  Then I reread your experience on the Rim at NE2.  :icon_cool:

 


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