Friends of Big Bend National Park
Big Bend Conservancy

Over-estimating your experience or under-estimating the terrain in a place like Big Bend can result in serious injury or death. Use the information and advice found here wisely. Climb/Hike/Camp/Drive at your own risk.

+-Calendar for sale

 2019 BigBendChat Calendar on sale now!


Beyond the Outer Loop III: Over the End of the Mountain

  • 14 Replies
  • 878 Views
*

Offline Peter O

  • Golden Eagle
  • Jack Rabbit
  • *
  • 37
Beyond the Outer Loop III: Over the End of the Mountain
« on: October 07, 2019, 11:09:43 PM »
In 2017, I took two long walks to explore what lies beyond Big Bend’s Outer Mountain Loop trail: Beyond the Outer Loop—A Tale of Two Hikes.  My first hike met with some obstacles—including some sharp, pointy ones—and did not go according to plan.  But I was more successful on my second try, hiking from the Mule Ears overlook through the Sierra Quemada, across the desert, and down to Mariscal Canyon, overlooking the Rio Grande River.  My return route included a breathtaking walk along the ridge of Mariscal Mountain.

Before my second hike, I thought that perhaps completing my intended route would satisfy my fascination with the vast, remote—and somewhat forbidding—wilderness beyond the Outer Loop.  Nope.  As I noted in my trip report, I found myself planning my next hike even before I had left the park.  While driving across the River Road to retrieve my bear canisters (which I had used for water/food caches), two landmarks particularly caught my attention and piqued my curiosity.  One was the Punta de la Sierra, a massive mountain wall that I had walked by as I headed out to the open desert from the Dominguez Spring area.  Fittingly, I understand that translated from Spanish, Punta de la Sierra means the point or end of the mountain range.  (At least that’s one translation; we don’t need to go into alternate meanings of the word “punta” or mention a similar word it is sometimes confused with.  :icon_smile:

The second landmark was Cow Heaven.  In my trip planning, I had noticed the strange geographic features that surrounded the Cow Heaven Mountain area.  I now understand that geologists refer to it as the “Cow Heaven anticline.”  I had avoided that area in hiking across the desert toward Mariscal Canyon, but I often found myself looking in that direction, wondering what was hidden behind the line of ridges that seem to guard Cow Heaven.  I was further intrigued in later reading Mule Ear’s description of his hike through Cow Heaven, which he entered through the “Gates of Mordor.”

In short, I was hooked—again—and had a rough idea of the route I wanted to try for my third hike beyond the Outer Loop: one that would take me over the end of the mountain and through the Gates of Mordor.  I set out on that hike in early December this past year (2018).  As it turned out, my hike did not go as planned and led to my fourth hike beyond the Outer Loop, which I did several months ago in March.  Those two hikes—although there were a few hiccups along the way—were marvelous experiences.  Among other things, I explored some new areas and enjoyed two spectacular campsites.

Here is my campsite on the saddle below point 4885 in the Punta de la Sierra—just beneath the end of the mountain.
 

And here is one of the views from near my campsite on the top of Cow Heaven Mountain—deep in the heart of Mordor.
      

But I am getting ahead of my story.  Because my planned hike became two hikes, I will share my experience in two reports: this one, about my route planning and abbreviated third hike beyond the Outer Loop; and a separate report to follow about my fourth hike back into that place of rugged beauty and “splendid isolation.”

Pay it Forward

As with my previous Big Bend trip report, the main reason I am posting this one is to hopefully repay in some small way all those whose contributions to this site have provided me with so much enjoyment, information, and inspiration—especially BBC’s founder, Casa Grande, and former moderator, the late RichardM.  There are too many others to thank by name, but I will note in this report some of the people who helped me in planning these hikes.  No doubt I am forgetting to mention some of you who posted information and advice that aided me along the way.  Please accept my sincere apologies and chalk that up to senility, not ingratitude.  Thanks to all!

“The Great RichardM”

That’s how Casa Grande used to describe Richard in introducing him as BBC’s moderator.  It’s one of the first things I read on the site’s home page after I discovered this internet treasure a few years back.  I was shocked and saddened on returning from a family vacation earlier this summer to discover that Richard had passed away.  From reading tributes to Richard, I learned that many had the same experience interacting with him as I did.  To begin with, his frequent contributions to this site were always helpful, and I gained much from Richard’s wealth of Big Bend insight and information, which he generously shared.  From his posts, Richard impressed me as an intelligent and good-natured guy.  More significant from a personal standpoint, Richard graciously assisted me behind the scenes.  For example, before my prior trip report, I was unsure how to post images and create links on BBC, and so I turned to Richard for help.  In a series of emails, Richard patiently and effectively pointed me in the right direction.  It is obvious that Richard extended his helping hand to many others in the same way.

I think that’s why so many of us feel we have lost a close friend, even though we had never met Richard in person.  I know that’s how I feel.  I must also admit to feeling rather guilty for not posting this trip report sooner, especially since Richard had gone out of his way to help me learn how to do it.  So, I am now (belatedly) making time to post this report, which—in a very real sense—Richard made possible.

Richard, this one is for you.  May God bless and keep you and watch over your family.  Many thanks to Casa Grande, House Made of Dawn, and others who took steps to make it possible for us to show our appreciation for Richard by helping his daughter.  The funds that were raised to assist Jennifer with her college education speak volumes about the high esteem in which Richard was held by so many here.  It also confirms my belief about those who frequent this site: there are lots of really good people here.

(I feel more than a little sheepish for posting this report long after I did the hikes—again.  I think I have some good reasons for the delay but will not bore you with those.  I just hope that this long-overdue trip report fits in the better-late-than-never category and that someone might get some useful information or enjoyment from it, as I have so often from posts on BBC.)
 
What I Did Last Summer (2018)

One more aside before turning to the story at hand.  My belated introduction to backpacking (about 10 years ago) was in mountainous wilderness areas in Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming.  (Have you noticed that I do a lot of things belatedly?  My wife has noticed that too.)  Although I live in Texas and was aware of Big Bend, for some years I did not consider hiking there under the mistaken notion—grossly mistaken, I was to learn—that it had little to offer compared to those other areas. 

To be sure, the mountain west region is wonderful.  For example, during the summer of 2018, one of my sons and I did some backpacking in Colorado’s Collegiate Peaks Wilderness.  We had a great time. 

This is my son Parker atop of point 12955, southwest of Kroenke Lake.
 

Here I am taking in the amazing view from the top of Mt. Harvard (14,420 feet).
 

While enjoying the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness with my son, I wondered if it would quell my fascination with Big Bend and my urge to return.  Nope again. 

Some months back, Mindy wrote about her yearning to go back to Big Bend: I wish I knew how to quit you... (not really).  Her post prompted some interesting responses and again got me thinking about my attraction to Big Bend.  Although I could not fully explain all the reasons, I came to the same conclusion: Big Bend has me under its spell.  I wonder if there is a rehab program or some type of therapy that could cure me of this compulsion to immerse myself in Big Bend’s awesome natural beauty and solitude?  If so, I would rather not know about it.  My feelings about Big Bend call to mind the lyrics of a song (that will surely signal how old I am): “If loving you is wrong, I don’t want to be right.”

But I digress, yet again ….

The (Initial) Plan

It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.

— J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

I knew that I wanted to explore the Punta de la Sierra and Cow Heaven Mountain, but I needed to come up with a route linking those two areas in a way that made sense and that I could accomplish.  Thankfully, there is truly a wealth of information here on BBC.  As others have noted, planning a walk in Big Bend can be almost as enjoyable as actually doing it.

This image from CalTopo shows the plan I ultimately came up with.


Here is a link to the route I planned in CalTopo.  I will describe how I came up with this route. 

(I decided to share some of the resources I found in planning my hike—just in case anyone else might find them as interesting and useful as I did.  Of course, for those who aren’t interested, feel free to jump ahead to the description of the actual hike.)
 
          Punta de la Sierra

After deciding to explore the Punta de la Sierra, I started researching BBC trip reports by those who have been there.  I discovered that not many people have reported venturing into that area.  But what is lacking in quantity is more than made up in quality, beginning with Lance’s report on his awesome 2013 hike/climb with Picacho and Steelfrog:  Climbing the Punta de la Sierra (Pt 4885).  If you have not seen that report, you should.  The pictures are stunning, and Lance, Picacho, and Steelfrog all provided interesting commentary on their experience.  I decided that I would essentially follow their route, starting at Mule Ears overlook, hiking past Casitas Spring, and heading up into the Punta de la Sierra.

Another great resource was, not surprisingly, a report by Mule Ears: Southwest Sierra Quemada Ramble, Jan. 2016.  ME and Robert had also started at Mule Ears overlook, but they hiked across Smoky Creek, past Smoky Spring, and approached the Punta de la Sierra from the north.  They climbed the high point (5168) on the ridge south of Jack’s Pass, and then they descended the Punta De La Sierra using essentially the same route I would try to follow going up.

I decided to camp high in the Punta De La Sierra on the saddle just below point 4885.  As I reported from my last hike, I camped on the Jack’s Pass saddle based on a suggestion by Badknees (and seconded by HMOD).  It was a wonderful spot, and ever since I have been on the lookout for similar campsite locations.  For this trip, I planned to try two campsites up high: the saddle below point 4885 and the top of Cow Heaven Mountain.  Both were awesome!     

My next challenge was to figure out how I would go down the other side of the Puntas to get to the Dominguez Spring trail, which I would follow south a short way and then head across the desert toward Cow Heaven.  Studying the topo map, it seemed feasible to descend the north face of the southern Puntas, starting from the pass below the high point (4885).  Here’s an image of the way I drew it up in Caltopo:
 

Although I suspect others have gone down that way, I could not find anyone who reported doing it.  I did find this drawing posted by Okiehiker showing a route he and others had apparently taken in climbing up from the Dominguez Spring Trail area to one of the high points along the southern end of the Puntas: 
 

At first, this gave me some assurance that my route down was something I could do.  However, after reading some of Okiehiker’s other exploits, I was not so sure.  He did lots of stuff that seemed beyond my capability/comfort level.  Still, my route seemed doable, particularly if I was careful to descend gradually by heading diagonally down the north face of the Puntas.

Before heading across the desert to Cow Heaven, I would need to replenish my water, so I planned a little detour up the Dominguez Spring trail the short distance to the spring, where there is a reliable water source.  In planning my route across the desert to Cow Heaven, I considered a couple options.  But in the end, I again relied on—who else—Mule Ears. 

Around the same time I was doing my second (and more successful) loop hike down to Mariscal Canyon, ME and Scott were doing a similar (but more awesome) hike in reverse: Walking from Mule Ears to Mariscal (and back), Dec. 2017.  After hiking through the Cow Heaven area, they headed west across the desert to the Dominguez Spring trail.  My plan was to follow their route to Cow Heaven in the opposite direction.
     
          Cow Heaven Mountain

ME described approaching Cow Heaven from the southeast and gaining entrance through the “Gates of Mordor.”  He explained that the “gates” are a cut in the eastern ridge that surrounds the “anticline.”  Where does the name Cow Heaven come from?  “According to Hallie Stillwell, if cows got stranded in there they would go to Heaven.” 

By the way, I realize that the reference to Mordor in the context of Cow Heaven may be confusing for some.  Others here have referred to the craggy rock dike at the end of the Ward Spring Trail as the “Wall of Mordor.”  Having seen their pictures, I agree that the reference to Mordor fits very well.  Hiking out to the Ward Spring Trail’s “Wall of Mordor” is on my long Big Bend to-do list.  In some ways, the entire rugged Sierra Quemada area fits the foreboding impression of Mordor conjured up by Tolkien’s writing:

Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men, doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie
.
 
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.


J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings.  In another way, though, the analogy doesn’t really fit.  There are not too many shadows—and way too much beauty—in the Sierra Quemada.  Still, I like ME’s reference to Mordor in the context of Cow Heaven, and I’m not quite ready to give it up yet.

ME mentioned the “Cow Heaven anticline.”  In planning my hike, I learned some interesting things about the geology of Cow Heaven.  I will share some of that in my next report (describing my hike through Cow Heaven).

   Backbone Ridge   

My next planning step was to connect Cow Heaven to a route that would eventually bring me back to my car at the Mule Ears overlook.  Looking at the map, I wondered if I could hike across the northern end of the Cow Heaven anticline, around the southern end of Backbone Ridge, and up the wash along the western side of Backbone Ridge.

I started looking to see if others had done something like this.  Among other things, I found some interesting and helpful posts in response to Dprather’s request for comments on his proposed “Quesadilla Loop” (gotta love that name!): Coordinates for Jacks’ Pass/Quesadilla Loop .  Mule Ears shared a Caltopo map he created that shows color-coded off-trail routes that he and others had done (or that seemed possible).  On a site with a treasure trove of Big Bend resources, ME’s map is a precious gem for Sierra Quemada and desert hiking.  Thank you!

I did not find a report from anyone who had hiked the entire length of the wash west of Backbone Ridge, although I am sure it has been done (probably multiple times).  Robert, ME, and others have reported hiking the northern end of the wash (coming from, or heading toward, Dominguez Mountain).   Robert’s report particularly piqued my interest: Quemada Trip Feb 2014.  Robert noted that he was adding a hike down Backbone Ridge to his list of “targets,” and Steelfrog commented that the “wash west of Backbone is awesome.”  Although it took me two hikes to get there, I was to see for myself that Steelfrog was right!       

Aided by information from ME and others, I came up with what I thought would be a neat route.  After spending the night on top of Cow Heaven, I planned to hike diagonally northwest between the two north-south ridges of the anticline toward the southern end of Backbone Ridge.  I did not find a report about anyone walking through this part of the Cow Heaven anticline (although again I am sure some have).  Once reaching the north end of the west ridge, I would swing around the southern end of Backbone Ridge.  ME’s map showed this as a possible route, one I assumed had probably been taken by others. I would then head up along the canyon/wash west of Backbone Ridge.   

At Steps Spring (parallel to the north end of Backbone Ridge), I planned to head west up the gully there, if I had enough water.  If I was worried about water, I would continue north in the wash (west of Elephant Tusk) and then head over to Double Spring, where I was sure that I would find water (based on multiple sources, including my observations there the year before).  I planned to camp in the vicinity of the amazing site that I had enjoyed on my other hike through this area.  From there, the next day I would follow the same route I had taken on my prior hike in heading (mostly) west to link up with the Smoky Creek trail, which I would then follow down to the Mule Ears trail and back to my car.

It was a good plan.  I was excited.  But as the old poem warns, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”                         
« Last Edit: October 08, 2019, 05:55:46 AM by mule ears »

*

Offline dprather

  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 2478
Re: Beyond the Outer Loop III: Over the End of the Mountain
« Reply #1 on: October 07, 2019, 11:19:17 PM »
S.P.E.C.T.A.C.U.L.A .R!
Leave "quit" at the car.  Embrace the trail as your friend.  Expect to enjoy yourself, and to be amazed.

*

Offline Peter O

  • Golden Eagle
  • Jack Rabbit
  • *
  • 37
Re: Beyond the Outer Loop III: Over the End of the Mountain
« Reply #2 on: October 07, 2019, 11:37:42 PM »
Let the Hike Begin

Home is behind, the world ahead,
and there are many paths to tread
through shadows to the edge of night,
until the stars are all alight.


― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

Between work and other commitments, I was hard pressed to get ready for my much-anticipated Big Bend hike.  All things considered, I think I did pretty well in pulling everything together.  Except for one thing . . . which unfortunately I did not discover until I was at the Mule Ears overlook trailhead.

On November 28, 2018, I began my long drive from south Texas, bound for Big Bend.  It takes almost ten hours driving time to get from my house to Panther Junction.  (Yep, Texas is BIG.)  I stayed overnight in Ft. Stockton and left early the next morning to start my hike on November 29.  So far so good.
 
Day One, November 29, 2018, 0 (!) miles--Bummer

My good fortune continued with my pleasant experience in obtaining a permit at Panther Junction.  For the first time, I used my “geezer pass,” as ME has aptly called it (aka lifetime senior pass).  Not only was entrance into the park free, but I discovered that the pass also provides a discount on the backpacking permit fee.  Nice!  I hope to get lots of use from my geezer pass in the years to come.

The ranger who helped me was (in my view) a stellar example of what a park ranger should be.  He was knowledgeable, professional, friendly, and courteous.  He also seemed genuinely interested in my route and made helpful suggestions and observations.  This was the first time I had encountered this ranger.  Although I did not know it at the time, our paths were to cross a couple more times before I was able to complete my intended hike.

My goal was to start hiking by 10:00 a.m.  I arrived at the Mule Ears overlook with time to spare.  I put on sunscreen and confirmed that I had all my key gear.  Paper maps?  Check.  Compass?  Check.  First aid kit? Check.  Water?  Check.  InReach device and iPhone?  Check, check.  I then sent an initial “I’m okay” message to family members and a couple people from work to let them know I was starting my hike and to ensure that the inReach was working.  While waiting for the message to send, I drank some water, turned on the Gaia GPS app on my iPhone, adjusted my hiking poles, and put on my hat.  Ready to go!  But not so fast …

For all my hikes over the past several years, I have carried a satellite communicator—first the Spot and then a Delorme/Garmin inReach SE.  For me, these devices have been a great way to let my family and friends know I am okay.  As a condition of my solo hikes, my wife expects me to send regular “I’m okay” messages.  It also gives me a way to call for help in an emergency.  Fortunately, I have never had to push the SOS button, but it is nice to know it is there. 

My inReach usually takes a few extra minutes to acquire satellites and send the first message, especially when I turn it on after driving a long distance from where I last used it.  After waiting what is usually more than enough time, I checked my inReach, but my message had not been sent.  That’s odd.  Then I remembered one thing I had not gotten to on my “To Do” list: test the inReach at home to make sure it was sending and receiving messages.  I had synced the inReach, updated the software, updated my contacts, modified the preset messages, and re-paired it with my iPhone.  I had also planned to send a test message from home (as Garmin recommends), but I just ran out of time.  This had not really concerned me since, before starting a hike, I always send a message from the trailhead and confirm that the message goes out.  These trailhead test messages have always worked—until now.

So, I waited a while longer and tried sending a second message.  Nada.  My next step was to try to call Garmin technical support.  Still at the Mule Ears overlook parking lot, I just barely had cell service (about one bar), but I was able to reach Garmin support.  To their credit, my call was answered without much of a wait, and one of their technical support reps spent more than an hour with me trying different things.  None of them worked.  The tech guy concluded that my inReach was probably toast.  He suggested as one last option that I connect it to a computer with internet service and try to update it, which would require downloading and installing a Garmin app on the computer.  This would be hard to do because I did not bring a laptop with me, and computers for public use (like at a hotel) are usually configured to block downloads.

          inReach Fail—Should I Stay or Should I Go?

I had to make a choice.  Should I continue with my planned hike without the inReach?  To do this, I would need to call my family and others to let them know not to expect any “I’m okay” messages; otherwise, someone might call for a search party to look for me.  Also, since I use the tracking feature, they would be unable to follow my progress on the Garmin map site.

But would that be so bad?  After all, I was not relying solely on the inReach in case of emergency.  Before hitting the road for Big Bend, I had emailed my wife and sons a PDF version of my CalTopo map set showing my planned route and campsites.  Those detailed maps could have aided anyone searching for me if I did not turn up.  I also carried (among other things) a signaling mirror and whistle as aids in an emergency.

Or should I give up on my long-anticipated hike until I could either fix or replace my inReach?  I wondered if I was being wimpy in considering this option.  After all, not too many years ago, devices such as the inReach did not exist.  If Lewis and Clark had delayed their expedition until they could bring a satellite communicator, we would all probably still be living on the East coast.  I also considered that it would likely be difficult for me to carve out time to try this hike again for some time—it seemed like now or (maybe) never.

While such thoughts crossed my mind, in the end it was an easy decision.  Emergency communication devices might not have been available in the past, but they are now.  For me, hiking my planned route without a way to call for help was not the right choice for two reasons.  First, I was hiking solo on a route taking me into remote and unfamiliar territory.  Even with the route map I left with my wife and sons, it would have been very hard to find me in the areas I was hiking.  It was also unlikely that, if I needed help, I would encounter any other hikers.  On my four hikes in the Sierra Quemada, I have never seen another hiker (and rarely even footprints), apart from a few day hikers on the Mule Ears trail and the Mariscal Canyon Rim trail. 

(I was wishing that Parker had been able to come on this hike.  In addition to enjoying his company, I would not have thought twice about doing this route with him, despite the inReach failure.  Parker is a one-man dream team hiking partner, having served in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division (with tours in Afghanistan and Iraq) and now working in the medical field.  Among other things, he has awesome navigation skills, which he honed during his deployments.)

Second, unlike some of the folks who regularly contribute here, my backcountry skillset has lots of room for improvement.  Although I aspire to be a more proficient backpacker, at the end of the day I am an older guy who has spent almost all of his adult life working from a desk chair.

I am not suggesting that this would be the right decision for others, nor that everyone should be carrying one of these devices when hiking in remote areas.  We all have different capabilities and circumstances to consider.  Delaying my hike until I could get my inReach fixed or replaced seemed like the right way to go for me.  Later, as I was hiking, I was glad that I had a working satellite communicator in case I needed it—which fortunately I again did not.

(Note: Since my hike, there have been some thoughtful discussions on BBC about safety in the backcountry, particularly as it relates to using a device like the inReach.  Like many here, I was glued to House Made of Dawn’s wonderfully-written account of his nighttime Outer Mountain Loop attempt: How I spent my summer SAR: the OML in a day.  Steelfrog’s post also prompted useful discussion about the Inreach and other PLBs.  I agree with everything Lissa and other inReach users said about the benefits of carrying a personal communicator while backpacking.  With the benefit of hindsight, and after reading the various comments posted here, I am even more sure that I made the right call—for me—in postponing my hike until I replaced my inReach.)           

I drove back to Panther Junction, and the same helpful ranger was at the permit desk.  He was surprised to see me.  After I explained what happened, he told me that if I was able to come back in a day or two, I should bring my permit, and they could change the dates.

Re-Grouping for a Second Try

In leaving the park, I considered various options.  One was to give up and drive back home.  I rejected that option since I had already come so far and the need for a Big Bend fix was too strong.  (Is there a patch you can use to control Big Bend cravings?)  I also thought about doing some shorter day hikes or possibly backpacking in the Chisos, but I discarded that idea too.  I had gone through the effort of planning and preparing for a Sierra Quemada/desert walk and wanted to do at least part of it. 

To make a long story short(er), I spent the next day trying to fix or replace my inReach.  The folks at the Quality Inn in Fort Stockton were super nice in allowing me to use one of their computers to update my device.  But unfortunately, that only confirmed what the Garmin techs had suspected—my inReach SE was toast.  So, I drove all the way to the San Antonio REI, which is the closest place that carried a replacement inReach.  (Yet another reminder that Big Bend is far out in the middle of nowhere—although that is no doubt one of the good things about it as well.)

The extra day and travel time were not a total loss.  I had brought work that I was able to do on my iPad in the evening, and I listened to some work-related seminars while driving.  More enjoyably, ME’s reference to “Mordor” prompted me to “read” again Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Actually, I had downloaded the audiobooks and listened to them in the car.  They made my (seemingly endless) drive much more enjoyable—and led to the Lord of the Rings references in this report.

A few words about my replacement inReach.  After using a Spot device for several years (during which it worked well), I purchased a DeLorme inReach SE, mainly because it allowed two-way communication.  I got the SE for a great price since Garmin had by then acquired DeLorme and had come out with a newer version of the SE (called the Garmin SE+).  My inReach SE also worked well for a couple years—until this hike.  Earlier last year, Garmin began selling the inReach Mini, which—as its name implies—is substantially smaller and lighter than the SE.  There are lots of reviews of the Mini, including an excellent one by Ryan Jordan at BPL: Garmin inReach Mini Review.  I had considered buying one after they came out, but I decided against it since my SE was working fine (probably should have knocked on wood).

In replacing my inReach SE, I got an inReach Mini.  Here is a picture of my two devices:


I have enjoyed using the Mini, and it worked well on my Big Bend hikes described in this report and the one to follow.  I really like the smaller size and weight.  One concern I had was that some of the size and weight savings comes at the expense of battery capacity.  But the Mini’s battery held up well on my hikes.  I left the tracking feature on all day (set at 10-minute intervals) and powered off the unit at night.  I did not need to recharge the Mini during either hike, although I always carry a backup battery pack just in case.  One downside of the Mini is that it is time consuming (and frustrating) to type a text message unless you pair the device to a smart phone and use the phone to enter your text.  Because I always bring my iPhone, this was not an issue for me.  (I use my phone in multiple ways: to take pictures, to use with the Gaia GPS app, to read books, and to listen to audiobooks.)
   
Day One—REDUX—December 1, 2018, 7.8 miles

 Armed with my original permit—and my geezer pass—I returned to Panther Junction.  A different, younger ranger helped me this time.  He also did a good job and was pleasant enough, although seemingly not too interested in my plans.  I explained what had happened and told him that I was happy to just pay for a new permit if that was easier.  He left to speak with someone in the back.  When the ranger returned, he just made some changes to my original permit.

Back to the Mule Ears overlook.  I put on sunscreen and went through my final pre-hike checklist, including sending an “I’m okay” message from my new inReach Mini.  Success!  The message went through, and I started hiking!  Finally.


Although it was great to be walking into the Sierra Quemada, there was one downer.  Since I was starting my hike two days late, I knew that I would not have time to complete the entire route that I had planned.  While I had given some thought to how I might modify my route, I decided to wait and see what things looked like after a day or two.  Not wanting to miss out on anything from the original plan, I think I was holding on to the delusional hope that I would somehow be able to make up the lost time and finish the entire route.

But my recorded tracks tell the story of what really happened.  Here is an image of my track from the Garmin map site (based on the tracking points sent by my inReach). 
 
And here is a CalTopo screenshot showing my GPS tracks for this hike (recorded using the Gaia GPS app).
 

As you can see, I did not make it to Cow Heaven.  Here are my GPS tracks in CalTopo (recorded using the Gaia GPS app and showing some additional  markers along my route).

As always, the sights along the Mules Ears trail are great:
 

Before dropping down into the Smoky Creek basin, I stopped and gazed into the distance at the Punta de la Sierra, which I planned to climb the next day. 
 

I could see the initial saddle (at about 4,000 feet) that I would be climbing.  It seemed like a long way off.  Here’s a marked-up version of the picture to show where I was heading (with the blue line showing my intended route up to the initial saddle):
 

(I borrowed the idea for this mark-up from ME’s report about his hike down the Punta de la Sierra with Robert.  ME drew a black line illustrating part of the route they took down—which is the same route I hoped to follow going up and is marked in blue on my version.)

Although hard to see from this picture, lurking in the distance is the high point of the southern ridge of the Punta de La Sierra (4885), which I hoped to camp near on my second night.  To get to the foot of the Punta de la Sierra, I would hike through the Casitas Spring area, which is beyond the low hills to the right (as marked).  To do that, I would head southeast across the Smoky Creek basin (shown by the blue arrow) toward the rock outcropping that can be seen in the middle.  Beyond the rock outcropping, you can see an opening in the hills (marked Wash/Canyon to Casitas Spring). 

Lance and his group reached the Casitas Spring area by entering through this opening and then winding south along the wash/canyon to reach the spring complex.  With the benefit of a heads up in Lance’s report, my plan was to head initially for the opening in the hills but then turn south to follow the base of the hills until I was about due east from Casitas Spring (marked by the blue arrow on the far right).  I would then climb over the hills and drop down into the Casitas Spring complex.

Lance reported that they had a difficult time getting past a pour-off along the route they took to Casitas Spring.  The location of the pour-off (as noted by Lance) is shown on the Caltopo map for my planned route.  Lance suggested the route I took as possibly a better way to reach the spring.  Lance was right.  It worked very well for me.  Thanks Lance!  Here is a marked-up screenshot from Google Earth (showing Lance’s awesome map overlays and my planned route).
 

The route taken by Lance, Steelfrog, and Picacho is the lighter red line, and my planned route is the darker red line to the right.

I descended into the Smoky Creek basin and headed for the rock outcropping.
 

Rather than continue through the opening ahead (as Lance and company did), I turned south and followed the base of the low hills. 
 

This  shot is looking back at Mules Ears as I was heading up and over the hill to drop down into the Casitas Spring area. 
 

Dropping down into the Casita Spring area, ahead to the center right.
 



*

Offline Peter O

  • Golden Eagle
  • Jack Rabbit
  • *
  • 37
Re: Beyond the Outer Loop III: Over the End of the Mountain
« Reply #3 on: October 07, 2019, 11:58:39 PM »
The wisdom of Lance’s suggested alternate route to Casitas Spring was further confirmed by RedditLowlife’s report about a hike he did with a buddy in February 2019 (after my hike): Jacks Pass Loop trip report.  They did a cool loop hike (although not with cool temperatures) starting at Mules Ears overlook, crossing Smoky Creek to Jack’s Pass, descending the pass, turning south at Dominguez Spring, and curving west around the outside southern end of the Punta de la Sierra.  They returned through the Casitas Spring area and initially attempted to continue up through the wash heading north.  Lowlife reports that they got stuck at the pour-off noted by Lance and ended up backtracking to Casitas Spring.  They then headed west along a similar route to the one I followed going the opposite direction.

Lots of green in the Casita Spring area.
   

There were several wet and muddy areas.  I did not see any easy water sources, although maybe I was not looking in the right spot.  I was planning to fill up on water farther along the wash, so I did not do a diligent search here.  Because it was a wet year, I had expected to see lots of water.  Others have reported that Casitas Spring is usually a dependable water source.

The rock structure at Casitas Spring seems unchanged from pictures posted in years past.  While these are not spacious accommodations by any means, it was built to last.  I continue to marvel at the grit of the people who attempted to carve out a living in this harsh environment.  I wondered how I would have held up in a place like this and was glad that I would not have the chance to find out.
 

 

After leaving the Casita Spring area, I followed the wash toward where I planned to camp, near the side wash leading up into the Punta de la Sierra.  Not far from Casitas Spring, there were some bear prints (?) in the wash.
 

As it turned out, during this hike I did not see as many prints or as much bear scat as I had during my prior hikes.  The walking was easy and enjoyable, and there was some water in the wash along the way. 
 

About a third of a mile from Casitas Spring, the wash goes through a canyon-type area.  Although there are some large boulders strewn along the way, it remains passable.  One small pour-off was easy to climb down.
  

I stopped at Triangle Tinaja, which is one of two tinaja’s along a stretch where the canyon/wash narrows.  The pools of water were small at both spots but adequate for collecting and filtering. 
 

I loaded up on water here because I wanted to leave the next morning with at least 8 liters as I headed up into the Punta de la Sierra, where I did not expect to find any water (and didn’t).  Notice the white funnel pre-filter.  That’s the same one Reece generously sent me before my hikes the previous year.  I still really like using the pre-filter since it removes a lot of the gunk and helps keep my main filter from clogging as fast.  Thanks again Reece!

As I continued along the wash, the Punta de la Sierra was often in view, beckoning me onward—if I dared. 
 

I stopped for the day once I reached the side wash that would lead east up into the Punta de la Sierra.  I chose a campsite site up out of the wash with nice views of the mountains that I would be climbing the next morning.  In the fading late-afternoon light, the Punta de la Sierra looked enticingly beautiful but also harsh and forbidding.  The next day I would climb the end of the mountain.
 
 
 

Day Two, December 2, 2018, 3.6 miles

I awoke to a beautiful day.  This day I was to learn that the end of the mountain did not want to be climbed—at least not by the likes of me.

It did not help that I got off to a slow start.  While I had planned to start early, I had a hard time getting going for some reason.  When I finally set off, I was carrying over 8 liters of water, which was 2 liters more than I thought I needed.  I planned to refill with water at Dominguez Spring, which I thought I would reach by no later than noon the next day.  But because I was a little unsure how the descent down the southern Puntas would go, I brought some extra water just in case things did not go according to plan.

I headed up the wash leading into the Punta de la Sierra.  For the first half mile or so, the route up is fairly open and the walking was easy. 
 

Here is the view looking back towards Mule Ears peaks.
 

Both Lance and ME had described the route up the Punta de la Sierra (or down in ME’s case) as very difficult.  In fact, ME described it as “hellish.”  At first, I thought (hoped) that they had exaggerated.  Of course, it turned out I was wrong.  When will I learn?  (Note to self: If ME describes something as “hellish,” don’t even think about trying it.)

Here are a couple of views on the way up, although they do not give a very good sense of the difficulty in hiking up.
 



To try to put it in perspective, most folks who have climbed up Jack’s Pass (as I did twice) found that the gully leading up to Jack’s Pass is pretty miserable, with rocky terrain that is overrun with thorn bushes and cactuses.  Well, the climb up to the initial saddle in the Punta de la Sierra (at about 4,000 feet) is similar except that it is about 5 times longer.  At several spots along the way, my route up the wash/gully was blocked by boulders and/or seemingly impenetrable brush.  (On my CalTopo map, I added markers showing a couple of those areas.)  While it was possible to climb up or around those obstacles, it usually involved struggling through catclaw, cactuses, or other disagreeable vegetation.  Thankfully I was wearing my gaiters, which did a great job protecting my lower legs. 

(But when I looked at my legs later that evening, I found numerous stab wounds above my knees, and I spent a good deal of time pulling out spines/thorns with my tweezers.  I almost always carry one of the small Swiss Army-type knives with the handy—and very light—tweezers built in.  After returning from my first Sierra Quemada hike, my wife suggested that I use her tweezers when she saw me struggling to remove left-over thorns/spines with the tiny tweezers.  Hers worked way better, and she kindly donated them as an addition to my Big Bend backpacking stuff.  Although those tweezers weigh a bit more and are not as compact, they are now part of my don’t-leave-home-without-it Sierra Quemada first aid kit.)

Somewhere along the way as I was slogging up to the initial saddle, I realized that I was glad to be carrying my new inReach.  I was not lost or injured and did not need to call for help.  But it occurred to me that if something bad happened in one of the many nooks and crannies along the way, no one would wander by to help me, and I would have been very hard to find.  Knowing that I could send an SOS message if needed gave me some peace of mind.  As I mentioned in my prior report, and as others have noted, the inReach’s tracking feature provides a way for family or friends (or the entire world if you want) to follow your progress via an online map.  Another reason to use the tracking is that it could be valuable in the event of an emergency.  If something happened and you were unable to press the SOS button, the tracking map should significantly narrow down your location (by showing where you were when you stopped moving or when the device stopped sending a signal).     

ME described his and Robert’s hike down the drainage from the saddle as a “tedious, rocky, slow crawl.”  That pretty much sums up my experience as well.  After a time-consuming struggle up the drainage, I finally made it to the saddle that is at about 4,000 feet elevation.  The view was fantastic!
 



 

You can see why they call it the Punta de la Sierra: the end of the mountain.  Someone described the views south from the Punta de la Sierra as South Rim-like.  High praise indeed, and I agree!  I was lucky to enjoy the amazing view both here and farther along the ridge line at another saddle.  Lance’s report includes lots of amazing pictures, including breath-taking shots from the top of the high point, 4885. 

After struggling to reach the initial saddle, it seemed like I should have been close to the top.  Actually though, I still had a surprisingly long way to go, winding up and around the rocky ridge above the southeastern flank of the Puntas.  Although the climbing was often steeper the rest of the way, at least the thorn bushes and cactuses had thinned out significantly, so it felt like much easier going.
 

Finally, the saddle that lies under the Punta de la Sierra high point (4885 feet) came into view.  That’s where I had hoped to camp, and it turned out to be a marvelous spot.  (Thanks again for planting this seed BK!)  Before swinging over to the saddle to set up camp, I enjoyed another wonderful view south from the ridge of the Punta de la Sierra.
 



My plan was to set up camp and then do some exploring.  I had hoped to climb point 4885 or one of the other high points, if I could find a low-risk way to do it.  As it turned out, I was exhausted by the time I set up my tent, and sunset was not too far away.  Looking at the Gaia GPS track I recorded on my phone, I saw to my chagrin that I had only hiked about 3.6 miles since leaving camp that morning.  How had it taken me so long to hike only 3.6 miles and how could I be so tired? 

Lance, Picacho, and Steelfrog had hiked all the way up to point 4885 and then hiked all the way back down in the same day.  Their base camp was only about a quarter-mile closer to the top than where I had started from.  As ME commented after he and Robert climbed down this “hellish” route, hats off to Lance, Steelfrog, and Picacho for their impressive feat!  To paraphrase Garth and Wayne: “I’m not worthy.”   :notworthy:  Because my time was limited, I knew that the next morning I would not be able to further explore the Punta de la Sierra’s southern ridgeline.  While that was disappointing, it does give me a good reason to go back there (despite the tough climb up).

I set up camp on the saddle below point 4885. 
 



The views were amazing, although as usual my pictures have not done them full justice.  Watching the sunset from the saddle more than made up for the difficult climb to get there.
 





This is looking back toward the west.
 

While enjoying my campsite that evening, I was also more than a little worried about my plan to descend from the east side of the saddle the next morning.  Since I had not read about anyone going down this way, I was not sure what to expect.  In looking down from the saddle, it seemed doable, but it also seemed like a long way down, with lots of potential obstacles along the way.  The descent looked to be about 3 or 4 times longer than the descent down Jack’s Pass, which had given me a lot of trouble my first time down.
 

Despite a few butterflies about the next morning, that night I slept very well—probably both because I was exhausted and because I felt very fortunate to be in that very beautiful place.  That night I was again lucky that the wind was light, given my exposed location.  Like the campsite I had enjoyed on top of Jack’s Pass (described in my earlier trip report), this spot could get sporty if the winds kicked up. 

In short, I had a great night high on the saddle, just below the end of the mountain.


*

Offline Peter O

  • Golden Eagle
  • Jack Rabbit
  • *
  • 37
Re: Beyond the Outer Loop III: Over the End of the Mountain
« Reply #4 on: October 08, 2019, 12:34:29 AM »
Day Three, December 3, 2018, 7.9 miles

The next morning, I again peered over the saddle at my route down.
 

 

The hike down the Puntas was relatively anticlimactic, which is a good thing (at least for me).  I took my time and angled down toward the wash below.  This is a view up of point 4885 as I was heading down.
 

Here is the view looking back up toward point 4885 and the saddle where I had camped the night before.
 

I stopped for a break before reaching the wash and took some more pictures from a prominent point near the bottom of my descent.
 

Another shot looking back where I came down from:


When I finally reached the wash at the bottom of the southern Puntas, I had clear sailing along the wash. Looking back up the wash:
 

The wash ahead:
 

It made me wonder if I could have made better time by dropping into the wash sooner.  During my descent, I kept looking toward the wash that descended parallel to my route.  But from what I could see, it seemed full of boulders and a lot more difficult than my route diagonally down the side of the mountain.

I was able to make good time hiking along the wash.  After about a quarter of a mile, I came upon this dam (shown by a marker on my CalTopo map). 
 

There was a wet area below the pipe at the bottom of the dam, but it would have been hard to collect water there.  At first, I thought that the stone work was different from the dam at Dominguez Spring, but on comparing the two when I got to the spring, the stone work seemed very similar, suggesting that they were both made by the same folks at around the same time.  The big difference, of course, is that the Dominguez Spring dam got knocked down at some point.

Not far from the dam in the Puntas wash, there was a pour-off, but it was easily climbable.
 

I had finally accepted the obvious: I did not have enough time to complete my original planned hike that would have taken me through Cow Heaven.  On reaching the wash containing the Dominguez Spring trail, I had to turn north towards the spring. 
 

I had planned all along to detour up to the spring to get water, but now I knew I would not be coming back this way and heading toward the desert and Cow Heaven.  That was a bummer.  As I was turning that corner, I gazed wistfully in the direction of Cow Heaven (although I could not see it from where I was).  Reading about Cow Heaven had increased my interest in exploring it further.  With work and other demands on my time, I was not sure when I could make it back. 

On the positive side, as a shorter alternate route, I decided to hike up Fisk Canyon, where I could pick up my planned route north of the canyon.  After reading about hikes through Fisk Canyon, it was high on my list of places I wanted to see.  This would be my chance.

I think I was a little too excited to see Fisk Canyon because I found myself in the entrance to the canyon before realizing that I had missed the wash leading to Dominguez Spring, where I planned to get water.  After backtracking a bit, I headed up to the spring, where there was a good flow of water (not surprisingly, given that it was a very wet year).  (As it turned out, I could have skipped the detour back to Dominguez Spring since there was lots of water in Fisk Canyon.)
 

A closer look at the Dominguez Spring dam ruins:
 

After filling up with water, I circled back around and headed (again) into Fisk Canyon.  The walk through the canyon was wonderful.  In addition to the natural beauty of the canyon itself, water was flowing along almost the entire length of the canyon (other than a short stretch of about .2 miles).  I experienced something that was a first for my Big Bend hikes: there were several spots where I had to pay attention to avoid getting my feet wet.  From the reports I have read, to see this much water running in Fisk canyon was very unusual.
 

 

One not so wonderful thing was that the high grass (which was difficult to avoid without getting wet) hid multitudes of small stickers that became stuck to my hiking pants and shirt.  I think this is the same thing Cookie described encountering on her recent hike through Fisk Canyon with El Hombre: Valentine’s Get-a-Way.  They called this pesky stuff “Satan’s Spur,” a name that certainly fits.  Although the small stickers were annoying and difficult to get out of my clothes, at least they did not inflict stab wounds like the thorn bushes and cactus spines that had plagued me hiking up the Punta de la Sierra.  I encountered Satan’s Spur at a couple more times during my hikes, although I don’t remember seeing any on my prior hikes.  I wonder if it was flourishing because it was an usually wet year?   
  

Past Fisk Canyon, I picked up my planned route.  From here on, I would follow the same route back that I had taken on my second Sierra Quemada hike (in December 2017).  The water continued in the wash for about another mile, other than a short (.1 mi.) dry section just before Carney Spring.  The water flow stopped at the point where the wash heads northwest (at the 15-foot rock wall that has good handholds for climbing).  The water running in the wash through this area was not there during my hike last year.  Heading west toward the Smoky Creek trail, I hiked another mile or so before stopping at a nice spot for the night.
 

 

Day Four, December 4, 2018, 10.2 miles         

The next morning, I packed up and followed the same route back to Mule Ears overlook that I had taken the year before.  There are a couple of somewhat tricky pour-offs before reaching the Smoky Creek trail.  I had little trouble with those since I mostly remembered them from my previous hike.  Robert had provided me with a helpful heads up about those pour-offs (as I noted in my other report).

As noted earlier, in addition to the abundance of water, one other difference from my prior hike is that I did not see nearly as many bear prints or as much bear scat.  Just before reaching the intersection with the Smoky Creek trail, I did see some bear sign.
 

Once I picked up the Smoky Creek trail, I felt even more comfortable and made very good time since this was now the third time I had hiked along this segment of the trail.  As ME and others have observed, to call this a “trail” is more than a little generous since it is so sparsely marked.  At least this time around, I did not miss the spot (past Hermoso Spring A) where the trail leaves the wash to head northwest around Sugar Loaf Mountain.  Third time was the charm! 

As I noted in my brief water report about this hike (back in December), the amount of water running along the Smoky Creek trail was surprising. 
 

Last year, other than a couple of small pools and short flows, there was little water along this section of the trail.  This year, though, long stretches of the wash had a good flow of water (other than, of course, where the trail leaves the wash to skirt Sugar Loaf Mountain).  The running water gave the trail a different feel, which was fun to experience.  The water along the Smoky Creek trail continued until about 1 mile before the intersection with the Mule Ears trail.

After turning on to the Mule Ears trail and climbing up out of the basin, I again looked across the wide expanse of the Smoky Creek wash to see the impressive Punta de la Sierra in the distance.  Despite the hard time I had in hiking up there, I was grateful that I was able to see it up close.   
 

(To illustrate my difficulty in climbing up the Punta de la Sierra, on my last day hiking from my campsite to the Mule Ears overlook, I covered 10.2 miles in about 5 hours.  In contrast, on day two it took me almost 6 hours to hike just 3.6 miles to my campsite below point 4885.) 

Reaching the overlook parking lot, I was relieved as always to find my car still there and in good order.  An older gentleman was there enjoying the view, and he kindly took this picture of me after my hike. 
 

I wish I could say that this shot is not flattering due to the wear and tear after several days hiking through rough terrain.  But the truth is that I probably looked just as bad at the start of my hike.

In leaving Mule Ears overlook, I was not sure if I was supposed to check in to let the rangers know that I was out, as was required by the former solo-hiker procedure.  I stopped at Panther Junction to be on the safe side, but it was not needed.  They no longer try to check on solo hikers—yet another reason I’m glad I delayed my hike until I had replaced my inReach.

As I drove away from the park, I again felt gratitude that I was able to experience some of the amazing rugged beauty and solitude that lies beyond Big Bend’s Outer Mountain Loop.  But I also wanted to complete my planned hike through the Cow Heaven area, so I began trying to figure out how soon I could return.  Maybe I could squeeze in another trip in early February? 

It was to take me until March, but I finally made it back to finish my hike—and to enter the Gates of Mordor.

TO BE CONTINUED—Beyond the Outer Loop IV: Through the Gates of Mordor

*

Offline Peter O

  • Golden Eagle
  • Jack Rabbit
  • *
  • 37
Re: Beyond the Outer Loop III: Over the End of the Mountain
« Reply #5 on: October 08, 2019, 12:47:41 AM »
S.P.E.C.T.A.C.U.L.A.R!

Dprather: You are very kind.  As you will see, my route through the Backbone Ridge area was inspired in large part by responses to your post about the proposed "Quesadilla Loop."  It was great walking through that area (although I did not make it there until my next hike).  Thank you!   

*

Offline mule ears

  • Administrator
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 4382
  • "He had to leave Texas but won't say why" McMurtry
    • 40 years of walking
Re: Beyond the Outer Loop III: Over the End of the Mountain
« Reply #6 on: October 08, 2019, 06:48:18 AM »
Awesome! 

Quote
(Note to self: If ME describes something as “hellish,” don’t even think about trying it.)
You had me rolling with that one!  But I will again concur that the climb up or down of that drainage is hellish.

I also have inadvertently deleted the Caltopo map of the routes in and through the Quemada that was in the "Quesadilla loop" thread but will try and reconstruct it.

Looking forward to the next report.   :eusa_clap:
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
http://40yearsofwalking.wordpress.com/

*

Offline steelfrog

  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 1618
Re: Beyond the Outer Loop III: Over the End of the Mountain
« Reply #7 on: October 08, 2019, 09:36:09 AM »
Great trip, great report.  That big draw up into the Punta is awesome, and the Punta themselves are like an island in the sky.

*

Offline Casa Grande

  • Site Founder
  • Administrator
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 6251
  • Bending It Since 1991
    • Virtual Big Bend
Re: Beyond the Outer Loop III: Over the End of the Mountain
« Reply #8 on: October 08, 2019, 01:46:23 PM »
Wow. Amazing detailed report and several calendar nominations in that bunch.   Nice job all around. 

Sent from my pocket machine using Big Bend Chat mobile app


*

Offline Robert

  • Golden Eagle
  • Black Bear
  • *
  • 999
  • He who limps is still walking. - Stanislaw J. Lec
Re: Beyond the Outer Loop III: Over the End of the Mountain
« Reply #9 on: October 08, 2019, 05:30:50 PM »
Great report and photos. Congrats on making the climb up into the Punta de la Sierra! Your sunset photos and the shots of the climb down are really nice.

Couple of years ago I went up the wash by Casita Springs but could not figure out how to bypass the pouroff, so I just went a short ways downstream and headed straight up to the top of the ridge west of the wash. Tough climb but had some rewarding views.

*

Offline Peter O

  • Golden Eagle
  • Jack Rabbit
  • *
  • 37
Re: Beyond the Outer Loop III: Over the End of the Mountain
« Reply #10 on: October 10, 2019, 08:31:39 PM »
I also have inadvertently deleted the Caltopo map of the routes in and through the Quemada that was in the "Quesadilla loop" thread but will try and reconstruct it.

Looking forward to the next report.   :eusa_clap:

ME: I hope you will be able to reconstruct your map of the various routes. It really is an invaluable resource. I used at least a couple of the tracks in planning my follow-up hike. Please let me know if you can’t find or recreate any of the routes. I think I may have saved your CalTopo map from the link and can try to find it. Many thanks again.

*

Offline mule ears

  • Administrator
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 4382
  • "He had to leave Texas but won't say why" McMurtry
    • 40 years of walking
Re: Beyond the Outer Loop III: Over the End of the Mountain
« Reply #11 on: October 11, 2019, 11:40:27 AM »
I can easily do it, just have to find some time to sit and do it


Sent from my Nexus 6P using Big Bend Chat mobile app

temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
http://40yearsofwalking.wordpress.com/

*

Offline DesertRatShorty

  • Diamondback
  • *
  • 274
    • Who was Desert Rat Shorty?
Re: Beyond the Outer Loop III: Over the End of the Mountain
« Reply #12 on: October 11, 2019, 07:52:55 PM »
Thanks for this report. Great info on multiple areas I'd like to visit some day. You must be one of the few people to ever camp up on the Punta. Looking forward to the next chapter.

Sent from my SM-G930V using Big Bend Chat mobile app
« Last Edit: October 12, 2019, 10:02:51 AM by DesertRatShorty »
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

*

Offline Peter O

  • Golden Eagle
  • Jack Rabbit
  • *
  • 37
Re: Beyond the Outer Loop III: Over the End of the Mountain
« Reply #13 on: October 14, 2019, 08:03:14 PM »
Great trip, great report.  That big draw up into the Punta is awesome, and the Punta themselves are like an island in the sky.

Steelfrog: Thank you.  Yes, I agree that the approach up is awesome.  Although for me it was also very difficult, I would do it again.  “Island in the sky” is a good description of what it feels like up there.  I noticed (from a separate post) that you signed up for the Trans Pecos Ultra.  That looks like a fantastic course.  I hope you will let us know how that goes. 
« Last Edit: October 15, 2019, 10:58:00 AM by Peter O »

*

Offline Peter O

  • Golden Eagle
  • Jack Rabbit
  • *
  • 37
Re: Beyond the Outer Loop III: Over the End of the Mountain
« Reply #14 on: October 14, 2019, 08:18:26 PM »
Couple of years ago I went up the wash by Casita Springs but could not figure out how to bypass the pouroff, so I just went a short ways downstream and headed straight up to the top of the ridge west of the wash. Tough climb but had some rewarding views.

Robert: I bet those views above the wash were fantastic.  I was surprised at how high up I seemed to be when I came over the hills to drop down into the Casitas Spring area.  I was not expecting that, but it provided for some really nice views from where I was as well.  As you will see from my next report, I made good use of the route you helped me with (descending into the Fresno Creek drainage).  Many thanks again. 

 


©COPYRIGHT NOTICE

All photographs and content posted by members are to be considered copyrighted by their respective owners and may not be used for any purposes, commercial or otherwise, without permission.

+-Calendar For Sale

 2019 BigBendChat Calendar on sale now!

Powered by EzPortal

Facebook Comments