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Big Bend National Park & Davis Mountains trip, October 12 to 19, 2014

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Offline Jonathan Sadow

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In October of 2013, I visited Big Bend Ranch State Park and Guadalupe Mountains National Park.  Prominently absent from that itinerary was Big Bend National Park, a victim of the partial government shutdown which had been resolved by the time I visited GUMO. This year, I resolved that I would make up for that by visiting BIBE along with The Nature Conservancy's Davis Mountains Preserve, which had an open day scheduled for October 18.  So on Sunday, October 12, I made the long drive from Austin to Study Butte-Terlingua and checked into the Chisos Mining Company Motel in anticipation of my hike to and overnight stay at the South Rim on Tuesday the 14th.  I'd last camped at the South Rim in September 2011, when I had my mountain lion encounter, and since then I'd bought a new digital camera with about twelve times the resolution of the old one.  Of course, this meant that I now had to camp at the South Rim again and take better pictures of the sunrise than I could three years before (there were also low-lying clouds on the horizon that morning which made the photos come out less than ideal).

Monday, October 13:
I spent the morning obtaining my backcountry permit for Tuesday night at SW4 and adding to my book collection (I spent so much money that I was given a free Big Bend Natural History Association book bag!).  After lunch, it was time to add to my list of trails that I've hiked in the park.  This time, it was The Chimneys Trail, and of course my goal was The Chimneys.  They were, as one might imagine, quite photogenic:
14A13002 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

Here's the eastern-most one superposed against Kit Mountain:
14A13003 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

Can you recognize what's in the background of this photo?
14A13005 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

The return to my vehicle allowed me to take photos of The Chimneys when backlit...
14A13006 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

...and of Kit Mountain by itself:
14A13007 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

It also permitted me to take photos of familiar objects from unusual viewpoints:
14A13010 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

I saw a couple of these along the trail;  feel free to identify them:
14A13011 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

I also saw several of these shrubs fruiting and completely failed to identify them;  have at it:
14A13008 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

I got back to my vehicle just as the Sun was setting, so it gave me an opportunity to photograph the Chisos in the last light of the day:
14A13012 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

I drove back to Study Butte-Terlingua, had dinner at the Starlight, and prepared for my backpacking trip the next day as described in the next post.

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Offline Jonathan Sadow

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Re: Big Bend National Park & Davis Mountains trip, October 12 to 19, 2014
« Reply #1 on: December 09, 2014, 01:03:12 AM »
Tuesday, October 14:
I spent the morning getting ready for the backpacking trip, checked out of the motel, and proceeded to The Basin where I had lunch at the lodge restaurant, and then made the final preparations for the trip.  I figured it would take me at most four hours to hike to the South Rim.  Because I was staying just the one night, I took only four liters of water, thinking that it would be enough with the cooler temperatures forecast for the next couple of days (highs in the mid-70s and lows in the upper-30s).  This made the pack weight more reasonable than some of my longer trips, although I think it still exceeded 30 pounds.  At last, I had everything assembled and hit the trail a little past 2:30 P.M., or at least I thought I had everything assembled until I remembered about a quarter-mile down the trail that I didn't have my pullover sweater and jacket with me.  So I wasted 20 minutes going back to get the items and didn't hit the trail for real until nearly three.  As well as sunrise photos I wanted to get sunset photos, and now I was going to cut it fairly close with sunset being at about 7:23 P.M..  I progressed up the Laguna Meadows Trail, and as it always seems to happen when I hike into or out of the High Chisos I had to stop at some point and take a picture of The Basin from the trail:
14A14001 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

I passed a few people along the way, most of whom seemed to be dayhikers, and did stop to converse a bit with an older gentlemen who, wearing a BBNHA hat, I suspect was a park volunteer off for a dayhike, as he was quite knowledgeable about the various High Chisos campsites.  Fortunately, I made decent time, and by six had passed the Colima Train junction and was along Boot Canyon.  I finally rolled into SW4 at about quarter to seven.  While I still had over half an hour to sunset, due to my aborted start I wouldn't have time to eat supper before sunset.  I saw no sign of other people anywhere in my vicinity, but that didn't mean that I was alone:
14A14002 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

I had enough time to set up camp, and then I walked to the Rim.  The panorama of the Sierra Quemada lay before me:
14A14003 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

With a few minutes to go before sunset, the last rays of light touched the top of Elephant Tusk and the western flank of Mariscal Mountain:
14A14005 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

Those rays also touched the Sierra del Carmens in Mexico, about thirty miles distant...
14A14007 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

... and the aspens aside Emory Peak:
14A14009 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

Finally, the Sun slid behind the Mesa de Anguila:
14A14011 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

I returned to camp and managed to heat up and shove down some Mountain House delicacy, then spent some time reading and warming up in my tent (it was already getting quite cold) and stargazing with my binocculars (with the Moon not rising until after midnight, the Milky Way was magnificent).  I turned in sometime past 11 and found it quite difficult to fall asleep due to the cold;  it reminded me of the night I camped at Rio Grande Village back in February when it got down to 23 degrees, testing the limits of my 20-degree sleeping bag.

Wednesday, October 15:
I woke up at 7:30 A.M., about 20 minutes before sunrise, as planned.  I took a look at the $3 keychain thermometer I bought at REI, and it read the temperature as being in the upper 20s!  Being a $3 thermometer, that's about as precise as it gets, and I don't know how much accuracy one gets for $3, but judging from I how I felt it may well have been freezing or below.  I got to the Rim with a few minutes to spare, as the Sun was approaching the horizon:
14A15001 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

The Sierra Quemada awaited the first light of the day:
14A15002 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

Finally, the Sun peeked above the Sierra del Carmen:
14A15003 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

Looking to the west, what is the dark object on the right side of the horizon?
14A15005 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

This photo, taken about nine minutes later, may offer a clue:
14A15010 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

Emory Peak is now experiencing the first rays of light...
14A15006 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

... and also the Sierra Quemada...
14A15007 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

... and finally Santa Elena Canyon, twenty miles distant:
14A15009 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

I went back to my campsite and had breakfast, and I wasn't the only one:
14A15011 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

This deer was part of a family group that spent some time browsing around the campsite.  Afterward, I packed up and finally managed to get going around 10:45.  I would be completing the loop by going down the Boot Canyon and Pinnacles Trails.  I stopped a couple of times along the Rim to admire the views.  Here's the Sierra Quemada and Mariscal Mountain in the mid-morning Sun...
14A15015 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

... and a panorama from the Rim:
14A15016 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

I made the turn from the South Rim Trail onto the Boot Canyon Trail.  There were pools of water in the canyon, although I'm not sure you'd want to get water form them:
14A15017 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

By 12:45 I was at Boot Spring, where I took a break and checked out the spring.  In case anyone's interested, here's what the spring looked like.  It was flowing fairly well:
14A15019 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

I actually tried taking video of the flowing spring, but I didn't realize that I had the camera set for using Sony's MTS format rather than MP4, which my computer can't read, so the photo will have to do (the exposure was set at 1/60 sec, for your information).  I continued along my way, and saw an opportunity to get two Big Bend icons in one image:
14A15020 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

I passed Pinnacles Pass (no mountain lion sighting this time), down the Pinnacles Trail, and by 3:15 was at The Basin in time for lunch at the restauarant.  I checked into my room in the Emory Peak Lodge part of the Chisos Mountains Lodge and spent the rest of the day and evening doing laundry, stargazing, and generally relaxing.  I did have to take a panoramic shot of the lodge area just before sunset:
14A15023 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr
« Last Edit: February 09, 2015, 02:32:21 AM by Jonathan Sadow »

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Offline Jonathan Sadow

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Re: Big Bend National Park & Davis Mountains trip, October 12 to 19, 2014
« Reply #2 on: December 09, 2014, 01:40:50 AM »
Thursday, October 16:
After checking out from the lodge, I decided to drive along the Paint Gap Road, which I hadn't done before.  I drove past PG3 but stopped where the road got rougher, as I decided it wasn't worth the effort to continue farther given the amount of time I had (and besides, it would give me something to do on a future trip).  I did investigate the pond near PG2 and PG3 (which was dried up and held little in the way of wildlife) and took a photo of the Chisos from a rarely-seen angle.  In the middle left you can see the cleared area for the PG2 campsite:
14A16001 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

I bought a microwaveable sandwich from the station at Panther Junction (and the clerk told me the sandwich appeared to have been mistakenly underpriced), traveled to Dugout Wells, managed to find a parking spot (remarkable given the fact that a couple had parked their RV such that it took up the entire parking area near the picnic tables), and had lunch there.  I had motel reservations in Alpine for the night, but before going there I planned to visit Glenn Springs.  I'd driven down the Glenn Springs Road in 2001 but didn't stop to check out the settlement site, so I decided I'd see it now.  The drive down the road presented a vista of Casa Grande tucked between Nugent Mountain and Hayes ridge:
14A16002 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

The drive is fairly routine until about a mile north of the site, where it gets quite rocky, and just past the intersection with the Black Gap Road it descends a slope which is becoming rather washed out.  I didn't see the need to put my vehicle through that, so I parked it and walked the remaining quarter-mile to the site.  Here's my vehicle with Chilicotal Mountain to the right and the Chisos off to the left, about ten miles distant:
14A16008 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

Almost 100 years after abandonment, there isn't much left except for stray bits of refuse:
14A16004 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

There are remains of a few structures, though.  If I understand correctly, this is what's left of the general store:...
14A16006 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

...and the residence of one of the owners of the candelilla wax factory:
14A16007 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

Glen Spring itself is overgrown with vegetation, with a giant cottonwood tree near the source:
14A16009 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

Along the way back north, near the Rice Tank campsite, there's an area west of the road with sciency-looking stuff around.  My guess is that it's a vegetation study plot, but you're welcome to your own guesses:
14A16011 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

I got back onto the park road (without blowing a tire, unlike the last time I drove the Glenn Springs Road) and went to Alpine for the night.  The Big Bend National Park part of my trip was over, and now the Davis Mountains awaited me.

Friday, October 17:
I'd briefly visited the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center outside of Ft. Davis in my trip to the area in February, but inasmuch as it was about 27 degrees outside that day, I'd concentrated on the botanical gardens and passed on hiking the trails.  On this day, the weather was much better for hiking, so after lunch in Ft. Davis, I spent the rest of the afternoon on the trails at the center.  The Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute, which operates the center, has done a nice job preserving an area of typical Chihuahuan desert.  Recently an exhibit about the geology of the area has been added to the center, and it's on this hill:
14A17008 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

If you look carefully, below the clouds in the image you can see Mounts Locke and Fowlkes, home of the McDonald Observatory, and zooming in on them shows the domes of the observatory's telescopes, about 15 miles away:
14A17009 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

I returned to Ft. Davis for the night to await my visit to the Davis Mountain Preserve the next day.

Saturday, October 18:
The Nature Conservancy, which owns the Davis Mountain Preserve, several times a year will open the preserve for a day or a weekend.  Today would be an open day, which meant the preserve would be open just for that day.  When I checked in at the preserve headquarters, they seemed relieved that I wasn't planning to go up Mt. Livermore, since it was late in the morning and might take too long (and almost everyone else who was visiting day was going up Mt. Livermore anyway).  I didn't tell them that I'd gone up and down the mountain already, back in 2008, and done it in about 3.5 hours including stopping for lunch on the summit (and here's my proof):
08628006 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

I'd thought about going up the Wolf's Den Trail, but I was told that a group of firefighters was in that area practicing fire-suppression techniques and it was off-limits.  Therefore, I decided to go along the Cat Tank Road and Trail, below Mt. Livermore in the southern part of the preserve.  Cat Tank Road is actually closed to vehicles, but you can walk along it.  The road provided nice views of Mt. Livermore, especially with the tree cover cleared out by the fires in 2011:
14A18001 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

After about a mile, the road gets to Cat Tank, but the tank itself is surrounded by dense vegetation.  The fires didn't make back to this area, so you can see the dense conifer forest that once covered much of the preserve.  You can see the nearby gap next to Whitetail Mountain, though:
14A18003 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

Beyond the area of the tank, a trail continues to Lockes Gap, at least in theory.  However, after about a quarter-mile down the trail, I lost it crossing a small gully.  It was already past 1 P.M. at this point, and the preserve closed at 4, so I didn't consider it worth my time to try to pick it up again.  Instead, I had my lunch and thereafter turned back.  Along the way, I came across a couple of examples of Phrynosoma douglassii hernandesi (Mountain Horned Lizard):
14A18004 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

After I got back to my vehicle I tried driving to Lockes Gap so that I could see where the trail I had been following ended, but the Nature Conservancy people had spoiled the party by blocking the access road to the gap.  I'll have to try to find the trail some other time.  After the preserve closed, there was still some daylight left, so I took the opportunity to hike along the preserve's Madera Canyon Trail, located at the east end of the nearby Lawrence Woods Roadside Park and which is open every day during daylight hours.  I was hoping to see some wildlife but didn't see much other than at a small tank.  I did get to see the preserve from the trail, however:
14A18009 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

You can see the headquarters building at the bottom edge of the cleared area and the manager's residence above and to the left.

The next day, Sunday, October 19, I went back home but, as usual after these trips, I realize there's still plenty of things I must investigate in the Big Bend area, ensuring future trips there (but isn't that how we all feel?).  Maybe in April....

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Offline Andreas

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Re: Big Bend National Park & Davis Mountains trip, October 12 to 19, 2014
« Reply #3 on: December 09, 2014, 07:19:58 AM »
great TR accompanied by some awesome shots, thank you so much for sharing!

Among my personal favorites are pics 14A14005, 14A15002 & the horned lizard because I have never seen one in the wild.
"Any time you're throwin dirt you're losin ground."

Cormac McCarthy, No Country for Old Men

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Offline trtlrock

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Re: Big Bend National Park & Davis Mountains trip, October 12 to 19, 2014
« Reply #4 on: December 09, 2014, 09:03:36 AM »
Nice report & pics. Looks like you had excellent visibility for your sunrise on the Rim.

I also saw several of these shrubs fruiting and completely failed to identify them;  have at it

I'm pretty sure this is Guayacan (Guaiacum angustifolium)
John & Tess

"...and I'll face each day with a smile, for the time that I've been given's such a little while..." - Arthur Lee

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Offline ds9writer

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Re: Big Bend National Park & Davis Mountains trip, October 12 to 19, 2014
« Reply #5 on: December 09, 2014, 10:59:55 AM »
14A15003 sunrise is particularly nice!

Thanks for the excellent TR and all the excellent photos!
You don't travel to see different things,
You travel to see things differently.

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Offline Talusman

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Re: Big Bend National Park & Davis Mountains trip, October 12 to 19, 2014
« Reply #6 on: December 09, 2014, 12:22:47 PM »
Great Report! I love  the 14A15005 shot of Emory Peak's shadow hitting the dust and moisture in the air. Really cool to capture that! I only live 2-1/2 hours from Guadalupe and go there often. Hope you had the opportunity to cover some of that area!
"To Think is easy. To Act is difficult. To Act as one Thinks is the most difficult!"

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Offline Talusman

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Re: Big Bend National Park & Davis Mountains trip, October 12 to 19, 2014
« Reply #7 on: December 09, 2014, 12:26:46 PM »
or is that the South Rim's Shadow? Has to be! Let me know. Thanks
"To Think is easy. To Act is difficult. To Act as one Thinks is the most difficult!"

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Offline Jonathan Sadow

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Re: Big Bend National Park & Davis Mountains trip, October 12 to 19, 2014
« Reply #8 on: December 12, 2014, 05:58:04 PM »
great TR accompanied by some awesome shots, thank you so much for sharing!

Among my personal favorites are pics 14A14005, 14A15002 & the horned lizard because I have never seen one in the wild.

Thank you!  14A14005 is my personal favorite from the entire trip.  I'm glad someone else likes it.

Nice report & pics. Looks like you had excellent visibility for your sunrise on the Rim.

I also saw several of these shrubs fruiting and completely failed to identify them;  have at it

I'm pretty sure this is Guayacan (Guaiacum angustifolium)

Of course!  It's always easier when someone tells you what it is....

Great Report! I love  the 14A15005 shot of Emory Peak's shadow hitting the dust and moisture in the air. Really cool to capture that! I only live 2-1/2 hours from Guadalupe and go there often. Hope you had the opportunity to cover some of that area!

If you mean Guadalupe Mountains National Park, yes, I go by there sometimes (and you should be able to find an report from my last trip there in the GUMO forum).  I'm tentatively planning on going there in February.

or is that the South Rim's Shadow? Has to be! Let me know. Thanks

Got it on the second try!

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Offline Geezer

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Re: Big Bend National Park & Davis Mountains trip, October 12 to 19, 2014
« Reply #9 on: December 12, 2014, 11:10:41 PM »
A wonderful trip report!

Now, Jonathan, I wonder if you ever go root around in the Sierra Quemada itself?

There's nothing like waking up and seeing Elephant Tusk floating on the horizon. It's where the magic realists went to develop their style.

Geezer

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Offline alan in shreveport

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Re: Big Bend National Park & Davis Mountains trip, October 12 to 19, 2014
« Reply #10 on: December 13, 2014, 07:15:37 AM »
Nice report and pictures. I especially like the South Rim shots. Other than your "pet" deer did you see much in the way of wildlife or birds ?  I didn't know there are Aspen on Emory Peak ?

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Offline badknees

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Offline alan in shreveport

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Re: Big Bend National Park & Davis Mountains trip, October 12 to 19, 2014
« Reply #12 on: December 13, 2014, 09:59:46 PM »
I'll be da... darned, I will look for them next chance I get.

 


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