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First Sleepy Trip 08

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Offline sleepy

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First Sleepy Trip 08
« on: January 14, 2008, 02:59:14 PM »
Day 1 and 2

The Art of Getting Lost

That's the book I took along as a read.  I headed out last Saturday from Austin, mid morning.  The plan was to make it to Marathon, have a margarita and look for friends supposedly in town.  No friends found, but good venison nachos at the White Buffalo Bar.  Overnighted at RV park and up early to the park.  Just as I passed Persimmon Gap, the blue was warming around the horizon, while Venus and a thin crescent moon hung low.  I stopped at Fossil Bone Exhibit to watch the sunrise, listen to the coyotes yip yowl, and wait for PJ to open. 

moon and venus


The flag was being raised when I got to the parking lot.  Today was the first day in the temporary  VC set up.  My plan was to get a solo permit for two nights on Dominguez Springs trail and Fisk Canyon.  Two cautions were given: a break-in had occurred last month at the trailhead.  Secondly, coming out was going to be mentally tough.  The 4.5 miles of open desert going in had the Chisos in view, and I would be excited.  Returning, there would be not much to look at and I would be tired.  I was advised to keep this in mind. 

I decided to cache my tool kit and extra lenses along the way.  Not just for losing them, but more to deny a reason for breaking my windows.  The drive down RMSD is always sweet, especially in the morning.  I turned onto River Road for the 23 slow miles to the trailhead.  I traversed RR last year on an Elephant Tusk hike, with no issues for my Tacoma Pre-Runner.  This time, there were many spots that were deeply rutted.  Looks like somebody got stuck after last year's rains.  At about 19.5 miles I was having trouble making a hill, spinning out about half way up.  I had to gather rocks and lay them in the soft spots.  This little exercise took an hour.

Slow going got me to trailhead well after lunch.  I usually head out for hikes in the morning, but I figured to make it to the springs by dusk.  The first part of the hike follows what can generously be described as an old road, if you squint your eyes and use your imagination.  More like relative absence of creosote bushes along parallel lines.  No trouble following it, though.  Brilliantly electric blue skies over the imposing wall of Sierra Quemada.  Warm, nay hot.  Someone later said 93 degrees on the river. 

Heading to the Sierra Quemadas


CAREFULLY NOTE WHERE THE TRAIL ENTERS THE ARROYO.  I took a bearing at the metal t-post.  If you aren't on it, you won't find it.  The sun started to set and long shadows came off the west side of the wash.  I stuck there, as the shade offered heat relief.  This part of the wash also provided least resistance.  Evening was fast approaching, so I put a lamp on my head.  Javelina, deer, dog and cat tracks littered the wash.  I was looking down in rapt wonder at impressions in the sand.  When I did look up, the flanks of SQ were on my left and Dominguez Mountain on my right.  Or so I thought.

In my quest for shade and attention on wildlife tracks, I had followed an arroyo west out of the main wash.  The rises on my right were not the slopes Dominguez Mountain, but the continuation of the burnt mountains to my left.  It is now dark.  I'm tired and hungry, so I decide to make camp on a flat rise about 20 feet up.  It's difficult trudging up the hill, but I set up tent and cook dinner as the last vestiges of alpenglow fade. 

I'm not where I'm supposed to be, but I don't care.  I can see the sheer cliffs silhouetted against the deepening sky.  Mars blazes.  Fantastic shapes on the ridges above me induce crazy dreams.  Cassiopeia and the Ursa Major dance all night long.  I wake occasionally to catch a shooting star and the march of Orion westward.  Cool, not cold.  Still and silent.

Evening ridgeline



Morning comes.   Orange and dark red walls 1000 feet high reflect the sun.  I can see the extraordinary beauty of the canyon.  It is simply amazing.  I cook breakfast.  Looking at my map, I'm fairly sure of my position.  I decide to scout east over the hills in front of me.  My staying here was predicated on finding water on day one, if not early day two.  I have just over a liter and a half of water.  Over those hills is the main valley and hopefully, the springs. 

Morning light



Cross country up and over is difficult.  A cut through wash proves too thick with vegetation, so I scramble up.  As I approach the crest, it is disappointingly false.  This hill goes on for another half a mile.  I've given myself 2 hours to find water, and 90 minutes have passed.  I decide to head back, break camp and head out.

As I leave my misguided arroyo and join the main wash, I look back and see how clear the way is.  I am kicking myself for missing it.  I have the thought to head back up, but my better judgement tells me otherwise.  I'm sure I'll find the springs, but if I don't (or they are dry), I'm screwed.  A bit disappointed, I now set my task on finding the trail coming out of the creek. 

Even with my readings, finding a rusty post is going to be difficult.  It turns out to be impossible.  I do a spiral search.  No post, no cairns.  Only the expanding circular path of my boots.  I start to become a bit perturbed.  I sit down and mull over my map. The arroyo swings between two hills and heads to River Road about a mile west of the trailhead.  I don't like that option.  The trail/old road appears to skirt the second hill.   I check my water.  Under a liter.  I set of cross country for that hill.  Like I'm supposed to, I find the trail. 

Mentally tough on the way out, I remember being told.  Looking out across the expanse of desert isn't boring to me.  It affords the opportunity to clear my mind; simplify the internal landscape.  Repeated steps upon repeated steps become a physical meditation.  Thoughts continually creep in, but I watch them float by, trying not to cling.  The air is clear, my dwindling water supply tasting better and better with every departing drop. I see an empty rusted tin proclaiming ham and cheese.  Is it trash or artifact?  Let the authorities decide.  It's with me now.

I reach my completely secure truck after a couple of hours.  I had parked it below the trailhead, out of open sight.  I fill my gullet with copious amounts of water and rub my face.  I fix a lunch and begin the next long slow drive east to a cold beer.  I decide not to dwell on my wrong turn, but reflect on my better decisions and the absolutely stunning scenery I was misplaced in.   Formidable ridges, sheer volcanic walls,  monstrous hidden canyon.  Silence inside silence.  Hidden animals, save the cactus wren and a raven.  Night skies filled with stars close enough to taste. 
« Last Edit: January 14, 2008, 03:23:08 PM by sleepy »
It's never too late to be what you might have been-Geroge Elliot

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Offline East Texan

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Re: First Sleepy Trip 08
« Reply #1 on: January 14, 2008, 03:16:15 PM »
Bravo ! :cool-thumb:
Hope there is more coming. 
I'll be there in less than two weeks and can't wait.
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If it doesn't stick you, sting you, or bite you, then it must be a rock.

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Offline trtlrock

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Re: First Sleepy Trip 08
« Reply #2 on: January 14, 2008, 03:36:59 PM »
Always enjoy your reports, Sleepy...

too bad you had to pull the plug on that portion, but it was definitely the right move.

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 STARLITDARKNESS3

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Re: First Sleepy Trip 08
« Reply #3 on: January 14, 2008, 03:46:26 PM »
You know, your not finding the trail this time just offers an opportunity for a return trip.  Great report, Thanks for the pics.
"Are we there yet?"  ... by my Kids

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Offline jr ranger

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Re: First Sleepy Trip 08
« Reply #4 on: January 14, 2008, 04:16:44 PM »
That's some fancy writing! Photos aren't bad either. Is there any more to this journey that you'd be willing to share with us?  :ranger:
"Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished."

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Offline tjavery

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Re: First Sleepy Trip 08
« Reply #5 on: January 14, 2008, 04:51:13 PM »
Great report! Great photos. I really like that 2nd shot. Beautiful skies! Sorry you missed Dominguez Springs and the ruins, but at least you did get to see and experience a beautiful, remote, and rugged piece of the park.

My wife and I did that hike last year. We completely missed the old road / trail junction as we hiked in. We bumbled up the arroyo, zig-zagging along, hoping to find the trail. About 1/2 mile from the DS ruins, we found a cairn. Funny enough, on the way out (the next day), we were not able to keep on the trail. It just vaporized after a cairn or two after leaving the ruins. Same procedure, follow the arroyo....

I had pre-plotted GPS waypoints in my GPS unit prior to the hike. These waypoints were based on the USGS topo map. Out in the field, it was only a matter of connecting the dots on the little screen to make the hike. I also followed along with a print-out of the map.

For what it's worth, we followed the "dots" carefully in the arroyo and never saw any cairns (until that last one, with about 1/2 mile to go). I suspect heavy rains have taken their toll on the cairns and established trail and/or the GPS points from the map were badly off.

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Offline sleepy

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Re: First Sleepy Trip 08
« Reply #6 on: January 14, 2008, 04:56:02 PM »
yes, we have no cairns.
It's never too late to be what you might have been-Geroge Elliot

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Offline sleepy

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Re: First Sleepy Trip 08
« Reply #7 on: January 14, 2008, 06:27:19 PM »
Day 3 & 4

After my previous misguided ramble, I put in a night at the Big Bend Motor Inn.  It was my first time to stay there, although I have used their showers on a few occasions.  I love it when you can conduct a ten minute transaction while the other person is on their cell phone.  Such courtesy gives me warm fuzzies.  I could tell from the "then what she say?" and "Yeah, uh huh, yeah" that it was life or death.  Assuredly great doings were pending.  I felt bad for interrupting.  Still, the $70+ was a bit steep for low water pressure and a lumpy mattress.  I did, however get 4 channels on the TV. 

So, I have an extra day.  What to do?  First thing was a breakfast burrito next to the fire at Kathy's Kosmic pink trailer.  Talked to a fellow named Phil who was about to depart on a journey south.  He was going Del Rio to cross over into Mexico. He would head beyond Mexico City to an unnamed lake, camp, snorkel and generally lay low for a month or so.  He planned on making nice with the local drug runners, so they would treat him the same.  He regaled me with tales of doing the worst to vehicles tearing across Baja.  Good coffee talk.

I decided to play close and scramble around Indian Head.  I love that area.  There were two RV trailers parked at the trail head.  No one around, but I didn't know that was an option. I had a few close encounters with busted ankles climbing on unstable rocks.  I went past the spring about 1/4 mile and dropped into Rough Run and worked my way back.  There was water at Indian Head Spring and Joe Black.  A cold front was supposed to move in, bringing winds and a drop in temperature.  It felt warm.   It was a perfectly glorious day. 

Later I headed down 170 to the State Park.  My plan was to hike Rancherias Canyon the next day.  I stopped at the Visitors' center and got a permit to camp at Madera Canyon by the river.  Apparently, many improvements afoot.  New trails and backcountry campsites were in the works.  This means fire rings!   This means campfires in the desert!  There was also the first issue of El Solitario, the park's newspaper.  Looks good.  I had my conversation with the ranger hijacked by a woman wanting to know about mountain bike trails.  Her husband finally asked her to let me finish my business.  She replied, "His questions are the same as mine, anyway."  Such tact.  Such regard for your fellow human beings. I gathered my paper and sunglasses then headed a few more miles to the drive up campsite.  I spent a cold night in the back of my truck.

I got to the trailhead of Rancherias Canyon at 8 a.m.  Perfectly chilly to start the hike.  Very well marked to the wash into the canyon.   The first couple of miles I was greeted by an almost a constant flow of creek.  Quite a few burro piles, as well.  This canyon is quiet, punctuated by gurgles of water.  It starts out innocently enough, low basalt walls and tumbles of conglomerates.  The springs are watched over by shockingly yellow leafed cottonwoods.  They vibrated against azure.  At about 10, I took a break on a large boulder at the foot of the first true canyon wall.  It was several hundred feet of volcanic flow.  I could only imagine what that was like happening.  A rock slide ran up the bank to the vertical face about 200 feet. 

cottonwood in creek


true beginning of canyon



I continued on for another couple of hours through a truly beautiful canyon.  It opened and closed, meandered and cut through 60 million years of rock.  Sometimes the path was coarse sand, sometimes pillow sized rocks in live stream beds.  Occasionally the vegetation was thick, but mostly I could move quite briskly.  I was continually amazed at the remoteness and ruggedness.  This canyon has a heft that is not to be denied.  I recommend it.

The canyon ends at a 70 ft falls, supposedly one of the highest in Texas.  You must negotiate a pour-off to stand at the pool just below the falls.  Some scrambling required.  I dropped my hiking stick about 15 feet into tinaja.   No tumbling water from the falls today.  Seeps in the wall did allow maiden hair ferns opportunities for footholds.  I found a four point antler and leg bone bleached white.  Calcite crystals were abundantly strewn on the ground.  I lunched on beef stew followed by a chocolate brownie.  I lazed for an hour or so soaking in silence, alternately gazing at rock, water and sky.

pool reflection



Here I struggled.  I take lots of photos.  I actually studied photography in college.  I tend to look at the world photographically.  I love snatching an instant from the flux and finding meaning or sublimity.  Now I was finding myself rebelling against this.  Something was pushing me to observe the flow.   Or flow myself.  Interesting because the scene was static. Or so it appeared.   It was instant that was now, not before.  Still, it was the lava laid down epochs ago cut slowly by trickles and torrents, seeded by bird, reptile and wind; It was ten thousand years of ten thousand years. a sea buried under rock turned into desert.

My hike out was much quicker.  I explored a cave along the way.  It seems to have been occupied in the very recent past.  Like days ago.  Again, the only creatures I encountered were wrens and a hawk.   The hike itself is about 10 miles round trip, and took me most all of the day. 

cave view



It's never too late to be what you might have been-Geroge Elliot

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Offline SA Bill

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Re: First Sleepy Trip 08
« Reply #8 on: January 14, 2008, 06:41:18 PM »
Nice report!

Great pics!

Thanks for sharing!!   :eusa_clap:
   Bill
Bill - In San Antonio

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Growing up is optional.

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Offline Al

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Re: First Sleepy Trip 08
« Reply #9 on: January 14, 2008, 07:09:33 PM »
Mr. Lamarr, you use your tongue prettier than a twenty dollar whore!

Al

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Offline jr ranger

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Re: First Sleepy Trip 08
« Reply #10 on: January 14, 2008, 07:18:03 PM »
You're a very talented writer, indeed.

  They vibrated against azure. 

That's just great!

Amazing report.
  :ranger:
"Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished."

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Offline jr ranger

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Re: First Sleepy Trip 08
« Reply #11 on: January 14, 2008, 07:19:07 PM »
Mr. Lamarr, you use your tongue prettier than a twenty dollar whore!

Al


 :rolling:
"Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished."

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Offline sleepy

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Re: First Sleepy Trip 08
« Reply #12 on: January 14, 2008, 07:23:29 PM »
Mr. Lamarr, you use your tongue prettier than a twenty dollar whore!

Al

coming from you, that means alot, cuz i know you know plenty of twenty dollar whores  :icon_lol:
thankee for the kind words
« Last Edit: January 15, 2008, 11:04:07 AM by sleepy »
It's never too late to be what you might have been-Geroge Elliot

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Offline Al

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Re: First Sleepy Trip 08
« Reply #13 on: January 14, 2008, 07:36:24 PM »
There is no higher compliment than Slim Pickens gave to Harvey Korman on his use of the English language in Blazing Saddles.

Al

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Offline sleepy

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Re: First Sleepy Trip 08
« Reply #14 on: January 14, 2008, 07:39:17 PM »
I know it well.  Just about my favorite movie of all time.  Don't think you could make that one today.  Only poking your ribs.

It's never too late to be what you might have been-Geroge Elliot

 


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