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Flash April 22-28, 2018 Trip

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Offline Flash

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Flash April 22-28, 2018 Trip
« on: May 08, 2018, 09:03:14 PM »
Flash April 22-28, 2018 Trip

This trip to Big Bend was over a period of 7 days and 6 nights, one in Marathon and the rest in the Park. Having now 5-weeks annual vacation after passing my 20-year work anniversary and combined with the fact of turning 61 in March has helped motivate me to go do things now while the ability is still there. Hence, I have been trying to make it to the Park 3 or 4 times a year as things at home and work permit. For this trip, I did not have a solid agenda, but I brought a long list things I'd like to go check out.  The list was broad enough that I brought along both backpacking and car camping gear, just in case, though I was leaning heavily on the car camping side.

Sunday April 22nd

Left Houston 7:30 am on a cloudy 59 degree morning. Opted for Hwy 90 over I-10 as I entered San Antonio. Rolled into Hondo at 11 am in time to beat the Sunday crowd at Herman Sons Steak House. Had a dandy patty melt and sweet tea before getting gas ($2.359/gal) at the Hondo HEB. Got gas ($2.699/gal) again later in the afternoon at the Alon in Sanderson and then used the secret community center restrooms just off the main drag. Arrived at the Marathon Motel at 5 pm, went to grab a sandwich and chips from French's Grocery, and then ate them at the picnic table over near the fire station. With daylight remaining, I next drove to the cemetery to view the headstones of names that have become  familiar to me from my reading.


Looking northwesterly from the south end of the Marathon Cemetery.



Three generations of Stillwells:









Frank Pulliam



Sam Nail and Nena Burnham



John Moss and Julia Nail



Robert Nail



Willam Burnham and Irene Vickers



Looking northward from the south end of the cemetery.



Next I wandered around the Gage Gardens, which is always pleasant in the late evening, then headed over to a pretty crowded White Buffalo for some Big Bend Brewing Co. on tap. Enjoyed sipping on a pale ale and later followed it up with a raspberry maibock. Pretty tasty stuff indeed. Had interesting conversations with another traveler and then later a local who works at the new barbeque place, both were  overall pretty entertaining.


Walking near the tracks while watching the evening sun.



Lot of cars parked along main street for a Sunday night.



It all in how you hold the camera...



My wife and I stayed at the Gage Hotel one night on our honeymoon trip back in 1990. We still laugh about all the trains.



Got back to the motel about 8:45 pm, so then I went for a walk to look at the stars. Wandering into the back enclosed viewing area,  I enjoyed the dark sky by myself for a moment, until I was surprised to see a movement over by the little observatory building. It was Bill, who proceeded to conduct a impromptu star party along with Richard who walked up shortly after me. It was a real hoot viewing the Orion Nebula through the telescope and having the details of that particular constellation explained. Pretty fun and what an unexpected surprise. After a good while I thanked him, we shook hands all around, and I excused myself to wander back to my room to get some much needed rest after a long day on the road.


To be continued...

« Last Edit: May 10, 2018, 10:19:06 PM by Flash »

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Offline Hang10er

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Re: Flash April 22-28, 2018 Trip
« Reply #1 on: May 09, 2018, 08:23:21 AM »
What a cool report Flash!  Since I've been going to BiBE and on this site, I'm learning I need to slow down.  I've learned it's the trip not just the destination.  I commented in a post one time that on my first trail, I hiked fast and deliberate trying to get to the end, the prize.  Then I hiked quickly back.  Grapevine Hills, you want to see the balanced rock.  Laguna Meadows, you want to see the South Rim, the Chimneys, Burro Mesa pour-off, etc.  They're named after the goal at the end. 

After reading other reports and doing some thinking, I realized the whole hike is the prize.  It's the ENTIRE route. 

Thought I had reached maturity.  Now I read your report and it dawns on me, Marathon, Sanderson, Langtry, they're all destinations in their own right. 

With the right state of mind, the adventure starts when you walk out your door. 


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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: Flash April 22-28, 2018 Trip
« Reply #2 on: May 09, 2018, 08:43:18 AM »
Really well-put, Hang10er. Flashís posts have done the same for me. This one was a doozy in that regard. Iím grateful.


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Offline Casa Grande

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Re: Flash April 22-28, 2018 Trip
« Reply #3 on: May 09, 2018, 07:27:42 PM »
I'll tell you what. You've got some really good reports and pics, Flash.  Good know ya.

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Offline Buck

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Re: Flash April 22-28, 2018 Trip
« Reply #4 on: May 10, 2018, 03:59:23 PM »
I, too, stayed at the Gage on my first honeymoon in the Spring of 1991.
"Hey, how 'bout a Fandango..?"

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Offline Flash

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Re: Flash April 22-28, 2018 Trip
« Reply #5 on: May 10, 2018, 10:14:26 PM »
Monday April 23rd


Left the motel at 6:50 am with clear skies and 48 degrees.



Stopped at the Alon station on the other end of town to get coffee and a couple bacon and egg breakfast burritos. These folks are friendly and run a clean establishment. By 7:15 am, I was on the road with a mission: Go straight to the Basin and find an available campsite.


Have you ever spotted this guy on the left as you cross over the tracks on the way south?



Fifteen minutes later, I pulled over at the roadside park 1) to eat one of the burritos and 2) to gawk at the wonders of the Marathon Fold Belt aka "Los Caballos".


Pulled into Persimmon Gap at 8:04 am and found neither the booth nor the visitor center were yet manned, so I kept cruising after a brief pit stop. Blew by (at the speed limit of course) Panther Junction and drove straight to the Basin campground.


Looping around for a bit, by 9:40 am, I had claimed Site #4 in the upper loop. Had camp set up by 11 am. Campground was now full.



All this work earned me a short nap stretched out inside the toasty warm tent on my the full-sized cot. Nice.



After my nap and not entirely awake, a fellow named Marty walked up asking for jumper cables. Blinking, I turned around and dug out mine and handed them to him, but wait his also needed my truck with them. Once he was back in business, around 12:20 pm, I left camp in my truck. Although it was only 68 degrees out, it felt hot in the sun. Got ice at the Store. The visitor center was closed for lunch, so I just hung my pass from the mirror and headed off on my way.


For several weeks, I had been studying the area some around Sam Nail and Oak Creek ranches in Google Earth and listed some items to check out. This afternoon, I decided I would locate and examine an old fence marked in Lance's GE Project. Although it is marked with a point, the fenceline can clearly be seen in the aerial photos runnning east-west in both directions. I wondered if this could be a chunk of Homer Wilson's famous panther-proof fence? Got to go see. Parked at the Sam Nail Ranch pullout and by 1:15 pm I was hiking up the gravel road to Oak Creek. It was 81 degrees according to my truck and road was glaringly bright and the sun quite hot. About 1/4 mile short of the tiedown tree, I gladly left the gravel road behind, turning north on an old abandoned road that was very clear in the aerial shots.


Looking north, you can see that the old road was well graded, wide, and fairly smooth. Suspect the county may have maintained it because it looks about two blade widths (~14' wise) with a berm on each side. This may arguably be a better road than Old Ore, if I may be so bold.



Looking back to the south at Carter and Ward mountains with Cattail in between.



Enjoyed the easy walking along the old roadbed, I stopped after about 1/2 a mile and took a series of photos beginning with looking north and then rotating around to my right.


Slickrock Mountain, etc. and Croton Peak



Croton Peak



Foothills north of the Chisos



Foothills below Vernon Bailey



Vernon Bailey and Amon Carter with Toll Mountain peeking through the Window



Ward Mountain



No doubt some of Homer's pasture land



Burro Mesa



North end of Burro Mesa



Then I noticed some prickly pear blossoms and buds.



Prickly pear flowers



About this time, I realized I had overshot my turn for the fence because, well, I never saw a fence. Minding my GPS now, I walked until I reached the waypoint and immediately found... a line of rocks?



Taking a closer look, there was a single strand of barbed wire. No posts any where up or down the line. Huh, I thought.



The stones were a single layer only, except in the low spots where they might be a double layer.



I was a bit baffled.  A lower course of rocks below the fence wire? Not getting this...



Then I located a few sections where the fence was more complete. Here the single strand of barbed wire topped a V-mesh rolled fence wire about maybe 3-feet if stretched out. Not a very tall fence, if that was all there was to it. Perhaps the "panther-proofing" was something else above all this?



This section got me thinking when I saw the rocks were all on top of the single strand of wire. Maybe the fence dismantlers after the Park took over placed rocks on top of the wire rather than simply roll it up, figuring it would be out of sight? Basically they pulled the posts and stacked rocks on top of the wire to hide it. Funny thing is this created a line stones over a mile long visible in aerial photos.



More V-mesh rolled fence wire



Here is a spot with the single strand of barbed wire still above the V-mesh.



I had reached the old road again and found no further evidence past the road on the other side.  As hot as I was feeling, I began to walk back looking toward Cattail Canyon in the distance.



Looking back and seeing the Sphinx far off to the north.



Began to want some shade, so I headed to nearest, which was the tiedown tree!



Rested here for about 30-minutes and did some milling around in the bushes looking for evidence of habitation, thinking I found some bits of retaining wall.



Got back to Sam Nail Ranch around 5 pm. Hiked 6.1 miles and was gone about 3-1/2 hours.



Big cottonwood to the west with Burro Mesa in the background.



The newer windmill with a mesa off behind it.



This bare circular spot would have been a dandy location for that big stock tank I have seen pictured in the old photos...



Left the Nail Place and drove down the road to the Blue Creek ranch Overlook.



A cholla plant there was in magenta blooms.



The bees were enjoying it.



Heading back north, I stopped at the dike across the road from the Upper Burro Mesa Pouroff trailhead.



Being close to Study Butte and it getting be evening, I opted to go there for a shower and dinner at the Chili Pepper. After stopping to phone home, I got gas ($3.139/gal) at the store, and then about 8 pm headed for the Basin.


Sunset with the Sphinx in sillouette.



Sky on fire



Reached my camp at Site 4 by 9 pm and was off to bed at 10 pm.


To be continued...

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Offline alan in shreveport

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Re: Flash April 22-28, 2018 Trip
« Reply #6 on: May 10, 2018, 10:41:49 PM »
Flash,
  Enjoying your report as always. Seems like covering a barbwire fence with rocks might be more work than balling it up and hauling it away, but then I've never done either one.

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Offline Hang10er

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Re: Flash April 22-28, 2018 Trip
« Reply #7 on: May 11, 2018, 07:51:51 AM »
Couple thoughts crossed my mind.  Do you think someone took the posts later to re-use?  But if that was the case, I think you'd see spots on the barbed wire where the posts use to be.

Could the panther proof theory be - String one low wire, about knee high to a cat and he'll be too leery to step over.  Roll of rocks underneath and he won't go under????

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Offline mule ears

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Re: Flash April 22-28, 2018 Trip
« Reply #8 on: May 11, 2018, 10:00:49 AM »
Great stuff Flash!

As to the fence stuff, my farmer guess is that the rocks were used to weight down the bottom of the woven wire fence to keep animals from pushing under from either side.  Homer Wilson raised mostly goats which are notorious for being hard to keep inside a fence.  The barbed wire would have been on top, maybe several runs to then keep animals from jumping over.  My guess is they took the posts down and maybe the top runs of wire but left the rest as too hard to get up.  Did you see any posts lying around?  I can't imagine that they would have hauled them off.
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Offline Flash

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Re: Flash April 22-28, 2018 Trip
« Reply #9 on: May 11, 2018, 11:44:02 AM »
On the fencing in the Park in general, I have seen various combinations: 1) fences intact, 2) posts remaining with wire gone, 3) wire remaining with posts gone, and 4) the entire fence simply laid down and the brush allowed to grow through and hide it.  Perhaps the ranchers salvaged and sold some of the fencing before vacating, then later the NPS allowed area ranchers to scrounge the remainders. Seems I learned somewhere that cedar posts were shipped in from the Hill Country, so those may have been worth repurposing where the picking was easy.

On the particular fence, I think I walked about 1/4 mile of it. I have not got this one completely figured out. There were no fence posts in sight, nor any on the ground, nor any holes remaining that I saw. For much of the distance covered, the single strand of barbwire was underneath the line of stones.   It was the spots that were the exception, such as water courses where the wire was up off the ground, that I took the photos of the bits of mesh.

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Offline Jalco

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Re: Flash April 22-28, 2018 Trip
« Reply #10 on: May 11, 2018, 03:14:36 PM »
Site #4 is one of our favorites.

Nice report.

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Offline Flash

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Re: Flash April 22-28, 2018 Trip
« Reply #11 on: May 11, 2018, 03:37:25 PM »
Site #4 is one of our favorites.

Nice report.
I liked it because the stonework supports for the ramada do a good job of blocking the morning and evening sun and provide some privacy from Site 3 when you want it.
« Last Edit: May 25, 2018, 11:04:14 PM by Flash »

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Offline Flash

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Re: Flash April 22-28, 2018 Trip
« Reply #12 on: May 12, 2018, 06:10:28 PM »
All right enough about fences...


Tuesday April 24th


Tuesday morning I arose at 8:05 am to clear skies and 63 degrees. This was forecast to be the hottest day of the week, before a cool front rolled in Wednesday morning. If I was going to hike all the way to Banta Shutin, tomorrow would be the day, weather permitting. Today I was inclined to explore some more around the Sam Nail/Oak Creek area, thinking I might look for the Rock Hut, Cottonwood Spring, and Little Cotton Spring. If a way appeared feasible, I thought it might be cool to walk up Burro Mesa and try to visit Hambly Spring.


Around 9:20 I was done with breakfast, clean up, prep, and dressing for the trail and headed to the Store to get ice. As mentioned in the Rough Spring - April 24, 2018 water report, my stop at the bottom pullout on the Basin Road led to a sudden change of plans to bushwhack over to Rough Spring, which was only 1.2 miles away as the crow flies.


I shoved off on my voyage about 10:30 am, finding it slow going at first working my way along through the sea brush. Then I reached the powerline trail and I was in business, as long as the road continued more or less in the same direction my GPS pointer indicated for Rough Spring.


Looking down the Basin powerline toward Panther Peak and Lost Mine Peak to the south



The powerline branches off to the west here to provide power for the pumps that draw water from Oak Spring and/or Cattail Creek and push it to the storage tank up the hill above the cabins.



Now I wonder what bird builds such huge nest?



I couldn't see anybody home as I stopped by to study it.



This branch was headed toward Rough Mountain, but needed to angle off to the left. This particular pole has 4 woodpecker holes and something attached to it down low.



Spare fuses for the lucky maintenance guy who gets to come out in a storm to restore power to the pumps.



The powerline took a jog southward to avoid Rough Mountain and now seemed to definitely be going my way.



Looking back over my shoulder I spot the access road that I completely missed somehow. Decided I'd follow it on the way back, I told myself.



Although things were extremely dry, the prickly pear blooms were in full swing with more to come from the look of the buds.



Same would go for the cholla.



Caught up with the Oak Creek powerline road.



This pole had two huge nests laying on the ground at the base.



I wonder if they get knocked off on purpose to help keep from shorting things out. There was no new one up on top.



Coming upon a ravine and seeing the road climbing and then winding around the hill.



The ravine crossing for the road. The road looked similar in construction to the old road I saw the day before.



The rock bottom ravine had watermarks that indicated it had carried water for an extended period of time.



Following the road around the side of the hill.



Looking off into the ravine below and zoomed in you can see evidence of flowing water in the recent past.



Leaving the road, I began following the ravine.



Looking down a sloped pouroff or a chute perhaps is the correct term.



The chute now behind me.



The plant life is getting greener, which is a good sign of water.



When the ravine reached a tee, I turned upstream to the left and stopped shortly to enjoy some shade.



Those fruit are Texas Persimmons. Good bear fodder.



Well looky there! But not too fresh.



As I head up the main wash, the trees and shrubberies are getting larger.



Can't be too much farther now.



Old bones from a kill.



This point in time is when the photos in the water report begin.


The bee tree I avoided by climbing the bank.



Working my way around the bee tree and viewing the start of the other trees near the spring.



Sometime after the last photo was taken, as I was looking around in the brush to determine where the water flow began.



Suddenly, I heard a series of crashing sounds as something ran off unseen down the ravine. Mule deer? Bear? I don't know, but I began singing my bear song loudly for the next 5 or 10 minutes until my heartrate slowly came back down.


Leaves of three, let them be. Saw a lot of this 3-leaved plant and wondered if it might be a distant cousin of poison ivy. Thankfully I got no rash.



Seems so hard to get anywhere close to cottonwoods near this spring because of the brush. Wanting to get close enough to touch one them, I worked my way around the other side which was against a steep bank with less brush. As I got close and was stooping over to see through the branches, I spotted this interesting-looking hollowed out area.



Maybe the animal-that-crashes-through-trees-as-it-runs-away lives here?



Oh, yeah, right, the cottonwood tree. Well here is the trunk and a present of something left beneath it.



About 12:45 pm, I started making my way back following first the main wash and then the side ravine all the way back to where the road first crossed it. From there, I grabbed the portion of the powerline road I had spotted earlier and followed it back to the main powerline road.


Rounding a curve in the old road, I could see my truck and Lone Mountain in the distance.



Another batch of beautiful yellow flowers on the prickly pear!



Looking back over my shoulder along the powerlines toward Rough Mountain.



Panther and Lost Mine peaks presiding over a sea of grasses.



Finally, I bushwhacked the remaining short distance back to the pullout where I was back at the truck at 2:05 pm. In all, I hiked 3.9 miles and was gone a little under 4 hours.


I was back at the campsite in the Basin by 2:30 pm where I relaxed for the next couple hours. I swung in my hammock, got cleaned up, and changed, then headed to the Lodge for dinner. The day ended for me at about 10 pm as I when I went off to bed.


Tomorrow I hoped to try hiking to Banta Shutin, but part of me wondered if I could make it, while the other part really wanted to do this.


To be continued...
« Last Edit: May 25, 2018, 11:05:32 PM by Flash »

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Flash April 22-28, 2018 Trip
« Reply #13 on: May 12, 2018, 07:20:57 PM »
Another great, detailed Flash investigation!

A good candidate for the builder of those nests would be Common Raven (Corvus corax). Or, possibly, Chihuahan Raven (Corvus cryptoleucus). Iím not certain of the relative breeding distribution of those two species throughout the park. My guess is that the nests on the ground were deliberately knocked down after breeding season by maintenance crews. Possibly a foolís errand, as ravens exhibit a great deal of nest-site fidelity and will re-use and/or rebuild nests at the same location year after year after year.


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« Last Edit: May 12, 2018, 07:57:46 PM by House Made of Dawn »
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline Flash

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Re: Flash April 22-28, 2018 Trip
« Reply #14 on: May 12, 2018, 08:26:44 PM »
Another great, detailed Flash investigation!

A good candidate for the builder of those nests would be Common Raven (Corvus corax). Or, possibly, Chihuahan Raven (Corvus cryptoleucus). I’m not certain of the relative breeding distribution of those two species throughout the park. My guess is that the nests on the ground were deliberately knocked down after breeding season by maintenance crews. Possibly a fool’s errand, as ravens exhibit a great deal of nest-site fidelity and will re-use and/or rebuild nests at the same location year after year after year.

Like this guy? Not from too far away in Green Gulch, I took this shot from near Moss Well. He seemed a bit larger and his call raspier than a crow. I wondered if it might be a raven...




- Flash

 


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