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Flash Trip Dec. 7-10, 2019

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Offline Flash

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Flash Trip Dec. 7-10, 2019
« on: January 13, 2020, 10:32:54 PM »
Flash December 7-10, 2019 Trip


This year I had planned a full week in Big Bend in early December, but ended up cutting it short in order to be available when our two college students returned home after finals. This meant deferring the planned backpack and instead doing a couple exploratory day hikes to scout out a route and just spend some time "exploring the wilderness".

Saturday December 7th - Houston to Marathon

Left Houston (54 degrees, sunny, and clear) and headed for Marathon with stops at Columbus, Seguin, and Kerrville rest areas, then Stripes for gas in Kerrville.

Lunch was Lums BBQ in Junction, which I found gives Cooper's a good run for the money.


Later stops were the Ozona Visitors Center, the rest area east of Fort Stockton, and then gas at Love's ouside of Fort Stockton.

After turning south, I made a stop at the main gate of La Escalera. That name appeals to me on more than one level...


Must be a large ranch, since gates like this one are seen for miles along the highway.


Moving along southward, I spotted two javelinas prowling by the side of the road.

Later toward dusk, I stopped to check out the Prairie Dog Town where I spotted several of said critters. Heads can barely be made out in the center of the picture.


Crossed to the other side of the road to see the other half of the town.


Signs of prairie dog dirt work up close to the fence.


While there, I also spotted a coyote far away to the north loping briskly west to east across the highway like he had a destination. He's somewhere in the center of the shot toward the horizon...


As it got dark, I saw two deer by the roadside. Reaching the Marathon Motel just before 6pm, I had an excellent buffet dinner at Rita's Cantina right there on the patio at the Marathon Motel.  Afterward I strolled along main street in Marathon to stretch my legs.

Upon returning to the motel, I enjoyed a bit of sunset before going inside.


After about 7 pm, I was back at my room organizing gear for the next day's hike, hopefully starting right after claiming a campsite in the Basin. Went to bed about 10 pm to read some Wilderness Sojourn: Notes in the Desert Silence before going to sleep.

To be continued...

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Offline dprather

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Re: Flash Trip Dec. 7-10, 2019
« Reply #1 on: January 13, 2020, 10:36:48 PM »
+1 on your trip - waiting for more.

+1 on Lum's.
Leave "quit" at the car.  Embrace the trail as your friend.  Expect to enjoy yourself, and to be amazed.

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Flash Trip Dec. 7-10, 2019
« Reply #2 on: January 13, 2020, 11:23:00 PM »
+1 on Wilderness Sojourn: Notes in the Desert Silence.

My somewhat-worse-for-the-wear copy.
« Last Edit: January 13, 2020, 11:32:22 PM by House Made of Dawn »
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline alan in shreveport

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Re: Flash Trip Dec. 7-10, 2019
« Reply #3 on: January 14, 2020, 07:11:01 AM »
" buffet dinner at Rita's Cantina right there on the patio at the Marathon Motel. "     I always stay at MM but I'm not familiar with Ritas, where is this elusive cantina ?

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Offline mule ears

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Re: Flash Trip Dec. 7-10, 2019
« Reply #4 on: January 14, 2020, 07:42:30 AM »
" buffet dinner at Rita's Cantina right there on the patio at the Marathon Motel. "     I always stay at MM but I'm not familiar with Ritas, where is this elusive cantina ?

Indeed, this is the first I have heard of this.  Inquiring minds want to know.
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
http://40yearsofwalking.wordpress.com/

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Offline Flash

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Re: Flash Trip Dec. 7-10, 2019
« Reply #5 on: January 14, 2020, 10:03:09 AM »
" buffet dinner at Rita's Cantina right there on the patio at the Marathon Motel. "     I always stay at MM but I'm not familiar with Ritas, where is this elusive cantina ?

Indeed, this is the first I have heard of this.  Inquiring minds want to know.

It is the same place you have likely seen before, but always seems to be closed. The Marathon Motel called The Patio in the past:


It was the first time I had ever seen it open for business. When I drove up to my room, the place was packed. The folks that were using it, who were calling themselves Rita's Cantina, were throwing an end of the season party with a $17 all you can eat buffet. The food was delicious and served by familiar looking faces from around town. One guy in particular I am pretty sure works at The French Grocer.
- Flash
« Last Edit: January 14, 2020, 11:35:34 AM by Flash »

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Offline alan in shreveport

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Re: Flash Trip Dec. 7-10, 2019
« Reply #6 on: January 14, 2020, 09:42:53 PM »
OK, Rita's is on the list. Now what about the rest of your trip ?

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: Flash Trip Dec. 7-10, 2019
« Reply #7 on: January 14, 2020, 10:36:38 PM »
OK, Rita's is on the list. Now what about the rest of your trip ?

+1  Anxiously awaiting more, Flash. I learn a ton from every one of your hikes. You always pick a nook or cranny I know almost nothing about, or look at an old friend in a new way.
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline backpacker56

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Re: Flash Trip Dec. 7-10, 2019
« Reply #8 on: January 15, 2020, 08:16:23 AM »
+1 on Wilderness Sojourn: Notes in the Desert Silence.

My somewhat-worse-for-the-wear copy.

I received a copy of this book for Christmas, and started last night on a second read through.
"Ah, sure, I'm a gnawed old bone now, but say, don't you guys think the spirit's gone!"

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Offline Jalco

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Re: Flash Trip Dec. 7-10, 2019
« Reply #9 on: January 15, 2020, 01:24:34 PM »
+1 on Wilderness Sojourn: Notes in the Desert Silence.

My somewhat-worse-for-the-wear copy.

I received a copy of this book for Christmas, and started last night on a second read through.

I have this on my Christmas list for this year, but I just realized I have a birthday coming up in March....

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Offline Flash

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Re: Flash Trip Dec. 7-10, 2019
« Reply #10 on: January 15, 2020, 06:31:30 PM »
Sunday December 8th - Marathon to the Basin then into the North Chisos Foothills - Part 1

Next morning, I was up at 6:30, got dressed, and ate breakfast in the room. Warming up the truck, it was a beautiful crisp morning with color in the sky and 39 degrees.

By 7:50, reached Persimmon Gap and then stopped briefly about 8:15 at Hannold's Grave, where it had warmed up to 52 degrees.


The surprise in Green Gulch was the sight of late fall colors on the upper slopes on the oaks, which were a rich shade of orange red.


Got to the Basin Campground at 9 am, snagged Site #18, and then headed out about 9:30 for Green Gulch.  Reaching the start of the service road I wished to walk along, I pulled well off the road at about 10 am. Left a note on the dash that I was hiking 2.7 miles on a heading of 249 degrees, finished getting myself watered, fed, equipped, etc.

Note the service road marker with the big green dot.


Back in March 2019, when I hiked the North Chisos Electra Loop, I was taken by the rugged eroded features south of my route following the Oak Spring Powerline. Today was my chance to finally walk what is pretty much a 3-mile ramp running along the upper edge of the big drop that begins at Todd Hill to the base of the foothills. I wanted a closer look.

It was both hazy and I was shooting into the sun, but I was really interested in the twin peaks in the center that look as though they may be cousins of the Mule Ears.


Stepped away from the truck about 10:30 am and started strolling up the friendly looking road. About 10 minutes later, looking ahead up the road.


Then looking back the way I had come.


Here is a link to the route I walked.

Walking straight into the low angle winter sun, I covered up as needed with the neck gaiter, which really did help keep me cool.


The road followed an old north-south fenceline for quite a ways.


Close up of the barbed wire for the aficionados


Looking at the ravine off to my right in the next sequences of shots:








Spotted ATV tracks both coming and going!


Up ahead I can now see slender pinnacles up high and three hefty peaks in the middle elevations. The zone camping boundary is 5400', which is roughly the highest terrace below Pulliam Ridge. Camping below that is fair game.


Looking back toward the top of Todd Hill and where the truck is parked.


Looking east toward the Oak Spring Powerline coming from the direction of Rough Spring and the lower Basin Road with Panther Peak distant center and and Pulliam Bluff nearer right.


Almost reaching the intersection of service roads near that pole ahead. Can see more detail in the foothill terrain now.


There is a lot of depth and many levels to the north side of the Chisos.


My original intent was to walk up to saddle between the twin Peaks to the right of the center. Now I am seeing just how rugged they are and wondering about that ravine in the foreground up ahead. This is a scout I told myself. Better to know what to expect I thought to myself.


Looking back at the valley below and the service road I had followed up.


Stopped at the southermost reach of the service road and now looking west across the North Chisos foothills.


Yes, I have been here before, but I have arrived from a different direction on a different path. Looking southwesterly into the Big Drop that I crossed on my March 2019 hike while doing the Electra Loop. The power pole where I crossed is center about a third of the way from the right.


This is where I leave the service road, head off to the right, and proceed off-trail the rest of the way.



To be continued...


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Offline Jalco

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Re: Flash Trip Dec. 7-10, 2019
« Reply #11 on: January 16, 2020, 07:57:15 AM »
There is a lot of depth and many levels to the north side of the Chisos.


That looks very inviting

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Offline Flash

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Re: Flash Trip Dec. 7-10, 2019
« Reply #12 on: January 17, 2020, 10:06:17 PM »
Sunday December 8th - Marathon to the Basin then into the North Chisos Foothills - Part 2

Here is the map link again

About 11:40 am, I left the service road where I had reached the edge of the Big Drop and began weaving my way along through the lovely desert foilage.


Following the edge southward, around 11:50 am, I stopped for a 20-minute long pack off break. Here I am looking southeasterly toward Pulliam Bluff.


An interesting cliff face to the south that forms the head of the canyon that is formed on the east side by the Big Drop.


Looking to the northwest toward Slickrock Mountain.


Moving onward the tall grass was getting pretty thick indeed.


It seemd to me that this whole north slope of the Chisos was more falling apart than eroding by the look of things.


Converging ravines below the large cliff face.


Gravitational anomaly? Freak sotol plant.


Mearsuring on a map, these twin peaks are about 825' apart, a bit shy of the Mule Ears, which measure out to about 930 feet center to center.


Starting on the left, the ramp I am walking along continues all the way to the base of a high terrace below the Pulliam. Ridge. Note the ravine below with the monster boulder.


Almost even with the large cliff face now.


If I was heading toward the twin peaks, I would have to cross this ravine, probably off to the left of the picture.


That valley and the terrace above beg further exploration.


Interesting lava-looking rock


Started heading for that boulder up ahead.


Rather a cluster of boulders, where about 12:45 pm, I stopped to eat and to take care of business. Note the ramp getting ever stepper as it shoots up to meet the foot of the high terrace below Pulliam Ridge.


Nice view of the wide valley below from next to the big rock. By the way, the main park road is down there, but at this distance I had to hunt for it to see it and could scarcely hear it if at all.


I think in order to get to the twin peaks, I would maybe cross the ravine between those two boulders and then angle right for a ways before aiming left for the saddle to the left of said twin peaks.


Looking back and seeing the service road and I can barely make out a vehicle on the main road, perhaps it is my own.


Looking northward past the boulder toward the Paint Gap Hills with the Rosillos Mountains behind them.


Finishing up my lunch and scanning my surroundings, I resumed my walk southward for another 15-minutes or so and began assessing the situation with the ravines to the southwest and further scoping out the scenery. 

Looking southeast, it makes me want to march up to the top of that ramp and slap the side of that bluff!


To the right, that bluff or high terrace as I have been calling it now almost entirely obscures the Pulliam Ridge, which is peeking up to right in the photo.


Farther to the right still, following that valley in the center might be one way to get above the 5400' contour on top of the high terrace.


Looking southwesterly now, the pinnacle to the right is the twin peaks viewed end on.


These rolling steppes cut with ravines seem to wrap around the base of the rugged pinnacles to the saddle above Point 5052, east of Bailey Spring.


Off to the NNE and zoomed way out there, the white dot in the lower center could very well be my truck. In the background is part of Croton Peak and the far end of the Big Drop.


Having to shoot straight into the sun, which backlit the sotol. The valley just might be beckoning me.


Close up of a possible route to the twin peaks.


Last close up of the hidden valley from the highest position reached before turning back.


Last close up of the twin peaks from the side.


At 1:45 pm, I started back from my turning point, deciding I had at least a 2 or 3 hour walk back to the truck and a camp to set up back at the Basin.

Incredible view to the NNW. I reckon those are the Corazones Peaks in the distant right and the Christmas Mountains on the left beyond Croton Peak.


Awesome volcanic rock


The low angle winter sun was cooking me, so about 2:20 pm, I parked myself in a chunk of shade found next to a nice Mexican Persimmon tree.

Around 2:40, I had a lechuguilla decide I needed a pack off rest and who proceeded to impale my left shin. Pulling up my pant leg, it looked like I had sprung a leak. Threw off my pack and grabbed the first aid kit. Some stop leak powder, a little pressure, and presto, it stopped bleeding!

At last about 3 pm, I rejoined the service road and walking got a whole lot smoother.


Passed the powerlines and the interesecting service road about 3:15 pm.


Saying bye for now to the playground.


Reaching the truck at 4 pm, I stowed my gear, and drove west  a couple miles to scout out a parking spot for tomorrow's hike. Heading straight back to the Basin, I pulled into Site #18 about 5 pm where I cleaned myself up and changed clothes before heading to the upper Basin to buy some ice and have dinner at the Lodge.  After a mediocre dinner from the new Lodge menu, I returned to camp about 7 pm. Tonight I planned to sleep on a cot under the remada. Weather forecasts were now indicating a wet cold front approaching late Monday afternoon. Instead of setting up a tent and then dealing with a wet one Tuesday morning, I decided on a motel for Monday night in Sanderson, which would give me a jump on the drive to Houston with the added bonus of barbeque in Marathon on the way.

In any case the evening was a mild 61 degrees, the breeze light, making the cot an easy option for one night.

It was a great walk into an area of the Chisos I had often wondered about and now I have some new ideas for further hikes.


Total hike time:  5-1/2 hours
Moving time:  3 hours
Measured distance:  5.7 miles
Elevation change:  1100 feet


To be continued...
« Last Edit: January 18, 2020, 10:17:04 AM by Flash »

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Offline dprather

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Re: Flash Trip Dec. 7-10, 2019
« Reply #13 on: January 17, 2020, 10:18:57 PM »
Super...thanks
Leave "quit" at the car.  Embrace the trail as your friend.  Expect to enjoy yourself, and to be amazed.

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Offline tortuga

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Re: Flash Trip Dec. 7-10, 2019
« Reply #14 on: January 18, 2020, 09:41:02 AM »
This was a lot of fun for me to read as a newbie... and an inspiration to begin exploring off-trail during my second visit in October!  Thanks!

 


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