Big Bend Chat

Big Bend or Bust! => Your Trip Reports => Topic started by: DesertRatShorty on February 03, 2019, 05:24:17 PM

Title: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: DesertRatShorty on February 03, 2019, 05:24:17 PM
Better Shutup Than Shutdown

Big Bend Ranch State Park

Jan 23-28, 2019

I had never given much thought to BBRSP as a backpacking destination, until around the first week in January when it seemed the government shutdown might drag on for a while. With my plan A in jeopardy and an inflexible travel window, I started looking hard at possible itineraries in the state park. I will admit I was not enthusiastic initially -- my vague impression was that the state park was the domain of jeeps and mountain bikes, and that serious backpackers went to the national park. My first look at the BBRSP website did nothing to alleviate these concerns --  plenty of literature for backcountry roads and bicycle trails, but nothing catering to backpackers. I was aware of the Ranchieras loop, but I expected that to be crowded given the shutdown, and plus I was looking for a 6 day/5 night route.

Nonetheless I plugged away to see what sort of trip I could cobble together. There were just enough trip reports on BBC to get me started, most notably the report by trtlrock (http://www.bigbendchat.com/portal/forum/your-trip-reports/25-day-hike-across-the-bend/msg129229/#msg129229) on their hike across the park. In addition, I found that if you just search BBC on any particular feature in the state park, there are invariably a few threads providing some basic information. So I gradually began to patch together a caltopo map with various routes, points of interest, and potential water sources. I knew Fresno Creek had reliable water and was worth seeing, so I figured I'd start my trip there. The Fresno Canyon West Rim looked like a worthy vista, so I planned on that. trtlrock had lauded the splendor of Arroyo Mexicano, which also linked nicely with some water sources, so that was in. Since my east-Texas friend was timing his vacation with mine again, I had the option of a point-to-point hike, and figured I'd hike out a different route, maybe Monilla or even Tapado Canyon. But above all those points of interest, there was one area that kept drawing my attention.

The Solitario is the most distinctive feature in the park, and the few reports I read all indicated that the lower and righthand shutups were spectacular. If I could work those into my trip, I could really start to get excited. From an old Ranger Tim post (http://www.bigbendchat.com/portal/forum/big-bend-ranch-state-park-qa/los-portales-and-lower-shutup-routes/msg135366/#msg135366) there appeared to be permanent water in the lower shutup, and I convinced myself I could hike through the LSU thanks to a quick PM converation with BBC member Shroeder (who hiked the LSU (http://www.bigbendchat.com/portal/forum/members-only-photos-and-reports/trip-report-12817-to-2417/msg152175/#msg152175) as an out-and-back) and from the description in the 3rd edition of Parent's book. A brief trtlrock post (http://www.bigbendchat.com/portal/forum/big-bend-ranch-state-park-qa/right-hand-shutup/msg129937/#msg129937) indicated that the RHSU was thru-hikeable, and that was good enough for me.

Meanwhile, a couple of weeks before my trip, I posted to BBC asking for a water report, and within a week got two replies, one from Ranger Tim and another (via PM) from a trusted source. This was golden information and I started to think I could potentially put together a pretty interesting trip.

There were some other aspects to the route to figure out, like how to get from the RHSU to the Fresno West Rim, and Arroyo Mexicano to Tapado Canyon, with a minimum of road walking. I scoped out some seemingly feasible cross-country routes on Google Earth, put them on my map, and hoped for the best. I kept tweaking my itinerary up until just two days before my trip, when I decided to try to make it all the way to Auras Creek and take that as my exit route (based on another brief trtlrock post (http://www.bigbendchat.com/portal/forum/big-bend-ranch-state-park-qa/anyone-hiked-the-length-of-auras-canyon/msg129094/#msg129094) saying it was easily walkable -- again, good enough for me). Even two days before my trip I was still holding out for the national park to reopen, but if it had, I would have been faced with a tough decision. I had invested a lot in this BBRSP trip, started to get excited about it, and had some rare water intell I'd be unlikely to get again should I put the trip off until later. Then, just one day before heading to Texas, I finally had to commit, and printed out my caltopo maps.

It turns out that my concerns about hoards of people, jeeps, and mountain bikes were unfounded. I saw no wheeled vehicles and only one group of park visitors, an Outward Bound group whose leader actually confirmed water at three spots on my last two days, which allowed me to skip Ranchieras Spring and save a lot of pack weight. And despite having very little time to analyze the ins and outs of different segments of my trip, I managed to just about hit every campsite as planned and finish the trip on schedule, though not without a little drama along the way.

Here's my final route (https://caltopo.com/m/BSC6), including major water sources found.

Details to follow.
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: Jalco on February 03, 2019, 05:37:37 PM
Shazam, that's impressive!  Looking forward to the full report!
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: House Made of Dawn on February 03, 2019, 08:10:00 PM
Shorty, you so bad. I knew you’d pull it off in style. Looking forward to the full report.


Sent from my iPhone using Big Bend Chat (http://r.tapatalk.com/byo?rid=88143)
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: mule ears on February 04, 2019, 11:54:10 AM
Great looking route DRS, can't wait to see pictures and hear more!
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: wotantx on February 04, 2019, 12:14:57 PM
Oh great.  I've never heard of caltopo.  Now I have another time sink to waste my days with.
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: DesertRatShorty on February 04, 2019, 09:23:39 PM
Day 1

Given the long lines at the visitor center during the shutdown, I got there 20 min. before they opened. Not only was I the first in line, but by the time I left 40 minutes later, I was still their only customer. While filling out my itinerary for the permit, which by the way cost $75, the Ranger offered me a map of the entire park, printed on nice water/tear proof paper, and with 80 foot contour intervals. I figured it would make a nice complement to my caltopo maps, and bought one. That turned out to be a wise decision.

After returning to Study Butte for breakfast, a shower, and some final gear sorting, my friend dropped me off at the West Contrabando trailhead at 11 AM. I followed an old paved road down to Fresno Creek and headed north. The first couple of miles were nice enough.

(https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4874/46988970381_5b8f0d9059_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2eAfKPK)

They brought me to the narrows which was a pretty hard rock section with nice flowing water.

(https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7868/46075022475_b80c8e39fa_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2dcuwXe)

Passing the Wax Laccolith, I checked out a couple of ruins on the east side. Here's the view looking back down the canyon from the flotation mill.

(https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4902/46988969001_90a4f37e74_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2eAfKpX)

Just a little further up the canyon I ran in to the welcoming committee.

(https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4864/40023967293_ed5d894c37_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/23YMi4B)

Instead of staying in the canyon, I opted to follow the trail up on the west bank.

(https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4874/46075019975_c7ffe4ae49_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2dcuwd8)

(https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4877/46988967911_91d0fa1d87_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2eAfK6a)

A word to the wise: if you're taking a trip like this, and you have a chance to walk a trail instead of a wash, take it. My calves were killing me by the end of the trip from so much walking on loose gravel.

A little further on I came to the Sleeper Cabin, which is just a small one-room shack with four bunks and a corral.

(https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7855/40023964733_540cb203ce_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/23YMhit)

There was nice water in the creek below the cabin as Ranger Tim had indicated. There was also a set of ATV tracks which I found rather annoying.

A short ways later I came to the Cascades, which, perhaps because they were dry, were a bit underwhelming.

(https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4884/40023963883_0f87fb7d31_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/23YMh3P)

Leaving Fresno Creek, I jumped on a well-marked trail heading east toward Chimney Rock. Beautiful scenery.

(https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7887/46075017975_7b6f2d7a72_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2dcuvBD)

As I was rounding Chimney Rock to the south, I discovered that none of my caltopo maps actually covered that area. Score one for the park's map.

The trail eventually dropped into a major wash which I followed around to the east side of Chimney Rock. I came to an impassable pouroff, and pulled out my map to scout out the best way around. As I was doing so, I heard a scuffling on the high ledge to the west, roughly 30 feet above me. I thought it might be some deer or javelina, but within a few seconds there appeared a backpacker. I instinctively waved and said "Howdy," to which he responded "Hi." With a Mexican accent. In a split second my eyes told me all I needed to know: dark skinned fellow, in full camouflage, with a camo backpack. A second dude, with the same outfit, appeared just behind him, and I said to myself "Time to go." (There may have been more than 2, I was not about to stand there and count them.)  I averted my eyes, headed east, and quickly ducked out of sight and scampered up around the pouroff. I believe they were heading south, perhaps just starting to move, and also looking for a bypass of the pouroff. I'm very glad we had a 30 foot cliff separating us.

On the bright side, had I not run into those dudes, I would have bypassed the pouroff on the west instead of east, and would not have stumbled on to my best campsite of the trip, a flat shelf above the wash with a sweet sunset view of the Flatirons.

(https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7831/46075023385_5c1f63c03c_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2dcuxdV)

There were virtually no clouds this entire trip, so the photos don't quite pop as much as they otherwise would. But I'm not complaining, I did get to leave the tarp behind.

ps In the photo above, you can see a V-shaped notch to the right of the wash. A short ways before that is the beginning of the cairned route that leads to the lower shutup. It is marked by a large cairn.
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: alan in shreveport on February 05, 2019, 07:04:48 AM
Really enjoying your report. The more time I spend in "The Ranch" the better I like it.  The sleeper cabin looks like a pretty recent vintage, perhaps from one of the more recent ranching efforts, 60s or 70s ?  You suppose the 2 fellows you saw were coyotes or mules going back south ? I guess no way to know. I hope you stared at the wax factory laccolith for a minute or
two - its an impressive piece of geology !
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: congahead on February 05, 2019, 07:17:20 AM
This is gonna be a good one.

But ... $75??!!
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: mule ears on February 05, 2019, 07:31:19 AM
This is gonna be a good one.

But ... $75??!!

Yeah, I was shocked at the cost of a permit too!
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: wotantx on February 05, 2019, 08:28:40 AM
This is gonna be a good one.

But ... $75??!!

Yeah, I was shocked at the cost of a permit too!
Is that a backcountry camping permit?
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: House Made of Dawn on February 05, 2019, 09:10:13 AM
This is gonna be a good one.

But ... $75??!!

Yeah, I was shocked at the cost of a permit too!
Is that a backcountry camping permit?

I bet it's an initial entrance fee, plus a backcountry camping fee for each day DRS was out there. 
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: Flash on February 05, 2019, 09:12:13 AM
This is gonna be a good one.

But ... $75??!!

Yeah, I was shocked at the cost of a permit too!
Is that a backcountry camping permit?
That's 5 x (10 + 5) = 75. See the following link:
https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/big-bend-ranch/fees-facilities/campsites
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: DesertRatShorty on February 05, 2019, 12:16:23 PM
This is gonna be a good one.

But ... $75??!!

Yeah, I was shocked at the cost of a permit too!
Is that a backcountry camping permit?
That's 5 x (10 + 5) = 75. See the following link:
https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/big-bend-ranch/fees-facilities/campsites
Flash is correct, $10/night camping, $5 day use. I'm not sure why they didn't charge me $80 since I was there 6 days and 5 nights.
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: DesertRatShorty on February 05, 2019, 09:21:28 PM
Day 2

Sunrise on Chimney Rock from camp.

(https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7871/46272645894_59c17b9c44_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2duXpvy)

My primary goal today was to get through the Lower Shutup. I continued up the wash I had been following the previous evening, and soon came to a large cairn on the right, marking a connector trail to the LSU. The trail could have used a few more cairns, but it got me in sight of an old fence which I followed to the shutup. This was the second time the park's mapped shined, because it shows all old fences from the ranching days.

Once in the canyon, I dropped my pack and scouted downstream to see if it was in fact impassable, and within a tenth of a mile there was a short slot section with a pouroff into a large, full tinaja. I don't think it would be too difficult to bypass and continue down the wash.

(https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4880/33121417768_982907e776_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/SsPVz3)

Continuing north, the canyon has low walls but is very narrow, and for several hundred yards you can touch both sides at the same time. The walls here are polished rock.

(https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7875/46944962462_bb4739af19_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2ewncNw)

It was in this section that I encountered two of the more interesting obstacles in the entire canyon. The first was a scramble beneath a massive chockstone the size of a van.

(https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4875/33121416258_349554a592_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/SsPV81)

Just around the next corner was another tricky spot. There were no good footholds, and the canyon was too wide to walk up the sides.

(https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4894/46272643364_3c1a7920fa_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2duXoKW)

I needed every inch of my length (I'm 6-1 despite my handle) to reach a hand hold I could use to pull myself up, with my pack following behind on a rope. At this point I had already taken my pack off twice in a quarter mile, and I was thinking this could be a very long day. Fortunately there was only one more drop that required taking the pack off. Still, the lower half of the Lower Shutup was a serious workout, and there were a ton of brief scrambles.

(https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4865/46944958792_d8ee8d1469_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2ewnbHf)

There was a lot of water throughout the lower half of the shutup, so I dumped a couple liters of "just in case" water to lighten my load.

Beyond remarkable geology, the LSU sports a number of other attractions, including caves, a balanced rock, a palm tree, and this herd of Aoudad.

(https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4859/32055471377_83e307e868_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/QQCEQZ)

Gradually the canyon widened as the walls became taller, reaching as high as 800 feet above the canyon floor.

(https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7852/46082943735_ee0067db97_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2ddc8EF)

(https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7819/32055469647_cb5fac19c4_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/QQCEka)

(https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4905/46082940215_3c3f67054d_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2ddc7BZ)

Eventually I came to the major pouroff. There was a huge tinaja at the base, and the water had a nasty film on top.

(https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4868/33121419278_b0b608138e_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/SsPW25)

There was a cairned route up a short climb to bypass the pouroff to the east. The climb down the other side was a bit steep, but it was marked with some official-looking little arrow placards.

At the top of the pouroff was a smaller (but still large) tinaja, fed by flowing water. This tinaja was perfectly clear and I loaded up with six liters of water in my pack, plus another 1-2 in my belly.

(https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4870/32055537357_922a07cdf7_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/QQD1sz)

Above the pouroff, the scrambling subsided and I was able to reassemble my trekking poles and make good time. The canyon walls again started shrinking, and the wash continued to widen, as I entered the interior of the Solitario. It had taken me about 5.5 hours to cover 4.5 miles.

(https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7877/46996971071_f1db79cc28_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2eAXL9F)

At this point I would just like to pause and say that the Lower Shutup is spectacular. It was unequivocally the highest of several highlights on my trip. In the first couple of miles, I let out an audible "wow" as I rounded just about every corner.

After a short break, around 2 pm I set out along the Outer Loop trail, which is an old ranching road that, for the most part, runs along an old fence. The first landmark is Needle Peak which is reminiscent of Elephant Tusk.

(https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7876/47001290271_c6a323e6bb_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2eBkU6D)

The ranching ruins along this trail gave me a new appreciation of how challenging it must have been to work this land. There was a pipe than ran the length of the road and was occasionally exposed. There were also a few concrete troughs and abandoned equipment. The trail itself was clear and easy to follow. The hard packed footbed had yielded little to encroaching vegetation.

(https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7921/40036285393_1e1418be3c_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/23ZSqND)

There were good views of the back side of Los Portales, and even a faint trace of a trail leading down toward it. But before you try backpacking it, check out this off-site trip report (https://www.desertusa.com/desert-texas/big-bend-ranch-hike.html). The park used to have a brochure describing a geology hike through Los Portales and the Righthand Shutup, but evidently they did away with it as discussed here (http://www.bigbendchat.com/portal/forum/big-bend-ranch-state-park-qa/big-bend-ranch-state-park-trip-december-11-to-14-2017/). But you can still find the brochure here (https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Brian_Hunt7/publication/280623425_In_and_Out_of_Time_Geologic_Hike_of_Los_Portales_Shutup_and_the_Righthand_Shutup_El_Solitario_Big_Bend_Ranch_State_Park_Texas/links/55bf6f8308aed621de139050/In-and-Out-of-Time-Geologic-Hike-of-Los-Portales-Shutup-and-the-Righthand-Shutup-El-Solitario-Big-Bend-Ranch-State-Park-Texas.pdf), it has a good description of the geology of the Solitario.

Eventually I came to Papalote Ramon and Burnt Camp

(https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4861/40036286313_4ad6c8b04c_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/23ZSr5v)

where I called it a day as the old windmill spun quietly in the fading light.
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: backpacker56 on February 06, 2019, 07:40:43 AM
Let me be first to say "Wow!" following your 2nd installment.  Awesome adventure!  Thanks for posting.
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: Talusman on February 06, 2019, 07:43:12 AM
Bad Ass! That is the largest herd of Aoudad I have ever seen in both BB, BBRSP or GUMO!
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: congahead on February 06, 2019, 07:52:44 AM
Man, this is good. Thanks for taking the time to share both the words and the photos.

Reading TRs from you, HMod, ME and others makes me realize I really need to up my game.
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: Ranger Tim on February 06, 2019, 08:45:34 AM
Your timing on the Solitario Loop was great considering that a large crew from the Big Bend Trails Alliance had worked it only the week previous. It is still pretty rough, and the Outer trail is definitely the more difficult of the two but it rewards the hiker with some pretty magnificent views. Combined, the Solitario Loop is about 10 miles and works out as a pretty demanding but tenable day hike OR as a nice over-nighter. It is accessible from Righthand Shutup/ Burnt Camp TH or the Lower Shutup TH, though the later does require 4WD to access it.
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: House Made of Dawn on February 06, 2019, 09:06:09 AM
Shorty (not, , but I knew that), this is a phenomenal trip. I knew you’d execute whatever itinerary you eventually chose with grace and flair. I have to wonder if, in the end, the shutdown might not have been a blessing for you. Looks like you wound up exploring some jaw-dropping scenery that might actually top what you would’ve experienced in the national park. Kudos on the Lower ShutUp passage; you certainly earned that one! I’m anxiously awaiting the next installment.

p.s., outstanding photos, as always!


Sent from my iPhone using Big Bend Chat (http://r.tapatalk.com/byo?rid=88143)
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: mule ears on February 06, 2019, 09:10:57 AM
You are definitely the Auodad Master!  I am really liking  the look of the lower shut up.  Can't wait for more.   :great:
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: DesertRatShorty on February 06, 2019, 11:34:49 AM
Your timing on the Solitario Loop was great considering that a large crew from the Big Bend Trails Alliance had worked it only the week previous. It is still pretty rough, and the Outer trail is definitely the more difficult of the two but it rewards the hiker with some pretty magnificent views. Combined, the Solitario Loop is about 10 miles and works out as a pretty demanding but tenable day hike OR as a nice over-nighter. It is accessible from Righthand Shutup/ Burnt Camp TH or the Lower Shutup TH, though the later does require 4WD to access it.

I guess my timing could not have been better. The stars somehow seemed to align for this trip. Literally, I had tandem morning stars with Venus and Jupiter in conjunction.
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: DesertRatShorty on February 06, 2019, 11:38:38 AM
Shorty (not, , but I knew that), this is a phenomenal trip. I knew you’d execute whatever itinerary you eventually chose with grace and flair. I have to wonder if, in the end, the shutdown might not have been a blessing for you. Looks like you wound up exploring some jaw-dropping scenery that might actually top what you would’ve experienced in the national park. Kudos on the Lower ShutUp passage; you certainly earned that one! I’m anxiously awaiting the next installment.

p.s., outstanding photos, as always!


Sent from my iPhone using Big Bend Chat (http://r.tapatalk.com/byo?rid=88143)

The first two days came off pretty flawlessly, but any semblance of grace and flair was definitely gone by day 5!

And yes, the scenery in the state park can definitely hold its own.
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: DesertRatShorty on February 06, 2019, 11:40:06 AM
You are definitely the Auodad Master!  I am really liking  the look of the lower shut up.  Can't wait for more.   :great:

Must be my animal magnetism.
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: House Made of Dawn on February 06, 2019, 12:22:59 PM
You are definitely the Auodad Master!  I am really liking  the look of the lower shut up.  Can't wait for more.   :great:

Must be my animal magnetism.

🤪


Sent from my iPhone using Big Bend Chat (http://r.tapatalk.com/byo?rid=88143)
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: DesertRatShorty on February 06, 2019, 09:55:30 PM
Day 3

Heading north from Burnt Camp, the Outer Loop Trail rises to its highest point, with great views of the Righthand Shutup and Bofecillos Mountains to the west (were I would be in three days)

(https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7887/47011258071_1930a83fbe_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2eCdZbg)

as well as Solitario Peak.

(https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7910/33135999968_19ccf899f8_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/Su7Emh)

The trail junctions in the park were all well signed.

(https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4896/33135998658_d116e81c0f_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/Su7DXG)

The first stretch of the RHSU is an easy walk down an open wash.

(https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7840/46959457542_abd1a7218c_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2exDuFG)

But the walls quickly rise and the canyon begins to descend rapidly. Plenty of scrambling but a little easier than the Lower Shutup.

(https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4862/47011255701_d25fbd9b76_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2eCdYtp)

(https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7880/46959456182_1620c5c042_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2exDuhf)

(https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7890/46287258184_3ebf1524b1_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2dwfieA)

(https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7857/46959454752_3e75e43f7a_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2exDtRA)

(https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4874/47011251281_bbe2525e8c_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2eCdXac)

There were several full tinajas throughout the canyon, including one at the base of this narrow gate.

(https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7846/46287255544_6b244c5074_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2dwfhs5)

Further down is a large 20' pouroff where I lowered my pack on a rope, and was able to scramble down the groove on the right.

(https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4832/46959452432_24cb9ceee0_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2exDtaA)

Toward the bottom the scrambling finally ends but the contorted rocks do not.

(https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7859/32070021077_b2ed233718_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/QRVeXT)

After exiting the shutup I walked a short ways north on the road and then headed up the wash leading to Seep Spring.

(https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4841/33135994008_2542dfff40_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/Su7Czw)

In retrospect I did not get all the way to the spring before I left the wash, so I can't say whether it was running. My first little navigational glitch. Anyway, I climbed up a hill and worked my way toward the west rim of Fresno Canyon, which rises 600 feet above Fresno Creek.  The going was slow as I weaved through the thorny plants and cross-cutting gullies hidden between the contour lines, but overall it was not too tough. Once at the rim, I found a nice little prominence with a great view up and down the canyon, and took an hour long break. This was a level, barren spot that would have made a killer campsite had the timing had worked out.

There were great views of Los Portales

(https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4808/32070019667_8bdbc74084_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/QRVexz)

Fresno Peak and the Flatirons,

(https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4918/33135993258_50f4213986_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/Su7CmA)

and further down the canyon.

(https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7841/32070018077_b28862ebfa_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/QRVe5a)

Around mid afternoon I continued west until I connected with the Puerta Chilicote trail and followed it to Ojo Chilicote (aka Smith House Spring), which is visible from a mile away with its tall cottonwoods.

(https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4900/46959444922_75a10223fc_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2exDqW7)

I stopped to purify some water using my BeFree filter, when frustration set in. This was my second trip with the BeFree, the first being in the Rockies with clear flowing streams. My first two water stops this trip (Sleeper Cabin, Lower Shutup pouroff) had also been quite clear. This spring was another story, and almost immediately my filter slowed to an agonizing trickle. It took me seemingly forever to filter three liters (in reality it was probably 30-40 minutes), and the rate of flow continued to slow down.  I was seriously wondering if I'd be able to finish my trip, and was kicking myself for not bringing my Aqua Mira drops as backup. I left them behind at the last minute thinking "nah, I'll be fine."  Later that evening, I realized I had failed to prefilter the water. Mental mistake number 2. :banghead:

On the bright side, I should mention that the park map scored another point around here. When planning my route, I hadn't noticed the Mexicano Falls trail, but when I realized it was there, I took it and it probably saved me some time. I continued along the trail until the sun dipped below the mountains to the west, about a half mile from Arroyo Mexicano, and found a small flat space to camp amid a field of hard rock moguls.
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: House Made of Dawn on February 06, 2019, 10:44:21 PM
Day 3

Around mid afternoon I continued west until I connected with the Puerta Chilicote trail and followed it to Ojo Chilicote (aka Smith House Spring), which is visible from a mile away with its tall cottonwoods.

(https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4900/46959444922_75a10223fc_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2exDqW7)

I stopped to purify some water using my BeFree filter, when frustration set in. This was my second trip with the BeFree, the first being in the Rockies with clear flowing streams. My first two water stops this trip (Sleeper Cabin, Lower Shutup pouroff) had also been quite clear. This spring was another story, and almost immediately my filter slowed to an agonizing trickle. It took me seemingly forever to filter three liters (in reality it was probably 30-40 minutes), and the rate of flow continued to slow down.  I was seriously wondering if I'd be able to finish my trip, and was kicking myself for not bringing my Aqua Mira drops as backup. I left them behind at the last minute thinking "nah, I'll be fine."  Later that evening, I realized I had failed to prefilter the water. Mental mistake number 2. :banghead:


Oh, man.....water anxiety! Nothing other than exposed bone and uncontrolled bleeding is a bigger buzzkill. I hope things turn around for you.  Meanwhile, killer photos of killer landscape, DRS!!!!!!
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: mule ears on February 07, 2019, 05:52:00 AM
Continued great report and pictures!

While I am a fan of the BeFree filter I have always carried back up tablets.  Last trip after filtering from Dike Tinaja mine slowed quite a but I was able to clean it enough to use it the rest of the trip a little.  I have had pretty good results in the field when it slows by shake cleaning it in some clean hot water (while heating water for dinner).  At home I will give it a 15 minute dilute vinegar soak and then a bleach rinse and then keep it stored with a dilute bleach solution.  This always returns it to good flow.  Some folks think the biofilms from bacteria and such are the real culprit and dissolved solids less so.
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: alan in shreveport on February 07, 2019, 07:48:59 AM
I'm continuing to enjoy your report and pictures. I've seen a few "bits and pieces" of the turf you're covering, but only what a day hike will get you. Thanks for taking the time to document the park so well.
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: badknees on February 07, 2019, 11:02:49 AM
Continued great report and pictures!

While I am a fan of the BeFree filter I have always carried back up tablets.  Last trip after filtering from Dike Tinaja mine slowed quite a but I was able to clean it enough to use it the rest of the trip a little.  I have had pretty good results in the field when it slows by shake cleaning it in some clean hot water (while heating water for dinner).  At home I will give it a 15 minute dilute vinegar soak and then a bleach rinse and then keep it stored with a dilute bleach solution.  This always returns it to good flow.  Some folks think the biofilms from bacteria and such are the real culprit and dissolved solids less so.

As generally applicable to all filters, prefiltering and letting cloudy water settle extends life. Like you ME, I clean and bleach mine (Katadyn HikerPro) after each trip. It is quite a bit heavier (11 oz compared to 2) than the BeFree, but deals with cloudy water a lot better. The BeFree is recommended only for clear water.


I always carry tablets too.
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: DesertRatShorty on February 08, 2019, 12:17:23 AM
Day 4

Sunrise on the mogul field where I camped.

(https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4865/47011259841_245f43d620_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2eCdZGM)

Continuing down the trail I quickly came to Arroyo Mexicano, just below a major pouroff. I climbed up the pouroff to verify there was water in the tinaja, and got a glimpse of Old Man Mexicano watching over the canyon.

(https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4808/40058054803_8112710f9d_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/242N16i)

I stashed my pack and set off for a 1+ mile walk down Arroyo Mexicano to see if I could get to the falls. There was one pouroff that required some care but otherwise it was an easy walk.

(https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4860/47022640101_2992200866_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2eDejEa)

There was clear water flowing for a short ways just above the falls. I was able to peer over the first drop

(https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4883/33147445318_83c27a0ecc_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/Sv8jDU)

but I couldn't see the bottom of the falls.

Returning up the wash, almost back to my pack, the victory tree marks where the Mexicano Falls trail continues south to an overlook of the falls and beyond.

(https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4851/47022639221_d5a2033239_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2eDejoZ)

I collected my pack and scrambled up the big pouroff.

(https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7924/33147443948_f8eff2b8ae_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/Sv8jfh)

This was probably the sketchiest move I made all week. I had my pack on my shoulders as I precariously tiptoed across the north side (left side in the photo). I knew it was a poor decision when loved ones started streaming through my mind halfway across. A better choice would have been to climb packless on the left and pull the pack up on the right.

Around the next corner there was a great spring with two big pools and a nice flow between them.

(https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7806/47022638491_c68abff677_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2eDejbp)

Around the corner after that, the walls of the canyon become massive and multicolored, this was probably the number 2 or 3 highlight of the trip. The sun and shadows weren't cooperating with my camera but this should give you the gist.

(https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4842/46108952945_d276671446_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2dfurik)

The next couple of miles were not much harder on the eyes.

(https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7839/47022637681_c91234122a_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2eDeiWr)

(https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7802/46108951475_020e54a9fd_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2dfuqRZ)

Finally I came to Ojo Mexicano where there was a small clear flow in the middle of the wash. The water was not where the spring is marked on the map, but if you are coming up Arroyo Mexicano you can't miss it. Reloading on water, this time I prefiltered and every time I emptied my BeFree I left a little for swishing and cleaning the filter. The flow improved to where I could filter a liter in 10 minutes, which was far from ideal but at least gave me hope I could finish my trip.

After a long break I continued west. There is a confluence of several washes here but all you do is stick with the largest branch all the way to the road. Along this stretch, the park's map came in handy yet again in an odd way. The terrain here is pretty featureless, and looking at my caltopo maps with 40' contour intervals, I couldn't really tell where I was. But looking at the park's map, with its 80' intervals, only the most prominent landmarks were shown, and it was obvious were I was. Sometimes less is more I guess.

(https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7880/33147440338_a0fbd5a3d2_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/Sv8ib3)

Once at the road I headed north for a quarter mile to catch another east-west wash, but before I got there I passed an Outward Bound group. This was the only group of (legal) park visitors I would encounter the entire trip. I told the group leader, an Aussie, where I was headed and he told me I could find water at Alamito Dam, Oso Spring, and Fowlkes Stone Dam. I found him to be convincing so I decided I could skip Ranchieras Spring tomorrow and maybe save some time. And I would definitely be able to save weight with confirmed water at Oso.

I continued west in the wash which I had scoped from Google Earth. It had looked passable and for the most part it was. There were maybe three times where the wash became choked but in each case there was an easy bypass on the left. Eventually the terrain flattened out and I continued west past a large, dry earthen tank, to a saddle marking the Fresno watershed boundary. This slight rise gave me my last look back on the Solitario.

(https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4862/46108949515_9b3b8d7550_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2dfuqhc)

I continued down the other side of the saddle to another wash that I had scoped out on satellite imagery, and it was even clearer. After 3 days of walking uphill in gravel washes, it was a small relief to be going downhill. Now my feet only slipped back an inch with every step instead of two. After walking south a ways, here is the view back north:

(https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7840/33147438738_3a3d191eb9_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/Sv8hGs)

The wash rounded to the west and the canyon finally opened up and yielded a campsite as the sun set on Panther Mountain.

(https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4916/46108959865_7cef54a264_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2dfutmD)
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: House Made of Dawn on February 08, 2019, 09:15:57 AM
This is a great trip and a great trip report - one of the best ever from BBRSP and a wonderful advertisement for the state park.   


Day 4


I collected my pack and scrambled up the big pouroff.

(https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7924/33147443948_f8eff2b8ae_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/Sv8jfh)

This was probably the sketchiest move I made all week. I had my pack on my shoulders as I precariously tiptoed across the north side (left side in the photo). I knew it was a poor decision when loved ones started streaming through my mind halfway across. A better choice would have been to climb packless on the left and pull the pack up on the right.


Yep. Those moments when you think, "My family will kill me if I die out here."


After a long break I continued west. There is a confluence of several washes here but all you do is stick with the largest branch all the way to the road. Along this stretch, the park's map came in handy yet again in an odd way. The terrain here is pretty featureless, and looking at my caltopo maps with 40' contour intervals, I couldn't really tell where I was. But looking at the park's map, with its 80' intervals, only the most prominent landmarks were shown, and it was obvious were I was. Sometimes less is more I guess.

That's a good and fascinating point, DRS.

BTW - I absolutely hate walking in deep, soft gravel. I feel your pain.
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: wotantx on February 08, 2019, 09:20:30 AM
Although I do not work in the field, my background is in geology.  I would love to be able to hike through the Solitario, but I am not likely to ever be in a real position to do something like you have been showing us.  So, I will live vicariously through your trip report.  Thanks!
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: DesertRatShorty on February 08, 2019, 11:46:09 PM
Day 5

Today would be my do-over day if those existed.

I continued down the wash I had been hiking yesterday evening. My original plan was to follow it all the way to Ranchieras Spring, where I would load up with two days worth of water. Thanks to the water report from the Outward Bound leader, I decided to instead head for Alamito Dam and add one liter, which would be enough to get me to Oso Spring. I soon came to a road and followed it north for about a mile, and then headed west across rolling hills with panoramic views.

(https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7823/40067421613_63f0b46c23_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/243C1w2)

Soon I came within sight of Alamito Dam (note the Gaule 1 campsite in the background)

(https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7855/46308164094_19e3146002_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2dy6rQj)

The approach from the east did not look easy, so I headed north to Guale Mesa Road and followed it back down to the campsite which had access to the Dam. There was a large green pool of water below the dam, where I slowly filtered a liter. The detour around the dam had cost me 30 minutes but it was still early in the day and I was not too worried.

I then set out north across more rolling hills in the direction of Oso Mountain.

(https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7847/40067420453_a6916128f9_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/243C1b2)

You can see all the grasses, which were actually quite a nuisance on most of my cross-country routes this trip. You'd think the thorny/spiky plants would be the biggest bother, but these grasses are very hardy and they would stick into the mesh of my trail runners and poke my foot. The pain wasn't intense, but it was annoying enough I had to stop probably 10-20 times over the course of the trip just to pull grass out of my shoes.

That said, the brambles were also pretty bad on the off trail segments. Early on, whenever my shirt snagged a thorn, I would stop and gently pull free of it before proceeding. But by day five, I had so many holes and loose threads in both my shirt and pants (including a two-inch gash over my left thigh) that they were no longer worth trying to save, and I knew I'd be chucking them after the trip. My skin was also somewhat numbed from all the gouging, and for the last part of my trip I just barreled through most vegetation that got in my way. That may not sound like fun, and it assuredly is not, but I consider it a small price to pay for being in this incredible desert.

I found a nice line down into Oso Canyon. Heading west, the walking was pleasant for about a mile.

(https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4836/46308162664_fe8dd998d5_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2dy6rpE)

Along the way, I found this beauty right in the middle of the wash.

(https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7836/40067419773_42098bb4cd_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/243BZYi)

And then I came to this:

(https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4907/46308161354_10192c82e3_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2dy6r25)

It was so dense I didn't think I could plow through it even in mad bull mode. So I dropped my pack and spent 10 minutes scouting an alternate route up and over a little hill. But when I return to my pack, I noticed a tunnel through the trees on the lower left. So I followed this and donned my pack again after emerging. Continuing west, the little trees were still pretty thick but I was able to charge through as long as I had no regard for my clothing or skin. But that got old pretty quickly so I exited the wash to the north and began angling northwest over some more rolling hills to a more open wash that I had scouted via satellite, and which fed into Tapado Canyon. Shortly after leaving Oso Canyon this was the view west in the direction of Oso Spring.

(https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7905/40067418563_1520363361_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/243BZBr)

I continued northwest and was most of the way to the big open wash I planned on dropping into when I decided it would be good to get my bearings. I looked down to my right cargo pocket where I keep my maps and … my bundle of caltopo maps was gone.  Did I mention what a good idea it was to have brought along the park's map? Thankfully that was still in my pocket. And I kid you not that earlier in the day I had said to myself, "you know, Shorty, you really should tuck those maps away, they might snag on something."

It was about a half mile back to Oso Canyon where I was pretty sure I had lost the maps in the big thicket of trees. My guilt kicked in, so I decided I would go retrieve the maps, and I began working my way back to the creek. As I did so, my mind was definitely not right. I was not only feeling really dumb, but also worried about being able to make my targeted campsite at Nopalera with this additional delay. And when you're distracted and agitated like that, you're all the more likely to make another mistake. Sure enough, about 5 min. from the creek, I barreled straight into a cactus with my right shin. I looked down at my leg which was searing with pain, and saw 50 needles sticking out of my pants leg. I gently pulled the pants away from my leg and up, with most of the needles staying embedded in my skin. Thank goodness I kept my tweezers in my shirt pocket. I stood there stooped over pulling out needles for the next 10 min. At that point I knew it was time to return to my pack before I made a more serious mistake.

Once back to my pack, it was only another 5 min. before I was in a big wash which I followed downhill to Tapado Canyon.

(https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7920/46308159734_c19eb76d68_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2dy6qx9)

Once in Tapado, which is very impressive, my mood improved as I thought my last cross-country route might be over.  I headed down canyon between massive vertical walls where Oso Canyon meets Tapado, where there was a strong, clear flow. I spent 40 minutes filtering four liters, and also took a little time to explore up Oso Canyon. Here's the view from the spring, at least where it is marked on the map, looking back toward Tapado Canyon.

(https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7818/40067417363_a3dc242b6f_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/243BZfK)

Finally around 4 PM I loaded up and headed back up Tapado Canyon, which I intended to follow all the way to its headwaters near the Nopalera trailhead. After just a couple of turns I came to what I thought was just a very large side canyon, and said to myself "huh, that's a large side canyon."

(https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4848/40067416253_988ef62974_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/243BYVB)

I don't know why I didn't pull out my one remaining map, because it certainly would've told me that that side canyon was in fact Tapado Canyon. But the other branch was clearer and actually had some footprints, so I just assumed it was the main canyon. In retrospect, I was mentally fatigued and just not thinking clearly. One of the perills of hiking solo.

So I continued north up some other canyon, and went another mile before I decided I was definitely not in Tapado Canyon. I climbed up a hill to the west and looked around, but the features were a bit too indistinct to know for certain where I was. And that's where the park's map saved me one last time. I mentioned earlier it shows all of the old ranching fences, and sure enough, there was a fence in plain view. Not only that, but the fence ran directly to the Fowlkes Stone Dam in upper Tapado Canyon. Here's looking back south on the fence and the area where I realized I was off course.

(https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4866/46118460165_6a872d6913_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2dgkasV)

So I humped it over a couple more hills and eventually made my way to the Fowlkes Stone Dam which had a lot of water at its base.

(https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7900/40067414753_65de86e131_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/243BYtK)

At last, I thought, my navigational troubles were over. I would just continue up this wash and it would take me to the Nopalera traihead and I'd be home free. And of course there was a huge pouroff that it took me 15 minutes to work around. Long story short, after shedding a little more blood and skin, I finally made it to Las Burras Road. For once I was happy to be walking on a road, and followed it north a short ways to the Nopalera trailhead. The Nopalera trail is another old ranching road that goes past an old house and down into Auras Canyon. Unfortunately it's much more overgrown than the old road I walked on in the Solitario. I lost it a few times but eventually found my way to the Nopalera ruins where the land was flat and ideal for camping. Somehow I had made it far enough to finish out my trip as planned.

(https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4804/46308165124_17bb367148_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2dy6s95)

In the twilight a squadron of javelinas emerged and began making their rounds. The first one to get close to me was a juvenile who, when he saw me, turned and bounded away squealing the whole way. The bigger ones were less concerned. One got within about ten feet, took a look at me, and casually went on with its business. By the time I slipped into my bag they had moved on.

One downside of this campsite was that I observed light pollution for the first time ever in Big Bend, coming from the direction of Presidio.

Despite two egregious mistakes today, I was never too worried. Had I not had a backup map, I could have still found my way to Tapado Canyon and hiked down to FM 170, using my InReach to update my friend on pickup location. Had I not been able to rejoin upper Tapado Canyon, similar story, I would have just headed back downhill and hiked out Tapado the next day.
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: House Made of Dawn on February 08, 2019, 11:59:14 PM
God bless you, Shorty....we've all been there. Sometimes the Oso Canyons of our lives are just....a bear....and there's no way around it. I still think you made it through with flair and gr.....it.  As a fellow solo hiker, I empathize and sympathize with all the challenges and blunders of your trip.  They're not uncommon.  But, in the end, you made an uncommon success of them. And you fully explored and fully experienced terrain that few us have ever seen, or ever will see. Well done!
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: mule ears on February 09, 2019, 06:42:33 AM
Well played!  There are just days like that and that map loss could have been real disaster but your backup was gold.  Tapado looks way interesting.
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: badknees on February 09, 2019, 09:27:31 AM
Really good trip report. Thanks for taking the time. You gave us all some really good detail for future use.
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: DesertRatShorty on February 09, 2019, 11:22:45 PM
Day 6

I started walking around eight, my earliest start of the week, to make sure I would get to FM 170 by 5:00 pm when my friend was picking me up. The old road started off fairly easy to follow, but then I lost it completely and had to work around a big swath of impenetrable vegetation at an old earthen tank. Found a decent bypass to the north of the tank. With the help of the park's map I eventually found the trail again. From here on I was able to track the trail intermittently, losing it for a while and then finding again. Here's an example of what has become of this old road:

(https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7812/46320061494_4d516e7ce5_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2dz9qvU)

The going was slow, but at least the views were good.

(https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7868/47043970691_e331a5e8e9_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2eF7DuX)

To anyone thinking about hiking this in the future, a GPS would not be a bad idea because you can make out most of the road from satellite and could set waypoints. But still expect to do battle with the plant life.

I lost the road on its final drop down into Auras Creek, but that worked out all right because I came upon a pouroff like I'd never seen before.

(https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7830/46320059074_883637e656_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2dz9pNb)

(https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7912/47043969171_3e5ed04066_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2eF7D3K)

There was water up above the pouroff, so I added a liter to my collection. I had been cutting it close on water because filtering was such a chore, and had only budgeted three liters for today. It turned out that that's all I needed, but it was nice to have the insurance.

Once in Auras Creek, I was finally home free. No more route finding, just follow the gravel.

I think I will slot Auras Canyon in at the number two highlight of the week. It wasn't quite as colorful as Arroyo Mexicano, but it more than made up for that in its length. 6+ miles of high canyon walls, gentle twists and turns, massive talus fields on the slopes, and the feeling that not too many people had ever walked this way.

(https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7808/47043968391_899fb7bc93_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2eF7CPi)

(https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7805/47043967601_b6145751ee_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2eF7CzF)

(https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7827/47043966631_e377ed1dd3_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2eF7ChX)

(https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7848/32102362787_f80d79ad51_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/QUM12z)

(https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7923/46130300015_14ff92684d_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2dhnR3g)

(https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7871/40079104393_4b5c64411f_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/244DTpg)

(https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7926/40079103063_b23cb1f89e_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/244DT1k)

(https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7831/46130296245_42fc6c5821_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2dhnPVg)

(https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7814/40079100773_42021d6011_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/244DSjR)

Toward the bottom there are some caves up high, including the Stay Puft rock man:

(https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7871/46130294545_f6c3e7343a_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2dhnPpX)

When I finally emerged from the canyon, I jogged over to an old road that ran past some ruins.

(https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7886/46130292935_7b728a4428_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2dhnNWc)

There were expansive views of the mountains south of the border.

(https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7845/40079099473_6f8660cc71_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/244DRWr)

The park boundary is clearly marked by these occasional poles.

(https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7834/47043972451_681fe5a828_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2eF7E2i)

The road does cut across private property for the last mile, but if one were to follow it all the way to FM 170 (hypothetically speaking, of course), one would not feel too guilty -- there's no buildings in sight until you get all the way to the pavement.

I had texted my friend earlier in the day to rearrange my pickup for 4:30. I walked out precisely at 4:30 and he rolled up 5 minutes later.

Later that evening I was taking a shower and as I was soaping up my legs, I felt something -- an inch long needle buried halfway in my shin. I laughed and wondered how long that had been there. Afterwards, I chucked my hiking shirt and pants and we headed off to dinner at the Starlight.
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: mule ears on February 10, 2019, 04:58:08 AM
Great report DRS and thanks for taking the time to document the trip.  If this keeps up I will have to start a BBRSP backpacking trip reports page.   :icon_biggrin:

Your knees must be feeling better too!
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: House Made of Dawn on February 10, 2019, 11:54:41 AM
Great report DRS and thanks for taking the time to document the trip.  If this keeps up I will have to start a BBRSP backpacking trip reports page.   :icon_biggrin:

Your knees must be feeling better too!

+1 on everything. The shutdown this year has really brought BBRSP into the spotlight. And, Shorty, your trip report really makes the
state park shine. Thanks for taking us there. I really, really enjoyed it. I hope you had as good or better time doing it as I did reading about it. Like Mule Ears, I thought a lot about your knees while reading each daily chapter, and was impressed with the prodigious amount of off-trail scrambling you did. You are one tough backpacker. I haven’t been to BBRSP in almost twenty years, and the trips I did take weren’t as ambitious as yours. This report really makes me want to go back again soon.




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Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: DesertRatShorty on February 10, 2019, 08:21:46 PM
Great report DRS and thanks for taking the time to document the trip.  If this keeps up I will have to start a BBRSP backpacking trip reports page.   :icon_biggrin:
Well, now, there's an interesting idea  ;)

Quote
Your knees must be feeling better too!
Definitely. This is my 3rd trip since last winter's Slickrock/Tornillo trip, and I've been pushing it a little harder each time. The Cho-Pats are simply amazing.
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: DesertRatShorty on February 10, 2019, 08:35:03 PM
Great report DRS and thanks for taking the time to document the trip.  If this keeps up I will have to start a BBRSP backpacking trip reports page.   :icon_biggrin:

Your knees must be feeling better too!

+1 on everything. The shutdown this year has really brought BBRSP into the spotlight. And, Shorty, your trip report really makes the
state park shine. Thanks for taking us there. I really, really enjoyed it. I hope you had as good or better time doing it as I did reading about it. Like Mule Ears, I thought a lot about your knees while reading each daily chapter, and was impressed with the prodigious amount of off-trail scrambling you did. You are one tough backpacker. I haven’t been to BBRSP in almost twenty years, and the trips I did take weren’t as ambitious as yours. This report really makes me want to go back again soon.

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Thanks man. As you guys know, trip reports are partly for the author, as a sort of scrapbook and as a way to reflect on what the hell I was thinking on Day 5 (and hopefully learn from it), but also to inspire or aid in future trips by others. But that also comes back to the author in a way: if I get you to take a trip to BBRSP and write a report, I get to revisit the park through you. Hopefully this report will inspire a few more backpackers to try the state park, and we can gradually start to build up a knowledge base of water sources and routes like we have for the national park.
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: DesertRatShorty on February 10, 2019, 08:45:04 PM
Just one little comment on gear. This is now the second trip (after my Canyonlands trip) where I have used the Jandd Mountaineering hipbelt water bottle holder.

(https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7808/46130297915_c68e62d11d_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2dhnQq4)

Photo taken on day 6 so it will definitely hold up to abuse. I was carrying a 15 degree bag which took up about half my pack, so I needed to carry all my water outside my pack. The hipbelt bottle holders, combined with two 1.5 L bottles in each side pocket, gave me a carry capacity of 8 L. Plus the holders transfer the weight directly to your hips so it saves your back, and they loop through the shoulder straps so they don't slide off when you doff your pack.
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: House Made of Dawn on February 10, 2019, 09:05:39 PM
Just one little comment on gear. This is now the second trip (after my Canyonlands trip) where I have used the Jandd Mountaineering hipbelt water bottle holder.

(https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7808/46130297915_c68e62d11d_h.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2dhnQq4)

Photo taken on day 6 so it will definitely hold up to abuse. I was carrying a 15 degree bag which took up about half my pack, so I needed to carry all my water outside my pack. The hipbelt bottle holders, combined with two 1.5 L bottles in each side pocket, gave me a carry capacity of 8 L. Plus the holders transfer the weight directly to your hips so it saves your back, and they loop through the shoulder straps so they don't slide off when you doff your pack.

Ahhh, funny that you should mention that. While reading your Day 1 report, I zoomed in on one of your photos

https://www.flickr.com/photos/152717435@N04/46272643364/in/photostream/lightbox/

to see if you were still using the same pack as last year (I assumed you were) and noticed a water bottle holder on your hipbelt.  It reminded me of the old Outdoor Research bottle holders I used to use and I meant to ask you about it but never got around to it.  The problem with old OR holders (of which I still have a few) is that their attachment method (one velcro strip) didn't hold the bottle sufficiently close to the pack. The cantilevering was brutal.  If you happen to run across any photos on BBC of my kids or my wife backpacking with me, you'll probably still see them being sadomasochistically employed on their packs. I'm glad to hear that the Jandd version works so well. I may have to take a look at those for myself and my family.

 
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: DesertRatShorty on February 10, 2019, 09:18:16 PM
In conclusion, if anyone says BBRSP is not a backpacking destination, I say to you

 :shut_up:
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: wotantx on February 11, 2019, 07:48:33 AM
In conclusion, if anyone says BBRSP is not a backpacking destination, I say to you

 :shut_up:

That's a thing?  I've been to the interior of the park all of one time but it didn't take me long to figure that out.
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: Ranger Tim on February 11, 2019, 11:18:30 AM
Great trip report Shorty! Thanks for the added detail. I plan to save each day's installment and compile them so that I can share them with some other park staff. If I had one bit of advice it would have been to avoid that old Nopalera Road,... that sucker is terrible!

I also want to parrot your advice on those bottle holders. I also use them on the handlebars of my pack bike for water and snacks I want to keep handy while I am bike-packing in the park.
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: DesertRatShorty on February 11, 2019, 12:51:59 PM
Great trip report Shorty! Thanks for the added detail. I plan to save each day's installment and compile them so that I can share them with some other park staff. If I had one bit of advice it would have been to avoid that old Nopalera Road,... that sucker is terrible!

Thanks RT, and thanks again for the water report. The Nopalera road to the old house is not too bad. To get down to the windmill, however, is not worth it as an out-and-back, but it is totally worth it if you are descending Auras Canyon. The only real problem is where the road passes an earthen tank that is now an impenetrable mess of thorns. But you can go around it to the north without too much frustration.

trtlrock's comments (http://www.bigbendchat.com/portal/forum/your-trip-reports/25-day-hike-across-the-bend/msg129232/#msg129232) (see Day 23) on this road are pretty amusing, though they did have to bushwhack off it to retrieve a cache, which sounds even worse.

 
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: RichardM on February 11, 2019, 01:49:08 PM
Thanks RT, and thanks again for the water report. The Nopalera road to the old house is not too bad. To get down to the windmill, however, is not worth it as an out-and-back, but it is totally worth it if you are descending Auras Canyon. The only real problem is where the road passes an earthen tank that is now an impenetrable mess of thorns. But you can go around it to the north without too much frustration.

trtlrock's comments (http://www.bigbendchat.com/portal/forum/your-trip-reports/25-day-hike-across-the-bend/msg129232/#msg129232) (see Day 23) on this road are pretty amusing, though they did have to bushwhack off it to retrieve a cache, which sounds even worse.

I had forgotten about that description. It's worthy of quoting here.
Soon we were approaching the Nopalera ruins, which appeared to be an old ranching line camp, which had been augmented and turned into a very rustic hunting shack. Once inside, we saw the bunk room, complete with multiple beds, and an adjacent kitchen/dining area. An interesting place...

We went on from there, and dropped back down to the trail, which soon petered out into a near-impenetrable mess of dense thorny vegetation frothing around small islands of unclimbable Grapevine Hills like rocks. The rocks were pretty, but the going was really, really, reallyyyyyyy tough and slow. We had to leave what was left of the 'trail' anyway and bushwhack to the north and then west to pick up our last cache at the northern/eastern end of Auras Canyon.

Oh my it was BAD. I strongly recommend to anyone reading this to never head west of the line shack on the Nopalera trail, and most certainly do not bushwhack off it if you are foolish enough to continue. The GPS was consulted almost every 2 minutes in a vain attempt to navigate the sea of unclimbable rock islands, which would only result in cliffing out should you try them instead of the thick thorny brush.

Ahhh...the brush. There must have been a dozen species of pant-ripping flora I had never seen before. None of the stings-like-a-pile-of-wasps catclaw, or maybe I just missed all that, but who cares...we were swanning around at about 0.5 mph like a drunken sailor, literally bleeding from a multitude of minor wounds. Finally we located the drainage we needed to descend. The descent was relatively minor, but there were a bunch of 5-6 foot pouroffs that needed negotiating, and the drainage was narrow and clogged with unpleasant vegetation that wanted nothing more than to kill you - of that I am absolutely sure. I'm certain I cursed so loudly at times they could hear me in Sauceda, probably 10 miles away as the raven roams...

Finally, thankfully, blissfully, we got to our cache and could attend to our wounds. Oh yeah, and also load up 4.5 gallons of water, which, unpleasant as that was, was a...um...walk in the park compared to having your flesh ripped to shreds.
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: Ranger Tim on February 11, 2019, 02:23:43 PM
Yeah. It may have gotten worse since that was written. I wear Turtleskin gaiters pretty religiously when I am in the field and that is really more for the vegetation than the vipers!
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: trtlrock on February 13, 2019, 11:50:36 AM
What a great looking report! Can't wait to read it at my leisure. I can already tell it's more coherent than mine, written in about 5 straight hours at Las Casitas with their constantly failing wifi (2014), on no sleep, and a combo of beer and coffee until I hit send and crashed for hours...
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: House Made of Dawn on February 17, 2019, 02:42:54 PM
Just re-read your TR, Shorty. Still wonderful and very instructive. I was motivated to visit it again after reading this reprint article in the current issue of Texas Monthly (they're reprising some golden oldies). Gwynne is a good guy and a good writer and a fairly tough traveler, but it should be noted he was ferried into BBSRP by jeep and operated out of a fixed basecamp and never really had to carry his gear. Still, it's interesting to note the effects on a non-backpacker of a week of isolation in backcountry we frequently traverse for fun.

https://www.texasmonthly.com/articles/conversations-with-a-grasshopper/

Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: Jalco on February 17, 2019, 04:43:33 PM
Just re-read your TR, Shorty. Still wonderful and very instructive. I was motivated to visit it again after reading this reprint article in the current issue of Texas Monthly (they're reprising some golden oldies). Gwynne is a good guy and a good writer and a fairly tough traveler, but it should be noted he was ferried into BBSRP by jeep and operated out of a fixed basecamp and never really had to carry his gear. Still, it's interesting to note the effects on a non-backpacker of a week of isolation in backcountry we frequently traverse for fun.

https://www.texasmonthly.com/articles/conversations-with-a-grasshopper/

Thanks for that bunny trail.  Nearly an hour later, I realize I clicked on the link to read only one article....
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: House Made of Dawn on February 17, 2019, 04:47:44 PM
🤪🤪


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Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: rocketman on February 17, 2019, 07:03:41 PM
Thanks for that link HMoD! I noticed that your writing style is very similar to his, in both the detailed descriptions given of physical, historical, and emotional accounts as well as syntax and grouping of thoughts. You really should write a book abut your adventures!
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: House Made of Dawn on February 17, 2019, 09:06:59 PM
Thanks for that link HMoD! I noticed that your writing style is very similar to his, in both the detailed descriptions given of physical, historical, and emotional accounts as well as syntax and grouping of thoughts. You really should write a book abut your adventures!

Thanks, Rocketman. I might. IF I can ever manage to actually cross the park. Otherwise, it’ll just be a comedy of errors.


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Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: mule ears on February 18, 2019, 07:37:58 AM
Just re-read your TR, Shorty. Still wonderful and very instructive. I was motivated to visit it again after reading this reprint article in the current issue of Texas Monthly (they're reprising some golden oldies). Gwynne is a good guy and a good writer and a fairly tough traveler, but it should be noted he was ferried into BBSRP by jeep and operated out of a fixed basecamp and never really had to carry his gear. Still, it's interesting to note the effects on a non-backpacker of a week of isolation in backcountry we frequently traverse for fun.

https://www.texasmonthly.com/articles/conversations-with-a-grasshopper/

Well I hate to be critical but the whole first third to half of the piece I think had the usual over blown hysteria/sensationalism that at least writers not familiar with the desert do.  If I read again that "where nearly everything that I can see or touch is designed to hurt me" and " the specific physical threats around me, which include mountain lions, javelina, flash floods, lightning, rattlesnakes, scorpions, centipedes, brown recluse spiders, tarantulas, and black widows" I will scream.  In fact I find that kind of writing makes me put the book down as I find the writer not truly familiar with the subject.   And there was not "twenty miles of jagged backcountry between me and the nearest human being".  Maybe 13 at the most to a paved road and less to someones house on Terlingua Ranch but this is Texas Monthly.  On the positive side, if it keeps more people from going out to the Big Bend then I am all for it.   :great:

Now I realize he is just setting up the second half of the piece with his personal discoveries which were good and accurate and I am glad that he had them.  I would say that HMoD's descriptive writing is actually better and more detailed but then he is a trained wildlife biologist and observer.  And yes HMoD you will make it all the way across the park and then you can write your book.   :icon_biggrin:
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: alan in shreveport on February 18, 2019, 09:30:12 AM
sorry to be a jerk but I second this from ME : "One the positive side, if it keeps more people from going out to the Big Bend then I am all for it."
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: House Made of Dawn on February 18, 2019, 12:56:46 PM
No argument here.


Gwynne is a good guy and a good writer and a fairly tough traveler, but it should be noted he was ferried into BBSRP by jeep and operated out of a fixed basecamp and never really had to carry his gear. Still, it's interesting to note the effects on a non-backpacker of a week of isolation in backcountry we frequently traverse for fun.


If you read between the lines above, my real point can be heard: the only way to really understand a place like The Bend is to throw yourself into it for long periods of time. The closer you get to the land, and the longer you spend there, the better you will understand it. Even very tough people and good writers will default to clichés until they bank up enough direct contact.

I like Gwynne. His book, Empire of the Summer Moon, is IMHO the best written on Quanah Parker and the subjugation of the Comanche tribes by the United States. His book, unlike most others, carefully avoids cliches and romanticism. Then again, he spent years researching it in libraries, with descendants of the participants, and on the ground. Give him a few more years in The Bend and he could probably write a great book on it, too.

Mainly I shared his article because I knew we’d all get a kick out of the misapprehensions and struggles of a rookie, especially when contrasted with a masterful solo trip like Shorty's through the exact same territory. And, in fairness to Gwynne, in the end, despite or maybe because of his struggles, I think he comes to a few epiphanies we can probably all recognize and endorse.



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Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: House Made of Dawn on February 18, 2019, 01:09:27 PM

And yes HMoD you will make it all the way across the park and then you can write your book.   :icon_biggrin:


 :great:
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: House Made of Dawn on February 18, 2019, 01:11:43 PM
One more thing....I don't think we've given Shorty props for one of the best trip report titles ever:


Better Shutup Than Shutdown

Big Bend Ranch State Park

Jan 23-28, 2019

Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: backpacker56 on February 20, 2019, 10:25:30 AM
Yeah. It may have gotten worse since that was written. I wear Turtleskin gaiters pretty religiously when I am in the field and that is really more for the vegetation than the vipers!

Turtleskin Gaiters $150+!
Yikes!
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: RichardM on February 20, 2019, 10:56:34 AM
Yeah. It may have gotten worse since that was written. I wear Turtleskin gaiters pretty religiously when I am in the field and that is really more for the vegetation than the vipers!

Turtleskin Gaiters $150+!
Yikes!
Yeah, but you only have to buy them once!

I wonder how well these would do.
https://www.forestry-suppliers.com/product_pages/products.php?mi=89910&itemnum=24003&redir=Y

Moderator Note: I might have to split this off if we get farther into the weeds...
Title: Re: Fresno Creek to Auras Creek, Through the Solitario
Post by: Ranger Tim on February 24, 2019, 01:27:25 PM
A pair lasts me about three years, but that's around 200 days of use a year. My buddy Billy was tagged last year by a buzz-tail and his medical bills damned near hit six figures, so $200 for an insurance policy is pretty darned cheap.