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From the Basin to Lower Tornillo

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Offline Robert

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From the Basin to Lower Tornillo
« on: February 11, 2013, 09:22:31 PM »
Last Sunday Mitch and I arrived in Big Bend for our annual backpacking trip. Unfortunately we had just found out that our third member, Tom, would not be able to make it due to an injury suffered while training for the trip. Tom's last trip with us was in 2011 so we were eager to catch up on old times. If there was a saving grace with his injury it was that he aggravated it the day before he was to catch a flight out to Texas instead of in he middle of a 5 day backpack.

We got into the park around noon and got our permits. Then it was off to set out some caches. We set caches at the bear box at the Juniper Canyon trailhead, the junction of Juniper Canyon road and Glenn Spring road, and along the Rio Grande Village road at about mile 8. It was the first time I had ever driven the Juniper Canyon road and it was good to get a perspective of some of the ground we were going to cover. This took about 3 hours and once completed we headed up to the Basin Campground.

I knew Badknees was going to be in the park the same week we were there so we arranged to meet for dinner Sunday night. Just up from the turnoff into the Basin we saw BK's truck pulled over to the side where he was using his phone. After a brief chat we went on up and picked our campsite. BK was also camped nearby. Later we all then went up to the lodge for dinner and had a great time chatting about past trips and experiences. Tom's absence had created a problem as we planned our trip around using his rental car to get us back from our point to point trip. I had asked BK if he could help with our problem and he graciously accepted. Apparently Big Bend has its share of trail magic.

In the morning BK followed us down to a point along RGV road about 1 mile from the Tornillo creek bridge where we left my truck and then ferried us back to the Basin. I should mention that he also provided coffee made from freshly ground beans.   :dance: We ate breakfast at the Lodge and got on the trail at 10 am.

Here is the track log of our route:  (I didn't start the track log until about 45 minutes up the trail)  :-[

We had water cached at three locations and planned to get water in Boot Spring and Fresno Creek. The first day we would hike up Pinnacles and down Juniper Canyon trail as far as we could. The second day we would be head out west on the Dodson trail and cut south up into the drainage that contains Silky Spring. Then either stay in the drainage to Fresno Creek or climb up the small flat topped mountain (4461 just east of Tortuga) and then drop down to the creek. From the satellite view the drainage looked narrow, steep, and had the potential for pouroffs which is why I had an alternate plan. Once in Fresno we would follow it as far downstream as we could before stopping.

On day 3 we planned to hike the reverse of Mule Ear's first day on his Walking to the Bottom of the Bend and camp just off the Glenn Springs road. Day 4 we would hike up to Rice Tank, cut northeast along an old road towards Nugent and then east down another old road that goes to Chilicotal Springs. Once at the springs we would drop off the ridge and continue northeast towards the RGV road and take the old "La Noria" road (my terms because it heads straight towards it) and camp somewhere along the road. On the last day we would continue to Tornillo Creek and on down to our vehicle. With this plan each day would average about 10 miles.

View from Juniper Canyon trailhead where we cached food and water.


Boulder Meadow


We reached Pinnacles Pass fairly quickly at 7000 feet. I am always reminded how well maintained this trail is today compared to when we first used to hike it.

The Pinnacles


View down Boot Canyon


We stopped at the cabin at Boot Spring for lunch and checked out the spring which was running at a decent flow so took a few liters. We also saw water in the pools above the spring.

View along the Juniper Canyon trail at 5700 feet.


At Upper Juniper Spring we ran into a couple doing their first OML. They remarked on our small packs and said that they had carried 6 gallons with them. They planned on resupplying at the Fresno crossing but had not cached water at Blue Creek.

Upper Juniper Spring. You find this by taking the trail spur marked Juniper Camp and then hike up the hill from the cement water trough. There was a small flow out of the bowl.


We stopped just short of the Dodson trail junction and set up our poncho tarps. It had rained the night before and we were caught in the open before moving under the picnic shelter. With a chance of rain in the forecast and no experience setting up the tarps we decided we needed the practice.



It is hard to prepare for the elevation gain and loss that comes from this trail and we were glad to stop for the day. Of course, it didn't rain that night nor any other night we were out and we had the first of several balmy nights.
« Last Edit: February 11, 2013, 09:47:45 PM by Robert »

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Offline Homer67

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Re: From the Basin to Lower Tornillo
« Reply #1 on: February 11, 2013, 09:35:14 PM »
Beautiful photos! It is quite the view of the Chisos at the Dodson/Juniper TH.

Looking forward to more!
Ah Big Bend, we will soon return to reacquaint ourselves in our ritual of blood, exhaustion and dehydration. How can we resist the temptation to strip ourselves of the maladies of civilization?

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Offline steelfrog

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Re: From the Basin to Lower Tornillo
« Reply #2 on: February 11, 2013, 09:35:49 PM »
Awesome TR; I like the creativity...

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Offline badknees

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Re: From the Basin to Lower Tornillo
« Reply #3 on: February 11, 2013, 10:13:04 PM »
Ok..... Been waiting :icon_biggrin:
Not all those who wander are lost.
J.R.R. Tolkien

Through the Mirror
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Offline Al

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Re: From the Basin to Lower Tornillo
« Reply #4 on: February 11, 2013, 11:01:44 PM »
Robert, thank you!

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Offline mule ears

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Re: From the Basin to Lower Tornillo
« Reply #5 on: February 12, 2013, 07:19:14 AM »
Like Homero, I will be getting the popcorn ready for the rest of the story!  Great start.   :great:
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
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Offline Raoul Duke

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Re: From the Basin to Lower Tornillo
« Reply #6 on: February 12, 2013, 07:21:39 AM »
Nice!   I really like the poncho tarp set-up.  What brand is that, and how did they work out?
"Getting bored with your neurosis?  Drop you analyst--drop him/her like a cold potato--and make tracks for the nearest river." -Edward Abbey

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Offline Robert

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Re: From the Basin to Lower Tornillo
« Reply #7 on: February 12, 2013, 08:25:52 AM »
I really like the poncho tarp set-up.  What brand is that, and how did they work out?

The tarps are Golite Poncho tarps. $60 and 7 oz. I bought mine last year to use as rain wear but didn't set it up as a tarp until this trip. Once you get the hang of setup, it can be put up pretty quickly. There are multiple pitches but we only used this one. Had it rained I might have lowered the pitch depending on wind direction but with a light rain (like we had on last year's trip and Sunday night in the Basin) this would have kept us dry.

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Offline Robert

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Re: From the Basin to Lower Tornillo
« Reply #8 on: February 12, 2013, 10:08:27 PM »
Day 2
We knew we would have relatively dark skies during our trip but the sliver of moon that rose early morning woke me up. Luckily the moon rose even later in the succeeding nights so we had good stargazing.

In the morning we packed up headed down the trail to the Dodson junction where we picked up our cache and made breakfast.


After we ate we were back on the trail heading west. After about 2.5 miles the trail takes a slight turn to the northwest and we exit the trail and head up the ridge southwest across the wash. At the top of the ridge we had some nice views and a small valley was in front of us.

Tortuga Mtn across the way


View down the drainage (flat topped mountain 4461 is in front of ET)


Down close to the wash we ran across a mortar stone and flint chips. We started down the wash but it soon became choked with brush so we turned to our right and walked up peak 4461 for some outstanding views.


Now for the tricky part. The climb up the backside was only 200 feet but the descent to Fresno Creek was 800 feet and we didn't have a clear view of the way down. But we worked our way around to the front side of the mountain and found a game trail that lead to the best way down.
Looking up Fresno Creek.


We hit Fresno at about 1:30 and turned up the creek where we found water just a short ways up and stopped for lunch. We were just above Estrecho and after lunch we headed downstream were we found long stretches of water beginning at Estrecho and ending at the Palm Tree. Between tall grasses where you couldn't see where to step and a few obstacles to get around I was glad to see the canyon open up some.







From the Palm tree we walked another 1.5 miles (no water past the Palm) to the White Amphitheater where we climbed out of the wash and made camp up in a small side valley overlooking Fresno. We hiked about 10 miles for the day.

White Amphitheater


View from camp


« Last Edit: February 12, 2013, 10:14:37 PM by Robert »

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Offline Al

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Re: From the Basin to Lower Tornillo
« Reply #9 on: February 12, 2013, 10:47:33 PM »
Robert, great photos!

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Offline elhombre

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Re: From the Basin to Lower Tornillo
« Reply #10 on: February 13, 2013, 01:32:52 PM »
Did you take a look at that drainage as it came into Fresno drainage?  If you did, what do you think, rope or no rope? Is this the same drainage you found as all choked up before it hit Fresno? 

Also, did you come across any sweet camp spots on your off-trail trek between Dodson and Fresno creek?
If other countries on the planet want to see America suffer and ultimately destroyed, who are they cheering for right now?  Trump, or the leftist democrats and their media supported hate machine?

Seek out the facts for yourself.  Begin by using Startpage.com,  not google.

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Offline Robert

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Re: From the Basin to Lower Tornillo
« Reply #11 on: February 13, 2013, 08:09:57 PM »
Did you take a look at that drainage as it came into Fresno drainage?  If you did, what do you think, rope or no rope? Is this the same drainage you found as all choked up before it hit Fresno? 

Also, did you come across any sweet camp spots on your off-trail trek between Dodson and Fresno creek?

No sweet camping spots in the valley but a few spots up on 4461 looked ok but not great.

We did not take a close look at the junction with Fresno. It seems like there were some trees or vegetation there that made a reconnaissance a pain and yes, this is the one that was choked up on the upper end just below where we entered. There are some clear sections on satellite but I was ready to get up high for the views.

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Offline badknees

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Re: From the Basin to Lower Tornillo
« Reply #12 on: February 13, 2013, 08:29:49 PM »
Maybe I'm getting ahead, but your track looks like you went by Yum Spring and Shrub Spring? If so, was there any water?
Not all those who wander are lost.
J.R.R. Tolkien

Through the Mirror
http://mirrormagic.com

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Offline Robert

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Re: From the Basin to Lower Tornillo
« Reply #13 on: February 13, 2013, 09:07:11 PM »
Day 3

Another clear morning and we packed up immediately and headed northeast just after 8am. We were out on a series of ridges that were above washes that would eventually dump into Juniper Draw. The ridges looked like there had been a recent fire as most of the vegetation was gone.

View down Fresno


Looking towards Chilicotal


Eventually we dropped into the drainage as it took a southeastern direction and headed towards Talley Mountain. We passed Yum Spring and stopped for breakfast at Shrub Spring and didn't see any evidence of water at either. After breakfast we came to a small pouroff and assumed it was the one that Mule Ears mentioned. Then a little ways further we came to a big pouroff, perhaps 40+ feet high which we were able to work our way down on the right.

The "big pouroff"


Just down past the pouroff we came upon a fairly large mud/rockslide which looked to be very recent, perhaps when the most recent rainfall occurred.


Looks like rocks slid down slope in rain.





When got down further we jumped out of the wash and headed northeast again but a little too far north and we missed Screwbean spring. By then we were in the wash below Holly Spring and we walked up the spring and ate lunch in the shade.

Water in the foreground must have been from recent rains. Holly Spring is in the background.


We knew there was a big pouroff ahead so we climbed out of the canyon and had great views of the Chisos looking up Juniper Canyon.


View from top of the pouroff


We followed the wash up to where it crossed the Juniper Canyon Road and then over to Glenn Springs road where we picked up our cache of water. As it was still early we continued up the wash that parallels Glenn Springs Road to Rice Tank. Once at Rice Tank we picked up what must have been the original Glenn Springs road before the park was in existence. We camped at a high point along the road with fairly good views.

Morning shot from campsite looking back at ET and South Rim.


12 miles for the day we were done a little past 5 pm.

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Offline trtlrock

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Re: From the Basin to Lower Tornillo
« Reply #14 on: February 13, 2013, 09:16:41 PM »
Wow -- that is one tall yucca! (or you are very, very small hobbits... :-\ )

Sounds like a nice trip... :great:
John & Tess

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

 


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