Big Bend Conservancy
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Nothing dramatic, spectacular or incredibly challenging; nonetheless I spent time with two of my favorite people in my favorite place
We also saw fresh, very clear and relatively large black bear tracks there, along with some crow tracks.
Parent’s book mentions that it is easy to take the wrong wash when returning to the trailhead, and I think this concern is a bit understated. On the outbound portion, heading downstream, I didn’t really pay much attention to all of the side washes converging into the main wash. Thankfully, my wife did, and she set up a couple of small cairns at certain junctions to help us find our way back. At the time, I rolled my eyes and told her they were unnecessary. But on our way back, I told myself several times, “I don’t remember THIS intersection.” Our return trip was a bit slow because we paused to check our topos, check our GPS, look for our own footprints from the outbound trek, and look for my wife’s cairns. In the end, I ate crow and told her how glad I was that she set up her cairns. If we'd ended up in the wrong wash, we wouldn't have gotten lost and still would have made it back to our car, just with a lot of unnecessary mileage.
Grabbed lunch at DB’s Rustic Iron BBQ and ate it at the casita. Man, that is good BBQ!
Despite our many trips there, and having done the Lower Burro Mesa Pour-Off trail more than once, we’d never done the Upper Burro Mesa Pour-Off. So we decided to knock it off our list. Let's just say it is now in our top five. Very beautiful and lots of fun, traversing boulders and pour-offs. I felt like I was a kid again, playing outside. We started at sunup and finished mid-morning.
The forecast called for overnight lows in the mid-40s, for which we were well-equipped. As the night wore on, I got colder and colder, frequently checking the temp on my Suunto Ambit Peak (off my wrist) and watching the temps drop into the 40s, then into the 30s. Somewhere around midnight (I think) I ate some M&Ms to generate heat; it worked for half an hour or so. Even though I was REALLY cold, despite all my layers and my down quilt, and even though my Suunto has always been a reliable thermometer, I thought, “there’s no way it’s that cold.” Then at dawn, after another largely sleepless night on the ground, I reached for my Suunto and it read 24. No WAY it got below freezing, I thought. Then I reached for my water bottle – which had become my ice bottle. So whaddya know … my Suunto still works fine, colder air DOES sink, and even spot forecasts are not always 100 percent reliable.It took us a while to thaw out, especially because the large bank to our east kept the sun away for quite a while. A breakfast of spud bomb and hot coffee (with Bailey's) helped.
I’ve always wanted to camp along the 3200' contour line, just north of Mule Ears Peaks, overlooking the Smoky Creek Plain. So that’s where we headed. Along the trail I stopped and talked with a couple of backpackers heading back to the trailhead. Turns out they had also camped at 3200', and had been knocking around Smoky Creek and Jack’s Pass. I asked if either was on BBC and hunterhughes introduced himself. It was the first time I’d (knowingly) met another BBCer out there.
We stayed on Mule Ears Trail for about 2.5 miles and then headed south up a wash, around a hill and up to the overlook. I was again reminded how much more difficult off-trail travel is .. tedious, slow-going and not without risk. I recalled the opening sentence of Robert Moor’s On Trails: “It is impossible to fully appreciate the value of a trail until you have been forced to walk through the wilderness without one.” While no one was forcing me to do this, the sentiment still rang true.
Up next … considering Rancherias Loop in BBRSP in February with my son, schedules permitting …
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