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Homer Wilson/Smoky Creek/Dominguez Mountain/Elephant Tusk 12/8-12/11

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Offline johnsigmon

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Wanted to share some info from my recent trip, maybe it will help someone. Note I will add some pics and info later as time allows. I originally planned to do something similar to Eric's hike which is posted on here somewhere, heading from the Basin to the Dodson down to Mariscal Canyon, and back. A resurfaced knee injury caused me to reroute and cut the trip short. My trip also suffered from poor information from rangers, followed by poor judgement on my part, which I am aware of. I just want to share in case it may help someone else. I'll lay out the route briefly, with water sources along the way. Unfortunately I do not have any GPS coordinate information, and will have to rely on points of reference.

Day 1.
Drove in from Austin, arrived late in the afternoon around 3, and there were two rangers in the center at the basin. While issuing my permits, they spent the hour or so telling me my trip was a bad idea, with the female ranger repeating that I was going to die, and that "a compass is worthless" in the backcountry, and other ridiculous things. Thank god I took it anyways! They gave me little information on my route, except that it was "difficult", and the other ranger said that I may find water behind the dam by Dominguez spring, and that coming back from Mariscal Canyon I would definitely find water in Fresno Creek near Mariscal Mine. This last piece of information is FALSE and almost got me killed!! That was about all that they told me that was of any use, and they advised me to start and end at Homer Wilson instead of the basin, which seemed reasonable, as I had already hiked Pinnacle and Laguna Meadows before. Off I went. I made it a little over a mile down the dodson, into the valley before the trail starts making its first big climb, before calling the first day.

Day 2.
This day went according to plan, continuing down the OML to the Smoky Creek trail, which turned out to be little more than a creek bed, with a little amateur rock climbing involved, but overall nothing unmanageable. Watch your step out there! Very shortly after starting on Smoky Creek, I came across a very large puddle of water on the trail, a foot or two deep and app 10x2 feet across. Rather than follow Smoky Creek all the way out, as soon as the trail turned west, I turned east, making a cut through towards Dominguez mountain. at first it was a little rough, going up and out of a ravine or two, and finally came across a wash that was very wide, making me realize the main wash I was trying to follow was probably clearer than I had originally thought. Turns out my cut through was no more difficult to navigate than Smoky Creek. Maybe one or two of the dry waterfalls were taller, but overall not too bad. At a point, my cut through must make almost a 90 degree turn and head south towards the Dominguez. This area had the highest elevation of my cut through, and was also the least navigable as the dry creekbeds got narrow. Turning south, the creekbeds quickly opened back up though. There were various small puddles of water here and there in these areas. A spring slightly west and to the north of Dominguez mountain was also flowing in the middle of my trail. Towards the end of the afternoon, especially nearing Dominguez mountain, it was tougher to tell where I was on my maps, as visibility decreased due to the steepness of sides of the ravine. The only way to go was forward, so I went. Eventually it opened up into a wide wash once I got barely south of Dominguez mountain. The day was coming to a close, so I did not have time to explore, but I did not see Dominguez spring or the ruins near the trail. I camped on a ridge overlooking the flat expanse towards the south, just probably a quarter mile or so from the easternmost point of the punta de la sierra. Really in its shadow.

Day 3.
Here is where I had some problems. I woke up with awful knee pains, which was an old injury that decided to resurface once I wanted to hike many miles across the desert off trail. Duh.  I also did not realize that even in December, I had needed alot more water than I had anticipated, more than a gallon/day. I made the poor decision of not backtracking to search out Dominguez spring or the flowing spring that was a few miles up into the ravine. Based off the ranger's information of water in the Fresno near Mariscal Mine, and hoping to catch a tourist at Mariscal Mine I could pay for a rescue ride back to the truck, I decided to head cross country towards Talley Mountain. It was a little rough going until I was east of Cow Heaven/Backbone ridge. In particular there is a north/south ridge almost in line with Cow Heaven that was much steeper than I anticipated and was not fun descending. Anyways, I headed for where the Fresno breaks through a short ridge just north of the Mariscal Mine. Arriving around noon, it was a very sad moment when I realized that the Fresno was dry there, and that there was obviously no water nearby. I took a risk and walked down to the Mine, crossing my fingers for people. No water. No people. I reassessed my situation in the shade of one of the old abandoned houses near the sign for the mines. I decided my best shot was the springs near elephant tusk, it was mostly flat to get there, and I could follow the Fresno creekbed most of the way hoping the old man had not just completely made up the info. It was a rough afternoon, and a random spring not on the map probably saved my life. In the Fresno bed (which did not line up with the Elephant Tusk trail at this point), in a deep ravine almost exactly east of the summit of Elephant Tusk, there was a tiny little tinkling of water just coming out a wall. It flowed for about 15 feet and sank into the sand. Walking up the creekbed its presence is noticed by the existence of a fairly tall tree whose leaves had turned yellow for the season, surrounded by some thick grass, while I had only seen short thorny bushes for the previous 6 hours or so. I camped very close by and rested for the afternoon, with Elephant Tusk in sight.

Day 4.
Well rested and loaded up with water, I set out for the Elephant Tusk trail to make it back to my truck. Seeing bootprints in the sand and reconnecting with the ET trail was a happy moment. Where the ET trail heads into the various ravines immediately there is an enormous puddle of water waiting. Following the trail was very difficult, and I had to be very careful of my surroundings and check map and compass many many times. Even still, I went down the wrong fork once or twice, but thankfully not too far. The trail took me almost 8 hours from the base of ET mountain to the dodson, and I followed the trail all the way up until the last mile or two. I swear it vanished. Looking at the map where ET trail reconnects with the dodson, I climbed the north south ridge there (with the 5200 elevation) a little too far south, causing me to have to traipse across the ridge sideways, which was very unpleasant. Reconnecting with the Dodson was another happy moment, and I hauled ass all the way back to the truck, finishing in the dark (which was very creepy, do not recommend). To top it all off, I had a $50 ticket for unattended food/cooler. I literally left some unopened gallons of water, with an empty! cooler in my truck. Of course I can't fight it by mail either, I have to show up in court. Anyways.

So temperature was mostly 80-90 during day, got chilly at night but I don't think it got under 40 or so. Not a cloud in the sky, and windy at night. No wildlife sightings, although lots of bear tracks in my cut through from Smoky Creek to Dominguez Mountain, and a few bear tracks out in the open north of Cow Heaven. A large deer and a few rabbits was it. Ill be happy to answer any questions anyone may have, and will try to get some pictures up here soon.

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Offline johnsigmon

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Re: Homer Wilson/Smoky Creek/Dominguez Mountain/Elephant Tusk 12/8-12/11
« Reply #1 on: December 15, 2015, 04:49:13 PM »
Ah, also to add to day 4, ET trail was very very thick in some points, requiring you to literally put your head down and charge through bushes and chest-high grass. Also forgot, all the springs on the map of ET trail were flowing nicely, namely the ones from the east of the base of the mountain up through almost to Tortuga, and there were a few puddles here and there in the upper part between Tortuga and the Dodson.

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Offline Talusman

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Re: Homer Wilson/Smoky Creek/Dominguez Mountain/Elephant Tusk 12/8-12/11
« Reply #2 on: December 15, 2015, 04:55:22 PM »
I look forward to your pictures! We all are capable of making mistakes. Admitting yours and sharing with the board might very well help someone else from not making a similar mistake (Hopefully!) I am glad to hear you did manage to escape with sore knees and a lesson learned that will allow you to do more hiking in the future. I enjoyed your details. Thanks for sharing and don't forget the pictures!
"To Think is easy. To Act is difficult. To Act as one Thinks is the most difficult!"

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Offline elhombre

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Re: Homer Wilson/Smoky Creek/Dominguez Mountain/Elephant Tusk 12/8-12/11
« Reply #3 on: December 15, 2015, 07:22:40 PM »
Glad you survived!  You unfortunately got it on both sides from the govment employees.  They gave you wrong info for an hour, then gave you a $50 ticket for water jugs in a back of a truck.    :vomit:

You did just barely miss Domiquez spring.  When walking down the creek bed about a hour past the first spring, do you remember a very distinct line of dark purplish dirt coming into the creek bed?  It changed the white creek bed to purple.  That was the creek bed that takes you to Dominquez.

Was the first water you saw when heading down towards Domiques at a point where another creek came in from the east, or was it further down where a dike closes in and makes the creek narrow?

Was the chick ranger Ms. Lavender?  She is a unique person....
Thanks for the ET spring report.  There is a bunch of water out there once you know where to look.  Thanks for the trip report, and am looking forward to your pictures!  And welcome to the site.   
For 2 years the Fake News Media, Obama's FBI, CIA & DOJ, and Swamp dwelling Politicians COLLUDED, Illegally Spied,and LIED to America about POTUS in order to overturn an election

All the while demanding censorship and removal of opposition Conservative "hate speech" voices.  Globalists Hate Freedom

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Offline Flash

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Re: Homer Wilson/Smoky Creek/Dominguez Mountain/Elephant Tusk 12/8-12/11
« Reply #4 on: December 15, 2015, 08:02:34 PM »
Thanks for the telling your story, johnsigmon!  I'm fascinated that your hiked from the Dominguez area to north of Mariscal Mine across the Cow Heaven Anticline. I have looked at that north-south ridge on aerial photos and noticed it has a nice cut in middle of it, which might make the passage a bit easier. I'd like to do that some time. Sounds like you kept your wits about you and made a decent Plan C choice for your next water.

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Offline Geezer

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Re: Homer Wilson/Smoky Creek/Dominguez Mountain/Elephant Tusk 12/8-12/11
« Reply #5 on: December 15, 2015, 09:55:34 PM »
Thanks for report!

Hope to see photos.

Geezer

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Offline Quatro

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Re: Homer Wilson/Smoky Creek/Dominguez Mountain/Elephant Tusk 12/8-12/11
« Reply #6 on: December 15, 2015, 10:05:28 PM »
Nice report on an adventurous solo trip.  Good job of recovering from an injury.

The only way to go was forward, so I went.

This great line was the highlight of the report though.  Felt like I was descending into Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness.  Well done.
When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro - HST

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Offline johnsigmon

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Re: Homer Wilson/Smoky Creek/Dominguez Mountain/Elephant Tusk 12/8-12/11
« Reply #7 on: December 16, 2015, 09:33:34 AM »
Thanks guys,
elhombre- heading south from offtrail, there is a spring on the map northwest of dominguez mountain, and past that I saw no more water. I remember not being sure when I was actually passing dominguez mountain, as the ravine is pretty narrow and my sight was limited to the punta de la sierra in front of me. I remember it just kinda opened up all of a sudden, and the creekbed widened from a few feet to twenty feet to a hundred feet. I marched right down the middle, I believe the spring wouldve been on my right(west), and the dam on my left(east). It was 5 o clock and I was anxious to find a campsite that was not so low to the ground.. makes me feel like prey.

Flash- that ridge was a huge bummer, my topos went in 50 foot increments and approaching it from the west it looked tall and annoying, not impassable. I got to the top and looked out towards Talley Mt, and cursed for sure. I found a place where I thought I could safely descend, and there is a wash that carves a nice path into the next ridge, which I think is the one you noticed. From there its pretty straight and flat, no more than five feet up or down.

What is the best way to get pictures on here?? attach them one at a time? img link to flickr? I suppose I cant just paste them right in, that would be too easy.

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Offline Robert

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Re: Homer Wilson/Smoky Creek/Dominguez Mountain/Elephant Tusk 12/8-12/11
« Reply #8 on: December 16, 2015, 12:40:08 PM »
I remember not being sure when I was actually passing dominguez mountain, as the ravine is pretty narrow and my sight was limited to the punta de la sierra in front of me. I remember it just kinda opened up all of a sudden, and the creekbed widened from a few feet to twenty feet to a hundred feet. I marched right down the middle, I believe the spring wouldve been on my right(west), and the dam on my left(east). It was 5 o clock and I was anxious to find a campsite that was not so low to the ground.. makes me feel like prey.

Dominguez Springs and dam would have been on your right as the wash opened up. The ruins are also on the right up on the bank close to the dam. The last time i was there the water was flowing slowly over the dam.

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Offline elhombre

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Re: Homer Wilson/Smoky Creek/Dominguez Mountain/Elephant Tusk 12/8-12/11
« Reply #9 on: December 16, 2015, 02:31:31 PM »
Just for grins and I have a little time at work.  Here is the satellite picture of Dominquez spring area.  The purple dirt in the creek bed can even be seen from space, and the ruins and dam.

http://mapper.acme.com/?ll=29.13044,-103.30800&z=19&t=H
For 2 years the Fake News Media, Obama's FBI, CIA & DOJ, and Swamp dwelling Politicians COLLUDED, Illegally Spied,and LIED to America about POTUS in order to overturn an election

All the while demanding censorship and removal of opposition Conservative "hate speech" voices.  Globalists Hate Freedom

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Offline Homer67

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Re: Homer Wilson/Smoky Creek/Dominguez Mountain/Elephant Tusk 12/8-12/11
« Reply #10 on: December 16, 2015, 04:02:00 PM »
Man! Congrats on a great hike! I just love it down in Fisk Canyon. I think this might be what the water looked like that you found in Fisk Canyon, and is this what the water coming out of the rock looked like down by ET? It sounds like you described the big tree at the base of ET.
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 TheWildWestGuy

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Re: Homer Wilson/Smoky Creek/Dominguez Mountain/Elephant Tusk 12/8-12/11
« Reply #11 on: December 16, 2015, 10:57:10 PM »
That's a awfully gutsy buchwack to do solo.   Your lucky you didn't die of thirst out near the Mariscal Mine somewhere.  The ranger at the Chisos basin was probably confusing Fresno Creek near the Dodson Trail (a reliable water source) with the lower part of Fresno Creek near the mine (NO water anywhere nearby).   They are both the same drainage but a huge distance apart by foot.
When you say you lost the ETusk trail a couple miles before it meets the Dodson were you on the official E Tusk trail or were you in the Dodson or Fresno drainage's underneath Tortuga Mountain?  The official trail climbs a ridge far above the drainage's but is very difficult to follow in some areas due to very limited use and not well cairned.   TWWG

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Offline RichardM

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Re: Homer Wilson/Smoky Creek/Dominguez Mountain/Elephant Tusk 12/8-12/11
« Reply #12 on: December 16, 2015, 10:57:22 PM »
What is the best way to get pictures on here?? attach them one at a time? img link to flickr? I suppose I cant just paste them right in, that would be too easy.
Attaching them is not very efficient. Using Flickr works fine. Use the "Share BBCode" option like this:
IMG_0080c by Richard, on Flickr

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Offline Robert

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Re: Homer Wilson/Smoky Creek/Dominguez Mountain/Elephant Tusk 12/8-12/11
« Reply #13 on: December 17, 2015, 08:22:51 AM »
Quote
When walking down the creek bed about a hour past the first spring, do you remember a very distinct line of dark purplish dirt coming into the creek bed?

That's a good clue Elhombre.

I went back through my photos and found this one taken at Dominguez up on the right bank of the big wash (after descending Jack's Pass and refilling water at the spring. You can see the darker sand in the left foreground from the Dominguez Spring wash.


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Offline johnsigmon

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Re: Homer Wilson/Smoky Creek/Dominguez Mountain/Elephant Tusk 12/8-12/11
« Reply #14 on: December 17, 2015, 11:17:53 AM »
Ok finally got some pictures on flickr, only to have flickr auto rotate them incorrectly.

some hoodoos in fisk canyon
IMG_2929 by John, on Flickr

Judging from timing of the photos, this rock wall was only five minutes north of the spring I saw flowing in Fisk canyon. The biggest one I had to climb down/up.
IMG_2932 by John, on Flickr

The spring I found in Fisk, it shows on mytopo.com and is in the middle of the ravine.
IMG_2934 by John, on Flickr

Headed south from there, my visibility started to open up a little here, I ended up camping in the shadow of the mountain to the left.
IMG_2935 by John, on Flickr

Here it really started to open up, looking southeast, the Mariscal mountains are in the distance, the punta de la sierra are just off camera to the right and Dominguez Mountain behind me to the left. I suspect this is when I was closest to Dominguez spring and ruins.
IMG_2936 by John, on Flickr

From my campsite that night, looking south, with Dominguez Mountain behind me.
IMG_2944 by John, on Flickr

Obligatory sunset photo
IMG_2952 by John, on Flickr

The next day, after heading east towards talley and mariscal mine, this is looking north, backbone ridge in foreground and south rim in the background.
IMG_2956 by John, on Flickr

The view from the top of the ridge running north of Cow Heaven. Maybe couldve gone around it to the south.
IMG_2959 by John, on Flickr

And the same spot, looking south towards Cow heaven.
IMG_2960 by John, on Flickr

« Last Edit: December 17, 2015, 11:23:28 AM by johnsigmon »

 


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