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HW>Fisk Canyon>Elephant Tusk = WATER!

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Offline wild.open.spaces

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HW>Fisk Canyon>Elephant Tusk = WATER!
« on: January 01, 2011, 04:19:11 PM »
This is a followup post to an original post I started in the "Hiking the Desert" forum. In that post titled, "Elephant Tusk to Smoky Creek", I attached a route map which detailed a ~29 mile trip beginning at Homer Wilson Ranch, going south on Smoky Creek Trail for ~3 miles, going off trail for about ~12 miles down through Fisk Canyon and finally towards Elephant Tusk, meeting back up with Elephant Tusk Trail, back on the Dodson, and west towards the finish at Homer Wilson Ranch.

After months of waiting for the trip to finally get here, I am back to say the trip was a success and there was water EVERYWHERE alone the trail! What a pleasant surprise.

Day 1 started at Homer Wilson Ranch on 12.28.10. I hiked ~3 miles down the Dodson to the intersection with Smoky Creek Trail and then hiked another ~3 miles down Smoky Creek. There was water along Smoky Creek in several places. The first spring that is listed on the Emory Peak Quad map was active, although not flowing all that heavily. Another mile down the trail, the water flow was more significant. About ~3 miles down Smoky Creek, I veered off the trail heading east. I will gladly share my .gpx file if anyone is interested.

I planned to keep the off trail sections in drainages as much as possible. I really didn't know what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised at how open the drainages were. About 300 yards on the off trail portion, I hit a ~15 foot pouroff that was impassable going straight up it. Bummer!! This scared me because I didn't know if the entire route was going to be like this...luckily, it wasn't. A steep ascent up the left side of the canyon was all it took to get me back in the drainage and on my way. I hiked another 2.5 miles or so and set up camp for the night. I was probably no more than 1 to 1.5 miles to the beginning of Fisk Canyon at this point. The night was clear, cool, and calm.

Day 2 took me down more drainages into Fisk Canyon. The entrance to Fisk Canyon along my route was very impressive with a very significant pouroff down into the canyon itself. Again, it was very possible to bushwhack up, over, and down into the drainage again. Again, A LOT of water was down in Fisk Canyon. It ran continuously for a good portion of the canyon...good flow, easily filterable.

Near the end of Fisk Canyon, I dropped my pack and hiked up to Dominguez Spring and ruins. Dominguez Spring was flowing significantly and the ruins were truly amazing.

I continued south towards the tip of Dominguez Mountain. At this point in the trip, I had to cross several drainages to get up and over to Backbone Ridge, however, the country was wide open and easy to bushwhack through. I saw fresh sign of bear (scat, tracks) but never saw or heard one. I also saw fresh cat tracks.

The canyon up between Dominguez Mountain and Backbone Ridge was beautiful and very passable. After about ~9 miles from Camp 1, I finally saw the tip of Elephant Tusk. What a beautiful site! I camped somewhere near the base of Elephant Tusk and near the northern tip of Backbone Ridge. The night was windier than the night before, but the temperatures were very pleasant.

Day 3 took me back to "civilization" where I reached Elephant Tusk Trail. The 2 springs that are listed on the Emory Peak Quad Map were active and had significant flow. I made my way to where the trail intersects Fresno Creek which was also flowing very nicely. I dropped my pack and headed down 0.6-0.7 miles down to the Fresno Pools. If you have never been here, it is worth the trip. Very deep, clear, cold pools all flowing. Amazing!!

Past this point, Elephant Tusk Trail gets pretty steep as it heads towards the Dodson. It is also very overgrown and easy to miss if you're not paying attention. I made camp a little bit past the intersection of Elephant Tusk Trail and the Dodson Trail. The night was incredibly windy with gusts of 45-50 mph. I barely slept at all!

Day 4 took me back down the Dodson to my car at Homer Wilson Ranch. What an amazing trip, I must say. I was very surprised at all the water I found along the trail after 4 months of no rain. As a wrap up, there is water along Smoky Creek Trail, Fisk Canyon, Dominguez Spring, Fresno Creek, and Elephant Tusk. All places were flowing and easily filterable.

If anyone is interested in seeing pictures, please visit my Big Bend 2010 photo gallery on Flickr here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jlpeterson/sets/72157625596629873/ .

If you're interested in the .gpx file, I will also be happy to share that. 
« Last Edit: January 01, 2011, 05:31:54 PM by RichardM »

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Offline badknees

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Re: HW>Fisk Canyon>Elephant Tusk = WATER!
« Reply #1 on: January 01, 2011, 04:43:32 PM »
Nice trip and photos.

No doubt the Quemadas are THE coolest part of the park.

I'd be interested in your .gpx.
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Offline Reece

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Re: HW>Fisk Canyon>Elephant Tusk = WATER!
« Reply #2 on: January 01, 2011, 05:41:32 PM »
Serious hike!
You had a partner, right?
Where did you get the idea to go bushwhacking across the wilds like that?
That's what I want to do but I need some gaiters first.
I'd like to see the .gpx too.

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Offline Robert

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Re: HW>Fisk Canyon>Elephant Tusk = WATER!
« Reply #3 on: January 01, 2011, 06:23:25 PM »
I really enjoyed the pictures. I'd like the gpx file as well so I can figure out where some of those shots were taken. The emerald green color of the Waterworks was pretty neat. I know it was from algae but the water looked so clear. Thanks for sharing.

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Offline wild.open.spaces

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Re: HW>Fisk Canyon>Elephant Tusk = WATER!
« Reply #4 on: January 01, 2011, 08:00:05 PM »
I promise to post the .gpx tomorrow. Right now, the pack and GPS unit is still in the car and I'm enjoying some time with family. Thanks for the replies. Definitely, an amazing trip. Wish I were back there now watching the stars and listening to the wonderful silence.

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Offline wild.open.spaces

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Re: HW>Fisk Canyon>Elephant Tusk = WATER!
« Reply #5 on: January 01, 2011, 08:06:31 PM »
In the meantime, the elevation profile and .kml file are posted here: jlpeterson.posterou s.com.

If you use GPS Babel, you can easily convert the .kml file to .gpx. Otherwise, I will definitely post the .gpx tomorrow sometime when I'm able.

Happy New Year!

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Offline 01ACRViper

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Re: HW>Fisk Canyon>Elephant Tusk = WATER!
« Reply #6 on: January 01, 2011, 08:29:42 PM »
sounds like a great hike, did you do it solo?

and thanks for the water report, heading to dominguez springs monday morning, leaving for the park tomorrow  :eusa_dance:

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Offline jim2

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Re: HW>Fisk Canyon>Elephant Tusk = WATER!
« Reply #7 on: January 01, 2011, 08:50:56 PM »
i enjoyed the photos and the report. thanks for posting.

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Offline fartymarty

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Re: HW>Fisk Canyon>Elephant Tusk = WATER!
« Reply #8 on: January 01, 2011, 09:08:49 PM »
I very much enjoyed your BiBe flickr Photos, you certainly know your way around that Powershot. I especially enjoyed the Mule Ears photos with the wispy clouds flowing between/through the ears.  :eusa_clap: Keep up the good work and please keep sharing it with us.
(OK, I know, I know, that photo was from a different trip so now I'm  :offtopic:.
I only did it for Homero.)
Fort Worth

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Offline mule ears

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Re: HW>Fisk Canyon>Elephant Tusk = WATER!
« Reply #9 on: January 02, 2011, 07:58:34 AM »
Great report and pictures.  You have certainly been to quite a few places in the park.  It is good to have your perspective on the board, please be sure to stay around and participate.

Good to see there is ample water out there after this dry period.  You didn't say if you saw any water in the wash west of Backbone Ridge.  The last time I was down Fisk canyon there was a huge amount of bear scat too.  That cross over from Dominguez/Fisk wash to the Backbone wash is interesting and an little deceiving because the Dominguez wash is higher than the Backbone wash.  I did the cross over in reverse (east to west) and kept waiting to drop down into the Dominguez wash and it never happened.  I finally realized I was in the wash when I hit the canyon wall on the far side  :icon_eek:

This report is definitely in the Trip Reports Index, thanks.
« Last Edit: January 02, 2011, 09:01:29 AM by RichardM »
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
http://40yearsofwalking.wordpress.com/

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Offline wild.open.spaces

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Re: HW>Fisk Canyon>Elephant Tusk = WATER!
« Reply #10 on: January 02, 2011, 10:11:34 AM »
To answer some questions...the hike was not done solo, but with one other person. We were both grateful for each other's company especially when deciding the best ways to navigate up and over, or down, some of the pouroffs. I hiked with a GPS unit which added a ton of security in terms of navigation, but also had a compass and 2 good maps in case the GPS decided to quit working. I also had a SPOT which I used to send "OK" messages to family each night and morning.

Regarding water in the wash on the west side of Backbone Ridge, I didn't see any.

.gpx and .gdb files have been posted here: http://jlpeterson.posterous.com/

If these don't work for some reason, let me know and I'll repost.

Also, if anyone is on Facebook, look me up. Jennifer Peterson in College Station, TX. I have the photo album there with descriptions under each that make understanding and looking at all the pictures a little easier.
« Last Edit: January 02, 2011, 10:17:09 AM by wild.open.spaces »

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Offline RichardM

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Re: HW>Fisk Canyon>Elephant Tusk = WATER!
« Reply #11 on: January 02, 2011, 05:35:20 PM »
Also, if anyone is on Facebook, look me up. Jennifer Peterson in College Station, TX. I have the photo album there with descriptions under each that make understanding and looking at all the pictures a little easier.
BigBendChat has a Facebook page as well: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Big-Bend-Chat/226021337279
It'd make it easier for FB users to find you if you became a fan of the BBC page first.

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Offline Reece

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Re: HW>Fisk Canyon>Elephant Tusk = WATER!
« Reply #12 on: January 02, 2011, 06:33:15 PM »
Epic hike in my humble opinion!
I got your (Full_Route_red.kml) to work in Google Maps but my Google Earth is crashing on me so I couldn't really view it like I wanted.
Questions:
1. Was that the "proposed route" drawn on Google Earth or was it from your GPS?
2. On day 3, when you dropped your pack to visit the Fresno Pools, you must have left your GPS behind, right? I didn't see the detour on your route.
3. Where did you learn your navigation skills?
I'm seriously impressed!

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Offline TexasAggieHiker

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Re: HW>Fisk Canyon>Elephant Tusk = WATER!
« Reply #13 on: January 02, 2011, 08:22:13 PM »
 :eusa_clap:

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Offline wild.open.spaces

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Re: HW>Fisk Canyon>Elephant Tusk = WATER!
« Reply #14 on: January 02, 2011, 08:44:11 PM »
The full_route.kml file is actually what I drew before the trip and what I followed almost exactly during the trip. I didn't create any new tracks during the hike, but rather used what I had drawn before the trip to navigate my course (which is why you don't see the additional mileage to Dominguez Springs/ruins and the Waterworks). The only time my hike really differed from the route I posted is when I was navigating around Dominguez Mountain. Things certainly look different in the real world than they do on a topo map or Google Earth! So, I altered things a bit getting up and down some of the drainages that were necessary to cross to finally make it around Dominguez Mountain and to Backbone Ridge.

 


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