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Jan 8-12 2012 Outer-Outer Mtn Loop

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Offline brendan

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Jan 8-12 2012 Outer-Outer Mtn Loop
« on: January 15, 2012, 07:40:54 PM »
First of all, thanks for all the planning help from these forums.  It was a huge help.  My wife Autumn and I arrived in Big Bend on Saturday afternoon after an enjoyable drive from our home in Fruita, CO.  We picked up backcountry permits (with minimal battle with the ranger) and cached some water at Homer Wilson before heading to the Chisos Basin campground for the evening.  We enjoyed a great sunset and decided to go for a little drive after dusk as we'd heard there had been lots of recent mountain lion sightings in the basin.  No luck, unfortunately. 

Day 1: Pinnacles Trail, Emory Peak, South Rim
We had reserved SW3 for the night, so we knew we could take our time for the day and enjoy the fine views and take in the wonderful geology and vegetation. 


Views from on top of Emory Peak were particularly great


We stocked up with enough water in boot canyon to get us to our cache at Homer Wilson Ranch the following day.  The pools in Boot Canyon had the most water that we would see for the entire trip.


Next up was a walk around the South Rim.  The views were unreal...


...and the forest on top was super interesting


We enjoyed a fine evening and probably the coolest night of the trip, below freezing but not by much.  TOTAL MILES: 11.3

Day 2: Blue Creek to Homer Wilson Ranch to Dodson to Smokey Creek to Mule Ears
We woke up blanketed in fog but the sunrise was spectacular as we descended the Blue Creek trail.


We arrived at our cache late morning and enjoyed a nice break and lunch before heading down Dodson.


The forecast had looked good enough to leave our shelter behind but Monday afternoon had us hoping we hadn't made the wrong choice.  We even felt a handful of raindrops!


To our surprise there was water in two places on the Smokey Creek trail: first at the point where you first are able to see Mule Ears (between points 4685 and 4230) there were several pools visible from the trail above the creek, and again about 3 miles further down the trail.


About a quarter mile from Mule Ears Spring we found a good campsite and decided to take advantage since it was starting to get dark and we didn't know if there would be any good spots closer to the spring.   It was another wonderful sunset...


TOTAL MILES 20.7

Day 3: Mule Ears Spring to Smokey Spring to Dominguez Spring

After filling up at Mule Ears Spring we headed cross country to Smokey Spring.  The spring was running but we had enough to get to Dominguez Spring so we headed up the canyon behind Smokey Spring. 


We saw tons of mountain lion prints and a snake skeleton in the canyon


Travel in the canyon was pretty easy but Autumn had tweaked her knee a little and it was really starting to bother her by the time we started to head over Jack's Pass (horrible timing).  The pass was slow and tedious, especially the downhill on the other side. 


We made it down eventually and filled up our water at Dominguez Spring.  We decided to try to make it to the mouth of the canyon between Dominguez Mtn. and Backbone Ridge.  We headed south on the Dominguez Spring trail until we could cross over to the mouth of the canyon.  We headed east a little sooner than we should have and had to do a little extra wash-crossing to finish the day.  We didn't make it to the mouth that night but we were almost to the wash and decided to call it a day.  This was definitely the most difficult day and we were a bit worried about how Autumn's knee was going to be for the rest of the trip.  We enjoyed some quinoa and sundried tomatoes for dinner and tea and chocolate before we fell asleep.
TOTAL MILES: 11.7

Day 4: Dominguez Mtn/Backbone Ridge drainage to Elephant Tusk Trail to Dodson to Juniper Canyon Trailhead

We were quickly in the large wash in front of Dominguez Mtn and Backbone ridge, but navigation was surprisingly tricky in a couple spots where the wash split.  There were some splits that weren't deep enough to show up on the topos but deep enough to be a PITA to cross if you had to.  We wanted to make sure we didn't end up in one of the drainages draining off of the mountain south of Dominguez that didn't go into the canyon.  It was pretty quickly apparent that we had chosen right and we headed into the canyon.  We took the eastern fork (not the fork with the two springs), which was a nice canyon...


...with great views of Backbone Ridge and eventually Elephant Tusk. We continued to see lots of signs of bear and mountain lion.


Routefinding to the Elephant Tusk trail was pretty easy and we headed up towards Dodson.  The first spring on the ET trail was dry but the second one had water and we enjoyed some lunch and I refilled our water while Autumn did a little knee-elevation.


We had one wrong turn at the point where the trail drops down towards Fresno Creek; we headed left here thinking we were in Fresno rather than the hundred yards or so to the right you have to go to catch Fresno.  There was water in this canyon not far up from the ET trail and it was an enjoyable little side trip with a tarantula sighting. 


We considered trying to shortcut up to Dodson in the wash just west of Tortuga Mtn. but decided we were enjoying the views from the higher sections of the ET trail and weren't sure if it might be too brush choked or have any unpassable pouroffs (anyone taken this route?).  We saw our first people since day 1 right at the intersection of ET with Dodson.  There was water at the point where Dodson crosses Fresno Creek as well as at Dodson Spring.  We continued on and made it to the Juniper Canyon trailhead right at dark.  There were some guys at the parking lot about to walk in a ways to camp so we chatted with them for a while and they let us top off our water for the night.  They mentioned a couple good campsites just up the Juniper Canyon trail so we went and snagged one and enjoyed the evening. 
TOTAL MILES 16.9

Day 5:
Juniper Canyon to Laguna Meadows to Chisos Basin
After an excellent sunrise the morning was pretty cloudy and we were disappointed to not have the first sunlight on the cliffs like we had the previous days.

 
Juniper Canyon was definitely a highlight of the trip.  Beautiful canyon and more great views.


Lots of beautifully-barked trees like these handsome Arizona Cypress


...and down the Laguna Meadows trail to the basin. 

TOTAL MILES 12.0

We arrived back at the trailhead early afternoon and headed to Terlingua for some much needed showers at the RV park and beers and dinner at La Kiva.  Overall a fantastic trip and route.  We had a blast and can't wait to get back sometime to explore some more areas.   

TOTAL TRIP MILES 72.6 TOTAL ELEVATION GAINED/LOST 20,677'



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Offline championbaum

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Re: Jan 8-12 2012 Outer-Outer Mtn Loop
« Reply #1 on: January 15, 2012, 08:04:42 PM »
Nice, I did that exact loop last Christmas but started at mule ears, I went through Fisk canyon from Dominguez and then cut across to elephant tusk. I was worried if I told the rangers what I wanted to do they would give me a hard time, so if you were truthful with them you have more faith in people than I do.

I actually took a left exactly where you did thinking it was Fresno, it's amazing how much water is in that isolated area, or so I thought.

You definitely made the trip worthwhile, what did you think about the scenery compared to Colorado? The desert is a bit of an acquired taste and some just don't dig it. It's pretty cool you made the trip with so much to do in your vicinity. Hope you made it to la kiva for a beer afterwards!

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Offline Robert

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Re: Jan 8-12 2012 Outer-Outer Mtn Loop
« Reply #2 on: January 15, 2012, 08:24:17 PM »
Nice report, you did your homework.

Quote
We considered trying to shortcut up to Dodson in the wash just west of Tortuga Mtn. but decided we were enjoying the views from the higher sections of the ET trail and weren't sure if it might be too brush choked or have any unpassable pouroffs (anyone taken this route?)

Yes, you can take Fresno Creek all the way to the Dodson trail. I'm not sure about the wash that goes between Tortuga and 4455 but probably so.

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Offline alan in shreveport

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Re: Jan 8-12 2012 Outer-Outer Mtn Loop
« Reply #3 on: January 15, 2012, 08:54:28 PM »
nice trip and report , hows the knee ?

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Offline Cookie

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Re: Jan 8-12 2012 Outer-Outer Mtn Loop
« Reply #4 on: January 16, 2012, 07:06:43 AM »
Nice report, you did your homework.

Quote
We considered trying to shortcut up to Dodson in the wash just west of Tortuga Mtn. but decided we were enjoying the views from the higher sections of the ET trail and weren't sure if it might be too brush choked or have any unpassable pouroffs (anyone taken this route?)

Yes, you can take Fresno Creek all the way to the Dodson trail. I'm not sure about the wash that goes between Tortuga and 4455 but probably so.

Yes, you can take the wash between Tortuga and 4455 and it takes off a huge chunk if you are heading out east on the Dodson. We only had to climb out of the wash one time to avoid thick cattail.
Very impressive trip and a great report!!

~Cookie

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Offline mule ears

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Re: Jan 8-12 2012 Outer-Outer Mtn Loop
« Reply #5 on: January 16, 2012, 07:35:45 AM »
Awesome trip and photos brendan and I am happy that it worked out well!  Looks like you had some similar cloudy weather that we did and the same moments of worry at leaving the shelter behind.   :eusa_doh:

There are also several ways to cut down from Homer Wilson or the Dodson towards Mule Ears which would have saved some mileage but they are all cross country and I was trying to get you used to the terrain some before sending you off trail.  I also suspected that you might find water in the Black Rock canyon section of Smoky Creek trail and it looks like you did.

When you took the eastern fork of the wash between Dominguez and Backbone did you see a spring?  There is one there, not marked on the map, and I was wondering if it was running?  I didn't have time to go see in December.

I have also made the same mistake on the ET trail as it drops down into the Fresno wash (turning left too soon), I think it is probably a common mistake.

I am glad that you liked Juniper canyon, I much prefer going up Juniper and down Blue Creek.  I find returning to the forested Chisos after being in the lower desert almost shocking when there are so many trees and the vegetation changes so much.  Did you go and look to see if Upper Juniper spring was running?

Did you find the vegetation and rocks more or less brutal than you had expected?  How did all the equipment work out? 

Thanks again for the report.   :eusa_clap:
« Last Edit: January 16, 2012, 07:58:07 AM by mule ears »
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chisos_muse

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Re: Jan 8-12 2012 Outer-Outer Mtn Loop
« Reply #6 on: January 16, 2012, 07:49:37 AM »
What a sunrise! The most beautiful ones I have seen are in Big Bend. The sunsets aint too bad either... :icon_wink:
Great report, photos and glad y'all had a blast!  :eusa_clap:

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Offline Verduretiger

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Re: Jan 8-12 2012 Outer-Outer Mtn Loop
« Reply #7 on: January 16, 2012, 08:42:02 AM »
Great report and I enjoyed your photos.  I was very envious of the mileage you guys were able to accomplish.  Oh to be your age again.  Thanks. 

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Offline dkerr24

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Re: Jan 8-12 2012 Outer-Outer Mtn Loop
« Reply #8 on: January 16, 2012, 07:09:50 PM »
Good job on the Super OML!  Thanks for sharing your pics and experiences with the forum!

Darin

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Offline brendan

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Re: Jan 8-12 2012 Outer-Outer Mtn Loop
« Reply #9 on: January 16, 2012, 07:58:24 PM »
You definitely made the trip worthwhile, what did you think about the scenery compared to Colorado? The desert is a bit of an acquired taste and some just don't dig it. It's pretty cool you made the trip with so much to do in your vicinity. Hope you made it to la kiva for a beer afterwards!
Your trip report was definitely a big help in our planning.   The part of CO we live in is high desert and we hike mostly in canyon country in UT, so we definitely love of the desert.  It was really cool to be in such a different desert though.  We've done some backpacking in the Sonoran desert, which is also pretty different. 


When you took the eastern fork of the wash between Dominguez and Backbone did you see a spring?  There is one there, not marked on the map, and I was wondering if it was running?  I didn't have time to go see in December.


Did you go and look to see if Upper Juniper spring was running?

Did you find the vegetation and rocks more or less brutal than you had expected?  How did all the equipment work out? 


The eastern fork had an area of wet sand that was in the same area as the lower spring in the western wash (soon after it splits).  I thought it might be from the same spring.

We didn't check on the Upper Juniper spring.

As far as the cross country difficulty, in some ways it was more difficult and some ways easier.  Definitely more spines, but the ground is mostly nice and solid and there seemed to be much less chance of coming to impassible pouroffs or canyon walls.  Not having to dodge soft fragile soils also made off trail travel easier in BiBe.   

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Offline jeffblaylock

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Re: Jan 8-12 2012 Outer-Outer Mtn Loop
« Reply #10 on: January 16, 2012, 11:06:35 PM »
Very nice brendan. Looks like quite an adventure, and lots of good ground covered.
Jeff Blaylock
Austin, Texas

"We'll be back, someday soon. We will return, someday, and when we do the gritty
splendor and the complicated grandeur of Big Bend will still be here. Waiting for us."--Ed Abbey

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Offline Verduretiger

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Re: Jan 8-12 2012 Outer-Outer Mtn Loop
« Reply #11 on: January 17, 2012, 05:37:24 AM »
Brendan, I was wondering if you guys were in the park last year at this time.  I ran into a couple that looks a lot like you as my backpack group was descending Blue Creek last year and the couple was coming up Blue Creek?

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Offline brendan

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Re: Jan 8-12 2012 Outer-Outer Mtn Loop
« Reply #12 on: January 17, 2012, 09:51:31 AM »
Brendan, I was wondering if you guys were in the park last year at this time.  I ran into a couple that looks a lot like you as my backpack group was descending Blue Creek last year and the couple was coming up Blue Creek?
Wasn't us; this was our first visit...

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Offline catz

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Re: Jan 8-12 2012 Outer-Outer Mtn Loop
« Reply #13 on: January 17, 2012, 10:42:13 AM »
I loved your report and especially the photos--there are some real winners in there--2013 calendar material.  Thanks for sharing.
Wake me when it's time to go.

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Offline Casa Grande

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Jan 8-12 2012 Outer-Outer Mtn Loop
« Reply #14 on: January 17, 2012, 04:56:36 PM »
Nicely planned and well executed!  Great job!  Glad to see your better half make that incredible journey with a bum leg!

 


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