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Loving It in the Sierra Quemada

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Offline Homer67

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Loving It in the Sierra Quemada
« on: March 19, 2014, 12:17:40 PM »
Part One: Mule Ears to Dominguez Spring

I recently returned to the Sierra Quemada with three friends.  They wanted to hike the loop, which seems to have become popular this season, of Mule Ears to Smoky Spring, Jack's Pass, Fisk Canyon, ET, Dodson, Smoky Creek and out Mule Ears.

We began at the Mule Ears trail head; we arrived early afternoon as we drove in from Austin earlier that day. We camped below in the Smoky Creek drainage about 2/3's the way to Smoky Spring.  Mule Ears stood tall in the setting sun:

Mule Ears' Shadow  March 2014 by SuperHomer67, on Flickr


Mule Ears Sunset  March 2014 by SuperHomer67, on Flickr

My compadres were very excited to get into the Quemada.

Into the Quemada!  March 2014 by SuperHomer67, on Flickr

I dig this rock formation in the Smoky Creek drainage.  It is not the one visible from the overlook:

Jaguar Rock   March 2014 by SuperHomer67, on Flickr
 
Here's a nice view of Mule Ears from one of my trips at the end of last year:

Mule Ears as seen near Smoky Spring  Nov 2013 by SuperHomer67, on Flickr

Smoky Spring looked better than it did at the end of last year:

View near Smoky Spring  March 2014 by SuperHomer67, on Flickr


Lovely Pool near Smoky Spring  March 2014 by SuperHomer67, on Flickr

One will encounter these in this area:

Goat shelter   Nov 2013 by SuperHomer67, on Flickr

It's a nice, easy hike to the confluence of the three arroyos, where it is somewhat common to make a wrong turn and miss the arroyo leading to the pass.

Gorgeous Quemada View  Nov 2013 by SuperHomer67, on Flickr


Am I seeing things?  Nov 2013 by SuperHomer67, on Flick

Jack's Pass is always fun to hike.

Evening View of Jack's Pass  Nov 2013 by SuperHomer67, on Flickr


View East from the Mountain Pass March 2014 by SuperHomer67, on Flickr


View west from atop Jack's Pass  Nov 2013 by SuperHomer67, on Flickr


A look back at the pass from the Ruins above the dam near Dominguez Spring  March 2014 by SuperHomer67, on Flickr


Canyon View from the ruins above the dam near Dominguez Spring  March 2014 by SuperHomer67, on Flickr

Upper Dominguez Spring had quite a bit less water than at the end of last year.  We moved to a seep farther towards the dam to get water.  There is some interesting growth around the spring and at the seeps along the arroyo leading to and eventually away from the dam; these areas are the reason I have been spending so much time in the Sierra Quemada:

Beauty near Dominguez Spring  Nov 2013 by SuperHomer67, on Flickr

I'll add more to the story tomorrow, I have a lot of photos from this loop as I have been through this area quite a bit lately; I'll revisit the Sierra Quemada in November when I take another group through this area.

« Last Edit: March 20, 2014, 12:48:58 PM by Homer67 »
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 mule ears

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Re: Loving It in the Quemada
« Reply #1 on: March 19, 2014, 01:32:57 PM »
Good start Homer, I look forward to the rest.

I like this shot

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Offline TheWildWestGuy

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Re: Loving It in the Quemada
« Reply #2 on: March 20, 2014, 05:54:40 AM »
Thanks for the trip report, very nice photos and info.  Your right this cross country loop does seem to be gaining popularity lately and everyone seems to be taking it the same direction from Smokey-Dominquez-Tusk-Dodson-Back to Mule Ears.  TWWG

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Offline Homer67

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Re: Loving It in the Sierra Quemada
« Reply #3 on: March 20, 2014, 07:59:37 AM »
Thanks ME and TWWG!

This route has gotten popular, but I feel the need to caution anyone wanting to do this hike at present; we found only one wet spot between Fresno and ME spring. We may have been able to dig and get water. It was about 1/4 mile south of the Dodson/Smoky Creek intersection. One will also have to hike south from the Dodson in Fresno Creek to find water. This was 2 weeks ago, so even this info may have gone stale.

I also need to make a correction:for some reason I reversed the direction (east,west) in the descriptions of the views from atop Jack's Pass. The one that is described as looking east is a westerly view, and the other looks east.
« Last Edit: March 20, 2014, 12:49:41 PM by Homer67 »
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 Homer67

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Re: Loving It in the Sierra Quemada
« Reply #4 on: March 20, 2014, 12:42:29 PM »
Part Two: Hiking from Dominguez Spring toward Double Spring


Busted Dam below ruins near Dominguez Spring Nov 2013 by SuperHomer67, on Flickr

Next this route takes one north through the southern portion of Fisk Canyon.  This is a wide arroyo, with some water at the end of last year near the turn where one would hike east --- where the spring is marked on the topo --- north of Dominguez Mountain.  (This particular spring was indeed dry on my most recent hike.) This is an easy hike with only 3 transitions among arroyos. Fisk is a neat canyon:

Fisk Canyon View  Nov 2013 by SuperHomer67, on Flickr

Here are two shots of the same spot, one from November, the other taken about 2 weeks ago:

Nice flow in Fisk Canyon  Nov 2013 by SuperHomer67, on Flickr


Water in Fisk Canyon March 2014 by SuperHomer67, on Flickr
I have an interest in how the springs and growth around them change with the seasons and with other events, such as drought, heavy rain, etc... One can see some differences between the two photos. I am also interested in the unique, differing environments that may exist among springs in the same area of the Quemada and how the springs differ in different areas of the Quemada. Soil/water pH and EDTA water quality tests didn't seem to differ much among the springs I got samples from. I'll have to further scour my photos to see the minute differences in plants, if any.

More photos of the southern portion of Fisk Canyon:

In Fisk Canyon  March 2014 by SuperHomer67, on Flickr


Looking South in Fisk Canyon March 2014 by SuperHomer67, on Flickr

The next section of this route takes one east to the Elephant Tusk trail.  This is perhaps my favorite section of this hike. At one point one can only see the small hillocks around them when in the arroyo. I was a bit cautious when traversing this section on our initial pass through. Hiking upstream can sometimes be tough; one must be mindful of not making a wrong turn.  Fortunately we had no issues on any of the hikes through this area.

Looking back west as we made the turn east toward the Elephant Tusk trail:

I love that pointy thing!  March 2014 by SuperHomer67, on Flickr

Initially, one enters a very interesting arroyo during this section.

View of the arroyo heading east, north of Dominguez Mtn  Nov 2013 by SuperHomer67, on Flickr


View of arroyo heading east, north of Dominguez Mtn  MArch 2014 by SuperHomer67, on Flickr


Lovely Arroyo!  March 2014 by SuperHomer67, on Flickr


Cub print!  Nov 2013 by SuperHomer67, on Flickr

There was a good bit of water in this section at the end of last year.  There was still water on this most recent hike, but some spots were dry and others had significantly less water:

Small trickle at a small pour off as we hiked toward Double Spring  Nov 2013 by SuperHomer67, on Flickr


Water in arroyo as we hiked east toward Double Spring  Nov 2013 by SuperHomer67, on Flickr


Nice!   Nov 2013 by SuperHomer67, on Flickr

This arroyo takes a turn north; shortly after this turn is the first transition into another arroyo leading to Double Spring.  This next photo shows a very nice, scenic spot near this transition, although one would most likely not descend where this photo was taken; it is much too steep and the walls of the arroyo are tall, so we enter at the end of the arroyo, ~80 to 100 yards left of where this photo was taken:

Pre Double Spring Drop by SuperHomer67, on Flickr

...and another from the same spot from a different hike:

View just before the drop into the arroyo leading to Double Spring  March 2014 by SuperHomer67, on Flickr


Next time: Double Spring, Elephant Tusk, and the WaterWorks

I hope my photos and short narrative have provided some enjoyment during your busy day.
Homer



« Last Edit: March 20, 2014, 01:36:59 PM by Homer67 »
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 trtlrock

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Re: Loving It in the Sierra Quemada
« Reply #5 on: March 20, 2014, 12:55:19 PM »
Nice report & pics -- thanks for posting.
John & Tess

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Offline Homer67

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Re: Loving It in the Sierra Quemada
« Reply #6 on: March 20, 2014, 01:01:48 PM »
Thank you Trtlrock!  I appreciate the compliment.

Homer
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 elhombre

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Re: Loving It in the Sierra Quemada
« Reply #7 on: March 20, 2014, 01:23:27 PM »
The spring in the middle of Fisk where the dike pushes up water is variable.  I have found it just as your pictures show two times now.  But in January 2013 we only found a wet spot full of bugs and green slim the size of a large pizza.  We didn't need water so I didn't dig any.

The spring where you turn east out of Fisk canyon and head towards Double spring was dry also.  Double was running fine this same time.
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Offline Homer67

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Re: Loving It in the Sierra Quemada
« Reply #8 on: March 20, 2014, 01:39:37 PM »
I need to mention that as well.  The spring marked on the topo we are referring to was flowing at the end of last year, but it was dry on this most recent hike.

I also claim there are 3 transitions among arroyos; one is not a true transition, but a quick jaunt over a short hill to get around the tall-ish pour off at Double Spring. Sandi and I reached the pour off at the spring marked on the map (Nov 2013), which at the time was covered in slick green.  We could have probably gone down it, but we chose not to.  Instead we backed up to the small (I mean really small) pour off just a few yards N of the small thicket before Double Spring and went over the short hill to find an easy way to enter the arroyo on the other side of the hill. It's the same arroyo, this was just an easy way to avoid the pour off.

Thanks El Hombre!
« Last Edit: March 20, 2014, 01:54:24 PM by Homer67 »
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 tjavery

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Re: Loving It in the Sierra Quemada
« Reply #9 on: March 20, 2014, 08:57:19 PM »
Excellent report and great photos! Thanks for posting such a detailed account. Looks like a very fun and adventurous journey (gotta bookmark this one  :icon_wink:)

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Offline TheWildWestGuy

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Re: Loving It in the Sierra Quemada
« Reply #10 on: March 20, 2014, 11:19:51 PM »
Great Photos and Trip Report, thanks for posting.  During wet times the springs in Fisk Canyon will pump out enough water to form a flowing stream almost all the way down to Dominquez Springs.  During these wet times the grape vines will produce lush leaves and create natural arbors/overhangs of shade which the wildlife will take advantage of and bed down in.  If you keep going up Fisk past the cut-off arroyo to Elephant Tusk there are a number of other springs and pour-off's and you eventually come to a high pass overlooking Sugarloaf Mountain and the Smokey Creek Trail.    If you were doing the loop from Mule Ears-Dominquez-E Tusk-Dodson-Smokey-Back to Mule Ears you could probably shorten this loop and go up Fisk all the way to the pass and then down to Sugarloaf and shortcut onto the Smokey Creek Trail.  Cutting off 1+ days hiking.   I have been to the top of the Fisk Pass and looked down upon Sugarloaf and the Smokey Creek Trail (North side of Sugarloaf) but have not descended the pass on this side but it looked do-able.   TWWG

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Offline Homer67

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Re: Loving It in the Sierra Quemada
« Reply #11 on: March 22, 2014, 09:07:15 AM »
That sounds wonderful TWWG. I suppose I would have to brave the heat near the end of a good rainy season to see Fisk in full growth.

I initially had thought of doing this loop by entering Fisk Canyon from the north; however, Sandi was insistent on accompanying me on my initial loop through this area So I chose Jack's Pass. I could not discern if we would come across any impassible pour offs coming in that direction. I had been in the area near Jack's Pass a few times before and knew that would be our largest obstacle getting to Dominguez Spring and farther north to the turn east toward ET.

I'll add part three soon.
Homer
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 Homer67

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Loving It in the Sierra Quemada
« Reply #12 on: April 03, 2014, 04:14:22 PM »
Part Three: Double Spring, Elephant Tusk, and the WaterWorks

In November as we walked from the nice overlook near the drop to the arroyo leading to Double Spring we ran across this little guy, a neat grasshopper that looks like a rock:


The view of ET from this area is gorgeous:


Here is a view above the drop into the arroyo:


The arroyo leading to Double Spring starts with some soft dirt, which is nice on tired feet, but this doesn't last long. There is one thick area before one gets to the next thick area that marks where the spring is; this spring is the one marked on the topo. Here's a view from near Double Spring:


Just south of the spring marked on the topo there is a fairly large pour off.  In November it had a nice flow going over it and it was mostly covered in slick green.  We didn't take any chances and backed off, hiking north of the spring to make the hill to the east so we could drop into the arroyo on the opposite side of the hill from the spring marked on the topo. We avoided this pour off on the later hikes and just went immediately over the hill into the passable arroyo.

Here is a look down the passable arroyo:


The water is actually better on the east side of the hill at Double Spring, here are some shots:








In November we hiked a good way past Double Spring down the arroyo just west of Backbone Ridge.  This is a very wide arroyo.  Here is a typical view of that arroyo about 3/4 mile south of Double Spring:


Here is a nice view looking back south from this area:


If one chooses to explore down by Backbone Ridge in this arroyo and plans to hike back north and over to the ET trail then this is an important sight:


In the vicinity of this pour off the hills are not very tall or steep.  Just north of this pour off is a good area to make the hill and hike NE to an arroyo that leads to the ET trail.  Interestingly this arroyo appears to be a shallow descent on the topo map, but a check of the satellite imagery reveals that there is indeed an arroyo leading to the ET trail. There is a neat circular rock area at the west end of this arroyo:


Somehow, it is really weird to find a hiking shoe on the trail...I wonder if someone just dropped one from an extra pair of shoes:






There is a good bit of water along the ET trail.  Water was nice at the end of last year, but it seemed a bit nicer in early March:












There is great beauty along the Elephant Tusk trail, here is a typical view:


There is a good bit of water along the Elephant Tusk trail; a good stretch begins about a mile or so north of ET itself up to just south of Point 4233 marked on the topo. Elegant Spring is in the arroyo just beyond where the ET trail turns uphill ~north near the base of ET.  I only visited this spot in Nov 2013.  One has to descend two easy pour offs and then cross through some dense growth.  I hiked very near the right wall of this narrow area.  Once past the dense growth the arroyo opened up to a wide, flat pour off; it appeared to be a pool but it wasn't.  It was covered in slick green and was very wet. This narrows to a pour off where one could hear the water spill over. This is a very scenic spot.

Once one hikes up the big hill just north of point 4233 it is not far to the Skip and Jump tinajas. I had not stopped and checked these out on my two previous hikes through this area.  It did not disappoint!  Here are a few photos, there was a good bit of water in early March in the arroyo before one gets to the Skip and Jump tinajas:




















From the Skip and Jump Tinajas the ET trail can be hard to follow as one hikes north to the Dodson trail. This trail climbs a bit to the Dodson. The next time I am in this area I hope to check out the arroyo leading through Adler Spring --- so much to do!

That's about all I have for this part.  My camera went down during my December trip; I did get a few photos, but these show the woes of my p&s right before it shut down for good.

Next time, the long run home...

I hope my photos offered you a little enjoyment during your busy day.
Homer

« Last Edit: April 03, 2014, 04:24:43 PM by Homer67 »
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 Andreas

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Re: Loving It in the Sierra Quemada
« Reply #13 on: April 03, 2014, 04:28:02 PM »
let me be the 1st to thank you for the 3rd part of your TR and the great photos! Enjoyed it very much, thanks again for sharing.
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Offline dprather

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Re: Loving It in the Sierra Quemada
« Reply #14 on: April 03, 2014, 09:14:38 PM »
Great post; great pictures; this informal loop looks like a great addition to the bucket list.

Can we name it the "Homer Loop?"

Leave "quit" at the car.  Embrace the trail as your friend.  Expect to enjoy yourself, and to be amazed.

 


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