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November family trip

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Offline Cookie

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November family trip
« on: January 01, 2013, 06:50:17 PM »
Thought it was about time to get this trip report done. We spent two weeks in Big Bend back in November. We had an awesome 5 day trip backpacking planned, but we have learnedthat it is good to be flexible....just might save your life!
So we had an unremarkable drive in, but spotted this guy a mile from PJ.



After car camping the first night, we had backcountry permits for 4 nights zone camping, leaving from Mule Ears parking lot, heading to Dominguez mountain. The plan for the first night was to hike in from Mule Ears to Smoky Creek trail, and camp just east of Sugarloaf mountain. The ranger at PJ told us to not count on water at Mule Ears. Go figure. We weren't planning on getting water at the spring anyway. We had an amazing sunset at Rice Tank. The wind was blowing pretty good, but the old tank kept us out of the wind.


We packed for our 5 day trip and those packs were HEAVY! Hiker, who will be 9 soon, was still using her 18L daypack on these trips. We crammed as much lightweight stuff in her pack as we could. This spring she will be upgrading to a real backpack. We had to bring enough water for all three of us for the first two days. If we didn't find water by the end of the first day, or very early the morning of the second, we would hike out and find a Plan B. As we geared up in the parking lot I saw two backpackers coming off the trail. As I approached them one of the guys asked if I would take their picture.  I said I would be glad to for a water report. After chatting with the two guys, one it was his first trip, we figured out that we "knew" each other from BBC. I had the pleasure of meeting Quatro and his buddy from Washington. They had only spent one night out but assured us that Mule Ears spring was flowing. We were burning daylight, so we set off. We had a quick break at the spring (lots of water), and set off for Smoky creek trail. This is the one section of the trail we had not done before.


The hike soon became a schlog up the creekbed. I was feeling every ounce in my backpack. Spots where there should have been water came and went, and there was not a drop to be found. As we lost the last light of the day, we had not quite made it out of Black Rock Canyon on the northside of Sugarloaf. We found a place to camp, and Hiker and ElHombre walked up the canyon to see if the could scout out any water. They found none. So now we had to decide, do we push on in the moring, maybe another hour to a "reliable" spring, or head back out. If it had just been me and ElHombre, we would have. But having Hiker with us changed things. If any one of us had gotten hurt and not been able to hike out, AND not found water at the spring, we would have been in big trouble. This area would have to wait for another time. We were up the next morning and packed up and headed out.

Hiker was very excited because she got her first real knife on the trip!
(I am happy to report she left the park with all fingers intact)


We did see these where there should have been visible water.


schlogging back down Smoky Creek


The butterflies were amazing!

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So we headed to PJ to switch our permits. We opted for a night of car camping then two nights up on the Rim. I wanted to stay at SE3, but the ranger talked me out of it saying it was a group site and they really needed to leave it open for large groups. I took SE2, but by the morning we were both annoyed by not getting the site we wanted so we went back and changed the permit. Funny, the second ranger didn't even bat an eye when I changed it from 2 to 3.
So based on a spring report we had seen on BBC the week before we left, we decided to refill at Boot spring. In all the times we have backpacked the rim we have always packed up enough water for the whole trip. After our heavy packs going down Smoky, we thought light might be nice. The hike up Pinnacles was great, and we made good time. We had been told by no less than 3 rangers there was NO water at boot spring.


It took us about 30 minutes to fill up ~2 1/2 gallons of water. With packs a bit heavier we headed up the NE rim over to SE3. We had even packed books to read the next day, as our plan was to lounge around the rim the next day and do very little. Nice to spend an off day up on the rim.

Thought this sign was amusing...


The Maples were in full glow as we ascended Boot Canyon.


We were shocked at the condition of the campsite. There were multiple areas very near the tent site full of TP. Someone had also left a book in the bearbox.



Very sad to see so little respect for the park, fellow hikers and the wildlife. This would not be the last time to see some moron's lack of respect. :ecomcity:

The next day was glorious, spent reading, hanging out on the rim and relaxing. We saw the most amazing site as we sat on the edge near SE3. A male and female bird, we think golden eagles, were flying in large, lazy circles on the wind currents. They were out past the outcropping ridge near NE4, over Juniper Canyon. He would follow her, crying out over and over as they climbed up. As they gained some altitude, he broke off the chase, circling around and flying right at her. They collided in mid air, talons locked, and flipped on their backs spinning in a freefall. They looked like a rose petal falling in the wind. It was probably a good 15-20 seconds of freefall, till they broke apart and flew off up the canyon. One of the most amazing scenes I have every witnessed! Sorry, no pictures or film :icon_cry:

We headed back down the next day. It was off to the Hot springs and showers at the Rio Grande Village. We were very surprised at the new look of the Hot Springs. Not only had someone been doing some rock work on the wall, a flood had shifted the gravel bar. No more jumping in off the wall!



After cleaning up and restocking, we headed to Pine Canyon for the rest of our stay. We had some friends coming out for the weekend, so we were looking forward to some down time.
We had a nice surprise from Quatro waiting for us! Thanks again!



We spent the next day hanging at the campsite, talking and enjoying ourselves in, as our friend calls Big Bend, "God's personal cactus garden".

The next day our friends left and we headed down River Rd to Rooneys to look for ruins.


We found some, but not what we were looking for. We would have to come back and try a different wash. The next day we had a big plan......conquer this....



To be continued.....

~Cookie
« Last Edit: January 01, 2013, 07:54:45 PM by Cookie »

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Offline Al

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Re: November family trip
« Reply #1 on: January 01, 2013, 08:58:04 PM »
Great photos!  Thank you for the report.  That's the first time I can recall seeing the gravel bars up against the hot springs.  Most interesting!  Thanks again!

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Offline steelfrog

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Re: November family trip
« Reply #2 on: January 01, 2013, 09:23:59 PM »
Nice report!  SE3 is one of my favorites.  So soft you don't need a sleeping pad at all!

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Offline Lance

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November family trip
« Reply #3 on: January 01, 2013, 11:10:29 PM »
Great report!  That Quatro's a swell guy! Looking forward to the rest :)

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Offline mule ears

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Re: November family trip
« Reply #4 on: January 02, 2013, 07:38:32 AM »
Great report cookie  :eusa_clap:

I can't believe how dry it is in the Quemada!  I have never read a report where the black rock canyon section of the Smoky Creek trail was dry, it even had water in it back in '98 when I was there after a long drought.  Between your report and Juan Cuatros Lados' report on Dominguez spring being so low, folks will have to be careful out there this winter when it comes to water availability.

As usual, the rangers can not be trusted for accurate water reports.  Yet another example of why we really need folks to report back here on what they find out there!
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
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Offline Geezer

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Re: November family trip
« Reply #5 on: January 02, 2013, 09:48:22 PM »
What kind of snake in first picture?

Thanks,

Geezer

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Offline RichardM

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Re: November family trip
« Reply #6 on: January 02, 2013, 10:08:06 PM »
What kind of snake in first picture?
I'm no herper, but I'd guess Trans-Pecos Rat Snake.

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Offline badknees

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Re: November family trip
« Reply #7 on: January 03, 2013, 04:15:54 AM »
What kind of snake in first picture?
I'm no herper, but I'd guess Trans-Pecos Rat Snake.
Agree
Not all those who wander are lost.
– J.R.R. Tolkien

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Offline Cookie

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Re: November family trip Pt.2
« Reply #8 on: January 27, 2013, 03:37:56 PM »
In looking back at my pictures, I realized I had left out the hike we did the first full day we were there. We thought climbing Chilicotal would be a good way to spend the day and get our legs warmed up for our upcoming backpacking trip. We parked on Glen Springs Rd. on more of the western edge of Chilicotal. We thought this would be a 3 hour hike. It ended up being more like 5, mainly because we came down by a different route. The initial bushwhacking was not bad, and we even did a little rock scrambling.









The views were grand! Nugent, the Chisos, Elephant Tusk and the sweeping desert in all directions. The hike down the eastern side was more steep, and we really took a lot longer that we thought. We made it down with some daylight to spare and headed back to camp. We decided to get our packs ready in the morning (since we were running out of daylight) and head to the Hot Springs. As I had mentioned in another thread, the last flood of the Rio had left a huge sandbar right next to the spring. No jumping off the wall this trip.



Next up was Carousel Mountain! This is one of my favorite rock formations in the park. I love how you skirt around it as you come off the saddle doing the OML clockwise. We met a volunteer as we were getting our packs on. He was going to trail run all the way to Fresno and check on some groups that were out. A quick check of the bear box on the way down the trail showed it to be FULL!

As we passed the ranch house, I stopped to check out the coral. I saw on the far side someone had taken a big ol' poop and not bothered to dig a hole or pack out their TP.  :pissed: Nice.  :banghead:
We headed up a slight gully, just to the right side. The first ascent was not bad.







We had decided to head around to the right and start looking for a place to attack the next section. After ElHombre scouted a few routes, we found one we could all do. This section was definitely harder than all the others. The last ascent was some rock scrambling, but nothing to hard. This is where we found the holes in the rock, right near the top. The views were great! We had agreed to back track on the way down. We didn't want to get ledged out on the way down.











Next day we tackled Lost Maple Canyon. ElHombre had attempted this one on a previous trip, after doing Casa Grande. The scree field in Lost Maple makes the CG look like a cake walk. The goal was to make it on top of Pulliam Peak. We parked near the service road gate, where one other car was parked.
The first part was lots of fun, huge boulders in the creek bed, so we did lots of scrambling and climbing. Hiker really enjoyed herself on this part. We hit a huge pour off and knew we had missed the big climb up the scree field. It had been a few years since ElHombre had been there, but we got it figured out. The gully was steep and very loose. We were up climbing in the scree for about an hour. We finally got to the top of it! We were hit with the most invasive weed. We had seen this same weed up in the Chisos and wondered about it, because it was thick! ElHombre remembered it being tall grass the last time, now it was thick dead weeds. We ploughed up the ridge, getting to the top only to find we were not on the peak, but in the bottom a large bowl. Hiker and I were about done, I was also thinking we still had to get down all that scree. We took a break as ElHombre grabbed the peak and hurried back down. Sliding down the scree was a bit easier, but by the end my legs were screaming at me. Not sure if I would want to attempt this one again, just to get on the top of Pulliam.





















The next day we thought we would take it easy and head back down River Road to try and find the ruins near the Comptons. We tried a wash that was further west and found what we were looking for.

The weather had been looking a little like rain, and as the afternoon went on it got worse. We headed to the Rio Grande Village for showers! But, when we got there, it had really darkened up and it was raining out in the desert. So, I will fess up, after all the years camping and knowing better, we had left the fly off the tent when we left. The weather had been so nice we didn't think it could possibly rain. We abandoned our hopes of a shower and raced back (at 45 mph) to our campsite, in a huge thunderstorm. We had rolled up our sleeping bags in the tent, but everything was at least a little wet. The storm passed pretty quick, and we hung everything out to dry. All in all we fared pretty well, everything was dry by bedtime.





















we found an amazing vein of quartz






 :eusa_doh: :eusa_doh: :eusa_doh: :eusa_doh:



Ward Spring was up next on our agenda. This was a nice little hike and very easy. Nice rock formations at the spring, there was some water flowing too. We headed down to the Hot Springs. We wanted to check on the old bamboo spring to see how it was recovering after the big flood a few years ago. We were pleasantly surprised. It was more that just a mud hole. The grass was coming in all around it. ElHombre had brought a shovel and dug out some of the muck for a bit. A few more years and maybe the bamboo cave will be back.













We made it back to camp and enjoyed a great dinner of cheeseburgers. Sometime after dark, maybe around 9pm,  a truck came blazing up Pine Canyon, passing our campsite. We assumed they were at the site above us. A bit later we heard a car coming back down the road. They were driving down the road with their headlights off. The truck came to our site and stopped. Not sure what was going on El Hombre started heading up to the road. The engine shut off and we heard a female voicing saying “Park Ranger”. He met her by her truck, for some reason she thought she would come into our campsite, at night, and “visit” with us. I did not hear the conversation, but needless to say she did not come down to visit with us. Our permit was on the post by the road, so what she wanted to talk about, we had no idea, and didn't really care.
 :ecomcity:

Our last day we went down Black Gap Road to hike up the wash near, what I think Mule Ears called, Green Bean Spring. It was soooo windy! It just never stopped, with gusts around 50 mph on the ridges. I was definitely ready to get out of that wind and enjoy our last night at Pine Canyon.







We were even able to stop by Casa Grande's campsite for “The Bender”. It was really great to meet everyone and put some faces with names!

Another fabulous trip the Big Bend!! I think my favorite summit had to be Carousel, I won't look at it the same the next time I am on the OML.

~Cookie


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Offline mule ears

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Re: November family trip
« Reply #9 on: January 27, 2013, 03:58:08 PM »
Thanks for finishing up the trip, more great explorations!   :eusa_clap:
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
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Offline Lance

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Re: November family trip
« Reply #10 on: January 27, 2013, 06:17:41 PM »
Enjoyed it as well Cookie.  Hiker is becoming.. well, quite the hiker!  :13:
I like they way y'all hit up different areas of the park people usually don't go explore.
So it is possible to get up on Pulliam from Maple Canyon?  Can one get over to the Bluff from there?

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Offline Robert

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Re: November family trip
« Reply #11 on: January 27, 2013, 06:51:17 PM »
Amazing, you guys always cover a lot of ground!

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Offline Buck

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Re: November family trip
« Reply #12 on: February 07, 2013, 01:42:09 PM »
Splendid report (among many others)!

Where is the talus 'ramp to the top' in Maple Canyon relative to the terminal pouroff?  We did this hike Thanksgiving of '10 but missed it.

buck
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