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Quemada Trip

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Offline Cookie

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Quemada Trip
« on: February 25, 2011, 06:10:07 PM »
Our latest trip took us on a four night trek through the Quemadas. El Hombre and I invited our brother-in-law to join us for the trip. His camping name is "Bubbling Thunder"  :icon_eek:, so I will just call him BT for short. This was the first backpacking trip for BT ever, but we decided to keep our original plans and bring him along. With temps forecasted in the 90's, we had a backup plan in case it was just to stinkin' hot. Here is the original plan:

Day 1: Hike in from Homer Wilson and spend the first night on the Dodson near the Smoky Creek trail intersection. We knew we would  have a late start after driving in.

Day 2: Hike the Dodson to the Elephant Tusk trail and head south and camp. Find the
"waterworks" and explore if time permitted.

Day 3: If everyone was feeling well, head south on ET trail and bushwhack (north of ET) to the west and end up north of Dominguez spring (about 1 hour) in Fisk Canyon.
(Plan B was to stay 2 nights at Fresno and return the way we came)

Day 4: Hike up Fisk canyon through the drainages, either all the way to the Smoky creek trail or bushwhack once we hit the really big pour-off  and catch the Smoky creek trail further north. Camp in upper Smoky creek.

Day 5: Hike back out to Homer and head home.

I am happy to say we were able to stick to our original plan. BT was a real trooper! I think ignorance is bliss, he really had no idea what to expect. I also didn't mention about the bushwhacking until we were already on the trail. He was game for anything, and now he is hooked!

Day 1:
We were up at dark-thirty and heading to the park. We made good time, stopping in Ft. Stockton for lunch, and picking up Subway sandwiches for dinner on the trail that night. We hit Panther Junction by 12:30 and were happy to see our favorite ranger at the desk. He told us Fresno and Dominguez had water, and upper Smoky had water as of two weeks earlier. He wasn't sure about now. He said the freezing temps had dried up a lot of the water. With permit in hand, we headed to Homer Wilson. Since we had our packs done the night before, we were on the trail by 3pm. Did I mention yet, it was pretty hot! We knew that climb up to the saddle was going to be a scorcher. Just as we finished the schlog up the creek bed some afternoon clouds started coming in. By the time we hit the switchbacks, the sun was covered and we had a slight breeze. We saw one lone hiker in front of us, moving pretty slow. We were worried about getting a spot to camp in, there were 11 hikers in our "zone" for that night, so El Hombre went on ahead to scope out the campsites. We caught up with him quickly, and he was not looking good. When I asked where he was headed, he could only answer in one word sentences. He said he was OK. We left him, but if he didn't make it to the saddle by the time we were done taking a break, we were going to go back and check on him. When BT and I reached the saddle, we were relieved to see his buddy waiting for him. They had hiked from the rim that morning and were heading to Mule Ears parking lot. He said he had been waiting on him for an hour already. We assured him he was only about 10 minutes away, but it took him another 30 to get there.

As we headed down we met El Hombre, who said the rest of that group was already in one of the areas. We hiked over the next ridge and was able to find a good area to camp for the night. We set up camp and then headed back up to the saddle to enjoy the sunset, Mule Ears, and Carousel Mnt. It was very hazy, we could just make out Santa Elena Canyon.
The view from this spot is one of my favorites


great sunset


We were up and on the trail by 9 the next morning. We probably are not the earliest risers, but hey, we are on vacation! We met one solo guy hiking the OML, his first desert hike. He seemed to be enjoying himself. The other group was long gone as we passed the Smoky Creek trailhead. We made slow and steady progress down the Dodson. We had always hiked it clockwise, so things looked a bit different. We were at the ET trail junction after lunch. We knew there was water down at the spring. We debated back and forth about leaving the packs to hike down and get water, then go down the ET trail to Fresno Creek. We just didn't know if we would find water further down and didn't want to back track all the way back to the Dodson to get water for the next day. We had just decided to play it safe and go on down to the spring when a group of three guys appeared over the hill coming down ET trail. They told us there was plenty of water at Fresno, so we would have no problems at all. That was wonderful news, so we loaded on the packs and set off down the ET trail. This was one area that El Hombre and myself had not been on. As we hiked down the trail towards Fresno, we could hear water gurgling and flowing down in the drainage below us. After hiking down all the way to Fresno creek I don't think I would have wanted to turn around and go all the way back if Fresno creek would have been dry.



We headed down the drainage to see if we could find the "waterworks". After about 30 minutes, there was the oasis in the desert. It was so nice to see all that clear, cold flowing water.







We were running out of time to explore more, so we headed back up to the trail. We filled up all our water bladders for the next day. Those packs were heavy now. Since we had not come across the campsite yet, we were hoping they would be on the next saddle. Quicksilver had given us some great directions, and we knew he would be spot on with his information. Lucky for us, with a long day behind us, and loaded with water, we came upon the campsites within about 10 minutes. Now, QS had said this is a great spot, but WOW! We had views of the Chisos, Tortuga Mtn., Elephant Tusk and the Sierra Del Carmens.





It had been a warm day, and we were pretty tired. We relaxed under the stars and enjoyed our rations of adult beverages. the night was on the warmer side, maybe mid 50's, as the previous night had been. We were expecting some big winds the next day, but that might help keep us cool as we headed off the trail on the biggest unknown part of our trip.

to be continued......

~Cookie

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Offline steelfrog

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Re: Quemada Trip
« Reply #1 on: February 25, 2011, 06:32:43 PM »
Great TR so far!

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WayneR

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Re: Quemada Trip
« Reply #2 on: February 25, 2011, 07:27:08 PM »
Great photos and TR Cookie, thanks for sharing.  Look forward to the "rest of the story"...

I don't know what it is about Elephant Tusk - I find that geological feature fascinating and unique;  for me, one of the very special places at BIBE.  :icon_wink:

Wayne

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Offline Cookie

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Re: Quemada Trip
« Reply #3 on: February 25, 2011, 08:48:24 PM »
Great photos and TR Cookie, thanks for sharing.  Look forward to the "rest of the story"...

I don't know what it is about Elephant Tusk - I find that geological feature fascinating and unique;  for me, one of the very special places at BIBE.  :icon_wink:

Wayne

I know what you mean. As we hiked around the area, and having seen it from Glenn Springs, it is interesting how it always looks the same, no matter which directions you are looking from. One of my favorite landmarks.
Also after being very close to it, I can't imagine summiting it. No thanks!

~Cookie

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Offline Cookie

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Re: Quemada Trip
« Reply #4 on: February 25, 2011, 10:11:08 PM »
Day 3:
We woke to a beautiful morning! My calves were pretty tight from all the hiking, but otherwise things were good. we packed up camp and got ready to head out.  The night before we had climbed up the hill from the campsite, and was sad to see someone had not only left there toilet paper laying around, they had apparently tried to burn it. Don't even get me started on that one :willynilly: BT hiked up before we left and bagged it, and carried it out. I was very impressed! He truly has a love for Big Bend already.

So, we were on the trail again about 9, heading down the trail. Just as we reached ET drainage we came across a solo female hiker. I think we were both a little surprised. El Hombre asked her where she was coming from, and she hesitated and said, "that way" and motioned south down the ET trail. She seemed a little sketchy, and didn't seem to want to tell us much. Just said she had been out "a while". We told her there was water in Fresno creek, and then she said , "Oh ya, I was going to ask you about the water." We were kinda puzzled over where she had been, since she didn't come from the Dodson, and she didn't bushwhack across from Dominguez. Our best guess is she came off Black Gap Rd. from ??? She was pretty sunburned, and didn't seem to have on the best hiking clothes, thick cotton shorts, and a baseball cap, short sleeved shirt. To each there own. We did note the time and location just in case. The water was flowing well at the ET drainage too.



Just as the trail starts to turn to the east, we headed west to Bushwack across the desert. The hiking was not too bad, the cactus was spread out for the most part, and the lechugia was not really thick. In fact, I don't think any of us got a shin full of that stuff. I did have a fall and caught myself by putting my hand into a giant ball of cactus with 4 in spines....but I get ahead of myself.

So our next goal was to make it to a spring on the map. We were heavy with water and knew we could make it to Fisk Canyon, but wanted to check this spring out. On google earth you could see trees and green around it. As usual out there, we were either going up or down. The wind had come in, but it wasn't as bad as predicted. It definitely kept us cooler. Navigation was fairly easy, with ET, Backbone Ridge and Dominguez Mtn. to guide us. We do not have a GPS, so we consulted our topo, just to make sure we stayed on track. We arrived at the spring and found it too, was flowing. We had a nice break in the shade.



We saw this is several of the springs. It looks like a piece of ball moss, but when you watch it, that big long piece on the right moves around like a worm. Anyone know what it is?? Alien lifeform :icon_eek:


Our next big obstacle was climbing over the ridge to the west of the spring. It was the only really sketchy part, knowing how some of the drainages and drop- offs don't always show up on the maps very well. It was a steep climb, but not as bad as we thought it would be. When we got to the top, BT was still looking across to this big ridge kinda wide eyed. He asked, "Do we still have to go over that too?" He was relieved when we told him the worst part was over for climbing.....more or less. After coming down the ridge we dropped into a drainage that would take us to Fisk Canyon. This part was easy hiking, and we didn't hit any big unexpected pour-offs. There was a little water flowing as we came out of the drainage and headed south down Fisk. After about 20 minutes, and fighting through some huge mounds of grass, kinda like pampas grass, but softer, we hit the spring. The water was running much better when we were there two years ago. There were many dried up stretches in between this time, but since it hasn't rained there since September, we were happy to find water at all.

filling up at the spring


interesting birds nest, very small


We found the campsite we had used before, didn't look like it has seen much activity. Great views


By this time it was getting late in the afternoon, we set up camp. BT opted for the first time to set up his tent. It had been windy during the day but it seemed like it might settle down. El Hombre and myself opted to cowboy camp again for the 3rd night (I am hooked!) The wind blew through occasionally, but not bad enough to set up the tent we brought.

Day 4: We woke hoping for cooler temps, but they still had not arrived. The low was probably around 60. Today our plan was to hike north up the canyon via the drainages. Once you start heading up the drainage from Fisk there is one huge pour-off you have to go around. We wanted to climb back down and continue to the trail in the drainage, time permitting. We reached the first smaller pour-off and did some rock climbing after hauling up our packs.



Once we hit the main pour-off we decided to bushwhack over to the trail. We still needed to make it to the spring to top off our water, and we were not seeing any relief from the heat. The cooler temps forecasted were not coming. After less than 30 minutes we were back on the trail heading north. BT said it was like a superhighway after having to pay such close attention to where his feet should and shouldn't go. We reached the spring about 2:30 and it was getting hot. We decided to take a long break and wait out the heat a bit. The spring was flowing, again, not nearly like last time, but the water was clear.

El Hombre explored around above the spring


We thought we were about 1 to 1 1/2 hours from the campsite in upper Smoky Creek. We had topped off the water again. I for one was not looking forward to climbing up that plateau with the sun beating down on me with all that water. The clouds had been coming in a little and it began to break up the heat a bit. I felt like the Israelites in the desert on this trip. God sure provided protection from the sun, a breeze to cool us, and water from the rocks!

We reached our camping site about 5:30 and enjoyed the sunset and our last evening.

El Hombre checking out some petrified wood

We finished of the last rations of our adult beverages and marveled at the stars. The night was finally cooler, and we woke to a cloudy sky. We had about a 3 hour hike to get out, and I was ready to have a change of clothes, a shower and a cheeseburger, not necessarily in that order. As we were leaving I told BT 2/3 of all accidents happen on the way back. He had already had one fall and landed with his leg behind him. Luckily, he was fine. As we came down the switchbacks from the saddle where we spent the first evening I slipped in some loose gravel and landed mainly on my pride, er, my backpack. More of a controlled fall though. Just before we started schlogging back through the creek, about 40 minutes from the car, my foot slipped as I was stepping up on a ledge. I started to fall over and my backpack pulled me over pretty fast. As I mentioned earlier, I managed to catch myself by putting my hand in the middle of a giant ball of spikey cactus. OW!! I was pretty lucky, all the spikes but one pulled out when I jerked my hand out. That last one didn't want to come out without some serious pulling. I also managed to puncture two of the veins in my palm. El Hombre thought that was pretty cool. He was nice enough to carry out my hiking pole as I nursed my hand.

We rounded the corner to see people up on the ridge at the HWR pull out. As we neared the ranch house, BT said, "What's that house?" He had somehow missed it on the way out. I think he spent a lot of time looking where his feet were going and not around. It is a learned ability, I guess.

After we made it to the car, we told him that was one of the harder backpacking trips we had been on :icon_biggrin:
He had a great time and so did we! We will be back to the ET area, much more to do there, that is an amazing place.

I also have to say a big thank you to SA Bill, he was nice enough to loan my brother-in-law a tent and backpack. BT is still amazed at your generosity, Bill. You definitely made it possible for him to join us on this trip. :eusa_clap: :eusa_clap: :eusa_clap:

 I'm sure El Hombre will add in his $.02 worth!

Thanks again to all for the great information on this board!

~Cookie
« Last Edit: February 26, 2011, 09:25:33 AM by Cookie »

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Offline Al

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Re: Quemada Trip
« Reply #5 on: February 25, 2011, 11:48:43 PM »
Cookie, several belly laughs!  Exceptionally well told and great pictures which is not to reduce your achievement in selecting and accomplishing this hike.  There's just something about ET, its remoteness, geology, views plus finding and relying on its desert sources of water!  Thank you for letting us in on it and sharing it so well. 

Al

P.S. I think you might give Randall a run for his money on the quality of your trip reports.

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Ray52

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Re: Quemada Trip
« Reply #6 on: February 26, 2011, 05:55:06 AM »
Like QS, my first thoughts on an early morning were to log on to the Trip Reports for your next installment.  Beautiful photos Cookie!  The first one grabbed me and the others are equally beautiful. 

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Offline TheWildWestGuy

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Re: Quemada Trip
« Reply #7 on: February 26, 2011, 07:57:20 AM »
Hey Cookie:  That long slender aquatic worm is known as a "Horsehair Worm"  (Google that and you will find lots of information on them).  I used to call them BigBendArseWorms because they look like they could invade a human body but they are parasites on insects and other invertibrates.   They have a very strange lifecycle, the worms lay eggs in the water, eggs hatch into larvae,  crickets and grasshoppers drink water & get larvae inside them, larvae grow to full-size worms inside the gut of the insect, insect goes crazy and drowns itself in water, worm leaves insect and lays eggs in water.  Once the worms are in the water they apparently do not eat anything but may be absorbing food through their skin/shell somehow.  This is an active area of research because it's unclear how such large worms can live as adults without ever eating anything?   Next time you see them in a pool of water look for dead grasshoppers in the water nearby.   Fortunately they do not infest humans, one more reason to use a water filter!   TWWG

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Offline SA Bill

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Re: Quemada Trip
« Reply #8 on: February 26, 2011, 08:26:33 AM »
Way to go Cookie, EH and BT!! sounds like you all had a good time. I am amazed at the amount of water you all found. I've never been a desert hiker so seeing all of the water, in the dry part of the year, is cool. Glad BT is now "hooked" on BB hiking. I'm sure he'll be badgering you all to go again. Glad the gear helped and allowed BT to go with you all!
  Bill
Bill - In San Antonio

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Growing up is optional.

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Offline sleepy

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Re: Quemada Trip
« Reply #9 on: February 26, 2011, 09:25:02 AM »
excellent trip and report.  thanks for sharing the adventure.
It's never too late to be what you might have been-Geroge Elliot

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Offline Cookie

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Re: Quemada Trip
« Reply #10 on: February 26, 2011, 11:23:42 AM »
Hey Cookie:  That long slender aquatic worm is known as a "Horsehair Worm"  (Google that and you will find lots of information on them).  I used to call them BigBendArseWorms because they look like they could invade a human body but they are parasites on insects and other invertibrates.   They have a very strange lifecycle, the worms lay eggs in the water, eggs hatch into larvae,  crickets and grasshoppers drink water & get larvae inside them, larvae grow to full-size worms inside the gut of the insect, insect goes crazy and drowns itself in water, worm leaves insect and lays eggs in water.  Once the worms are in the water they apparently do not eat anything but may be absorbing food through their skin/shell somehow.  This is an active area of research because it's unclear how such large worms can live as adults without ever eating anything?   Next time you see them in a pool of water look for dead grasshoppers in the water nearby.   Fortunately they do not infest humans, one more reason to use a water filter!   TWWG

Thanks TWWG! I knew someone would know. The ranger we talked to as we left had no clue, but he was "natural historian" guy. We joked about that 'tentacle' shooting up our nose as we peered down for a closer look, guess we should have been worried about them going further south from your name of them :icon_eek:

~Cookie

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Offline Cookie

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Re: Quemada Trip
« Reply #11 on: February 26, 2011, 11:26:40 AM »
:eusa_clap:
I awoke at 2:00 a.m and had to go immediately to the computer to see if you had posted another chapter of your epic trek; I was not disappointed! Thanks for "blazing the trails" and describing places that I shall never see, and giving me confidence to return to those sites (and sights) that I hold dear.
QS
P.S.: Congratulations to "Bubbling Thunder"!, (aka"BT"
Like QS, my first thoughts on an early morning were to log on to the Trip Reports for your next installment.  Beautiful photos Cookie!  The first one grabbed me and the others are equally beautiful. 
Cookie, several belly laughs!  Exceptionally well told and great pictures which is not to reduce your achievement in selecting and accomplishing this hike.  There's just something about ET, its remoteness, geology, views plus finding and relying on its desert sources of water!  Thank you for letting us in on it and sharing it so well. 

Al

P.S. I think you might give Randall a run for his money on the quality of your trip reports.


:icon_redface: thanks guys! I enjoyed writing it up, since I got to experience it all over again, except maybe that hand in the cactus part! :eusa_doh:

~Cookie

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Offline TexasAggieHiker

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Re: Quemada Trip
« Reply #12 on: February 26, 2011, 11:37:13 AM »
Great report and pictures!!!

The bird's nest is some type of vireo.  Can't tell from the picture of an older nest what kind of vireo though.

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Offline badknees

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Re: Quemada Trip
« Reply #13 on: February 26, 2011, 11:42:52 AM »
Excellent report to one of the best parts of the park
Not all those who wander are lost.
J.R.R. Tolkien

Through the Mirror
http://mirrormagic.com

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Offline homerboy2u

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Re: Quemada Trip
« Reply #14 on: February 26, 2011, 12:30:52 PM »
Far out, Cookie...that was an excellent trip report. So you , El Hombre and BT,went along. Did you take La nina with you?....sorry, but i can not write the ?'s anymore.
Stay thirsty, my friends.

 


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