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Quemada Trip Feb 2014

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Offline Robert

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Quemada Trip Feb 2014
« on: March 09, 2014, 01:22:30 PM »
A few weeks back I returned to the park for a backpack with two friends. One friend flew in from out of state and met us in the park. Mitch and I drove in and met up with him at PJ where we checked conditions and got our backcountry permit for the week. The forecast called for a cold front to hit on our second or third day with a gradual warming for the rest of the week.
This year's trip was a return to some familiar parts of the park with the intent to hike a few sections we had not hiked before. Beginning at the Mule Ears overlook we would hike to Dominguez spring via Jack's Pass, then up and over the east flank of Dominguez,  up the west side of Backbone Ridge and Elephant Tusk and intersect the ET trail. The continue up the ET trail to the Fresno drainage taking the western arm of the Fresno drainage to the Dodson trail and return via sections of the Smoky Creek trail to Mule Ears.

Our route:
http://www.mappingsupport.com/p/gmap4.php?q=https://sites.google.com/site/rbigbend/home/2014_all_tracks_consolidated.kmz

That evening we stayed in the Basin, ate dinner and breakfast at the lodge and headed down to Mule Ears the next day to start our hike. Skies were starting to cloud up and temps were on the cool side.


After an easy walk to the spring we checked it out and keep on going to the overlook of the broad Smoky Creek drainage.


Descending the trail to the junction with the Smoky Creek trail we headed cross country towards Smoky Spring, stopping for lunch at the yellow rock spire that is midway to the spring.


We filled up with water from Smoky Spring. It is rare that the spring has much flow or deep pools and this was the case for us as we looked for a good place to get water. The wash is wide and the water exists along a stretch of over a hundred yards but not much flow and shallow.


We hiked up past the ruins.


Then up the wash were we found a nice sheltered spot to camp, just before the gap in the ridge that allows the Jackís Pass drainage to empty into the broad valley. It was still a little early so while Iowa took a short  nap, Mitch and I hiked up through the gap and took the left fork  instead of the right (which leads to Jackís Pass). This leads up the backside of the ridge due north of Smoky Spring.  Spotted some bear scat at the gap, but none down at the spring.

We didnít get very far before we found ourselves in a small box canyon filled with large rocks and vegetation. Glad that we didnít have our packs, we made our way to the upper end (seen at the far side of the picture) where a steep chimney like section was the only way up.


We went up the chimney where we had a great view up the Jackís Pass drainage.

I knew from looking at the map that we could probably come around to the front side of the ridge to get back to our campsite without coming back the way we came. Once out of the drainage we had great views of Mule Ears and the Smoky Creek drainage and could even see our campsite below us.


Smoky Spring visible


It was an easy walk back down to camp.
The next morning we continued up the wash towards Jackís Pass. It had been over 10 years since I had hiked this route and I had forgotten how scenic it was. The lower portions were reminiscent of Marufo Vega with deep canyon walls. This was easy wash walking with a couple of short pouroffs to skirt.


While most of the morning was clouded over, it cleared up as we approached the pass.
View of pt 5168 as we hike up final push to Jackís Pass.


Leaving the main drainage we took the route along the fence line to get up to the pass. This is a tough slow slog up to the pass as it took about 35 minutes to hike the half mile up.


But once at the top there are great views on both sides.




Several game trails emanate from the Pass so it was a matter of finding one and following it down. The way down didnít seem quite as steep as I had remembered it. We took a game trail that led us down and to the right and crossed a small drainage.


Eventually the game trails start to peter out and then we just headed straight down to the wash.  Stayed in the wash until we hit the upper Dominuez spring where the brush gets very thick and we had to skirt it for a short distance and then back in all the way to the dam. Not much water above the dam but some flow going over the dam before disappearing into the sand at itís foot.


Once we refilled our water supplies we headed down the Dominguez wash a short ways before going up the wash to take us up the east side of Dominguez Peak.
View up Dominquez wash towards Fisk Canyon.


We hiked another hour or so before finding a spot to camp which was not easy due to the rocky nature of the drainage.

Morning view of the Punta de Sierra.


We continued up the boulder and catclaw filled drainage.


Eventually we climbed out to the high pass that would lead us down towards Backbone Ridge.


Found out that coming down the other side was harder and steeper but luckily, shorter.


View looking back the way we came.


...more to come.
« Last Edit: March 09, 2014, 02:23:17 PM by Robert »

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Offline Andreas

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Re: Quemada Trip Feb 2014
« Reply #1 on: March 09, 2014, 02:13:34 PM »
VERY good TR, love the large-sized photos. Thank you, thank you, thank you.  :eusa_clap: Can't hardly wait for the next part.
"Any time you're throwin dirt you're losin ground."

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Offline trtlrock

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Re: Quemada Trip Feb 2014
« Reply #2 on: March 09, 2014, 02:18:16 PM »
keep it coming!  :eusa_dance:
John & Tess

"...and I'll face each day with a smile, for the time that I've been given's such a little while..." - Arthur Lee

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Offline Lance

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Re: Quemada Trip Feb 2014
« Reply #3 on: March 09, 2014, 02:32:18 PM »
Nice work Robert!  Thanks for the map link and KMZ file.
East side of Dominguez looks like it's chocked full of boulders.
Looking forward to the rest. 

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Offline steelfrog

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Re: Quemada Trip Feb 2014
« Reply #4 on: March 09, 2014, 05:09:16 PM »
Thanks for sharing Roberto

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Offline mule ears

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Re: Quemada Trip Feb 2014
« Reply #5 on: March 09, 2014, 05:57:04 PM »
Great start!  I love that view from the Dominguez mtn. pass of ET and Backbone.  Yeah the west side is a steady small boulder climb, the east side is full of big boulders some the size of cars you have to climb down.  Looking forward to the rest.
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 elhombre

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Re: Quemada Trip Feb 2014
« Reply #6 on: March 09, 2014, 06:14:46 PM »
Nice photos!  I really like the way the clouds changed through out the first day walking towards Smokey.
First Russian Collusion, then Obstruction, then illegal payment to Stormy Daniels, then tax returns subpoenaed. Now no formal vote on impeachment for a 30 min. phone call to Ukraine

No crime. No evidence, just more secret investigations

Drain the Swamp.  America will survive.  God Bless America

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Offline badknees

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Re: Quemada Trip Feb 2014
« Reply #7 on: March 10, 2014, 05:12:46 AM »
Hey Robert,

Thanks for sharing one of the best areas of the park!

I like this one.

Not all those who wander are lost.
Ė J.R.R. Tolkien

Through the Mirror
http://mirrormagic.com

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Offline The Scorpion

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Re: Quemada Trip Feb 2014
« Reply #8 on: March 10, 2014, 11:27:38 PM »
some good stuff, thanks for sharing  :great:
everything is better with bacon!!!

http://jamesb.smugmug.com/BigBendNationalPark/

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Offline mule ears

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Re: Quemada Trip Feb 2014
« Reply #9 on: March 11, 2014, 07:11:40 AM »
Wow, a lot of people making this trek; I've done it twice since November.  On our last outing, Mar 1-4, I could tell many had passed through by the broken limbs, trampled grass and well-defined route.  This was not the case in Nov; the ET trail was much easier to follow this last time as well.

And will there be a trip report forthcoming Homer?  Always like to see your experiences.   :eusa_whistle:
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
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Offline Homer67

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Re: Quemada Trip Feb 2014
« Reply #10 on: March 11, 2014, 12:48:58 PM »
We found NO water on the Smoky Creek trail when there on the 4th.  Water was actually better at Smoky Spring this time than previously.  Upper Dominguez Spring was flowing less than before, but there seemed to be more water at the seep between Upper Dominguez and the dam; the flow at the dam was less than before. Water in Fisk Canyon before the turn east north of Dominguez was about as good as it's been since Nov, but water along the trek to ET was now gone, except for a few small flows. Double Spring was flowing, but less than on previous trips; the water in the arroyo below the 2 springs was better, much better with large pools.  The ET trail looked better than it had in Nov and Dec.  The Water Works looked good as usual. We had to trek south a good ways from the Dodson down Fresno to find water.  The water one can usually find 1/4 mile down the Smoky Creek trail from the Dodson trailhead was just a moist spot, and no other water was found along this trail.

« Last Edit: March 11, 2014, 05:36:34 PM by Casa Grande »
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 Robert

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Re: Quemada Trip Feb 2014
« Reply #11 on: March 11, 2014, 08:19:44 PM »
We dump out into the wash that runs along the west side of Backbone Ridge and head north right before it splits into a left and right forks that run parallel to each other. Supposedly there is a pouroff on the right side so we take the left (west) fork where there was a small tinaja at the bottom of a short rock ramp.

We soon come to an unmarked spring at 29.147603,-103.280926


A little ways further we found water in the vicinity of Step Springs but no water at the Step Spring coordinates. There is a small pouroff to climb just after this spot.

Just past this is another spring; Tusk Spring.


There was another easy pouroff to climb and then we exit the wash go up and over to the east, dropping us into the right fork of the Backbone Ridge drainage for a short while before climbing up to the east again and over to the drainage that will drop us down to the Elephant Tusk trail.
The upper portions of that drainage consists of a very narrow section that sits at the feet of Elephant Tusk. Ran across the Keen shoe that others have reported just as the section starts to open up.  Then we hit the junction with the Elephant Tusk trail and some easy walking for a while.


We soon hit our first water in the ET drainage below Elf Spring and then again at Elephant spring where there were some good pools.


We continued up the ET trail and exited the wash and climbed the big steep hill to the top. I remember having my feet slip out from under me on a previous trip coming down this slope.


The trail is still a little faint in sections but easy walking over to the Fresno drainage, mostly very flat with little elevation gain/loss. We stopped for the night at the campsite at the top of the climb up from Fresno above Zapato Tuerto Spring. I walked down to check the spring and found lots of water just at the point where the trail enters the wash.
Clear skies overnight led to some chilly temps with ice in our water in the morning.


We hiked down to Zapato Tuerto and filled our water for the day.

Then we hiked up the drainage instead of staying on the Elephant Tusk trail which heads downstream before turning up the eastern arm of Fresno.

There was a lot of water, especially in the first half of the hike. I kept thinking the water sightings would die out, but weíd hit another one. I took 34 photos of different portions of the route with water.
Some various shots.






There was one large pouroff to skirt. I went around on the left while the others went to the right.

Nice bathtub section to wade through (although it was still chilly).


After a while the drainage began to narrow and some sections were clogged with catclaw and vegetation.

We then came to a split in the drainage at Claro Spring B (where there was water) and we took the left fork. 


While there was a little water at Cooper there was essentially no good water past the junction. The wash continued to have more and more catclaw and as we started to approach the Dodson trail we jumped out of the wash and hiked to the trail directly.

Once on the Dodson, we ascended to the pass between the Fresno watershed and the Smoky Creek watershed where we took a break for lunch. The clear skies had led to an increase in temperatures and it must have had an effect on Tom because he was not feeling well. We made the decision to bail out and hike to the Homer Wilson Ranch.

We were running low on water and decided to check out Smoky Creek and went down that trail to the dam but didnít find any water. Turned back and when we got to the high spot overlooking the Blue Creek drainage I went on ahead of the other two to see if I could catch a ride back to Mule Ears before we ran out of daylight.  It took just over an hour to walk the remaining three miles arriving at 5 PM, waited about 10 minutes and caught a ride with the first car going towards Castolon, a solo guy doing some backpacking in the park.  Pure luck because there wasn't much traffic. I made it back to overlook soon after my friends arrived.

Headed over to the showers at the BB Resort in Study Butte before grabbing a campsite in the Basin. To be continued...."when bees attack".
« Last Edit: November 30, 2014, 03:47:44 PM by Robert »

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Offline elhombre

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Re: Quemada Trip Feb 2014
« Reply #12 on: March 11, 2014, 08:48:53 PM »
It's just crazy how much water is down the Fresno/ET side of the hills, and so little on the Smokey Creek side.  How many miles did y'all do each day?  Hope your buddy was alright once he got out of the heat.   Stupid sun........
First Russian Collusion, then Obstruction, then illegal payment to Stormy Daniels, then tax returns subpoenaed. Now no formal vote on impeachment for a 30 min. phone call to Ukraine

No crime. No evidence, just more secret investigations

Drain the Swamp.  America will survive.  God Bless America

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Offline Geezer

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Re: Quemada Trip Feb 2014
« Reply #13 on: March 11, 2014, 08:57:53 PM »
Great report!

Thanks,

Geezer

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Offline Robert

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Re: Quemada Trip Feb 2014
« Reply #14 on: March 11, 2014, 09:02:00 PM »
How many miles did y'all do each day?  Hope your buddy was alright once he got out of the heat.   Stupid sun........

My buddy was fine. We're trying to educate him to lighten his pack weight some.  That day turned out to be one of those "hot" early spring days the park has. He was fine he next day.
Mileage
Day 1- 6.8
Day 2 - 6.5
Day 3 - 7.6
Day 4 10.4

 


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