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Sierra Quemada/Mule Ears Figure 8

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Offline DesertRatShorty

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Sierra Quemada/Mule Ears Figure 8
« on: March 11, 2017, 08:34:31 PM »
The Return of DesertRatShorty

Part 1: Sierra Quemada/Mule Ears Figure 8

Five years ago I took my first trip to Big Bend. I hiked the Outer Mountain Loop over the course of 4+ days, and the Marufo Vega Trail as an overnighter. It was a fantastic trip, and you can read all about it here.

That trip definitely left me longing for more Big Bend. In fact, not long after completing the trip, I had already mapped out my second trip, and just needed to find some time to take it.

This year I finally found some time in my schedule to make the second trip happen. The overall plan was this: a 4-5 day loop through the Sierra Quemada, and 2-3 days hiking the Mesa de Anguila. This would get me off trail and into some of the more remote parts of the park. At the same time, there were several trip reports here on Big Bend Chat that I could leverage for trip planning. I will detail the Sierra Quemada trip in this thread, and the MDA trip in another thread.

The basic plan was to start at the Mule Ears trailhead, hike due east for a day, over Jack's Pass and down to Dominguez Spring. Then around the north side of Dominguez Mountain, following various washes, catching the Elephant Tusk trail up to the Dodson, over to Smokey Creek, and back down to Mule Ears. As I began planning the trip in earnest, however, I started adding all kinds of optional side trips on to the basic loop, some of which actually materialized, including a half day roaming around the Mule Ear Peaks. This gave the overall route a figure-8 shape if you use your imagination. This Caltopo map shows the route.

Since that first trip to the park, I've been fortunate enough to take several backpacking trips in a number of our nation's finest wilderness areas, and as great as those trips were, none of them quite managed to match the thrill of that first Big Bend trip. I was starting to think that only another trip to the Bend could contend. It was time to find out.
« Last Edit: September 09, 2018, 02:49:02 PM by DesertRatShorty »
I roamed and rambled, and I foller'ed my footsteps
   To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
   And all around me a voice was a'sounding
   This land was made for you and me

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Offline DesertRatShorty

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Re: Sierra Quemada/Mule Ears Figure 8
« Reply #1 on: March 11, 2017, 08:58:34 PM »
Day 1: Saturday, Feb 25, 2017

I caught a 6 AM flight out of Detroit, through Dallas-Fort Worth, arriving into Midland just before noon. I love the Midland airport: the flight lands at 11:55 AM, and by 12:20, I've claimed my checked luggage and am rolling out of the rental car lot. I wasted no time and made a beeline for Panther Junction, stopping only once for gas at Marathon. As I blew through Persimmon Gap, a wave of excitement overtook me. With the looming visage of the Chisos Mountains drawing ever-nearer, I couldn't help but think

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I arrived at the ranger station by 3:45 PM, and had my permit by four o'clock. After making a few phone calls, I headed toward the Mule Ears trailhead. It was a gorgeous day, so I stopped to soak in the views from Sotol Vista.



After arriving at the Mule Ears trailhead, I organized my gear and hit the trail around 5:30. The sun sets around seven this time of year, so I had plenty of time to put some separation between myself and the road. With my first few steps on the trail, as the parking lot receded behind a hill, a smile just washed over my face. Man, it felt good to be back. And to be in a new and wonderful part of the park!



I hiked until I was within about a quarter-mile of Mule Ears Spring, and found a campsite south of the trail. Sunset on Trap mountain:



Most of my backpacking trips start with a night camping in the frontcountry, but for me this trip was all about maximizing terrain covered, sights seen, and time hiking. It was off to a good start.

« Last Edit: February 02, 2019, 09:35:11 PM by DesertRatShorty »
I roamed and rambled, and I foller'ed my footsteps
   To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
   And all around me a voice was a'sounding
   This land was made for you and me

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: Sierra Quemada/Mule Ears Figure 8
« Reply #2 on: March 11, 2017, 09:30:51 PM »
Shorty, I have just one word for this trip report and my anticipation of its remainder, and it's not even really a word:   :dance:
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline mule ears

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Re: Sierra Quemada/Mule Ears Figure 8
« Reply #3 on: March 12, 2017, 07:43:26 AM »
Awesome start DRS, looks like it was nice and clear too.  Making popcorn for the rest...
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
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Offline Jimbow

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Re: Sierra Quemada/Mule Ears Figure 8
« Reply #4 on: March 12, 2017, 09:56:20 AM »
Bookmarking this one

Sent from my SM-G925T using Big Bend Chat mobile app

Everything is in walking distance if you have enough time.

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Offline elhombre

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Re: Sierra Quemada/Mule Ears Figure 8
« Reply #5 on: March 12, 2017, 01:06:25 PM »
Who can't love that route!   

Detroit to Mule Ears.   Is there any thing more opposite?
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 rocketman

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Re: Sierra Quemada/Mule Ears Figure 8
« Reply #6 on: March 12, 2017, 02:36:58 PM »
Looks like a great route! Can't wait to hear the rest of the story!
Making ice cubes FROM THE SUN!!!

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Offline DesertRatShorty

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Re: Sierra Quemada/Mule Ears Figure 8
« Reply #7 on: March 12, 2017, 08:11:27 PM »
Day 2: Sunday, Feb. 26

My travels today would take me east across the Smokey Creek basin, up a long wash hike into the Sierra Quemada, over Jack's Pass, down to Dominguez Spring, north up lower Fisk Canyon, and east along another wash on the north side of Dominguez Mountain. If yesterday was about excitement, today was more about adventure, as I would quickly leave the trail and enter one of the more remote areas of the park.

Up at 6:30, and back on the trail at 7 a few minutes before sunrise.



I briefly checked out Mule Ears Spring, which was flowing swiftly into a good sized pool. After a brief climb I could see the sun rising on the Santa Elena Canyon . . .



and Trap Mountain:



Passing by Mule Ears:





Descending down to Smokey Creek:



The sun rising over the mountains to the east:



Continuing east, the vegetation on the cross-country route is relatively thin. Midway to Smokey Spring here is the view north:



Further on it becomes even more desolate.



I was headed toward the wash in the distance:



Along the way I passed Smokey Spring which had a small flow and a scummy pool:



This would be a great place to base camp and just explore.

Heading up the wash I saw this bird. What is it?



With a gentle breeze blowing, the wash made for some very comfortable walking, and the broad canyon walls allowed great views of the surrounding peaks.



There is one pour off but it is easily bypassed on the right:



I was now several miles from the trail and really started to feel the solitude. I had passed a couple of day hikers yesterday near Mule Ears, but would see no one today or tomorrow.

At these two large boulders there is a fork in the wash. I stayed left.



Almost immediately there is another fork and I stayed right. The wash becomes a little more challenging, but not too bad until it turns southeast. At which point I climbed out and up, to the east. Here's the view to the south.



Running right to left in the foreground is the ravine leading to Jack's pass. Continuing toward the pass, I stayed high. This was a challenging route and I would not recommend it, although the views are nice. Here's the view back west.



Finally reaching the pass, the view to the east is excellent.



I continued down from the pass, staying right, and found some shade behind a large rock for my afternoon rest. Highs for this trip were around 85, lows around 50 I'm guessing.



Some exposed fossils in this area:



After the long break, I continued down toward Dominguez Spring.



The view back toward the pass:



The spring was flowing above ground for maybe a tenth of a mile.



After reloading on water, I continued down the wash a short ways, and then turned north to head up Fisk Canyon.



This was a pleasant wash hike with only a couple of obstacles. Here is a view looking south.



Water flowed across the wash in a couple of places. After a mile or so, I turned east on a side wash running along the north side of Dominguez Mountain. One quickly reaches this view of Dominguez Mountain to the SE:



I saw water in five different places along this wash. It was very enjoyable walking, being more open than Fisk Canyon, which allowed for more views of the surroundings.









It was getting dark, so I exited the wash NE of Dominguez Mountain, and around 7 pm found a space to camp a few hundred yards to the south. Despite hiking many miles today, I was still feeling energized, and decided I was up for a challenging side trip the next morning.
« Last Edit: March 12, 2017, 08:24:51 PM by DesertRatShorty »
I roamed and rambled, and I foller'ed my footsteps
   To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
   And all around me a voice was a'sounding
   This land was made for you and me

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Offline RichardM

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Re: Sierra Quemada/Mule Ears Figure 8
« Reply #8 on: March 12, 2017, 08:26:23 PM »
OML as a first trip, Jack's Pass and MDA on the second? Hard core! Great report and pics. :notworthy:

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Offline Jalco

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Re: Sierra Quemada/Mule Ears Figure 8
« Reply #9 on: March 12, 2017, 10:51:50 PM »
Outstanding!

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: Sierra Quemada/Mule Ears Figure 8
« Reply #10 on: March 13, 2017, 12:33:45 AM »
OML as a first trip, Jack's Pass and MDA on the second? Hard core! Great report and pics. :notworthy:

Agreed! Hardcore trip! I wish my photos were that good. What do you use, Shorty?

As for the bird you asked about, it is an adult Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis, southwestern form). You can ID that one by its...well, by its red tail, and also by what are called the 'patagial marks', which are those elongated dark patches along the inner third of the leading edges of its underwings.

I think the "fossils" you found may actually be chert nodules. The only reason I say this is because I asked about similar mysterious features I found in the Deadhorse Mountains in December and several knowledgeable folks on this forum weighed in.  Attached are photos of the ones I stumbled upon.

Looking forward to the rest of your report!
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline Lance

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Re: Sierra Quemada/Mule Ears Figure 8
« Reply #11 on: March 13, 2017, 11:42:55 AM »
Who can't love that route!   

Detroit to Mule Ears.   Is there any thing more opposite?

That's what I was thinking! Great report so far!

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Offline DesertRatShorty

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Re: Sierra Quemada/Mule Ears Figure 8
« Reply #12 on: March 13, 2017, 04:34:48 PM »
Who can't love that route!   

Detroit to Mule Ears.   Is there any thing more opposite?

That's what I was thinking! Great report so far!

Not far off. I had to shovel a fresh 3 inches before getting to the next entry.
I roamed and rambled, and I foller'ed my footsteps
   To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
   And all around me a voice was a'sounding
   This land was made for you and me

*

Offline DesertRatShorty

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Re: Sierra Quemada/Mule Ears Figure 8
« Reply #13 on: March 13, 2017, 04:41:44 PM »
OML as a first trip, Jack's Pass and MDA on the second? Hard core! Great report and pics. :notworthy:

Agreed! Hardcore trip! I wish my photos were that good. What do you use, Shorty?

Sony Cybershot 2016 model. There's a marked difference between this and my previous camera, the 2010 Cybershot.

Quote
As for the bird you asked about, it is an adult Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis, southwestern form). You can ID that one by its...well, by its red tail, and also by what are called the 'patagial marks', which are those elongated dark patches along the inner third of the leading edges of its underwings.

Ask and you shall receive. Plenty of knowledge on this board.

Quote
I think the "fossils" you found may actually be chert nodules. The only reason I say this is because I asked about similar mysterious features I found in the Deadhorse Mountains in December and several knowledgeable folks on this forum weighed in.  Attached are photos of the ones I stumbled upon.

Huh. It seems chert may contain small fossils, so perhaps we are both right?
I roamed and rambled, and I foller'ed my footsteps
   To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
   And all around me a voice was a'sounding
   This land was made for you and me

*

Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: Sierra Quemada/Mule Ears Figure 8
« Reply #14 on: March 13, 2017, 05:02:32 PM »

I think the "fossils" you found may actually be chert nodules. The only reason I say this is because I asked about similar mysterious features I found in the Deadhorse Mountains in December and several knowledgeable folks on this forum weighed in.

Huh. It seems chert may contain small fossils, so perhaps we are both right?

:-)


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"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

 


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