Friends of Big Bend National Park
Big Bend Conservancy

Over-estimating your experience or under-estimating the terrain in a place like Big Bend can result in serious injury or death. Use the information and advice found here wisely. Climb/Hike/Camp/Drive at your own risk.

+-Calendar for sale

 2019 BigBendChat Calendar on sale now!


Southwest Sierra Quemada Ramble, Jan. 2016

  • 57 Replies
  • 10689 Views
*

Offline mule ears

  • Global Moderator
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 4265
  • "He had to leave Texas but won't say why" McMurtry
    • 40 years of walking
Southwest Sierra Quemada Ramble, Jan. 2016
« on: January 22, 2016, 03:29:27 PM »
Finally time to start this trip report.  Been hugely busy since returning from Texas but with the snow/sleet/ice storm we are in the middle of, I have some time.  I will try and get this finished before I have to leave town on Monday, hopefully we won't lose power.

Dec. 30th-Jan.3rd, 2016

51 miles walked, 43 with pack, 8 as a day hike


A southwestern Sierra Quemada ramble, what does that mean?  How much area do “the burned mountains” actually cover?  Most of us just refer to everything below the South Rim as such.  Geologically it technically is maybe only the center peaks, north of Dominguez Mtn. and south of the Dodson trail, that are the ancient volcano.  On the east and south it is clear as Elephant Tusk, Backbone ridge and the Punta de la Sierra plunge to the flat desert.  On the west and south where do they end?  Goat Mountain and Mule Ears?  Triangulation Station Mountain and its long ridge?  Sierra de Chino?  They are all part of the larger Chisos Mountains and in many cases, related geologically there is an interesting discussion here.

In any case there is definitely an east side and a west side split nearly north/south by a watershed divide.  East the Juniper, Fresno, Backbone and Fisk drainages drop east and then south to the Rio Grande.  On the west side San Jacinto/Casitas Springs, Smoky Creek, Mule Ears and Blue Creek drainages move west and then south to the river.  The divide runs from the high point of the South Rim, over the high point of the Dodson, down the ridge west of Dominguez Spring to the high point of the Punta de la Sierra and hits the river near the top of the great loop close to Reed Camp.  A west to east line could be drawn that runs from the Mule Ears overlook to north of Elephant Tusk that breaks the area into northern and southern halves.  Most people only hike the northern half trails (Dodson, upper Smoky Creek and ET), few venture south of that line.

Here is a map, in CalTopo, that illustrates the divides.  it also shows our approximate route and important springs. 

Having never explored the area south and west including the Punta de la Sierra, Lower Smoky Creek below Mule Ears and Triangulation Station mountain and not having been up the canyon behind Smoky spring since 1989, I figured that a good loop could be made with a number of springs and ruins to check out too.

The BBC 10th anniversary gathering was being held the week between Christmas and New Years so I thought I could catch part of it and get a long walk in.  Due to the difficult holiday timing none of my usual cohorts could make those dates so I contacted Robert from BBC and not only was he planning to attend the gathering but was also interested in a similar exploration of the Quemada.  Plans were made.

I flew into San Antonio super early (read brutally early departure from the farm) where Robert picked me up and by 10:00 a.m. we were on I-10 headed west.  Several stops on the way but into the Basin by 5:30.  There had been a major snow storm that hit the park on Saturday and Sunday leaving 3-5 inches of powdery snow even down low.  By the time we got there late on Monday most of it had melted down low but still several inches up high.  We could see the Rosillos covered with snow as we hit Persimmon Gap



And even more as we climbed up into the Basin.



We stopped by the BBC group site to check in and then went up to the Lodge to check into the room we got for the night to avoid camping in the snow and really cold temps.  We gathered at another BBC member’s room for chili and beers and to catch up.

Tuesday dawned beautifully clear and warming up.  Breakfast with the BBC folks and then the group split, headed to different day hikes.  Robert and I decided to go with RichardM to climb Casa Grande. 



The Lost Mine trail was icy and the unofficial side trail towards Casa Grande snowy.  Shortly into the side trail Richard slipped in the slick conditions and separated his shoulder.  He had been through this before but couldn’t get it to pop back in so we helped him slowly back down to the main trail and then on down to the cars with the help from a park volunteer and a ranger.
We then went down and helped him pack up his camping gear and drove with him down to the bottom of the Basin road.  He said he was fine to go on by himself to Terlingua EMS to check in with the medics there to see if they could pop it back in.  In the end he drove all the way to the Alpine hospital where they had to sedate him to get it pulled back into the socket.

After we made sure Richard was OK and on his way, we drove down the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive (RMSD) to the west end of the River Road and in a few miles to drop a cache of food and water (in bear canisters of course) that we would pick up our last night out.  Originally we thought we would go counter clockwise from the Mule Ears overlook ending with the high point of the Punta de la Sierra and pt. 5168 to the north.  As the start got closer we could see the weather was going to deteriorate as the walk went on so we reversed the loop to take in the high points and views while we still might have them.



Back to the Basin where many folks were randomly coming into the BBC group site.  We had a few beers while doing some packing for the trip and visiting and then went up to the Lodge for dinner.  After dinner we hung around the group site shooting the shit until it was getting both late and cold, we said our goodbyes to all assembled, it was great to finally meet all these folks I have known only online for years.



Trail Day 1

Robert and I got up quietly in the dark and finished packing.  We slipped up to the Lodge for breakfast at 7:00 when they opened and made it down to the Mule Ears overlook before 9:00.  Last bit of packing and then on the trail under increasingly cloudy skies. 



Packs heavier than we would have liked but the reverse route meant almost full food and 8 quarts of water for two days.  Mine was at about 34#.

We peered over the edge of the bench at Trap spring and it looked like there might be some water.  Mule Ears spring was running but alarmingly slowly, maybe a few gallons per minute, not its usual robust rate.  Just past the spring we ran into a father and son who had come down Smoky Creek and said they did see not any water other than snow melt.  The usual great view of the South Rim, Picacho Peak and Sugarloaf Mtn.



Out to the edge of the escarpment overlooking Smoky Creek and we could see the work ahead of us the next two days.  If you click on the picture you can see where we are headed and other land marks (you may have to right click and open in another tab).



On our way down we run into two more young guys who also had come down Smoky Creek from the Basin and similarly reported no water seen (but hadn’t really looked).  Out across the plain towards Smoky Spring, this would be all off trail now for days.  Easy going and we make it to the ruins overlooking the spring by noon.



Great view from the house.



We drop down to the top of the spring and have lunch.  This pool is the deepest spot we saw that one could get water from even though there was flow for a 100 yards or so.



Going up the canyon behind the spring was mostly easy going, not much vegetation avoidance and just one small pouroff to work around. 



Steady climbing up the wash with some bouldery areas.  Many small pools left from the snow melt and tiny patches of snow left here and there.  There was about 3” of snow down in this area three days ago.





We get to the Jack’s Pass cut off by 3:30 (the pass to the left and point 5168 to the right).



After studying the map we decide that instead of going on up the wash towards pt. 5168 and then climbing what looked like a steep headwall we would go up the fairly gentle looking ridge opposite the Jack’s Pass cutoff.  The initial climb was steep but short.



Then we had to work around a few rocky sections but with expansive views.





Finally we rolled across the ridge looking for a spot big enough to roll the sleeping bags out on.



As we crested the top we had this tremendous view of the Punta de la Sierra



Finally just before 6:00 we found a spot just big enough but with a 360 degree view.  South Rim and point 5160, our goal first thing in the morning.  9.8 miles today with some substantial elevation gain with full packs up to 4700 feet.



As the sun was going down we got a good look at the long ridge of Mariscal mountain with San Vicente mountain in the shadows behind.



I wandered out the ridge a bit to get a better view of tomorrows route over to the Punta, didn’t look too bad.



A broader view back towards the north.  You can barely spot our camp, center left, and Roberts red coat.



We settled in for a great meal from Robert and an amazing sunset.



After dark we could see the lights of every vehicle driving down River Road East and few on the RMSD, lights of the residence housing at Castolon and Study Butte and we think the lights of a small town in Mexico.

to be continued...
« Last Edit: March 19, 2016, 10:26:19 AM by mule ears »
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
http://40yearsofwalking.wordpress.com/

*

Offline dprather

  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 2411
Re: Southwest Sierra Quemada Ramble, Jan. 2016
« Reply #1 on: January 22, 2016, 03:34:46 PM »
Spectacular - thanks
Leave "quit" at the car.  Embrace the trail as your friend.  Expect to enjoy yourself, and to be amazed.

*

Offline elhombre

  • Golden Eagle
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 1136
Re: Southwest Sierra Quemada Ramble, Jan. 2016
« Reply #2 on: January 22, 2016, 05:01:56 PM »
A #33 pack with #16 of it being water!  I hope some day I figure out how you guys are able to ween yourselves off food, water and whiskey so I can hike with such a light pack.    :eusa_think: 

Beautiful sunset!
« Last Edit: January 22, 2016, 07:23:34 PM by elhombre »
For 2 years the Fake News Media, Obama's FBI, CIA & DOJ, and Swamp dwelling Politicians COLLUDED, Illegally Spied,and LIED to America about POTUS in order to overturn an election

All the while demanding censorship and removal of opposition Conservative "hate speech" voices.  Globalists Hate Freedom

*

Offline Andreas

  • Diamondback
  • *
  • 300
  • A gun gives you the body not the bird. HD Thoreau
Re: Southwest Sierra Quemada Ramble, Jan. 2016
« Reply #3 on: January 22, 2016, 05:55:55 PM »
Just the "daily dose of Big Bend" in words and pictures that I badly needed - thank you for posting! Excellent write up & gorgeous pics.
« Last Edit: January 23, 2016, 07:49:49 AM by Andreas »
"Any time you're throwin dirt you're losin ground."

Cormac McCarthy, No Country for Old Men

*

Offline Talusman

  • Black Bear
  • *
  • 532
Re: Southwest Sierra Quemada Ramble, Jan. 2016
« Reply #4 on: January 22, 2016, 06:00:56 PM »
Wow! Great report and pictures. Well written and informative as well. I can hardly wait for the next portion! Thanks!
"To Think is easy. To Act is difficult. To Act as one Thinks is the most difficult!"

*

Offline Jalco

  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 1051
Re: Southwest Sierra Quemada Ramble, Jan. 2016
« Reply #5 on: January 22, 2016, 06:16:44 PM »
Great report, ME.  I love the afternoon light in the picture of the Punta de La Sierra view. 

*

Offline Geezer

  • Black Bear
  • *
  • 668
Re: Southwest Sierra Quemada Ramble, Jan. 2016
« Reply #6 on: January 22, 2016, 09:56:43 PM »
Good going Mule Ears!

Glad you got to do that.

Geezer

*

Offline ambersdad

  • Diamondback
  • *
  • 364
Re: Southwest Sierra Quemada Ramble, Jan. 2016
« Reply #7 on: January 23, 2016, 05:44:56 AM »
Wow! Love this.  Can't wait for the rest.
Having decent gear is nice, but wildlife photography is knowing your subject and getting lucky, and I love getting lucky.
https://www.facebook.com/randy.jones.33234
http://randyswildlifeandnaturephotography.com/

*

Offline mule ears

  • Global Moderator
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 4265
  • "He had to leave Texas but won't say why" McMurtry
    • 40 years of walking
Re: Southwest Sierra Quemada Ramble, Jan. 2016
« Reply #8 on: January 23, 2016, 06:00:37 AM »
A #33 pack with #16 of it being water!  I hope some day I figure out how you guys are able to ween yourselves off food, water and whiskey so I can hike with such a light pack.    :eusa_think: 

Beautiful sunset!

OK, I may have had 34# but did have 6# of food and plenty of bourbon  :icon_biggrin:
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
http://40yearsofwalking.wordpress.com/

*

Offline mule ears

  • Global Moderator
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 4265
  • "He had to leave Texas but won't say why" McMurtry
    • 40 years of walking
Re: Southwest Sierra Quemada Ramble, Jan. 2016
« Reply #9 on: January 23, 2016, 06:02:59 AM »
Spectacular - thanks

Don we were sorry that we missed each other in the park.

Great report, ME.  I love the afternoon light in the picture of the Punta de La Sierra view. 

It may be my favorite of the trip too.
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
http://40yearsofwalking.wordpress.com/

*

Offline mule ears

  • Global Moderator
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 4265
  • "He had to leave Texas but won't say why" McMurtry
    • 40 years of walking
Re: Southwest Sierra Quemada Ramble, Jan. 2016
« Reply #10 on: January 23, 2016, 07:05:35 AM »
Well no power outage, yet.  2 inches of mostly sleet with some powdery snow coming down now.  Only had to go out and sweep the greenhouses off twice!

Trail Day 2

We woke to a gray and high overcast sky, 32 degrees, fortunately no wind.  We pack up and walk a short way towards the base of pt. 5168 and drop the packs.  The climb up was not too bad with solid footing.  Great views from this highest point this far south.  The view north up the Dominguez/Fisk drainages.



To the east Elephant Tusk just barely poking up behind Dominguez mountain with Backbone’s jagged ridge.  You can spot the Dominguez spring area in the bottom center.  We knew that el hombre and cookie were trying to summit ET today as well.



The view south to the back of the Punta de la Sierra, that is where we are headed next.



West toward Mule Ears.  The flat top ridge in the foreground is the one we came up yesterday.



You get a good look at the back side of Jack’s Pass and its steep drop to the east.



Robert and I were both excited to be up here, his first time and it had been since 1989 for me.



After taking copious pictures we decided it was time to descend and start our way across to the high points of the Punta.  The route finding was easy with a few steep ups and downs.  It was at one high point along this section that Robert unfortunately dropped his camera rendering it useless.



We get to the base of the high point by noon and break for lunch.  Not having the time or the will to actually climb the high point 4885, we settled for the next one west to get a view down off the end.



And to scout the route down off the Punta to the west.  It plunges down the slope and over the saddle center left.



We start down the double black diamond chute slowly.  Robert says that Jack’s Pass has nothing on this.



We get to the saddle and the route down doesn’t look too bad, at least not as steep as what we just came down.



Way out we can see the Mule Ears and our goal for the night, the green Casitas Springs complex in the upper center, left of the lighter colored area.



Thus began the tedious, rocky, slow crawl down the drainage.  Many times we barely made the leg busting steps down the fairly lose slopes.  Finally after three hours we made it to the mouth and flatish ground.



My hat is off to Lance, Picacho and Steelfrog for climbing up and down this hellish route and climbing pt. 4885 all in one day!

Our original goal for the day was to cut north and swing by Eleanor and San Jacinto springs on the way to Casitas but with daylight getting short we headed directly down to the Casitas wash for the fast walking it would afford.



We made good time to the little canyon just before Casitas, filled with boulders but easy to negotiate and we soon started seeing water in the upper parts from Unknown spring. 



We stopped and filled up water for tomorrow and then as soon as we popped out the top into the flat area we stopped for the night on some beautiful soft gravels just before dark.  8.6 hard miles today, we were ready to sit down and have some bourbon.   :beer_chug: 



As we stretched out for the night there were a few stars but it would be the last we would see of the sky for the rest of the trip.

to be continued...
« Last Edit: January 24, 2016, 08:22:21 AM by mule ears »
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
http://40yearsofwalking.wordpress.com/

*

Offline Casa Grande

  • Site Founder
  • Administrator
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 6150
  • Bending It Since 1991
    • Virtual Big Bend
Re: Southwest Sierra Quemada Ramble, Jan. 2016
« Reply #11 on: January 23, 2016, 07:30:59 AM »
This is epic, ME! 

sent using the New Big Bend Chat Mobile App for Android


*

Offline ambersdad

  • Diamondback
  • *
  • 364
Re: Southwest Sierra Quemada Ramble, Jan. 2016
« Reply #12 on: January 23, 2016, 08:09:56 AM »
Having decent gear is nice, but wildlife photography is knowing your subject and getting lucky, and I love getting lucky.
https://www.facebook.com/randy.jones.33234
http://randyswildlifeandnaturephotography.com/

*

Offline Flash

  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 1973
Re: Southwest Sierra Quemada Ramble, Jan. 2016
« Reply #13 on: January 23, 2016, 08:44:41 AM »
Great recon photos from up on top!  :great:

*

Offline Talusman

  • Black Bear
  • *
  • 532
Re: Southwest Sierra Quemada Ramble, Jan. 2016
« Reply #14 on: January 23, 2016, 09:24:06 AM »
Classic stuff ME! I have not been in those areas since the 80's myself. Your report is making me want to peruse the  Sierra Quemada again! The pictures you take toward each direction helps to recall the area well. Very nice! Bad ass hat as well!
"To Think is easy. To Act is difficult. To Act as one Thinks is the most difficult!"

 


©COPYRIGHT NOTICE

All photographs and content posted by members are to be considered copyrighted by their respective owners and may not be used for any purposes, commercial or otherwise, without permission.

+-Calendar For Sale

 2019 BigBendChat Calendar on sale now!

Powered by EzPortal

Facebook Comments