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!


An Unexpected Journey: To The Chimneys and Beyond

  • 82 Replies
  • 5563 Views
*

Offline elhombre

  • Golden Eagle
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 1175
Re: An Unexpected Journey: To The Chimneys and Beyond
« Reply #75 on: January 07, 2019, 10:15:53 AM »
Glad you had a SUCCESSFUL trip!  That picture of your "camp site" on the side of the creek is hilarious.  It sounds like you took and ate more food this time.  If so, did you feel like it made a huge difference? 

Also, that ranger has recognized and figured out who many of us Big Bend Chat people are from our permits.  He knows who we are too.  I heard a rumor from someone that there are 3-4 people who are BBC regulars that hide their NPS identity.  I find it quite illustrative that they feel it is necessary to hide their identities and don't come out and say they work for NPS.  It's actually more sad than anything else to me.  But in the current environment where people try to aggressively shame and silence others for their opinions, maybe their work place is too hostile to the free flow of information.

I infer that Red Ass and Tule Springs are solid springs that can be counted on.  Any others you would add to that list?

And as Tom Petty sang, " I don't know, but I've been told, you never slow down, you never grow old!"  I think he is mostly right, but as I get older too, there is nothing wrong at all with becoming the "Old Bull".

A Young Bull and an Old Bull are standing on a hill looking down at a bunch of cows.  The Young one says to the Old one, "Why don't we run down there and "mate" with one of them cows ?"  The Old Bull turns to Young Bull and says "Naw,  I think I will walk down there and "mate" with them all"   :great:
First Russian Collusion, then Mueller, then Obstruction, then illegal payment to Stormy Daniels, then tax returns. 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

*

Offline House Made of Dawn

  • www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2YJduDyFA4
  • Golden Eagle
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 3028
  • Backpacking since '78, Big Bend since '95.
An Unexpected Journey: To The Chimneys and Beyond
« Reply #76 on: January 07, 2019, 12:47:44 PM »
Glad you had a SUCCESSFUL trip!  That picture of your "camp site" on the side of the creek is hilarious.  It sounds like you took and ate more food this time.  If so, did you feel like it made a huge difference? 

Yeah, a successful HMoD trip, what's up with that? I ruined my track record. ;) 

Nahhh, really, it was just such a simple trip that even I couldn't screw it up. And I tried everything I could think of to make it as easy as I could on myself. I really pared my baseweight to the bone (the only luxury was my flute). Because the trip was so short, and never went too far from a road, I could trim my first-aid and emergency kits way back. And yes, I most definitely took more food this time, largely because of our conversations on the subject.

The food question is interesting. I still think that, on a short trip (2-4 days) over moderate terrain, I can get by on 1600 calories. I have enough stamina and energy reserves to bull through it. The hangup last year was that I pushed it to 16 days and that dog won't hunt. Anything over four days and my tank starts to empty. I need to carry more calories. 2000/day was perfect for this trip, because I wasn't at 100% as far as fit and stamina. The terrain was about as easy as it gets, but I still found myself getting hungry. Never bonky, but I could see it coming. I ate a lot more snacks throughout the day than I usually do. If I felt hungry, I stopped right then and ate. Because of that, and unlike most previous trips, I ate every single piece of food in my pack before I returned to the trailhead.  That's rare for me, I almost always end a backpack with food left in the pack.

The more I've thought about it over the months, you were absolutely spot-on in thinking that the REAL culprit that ended my cross-park hike last year was too-little food. Everything else proceeded from that one fatal flaw in my planning. If I'd have been carrying enough food, I think I would have finished that hike, regardless of the rain, the wind, the snow. I would've made a smarter pitch in Passionflower Canyon, not gotten hypothermia, not made the misstep that busted up my knee, and not have been so demoralized by it. If I attempt another long trip, I'm going to up my daily calorie budget a great deal - maube even up to 3000/day. The extra weight may mean I need to cache more often.


I infer that Red Ass and Tule Springs are solid springs that can be counted on.  Any others you would add to that list?

Other than Pena Spring and maaaaaaybe North Spring, probably not. At least not without seeing them in other seasons. The Chimneys Spring is a mystery to me, not even sure where it might be. The Kit Mountain Spring just south of The Chimneys was extensive but only a quarter-to-half inch deep over thick mud. Maybe you could dig a hole for water, but I think it probably goes dry in summer. ME has seen Bee Spring flowing in winter, but I couldn't find any water there at all (lots of tracks, so there may be some water there deeper into the brush than I could go). Tres was dry and Dos, I never found. LInda Spring and Wright Pool had a ton of water in them when I was there, and there were also little tinajas all up and down those drainages, as well as abundant flowing water between them, but I have a feeling they, too, would dry up by summer. South Spring was a bust. North Spring was great. It MIGHT be active all year, but I wouldn't count on it. Heading Out Spring was another spring I was unable to even locate. Burro Spring was strong but I don't feel like I saw enough of it to predict its year-round flow. The hanging tinaja at the top, however, was HUGE and should hold water in all but the hottest, driest months.

So my list of solids, in order of reliability, would be Tule, Red Ass, Pena, and maybe, maybe, maybe North, and the Burro Spring tinaja in all but mid-summer.  I sure would love it if someone else happens to get out there and check those and the others out. That's the only way we'll really know.

And as Tom Petty sang, " I don't know, but I've been told, you never slow down, you never grow old!" 

Amen!
« Last Edit: January 15, 2019, 01:46:11 PM by House Made of Dawn »
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

*

Offline Imre

  • Diamondback
  • *
  • 400
Re: An Unexpected Journey: To The Chimneys and Beyond
« Reply #77 on: January 07, 2019, 05:07:41 PM »
Awesome trip, thank you for sharing.  :great: As often as I have been to the park, I am not sure that I have seen a Harris Hawk within the boundaries.  When I checked ebird I found only a handful of recent records within the park itself. One more bird to watch for on my next sojourn.  :eusa_think:
For every complex problem there is a solution that is simple, obvious, and wrong.
- H.L. Mencken

*

Offline House Made of Dawn

  • www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2YJduDyFA4
  • Golden Eagle
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 3028
  • Backpacking since '78, Big Bend since '95.
An Unexpected Journey: To The Chimneys and Beyond
« Reply #78 on: January 07, 2019, 07:16:28 PM »
Awesome trip, thank you for sharing.  :great: As often as I have been to the park, I am not sure that I have seen a Harris Hawk within the boundaries.  When I checked ebird I found only a handful of recent records within the park itself. One more bird to watch for on my next sojourn.  :eusa_think:

Yep, not something you expect to see every outing. I’ve seen a couple in The Bend in the past, but still it took me an embarrassingly long time in this instance to figure out what I’d seen. The sighting was good, but it was the behavior that so excited me: I’ve never seen cooperative predation by Harris’ Hawks. I searched around for a carcass or blood... nothing even flushed. Whatever animal was there in the dense brush around Pena Spring was definitely smarter than both me and the Harris’ Hawks.


Sent from my iPhone using Big Bend Chat
« Last Edit: January 08, 2019, 12:42:09 PM by House Made of Dawn »
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

*

Offline House Made of Dawn

  • www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2YJduDyFA4
  • Golden Eagle
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 3028
  • Backpacking since '78, Big Bend since '95.
Re: An Unexpected Journey: To The Chimneys and Beyond
« Reply #79 on: January 07, 2019, 10:25:29 PM »
DEETS & REGREETS: LESSONS EARNED & LEARNED


Here is a link to a spreadsheet of the equipment I took and the weight of each item:


https://1drv.ms/x/s!AoktuZm8VUa7lh97Hk5MuJKd0YJG


The main thing about this trip is that it was very short and very simple: 20 miles in 4 days, with the first and last days being partials. I deliberately picked an easy itinerary to gently test my recovering stamina and fitness.  The terrain I covered was pretty darn flat and I didn’t cover very much of it each day.  Only once or twice did I run into anything vexing, mostly thorny vegetation.  My principal goals were 1) to test my fitness, with easy bailouts if I needed one, 2) to inventory several springs that I’d been wondering about for a long time and, frankly, to check them off my list so I wouldn’t have to think about them anymore, 3) to spend some quality time at a few of my favorite old haunts in the desert, and 4) to view the Geminid meteor shower from a prime perch in the desert under The Bend’s dark skies.  I nailed every goal.  But, then again, trail conditions were very good: temps never dropped more than a degree or two below freezing, no snow or ice, very little rain (and only in the evening), one very windy day, a little bit of mud here and there, tons of natural water to draw from.


I pared my equipment list close to the bone and got my baseweight down to 12lbs 12oz, a personal best. Because it was a short, easy, and not-very-remote hike, I could safely trim my first-aid and emergency items. The chances of having to splint a broken bone while separated from my pack, and then wait for rescue, were pretty slim. I still took my McMurdo PLB because, well, I’m still married (and I might not be if not for the PLB). A few revelations regarding my pared down equipment: 1) Instead of my usual two Ridgecrest closed-cell foam groundpads, I only took one, but I still slept like a baby, and that’s a real eye-opener for me (but, you know, I also slept great last year after one of my two Ridgecrests blew away in a nighttime windstorm…I think I’ll start regularly bringing only one unless the forecast calls for temps below 20 degrees and I need the insulation from the ground), 2) my new combo of insulating layers consisting of Montbell’s ultralight down vest (5.5oz) and Berghaus’ ultralight synthetic smock (5.5oz) was just absolutely killer with a mix of adjustable hem, high tight collar, and fairly tight cuffs, and I could mix and match with my OR Helium II rain jacket to meet almost any condition...for the first time in  my life I didn’t bring a single fleece top of any kind, 3) my Feathered Friends bag weighs more than some (34oz) but the arm holes allow me to stretch out so I sleep like a baby in it AND it doubles as a parka if the cold gets really brutal, so I think I’ll keep using it, 4) I didn’t take any spare socks or shirts…a no-brainer on a short trip like this, but maybe not so much on a one- or two-week long trip, especially a wet one, and definitely not a packrafting trip where I’m guaranteed to get soaked during the day, 5) I wore my Oboz Bridger waterproof boots along with excellent REI midweight hiking socks over my standard Injinji wicking toe socks and extended my run of ZERO BLISTERS over fifteen years ever since I started using the toe socks…I took a good look at Mule Ears’ superlight approach shoes when we met up after our separate hikes, but I just can’t go there yet (old dog, you know), 6) my “tinies” as I call them, once again proved to be superstars of lightweight efficiency, these include my beloved Silshelter. a Petzl e+LITE headlamp, Fischer Stow-away Trail Pen, Rite-in-the-Rain notebook (spiral, this time), Deuce-of-Spades toilet trowel, CRKT NIAD knife, Potable Aqua (or Katadyn) disinfecting pills, Snowpeak Litemax titanium stove, VARGO titanium Ti-Bot cookpot (holding my entire messkit), homemade titanium windscreen, MSR lexan folding spoon, 7) new for this trip was an Optimus Sparky piezo light, which worked fantastically and is much easier to use and much preferred to matches or a Bic lighter(though I kept a few light-anywhere matches in my emergency kit), 8) another super-super ultralight hack on this trip was a wrap-around eyeshade inherited from my wife’s last trip to the opthamologist…fits easily over the face (eyeglasses or not), weighs nothing (0.12oz), takes up almost no space when stowed, and IT WAS FREE…but be forewarned, this thing is darker than glacier glasses, 9) and lastly, I finally planned far enough ahead to set-up my newish iPhone 7 as a multi-tasking super-instrument, replacing my camera, my GPS (downloaded GAIA program onto my phone), emergency backup compass, a watch and alarm, and field guides to plants, animals, weather, and stars…I don’t take entertainment media with me on backpacking trips, but I certainly could have!

The iPhone was truly a jack-of-all-trades and definitely a master of none, but I can live with that. Camera has real limitations (poor zoom, lousy night sky/star photos).  Amazingly (sadly?), I actually had AT&T cell service most of the first day of my hike from Burro Spring trailhead all the way past The Chimneys, though I didn't need it: the GAIA on my iPhone operates off of satellite signals, which never failed during my 4 days (a bit slow, once, near Linda Spring).  For power, I brought a MOGIX portable battery and got three daily recharges out of it.  Battery life is the weakness though, any trip longer than four or five days could prove tricky.  But I think I can stretch the range enormously if I carefully follow the various online tutorials for extending iPhone battery life.  In the final analysis, this iPhone set-up was less heavy than any of the alternative groups of kit that would do all the same things, and waaaaay easier to access and use (One stop shopping!!!, straight from my handy shoulder pocket!!!!, while on the move!!!!!).  This is definitely something I’m going to keep experimenting with.


Here is a Caltopo map of my route, all tracks and labeled locations (inc. water sources) are approximate:


https://caltopo.com/m/TH13


This route is just about as flat as it gets in Big Bend. Probably the most significant elevation gain of the entire trip was one I imposed on it: the climb to the top of Point 3125, so I could survey the landscape. This was a very important part of my approach to the hike. The “flats” between RMSD, Kit Mountain, Bee Mountain, Pena Mountain, Black Mesa, Tule Mountain, and Burro Mesa, are not really flat, they’re shot through with east-west and north-south trending washes. Choosing the most efficient path among and across them and through vegetation that is trying to rip the flesh off your body can be the difference between a good trip and a nightmare. I learned this (thankfully) from Congahead’s earlier trip report.  For the most part, I was able to survey and choose lines of approach that minimized the pain of fighting my way through desert plants that wanted to kill me. Whenever possible I walked up or down washes or, when the washes were choked with plants, on the banks just above. In the few instances where my line of travel ran perpendicular to washes (Red Ass to South Spring to North Spring on my very last day), I approached them from far enough upwash that they had not yet become deep or difficult to cross.


The walk from the Burro Mesa trailhead to The Chimneys was easy, as was the walk from The Chimneys to Kit Spring, Bee Spring, and Tres Spring.  Dos Spring and Pena Spring were along The Chimneys trail. Linda Spring, Wright Pool, and Red Ass Spring were all along the same or closely connected drainages that were fairly easy to walk up (just check all merges carefully in order to choose the right wash as you go upstream), and I highly recommend this part of the route. It’s interesting, beautiful, well-watered.  But the stretch between Red Ass Spring and South Spring was brutal; the stretch from South Spring to North Spring, slightly less so. There was, basically, NO space between the thorns. I don’t know why this particular stretch was so densely covered, but it was. The answer probably lies in the soils. I think the concentration of creosote bush was lower here, and thorny plants correspondingly higher, than in some the other areas I hiked during this trip.  Remember: when hiking the desert: creosote is your friend.  North Spring to Tule Mountain to Tule Springs was a piece of cake, though somewhat muddy. The final hike from Tule Springs around Burro Mesa to Heading Out Spring, Burro Spring, up the mesa slope trail to the pouroff and eventually to my vehicle at the trailhead was easy and fun, though that was the one time all trip that I actually got hot.


As far as the reliability of the various backcountry water sources – one of the main reasons I undertook this trip – here’s the list.

*Chimneys Spring – no sign of it; never found it; no idea where it is

*Kit Springs (south of The Chimneys) – didn’t find the spring; did find a large muddy pool slightly downwash: might have to dig in order to collect water, very muddy, might dry up in warm months

*Bee Spring – brush-choked, lots of wildlife activity, no sign of water at the spring or in this wash, but lots in the larger wash it empties into, others have found this to be a flowing spring in winter

*Tres Spring – surrounded by lots of thick, thorny vegetation, wildlife tracks and scats, but no sign of water, might be deep inside the impenetrable thicket, no water flowing in the wash

*Dos Spring – not where my University of New Mexico map data said it was, Badknees’ map is almost certainly better. This seems to be an issue only with springs added in the 1995 survey.

*Pena Spring – marked by a string of cottonwoods and other trees, several upwellings up and down the deeply shaded wash, very productive, I drew water here, and it’s probably available all year long, keep your eyes peeled for the large cairn on the south side of the trail just before it drops down to the west, the cairn marks the descent into the wash where the easiest-to-reach upwelling can be found under grasses.

*Pena 2 Spring – same as Tres Spring, but no evidence of wildlife visitation, might be inactive

*Linda Spring – water flowing for a mile downwash, several small tinajas in a gorgeous box canyon, the spring spills from above in a narrow waterfall over a large pouroff at the end of the box, which is climb-able.

*Wright Pool – again, a water source from the 1995 survey, and not where my UNM map said it was, but easily found later up the main wash which is filled with all kinds of tinajas (little, big, and a sinuous series that I called The Narrows); Wright is a HUGE tinaja, but faces southwest and might dry up in spring and early summer

*Red Ass Springs – marked by three groups of large cottonwoods each with its own spring and several seeps coming out of the north sedimentary beds, along with a few other upwellings here and there, most with good clean water, and a few tinajas with muddy water, this complex probably has water all year. Bear in mind that the huge, state-record cottonwood at the highest-elevation spring, though still impressive in DBH, is now a broken off trunk without a top and cannot be seen from a distance.

*South Spring – Same as Pena 2 Spring, possibly never productive

*North Spring – marked by several huge cottonwoods, water wells up among the westernmost, best approached from downwash where water flows for almost a quarter mile (but is scummy at the western end), might be productive all year long.

*Tule Springs – three separate, very productive springs emptying into HUGE collection pool w/ good water, should be water all year long. The water from Tule Springs was flowing all the way down to the southeast edge of Tule Mountain!

*Heading Out Spring – same as Chimneys Spring, never found it

*Burro Spring – water running downwash for over a quarter mile, perennial spring at base of huge pouroff, but bees!!! HUGE hanging tinaja up above at the pouroff. Unbelievable amounts of rainwater collected there, but you'll need a cord in order to drop a bottle or bucket or other reservoir into it to collect water.
« Last Edit: February 05, 2019, 10:45:53 AM by House Made of Dawn »
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

*

Offline congahead

  • Roadrunner
  • *
  • 78
Re: An Unexpected Journey: To The Chimneys and Beyond
« Reply #80 on: January 13, 2019, 01:29:34 PM »
Glad to see you had the fortitude to finish what I kinda started last year!  Man, I remember trying to fight my way through that thick brush to the springs; your account echoes my experience.  I’ve learned that finding water in the Bend is only half the battle - accessing it and gathering it is the other half.

It gets worse. The terrain between Red Ass and South is brutal. The trip that you and your wife took last year was uppermost in my mind the entire time I was out there. But I had completely forgotten you'd planned on hitting Wright Pool; I only remembered North and South Springs.  I just re-read your trip report and it wasn't until just now that I realized you and I planned essentially the exact same itinerary, but in opposite directions. I think had you traveled the circuit in the same direction as me, you'd have made it.  Also, your reported experience was exactly the reason I started my hike with a climb to the top of Point 3125: I wanted to inspect the meatgrinder before I entered it, see if there was a sneaky way through it.  There are a few tricks, but nevertheless, crossing some parts of that desert is a lesson in "no pain, no gain".

Perhaps we would have made it, but remember that the reason we bailed was not because of the thick brush, but because we opted not to spend the night outside when it was 11 degrees.

Ahhh, good point. You made the only sane choice. All I can add is that had you gone clockwise, you might have avoided the worst of the thorns during your time out there, and left a little less blood on the linens of Marathon.

That’s probably true.  In fact, I considered a blood transfusion upon my return to replace what I’d lost out there.  :icon_smile:

Of course, with Chihuahuan Desert flora, that’s the case with every off-trail adventure in the Bend.
"The animals here will generally try to avoid you, but the plants will hurt you every chance they get."

*

Offline Talusman

  • Black Bear
  • *
  • 535
Re: An Unexpected Journey: To The Chimneys and Beyond
« Reply #81 on: January 14, 2019, 07:31:12 AM »
House,

As always, unbelievable report. Writing is engaging as usual, and your pictures that include much of the small details (plants, tracks, insects, animal carnage, etc.) as much as the landscape are so cool. Losing a child is incredibly tough, and I can not imagine losing one of mine. You lost twins at birth and I am so sorry for your losses. And you were lucky to be present with your parents, as that is usually not the case. Wonderful report. I am so looking forward to getting back into that landscape. Thanks for taking the time to share. I have about seven I have not written as it takes so much time. I can't imagine how much time you take to do yours. Much appreciated.
"To Think is easy. To Act is difficult. To Act as one Thinks is the most difficult!"

*

Offline House Made of Dawn

  • www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2YJduDyFA4
  • Golden Eagle
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 3028
  • Backpacking since '78, Big Bend since '95.
Re: An Unexpected Journey: To The Chimneys and Beyond
« Reply #82 on: January 14, 2019, 12:50:08 PM »
I am so looking forward to getting back into that landscape. Thanks for taking the time to share. I have about seven I have not written as it takes so much time. I can't imagine how much time you take to do yours. Much appreciated.

Thanks for all the kind words, Talusman.  And thanks for reading so closely. You are right, it takes a long time to put one of these reports together (this is the first time I've embedded all the photos and videos as so many others do.....criminy, that takes a LONG time).  I have a deal with my family: I take my big trips during my holiday break which starts at Thanksgiving. I always return by Christmastime. Then I drive them 10 hours to Albuquerque while they all read and nap and play games. Then, in ABQ, they hobnob with the relatives, I hide and write. Everybody wins.

Hope you get back into the Trans-Pecos soon. If anyone belongs out there, it's you!
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

 


©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