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Still new after all these years!

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Offline Cookie

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Still new after all these years!
« on: December 08, 2018, 03:24:20 PM »
I can’t believe that ElHombre and I have been visiting Big Bend for almost 20 years! We used to go scuba diving for our vacations, but in 1998 we purchased a Toyota Tacoma and our adventures with camping began. In the spring of ‘99 we planned our first camping trip to the southwest. We hit Zion, Bryce, the Grand Canyon, and some cool stuff in between. The next year we headed out again for almost 3 weeks and discovered Big Bend on our way back home. Since then we have visited the park at least once a year. Good years were 3 times! I love the fact that after all those visits there are still parts of the park we have not explored. This trip was about doing some “new” stuff in the park. The Mesa De Anguila(MDA) would be new to me and YoungHiker (YH). ElHombre had done a multi-night rappelling trip last year so he was familiar with the area. We also wanted to explore the Rosillos Mountains. We had 10 nights to plan for so this was the itinerary:

Night 1: drive in/get permits/car camp primitive
Night 2-4: MDA backpacking
Night 5-8: primitive car camping in the backcountry/day hiking
Night 9-10: Backpack the south rim

The weather looked favorable for the week. Maybe a bit cool but the rain chances were low. We had an uneventful drive out and were getting permits by mid afternoon. The ranger at the gate said the park was already busy. For about the last 10 years we have been hitting the park on Thanksgiving. Always coming out the week early to secure our permits and ensured we got our pick of the camping spots. As we talked with one of our more familiar rangers, we were surprised that all of our first choice car camping spots were full that first night. We wanted something close to the road so we could pick up and hit the the MDA the next morning fairly quick. All of Paint Gap-FULL. Rattlesnake Flat-FULL. Pine Canyon spots-FULL. And so it went...We finally settled on Grapevine 5. Getting the zone in MDA was no problem. We also wanted SE 3 for 2 nights on the end of our trip. We ended up in a bit of back and forth because the ranger didn’t want to give it to us because it was a “group site”.  He said they had a call from a group wanting to come in and backpack a week from now, so they were trying to save the larger sites for large groups. We know there is no “minimum” on the Chisos spots, only maximums. We could see his point --but “First come, First serve”, and we had made the extra effort to get there early to get our permits. He said the same thing about SW3. Group site. He mentioned that just that day they had a meeting about trying to only put groups (~6 or more) in those larger sites during the busy times. We thought about taking SE4 but figured it there was a group of 10 in SE3, we might not want to be that close. We decided to relent, and took SE2 knowing the group thing was really Bullcrap.  It was not near another site, and we decided it would be a “new” spot to try. We headed out to GV5 for our first evening in the park. After setting up camp, we had neighbors arrive in GV4, but they were very quiet.  No music.  Minimal car door closing.  Never heard them talking.  They obviously where our kind of campers! We had a good night.

We were up and packing camp up early, excited to get on the MDA. Made the drive out to Lajitas. Met the Mayor and his girlfriend (we think).

IMG-7893 by Cookie, on Flickr

IMG-7892 by Cookie, on Flickr

Had lunch and packed up.
DSC05134 - Copy - Copy by Cookie, on Flickr

 We were a bit worried when we pulled up to the trailhead and there was an “REI Adventures” 15 passenger van sitting in the parking lot. As we were packing, the group returned from a day hike on the MDA. Whew! Happy they were heading out as we were heading in. We were on the trail by about 1pm. We could see the trail cutting up through a gap in the hill that would get us on top of the MDA. With all the recent rain, we were hopeful the tinajas would have the precious water needed for us to complete our four day trip. We brought along our new Platypus Gravityworks 2L water filtration system. More on that later.

DSC05136 by Cookie, on Flickr

this fat boy was just hanging out
DSC05138 by Cookie, on Flickr

DSC05139 by Cookie, on Flickr

We found some water in the first unnamed tinaja we came to. We named it Centipede Tinaja. Our plan was to use Tinaja Blanca as our main water source for the trip. It was about 30 minutes from where we planned to camp. The Mesa was beautiful but definitely not flat. The trails were rough with lots of loose rocks and, did I mention, not a lot of flat. We made it to the base of Canyon Flag and set up our camp. The views were outstanding of Mariposa and off into Mexico. As night fell we were amazed at how many lights were visible on the Mexico side. Definitely not the dark skies it used to be out there.

IMG-7895 by Cookie, on Flickr

IMG-7896 by Cookie, on Flickr

tiny tracks
DSC05141 by Cookie, on Flickr

"Centipede Tinaja"
DSC05143 by Cookie, on Flickr

first water on the trail
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Our original plan was to hike out to the Point the next day, and day hike the second day checking out the water sources. With the forecast for the next day being much warmer than day 2 (a front was expected to cool things off) we opted to explore around the area first, then head to the point for our second full day when it was supposed to be cooler. Good plan! It was nice the first day, but it got very warm by the afternoon. Desert!

So, our first full day on the MDA we headed for the sinkhole. This is a pretty cool spot to explore. We down climbed into the hole and checked it out. YoungHiker really liked this spot, and we hope to explore it more in the future when we can bring better lights on another trip.

DSC05156 by Cookie, on Flickr

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view from the hill north of the Sinkhole
DSC05176 by Cookie, on Flickr

looking out towards The Point
DSC05177 by Cookie, on Flickr

looking back down at the Sinkhole
DSC05179 by Cookie, on Flickr

We then headed towards Tinaja Grande A,B and C. We were hoping we could climb down the steep edge and make it to the tinajas. We spent a little time searching for a weakness in the ridge, but we didn’t bring enough rope equipment to safely get down the ledges.  Knowing how long it takes to hike anywhere off trail, and seeing the distance we would need to cover to get down the ridge we were on,  we aborted that plan.   We still needed to make it back to Tinaja Blanca for water, and back to camp before dark. So we settled on exploring the canyon north of Canyon Flag.

DSC05180 by Cookie, on Flickr

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DSC05185 by Cookie, on Flickr


Offline Cookie

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Re: Still new after all these years!
« Reply #1 on: December 08, 2018, 03:25:22 PM »
Really neat area, and as we were trying to head to Tinaja Lujan, we found an amazing unnamed tinaja. At least 3 feet deep! After marking it on the GPS, we decided to skip Lujan and pick up the spur trail back to Blanca.

DSC05186 by Cookie, on Flickr

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looking down from the top of the pour off
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back at Blanca for water
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lowest pool at Blanca
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looking past the BIG pour off at the bottom of Blanca
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DSC05204 by Cookie, on Flickr

The main pool of Tinaja Blanca had some water but it wasn’t as clean looking as an upper pool. We were glad the water hadn’t dried up so much leaving the lower pool as the only option. It’s a bit of a climb to get the water from Blanca proper! So with our first full day complete we headed back for a relaxing night at camp. Next day, we would head out on the 14 mile round trip hike to The Point!

So a few thoughts on the hike out to The Point. Rough. Rocky. No trail. You really got to want this one. The rewards of making it out are breathtaking, amazing and beautiful!! There was a juvenile Buzzard perched on a rock near the edge that seemed to enjoy watching us. We wondered if it had seen people before because it had no fear. YH named him “Howard” and said “he was just chillin’ on the rim.” Added bonus was running into a small herd of horses. Can’t imagine surviving out there. They had a younger looking one, maybe born in the spring? We also noticed one was a bit lame. Probably had one of the rocks stuck in it’s hoof.

IMG-7900 by Cookie, on Flickr

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they had no idea we were up there watching
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rock cactus with flower
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7 miles back to camp
DSC05274 by Cookie, on Flickr

so many rocks :eusa_doh:
DSC05276 by Cookie, on Flickr

you can see the lights in Mexico
IMG-7914 by Cookie, on Flickr

My description later to YoungHiker on my thoughts of the trail as we hiked out: “I pictured a solid slab of rock about 6” thick covering the entire Mesa. 14 miles long x ~5 miles wide (just a guess as I hiked). Then I pictured Thor “putting the hammer down” on the Mesa and shattering all the rocks into millions of pieces and jumbling them all over the plateau. Now I had to walk on them.” I was not particularly fond of Thor as we hiked that day. Yes, we are Marvel nerds.

It was a long day and well earned. Hard to believe our time in the MDA was coming to an end. While hiking back on the Point trail, we did see some footprints that were new from the morning. When we got back to camp someone had checked out our spot and walked around the tents. Happy to say we did not actually see anyone on the trip till we made it back out to pavement. The walk out wasn’t bad and went fairly quick. We stopped at the resort in Lajitas, did laundry, took a $5 (unlimited time) shower and got ready to head back into the heart of the park for out next set of adventures.

sunrise of the last morning
DSC05280 by Cookie, on Flickr

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beautiful day to hike out
IMG-7916 by Cookie, on Flickr

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our exit from the MDA in the distance
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looking out across Lajitas
DSC05296 by Cookie, on Flickr

To be continued………..



Offline elhombre

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Re: Still new after all these years!
« Reply #2 on: December 08, 2018, 05:12:45 PM »
Link to location of the deep tinaja.  Map nerds can mark it on your own maps.  It is easy to get to from up stream.  Much, much bigger than Tinaja Blanca.

N29° 12.620' W103° 40.436',-103.67394&z=15&t=U&marker0=29.21033%2C-103.67394%2CN29%25C2%25B0%2012.620%27%20W103%25C2%25B0%2040.436%27
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Offline Txlj

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Re: Still new after all these years!
« Reply #3 on: December 08, 2018, 08:36:29 PM »
I knew there were wild burros in the park but had no idea about the horses. Thank you!

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Offline Al

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Re: Still new after all these years!
« Reply #4 on: December 09, 2018, 01:46:36 AM »
Thank you.  A great trip and report!


Offline dprather

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Re: Still new after all these years!
« Reply #5 on: December 09, 2018, 08:53:40 AM »
MdA is truly awesome.  Thanks for the pictures. 
Leave "quit" at the car.  Embrace the trail as your friend.  Expect to enjoy yourself, and to be amazed.


Offline alan in shreveport

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Re: Still new after all these years!
« Reply #6 on: December 09, 2018, 09:28:33 AM »
That the MDA was only part of your trip says alot about you all !  Wild Horses ? I thought those were long gone, that is really cool.  Great report.


Offline Flash

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Re: Still new after all these years!
« Reply #7 on: December 09, 2018, 11:36:40 AM »
Probably strays? Is the gray one a horse?

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Offline Robert

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Re: Still new after all these years!
« Reply #8 on: December 09, 2018, 09:33:35 PM »
Link to location of the deep tinaja.  Map nerds can mark it on your own maps.  It is easy to get to from up stream.  Much, much bigger than Tinaja Blanca.

I walked by that tinaja on my trip to the MDA in 2014. I looked down on it but stayed above it and dropped back down into the canyon a little ways further downstream. I ran across other water in potholes from previous rains above Largo. Good to know the tinaja is fairly deep and can hold a good amount of water. Thanks for a great trip report!


Offline Cookie

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Re: Still new after all these years!
« Reply #9 on: December 10, 2018, 09:05:42 PM »
That the MDA was only part of your trip says alot about you all !  Wild Horses ? I thought those were long gone, that is really cool.  Great report.

Probably escaped  from Mexico. We saw lots of hoof prints. I thought burros :eusa_think:
Yes, Flash, the gray one was a horse too. We think it may have had a rope with a bell on it's leg. Maybe hobbled still, it was hard to get a good look. We could hear a bell on one but after looking at the pictures we couldn't see anything around any of their necks.


Offline Cookie

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Re: Still new after all these years!
« Reply #10 on: December 10, 2018, 09:10:06 PM »
Link to location of the deep tinaja.  Map nerds can mark it on your own maps.  It is easy to get to from up stream.  Much, much bigger than Tinaja Blanca.

I walked by that tinaja on my trip to the MDA in 2014. I looked down on it but stayed above it and dropped back down into the canyon a little ways further downstream. I ran across other water in potholes from previous rains above Largo. Good to know the tinaja is fairly deep and can hold a good amount of water. Thanks for a great trip report!

MDA is an amazing place! We did time the visit knowing their had been good rain out there. We were amazed at how deep that one was. Looked like it would have water for quite a while.


Offline Cookie

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Re: Still new after all these years!
« Reply #11 on: December 11, 2018, 05:32:08 PM »
The next part of our adventure starts with car camping in the backcountry.  Here is what we had planned:
-Explore the area on the east side of Chilicotal. From the road you could see a big canyon. El Hombre had hiked the upper part and looked down into it but we wanted to try and find a way up      the canyon
-Explore Rosillos mountains.
-Climb Nugent then head to Boquillas to show YoungHiker the town.

This would wrap up our time in the desert. The last 2 nights would be spent on the Rim. I was pleasantly surprised by the minimal amount of toilet paper around the campsite.

This day hike around Chilicotal would be nice because we were doing a loop around the east edge then  hiking back to Rice Tank. We followed the old road on the north side of the tank and then walked down one of the drainages. There were several smaller canyons to explore. Also some really neat rock formations. We hiked up above the north ridge leading into the big canyon. It looked pretty overgrown going up to the top of it. We also saw a nice rappal opportunity on the other side. We wandered around the ridge and made our way back to the car.

DSC05297 by Cookie, on Flickr

DSC05298 by Cookie, on Flickr

climbing up one of the side canyons
DSC05302 by Cookie, on Flickr

looking south towards the main canyon
DSC05303 by Cookie, on Flickr

looking back north towards Nugent. You can just make out YH turquoise shirt in the middle
DSC05304 by Cookie, on Flickr

some water :icon_eek:
DSC05307 by Cookie, on Flickr

side canyon
DSC05309 by Cookie, on Flickr

DSC05311 by Cookie, on Flickr

DSC05312 by Cookie, on Flickr

checking out the main canyon from the north ridge
DSC05314 by Cookie, on Flickr

looking to the south
DSC05316 by Cookie, on Flickr

IMG-7921 by Cookie, on Flickr

anyone know the plant and the insect? We called it honeysuckle and a "birdmoth"
DSC05317 by Cookie, on Flickr

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possible rappel across the canyon :eusa_think:
DSC05327 by Cookie, on Flickr

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nice view of Nugent heading back to camp
DSC05337 by Cookie, on Flickr

Rice Tank down at the bottom
DSC05338 by Cookie, on Flickr

DSC05340 by Cookie, on Flickr

nice sunset that evening
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« Last Edit: December 11, 2018, 07:06:48 PM by Cookie »


Offline Cookie

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Re: Still new after all these years!
« Reply #12 on: December 11, 2018, 05:54:40 PM »
The next day we would be heading to the Rosillos Mountains. We had been talking for years about checking out this area and were even hoping to see some Elk on the summit of the peak. The morning was extremely foggy and the Chisos were socked in.

IMG-7927 by Cookie, on Flickr

leaving the campsite I took this picture. So sad to see the wall collapsed. Erosion or idiots?
DSC05347 by Cookie, on Flickr

As we approached the Rosillos we couldn’t see the top of anything in the area.

DSC05349 by Cookie, on Flickr

We hoped the fog would lift as the morning went on. We parked at the gate and headed up to the old house. We asked the rangers when the last time anyone had lived there and they thought maybe sometime in the 1980’s. It was pretty fancy for what you normally see out in Big Bend for old houses. We walked up the hill from the house heading for a way up the mountain. The fog was still trying to hold on and we didn’t think we would summit today.

DSC05350 by Cookie, on Flickr

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still not sure how YH spotted this little guy. thought it was a frog at first but decided on grasshopper? best camouflage ever!
DSC05359 by Cookie, on Flickr

Great views with a mountain just waiting to be time
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Picture of a pour off that may need to be descended??   Hehehehe
DSC05378 by Cookie, on Flickr

We opted to hike along the bottom and scout out some areas to camp in, and then head to the spring. Buttrell spring could be seen from the gate with some nice trees.

DSC05380 by Cookie, on Flickr

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 ElHombre hiked down into the wash while YH and myself stayed on the upper ridge heading down stream. I’m glad we stayed out of the spring area as ElHombre found tons of poison ivy. I am extremely allergic and not to long ago got into some when we explored a spring off of Juniper canyon road. Within a few days I was breaking out in a rash and we had to leave early. We met back up at the beginning of the spring and hiked back on the old road. Definitely a place to go back to and some great peaks to summit.

DSC05392 by Cookie, on Flickr

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We headed back to camp for another beautiful evening in the desert.

DSC05396 by Cookie, on Flickr

also getting ready for the full moon
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was entertained by this.....passed by going west.....then came back by heading east...........
IMG-7964 by Cookie, on Flickr

guess as the roads continue to improve we will see more of this :icon_rolleyes:
DSC05412 by Cookie, on Flickr

« Last Edit: December 11, 2018, 07:08:38 PM by Cookie »


Offline Cookie

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Re: Still new after all these years!
« Reply #13 on: December 11, 2018, 06:14:07 PM »
Thanksgiving day! We thought we would celebrate by climbing Nugent then heading to Boquillas. We drove over to the pull out just past Pine Canyon 1 and started the uphill climb. After just over an hour we were on the top enjoying the views. I took some scouting photos of Crown Mountain which is on our short list of summits to conquer. After about 30 minutes on top we headed down. We noticed a big flat bed tow truck driving up Pine Canyon road as we were coming down. We had already noticed a car pulled over just before PC3. Sure enough the truck stopped right before it. Bad day in the desert!  We caught up to them as we got to pavement off Glen Springs Rd.

view from on top of Nugent
DSC05419 by Cookie, on Flickr

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IMG-7972 by Cookie, on Flickr

So we were off to Boquillas. YH had never been out of the country so this would be the first time she would get to use her passport. ElH and myself had not been since probably the spring of 2001. Not a lot had changed. We did opt for the burro ride into town with our “guide”. Bar and restaurant were the same. Surprised by all the same items for sale in front of almost all the houses on the main road. Lots of embroidered cloth decorated with chickens, burros and “NO WALL” slogans. We had a beer at the bar and chatted with a few locals. We saw the very faded picture of Juan Valdez on the wall (same one from our last visit, I think) and commented on meeting him to the bartender. He told us that was his uncle and asked if we ever took a picture with him. He laughed remembering how Juan would always try and get money for having a picture with him. We just remembered his feet were so calloused because he never wore shoes.  We wandered around for a bit then saddled up and headed back to the river. We were amazed by the set up and the exchange of money going on. When we payed for the burros they split our money up between several people. When we tipped our “guide” he immediately gave it to another guy. Guess we should have tipped him back in town so he could have kept it.

IMG-7973 by Cookie, on Flickr

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Getting back was easy with no big lines. YH got the most questions. Where she went to school, how old she was, what grade, first time in Mexico and several more. We debated going to the hot springs but wasn’t really in the mood for a crowd, and we were hoping to get some of our backpacking stuff organized for our trip to the rim in the morning. We also had our Thanksgiving feast of cheeseburgers to cook up. Not the most traditional Thanksgiving, but a memorable one!

IMG-8005 by Cookie, on Flickr

We were up and packing the next morning. We had a great breakfast of bacon and egg tacos. We enjoyed the view of the Chisos looking at where we would be sitting that evening, looking back this way. We packed up the backpacks so we could park and hit the trail. The Basin was crazy. When we got on the trail, we carried on the tradition of picking numbers for “how many people will we see today” game. I picked 83, YH had 75, and ElHombre had 100.

DSC05425 by Cookie, on Flickr

The numbers began to grow as we went up Pinnacles. We met a nice couple almost at the top who were hiking the OML for their first visit. We wished them luck. I noticed she had on trail runners-hope her feet held up. The top of pinnacles was a zoo. People everywhere, a bit of of overload after being rather secluded all week. We headed to Boot Spring and the cabin so we could enjoy lunch and get some water for the rest of the trip. We spent quite a bit of time just hanging out (and counting hikers). 100 people went by just in the time we spent at Boot. Crazy! By mid-afternoon we were heading up the canyon for SE2. We stopped to admire the view at the rim and then on to the campsite. This one isn’t bad with multiple options for tents. The site holds up to 6 people but only has one small bear box. All our food for our 2 nighter barely fit in it. I can’t imagine trying to get food for 2/nights and 6 people in there.

DSC05427 by Cookie, on Flickr

There are some neat rocks near the campsite and I was able to barely get signal there. I usually don’t even try but we knew some rain might be moving in and I wanted an update. Saturday still looked good but it would be windy and the rain chances were increasing for our hike out on Sunday. We found some rocks to sit on at the Rim and took in the sunset. Never gets old up there.

DSC05428 by Cookie, on Flickr

DSC05429 by Cookie, on Flickr

The plan for Saturday was to hike around the Rim to the NE trail and back to boot for some water. Hang out there a bit then head back to camp. We didn’t see anyone staying at SE3, our original planned campsite, and thought how annoying it would be if it was open because they were saving it for some big group that never showed up. It didn’t seem as busy today and we enjoyed the hike.

DSC05435 by Cookie, on Flickr

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two bucks playing around
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We decided to spend the evening and catch the sunset from our favorite spot near SE3. So we hiked over, about 15 minutes, and stopped at the big ledge. There was a solo hiker, Joe from Houston via Minnesota, hanging out in his chair. We started chatting with him and asked where he was staying. Yup, you guessed it SE3.  Solo hiker. He got it on Thursday and had his first night over in Laguna Meadow. All we could do was laugh! Stupid Park Overlords!  Pretty much screwed us there.  We invited him to our favorite ledge that gives views all the way down the south rim and out to Crown looking east.
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IMG-8037 by Cookie, on Flickr

IMG-8038 by Cookie, on Flickr

The wind had really been picking up so went back over to the rocks near SE3 to get out of it. Just as it was getting dark a group of about 4 guys came hiking by. We exchanged greetings with them and asked them where they were staying.  They said SE2. We told them we were at SE2. Thought we were going to have a major problem. We started pulling permits out, and lucky for them discovered they were mistaken, and actually at SE4. They were very happy they didn’t have to hike all the way to SE2 just to turn around and come back. Joe had headed to camp to set up his tent and we decided to head to camp for our last night of the trip. We did have some protection from the wind. I thought maybe it would lie down once it got dark, but this was a front coming in and it blew 20-25 MPH all night long. It was so windy in the morning we didn’t even bother with the stove and our breakfast skillet burrito. We choked down a Cliff bar, packed up the bags and set off for the car. The temps had dropped and we stayed in layers until we were about halfway down Pinnacles.

DSC05445 by Cookie, on Flickr

rain in the Quemadas
DSC05447 by Cookie, on Flickr

almost stepped on this guy in the middle of the trail
DSC05448 by Cookie, on Flickr

trees just starting to turn in Boot Canyon. They were greener just a few days before
DSC05449 by Cookie, on Flickr

another good find by ElHombre
DSC05451 by Cookie, on Flickr

cool Madrone tree (photo credit to YoungHiker for these great shots)
DSC05452 by Cookie, on Flickr

DSC05453 by Cookie, on Flickr

last minutes before having to return to civilization
DSC05454 - Copy (2) by Cookie, on Flickr

Another great trip for the books! Lots of new hikes, sights and experiences. Can’t wait for the next one!

« Last Edit: December 11, 2018, 06:31:44 PM by Cookie »


Offline Jalco

  • Mountain Lion
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Re: Still new after all these years!
« Reply #14 on: December 11, 2018, 06:26:11 PM »
Always a pleasure to read you reports, Cookie.  Thanks!



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