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Trip Report Mule Ears

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Offline billh

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Trip Report Mule Ears
« on: February 25, 2008, 08:48:57 AM »
Trip Report

Short Trip to Big Bend. My friend Jim was in BB for a Bike race, so Scott and I rushed down for a short 2 day backpack. We wanted to get to as remote an area as possible in a short time. After some killer sandwiches at a deli in Study Butte, we elected to camp at Mule Ears and day hike. We hiked in Friday, arriving about 5:00. We were thrilled the full moon is rising a bit later, so we had a great view of the stars, including some shooting stars. Later, the full moon came up and it was one of those great desert evenings. It was cool, not too cold. We were camped on a hill and could watch the moonlight as it made it’s way across the broad wash in front of us. The moonlight was bright enough to leave shadows. Beautiful. Mule Ears Springs were running very full and full of leopard frogs. We debated what to do the next day and elected to continue hiking the mule ears trail. Our friend developed a pretty nasty cold and elected to rest in the camp.  It is about 1 ? miles, before it drops down several hundred feet to the Smokey Creek Drainage.

 We decided to hike to the Smokey Spring, which neither of us had ever been to. At the point that the trail drops into the drainage, there are large cairns, The USGS is Wrong, as has been pointed out on other threads, and in fact drops down into the drainage, south of the peak 3410. The topo shows a trail headed south through the drainages, meeting another wash headed back north towards the Spring. We considered heading straight towards the Spring, which according to the map is pretty much due East from the point that the Mule Ears trail enters the drainage. We climbed out of the wash, but it is very thorny of course and it’s hard to know how many of those washes cut through the drainage, and those can have 5 or 6 foot sandy banks. So, we followed the ‘trail’. As far as we could tell there is no trail. We never saw a cairn or sign, but we followed the drainage south, passing by the bottom of Mule Ears Peaks, which are really impressive. There’s great views of the Sierra Quemada too.

The trail is open and it was pretty hot, so we began wondering if we just turn around. The topo show the trail to go through a narrowing of the drainage, so we headed to that spot. In fact there’s a spring showing on the place where the trail is supposed to head back North, to the West of a peak marked 2946. We could see at least one pretty big tree. As we neared this spot, we could see damp earth and soon, a spring was seeping out of the sand. Eventually it was running and dropping over a very pretty rock face, creating very pretty pools. We sat and ate lunch there, exquisite. We explored down stream and the water fell over a six foot rock face, a really pretty fall, creating a shallow pool at the bottom. There was plenty of water. We rested there for quite a while. This was worth the price of the hike. We saw no foot prints or signs of people, although animals had been digging in the sand for water. In fact we saw no one from Thursday Afternoon, until Sunday morning as we climbed up that final hill at the trailhead parking area.

Both my friend and I commented on how often these hikes to areas we know nothing about wind up being really delightful. We turned around and got back to campsite about dark. My friends had a small tent and a tarp, but I slept out in the open both nights. I loved waking up and seeing the moonlit desert mountains surrounding us. We broke camp the next morning and decided we had time for one short hike. So, we did a quick trip into Cat tail. The NPS has put a beautiful new sign there at the Marker tree, with the warnings about the sensitive nature of the place. We had lunch in the Canyon and hiked out. There is a Pitaya, on the trail, someone has protected with a circle of rocks and it was beginning to bloom. We also saw an occasional bluebonnet and one or two yuccas in bloom.

The springs at Mule Ears were running great and ran several hundred yards into the desert. I sat each morning and read a Psalm. I could hear the springs running over the rocks below. Appropriately my Psalm Sunday morning was Psalm 74

15 It was you who opened up springs and streams;
       you dried up the ever flowing rivers.
 16 The day is yours, and yours also the night;
       you established the sun and moon.
 17 It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth;
       you made both summer and winter.

There sitting and watching the light as it illuminated Santa Elena Canyon many miles away, I thought that must be true.

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Offline Robert

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Re: Trip Report Mule Ears
« Reply #1 on: February 25, 2008, 09:37:18 AM »
Great report Bill. For future reference, you can easily hike cross county to Smokey Spring. The worse part is cutting across the braided washes of the creek once you split off of the trail. After that, the vegetation isn't quite as dense. Head toward the left of the "sphinx" looking rock and keep bearing left. A compass or GPS will keep you from straying too far south.

I think you found a better spring to visit than Smokey as I never thought this was as pretty a spring as the many others we've run across.

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Offline billh

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Re: Trip Report Mule Ears
« Reply #2 on: February 25, 2008, 09:56:45 AM »
Thanks. I think WWG has mentioned that the Spring isnt' that reliable. As you are standing at the cairns in the Drainage, looking East, there are two visible cuts or canyons. One is very dramatic, but doesn't show a spring, the other looks to be more of an open canyon. Do you know, is it possible to navigate that canyon into the Sierra Quemada?

The spring we saw had enough water, so it seemed like a spring that might be reliable, however There was very few trees, no cottonwoods or willows. It was really open, which I thought was interesting. There was some really long grass at the 6 foot pour off though. Lots of bugs, no minnows. All in all we concluded this probably doesn't run all the time. The water disappeared into the sand again after a few hundred yards.

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Offline dkerr24

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Re: Trip Report Mule Ears
« Reply #3 on: February 25, 2008, 10:00:35 AM »
Thanks for that trip report, Bill ...  When I was in BIBE a few weeks ago, the wife and I stopped at Mule Ears and went down the trail a few hundred yards.  Wish now we had hiked further.  Oh well, something to plan for a future trip :)

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Offline homerboy2u

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Re: Trip Report Mule Ears
« Reply #4 on: February 25, 2008, 10:18:26 AM »
Great to read your TR, and good to see you once again....Mr. Abogado
Stay thirsty, my friends.

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Offline RichardM

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Re: Trip Report Mule Ears
« Reply #5 on: February 25, 2008, 10:47:59 AM »
Great report, got any pics?

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Offline Robert

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Re: Trip Report Mule Ears
« Reply #6 on: February 25, 2008, 11:12:57 AM »
Bill,

This picture is from the top of the big canyon just below point 3805 and to the north and east of Mule Ears. I'm not sure if this is the one you saw as much of the view from your perspective would have been blocked.



We came down this way after leaving the Smokey Creek trail back upstream coming via Dodson. But I would not recommend ascending this canyon as you would not have visibility to where to go. Not that is was easy coming down either. For more details, check my trip report.

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Offline billh

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Re: Trip Report Mule Ears
« Reply #7 on: February 25, 2008, 11:34:53 AM »
I don't have pics yet, I shoot film so I haven't developed yet. My buddy took most of the pics on his digital, when he posts them, I'll provide the link.

robert, I bet that is the canyon I'm thinking of. I remember your trip report, i think. This is the drainage you come out of if you don't go through the Black rock, described so well by WWG, right? Also, the rock where the springs were, reminded me of that black rock, very colorful, with small pockets of crystals.

My friend had just seen Dominguez Spring the week before and said this spring was much bigger flow.

gracias Homer, Yo soy un abogado del camino desierto.


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Offline badknees

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Re: Trip Report Mule Ears
« Reply #8 on: February 25, 2008, 11:41:57 AM »
Bill,

This picture is from the top of the big canyon just below point 3805 and to the north and east of Mule Ears. I'm not sure if this is the one you saw as much of the view from your perspective would have been blocked.



We came down this way after leaving the Smokey Creek trail back upstream coming via Dodson. But I would not recommend ascending this canyon as you would not have visibility to where to go. Not that is was easy coming down either. For more details, check my trip report.


I think Bill was too far south to see this one. He was probably looking back towards San Jacinto Spring (open canyon) and Smoky Spring (more dramatic)
« Last Edit: February 25, 2008, 11:43:38 AM by badknees »
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Offline billh

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Re: Trip Report Mule Ears
« Reply #9 on: February 25, 2008, 12:08:03 PM »
Is this the canyon that skirts the peak 4606 on the Topo, where, the Smokey Creek Trail goes over into the Black Rock Canyon, but Robert, you continued on, dropping down into the drainage. As I recall, you said this was difficult and you wondered about how hard it would have been to ascend, if you had gotten into a drop off and couldn't go through.

So, when you are at the intersection of smokey Creek and mule ears trails looking east, there is a dramatic canyon cut in the desert wall. I was concluding is the unnamed canyon you are that is the one the picture is taken from. It looked like both San Jacinto and smokey were in the larger looking Canyon South.

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Offline badknees

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Re: Trip Report Mule Ears
« Reply #10 on: February 25, 2008, 12:28:27 PM »
Is this the canyon that skirts the peak 4606 on the Topo, where, the Smokey Creek Trail goes over into the Black Rock Canyon, but Robert, you continued on, dropping down into the drainage. As I recall, you said this was difficult and you wondered about how hard it would have been to ascend, if you had gotten into a drop off and couldn't go through.

So, when you are at the intersection of smokey Creek and mule ears trails looking east, there is a dramatic canyon cut in the desert wall. I was concluding is the unnamed canyon you are that is the one the picture is taken from. It looked like both San Jacinto and smokey were in the larger looking Canyon South.

Bill,

I misunderstood you. I thought you were looking east from the unamed spring south of Mule Ears. If you look e-n-east from the intersection of Mule Ears and Smoky Creek trails, the slot you were looking at was indeed the one in Robert's photo. The other one was Smoky Spring.

Not all those who wander are lost.
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Offline Robert

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Re: Trip Report Mule Ears
« Reply #11 on: February 25, 2008, 01:35:17 PM »
Quote
Is this the canyon that skirts the peak 4606 on the Topo, where, the Smokey Creek Trail goes over into the Black Rock Canyon, but Robert, you continued on, dropping down into the drainage.

Yes, this is it. While we had a great view of Mule Ears from the top there is no great "window" view looking back up from the Mule Ears side. As a matter of fact, prior to this trip, I never noticed it from down in the valley.

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Offline chuckyd

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Re: Trip Report Mule Ears
« Reply #12 on: February 25, 2008, 09:29:30 PM »
Thanks for sharing... :icon_smile:

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Offline TheWildWestGuy

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Re: Trip Report Mule Ears
« Reply #13 on: February 26, 2008, 07:17:58 AM »
Thanks for the trip report Billh - it sounds like you made it all the way to Smokey Spring.  If so you probably saw the remains of a stone cabin on the WNW side of the canyon.   You are right there is no trail - the one marked on the maps must have been from the 1970's because all that is left of it are a few scattered fragments and cairns - nothing you can follow for very far.
You can keep going up-canyon from Smokey Spring and this is a very interesting place to either dayhike in or through-hike over "Jacks Pass" to Dominquez Springs.   About 1/2 mile up canyon from Smokey Spring is a place you have to fight your way through thick brush but other than that it's fairly easy hiking until you climb out of the canyon and over Jacks Pass.   There are a few small pour-off's that you can climb around but other than that the arroyo is ~open and easy hiking most of the time (no shade or water though).   You will feel like the last person left on Earth in this area and you will see no bootprints or signs of human intrusion.  This is best done as a cool-season hike because there are no reliable tinaja's or springs between Smokey Spring and Dominquez Spring and Smokey itself can go dry during drought years... TWWG

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Offline billh

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Re: Trip Report Mule Ears
« Reply #14 on: February 26, 2008, 07:54:21 AM »
Actually WWG, I don't think we made it to Smokey Spring, what I'm describing is the point where I think the map shows the "trail" heading back North. We followed the drainage to the point where the drainage narrows. There's another drainage to the East, which heads back North/NE from that point, which I think is the route to Smokey Spring. If you keep hiking south though, you hit the spring I'm describing. Very pretty. Looks like it's not too much further to hit the river road.

That hike over to Dominguez Springs from Smokey looks great.

I'm really intrigued to go back to this area next time in the park.

 


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