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We will never go to Big Bend over Thanksgiving!

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Offline Cookie

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We will never go to Big Bend over Thanksgiving!
« on: December 28, 2011, 11:17:59 AM »
Yes, that's what we have always said! We will never go to Big Bend over Thanksgiving OR Spring Break. Since we had homeschooled for the past few years with our daughter, Hiker, it was never a problem to go when no one else was going. This year she is in school, so without many options of getting a trip in to Big Bend, we decided to bite the bullet and go for Thanksgiving break. We did pull her out of school the week before so we could beat the crowds and get our permits. Her teacher was very excited for her and couldn't wait to hear about the trip when we got back. I will say we were pleasantly surprised and had a wonderful time. The only "crowds" we ran into were several troops of boyscouts at the hot springs, and a long line for showers at Rio Grande Village the Monday before Thanksgiving. We had  a few plans for this trip:
Climb Goat Mtn and Nugent Mtn.
backpack 3 nights to Tortuga/Elephant Tusk zone camp
visit the Castalon cemetery

Here's the breakdown of where we stayed:
Nights 1-3: car camped at Rice Tank
Nights 4-7: backpacked to Tortuga and set up base camp for 3 nights
Nights 8-11: car camped Pine Canyon #4

We arrived after lunch on November 15th after an uneventful drive out. The front gate was unmanned as we cruised into the park. We took that as a good sign that the rush had not started yet. I was very happy to see our favorite ranger, Mark, at the front desk working. He has always been very helpful, and after being in the park for over 20 years, he knows his stuff and is less likely to give us the standard answers when asking about spring flows in the desert.

We opted for Rice Tank for the first leg of the trip. Since it had been changed to a single site we thought it would be nice to stay there, especially since it is a quick drive to the main road. As always we had great views of the Chisos. Unfortunately there was still lots of signs of other campers there. As you walked around the site you could easily pick out the TP in various locations. Why people can't pack it out I will never understand :pissed:

We had a restful night and decided to hit Goat Mtn to get our legs warmed up for the trip. Our daughter was busy the day before making a small meteor crater, about 12" across, with some charcoal dust for dramatic effect. We had seen the sign for the Sierra Madera Astrobleme driving down 385  just south of Ft Stockton. We had noticed the sign many times driving into the park and finally looked up what an "astrobleme" was. More on the Sierra Madera astrobleme can be found here http://ceed.utpb.edu/geology-resources/west-texas-geology/sierra-madera-astrobleme/ As we headed out to the west side of the park I realize I had not put the permit out. In the 10+ years of going to the park that was the first time I had forgotten to put out the permit.  I would get it out when we got back. We had decided to attempt Goat starting at the Sotol Vista parking lot.



We had read about others hiking up north side closer to The Chimney's trail head, but we thought we would give it a shot. We had a later start than we had hoped, but were feeling good. The first thing we noticed was how incredibly dry and crispy everything was. The Lechugia was dead all the way through the root and you could just kick it out of the way. It made for some easy cross country bushwacking. It was great to be back in the park again and we enjoyed the afternoon as it slipped by. By 4pm we realized we were not going to be making the summit. Our family climbing motto is "Getting to the top is optional, getting down is mandatory". We didn't want to run out of daylight so we headed back to the car. I had one good slip on some loose rock and landed right on my elbow. Not fun because it was the same elbow I had ripped a tendon on last march. I couldn't hold the trekking pole on the way back to the car, but it was doing better by the next day.

Big Bend Millipede




When we got back to the tent, the first thing I did was attach the permit to the bottom of the camp marker and stick a rock on it. About this time El Hombre yells out, "Hey, I think we got a ticket!" Turn out it was a warning from a volunteer that had been at our site. He had referenced the "permit at site" warning, and "no campfires" warning, which we could not figure out. We have NEVER had a campfire in Big Bend. We were puzzled for a while until I remember Hiker's astrobleme. They had thought the little dug out hole with the charcoal bits was a fire! When I went over to where it was, they had even filled it in. We got a chuckle out of that, although Hiker was mad they had destroyed her hard work.

The next day we planned to take on Nugent Mountain! El Hombre had summited this one several times, but it's one I had always wanted to do. We parked at the little pull off just past Pine Canyon #1, and started climbing straight up. It took us about 1 1/2 hours to reach the summit, and I can say I was not disappointed! WOW!! Absolutely amazing views.







the bowl on top near the summit




We enjoyed our time on top, the views and the quiet. After a quick trip to the Hot Springs, we were back at camp with enough light to start packing up for our backpacking trip the next day. We would be parking at the Juniper Canyon Trailhead, hiking down the Dodson Trail to Fresno, then heading down the creek to a spot we had stayed at last February near the Waterworks. Our plan was to stay there for 3 nights, day hiking down the Waterworks to Fresno Spring, climbing Tortuga Mountain, and seeing what else we could find in the area.

 ....to be continued

~Cookie



« Last Edit: December 28, 2011, 12:08:04 PM by Cookie »

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Offline dkerr24

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Re: We will never go to Big Bend over Thanksgiving!
« Reply #1 on: December 29, 2011, 02:54:21 PM »
Awesome photos of some spots that aren't commonly visited.  Thanks for sharing!

Darin

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Offline RichardM

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Re: We will never go to Big Bend over Thanksgiving!
« Reply #2 on: December 29, 2011, 03:58:57 PM »
The only "crowds" we ran into were ... a long line for showers at Rio Grande Village the Monday before Thanksgiving.
I'm betting we either crossed paths in the parking lot there or just missed each other. Looking forward to the rest of the report.

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Offline Robert

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Re: We will never go to Big Bend over Thanksgiving!
« Reply #3 on: December 29, 2011, 07:28:47 PM »
Thanks for the pictures from on top of Nugent. When I was a kid I always thought of climbing it some day.

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Offline Cookie

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Re: We will never go to Big Bend over Thanksgiving!
« Reply #4 on: December 30, 2011, 10:19:17 AM »
Thanks for the pictures from on top of Nugent. When I was a kid I always thought of climbing it some day.
I highly recommend it if you haven't been up there. With out a seven year old in tow you could probably get to the top in about an hour.

The only "crowds" we ran into were ... a long line for showers at Rio Grande Village the Monday before Thanksgiving.
I'm betting we either crossed paths in the parking lot there or just missed each other. Looking forward to the rest of the report.
The people watching was quite entertaining! I spent Thanksgiving day hanging in the basin while El Hombre and Hiker climbed Emeroy Peak. I was wondering how many "benders" I was observing that day.

Plan to finish up the report this weekend.

~Cookie

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Offline Homer67

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Re: We will never go to Big Bend over Thanksgiving!
« Reply #5 on: December 30, 2011, 10:29:07 AM »
I like the photo with the bunchgrass, with Santa Elena in the background.  Nice! 

I dig the bunchgrasses, I do not know why.
Ah Big Bend, we will soon return to reacquaint ourselves in our ritual of blood, exhaustion and dehydration. How can we resist the temptation to strip ourselves of the maladies of civilization?

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Offline Cookie

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Re: We will never go to Big Bend over Thanksgiving!
« Reply #6 on: December 30, 2011, 02:42:24 PM »
I like the photo with the bunchgrass, with Santa Elena in the background.  Nice! 

I dig the bunchgrasses, I do not know why.

It is pretty cool looking. When we were at the Castalon ranger station I saw an old picture of a farmer in Big Bend with his donkey loaded down with the stuff, they referred to it as "Chino grass".

~Cookie

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Offline peregrine

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Re: We will never go to Big Bend over Thanksgiving!
« Reply #7 on: December 30, 2011, 11:22:58 PM »
Wow, Nugent Mountain looks like a GREAT spot.  Putting that on the list for next time... :crossedfingers:

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Offline Cookie

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Re: We will never go to Big Bend over Thanksgiving!
« Reply #8 on: January 07, 2012, 04:20:44 PM »
So I spent the morning today finishing up the trip report and right before I was done I accidentally  closed the browser. OUCH! So here it goes for the second time....
Nights 4-6:
With our backpacks ready to go we broke camp and headed up to Juniper Canyon TH. We were very happy to see the bear boxes. We stashed some extra water in the box to keep desperate hikers from trying to get into our car and headed down the Dodson. Our plan was to check out Dodson spring then head down to Fresno Creek and follow the wash to where it meets the ET trail again. We would stay at the same site we stayed last February with my brother-in-law on our big loop through the Quemada's.
We made it to the Dodson in about 2 hours. the spring near the trail had water but was very green.



After a short lunch we were off to Fresno Creek. It was the least amount of water I had ever seen, but there was still water. We thought it would be easier to hike down the wash rather than hike up to the ET trail. We found water for about 30 minutes as we hiked down. We never came across any big pour offs or obstacles, and only came across one area of thick brush.


We ended up putting in just over 6 hours to make it to our campsite, about a 30 minute walk from the waterworks. Hiker had been fighting a cough for the last week but seemed to be holding up well. It was great to be back in the heart of Big Bend and we relaxed and watched the sun set on our first night. The next day we planned to hike up the drainage in between Tortuga and pt. 4455 to see if we could find a quicker way out.  We made it up the drainage in about an hour, and only had to climb out of it one time to avoid a thick growth of cat claw. We were thrilled the hike out in a few days would be much shorter.

Now we had Tortuga in our sights. We decided to ascend from the north side and possibly descend down the east side. the hike up was not too steep and we were rewarded with some truly amazing views.



We thought we would try the east side, and there were some amazing rock formations, very similar to Grapevine hills and balanced rock. I don't think I have seen anything like it in this area.

It also reminded us of Enchanted rock. There even looked like a few good campsites nestled in the rocks. We had to really pick our way down the very steep slope to make it down to the wash. In hind site it would have been easier to go back the way we came up, but it made for an adventurous afternoon.
We found a good water source about 10 minutes from our campsite. There were even fresh hoof prints in the mud around the water, wild burros maybe??
Hiker found a neat skull near one of the springs


 As evening came both El Hombre and myself started feeling bad. I think we were catching the cold Hiker had been fighting the last week. She was still doing good, hadn't complained once the entire trip, even with her coughing.

Our day 2 plan was to hike down the waterworks, if possible, then hike down to Fresno spring  and find the big palm tree. After about a 30 minute hike we came to the Waterworks. We had been there in February and the change was drastic. Before there had been a waterfall on the first pool, and we hadn't been able to hike down very far before the water stopped us.

Feb 2011:
 

Dec 2011:



Hiker & El Hombre had scouted down the waterworks and said we could make it all the way through. We slid down the first big pour off and headed down. There were a few tricky/slippery spots, but we made it down. Here was one near the end.


We could see the high clouds coming in and knew there would be a change in the weather soon. Hopefully it would wait till we hiked out. We had not seen anyone since the night before we left. We decided to make a wager on how many people we would see before we got back to the car. Hiker said 2, I said 5, and El Hombre said 10. We were all wrong. We didn't see anyone else until we headed to RGV the day we hiked out :eusa_dance:



We found water sporadic water as we got closer to Fresno spring. We found the big palm tree, looking a bit crispy.



found this near one of the dried springs


We found a great side canyon up from Fresno. It would be a great spot to practice climbing with some ropes. Hiker had a great time climbing.



We decided to head back up the waterworks to our campsite. As the day went on, El Hombre and I were feeling worse and worse. I was glad we were hiking out the next day. We hadn't been sleeping well, which didn't help things. the climb up the water works was a good one. We (Me & Hiker) had to use a rope to get up the last pour off.


We headed back to camp to enjoy our last sunset.


We spent one more sleepless night and woke to lots of low clouds. Hiker seemed much better, but we were feeling worse. We quickly packed up and headed out and took one more picture of the campsite before leaving.



We made it back to the car in 3 1/2 hours! We had Pine Canyon 4 for the next 3 nights, so we headed over to set up camp. When we got there the wind had been picking up so we decided to set up camp when we got back from the Hot Springs and  a SHOWER! We hit the hot springs just right and it wasn't crowded for a while. By about 4 it was filling up with tons of boy scouts so we headed to RGV for a much needed shower and some food. I guess everyone else had the same idea. The line was long so we put it off for one more day. It had been a week, what was one more day right :eusa_doh:?
Hiker had been asking about going to Boquillas Canyon to sand surf. So we thought we would have an easy day. There was a horse trailer in the parking lot and some a ranger was getting his horse ready to go out. As we got closer to the canyon we saw an amazing pinto horse grazing on the US side. We stopped to watch him for a bit, then continued to the sand surfing. Hiker had a great time and was completely covered in sand when we finished. I hoped there would not be a line this time for the showers. We met some folks as we were leaving the sand and they said the ranger had come in and roped the horse and took him away. We saw Victor as we were leaving and asked him about the horse. He said it was a Mexican horse that kept crossing the river looking for better grass. He also said the owner wouldn't get it back, that the rangers usually sold off the mexican horses that came across. He said it was really sad for the horses owner. We agreed, and this horse was a beauty too. By the time we got back the trailer was gone. We headed to RGV for a picnic lunch, and finally, showers.

The next day we headed to Castalon. We wanted to find some ruins down River Rd and also I wanted to check out the cemetery near the Castalon Ranger station. We had a bit of trouble finding the ruins. After hiking around a bit a few miles down river road we gave up and were driving out. Then we saw the ruins. We had missed it by one wash. We hiked in and found a really neat ruin. All the rock in the area was a red pumice rock and they had used it for the corral and part of the house.




Next we headed to Castalon and hiked to the cemetery. El Hombre had been here twice before. It was a very short hike from the ranger station. We counter over 70 graves here.


the ranger station can be seen in the background here


We enjoyed the drive back to the campsite. The next day was Thanksgiving. El Hombre and I were still feeling pretty bad and talked about heading home early. We decided to stick it out one more day. We decided to head up to the basin the next day, possible climb Emory peak if we were feeling better. Hiker was doing much better and really wanted to try out the new route to the top.

Thanksgiving day! This was the first Thanksgiving I had not been with extended family, but I couldn't think of a better place to be. My sinuses were worse so I opted not to climb, but El Hombre & Hiker were deteremined to make it to the top. I spent the afternoon hanging at the basin people watching. It made for a very entertaining afternoon. the most interesting thing was watching the rangers try and chase a bear out of the parking lot. It may have been the same one Mule Ears saw eyeing the salad bar. He was a smart bear, and seemed to be running the rangers in circles. they tried yelling, clapping, bear spray, and finally shot at him. This went on for over and hour until he finally left.




Hiker & El Hombre's reward for their climb


We celebrated Thanksgiving by making cheeseburgers back at the camp. The Thanksgiving spread at the basin Lodge was tempting, but we didn't want to spend $60 on lunch. The burgers were great and we enjoyed our last night in the Bend. It took me & El Hombre about a week to get over our sinus/colds/cough but we were so glad we didn't leave early. It had been another amazing trip to Big Bend. Hiker continues to amaze us with her love of hiking and willingness to go cross country. We were pleased that the park had not been to crowded and we had decided to give it a chance! I still don't think we will be there for spring break, but you never know!

~Cookie









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Offline fartymarty

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Re: We will never go to Big Bend over Thanksgiving!
« Reply #9 on: January 07, 2012, 04:35:17 PM »
  :eusa_clap:  :eusa_clap: :eusa_clap: :eusa_clap:

The applause is not only for the pictures and the TR, but also for the amount and quality of the
hiking you all did while ill.  :eusa_sick:
Fort Worth

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Offline kevint

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Re: We will never go to Big Bend over Thanksgiving!
« Reply #10 on: January 07, 2012, 05:00:16 PM »
Thanks for the link on the astrobleme in the original post.  I had been wondering.
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Offline mule ears

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Re: We will never go to Big Bend over Thanksgiving!
« Reply #11 on: January 07, 2012, 05:34:05 PM »
Great job Cookie!  It is amazing the change in the water works over the year.

Thanks.
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Offline TexasAggieHiker

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Re: We will never go to Big Bend over Thanksgiving!
« Reply #12 on: January 07, 2012, 06:14:51 PM »
I have a feeling that bear isn't in the park anymore.  A Ranger told me that right before Christmas, they had to "remove" a bear that had become too much of a nuisance.  It had broke in to a cabin and car.  First time the park has had to do that with a problem bear.  Probably the same one.

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Offline Flash

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Re: We will never go to Big Bend over Thanksgiving!
« Reply #13 on: January 07, 2012, 06:28:24 PM »
I have a feeling that bear isn't in the park anymore.  A Ranger told me that right before Christmas, they had to "remove" a bear that had become too much of a nuisance.  It had broke in to a cabin and car.  First time the park has had to do that with a problem bear.  Probably the same one.
Some of the skunks in the Basin could stand the same fate.  :icon_rolleyes:
« Last Edit: January 07, 2012, 06:44:34 PM by Flash »

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Offline Robert

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Re: We will never go to Big Bend over Thanksgiving!
« Reply #14 on: January 07, 2012, 06:45:50 PM »
Cookie, I love your report. That's what is great about this site, everyone has a different perspective even when going to the same place someone else has previously visited. Thanks!

 


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