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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Big Bend Day 5: Elephant Tusk to Basin

December 19, 2013

I began my final day on the trail shortly before sunrise.  I discovered that I had camped a mere few feet from the trail.

There was a beautiful sunrise from afar.

As I hiked I found that there was an plenty of water on the trail.

Unfortunately I soon lost the trail went off the intended route.  I journeyed up and down many ridges.  The photo below looks back on the largest descent of the off trail excursion.
 I eventually made it to the Fresno drainage and decided to follow it to where it crossed the Dodson.  I even was able to locate a cairn, but I saw no others.  Along the way I had to negotiate through some thick brush.  The photo below show the thickest that I encountered.  Fortunately this was some of the most thorn-free vegetation I encountered on my hike.

After most of the morning I finally found established trail and a cairn on a ridge that was certainly the Dodson.  I filled up some water from Fresno Spring and continued on, knowing that the remaining mileage was still quite high.  On the way I had my final view of Elephant Tusk and felt like it was laughing at me, as I was still so close to it.

The were great mountainous views as I hiked the Dodson.

After some time the trail turned and I could see where I would soon journey.

I soon was on the Juniper Canyon Trail.

The first half of the trail was very easy and flat with spectacular views.
 Then it became more difficult as it climbed up and up through Juniper Canyon.  Seeing the many trees was a great experience after the desert hiked a few miles before.

 After climbing many switchbacks, the evening light off in the distance allowed me to see one of my favorite views of my entire hike.
 As it was nearing dark, I finally made it to Boot Spring and filled up water for the last time on my hike.  A large group of hikers passed by during this time.  I began my descent to the basin and made my way toward the Pinnacles Trail.  Unfortunately I had to pass on the opportunity to go to the South Rim or to go to the top of Emory Peak.
 As I hiked it became very dark, so out came my headlamp to ensure that I didn't trip on anything or step on some unsuspecting creature.  I looked down and could see the lights down in the Basin.  As I descended I came to what are probably nice flat meadows.  I took some time to turn off my light and look up at the numerous stars.  Soon I came to the end of the trail and made my way to the visitor center to return my permit to box so that the national park service would know that I made it back safely.  After this, I headed back to my truck in the amphitheater parking lot and took a picture to finalize the hike.

As I drove away, I had to stop and take a final picture by the main entrance.

Overall I am feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to complete this hike.  My desert hiking experience prior to the adventure was quite limited.  During this short adventure, I was torn up and scratched up more than I was on my entire Colorado Trail adventure.  I did wear some snake gaiters when I went off trail and they helped protect my legs, but lots of sharp vegetation found its way through and into my light trail running shoes.

 The temperatures were mild and the first night was the only time I believe it was below freezing.  Also, the views were not inhibited by clouds and there was no rain on my hike. It did actually rain the night the that I left, so I am glad that I was prepared for the possibility of rain during this hike.  Making the decision to throw in a few extra water bottles just before my hike, was probably the best decision I made.  Even though water turned out to be frequent, having a capacity greater than I gallon certainly eased my thirst.  I would recommend probably even a little more than I took, somewhere around 1.5 gallons.

I would like to thank those who have come before and reported on hikes to this wonderful, remote national park.  Without these wild experiences of others, I would not have been able to design this route and enjoy experiences off the spectacular Outer Mountain Loop.

Big Bend Day 4: Mariscal Canyon to Elephant Tusk

December 18, 2013

Here is the view from where I slept last night.  The Rio Grande is visible in the distance.

I discovered a deeper view into the canyon all the way to the Rio below.

The early morning light was colorful and the moon was still visible above the Rio.

 I continued along the Mariscal Canyon Rim Trail in the early morning.

There are many points on the trail where a short hike to the edge reveals the huge depth of this remote canyon.

The trail soon brought me to the western base of Mariscal Mountain.  I decided the climb to the mountain from as it looked achievable. After a short break I began the climb.  It didn't take long and I was on the of the spine of the mountain.  Looking to the northwest revealed the flat desert that I traversed yesterday.

I followed the spine without much difficulty after reaching the top of the spine.  It was relatively flat and narrow at times with great views in every direction!

Below shows the most difficult portion of the route to the summit.  I was able to climb the right portion of the big boulders.  There were ledges that made it easier than it looks in the picture below.

Views from the summit

The actual traverse along the spine was something I had read was possible but had never read an account of someone actually doing it.  It started out easy with gradual walking along the narrow spine of the mountain.

I did have to watch my step to avoid crushing wilderness creatures.

As I hiked north, navigation difficulty progressed.  Many valleys appeared to both the sides.  It was difficult to stay on the spine without having to descend into valleys and then climb up the other side.  When I began to see the desert out in front of me I thought I was almost done, only to find a lower level for miles and miles. Overall, there were no serious dangers, only additional time needed.  At the north end of the mountain I found Mariscal Mine.  I didn't have much time but took a few pictures.  There were a few others exploring the area as I passed through.

After leaving the mine, I followed the road for a short distance and then went off trail heading northwest toward the Elephant Tusk Trail.  I went a little farther to the east, and backtracked a little to the southwest to find the trail after coming to the Black Gap Road.  I was getting thirsty, but conserving my water was a priority as I wasn't sure I would find water in the springs near the trail.
 The trail was well maintained and easy to follow on my way to Elephant Tusk.

In the evening I was able to find some water flowing down a side stream beside Elephant Tusk that was not listed as a spring on the map.  I also saw water flowing far below the trail in a canyon.  Getting this water was very helpful as I only had two liters left.  While filling up my water, it became very dark out. After I was done I decided that I should find a flat spot to camp.  I climbed up the canyon to my right with light from my headlamp.  I found a flat spot to place my polycro ground sheet and examined the area for any creatures.  Under a rock I found a large grasshopper.  The view of Elephant Tusk was right in front of me and an innumerable number of stars shown around it.

Big Bend Day 3: over Jack's pass and to Rio/Mariscal Canyon

December 17,  2013

I awoke and began the final ascent to Jack's Pass.  I found the fence mentioned in other people's reports and followed it up to the pass.

The climb wasn't too steep, but still was the biggest climb of the day.  Once at the top Dominguez Mountain provided a nice view.

Descending from the pass was more challenging and took time to maintain safety.  The photo below looks back on the descent.

There were some nice flowers on the way as well.

As I continued down I searched for Dominguez Spring and when I looked down into a valley I saw the ruins listed on my map and also a trickle of green slimy water running down the rocks.  I found a pool that I was able to submerge my water bottles in to refill them.  I then treated the water with aqua mira drops.

From the spring I joined the Dominguez Spring Trail which was easy to follow. As the terrain flattened to the east I went off trail.  I continued cross country until I came to BM 2173 which I intended to cross at a point farther to the east but I ended up crossing where it splits off toward Woodsons.

I was able to follow the Mariscal Mountain range to the east, planning to be on top of it while hiking in the opposite direction the next day.

I continued to hike southeast, intending to meet the road to Talley where it turns southeast, but I ended up farther south than anticipated. So I met the road slightly north of the Mariscal Canyon Rim Trail.  From the trail I continued on the road to the Rio Grande.  I was able to replenish my water supply and look across the river into Mexico.

After a short time, I returned to the Mariscal Canyon Rim Trail and made my way toward Mariscal Canyon.  It was already nearing sunset and the mountains were bright with the sun's light.

Before I could reach the canyon overlook the sun had already set.

There was still some light when I finally reached the canyon.  The view was very deep and I let out a few loud noises to hear my voice echo off the canyon walls.

It was almost dark, so I looked around for a flat spot to camp.  I decided to risk not setting up my tent after finding a very small spot with views of both the Rio Grande off in the distance and the canyon in the opposite direction.

About Me

I've been born and raised in the great state of Michigan. I recently graduated from physical therapy school. I enjoy being active, playing sports, and running. Backpacking has become a great interest as it is a physical challenge that provides many rewarding views and experiences. I strive to make a difference in the lives of those encounter in every day life, on the trail, or even just on this blog. May God bless each of you. Now go find an adventure! It's only a few feet away!