My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Fresno Rim Trail Hike Report

 Dateline: February 22, 2013 

(Be warned  - this is a long  post.  Better fill up your coffee cup before you start it. But I couldn't compress all the fun and interesting stuff into anything shorter).

Friday at Big Bend started out in pastel colors as the sun started its day. Today our hike  was the Fresno Rim Trail which starts just past the area in which we hiked on Wednesday. (Louis is working his way across the park, gathering data on each trail for a series of guides on the hiking trails of Big Bend Ranch State Park)

The park has a description of this trail in one of it's newsletters. " This hike is a relatively easy way to access some wild and rugged back county in Big Bend Ranch State Park, including an exciting 700-foot vertical view  of Fresno Canyon and exceptional vistas of the famous Solitario "flatirons" and the mysterious Los Portales. The country around Chilicote Springs is a striking desert landscape.  There are historical ranch remains, hidden springs, striking volcanic rock formations, and beautiful desert vegetation."

The trail did live up to its reputation and was by far, the most enjoyable hike I did. The beautiful, warm and calm sunny weather made for very comfortable hiking, while the scenery was stunning. 

Morning clouds

We had to spend some time at headquarters, since Louis had planned to change camp sites but decided he didn't want to spend several hours moving to save about thirty minutes a day for the next three days. So he had  to pay for his site for another three days.  And Dana, who disappeared for several hours on  Tuesday, had to meet with the ranger for an interview on the incident. (It was a case of him leaving us a message which we didn't see due us detouring off the trail. He turned up about twenty minutes after we reported him missing. He had hiked about ten miles total that day - at age 86!  I sure hope I can grow up to be just like him.)

Our drive was familiar because we only went about a mile further than on Wednesday to the parking lot by George A. Howard's Chilicote Ranch, now with almost no remains.

On the  wide first part of the trail - the trail is much narrower and fainter after Chilocote Springs

Not sure if this is a stressed prickly pear or a purple prickly pear.

This mistletoe was glowing so gold in the morning light, I thought I was seeing blooms
Cottonwoods mark a dry wash and the mostly dry Chilicote Spring
The trail - in places it was hard to follow

It was important to keep watch for cairns that marked the trail - most were on the ground

Dead cactus pads sounded like wooden boxes when I carefully kicked them

Ken taking a break in the rocks - he needed a chair fix his sock, I think.

The only (pieces of) a longhorn we saw
Lunch stop
 While we were stopped for lunch,  a lone bike rider came up our back trail. He turned out to be Bundy Philips, one of the authors of Big Bend Ranch Ranch Biking Guide. He was on a 20 mile ride that had lots of elevation changes.  Definitely a Real Man!  He later continued down 700 feet into Fresno Canyon, rode through part of it and finally came up on the other side.WAY steeper than I'd want to hike.

Phillip Bundy

It was lunch time for bees at this single flower

View right before our lunch stop

Heading out on last bit of hike before reaching the rim
After lunch, the trail got much more rugged with a lot of up and downs that were less than forty feet so don't even show on the topo maps. But this is also where the trail became much more scenic.The trail was so rugged that Bundy had to walk his bike most of the way.  Ken loaned me one of his hiking poles or I don't think I would have made it. Finally we reached a fence which was only a few feet back from the rim of Fresno Canyon. But it was SO worth it. We were glad to see that a fence was across the rim of the canyon.  Otherwise we might have walked off the edge while taking pictures. Some of us did go over the fence for closer views down into the canyon.

Louis (middle) is pointing out features and trails across the canyon to Robert (L) and Bundy (R)

Susan and John enjoying a well-earned view across Fresno Canyon
 There are several to many Indian shelters in the Park. We visited a site in the Fresno Canyon where the Indians left hand prints - both made by adding pigment to the hand and pressing into the rock, and by putting the hand on the rock and then blowing pigment around it.  We asked our guide if los Portalas was used by Indians for shelter.  He said that the floor is not even and  thus was never used.

A view across the Fresno Canyon to los Portalas

My favorite picture of the flatirons from the rim

After spending about an hour with us visiting at lunch, during the hike and on the canyon rim, Bundy started down the rugged trail that leads to the floor of the canyon. I was on a ridge overhead and got his picture when he found an aoudad (Barbary sheep) skull.  This invasive species has helped extirpat the native big-horn sheep.  The aoudad rams are bigger and stronger than the big-horns and steal the big-horn harems.  They also may carry disease to the big-horns and compete for the same foods. However the park is reintroducing the big-horned sheep and working to remove aoudads and burros which also are damaging the habitat for the sheep.

Bundy with aoudad skull
Soon after Bundy left us, we gathered ourselves and our stuff back up and started back. Somehow, the trail had managed to get a little steeper for the return trip.

Climbing up on the return trip
But the light was already getting prettier, and I lingered behind the rest.  And with no one behind, reminding me that I needed to move on, I found more and more wonderful stuff to photograph. After several of the pictures, I lost the trail and spent more time trying to find it again.

This butterfly species tormented me all day but I finally caught this one on a mustard species

Fluffy grass - this was very prevalent in our campsite and found along this trail as well

This yucca bloom looked like  painting

Some morning glory?

Eat Me!  ....... Very carefully

My favorite flower - all flowers were widely scattered and only one to a few plants were in bloom

Remains of a stone fence across a valley - probably from the days of sheep/goats

A dry wash near the Chilocote Ranch headquarters - the car was about 100 yards beyond here

I finally caught up and passed part of the group before we reached our cars. There I found Natalie,  Zootie dog, and Dana waiting for us.. Natalie, who had been staying in camp with a left-over cough and fatigue from the flu,  had  hiked in with her chair, because, although this is touted as being the closest accessible place for two-wheel drive vehicles to get to Fresno Canyon, she wasn't willing to drive her car through the last half-mile of the road. Dana had chosen to hike the flatter Chilocote Spring loop.We all decided we needed to have a happy hour so we all went back to camp and found snack foods to donate to the group.  Then Robert serenaded us . Finally we got the energy to cook supper and go to bed soon after it. The almost-full moon was already up when it got dark, but after midnight and early the next morning, I got to enjoy the fantastic night sky, with absolutely no light pollution.

Some of the early snackers- we did leave a little for the rest

Troubadour Robert