After a short 3 hour drive, Richard, and I arrived at K2 around 11:00 AM on Saturday March the 3rd. We each had one jeep in tow and we were the 25th and 26th jeeps to show up that day. We paid, setup camp, and walked over to the Honey Creek Tailgaters Concession Stand for some of the best cheeseburgers we have ever had.
A tad past noon we were out in our jeeps hitting the trails. Now for those of you that have never been to K2, it can be a very intimidating place. Just check out any video on YouTube or look at the pictures located on www.katemcyrocks.com. This is a monster jeep dream playground. A place to test the toughest built rigs. But what about the little guys? Guys like my 1989 Jeep YJ with no lift, no lockers, no limited slip differential and no winch. The only upgrade I have done to this jeep, is add a bottle opener. At best, even with 4 wheel drive engaged, I will have two tires gripping the ground at the same time, at worst I will have two tires spinning in the air and my jeep going no where. Richard had a slight advantage as his stock 2008 JK came with limited slip differential. Still, he had no lift, no lockers, and no winch. So what business did stock jeeps like these have at K2? That’s what we came to find out.
I half expected the other jeep guys to laugh at us heading out to hit the trails in our stock jeeps. We had the smallest jeeps in the entire park by a long shot. Thankfully, no one blinked an eye.
The first trail we attempted was a 1 rated trail called Honey Creek. It was a long easy trail that made a half circle around one end of the park. Most jeeps would not even need to be in 4x4 to make this trail. I found one creek crossing that I had to hit a certain line or I would spin out. This trail is mainly used to access other trails and get to certain areas of the park. We drove to the end of this trail then turned around and drove the trail backwards and encountered no hard obstacles whatsoever. We did stop at one spot on the trail and got out to do some hiking. We explored one of the 4 rated trails on foot and just checked out some of the natural beauty the area had to offer.
Next we headed towards a trail called Devils Draw. Before we reached the entrance there is a short loop trail that is not labeled. You will notice there are a lot of trails and short climbs that are not labeled in this park. If you see something you like or want to try and crawl over, then go for it. Most of the park is solid rock so there is really nothing to mess up. As long as you are not peeling out on the grass and dirt or driving across a field, you will be fine. The main point of this park is to stay on the rocks. Now this short loop trail before Devils Draw is an easy trail with one obstacle at the end. There is a huge rock in the middle of the trail. You must pick the right line to make it out and with a stock jeep there is only one line. Put your passenger tire on the rock that is in the middle of the trail. Put your drivers tire on the side of the rock hill just to the left of the huge rock. You will have to slowly turn to the left as you climb over this rock. A spotter is almost a must here. Once you have all four tires on the rocks you can slowly ease down the other side while slightly turning back to the right. You will scrape bottom in a stock jeep. The 4 door JK that Richard was driving was a bit too long for this rock. Had we giving it a little gas we could have slid across the rock without getting stuck. Being our first time out we set the belly of the JK on the rock and we weren’t going anywhere. A slight tug with a tow strap and we easily slid down the other side.
On the opposite end of the short loop trail we followed another trial that turned out to be the beginning of a 4 rated trail called Cyclops. Now while a stock jeep would not stand a chance on a 4 rated trail, the beginning portion of this trail was navigable with just a stock jeep. It’s basically a trail of small boulders with a steep dirt drop off at the end. We drove this trail backwards but if you started at the entrance of Cyclops, you would be able to drive the first portion of the trail and then have the option to get off the trail before hitting the actual 4 rated part. It’s short but it’s something a stock jeep would be able to do. If you have time, stop and explore the 4 rated portion of Cyclops on foot. We asked each other, “People actually drive up this”? …and by the way, yes, they do.
At this point we had spent a little over 3 hours out on the trails. We headed back to camp for a pit stop then headed out to a section of the park called the Back 40. While scouting the area for a trail we could handle, we spotted some slightly modified jeeps attempting a rather large and steep rock climb. We parked and hiked up the rock to watch these guys climb. As we watched these guys bounce around the rocks I realized that even though I was not even in the jeep with them, my heart was pounding. I was nervous just watching them but the show was well worth the stop. After they had all made it over the rocks we turned our attention back to a 2 rated trail just across the creek called No Name Trail. Right off the bat we encountered an obstacle that requires a spotter. There is about a 3 foot rock ledge that bends to the right. If your driver side tires slips off the ledge you are going to roll over. We traversed the ledge with no problem other then the fact that from the driver seat you can not see the ledge and have to rely on your spotter. It’s a little nerve racking for a few seconds. From this point the trail gets really fun. There are several vertical rock climbs you must conquer and just about the entire trail is on solid rock. The rock climbs are challenging but you have just the right amount of grip to make it once you find the correct line. I spun out several times but Richard didn’t have much of a problem. About half way through this trail some well modified jeeps caught up to us. This trail wasn’t much for them so we let them pass us. There is plenty of room on this trail if you need to pass or if you meet someone traveling the other direction. We caught back up to the modified jeeps on the last section of this trail and that turned out to be the most gut wrenching part. There is a long rock with a 4 foot drop on one side, a pond on the other, and a hole in the rock at about the mid point. Once you actually get up on top of this rock, which requires you to squeeze between two large boulders, your jeep is sitting at an uncomfortable angle. If that wasn’t enough, once you reach the hole in the rock, you feel like you are about to topple over and roll into the pond. And just to keep you on your toes, if you start to slide, (you will start to slide) because of the angle the rock is sloping, you start sliding towards the pond. Not knowing how far you are going to slide and how deep the pond is, makes this part a very tense ride. The folks in the modified jeeps got out and spotted us across this obstacle and were impressed with our decision to attempt K2 in stock jeeps. We took a break at the end of No Name Trail and chatted with them for a while.
Right next to No Name Trail are two different 3 rated trails. One is called Grit Happens and the other is named Eat Grit and Die. Both are named after a small town about a mile away called Grit. We hiked around on parts of both and were impressed. With a lift, some bigger tires, and at least one locker we would be able to run these trails with no problems. But for today, we just walked them and again enjoyed the scenery.
On our way back in we stooped and hiked up a 3 rated trail called Willies Wonka. There are several ways to get in and out of this trail. After walking most of the trails we decided we could make it up a portion of this trail and turn around in just our stock jeeps. Sure enough everything went off without a hitch. We have some good pictures of our jeeps up on a rock ledge similar to the one in the Disney move, The Lion King. This is another trail that would have been entirely possible for us to complete if we had a lift, bigger tires, and at least one locker.
Back at camp, most of the folks were gathered around the Honey Creek Concession stand. We joined them and ordered some pulled pork sandwiches for supper. The food here again was amazing. They had a nice camp fire going right next to the concession stand and after eating we stood around the fire and chatted with a few different folks. We had a new sense of confidence after what we accomplished today.
Next morning we woke up and thawed out. It got down in the low 30’s that night and it hurt. We were standing around our camp trying to allow the rising sun to warm us up a bit when some guy came over to visit us. He introduced himself and told us that all his buddies had decided to go home early today but he still wanted to wheel. He asked us if he could follow us out on the trails today. I pointed out that we only had stock jeeps and were not planning to do anything hard. This guy had an old 4x4 truck with tires bigger than our jeeps. It didn’t bother him that we were only running stock jeeps and so we agreed to have him join us on the rocks.
After a burrito and croissant from the concession stand, both amazing, we headed out to the back 40 again to run No Name trail backwards. We made the trail like we were pros and even found a few harder areas for Brandon to have some fun. The trails was defiantly more challenging going this direction and noticeably more tense.
Just a hop over the creek from where we finished completing No Name trail was the entrance to a trail called Swimming Hole. The entrance was a bit technical but once we found the correct line we were up on a huge slab of rock. From this point the trail winded around the side of a larger rock. Our new friend Brandon decided to drive straight up the bigger rock. Once you are up on the rock there is no defined trail. You can pretty much pick and choose what part of the rock to climb. We probably spent about 4 hours crawling around this area and were able to find areas that our stock jeeps could handle and areas that Brandon’s monster truck could be challenged. There are 3 different ponds, depending on rainfall, in this area as well and we stopped and had a tasty beverage at one of the ponds before Brandon had to leave. He invited us to take turns ridding shotgun in his monster truck while he climbed a huge boulder.
The weather on this particular day could not have been any more perfect. Most of the other jeepers that endured last nights cold spell figured today would be to cold to go out and decided to head home early. After Brandon left we just about had the entire park to ourselves. We could hear some bigger rigs off in the distance on one of the 4 rated trails but other then that it was just us. We explored around the pond area and took in the tranquility that is frequently found at K2.
The sun was on its daily decent and we were headed back to camp but the urge to crawl we had inside of us had not been quieted. We decided to attempt one last trail called Devils Draw. We had already seen both entrances to this trail and passed on testing it out. Now with time for only one last trail we made the decision to see what the Devil had to offer. Right of the bat this trail starts kicking our butts. The entrance was a boulder alley that smashed my fender flares into my jeep and left Richards rock sliders with nasty gashes. Just about every rock I successfully made it over was followed by the under carriage of my jeep being slammed into the rocks below. It sounded ugly, it felt ugly, and it looked ugly. The trail lets up for a few yards in the middle then the boulders start popping up again, only the closer you get to the end of the trail, the bigger the rocks get. When I came to the last section of the trail it was about 15 to 20 yards of huge rocks wedged in between two boulders 10 times the size of my jeep. I honestly did not think we would be able to make it out. A spotter is a must unless you like the side of your jeep smashed in. There is barely enough room for a jeep to squeeze between the huge boulders on each side and to make matters worse, the uneven rocks in the trail make you slide all over the place. Take is slow and have your spotter keep you away from the side boulders. With a small stock jeep like mine, picking a line was not possible. You are forced to run a certain line because if you try and turn you will just be spun right back to the direction that the trail wants you to go. This trail also saved the best for last as the remaining few feet of the trail were the hardest obstacle we encountered in the entire park. There are rock ledges sticking out windshield high that you are being pushed towards and rocks longer than your jeep trying to stick to your differential. One last rock slammed against the belly of my jeep and I had successfully made it off the trail. Richard’s jeep did a little better then mine but he was still faced with the same rocks trying to jab the side of his jeep and was violently slammed on the rocks in the middle of the trail. It felt good to have completed this trail and we agreed it was the most rugged trail we encountered all weekend. Conquering it felt like the little guy that just stood up to the school bully and made him back off. It quieted that urge inside of us…more like slammed it out of us.
Around mid afternoon we packed up and headed out. The concession stand closes early on Sundays so we ran into Mason and ate before the 3 hour drive back home. We learned well what our jeeps can do, and don’t ever feel like K2 is not a place for a stock jeep. We had a weekends worth of fun and could have easily found another day’s worth of trails to try.
-James Michael Collett
Jaimen, Bogey, and I left McCamey at 7:00 AM on Saturday February 11th heading to Big Bend National Park pulling my jeep on a borrowed trailer. We had gassed up and stocked our ice chests with food and drinks the night before. We made a quick pit stop in Fort Stockton to get some extra ice for the trip. By 10:30 AM we were pulling into the Big Bend Park entrance. We paid the entrance fee, got the extra sticker for the jeep, and headed into the park. If you pay attention on the way to Panther Junction you will spot a lone grave resting on a small ridge just to the east of the road. We stopped and followed the short trail where a brief explanation of the woman buried there can be found.
We stopped at Panther Junction Visitor Center to get our back country permit. We asked for the Glenn Spring (west) campsite but the park ranger informed us that this particular campsite was closed because black bears had recently been spotted in that area and had gotten into some campers food. We chose the next closest campsite called Rice Tank.
We traveled down Glenn Spring road for about 4 miles to get to our weekend home. I drove my 2 wheel drive pickup pulling a trailer and had no problems at all getting to my campsite. This site used to consist of two campsites: Rice Tank 1 and Rice Tank 2. Rice Tank 1 is now closed but this is a good thing as these two sites where side by side and now the second site is way more private. You are allowed to have 2 vehicles and 6 people at this site. The Rice Tank campsite is tucked onto the side of an old dirt water tank and had enough room for 4 or 5 tents but only enough room for one truck and trailer. There is a nice view of the Basin to the west and there is a smaller mountain to the east. The tent area sits on the south rim of the tank and this creates a nice wall that blocks most of the cold north wind. I would imagine in the summer there is a steady south breeze at this site. There is no table, shelter, or bear box at this site. The only thing I did not like about this site is there is barely enough room to turn around with a trailer.
By 12:30 PM we had our tents setup, the jeep off the trailer, and we were ready to hit the trail. Our first stop was Glenn Springs. The rather tall cotton wood tree at this site still had green leaves on it. I was at this site four years ago and the spring was not running as much as it was this time. Taking extra care to watch for the black bears that were spotted in this area, we parked and hiked up the canyon directly behind the spring. I have never in my life seen rocks like the ones in this canyon. The canyon itself was not very deep and was easily navigated. This easily became one of the neatest things I have seen in Big Bend. On the way back to the jeep we spotted quite a bit of black bear droppings that we guessed were about a week old. If you follow the road 100 yards south up a small hill you will find to the east are 10 old graves silently sitting on top of this small ridge. I have read some old history books on Big Bend that tell of a bandit raid on the small village that used to surround Glenn Spring back in the early 1900’s. Several were killed in this raid. Mr. Glenn himself died here in the late 1800’s. Perhaps some of these graves are the less fortunate from that bandit raid or even Mr. Glenn himself? Not much other than these graves and some old corrals can be found of the old village. Still, this area is worth exploring as you always find something new. There are a few other secrets around this area that I choose not to disclose at this time. Altogether we spent about an hour and a half looking around before taking a break and heading back out.
Up to this point the 8 miles of Glenn Spring Road was not too bad and as long as the rain had not washed out any areas, you could make it all the way to Glenn Spring with a 2 wheel drive pickup. Glenn Spring road continues southeast for another 7 miles were it intersects the River Road East. On a previous trip I had driven this stretch and I believe a 2 wheel drive pickup would also make it with no problems.
From this point we choose to go south and take the Black Gap Road. This is the only un-maintained road in the park and as far as my experience goes, the only place you will actually need 4x4. As soon as you leave Glenn Spring, the road is washed out and if you don’t have a decent clearance on your vehicle you will be scraping bottom. After clearing the washout you start down a long winding trail on the side of the mountain. There are a lot of loose rocks and not any room to pass someone traveling the other direction so look down the trail first and make sure it’s clear. On the trips I have taken here I am usually the only one on this trail. Once you reach the bottom you travel through some of the driest terrain you will ever see. Not much vegetation is here other then a few ocotillo. About 4 miles into this trail you will come to a crack in the mountain and the trail goes up through the crack. This is the only place I had to put my jeep in 4 wheel drive. It’s really neat the first time you dive up through this crack and it’s just as neat when you are coming back the opposite direction. Exiting the crack the trail gets really uneven. I was watching my clinometer flirt with 40 degrees before the trial levels out and opens up to a spectacular view of the south with Elephant Tusk Peak looming to the west. The only campsite on the Black Gap Road is called Elephant Tusk and it sits with a perfect view of the peak it’s named after in the west. I do not like this campsite as it is right next to the road and there is only room for one vehicle.
Another few miles down the Black Gap Road we turned west to check out the old Mariscal Mine. You can also get to the mine using the river road east and it is a much smoother road. The Mariscal Mine was used to mine Quicksilver and a lot of the old buildings are still standing. You can hike up to the mine and think about how it must have been to come to work here every morning years ago. The mine shafts are still there in the side of the mountain but have been caged off. You can stand on the cage covering one of the air shafts and listen to a rock bounce down the bottom long after you have dropped it. It makes my stomach queasy every time I do it. There is a lot to explore and see here and I recommend leaving yourself over an hour to check everything out.
We back tracked over to where the River Road East and Black Gap Road meet and headed on southwest towards the River Road West. The River Road East and West are actually one continuous road that spans 50 miles, following the Rio Grande from one end of the park to the other. After traveling about 15 miles we stopped at the Johnson Ranch campsite to check things out. There are 8 unmarked graves and 1 marked grave here. The ruins of the old ranch house still stand above the river along with a few other old structures. This must have been some homestead back in the day and a really nice place to live. Just down the hill in front of the homestead are two campsites. While the old ruins are worth seeing the campsites are not much to look at and are very sandy. Continuing west we also stopped at the Gauging Station campsite and the Black Dike campsite. Both campsites are rather small, room for about 2 tents, but both are in really interesting locations with river access and great views. I would recommend either site. On down the road we stopped at the campsite Buenos Aires but I was not impressed at all. The last part of this road, or the first part if you are traveling the opposite direction, was very scenic and enjoyable, probably my favorite area on the entire road. Not once on the River Road did I need 4 wheel drive or encounter any hard road conditions. Other than rain washing out the road, a 2 wheel drive pickup would be able to drive the entire River Road.
Once we were back on the paved road we drove the 10 miles down to Santa Elena Canyon. We hiked the trail up into the canyon and ran into a heard of Javelina on the way back to the jeep. They were not very intimidated by us or our rocks and actually stood the hair on their backs up so we could see how upset they were with us. We made a wide path around them and reached our jeep just as the sun was setting. About 3 miles up the road my jeep started to smell like burnt breaks, made a few clicking noises, then I turned my head around just in time to see me axle and wheel bouncing behind me with sparks flying out from under my jeep. We skid off the road and then had no option but to start walking. At this point the sun has set, there is no moon out, and it’s pretty much pitch dark. On the lonely walk out all we could think about was the pack off angry Javelina behind us and the mountain lion that attacked a 6 year old boy in the park a week before we arrived. Luckily I got cell service about a mile up the road and we were able to call for help. 45 minutes later and 3 and a half miles of walking, a ranger picked us up and drove us back to our camp. We got the trailer and drove the 60 miles back to my jeep. It took us about two hours (10:00 PM to 12:00 AM) to get the axle back in the shaft and get the jeep up on the trailer. Just after 1:00 AM we were back at our camp with the jeep and totally exhausted. About an hour after we bedded down for what remained of the night, it started raining.
I know it sounds like a disaster, but this was one of the best Big Bend Trips I have ever been on. While in the back country we did not see another vehicle or human on the trails. The weather was amazing, even though it was freezing back in McCamey, and we were able to spend all day Sunday touring the remaining areas of the park in my truck. When we left the park Sunday evening it was 59 degrees, while back in McCamey it was 32. On the way home we saw a heard of buffalo spread out over a ¼ miles on the side of a hill just south of Fort Stockton. We stopped and took pictures. Some of the buffalo even came up to us at the fence. They are truly amazing animals.
As far as me jeep, the best I can tell so far is that my bearings wore out and that is what caused my axle to come out. I will spend the next few days working on it so that I can head out on my next adventure…hopefully with backup this time!
-James Michael Collett
We headed out to Big Bend Ranch State Park early Saturday morning on October the 23rd 2010 with Rickey and Norma pulling one jeep, myself and Jaimen pulling another jeep. We had decided to go through Presidio as the trip would be shorter and we would not have to navigate the winding roads between Lajitas and Presidio with our long trailers. I do plan to one day go back and take that route as I hear it is a must see with some great camping spots.
We stopped in Alpine to get food and supplies. There is a nice hardware store that had plenty of camping gear, ammo, and other goodies. I bought a nice tent there for $30.00. There are several grocery stores and one drug store in town also.
After leaving Alpine the terrain started to look like the familiar Big Bend / Terlinga landscape. We past several ghost towns and other old ruins along the way but did not stop to investigate or take pictures as we were limited on time.
We stopped and ate in Presidio, gassed up, then headed out of town. Although there is a check in site for Big Bend Ranch located at Fort Leaton just outside of town, we did not stop because we had planned on stopping by the main park headquarters called the Sauceda Ranger Station to check things out.
The entrance to the park was not hard to find. The road turned from paved to caliche and the 27 mile trip from the entrance to the Sauceda Ranger Station took us about 2 hours. A car would be able to make it to the Sauceda Ranger Station with no problems, it’s just a very bumpy road and 30 mph is about as fast as you are going to go. If you are pulling a trailer down this road you are going to want to go about 20 or 25 mph and expect everything to look like it was in a sand storm once you are arrive. This road is about like the county roads we are used to back home. There are several kiosks along the road to the Sauceda Ranger Station with information on local points of interest. There are also several camping sites located right off the road. If you didn't want to get into anything rugged you could camp at any of these locations. Most of the campsites had enough room to park several trailers. Located just off the main road on the way in we found a Native American shelter. The park has placed walk way mats down to keep the traffic from disturbing things. There was evidence that the Natives used this sited extensively for many years.
We made it to the park headquarters around mid afternoon and found plenty of room to park our trailers. We had called in advance and arranged to leave our trucks and trailers parked there over the weekend and they didn't have a problem with that. I was surprised to find the Sauceda Ranger Station had just about all the basic supplies you might need, including ice, in case you forgot anything for the trip. Keep in mind that you are required to have a port-a-potty if you plan to camp and if you don't have one you will be required to purchase one for $25.00. There is a nice selection of souvenirs, books, and other stuff to browse through. We bought a nice size map and gathered a lot of information from the park ranger. We picked a campsite called Rancharias, paid, and checked out what else was at the Sauceda Ranger Station. There is a men's and a woman's bathroom complete with showers. There are some park rangers houses, and there are two buildings available for lodging. The Big House is a three bedroom three bath house that accommodates 8 for $100.00 per room. The Sauceda Lodge Bunkhouse is a former hunting lodge and accommodates up to 30. This is a large room with beds for the men on one side and beds for the women on the other and is $35.00 per person. You can also call in advance and have breakfast, $8.00, lunch, $10.00, and dinner, $12.00.
Now in our jeeps, we headed out to find our campsite. We had to back track down the main road a bit until we found the Oso Loop trail that would lead us to our weekend home. This road was labeled as a 4x4 only and as soon as we started down the road I could feel my heart pounding. The cool breeze blowing through the jeep, the smell of the desert in the air, and the long trail in front of me all reminded me of why I bought a jeep and why I love doing this stuff. This trail was definitely rougher then the main caliche road coming in but we didn't encounter any part were 4 wheel drive was needed. Along the way we did notice several off shoot trails that looked exciting. We past by most of these trails as it was getting late in the evening but finally our desire for a challenge took over and we found ourselves at the bottom of a rather rough trail, rock crawling our way back up. There were several off shoot trails that you would definitely need 4 wheel drive on and if there was a big rain recently, I could see were the main trail could be washed out and were you would then need 4 wheel drive. About halfway to our campsite the trail turns from 4x4 only to 4x4 un-maintained. The trails labeled 4x4 un-maintained were the reason we came and the reason we chose the Rancharias campsite. The trail went from rough to rocky. We didn't encounter any large boulders or creeks to cross but it was definitely a different trail then the 4x4 only.
When we reached our destination we were disappointed to find that the campsite consisted of a cleared out area right next to the road that wouldn't even leave us room to park our jeeps once our tents were setup. However, after a little exploration we found that this cleared out spot was the parking area for the jeeps and that the actual campsite, complete with fire ring and picnic table, was located about 40 yards west next to a huge bolder. We found space for three tents that were spread out nicely. We setup camp just as the sun was going down and other then the crackling of the fire, the only sound we heard that night was a wild donkey braying off in the distance east of our camp.
The next morning we got up before the sun had made it over the mountains. It was a little cold but a new log on the fire and some boiling water for coffee would have us warmed up in no time. Today we planned to follow the 4x4 un-maintained trail to the Javelin Pens campsite then take the Javelin Road labeled 2 wheel drive high clearance back to the Sauceda Ranger Station, and finally make a loop back down our original trail to our campsite. The part of the trail labeled 4x4 un-maintained was fairly easy except for a few creeks with steep banks we had to cross. Our jeeps crossed them with no problem but a longer wheel base 4x4 might have trouble getting through at least two spots. Again the road was very rocky compared to the other roads we had seen in the park. We took a detour on an older, less traveled trail and soon found some near vertical rocks to climb. The trail took us to an abandoned water troth where we had to turn around and back track. Once we were back on our original trail, we came to a crossroads that was not labeled. We found the sign laying on the ground and attempted to stand it back up with rocks supporting the base. There was very little vegetation on this trail, mainly just creosote and other small bushes, but there were some awesome mountains and rock formations to look at.
The Javelin Pens campsite was a fairly large campsite with plenty or room for several tents. There is an old abandoned house, a large abandoned water tank, a large cement foundation, and some other neat old equipment at this site. A large dry creek runs right next to this campsite as well and there is plenty to explore here. There was more vegetation here then in most places we had seen and the creek has some mid sized trees.
Headed on up the Javelin Road we didn't stop at the other campsite located along the way. The Javelin Road was labeled 2 wheel drive high clearance and 4x4 was not needed at all. The only trouble I could see would be if rain had washed out part of the trail. Under normal circumstances, you would be able to make it all the way down Javelin Road to the Javelin Pens campsite with a 2wd pickup. We did see a few large tress off out in the middle of the desert and decided to investigate. After a short walk we found the largest cotton wood tree I have ever seen in my life. Disappointed that there was no water we continued to the Sauceda Ranger Station on smooth trails with no problems.
We stopped at the Sauceda Ranger Station to find that everything was closed. There was a park ranger walking around and he informed us that while the station was closed the ice machine was not and that ice was free. We grabbed two bags of ice to refill our coolers and used the bathrooms to clean up.
On the way back to our campsite we took a detour to check out the Los Cuates Campsite. Los Cuates (the Twins) is in reference to the two stone water tanks located at this site. This campsite was on a small hill and you could see all around for a good distance. There was room for a few tents and plenty of parking. This is the last campsite before you enter the 4x4 un-maintained trail.
Back at our camp we were able to make a decent size fire in the fire ring and enjoy the moon coming up over the mountains.
The next morning some large animal walked between our tents just before sunrise. It wasn’t a hoof sound either, it sounded more like a big dog which made me think it was either a bobcat or mountain lion. I scrambled to get out of my sleeping bag but by the time I got my tent door open and stood up to look out I could see no sign of whatever it was. I just know it was big and moving fast. We could make out faint tracks in the sand and rocks and determined it was not a hoof track but other then that we were not able to figure out what it was.
Before we set out to explore more of the park we had to use the extra gas we brought with us to fill up our tanks. It is very important to take extra gas on this trip as you are miles from anything. My jeep was full when I started out and it took about 7 gallons to fill it back up. With our gas tanks full, we headed out towards Guale Mesa Road. The first mile of Guale Mesa Road was easy going and although was labeled 4x4 could have been traveled in a 2wd. Guale 1 campsite was tucked into a beautiful valley and had an old abandoned water troth. There was a large amount of room for tents and parking. Continuing on the Guale Mesa Road we traveled a little over 3 miles through some to Guale Trailhead. Be careful here as the road goes right up to a drop off and there is nothing to stop you from driving over the edge. Once we reached the end of this road we were taken back by the beauty that God had so eloquently created in front of us. This was the most breath taking scenery we saw on our trip. The canyons cut deep into the mountains then opened up in the distance to a surprisingly green valley. The different colors and layers of rocks here were unlike any I have seen. We spent a large amount of time sitting on the ledge looking at the panorama view we had of the area.
A little over 2 miles away was Guale 2 campsite and that was where we headed next. Again the Guale Mesa Road between these two sites was smooth and had no major obstacles were 4x4 was needed. There is a nice tall grassy area with some old corrals along the way. Arriving at Guale 2 campsite was another blessing waiting for us. A very unusual formation of rock surrounded this campsite and it was located on the edge of the huge mesa. There were tons of caves and crevices to explore and we only looked at a few. The campsite was rather small and really only had room for one tent and it would need to be a small one at that. You could put more tents about 15 yards away in the area were you park and it would still work out ok. The scenery here was amazing and well worth the trip. I plan to stay at this campsite on a later trip.
On the way back to our camp we ran across 3 wild burros. They didn’t seem frightened by us but also didn’t attempt to investigate us either. On the trail back we also spotted a very large mule deer buck and several rather large squirrel. Back at our camp we had no trouble packing up and heading back to the Sauceda Ranger Station. However, as soon as we got there, I turned off my jeep, unloaded everything, and found that my jeep would no longer start. We wound up using two come-alongs and some chain to kind of wench the jeep up onto the trailer.
During our entire trip we did not see another vehicle or another person other then the park rangers and we only saw them at the Sauceda Ranger Station. Even on our way out we passed no one. Overall the trip left a huge impression on me. We explored a very small portion of this park which leaves plenty of return trips waiting on us. I hope to explore a different part of the park each time I go. I would recommend this park to anyone especially someone with a jeep and a sense of adventure. If you love the desert then this is a must stop park for you. I can’t wait to go back and tell about my next trip!
- James Michael Collett