“The heart is the real fountain of youth.”
Book Note: I have received further word from my publisher on my third book, ‘Out There: Essays on the Lower Big Bend.’ They are elated and have already decided on an extra-sized format so that the maps and photos can be better viewed. Creative Texts will also be printing a hard bound version of ‘Out There,’ which is yet another first for me.
Once again I want to thank you, the reader, for your support. That support is a big reason for all of this presently occurring.
Now, on to this week’s offering…
THE STORY BEHIND THE PHOTO:
Smoky Creek Trail is a route that contains more than one anomaly in more than one way. Most folks, even those who have hiked some of the trails of Big Bend National Park, have never heard of it. Those who have actually put boots on the ground there are few and far between.
The path tees off Dodson Trail about two miles east of the old Homer Wilson foreman’s place, at the foot of Carousel Mountain. It meanders its way southerly, running along until it dead ends at the River Road. Along the way other trails branch off, including Mule Ears Trail as well as others with no name at all.
But truth is Smoky Creek Trail is not the quickest nor arguably the most scenic route from Carousel Mountain to the area northeast of Mule Ears. In fact, much of that route does not even run inside Smoky Creek, rather the path follows an adjoining canyon due to the roughness and outright impassibility of sections found along its namesake.
The photograph shown was taken from a shorter, unnamed route that I prowled just this past week. It starts out at a near-collapsed rock dam near the Dodson, working its way up through such scenes and into a saddle where you begin a downward descent toward a navigable area of Smoky Creek itself. This descending part contains another trail not found on any map that I am aware of, but evidently one that was well used once upon a time.
As you follow along, the path climbs out a bit and heads for what I call Skull Face, which forms the easterly side of a deep canyon for Smoky Creek. It is here the trail begins to fade away due to the surrounding shifting and erosion of the soil. The last two hundred feet or so is the toughest, as it drops off suddenly into the bottom for the creek and much of the path has vanished among small rock slides and unstable ground.
Once in Smoky Creek proper, you work your way downstream at an easy pace, taking in sheets of solid rock from near black to gray to pink, to red, to yellow and even purple and back to white. The deep water aura of the clear blue September sky mixed with the surprising verdancy left by recent showers, making for sights that no camera can ever adequately capture.
Some time later I hit Smoky Creek Trail itself, easing in over a south-lying shoulder from that adjoining canyon. From there I continued on until turning north for what is the shortest route back to Carousel Mountain.
A special note to the more adventuresome: this might be the shortest but it is also certainly the most difficult. You need to be real handy with a quad map and a compass as it is a maze of arroyos, dry pour offs, vertical walls, rock slides and boulder strewn creek bottoms.
I was carrying about thirty pounds of gear on my back and with that sort of load, there was hardly an easy step found until I finally dropped into the main run for Blue Creek.
The road goes on forever, and the party never ends…
Ben H. English
Author of ‘Yonderings’ (TCU Press)
‘Destiny’s Way’ (Creative Texts Publishers)
Facebook: Ben H. English
‘Graying but still game’
Front Street Books
Creative Texts Publishers
Crockett County Public Library
Medina Community Library
The Twig Book Shop
Old Town Books
The Boerne Bookshop
Hill Country Books
Marta Powell Stafford
Lone Star Literary Life