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  • J.F. Rowan

Davis Mountain State Park, Scores!

We had a decent run with Big Bend National Park and now it’s time to take what we’ve learned and move on. We do have aspirations to go back though, perhaps in the fall.

Heading to Davis Mountain State Park

There are only three basic roads out of Big Bend and the road we take, RT118, takes us all the way to our next destination to Fort Davis Texas, Davis Mountain State Park (hereafter known as DMSP). We drive about two and a half hours through some pretty dry, flat, tumbleweed country often lined with parched looking mountains. Not much lies between Big Bend and Fort Davis. It makes me wonder about the occasional house we see, the people that live out there and how they must live. Where do they get supplies? It becomes apparent that there would be no, “Crap, I’m outta milk, where are the car keys?” If you’re going to town for groceries from out here, you better pack a bag. The road is straight for miles and traffic is non-existentant. I bet I could stop in the middle of the road, make sandwich and get back in the drivers seat, and no one would notice.

DMSP is located in a canyon just north of the town of Fort Davis and besides being a great state park, is host to Davis Mountain Indian Lodge, one of the first Texas state park lodges of it’s kind. Another fun fact is that DMSP was one of the first projects in Texas for the CCC and their handy work can be seen all over this great Texas gem. A bit of a secret here, every time I see a structure built by the CCC, it stirs something inside me to pursue the kraft of an architect. Primarily because the commonalities of all of the CCC structures closely resembles what I love in a building. Rough wood, stone, and iron. Even the style is very appealing, at least to me. Can you become an architect while you’re on the road at the age of...err...50ish?

Trails Map. Lots to explore!

Even before we arrived at the park, we passed through the town of Fort Davis and stopped at two different grocery stores and stocked up on some overdue groceries. Great variety of fresh stuff in one, great bakery goods in the other. We continue our way to the park, a short 3 miles to the gate. Yvette and I park at the main gate and head for the office. While she waits in line to confirm our reservation, I take a look at the bulletin board and there is a wealth of information including a program sheet of mini-seminars for the week. Everything from a roundtable discussion about the American Cougar to the involvement of the CCC. I’m impressed. Yvette gets our camp permit and we seek out our spot, #61. We like to cruise through much of a park when we first arrive in the event there could be a more suitable spot for us. As it turns out, our assigned spot is pretty good so we keep it. We back in, unhook, adjust the parking a bit and settle. The reservation is only for one day. we've learned that you never make more than a day reservation at a park you’ve never been to before. If you need to leave early, you culd possibly forfiet anymoney you laid down for the spot in advance. You wait and see before you extend. As you’ll see, we extend.

A great variety of trails is just one of this park's strong points.

The next day we awake around sunrise and make tea. I open the Turtleback kitchen and make bacon while Makes makes the eggs. Sunrise. We head into town to do our laundry. We find a great place that’s very clean and efficient, after which we stop at the “Fort Davis Drug Store” for lunch. Yvette orders, among other things, a strawberry shake? What? She never does that. We split it and it’s an absolute 10!

Fort Davis Texas. The "Drugstore" is on the left.

She gets the guilts about it and when we get back to camp, it’s hiking boot camp and I’m included. I make note of the altitude between gasps for air. "Are there O2 bottles on this trail?" It’s a great trail and much longer than we have water for so we turn around and head back to camp. Thankfully, all downhill. We discover an old water cistern (is that redundant?) that someone has outfitted with a float valve that always keeps it full of water. The ground is charred from the burn and reveals several animal trails that focus in on the cistern. We make a mental note to set up the two trail cams that we brought. We set them after dinner. As it turns out, the cameras will record a wealth of wildlife activity.

The Turtle and The Tiger Youtube Channel

See the YouTube video we made on Davis Mountain State Park, Fort Davis Texas. Click HERE

The following morning, I awake early and head to the cistern to retrieve our cameras. When I get close, I spy a dozen or so Western Bluebirds splashing in the waterl like kids in a public pool. I turn and see a group of what look like wild pigs moving through the grass. They’re actually called Javelina or Collared Peccary. They look like small wild pigs, but that's where the similarity ends.

"Javelina" spotted early morning in an area that had been burned.

We review the two SD cards from the cameras and have scored some nice clips of whitetail deer, mule deer, Javelina, skunk, gray fox, rabbits and lots of birds in the morning hours. After lunch, we head to a place called “The Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center. They have everything that can possibly grow and live in the desert. We visit their bird blind and get some amazing photos of birds, some that are new to both of us. They have an entire greenhouse dedicated to cactus, over 1300 species in all.

Not for sale, The Chihauhaun Desert Institute maintains one of the largest

We also walk their botanical garden area (which is huge!). After returning to camp, we make dinner and prepare for some star gazing using a new app on my phone. But before I can even open it, the international space station goes whizzing by. Owls. A coyote in the distance howls, and repeats his call off and on during the night. We sleep… a deep sleep.

On other days we hike more and discover buildings created by the CCC and trails, miles of trails. We discover a horse camping area across the street from the park. Still part of the park, but mainly oriented for folks who want to bring their horses, camp and ride the trails designed for them. We walk them and explore the wash in the area as well. The trails are consistent with the others we've hikes, awesome. Tracking is great and little miss hawkeye glasses a mountain about a mile away and spots more Barberry Sheep, 13 in all. Though interesting to watch, they are becoming a problem. In the early afternoon, we travel to McDonald Observitory and inquire about the star party schedule. It turns out the only time we can go, the weather won't cooperate. maybe next time.

The CCC Skyline trail. Great views!

Our final day (for now). After some breakfast and early morning writing, we head up the CCC trail to the top of Davis mountain and then seek out CCC built buildings including, Kings Table (a picnic table with a huge view) a stone bathroom with a view and an observation building. We spy a couple of Road Runners on our trek back. (They really are fast but unfortunately, no “Beep, Beep.”) We eat a big lunch and plan for a small dinner. Showers. Yvette leaves first as I am finishing a project back at camp. I leave 10 minutes later with all my shaving and shower gear including clean clothes. (You really need to watch the VLOG about this, click HERE. It has the story of what happened in the bathroom, it’s pretty funny. Back in camp, prep trailer for tomorrows departure. Fill trailer with water as next destination has none. Hook up, relax and finish the blog you’re reading. By this time tomorrow, we will be in a place called Hueco Tanks State Park, our final Texas State Park for a while.

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