Wrapping Up 2016

A camping Christmas trip with our family ended 2016 in a delightful way!

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2016 is now in the “books,” and 2017 has already seen our first snow of the winter season and of the new year.  Thankfully, it was nothing like the mega storm that introduced 2016 to us, and we only received about an inch this time.  My back starts hurting just looking again at some of the photos from last January and remembering all the snow Hubby and I shoveled for three straight days.  Ugh!

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Girly Girl had lots of fun in the foot of snow we received the first week of January in 2016.
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The foot of snow caused lots of issues for the next two weeks in our city and area, but it was so very pretty, too.

It’s been several weeks since my last post, but all is well, good in fact.  I just took a little break to enjoy the Christmas season and take a few things “off my plate” for a bit.  I also had more holiday prep work to do this year, due to our ten day Christmas and New Years trip to the mountains of far West Texas.

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Spending “golden hour” at the top of Skyline Drive on Christmas Evening with my family is a precious memory now.  We captured some great photos of family and scenery here.
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Sunset at Davis Mountain State Park on Christmas evening with historic Indian Lodge in the distance was absolutely gorgeous.  We had the view all to ourselves, something I will always remember fondly.  This was literally the last ray of sunshine on Christmas Day. 😉

 

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The Belt of Venus is always so beautiful in this area, and it was lovely once again on Christmas evening.

All our kids joined us for a long Christmas weekend in the Davis Mountains, and they all departed for home on Tuesday afternoon after lunch, driving to El Paso together then catching their respective flights.  It was a most enjoyable holiday for me, and I think for all of us.  After all, what mama doesn’t like to have all her kiddos with her for the holidays?

We secured our daughter and son-in-law a room at the historic Indian Lodge (see photos below) during their stay, which was just a mile away from our RV in the state park, and our son stayed with us in the RV.  With all the additional space inside now, as compared to our previous RV, we were all quite comfortable, even with the dogs who slept on their nice, new beds next to him.

By cooking some dishes ahead of time, I was able to serve all our favorite holiday foods in the RV… tamales for Christmas Eve, sausage toasts and eggs for Christmas morning, and ham, turkey, cornbread dressing, black-eyed peas, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and yeast rolls for Christmas dinner.  We even enjoyed a Christmas morning picnic together at our site for breakfast, which was a real treat!  Truly, the weather was gorgeous the entire week we were there.

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Our festive picnic table at our site for Christmas.  Snoopy and Woodstock helped to light up the holiday nights at our site, along with three mason jar lanterns on the table.

 

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It was a real treat to have a visit from several mule deer late each afternoon during our vacation week, with our first visit on Christmas Day!  We also saw several javelina at our campsite on our first night, as well as some great birds all over the park during our stay.

Following our picnic breakfast, we opened gifts inside the RV in our comfortable living area, which was so much fun.  As usual, the dogs each had a gift of their own to start things off, and I can say that we all received some very nice gifts.  My family was especially good to me, but the real treat for me was just having everyone together for a few days of fun.

The weather was gorgeous in far West Texas the entire week we were there, which certainly helped make our trip more manageable and truly enjoyable.  We even ran our air conditioner for a bit on a few afternoons, too.  I’m sure some friends may think we’ve lost our minds spending the holidays in our RV, but we enjoyed our time in the Davis Mountains with our family more than anything we’ve done for the holidays in many years.  With all the cooking done ahead of time, meals were easy and tasty with minimal clean-up needed afterward, leaving quality time for visiting, hiking and playing games together.

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My long, long shadow during a walk in the park late on Christmas afternoon.  I feel so at home here now and have even entertained the thought of retiring in this very remote area that holds some family history for me.

After the kids left, Hubby and I enjoyed a few days all by ourselves, followed by two days with two friends who made their first trip to the area for the New Year’s weekend in their RV, the same friends we’ve started traveling with a bit over the past year.  We enjoyed showing them around, and they also spent some time on their own at the McDonald Observatory, which we have seen many times on previous trips.  Hubby and the friends hiked from the state park to the national park, and I picked them up there after we all toured the fort area together on New Years Eve.

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We always enjoy a quick visit to the national park in Fort Davis.  Just before our trip, I also learned that a family member, now deceased, actually lived at this fort for a time when he was a young boy!

Our holiday trip was pretty much perfect for us, spending time both with family and friends, as well as quality time alone.  We even made new friends, a couple close to our age that just recently started their full-time RV journey, and we exchanged contact information with them.  It was delightful to visit with them off and on all during our vacation week.

Hubby and I opted to dine out a little more on this trip because there are some really good restaurants in town.  Rumor has it we dined at our favorite Mexican food restaurant three times during our week in the area and that our waitress knew what we wanted to order as soon as we sat down on our second and third visits.  We dined there on the evening we arrived with our son, for lunch with all the kids on Tuesday before they left, and again with our friends on New Year’s Eve.

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Cueva De Leon is our favorite restaurant in the area with the best chips and salsa and chile rellenos to die for! 🙂

We also dined at three other restaurants in town during our stay, which was a nice treat for us.  All were very good, and two were new to us.

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We ate lunch at Poco Mexico for the first time… yummy!
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We made a return visit for burgers at the Fort Davis Drug Store and Hotel.  My green chile and Swiss cheese burger with homemade onion rings was awesome!
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We enjoyed delicious panini sandwiches at The Porch, a new restaurant for us that serves breakfast and lunch and is part of the historic Hotel Limpia.

(On a side note, I couldn’t disagree more with the Trip Advisor restaurant ratings for Fort Davis restaurants, especially the #1 pick listed right now.  We’ve tried that place twice and are not at all impressed with it.  We won’t try again.  In our opinion, after many trips to the area, Cueva De Leon is by far the best in town.) 

Hubby and I also drove to both Alpine and Marfa on separate drives.  We had to make a quick trip to Alpine with our son on Christmas Eve morning in search of a new coffee pot, after ours unexpectedly died on us.  Thankfully, we found one at the big hardware store, the last one on the shelf, because we would have had a crisis on our hands without a coffee pot!

Our scenic drive to Marfa on an overcast day after the kids left was nice, and we saw the pretty courthouse there, along with the historic Hotel Paisano and the whimsical El Cosmico campground south of town.  On their drive back to El Paso, the kids stopped for photos at Prada Marfa, too.

Hubby and I also enjoyed a Thursday evening presentation at Indian Lodge where the hotel manager told us all about the history of the lodge from the CCC era to date, and she also pointed out several of the original furniture pieces from that time period, marked by the metal strappings at the bottom of each one.  It was a nice evening with other hotel guests and campers, complete with hot cider and cookies by a warm fire inside.

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I’ve seen this beautiful table at Indian Lodge on each trip to the area, but it was interesting to learn that it is one of the original pieces from the CCC era.

She also shared that Indian Lodge will close in September 2017 for four months for exterior resurfacing, just in case anyone is planning a trip to the area and would like to stay there.

The week prior to our trip was a fun and busy week, too.

Prior to Christmas, I also hosted my second annual cookie swap on the Monday evening before Christmas.  It was a big success once again, with two new participants this year, in addition to those returning from last year’s swap.  This year, we actually decorated cookies together for the first time, and it was so much fun, even though it was more prep work for me.  I think we will have to keep doing this in future years, if only for the laughs… which were many!  Those ladies pretty much destroyed my kitchen decorating cookies, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

After the cookie swap, I was able to provide some awesome cookie platters to my elderly neighbor, to Hubby’s side of the family during our evening together the next night and to the state park staff on Christmas Eve morning, while also saving lots of cookies for my family to enjoy during our trip, too.

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Christmas cookies are a tradition with us, and swapping cookies with friends makes the tradition even more special.  This tray included cowboy cookies, snickerdoodles, holiday thumbprints, peanut butter with chocolate kisses, cardamom cream cheese cookie press cookies and decorated star sugar cookies that we all decorated together.  I also made a few other types of cookies not shown here, including oatmeal with fresh cranberries and chocolate chip, and I totally hoarded the white chocolate and cranberry cookies that one of the new ladies brought to the exchange!

Just before we departed on our Christmas trip, we spent a delightful evening with Hubby’s side of the family on Tuesday evening, including some family members from the Dallas area.  The big home-cooked meal was a real treat for all of us during those last busy days before Christmas, with meatloaf served as the main entrée.  It was our first opportunity to gather together in our nephew’s new home with his precious wife and girls, and they were good sports to host everyone while still in the process of moving in.  They wouldn’t have it any other way.

I didn’t have an opportunity to celebrate a friends Christmas with my two special friends here before we left on our trip, but we are hoping to finally get together one evening this week.  I have grown accustomed to this fun tradition over more recent years and definitely missed our fun gathering.

I trust you all had a wonderful Christmas and wish you all the best in 2017!

 

Come On Spring!

I’m going to attempt to play catch up here a bit on the blog today, covering several things, including weather, travels, Christmas and where I’m at today in dealing with Mom’s passing.

I think this has been the longest and hardest winter I’ve ever endured.  The weather here has been quite a challenge ever since Christmas, with repeat bouts of ice and snow and slippery roads, more than we are accustomed to having, at least in more recent years during the drought.  The good thing that came of the nasty weather, though, was several inches of precipitation that has apparently lifted our immediate area out of the drought, at least for now.  Of course, this doesn’t mean that our lakes are once again full, not even close, but at least the moisture in the soil for the farmers and ranchers is back to a level where they can hopefully get by a little better.

For me personally, the icy roads were the biggest weather challenge, especially while Mom was sick.

What it looked like at home for much of this winter
What it looked like at home for much of this winter
Snow in December
The snowy view from the hospital for most of the last week of December and early January

I, or another gracious driver who offered to drive me, had to make the treacherous drive back and forth to help care for Mom daily while she was hospitalized, and on one morning, my car slid terribly on the ice.  It was the worst sliding episode I’ve ever experienced, and I was barely creeping along.  Fortunately, I didn’t hit anyone, and no one hit me.  I am so very grateful for that good outcome because many other people were not so fortunate.  About two weeks ago after several inches of snow fell in a short time, there were about 200 wrecks here in our immediate area in just a few hours, and that was just one day this season.  There were many more days just like that one.  The problem is that our roads are seldom treated properly, if they are treated at all, when ice and snow hits, and that makes driving here a real challenge in such conditions.  That is also why we have to be careful about planning our RV travel days in winter months.  Driving an RV on roads like this is just not a good plan… at all.

I need spring.  I need it for more tolerable weather and also for my spirit.  I am ready for brighter days, milder temperatures, green grass and trees, planting tomatoes, walking the dogs at the park, and hopefully an end to some of the things that have taken most of my time since late January when my mother passed away.  I am still dealing with estate matters and most likely will be for most of March, if not longer.  It is boring and sometimes tedious stuff, complicated a bit by one particular in-law that I must deal with in this process, and I am just so ready to just be done with it all.  I need to start moving on from this, but the estate business just keeps dragging me back to this hard and sad time in my life and spending more and more money with the attorney.  The latest bill was almost $2k.  Yikes!

I want to set aside the present for a bit, though, and finally backtrack to Christmas with Mom and also to two trips we made in the RV this winter.  Both trips were to Davis Mountains State Park in far West Texas, which has definitely become one of our “go to” places to visit.

We had an early Christmas celebration with my mother on the Sunday before Christmas, and we had a great time with her while her health was still good.  Let’s just say that I will always remember the Christmas of 2014, for sure.  The last time I saw my mother in good health was that special evening at our house, celebrating Christmas with her.  We kept dinner simple with a tasty chicken pot pie and lots of homemade cookies.  We then opened our gifts with her, visited together and played with the dogs.  She was still getting used to big ole puppy Red, who just wanted to be her pal, but she adored Girly Girl who is older and more settled around people.  Mom loved all of her gifts, which consisted mostly clothes and a new watch, as well as some good teas which she loved.  I took some nice pictures of her, and my last picture of her before she got sick was a cute photo of her opening her new watch that I picked out especially for her.  It was a snap-on style without a clasp, similar to the one she always wore that had seen better days, and she was so happy to receive it.  After our nice evening together was done, I took her back to her apartment nearby, carried her things to her room for her, gave her a hug and a kiss, thanked her for our gifts, told her I loved her, and went back home.

At least Mom got to wear the watch for a few days, even though she never got to wear the new clothes.  They still had the tags on them when I cleaned out her apartment.  But honestly, who could ask for a more memorable last visit while her health was good?  I definitely believe that was a God-thing, and I will always be so grateful that we had such a good last visit with her at Christmastime.  After she went to the hospital, the seizures and strokes had taken a big toll on her, and things were just not the same after that.

Davis Mountains in the Snow
Davis Mountains in the snow on Christmas Eve morning between Balmorhea and Fort Davis

We had two days at Davis Mountains State Park with all of our kids over Christmas for the very first time before we had to return home earlier than planned to care for Mom, and I have some pictures to share from both trips.  We reserved one hotel room in the historic section at the Indian Lodge in the park for our California kids, in addition to our RV accommodations, and it all worked out great.  The kids loved their room at the lodge, with the only exception being the noise of people walking around in the room above them at times early in the morning.  We opened gifts in the RV on Christmas morning as usual, and we also enjoyed our traditional sausage toasts for breakfast.  We even had a little decorated tree that was a mini version of our big tree at home, and we also had a “fire roaring in the fireplace,” which was actually just a DVD playing on the television.  The weather was crisp and beautiful while we were there, and we enjoyed some outdoor time together in the warmer afternoons, including a hike from the state park to the national historic site at the fort.  We also enjoyed an epic game night at the Indian Lodge on our last night there.  If we return here on future Christmas trips, we hope to actually make it to a Christmas Eve service in town, too.

FYI… the restaurant at the Indian Lodge is going to close in September and will be closed for about a year for expansion.  It is a sorely needed update, but food options are a bit limited in the area, too.  I hope that guests at the lodge are aware of this before they book their travel plans, and I hope that area restaurants will keep this in mind to try to help accommodate guests, too.

We all had a good time on our Christmas camping trip in the boondocks, and I hope we can have a do-over sometime and enjoy this time together as we originally planned because it was a truly great plan for our little family.  This trip was just too short, but I’m still grateful for the brief time we had together as a family once again.  Those times are scarce these days, for sure.

Christmas tree at Indian Lodge
Christmas tree at the Indian Lodge
Davis Mountains State Park Christmas Sunset
Sunset at Davis Mountains State Park at Christmas
Fireplace at Indian Lodge
Fireplace at the Indian Lodge
First Camping Christmas
Our first RV camping Christmas!

On our trip back to Davis Mountains State Park a couple of weeks ago, we had a combination of freezing weather, followed by a couple of gorgeous days, typical West Texas weather.  😀  It never snowed while we were there, but the dense fog froze and created an absolutely stunning sight, which we later learned was called a “hoarfrost.”  The entire area was just stunningly beautiful, but the sight was especially impressive at the top of Skyline Drive, which experienced more fog than the lower areas in the park and in town.  The entire Fort Davis area remained below freezing for about forty hours, which gave us a full day to enjoy this unique beauty that I called “Elsa Land.”  It was also a quiet day in the campground, since most everyone stayed indoors or took off in their cars like we did for much of the day that never got above 25 degrees, according to the temp readout in our car.

I just had to share these photos, as I doubt we will ever see such an impressive sight in this area again.  We had no clue when we went on this trip that we would see such a sight, and we will always remember this surreal and beautiful day that we spent just trying to stay warm while seeing some of the most beautiful and unique sights ever.

The high temp on Friday was 25 degrees.
The high temp on Friday was 25 degrees.
Fort Hoarfrost a
Historic old trees at Fort Davis National Historic Site
Fort Hoarfrost b
Fort Davis National Historic Site
Indian Lodge Hoarfrost b
Indian Lodge, Davis Mountains State Park
Indian Lodge Hoarfrost
Valley view from Indian Lodge, Davis Mountains State Park
RV Campground Hoarfrost b
A gorgeous ice-covered tree in the campground at Davis Mountains State Park
RV Campground Hoarfrost
The RV campground was very quiet on a 25 degree day with everything covered in ice, but it was a gorgeous sight!
Skyline Drive Hoarfrost c
The road seemed to disappear into the thick fog on Skyline Drive.
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What a gorgeous sight at the top of Skyline Drive at the overlook, where the fog still hung quite heavy.
Skyline Drive Hoarfrost Feb 2015 a
Up close view of the hoarfrost on the tree at the overlook – so impressive to see
Skyline Drive Hoarfrost Feb 2015 b
“Elsa Land” at the top of Skyline Drive – what a sight!

We did quite a bit of driving in the area on this trip, and we checked out the town of Alpine a bit more.  On a return trip sometime, we want to tour the Museum of the Big Bend, which in located on the Sul Ross campus there.  We like Alpine and will probably spend more time there on future trips.  There is also an Amtrak station there, right in the middle of town.  We also attempted to find Prada Marfa on another day, but after driving all the way to Valentine and not finding it, we gave up and returned to Fort Davis via the scenic route instead of driving back through Marfa.  I’ve since learned that Prada Marfa is located just past Valentine, too.  We drove all that way and only needed to drive another couple of miles to see it.  Oh well, we enjoyed the drive anyway.  I should have done my homework better on that one.

I should also mention that the drive from Alpine to Fort Davis to Balmorhea is a must-see, as the scenery is truly beautiful, even in the winter months.  We also drove the 75-mile scenic loop at Fort Davis again, and that is always a beautiful sight as well.  Also, on this trip, we visited the library for the first time and enjoyed seeing it and looking at some interesting books on the area.

And speaking of books, I found this wonderful book in my mother’s things after she passed away.  It was given to my grandfather (my father’s father) by one of his cousins who lived in Fort Davis on a beautiful ranch with her husband for many years.  I will treasure it always now.

Old Fort Davis by Barry Scobee
Old Fort Davis by Barry Scobee, a book I will treasure always now

The trip back to the area was good for both of us.  This has been a very stressful winter, and we both needed this break.  We were blessed to have good driving weather and road conditions on the two days that we were on the road in the RV, even though our return trip was pushing it just a bit.  A big winter storm moved through our home area while we were gone and dropped several inches of snow.  The temperature did not get back to 32 degrees until the Sunday afternoon that we drove home, but thankfully, the main roads were all clear by the time we got back, and we had no issues getting home at all.  We had a backup plan in place to leave the RV at an RV park about an hour from home and just drive back with the dogs in the car, if needed, though.

Hubby and I finally sat down together and did a tentative travel plan for the rest of this year, and we are hopefully going to have a re-do of last year’s trips for the most part.  So many travel plans were upended for us in the early months of 2014, and we want the opportunity to have a re-do on pretty much the entire year, especially the trips that were impacted in some way by Mom’s various illnesses and in other ways, too.  We will decide later on what to do about Christmas, too.  Right now, staying home with all the years of Christmas memories here with Mom is not something I want to do.  It may be time for new traditions.  We’ll see.

I’m doing ok these days, I guess.  Life is just different since there is a big, gaping hole in it now, and I’m doing my best to just learn to live with that void at this point, having both good and not-as-good days.  Tears come on go on a fairly regular basis, although less often each week.  I still regularly have thoughts of taking Mom to new restaurants and stores when they open here, and I wonder if those will ever go away.  Eventually, the void will be filled with other people and activities, I’m sure.  The best thing for me seems to just continue to make progress in the tasks that need to still be done, stay in God’s word, and also take some time to do some things that I enjoy regularly.

I have enjoyed reading updates from those of you on my list over the past few weeks.  Slowly but surely, I hope to find the time to get back to posting more regularly here, but I’m just going to take things one day at a time for a while.

Right now, the sun is shining and I’m listening to birds singing outside.  I think they are ready for spring, too!  🙂

D
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The Desert in Bloom – Part 3

Our final destination on our long weekend trip during the last week of September was to the Fort Davis area, specifically to go camping at “the top of Texas” in our RV at Davis Mountains State Park once again.  This beautiful and historic state park has become one of our favorite places to visit over the past three years, too.  We have previously visited this area three times in the RV in winter months, but this was our first trip to the area in a non-winter month.

I posted about this area almost two years ago at Winter in the Davis Mountains, and there is some good information there that I will try to not repeat here, especially for first-time visitors to the area.  I also shared a pictures post from this area at Wordless Wednesday – Vacation Pictures back in January.  However, I truly wanted to share pictures while the park was a bit more green, and happily, I am finally able to do that.

It was such a treat to visit this unique area that was so gorgeous after recent rains, and the pictures really do not do justice to the beauty.  The seasonal monsoon rains helped to create a wonderful display of Goldeneyes that blanketed the mountains almost everywhere we looked, and their rich color helped to create a “carpet” of green and gold across most of the landscape in this area.  The floral display this year was apparently one of the best in the history of the area for this time of year, and we were so fortunate to see it on this trip.  In fact, I’m not sure we will ever see this area as beautiful as it was on this trip, so I will count that as a wonderful blessing.

Davis Mountains State Park
A “carpet” of green and gold blanketed the hills around the park, thanks to the many beautiful Goldeneyes in bloom.

We also enjoyed introducing two of our good friends to the area for the very first time, and we had a great time showing them around in the two days we had there together.  We also attended both a twilight party and a star party together at McDonald Observatory on Saturday evening.  This time, we saw several Messier clusters (11, 13 and 17 that I recall) and close-up views of the moon and Saturn, including Saturn’s rings.  But perhaps one of the most surprising and memorable sightings for our star party group that did not even require a telescope was seeing a discarded rocket stage that is in a long-term earth orbit that passed overhead at dusk just as the party started.

The employees at the observatory do such a fabulous job with their star parties.  My inner space nerd was so happy, and our friends had a great time, too.  It was also interesting to hear that the big telescopes were shut down for the evening, as the humidity was over 90%, which adversely affected their operation.

McDonald Observatory
View of the Harlan J. Smith telescope on top of the mountain on the left, the star party viewing area in the center, and the visitor cafe at McDonald Observatory
McDonald Observatory
The famous Hobby-Eberly telescope at McDonald Observatory

While we typically enjoy camping in parks that are out of cell range, our friends required a cell signal several times each day for business reasons.  So, we found ourselves at the top of Skyline Drive inside the park several times on this trip, as everyone was able to get full cell and data signals there from Fort Davis.  We even made a trip up the mountain around 11:30 pm on Saturday night after the star party for two reasons – to check messages and do a little more star-gazing.  We discovered this little trick to see some fabulous stars on our previous trip, so we purchased the $3 after-hours pass for Skyline Drive and made the trip up there once again.

We pulled up to the highest observation point and turned off all of the lights, and even though the clouds were starting to move back in, we were once again so impressed with the many bright stars in the sky. However, we also heard something rustling around in the brush nearby, which quickly got our attention because it sounded like it might be pretty large.  It was so dark that we could hardly see where the car was nearby, and since there are signs posted all over the park to watch for mountain lions, we all agreed that our star-gazing adventure would just have to be cut short as we bailed back into the safety of the car to finish checking phone messages.  Experiencing the thrill of a surprise close encounter with a mountain lion was definitely not on our agenda for the evening.

We all hoped to make the hike down from Skyline Drive to the Fort Davis National Historic Site, as it is an easy hike downhill that takes less than an hour, but time did not permit us to make this hike on this trip, unfortunately.  It works quite well to leave a vehicle in the parking lot of the fort and catch a ride back to Skyline Drive to make this downhill trek, ending with a tour of the historic fort area, as the trail is well-traveled and well-marked.  The hometown Thriftway is also just across the street from the fort area, if visitors need groceries while in town.

We also did not have time to drive the 75-mile scenic loop with our friends, which is one of the most beautiful drives in Texas.  I’ve driven it twice, and it would have been a gorgeous drive on the trip.  I suspect we will all be returning to the area again sometime and will catch-up on some of these great things to see and do while in the area.  Highway 118 from the park to the observatory is actually part of that scenic loop, so at least they were able to see that portion of the drive, which also happens to be on the highest state-maintained road in Texas at 6,791 feet at the McDonald Observatory.

 I will let the pictures below tell more of the story about this memorable trip.

Balmorhea to Fort Davis
A foggy drive from Balmorhea to Fort Davis
Wild Rose Pass
Almost to the top of Wild Rose Pass
Goldeneyes at Davis Mountains State Park
Goldeneyes in the campground at Davis Mountains State Park
Davis Mountains State Park
The park was so green on this trip.
Turkey Buzzards
Turkey buzzards hanging out on a picnic table in the park
Davis Mountains State Park
Our Saturday morning walk in the park
Davis Mountains State Park Bird Blind
The new bird blind in the park is so nice, built by the friends of the state park group.
Davis Mountains State Park
View of the historic Indian Lodge and the campgrounds in the valley
Davis Mountains State Park
Wildflowers on Skyline Drive
Davis Mountains State Park
A beautiful view from Skyline Drive toward the historic Indian Lodge
Davis Mountains State Park
Another view of the Goldeneyes on Skyline Drive with mountains in the distance
Davis Mountains State Park
Historic structure on Skyline Drive – the subject of many photos by visitors over the decades
Davis Mountains State Park
A “window on the world” view of the town of Fort Davis from Skyline Drive
Davis Mountains State Park
Beautiful “secret” picnic spot on Skyline Drive – find it when you visit!
Davis Mountains State Park
The beautiful hidden picnic spot on Skyline Drive
Davis Mountains State Park
Sunbather on a picnic table on Skyline Drive
Davis Mountains State Park
One of my favorite views in Texas – historic and beautiful on Skyline Drive
Davis Mountains State Park
Observation tower on Skyline Drive
Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center
The Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center, just south of Fort Davis on the road to Alpine, was a new stop for us on this trip and a great place to visit while everything was green from recent rains.
Fort Davis to Balmorhea
The drive from Fort Davis to Balmorhea is unique and beautiful.
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Another favorite Texas view, coming down from Wild Rose Pass toward Balmorhea

The Davis Mountains region of far West Texas is such a great place to visit any time of the year, and we look forward to returning again for more fun times with family and friends in the future.

D All Original Content — © fivefs.wordpress.com — All Rights Reserved

The Desert in Bloom – Part 1

When I think about visiting a desert location, I do not think about seeing green landscape everywhere I look, and I certainly do not think of beautiful flowers that are so prevalent in the landscape that they literally change the color of it as you gaze across it from a distance.  This was our experience as we visited the Davis Mountains of far West Texas for the first time in a non-winter month this past weekend.  We had such a fabulous time, and I will share more about our brief time there in a series of upcoming posts soon.

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Wild yellow daisies turned the Davis Mountains into carpets of green and gold.

We had the happy task of introducing two of our favorite state parks, the quaint town of Fort Davis and the famous McDonald Observatory to two special friends for the first time this past weekend, and I believe they fell in love with this area just like we did three years ago when we made our first visit in our new-to-us RV in the last week of December in 2011.  Honestly, it would be hard to not fall in love with this place when it is absolutely gorgeous like it was during this trip, especially since the fall monsoon rains were quite generous to the area this year.

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The hills were alive with yellow daisies near the entrance to Davis Mountains State Park.
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On top of Skyline Drive, the scenic and colorful views were just amazing.
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It feels like you can see all of far West Texas from the top of Skyline Drive.

Over the past few years, my love and appreciation of this mountainous desert area has grown as we have spent more and more time there, and seeing God’s unique handiwork in this region is always such a treat.  It is a very popular place to visit, and we have to plan further out to reserve a spot for the RV now than we did just three years ago.  If visiting by car, having a hotel reservation in advance is an absolute must most of the time, especially on weekends and holidays.

I have previously written about this unique part of Texas, even though both of those posts told about our experience in winter months.  We love this area even in the winter, and those first posts have a lot of good information in them for potential visitors, which I will try to not repeat in this post and upcoming posts.  I would still encourage everyone to make this area a bucket list destination at least one time in the appropriate season of your choice.

Winter in the Davis Mountains (2013)

Springs in the Desert at Balmorhea (2014)

Normally, we escape chilly winter weather in the Texas Panhandle for the more moderate climate in this area in the winter months, but I suspect we will now likely add yet another yearly visit in the fall.  We may even try a spring trip sometime, as the scenery is supposedly beautiful then, too.

Seeing the Davis Mountains region at a peak time of beauty really cinched my love of this place, for sure.  And as strange as it may sound, a few views on this trip reminded us of the mountains of Kauai from our trip back in May, especially on Friday morning when the weather was very cloudy and a bit rainy as we drove across Wild Rose Pass between Balmorhea and Fort Davis.

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It felt like we were back in Kauai for this beautiful drive over Wild Rose Pass.

If there was a slight disappointment for us on this trip, it was the fact that we saw very little wildlife as compared to the winter months when mule deer and javelina roam freely around the campground every day.  It was only a small disappointment, and the beautiful scenery more than made up for it this trip.

Visiting two iconic mountainous areas in four weeks has certainly been a blessing for us this year, as we just visited Rocky Mountain National Park for the first time over Labor Day weekend and loved every moment of our time in that area, too.  In fact, I think we may likely look back on this particular travel year as one of our best ones ever, even though the year started out quite rough in that respect due to bad weather and my mother’s bad fall in late January.  I can already feel that “look back” post coming later on after the year is done, too.  😉

In my next post, I will share more beautiful detailed photos of Balmorhea State Park.

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Wordless Wednesday – Vacation Pictures

Astro Photography

Balmorhea State Park

Campfire Cooking

Davis Mountains State Park

Fort Davis National Site

Fort Davis Texas

Geocaching Travel Bug

Hiking

Hotel Limpia Restaurant

Hotel Limpia

Indian Lodge

Joyriding

Marfa Texas Courthouse

McDonald Observatory Frank Bash Visitors Center

Mexican Food

Monahans Sandhills St Park

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Winter in the Davis Mountains

Moon rising over the Davis Mountains as seen from Skyline Drive, Davis Mountains State Park
Moon rising over the Davis Mountains as seen from Skyline Drive, Davis Mountains State Park

There are a few very special places that I’ve visited in my lifetime that I would go out of my way to convince others to visit at least once in their own lifetimes, and far West Texas is one of these places.  We recently visited this area again, and I want to share a little more about our trip and this area in today’s post.  To say this place is remote is a vast understatement, so just getting there is part of the whole unique experience.

After Christmas, we took off in the motor home with our dogs for an entire week of vacation to the Davis Mountains of far West Texas, which is quickly becoming one of our favorite places on earth to visit.  When traveling, there is “getting away,” and then there is really “getting away.”  Fort Davis and the Davis Mountains definitely fall into that second category of really “getting away,” and we just love visiting this area largely for that reason.  It is literally in the middle of nowhere, and it has a very special and unique beauty that we have not seen anywhere else, with the possible exception of the Big Bend National Park area.  We also have a little family history in this area from my parents’ generation, but nothing that I remember myself.  I loved to hear the stories of my parents’ visits out west, though.  Perhaps that is one reason this place means even more to me, especially when I envision those big family reunions that they spoke of at the big ranch on the hill.

This year’s trip was marvelous once again.  While the weather was quite nice during our visit, we were fortunate to get out just before a huge snowstorm hit the area two days after we left.  While it would be neat to be there for a big snow event like that and take lots of gorgeous snow pictures there in the desert mountains, it would also be tough to deal with the motor home in those conditions, especially if we had to drive in it.  So, while we missed the big storm, it was neat to see some great pictures online from others that were there for it.

What I won’t do in this post is go into all the detail about our trip, mainly because it was just a great week of camping, hiking, riding the motorcycle on some nice sightseeing ventures, camp cooking and lots of relaxing.  What I will do is share some of my pictures that will hopefully convey the unique beauty of this area.  A few pictures are from our cell phones, as I don’t always take my big camera along for the ride when we are on the motorcycle.

Driving to Fort Davis through the Davis Mountains at sunset is one of the best driving experiences ever, and pictures will never begin to do it justice.  There is also a great little state park in Balmorhea, which makes for a quick rest stop for us, since we have our Texas State Park Pass that allows us to get in for free to any state park.  In the winter, Balmorhea State Park is pretty much deserted, but in the summer, it stays full much of the time.  We didn’t visit the Fort Davis National Historic Site in town on this trip, but it is certainly one of the highlights of the area for a new visitor, along with the famous McDonald Observatory and the stunning 75 mile Scenic Loop Drive.  But, you certainly don’t have to go to the observatory to see the stars here, especially on a moon-less night.  It is worth a trip to this area just to see the amazing night sky alone, since the Fort Davis area is one of the darkest places in our hemisphere with little to no light pollution.  You will likely never again see stars like you will see them here on a clear night with no moon.  I was literally stunned the first time I witnessed it myself.  We had a full moon on this trip, though, which was beautiful on its own.

Driving in West Texas with sunset coming soon
Driving in West Texas in the middle of nowhere with sunset coming soon
Sign on I-10
Sign on I-10 for the turnoff to the Davis Mountains
Entering the Davis Mountains at sunset
Entering the Davis Mountains at sunset
The drive from Balmorhea to Fort Davis through the mountains is beautiful
The drive from Balmorhea to Fort Davis through the mountains is beautiful
Davis Mountains at sunset
Davis Mountains at sunset with a golden, pink hue covering everything in sight
Mountain sunset
Davis Mountains drive at sunset
Gorgeous colors at sunset
Gorgeous colors at sunset in the Davis Mountains
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Our “pet” mule deer at our campsite, Davis Mountains State Park
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Another deer at the top of Skyline Drive, Davis Mountains State Park
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Amazing sunset seen from Skyline Drive with the Indian Lodge below, Davis Mountains State Park
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Wonderful pink hues grace the mountains and sky at sunset, McDonald Observatory in the distance
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The sun is almost gone for the day, Davis Mountains State Park
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Courtyard view at the Indian Lodge, Davis Mountains State Park
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From the Skyline Drive Overlook, you can see forever, Davis Mountains State Park
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Old CCC structure on Skyline Drive, Davis Mountains State Park
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View of the Indian Lodge and the campgrounds from Skyline Drive, Davis Mountains State Park
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The world-famous Hobby-Eberly Telescope at McDonald Observatory
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Fort Davis is a great little town with historic hotels and fun shops

There are a few things that are good to know for first time visitors to this area.  If you ever decide to visit Fort Davis and/or the state park there and plan to spend the night in the area, be forewarned that you need to have a reservation in advance.  I learned this the hard way on my first trip to this area a few years ago and had to drive about 35 miles before eventually finding a room for the night, and that was even on a weekend in February, not in the height of summer travel here.  Also, make sure your vehicle is in good working order any time of the year.  Having car trouble or running out of gas in this unforgiving country could be a really bad experience.  Camping at the state park is such a great experience, but there are a few javelinas that roam around, especially at night.  We always make sure to keep our dogs away from them as best we can.  One of our fun memories was taking a “star walk” on our first night of camping in the state park last year when it was pitch black, and hearing a pack of javelinas “snort” at us as we walked by, never once seeing any of them until we were right on them. 😉

Javelina, Davis Mountains State Park (2011 photo)
Javelina, Davis Mountains State Park (2011 photo)

Mountain lions and snakes are sometimes spotted, too, although we have never seen one.  Don’t let these few cautionary things keep you from visiting this area, though.  Like I said, this is now one of our most favorite places to visit.  There are many, many Texas treasures to see, and this one has to be toward the top of anyone’s list!

Our state park RV adventures will continue in April when we plan to take a full week of vacation and visit yet another new park!

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