Heading West

Mostly, I want to encourage you to just drive from Alpine to Fort Davis to Balmorhea, as it is some of the prettiest and most unique scenery in the state.

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West Texas Route

I just put this suggested itinerary together for a fellow RVer who was interested in a possible alternate route as they are planning to leave south Texas soon, but thought I would also share it here for others as well.

I have nothing against I-10 once you leave Kerrville headed west, but there is really nothing all that special to see on the way either.   If taking I-10, though, I recommend a stop at South Llano River State Park for a night or two.  It is a small but very scenic state park on the Llano River and is quite popular for RVers.  If you have the time and take I-10, stopping in Fredericksburg would be nice.  The Nimitz Museum and Becker Vineyards are great places to visit.  Becker is a few miles outside of town.  Fredericksburg is just a neat place.

Here is the route I would personally take, though.  (Additional information: If you plug the route in from Harlingen to El Paso, Google Maps will show about a five hour time savings by taking I-10 vs the route I shared.  However, there is a good stretch of I-10 leaving the hill country and into far West Texas that is 80 mph on I-10.  No RVer is going to drive that fast, I hope, so there really is not that much time savings by taking I-10.  It’s great if you’re driving a car, though, and as far as interstates go, it is pretty nice, although remote.)

Garner State Park – one of the oldest and most scenic state parks we have visited in Texas, on the beautiful Frio River.  Just avoid it on the weekends, if possible, especially in the summer months.  It is extremely popular on weekends but very nice any other time.  We camped right on the river, and I am more than ready to go back there again.  Lost Maples State Natural Area is nearby, but I don’t recommend driving a large rig there from Garner.  It is akin to driving over a steep mountain pass on a two lane road with no shoulder.  Just take your car over from Garner instead, if you have time to drive over there.  Garner is one of the few state parks that allows winter Texans in the winter months because it is a huge park as far as RV sites, and visitation is much lower in the winter.

Amistad Reservoir and National Recreation Site – this is still on our “to visit” list, but since it is on the way to the mountains of far West Texas, it would be a nice stop.  There are boon-docking sites in the national recreation area or RV parks in town nearby.

Late addition: Seminole Canyon State Park –  Mona Lisa of The Lowe’s RV Adventures also recommends a stop at Seminole Canyon State Park on this route, too.  I have not yet visited this unique park, which is located west of Amistad Reservoir, but she highly recommends it and enjoyed their visit there recently.  She recommends camping here instead of Amistad, too.  Thanks for that recommendation!

Alpine – The Museum of the Big Bend – yet another place on our “to visit” list after we visited Alpine on our most recent trip to the area.  There are also several RV parks in town, but I recommend heading on to the state park in Fort Davis to camp, if possible.  This is a good place to refresh groceries, gas, etc., too.  Far West Texas is a remote place.

Mostly, I want to encourage you to just drive from Alpine to Fort Davis to Balmorhea, as it is some of the prettiest and most unique scenery in the state.  You will be just fine in a large rig, as it is good two-lane road the entire way.  Please don’t drive this as night and miss this pretty scenery.  Watch out for “suicide pigs” – javelina that sometimes can be found on the road in morning and evening hours.

Note: While not on this route, the eclectic little town of Marfa is a very popular tourist destination these days, and the official Marfa Lights viewing platform is located on this same highway between Alpine and Marfa.  Marfa may or may not be for you, though, so before traveling there, just do a little research ahead of time.  Prada Marfa is also much further out past Valentine and probably not worth the long drive there and back.  But, if you should continue directly on this highway to Van Horn and El Paso, you will see these sights.  I highly recommend taking the scenic drive listed above from Alpine to Fort Davis to Balmorhea instead.  The drive between Marfa and Fort Davis is just not as scenic.

Davis Mountains State Park – obviously one of our favorite places to visit each year in any season!  50 amp sites are highly coveted but the 30 amp sites are also nice and are often available when the 50 amp sites are booked.  We have stayed in both.  Fort Davis National Historic Site, 75 Mile Scenic Loop, McDonald Observatory, the neat little town of Fort Davis, the historic Indian Lodge (built by the CCC), and the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center are just some of the things to see here.  The 75 miles scenic loop is especially impressive.  Bird watching and hiking are big activities here, but it is also just a beautiful place, even in the RV sites.  In town, there is a decent grocery store where you can also buy gas.

Balmorhea State Park – a nice place to camp or to just make a quick stopover to see the world’s largest (and very historic) spring-fed pool, built by the CCC.  Only 45 minutes from Fort Davis.  There is one nice convenience store for gas.  Recommend having a full tank when you leave Fort Davis or Balmorhea headed west.

Cattleman’s Restaurant – on the way to El Paso, one of the most memorable places we have ever dined.  I remember the views are just extraordinary at sunset.  It is about 30-45 minutes east of El Paso, just off of I-10.  It’s been quite a while since we’ve dined here, but I believe it is still as good as ever.

White Sands National Monument – if you’ve never been here, it is a must see at least once!  I can’t help with a recommendation as to where to park the RV, though, since we have not RV camped in this area.

We have spent a lot of time in the Ruidoso – Cloudcroft – Alamogordo area (especially Ruidoso) and have RV camped in the national forest at Cloudcroft.  If you have more time in this area, it’s a great area to visit and spend some time.  You cannot drive the RV directly between Alamogordo and Cloudcroft, unfortunately.  There is another way to get there that circles up closer to Ruidoso, then cuts back into Cloudcroft.  You can drive a car directly between Alamogordo and Cloudcroft, though, and it is a great drive as long as your brakes are in good shape.

Of course, diverting down into Big Bend National Park is certainly another possible addition, if time permits.  Driving Big Bend is a great road trip in the car, and you could leave the RV in Marathon, Alpine or Fort Davis for the day and take a picnic lunch along.  We’ve considered doing that many times while in Fort Davis and will probably do it at some point ourselves again, hopefully soon.  Big Bend is just an amazing place.

Hope this helps, if you’re interested in possibly taking a more scenic route west and seeing some great sights!

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Camping in the Sand

We had a fabulous trip to far West Texas once again last week.  There are so many interesting things to tell about our trip, and I plan to do that over some upcoming posts to try to give more detailed information about some of the places we saw and things we did.  It was nice to have a car along for this trip, instead of just the motorcycle, since our son joined us this time.  He rode in the motor home with hubby while I followed in the car so that we would have a way for us all to get around once we parked the RV at camp.

We visited Monahans Sandhills State Park for the first time and spent one night there in route to the Davis Mountains.  This allowed us to not only see a “new-to-us” state park for the first time but to also break-up the drive as well.  We nearly always prefer to stay in a state park, if that option is reasonably available to us and because we have a yearly Texas State Park Pass.  We are spoiled to nature camp sites over urban RV parks, for sure.  However, in the Midland/Odessa area, RV campsites are mostly full now with oilfield workers anyway.

The park entrance is just off of I-20, a few miles east of Monahans, which makes the park a great stop for RV travelers.  I called ahead of time to make sure that we would not need a gate code to arrive after hours and to ask a few questions about their RV spots.  Many of their spots are pull-through, which was perfect for us for a quick overnight stop.

While the park entrance is located just off of the interstate, the RV campground is much further back into the park and away from the traffic noise, maybe about two miles back as my best guess.  We found that the distance of the campground away from the road, along with all the sand dunes, made for a decent buffer to block the noise.  We were a bit surprised to see how many overnight campers were already there, and we got one of the last pull-through spots.  We arrived about 8:30 pm, leveled the rig with the hydraulic jacks, plugged in the electricity, had a quick snack and visit, and called it good for the night.

Monahans Sandhills State Park
RV campground at Monahans Sandhills, taken after other RV’s had left the next morning

The next morning, we could finally see the park around us.  We were surrounded by sand dunes, and the table at our campsite was also in the sand.

Monahans Sandhills Picnic Table
Picnic table in the sand at our campsite

It was very pretty, especially as the sun cleared the dunes to the east.  We had a leisurely breakfast and visit, then took Girly Girl for a quick walk before packing up to continue our journey.  She is pretty spoiled to “going” on grassy areas, but I was pleasantly surprised that she didn’t seem to mind going in the sand.  I guess when a girl’s got to go, a girl’s got to go!  I can relate.  😉

We always clean up after our dogs, just for the record.  Doggy poop bags are a must for campers with dogs.  I don’t want to see leftovers from other pets, and I don’t want other campers to deal with our pets’ leftovers either.  It is no trouble either.  I wish more campers would do this, but if I have an extra poop bag in my pocket, I will usually pick up poop from other pets in the campground, too.

Monahans Sandhills Campground Road
The campground road behind our RV
Monahans Sandhills Dune
Sand dune in the RV campground

On our way out, we stopped at the park office to officially check in for the night and to look around the small museum, which was pretty interesting.

Monahans Sandhills park office and museum, decorated for Christmas
Monahans Sandhills park office and museum, decorated for Christmas

The park staff was very friendly, and we bought our obligatory state park magnet and hiking stick medallion for our respective collections.  We noticed that the park also had disks to rent for anyone that wanted to surf in the sand, and I could just imagine how fun that must be, especially for kids.  (I could also imagine how much sand would end up in the RV, too.)

Recently, the park staff posted on their Facebook page for visitors to not rely on GPS units to direct them to the park entrance.  For some reason, some GPS devices take visitors all the way into the town of Monahans.  The park entrance is very easy to find, and they recommend just taking Exit 86 off of I-20, as that is right at the entrance to the park.  There are also signs on I-20 that show the park at Exit 86, too.

I wish that we could have had more time to look around this neat park and also find the official park geocache, but we really needed to move on to our final destination and set up camp before dark.  Hopefully we can come back for a long weekend visit sometime.  I don’t think that I would want to come for a visit when our good ol’ West Texas wind is howling, though.  I can only imagine how the dust might kick up there.

We left the park later that morning and drove to the Flying J in Pecos, where we filled up our gas tanks before turning south toward the mountains for the remainder of the week.  Gas is much cheaper in Pecos than in the remote mountain areas, so we took advantage of those cheaper prices while we could.  In hindsight, we should have topped off our propane tank there, too.  More on that little issue later.

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