We are heading to Big Bend National Park in southwest Texas, but we’re taking our time. At the visitor center in El Paso, they recommended taking the roads through the Davis Mountains. So we took them and ended up at Prude Ranch in Fort Davis.
I say ended up there like it was happenstance, but Tom actually puts a lot of effort in scouting out our destinations and camping spots. This ended up being another great choice.
It also happened to be where we met up with our friends again, Ray and Pam of Santana RVing. We toured the remains of the Fort Davis together on a very blustery day. We had fun.
Tom and I planned on moving on to Marfa – so I could witness the Marfa lights. But Pam and Ray were staying to go to a Star Party at the nearby McDonald Observatory. So after some discussion – and a trade-off that Tom would go horseback riding – we stayed another day.
I figured what better place to go for a horseback ride than at a ranch in Texas, right? So reluctantly, Tom and Ray agreed and we had a nice little trail ride on a beautiful day with a very knowledgable trail guide (big shout out to Michael). It wasn’t especially beautiful, and it didn’t exactly make me miss having horses, but the time spent with friends was great fun.
Then we wrapped up in winter warm gear and headed to the observatory at dusk. We were lucky the skies were so clear because the day before and after were very overcast.
We sat under a quarter moon while a guide pointed out the constellations, then we wandered around in the dark to look through seven different giant telescopes at the moon and a nebula and some star clusters. It was well worth it and according to everyone, a much better choice than trying to observe the Marfa lights.
It probably would have been a good choice to go the observatory for a daytime tour as well. At night the really really big observatories are shut off to the public so the astronomers can get to work. Another reason to go back to the area.
In case you don’t already know I’m a tree person, and being so long in the desert I get really excited to see big trees, even if they’re in their winter dormancy. Imagine my delight when we saw cottonwoods starting to bud up with bright spring-green tips as we drove through the canyons! (Unfortunately no where to pull over to get pics!)
We and the Santanas left the campground separately with plans to meet up in Big Bend in a couple of days. They were heading straight into the National Park, while Tom and I took the scenic (aka difficult) drive through Big Bend Ranch State Park.
I’ve heard many comments on what a gorgeous drive the 170 is along the Rio Grande. And it was nice. But it was so similar to all the other spectacular drives that we’ve been on here in the southwest. We decided it must appeal more to people coming from the east. There were small sections that looked like the Painted Desert of Arizona, or the Badlands of South Dakota, or the Red Rocks of Sedona – or so many of the other spectacular places we’ve been. Rather than be disappointed that this was just another nice road, it made me appreciate the fact that we’ve been able to experience SO much beauty, and I enjoyed the drive.
Well, I enjoyed the drive as I wasn’t driving! The road has a lot of turns and ups and downs and hardly any pull outs. But the roads were good and there was no traffic, so it was all good.
As we were nearing our next overnight destination spot, in the Ghost town of Terlingua, between the two Big Bend parks, we were surprised to meet up with the Santanas again (a day early). Turns out the first-come first-serve campground in the National Park was full. We all plan on getting an early start in the morning and we’ve been assured there will be spaces available.
In the meantime we had a delicious late lunch at the only Bar & Grill in town and had fun in the “ghost” town of Terlingua.
So far I’m liking Texas. Even though (so far) it’s not vastly different than the other desert areas we’ve been in for the past few months. My main observation of the difference: how clear the skies are here. Less pollution than Arizona and even New Mexico. When it’s not cloudy you can see for miles and miles – over one hundred! It makes me remember one of the main reasons we wanted to stop living in California’s San Joaquin Valley. But man, if they had this good of visibility there, I’d have to say the Sierra Nevada Mountains have these Texas hills beat!
Peace & Love, Joy