Going to the desert, Part 2: Fort Davis, Texas

15 Jan

Mntns4After we’d had our fill of Marfa, we drove on through a torrent of tumbleweeds* toward Fort Davis, home of the Davis Mountains and the Indian Lodge, where we had booked a room for the night. We couldn’t check into our room until 3PM, so our plan was to hike around the mountains first, and then check in afterward, shower, and have dinner at the Lodge before heading to the inspiration behind the entire trip:  a star party at the McDonald Observatory. We had seen signs all over the place warning of mountain lion sightings, so we were on our guard, but didn’t end up coming across any wild animals on our hike. Not counting each other**, of course.

*I caught a slow motion video of two tumbleweeds rolling past the car as Caitlin screams “Nooooo.”

**Roar! We did see a fox and possibly a bobcat later in the day.

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It was shockingly windy on our walk, particularly as we got closer and closer to the top of the mountain. I kept my peace signs close because I was worried about blowing away. I had to hold my hat on my head to keep it on. Despite the wind, it was quite comfortable outside.

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The scenery was absolutely breathtaking. You’d expect lots of flat surfaces and sand in a desert, but there is so much more to it. We played lots of word games* as we hiked along the 5-mile path we set out on. We cut about a mile out of the trail in the end, but that still gave us plenty of time for water breaks, trail mix breaks, and “how many song titles can we name by a band in a row” rounds. It was the perfect amount of hiking and took us about two hours. I’m kind of sad that this iPhone pic looks as good or better than from our camera.

*We mostly played “Build a Title” that Doug Benson plays on his “Doug Loves Movies” podcast. Someone says a movie title, like “American Beauty” and the next person has to say another movie that either ends with “American” or starts with Beauty. Pretty soon we had “American Beauty & The Beasts of the Southern Wild Things,” etc. 

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Before we’d even driven up to the front office, we caught a glimpse of the Indian Lodge from afar. It was exciting to think about spending the night nestled in the hills. It was lovely, but I was mostly glad we even found where we were staying. That’s not always a guarantee with me.

ZackMntns4I was too afraid to encourage a jumping photo from Zack, so he just stood like he was going to do a Beatles jump. Caitlin gets adorably nervous any time I get close to an edge.

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Plants and plateaus and rocks, oh my! I can see why Caitlin’s dad loves coming to nearby Big Bend so often. It’s really lovely out in West Texas.

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This was just my squinting, pointing at the mountains behind me look, but it kinda looks like a “guns up” muscle pose so I’ll take it! I thought you were pointing at your smile, but that works too 😉

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I love this selfie by Zack. It was such a beautiful hiking day. Usually we limit ourselves to couple selfies, but I took this one while bored and waiting for Caitlin to change into her new hiking gear.

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This was actually one of the first shots we took, right after we’d reached the tip-top of the first mountain we traversed. We were very relieved, although we discovered the downhill was more difficult than the uphill. Caitlin braved her nagging knee injury for the hike. I could tell the downhill bothered her, though.

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As we neared the end of our journey, we weren’t 100% sure where we had left the car. We pulled out the map and stood around looking for the car…which we then discovered was right around the corner from where we stood. We ran back to the spot where we had stopped to take this photo of how ridiculous it was that we feared we were “lost” (that’s my car in the top-right area of the photo). All in all, the hike took about 3 a little more than 2 hours and the weather was perfect for what we had on – I wore long underwear beneath my pants and plaid shirt, along with warm fuzzy socks, hiking boots and my ear-flapped hat. I was perfectly comfortable the entire way. It was SO me to be looking at a map when we were less than a city block away from the car. We had to re-create it.

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Unfortunately, we couldn’t take photos of the star party itself because it was way too dark for anything to show. Once we had checked in to our room in the Indian Lodge (with a front desk woman who was just about the most adorable human I’ve ever met, calling us “y’all” and telling us about the “handsome men” who had built the historic section of the Lodge we were staying in) we rushed to get ready and still didn’t make it to dinner until 6:30, just a 30 short minutes prior to the beginning of the star party. I started to panic, but the kind woman who was our waitress called the Observatory for us to make sure it was alright that we’d be a little late, and they stated that was fine and they’d give us instructions as soon as we got there. We scarfed down dinner and rushed out the door, and on the drive to the Observatory, saw our first wildlife – either a bobcat or small fox ran off into the bushes as we climbed up high mountains toward our star party. Caitlin was super nervous about being late, but I assured her the stars would still be there and we’d get our fill of telescopes. Plus, it was worth it. Look how adorable she looks!

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I wore about a zillion layers, because everyone warned me it was going to be freezing cold at this thing. Between it being the desert at night, as well as at a very high altitude, it was a recipe for chill. I wore a dress with a cardigan and another cardigan and a coat over that, and I matched my eyes to the sparkly night sky*! The star party was absolutely wonderful. The first 45 minutes** or so were taken up by a guide pointing out constellations and stars in the sky for us, as well as Jupiter, which was very bright that night. Then we headed over to 5 humongous telescopes aimed at different things – they were all amazing, but my favorites were these two huge star clusters (I can’t remember the name, blergh!), a nebula that was glowing brilliantly, and a low-power close-up of the moon***. We also got a high-powered look at the moon, as well as a look at Jupiter****, which kinda looked like a wavy ball with two red stripes in the center. Even though both Zack and I have seen skies with more stars than we saw that night, we were both enchanted, and definitely want to go back during a different season to get a totally different view of what’s up there.

*She really put thought into the star look and it paid off.

**It was 45 minutes for everyone else and about 10 minutes for us. I know that was enough for me, considering how cold it was.

***Lower-powered moon telescope was easily my favorite. You could see the entire moon in the scope, but also get some gorgeous crater details.

****I gotta say, Jupiter was pretty disappointing. Maybe it was my expectations. It was cool to be able to see the planet at all, but I hoped to see a lot more through a telescope.

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Even though nobody ever really got to see my dress because it was too cold to de-coat, how could I not wear my galaxy print dress to the star party?! After we came in from the cold, we got some hot cocoa and a gooey cookie and wandered around the children’s museum part of the observatory. We also watched a movie showing a guy’s hand super close in, showcasing down to the atoms, and then expanding out to where the Milky Way was just a speck on the screen. That stuff blows my mind. Same here. That movie made me feel so small compared to how unbelievably massive the world is. Caitlin did get some well deserved compliments on her dress from the clerk at the food stand.

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This dress has pockets. I mean. You mean black holes? 

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I kept wiggling my head so Zack never got a clear shot of them, but I was also wearing handmade moon earrings and this sparkly necklace to go with the overall space theme of my outfit. Moon rocks.

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We took this pic right before we left in the morning. Hard to leave this beauty.

The drive home the next day was tough. It was hard to leave our little escape  in part because I started to feel like crapola (I sneezed for about 10 minutes straight* when I first woke up Saturday morning), and in part because Zack and I had such wonderful bonding time out in the desert. Even when we got stopped at some construction, there was magic:  a family of cows was all standing right by the side of the road, behind a fence, and they stared at us. It was so cool to see them up close – cows are seriously pretty! That’s why the phrase “cow-eyed” used to be a compliment. Anyway, the bull was protecting his family, walking from the baby, to the older brother, to the mom, and licking them all, keeping them close together. The mom watched us almost the entire time we were stopped, and the kids alternated between looking at us and looking at their dad and mom. It was a sweet scene that made us miss our Scooby and be glad when we were back home and cuddling with him.

*The sneeze fest started as we were packing up the car, so I went to the front desk to ask if they sold tissues. The elderly woman at the desk said she didn’t think they did, but I reached for a flower-y box I assumed was tissues and she pointed out that those were tampons. Guh. She kindly gave us a full box of tissues and we were on our way.

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I love that I have a boyfriend who is so adventurous and willing to go on random road trips with me to odd places to experience the magic in life, if only for a long weekend getaway. Caitlin kept thanking me, as if I’d done her some big favor. Please. I was thrilled to go. I love our adventures together!

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One Response to “Going to the desert, Part 2: Fort Davis, Texas”

  1. jessthetics January 17, 2014 at 3:59 am #

    Your galaxy print dress is so gorgeous, and so are your starry eyes! I’d love to see the desert in Texas, it looks magical. I’ve only ever seen it on “Brat Camp” – have you ever watched that? I’m glad you had a good time. I want to go to a star party! xx

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