Monday, March 28, 2011

Fort Davis

We found relief from the heat 120 miles north and nearly 3,000 feet up in quaint and quiet Fort Davis. This tiny town offers spectacular views of unspoiled landscape, rich history and spectacular star gazing. We've enjoyed it all for the last five days.

Our home in Fort Davis has been Davis Mountains State Park. With a 40-foot home on wheels, we're hesitant to visit most state parks. But, everything's bigger in Texas, and there's plenty of room for Bullwinkle here. With full hookups, including cable, this is a mighty fine place to call home for awhile. There's even a lodge with a full-service restaurant. Here in the mountains, many of the RV sites are far from level. With a hefty front to back slope, it took some extra effort to get Bullwinkle level. He looks like he's ready to fly off the hill!

This 2,700 acre park is nestled, as its name implies, in the Davis Mountains. Here's a view of the park from the scenic overlook on Skyline Drive.

The overlook is also the home of a well-named geocache, which Paul searched for. He eventually spotted the cache named "Can You Hear Me Now?" We got a chuckle out of the name because, with no cell service in the campground, this is where campers come to make their calls. Up here the signal is quite strong.

We picked up a few caches in and around Fort Davis. One search brought us here to the historic Dr. Jones house. Unfortunately, the Dr. Jones cache remained elusive.

The last find of our caching afternoon was out in a far corner of a park out on the edge of town. Take a look at that landscape. This is west Texas!

Fort Davis played a major role in the history of the Southwest. This frontier military post was abandoned in 1891. In 1961, the National Park Service named it a Historic Site. Today the 474-acre site features 24 restored buildings and over 100 ruins and foundations and invites visitors to take a step back in early Texas history.

Our first stop at the fort was the Visitor Center, which featured several exhibits detailing the history of the fort.

In the auditorium, we watched an informative orientation video. It did take a little time to get used to seeing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Western Wear!

The enlisted men's barracks has been furnished to recreate Summer 1884, when it was occupied by Buffalo Soldiers of Troop H, Tenth Calvary.

The remains of more barracks border the old San Antonio-El Paso Road. From 1854 until 1891 troops stationed at the post protected emigrants, freighters, mail coaches and travelers along the 600-mile stretch.

The remains of the old road look pretty rough, but this mode of transportation is not exactly what we're accustomed to. We'll take our moose over this stagecoach anytime!

The remains of an old brick oven at the ruins of the fort bakery.

With west Texas winds whirling through the Davis Mountains, it didn't take long to dry the laundry on this post.

The post hospital is the latest building undergoing restoration at the fort. The 24-bed facility was normally staffed by a surgeon, steward, soldier-nurses, a cook and a matron. Soldiers suffered mainly from diseases and accidental injuries, not battle wounds.

This framed document in one hospital window lists information about the 17 men who died at the fort.

In the center of the row of officer's quarters sits the Commanding Officer's Quarters. With its tall shade trees and sweeping porch, it's definitely the biggest and nicest house on the block.

The home is furnished to the period 1882-85 when Col. Benjamin H. Grierson and his family resided there. The tasteful appointments brought culture to the wild frontier.

Our two-hour tour of the post was enhanced by the fort's sound program. Throughout the day, recordings of bugle calls and music of the time are broadcast across the site. From Reveille to Taps, various sounds called soldiers to meals, drills and other duties. Hearing them today made it easier to imagine how life may have been protecting the country in the 19th century.

We turned our attention to the skies Saturday night and ventured 13 miles up into the mountains to visit the McDonald Observatory, which is home to one of the world's largest telescopes, the Hobby-Eberly.

Three nights a week, the observatory hosts a "Star Party". We arrived at the visitor's center early to check out the place and catch the sunset before the party.

The sunset wasn't spectacular, but the Star Party certainly was! Spending the evening under a clear, moon-free sky pointing out stars and peeking through several telescopes doesn't make for good blog photos, but it was definitely an evening to remember. If you're in the area, don't miss a chance to see this amazing show.

Tomorrow we'll say farewell to this delightful town. After spending four months in the Great State of Texas, it's time for us to head to somewhere new. More soon from New Mexico.


Jim and Sandie said...

Sure have enjoyed your travels through Texas. Looking forward to your NM journeys. Be safe.

Sue and Doug said...

safe travels as you head the next state!!!..we are looking forward to your posts from New Mexico!!