Fort Davis National Historic Site
Our first stop in Texas was Fort Davis. This was considered a key post in the defense of west Texas. Active from 1854 until 1891, the troops stationed here protected travelers along the San Antonio – El Paso road. The California Gold Rush attracted tons of prospective prospectors, and they crowded this route on the way to find their fortunes. There was a lot of traffic on this road – emigrants, mail coaches and freighters as well as travelers.
The Fort is pretty well preserved and/or restored, covering quite large grounds. Barracks, officers’ quarters, offices, stores, and a hospital and more. Apparently the military staffed what was a pretty much state-of-the-art medical facility. It is fascinating to see what “cutting edge” hospital environment looked like back then.
Some of the buildings have period furnishings to show what life was like while the fort was active. The officers could have pretty comfortable quarters, some having their wives and family with them. The hospital had a lot of documentation about what sort of accidents and diseases they were faced with ,and what treatments were given. Amazing and scary both.
The fort was along one of the main roads to the west. The Gold Rush in California attracted tons of prospective prospectors, and they crowded this route on the way to find their fortunes. The military presence here was to protect the streams of travelers and help outfit them with supplies. Below you can see remnants of that original road… amazing in that it is just a single lane dirt road. Not too enticing for a several hundred mile trek!
Big Bend National Park
We’ve been hearing for a long time about the beauty of Big Bend National Park. It’s true… there are interesting mountains, with lots of unusual colors. The park is huge! It’s the 14th largest National Park, so that means driving across it takes a fair bit of time! (7 of the 10 largest parks are in Alaska… maybe we should check them out!)
We camped outside the western border of the park, right at the border between Big Bend Ranch State Park and Big Bend National Park. I’d thought it would be handy being right in the middle like that, but it turns out it’s a bit of a drive to the national park.
The Rio Grande flows along the south end of the park, forming the border with Mexico. Near the river it’s very green; far from the river it’s dry desert.
There are plenty of trails to explore in the park. We hiked along the Window Trail, which leads a few miles down into a canyon, and ends abruptly with a severe drop and a view for miles. Towards the end of the trail there were very interesting patterns in the rocks… and lots of stairs.
One drive down to the Hot Springs Historic District warned about interesting animals, but we didn’t see any.
In 1909 J. O. Langford arrived in the Hot Springs area from Mississippi. He had Malaria, and claimed the Hot Springs healed him. He created a rustic riverside resort so others could experience the same healing powers of the waters. His resort flourished during the 1920’s through the 1940’s. As it became more popular, he built a “Motor Court” that was more comfortable than camping out. The rooms were just that – rooms, with no running water or bathrooms. Rooms went for $1 per day, or $6 for the week, and 25 cents for Hot Springs baths.
Built of local stone, the buildings look like they belong. However, the building below blends in so well, it’s almost like a camouflage structure!
We didn’t see a lot of new-to-us birds, but we did add the Rock Wren to our list, and always like seeing Road Runners.
There are quite a few pretty flowers around…
There were many awesome sights in the park… many unique desert vistas. But I have to admit, we are getting tired of deserts!
Time to Move On
So as we get ready to move up north, to see something a little different from deserts, I have to show you this cute 5th Wheel Trailer we saw at our campsite… It folds down, ready to be towed by a customized Volkswagen. It looks really sharp, a very nice customization. I’m rather spoiled by our large home on wheels, so I wouldn’t want to trade rigs, but this was really interesting.