Sunday, January 17, 2010

Kent to Fort Davis, TX

The sunrise from just outside of Kent

Getting toward the top of the Davis Mountains

The 107 Telescope

The McDonald Observatory from a distance


A view of the Davis Mountains

Dani's look of determination

Kent to Fort Davis, TX


Day 73

54 miles

Well, you saw what a dump we camped at last night. To say the least, we were raring to get out of Kent this morning. I (Greg) probably only slept a total of three hours due to a combination of the interstate traffic on one side of us, the train on the other, and the smell of gas fumes for most of the night. Dani slept a little bit better, but not by much. We were both awake before our alarms went off at 7:00, and we decided to get up and get out of here. Right now in Central time, the sun isn't rising until after 8:00, so we were up much before the sun.

Our tent was soaked with frost and dew, but we packed it away wet. We were on the road riding before 8:00; we didn't even have breakfast before we left. We were 5 or more miles down the road when the sun finally crested over the mountains to the East. We were headed straight South off of I-10 for Fort Davis. We found a warm sunny spot to stop and eat a quick breakfast. It was damn cold this morning. The grass was all covered in thick frost, and we were riding all bundled up to keep warm until the sun chased off the cold.

After breakfast we kept riding and started ascending toward the Davis mountains. Yes, Texas actually has some quite formidable mountains, we were surprised too. We were riding along, and commenting on how we hadn't really seen any wildlife in Texas. We were really surprised, because we thought Texas was somewhat of a hunting destination and we hadn't even seen a road killed deer. Not long after we had this conversation, I spotted a wild boar eating hay right next to a herd of cows. This thing was pretty huge, and obviously wild because it was in the pasture by itself, and as soon as it saw us it took off running in the other direction.

For the first bit in the morning we were bucking a pretty strong headwind as we started climbing in elevation. Eventually, this wind died down, and later in the day it turned to a tail wind. The climb into the Davis Mountains was something else. Our map describes it as a roller coaster ascent. They were not kidding. We climbed up over 6,000 feet, then we would drop down a few hundred feet, climb up 500 feet, then drop back down 500 feet, and over and over again. It was a lot of work, but it made for an extremely fun ride. On the ride up over these mountains, we finally ran into the wildlife we had b

een looking for. We saw a herd of whitetail deer, a drove of Javelinas, and a nice whitetail buck right next to the road. It was amazing how much smaller these Javelinas are compared to the wild board that we saw.

We reached the top of the Davis mountains at Mt. Locke. This is home to the McDonald Observatory. We were both very excited to take a tour of the observatory, and to eat lunch at over 6,000 feet at the Star Date cafe at the Visitors Center. By the time we got to the Visitor's Center, we were both ready to eat and were pleasantly surprised to find some delicious and reasonably priced food at the Star Date cafe (Named after the NPR daily Star Date program). After we got our fill of food, we bought a ticket to take a tour of the second largest telescope at the Observatory called the 107, because the primary mirror of the telescope is 107” in diameter. This thing was really cool to see. It was so massive, but also very precisely built. We only wish we could have seen it at night, but unfortunately, we had to get off the mountain before dark. We thoroughly checked out the visitor's center and looked at info on all three telescopes at this observatory. If you are ever in the area, we would recommend you stop and check these things out. This observatory conducts some of the most cutting edge research on a variety of topics.

We left the mountain top with an hour and a half until sunset. Fort Davis was 16 miles from the top, but we made it down in no time. The descent was awesome. After such a long climb, coasting down the mountain at 20-30 mph made us feel like champions. We reached Fort Davis, the highest town in Texas, and were pleasantly surprised to find a nice, well kept, little town. We spotted a natural foods grocery store and almost went crazy. After having to buy sub-par, gas station like groceries for the last week, some wholesome food was a good, but expensive treat.

The campground here was also very nice. We were grateful that the owner talked to us some about the current situation in Haiti, because we don't get much news. The tent area had a lighted and covered picnic table, and we were able to take some nice hot showers. We are feeling energized after today's great riding and scenery, and, now that we are all clean.

Texas, our affair with you is finally starting to look up.


This is from our tent in Kent. The train was pretty close so you can imagine how loud it was in real life.

Everyone needs to heard cows from time to time.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Glad you enjoyed the Davis Mountains and the observatory. Sorry about the Kent experience: everybody who camps there says the same thing. When you're through here again, call me and you'll find shelter at the observatory!

When you're in Austin, stop by the Wheatsville Coop on Guadalupe, not too far from the Driskill, and you'll get a good meal at the Deli and provisions for the next leg of the trip.