Cavalry fort and star gazing in Fort Davis, TX
For a couple hours this morning, it was cool enough to roll down the Winnebago Aspect motor home windows and smell the sagebrush as we drove across the desert in southwest Texas headed for Fort Davis.
An old Army freight wagon on the grounds at Fort Davis. The fort once housed 800 soldiers who provided protection for settlers, freight and travelers heading west to California.
Like most of this huge state, this is cowboy and Indian country and no small town in Texas says it better than Fort Davis and the nearby original army fort by the same name. Locals wear boots and hats and wide belts with big buckles. They are real, not the drug store cowboy types but the real working models. Most are long and lean, sport heavy sun baked tans and smile when they say “hello” passing on downtown streets. They wave to passing strangers from their dust colored pickup trucks which all carry at least one rifle racked in the back window and “Don’t mess with Texas” bumper stickers. It’s flat desert country with the Fort Davis Mountains in the distance and known as the highest town in Texas at just over 5,000 feet. Most every ranch flies an American and Texas flag.
The parade grounds at U. S. Army Fort Davis in southwest Texas.
Our campsite at Davis Mountain State Park near Fort Davis, TX.
Having grown up in an era when youngsters played cowboys and Indians, Fort Davis feels almost familiar after seeing replicas of the old army forts on local movie screen western movies. The fort is the largest and most well-preserved cavalry post in the west.
Fort Davis was built in the 1850’s along the fabled San Antonio to El Paso route in an effort to provide protection for westward bound settlers, mail, and freight through the dangerous Pecos region of West Texas. Seven forts were established along the route to protect travelers from frequent Comanche and Apache raids.
Records show that “In 1850 the largest supply train to use the road” left Fort Inge for El Paso with 340 wagons, 4000 animals, 450 civilians and 175 soldiers.
Some original fort buildings have been restored and open to the public. Foundations of others were also preserved, giving visitors a better understanding of the fort’s original layout.
McDonald Observatory, near Fort Davis, TX., houses the world’s third largest telescope.
Later in the day we drove the 74-mile Scenic Loop Road through the nearby mountains and canyons. The road begins and ends at Fort Davis.
On the second day of our stay, we visited the McDonald Observatory, which is less than 15 miles away from Fort Davis. Built on top of Mount Locke in 1939, the observatory at one time had the second largest telescope in the world. It is operated by the University of Texas. We took a tour of two of the 10 large telescopes at the facility, including the world’s third largest Hobby-Eberly Telescope, and heard an interesting presentation on ongoing observatory research including planetary systems and stars.
Visitors touring the McDonald Observatory.
One of the telescopes from the McDonald Observatory Visitors Center.
Scenery along the 73 mile Scenic Route Loop road through the Davis Mountains, near Fort Davis, TX.
Visitors to the area should not miss the Observatory tour. The high and dry peaks of the Davis Mountains make for some of the darkest and clearest night skies in the region. We visited during daytime when the observatory showed live photos of the sun but special nighttime viewing of star and planets visits are available.
From our campsite at Davis Mountain State Park, we watched a family of deer grazing alongside a nearby creek and mountain goats on a hill overlooking the campground.
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