The countryside changes to desert scenery in southwest Texas
It was a chilly 48 degrees when we awoke today (April 6, 2017) at the KOA in Leander, TX and after sleeping with the windows open, it was even chillier 58 degrees inside the RV.
We are driving west to Fort Stockton, TX today, a distance of about 300 miles where we will spend one night then drive south to Big Bend National Park for several days. The travel schedule is not complete beyond Big Bend.
A refreshing display of flowing water and art alongside the Fort Stockton, TX Visitors Center. The original Comanche Springs is located in a downtown city park.
During the five day stay in Leander, we drove a lot of back country roads, some of them dirt, enjoying the bluebonnet, Indian paintbrush and Indian Blanket blooms. We managed to time our visit here at the peak of the wildflower bloom.
Back country roads were excellent through Llano and Mason and the spring roadside wildflower bloom continued spectacularly along the route. At Junction we were surprised to find a Coopers Barbecue restaurant, the well-known Llano eatery we discovered several years ago while traveling the Texas Hill Country. Juicy brisket and mild link sausage with the usual baked beans and potato salad proved more than we could eat, leaving plenty for dinner tonight in Fort Stockton.
Interstate 10, where the speed limit is 80 miles-per-hour, runs through Junction and provides a straight shot to Fort Stockton, arriving there late afternoon. The landscape changed from green to gray and tan along the way as we approached the Chihuahuan Desert. To say rainfall is scarce here is an understatement.
The KOA here has an onsite restaurant which was convenient, serving country fried steak, mashed potatoes and green beans. The left-over Cooper Barbecue will be enjoyed on the road tomorrow to Big Bend. We were surprised to find grass in a fenced dog walk. Most of the landscape here is desert brown.
Elevation in Fort Stockton is 2,732 feet which again guaranteed another cool night. It is hard to beat the spring nighttime weather in the high desert country. During the day, however, it gets hot.
We drove a few miles into downtown Fort Stockton the following morning and picked up some west Texas travel brochures at the visitors center, located in an old Santa Fe Railroad train station. The town got its name from the original Army fort built here in 1859 near the Great Comanche War Trail that ran from San Antonio to El Paso. The location was chosen because of Comanche Springs, a longtime watering hole for Native Americans traveling through the area that still flows today in a downtown city park. The army built seven forts along the route to protect supply lines and early settlers from Indians and bandits.
The largest supply train to use the road incluided 340 wagons, 4,000 animals, 450 civilians and 175 soldiers.
We are in Texas, where everything is bigger, including ranches. The nearby La Escalera Ranch consists of approximately 257,000 acres and is considered one of the largest in the state.
After buying a couple cups of coffee in a nicely redecorated shop that was once an old garage, we drove past what is left of the original Fort Stockton then drove south toward Big Bend National Park on Highway 385.
Within a few miles of leaving Fort Stockton, traffic came to a halt. Well, not really because there was no traffic to halt. We had the road to ourselves.
Talk about emptiness—there was nothing around us. No farmhouses, no farm animals, no wild animals—nothing as far as the eye could see in every direction which was a long distance because the terrain is flat with some far off mountains. The landscape is mostly gray and tan with an occasional green thrown-in. Rocks and cactus dominate the scenery.
We did see a couple of road runners scooting across the highway at break-neck speed; 20 miles per hour says a Texas guidebook. They can run so fast they seldom fly except in short distances.
During the last 50 miles of the trip to Stillwell Store, our campground for tonight, we counted 10 vehicles. No phone signal. We were alone.
NEXT: The wildness of Big Bend National Park