We spent two nights in Fort Davis State Park as we got our planning done and checked out Marfa. Like many of the places we have visited on this trip, Fort Davis would not exist without the Civilian Conservation Corps. Responding to the Great Depression, one of FDR’s first acts as President was to start the CCC, providing jobs to tens of thousands of unemployed young men (yes, just men, it was the thirties,) while reshaping America.
The Civilian Conservation Corps built roads, ran utilities, and constructed facilities, all to preserve and provide xzaccess to some of America’s most beautiful and remote places. The stone stairs on New York’s Bear Mountain that inspired me to hike the Appalachian Trail, the water mill that provided the power for construction at Juniper Springs in Florida, the road that winds its way up to Chisos Basin in Big Bend, all of these are the legacy of the CCC. At Fort Davis, they built Indian Lodge out of local materials and techniques.
Interesting architecture in a picturesque setting, plus they had a breakfast buffet: we were there. We woke up early so we could take the scenic route, hoping to spot some wildlife on the way. We found a few deer flaunting the rancher’s fences, but still no javelina, which we’ve been on the hunt for since Seminole Canyon. I don’t know why but the stinky fish pigs, actually collared peccary and not pigs at all, have fascinated us on this trip.
With a few miles and a big breakfast under our belts, we took the short drive to the McDonald Observatory before we took the long one to the Guadeloupe Mountains. In the shadow of the huge telescopes we learned about how scientists use the spectrum of light coming from stars to measure their composition, among other things. We kept looking up, at the mountains growing on the horizon as we drove for hours through the West Texas range. Among the chaparral and yucca we saw a pair of antelope on our left. We were celebrating our good luck when we got our first javelina on the right. After days of quietly watching at sunset in the wild, we saw one just off the highway in the afternoon.
We arrived at Guadalupe Mountains National Park, claimed a campsite, and took a quick hike while we still had daylight. We walked to the source of a spring in the border zone between desert and mountaintop, feeling the altitude. We connected with Div, who we saw claim the campsite beside ours, and got to know him and his journey from New York to California a little. You meet interesting people on trails.
We returned to our camp beneath our little juniper tree, happy to see it was still standing. It was blustery on the side of the mountain, and we had used every guy line, plus the straps from both hammocks to tie the tent down. We had also lugged our suitcases down the path to weigh the tent down further. The highest point in Texas loomed over us; the remains of an ancient reef from the time Big Bend and all of Texas was beneath an inland sea, turned to stone and heaved 8,571 feet above sea level by time and tectonic forces. It would be the highest peak I’ve ever climbed, and we planned to hit the Guadeloupe peak trail on Tuesday morning. At least, that was the plan…