Monthly Archives: October 2014

Shortstop: South Llano River State Park – Junction, TX

100_3549.JPG South Llano River State Park, located at Junction, TX and about 100 miles west of San Antonio is another great Texas Hill Country state park. The scenery is beautiful and the wildlife is abundant. The river flows along the boundary and is a popular place for tubing. There’s a wild turkey habitat plus numerous deer and other animals like armadillos. There is also a wide variety of birds. The park has many trails of varying lengths and difficulty. I hiked to the top of the scenic overlook. It wasn’t far, but the steepness of the hike left me out of breath.

The campground offers 30 amp and water hookups. All sites are paved and reasonably level front to back. Most of the sites have shelters with picnic tables. There are no pull-throughs, but the sites are angled making for easier back in. The park itself is five miles south of Junction and I10.

We had good roaming Verizon cell service but no data. Satellite TV was fairly easy to get. In spite of the popularity of the river, during portions of the year the park closes almost all river access except for five hours each day to allow the large turkey population undisturbed roosting. Because of the restrictions of river use during a good part of the year I’d say this park doesn’t quite measure up to Garner State Park for river access but still, it’s a good one and well worth a visit.

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Jeff Davis Library

Jeff Davis County Library

Jeff Davis County Library
100 Jefferson Sq , Fort Davis, TX 79734

Jeff Davis County Library

This library combines books and modern day technology with a beautiful historic building. There are current titles readily available, a children’s section and reading areas tucked into corners surrounded by memorabilia and personal items from the area. I enjoyed the atmosphere and friendly staff.

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Sightseeing Review: Fort Davis, TX and area

The town of Fort Davis is full of historic buildings and is lovely to walk through. There are several shops, a library with free internet, and an old fashioned drug store with a soda fountain where they dip ice cream and make shakes. There is also a small grocery store if you need to pick up food stuffs. I think that this is an excellent example of a historic Texas town.

100_3500.JPGLeaving town we stopped at Fort Davis National Historic Site. Situated in a box canyon this fort was active from 1854-1891. The troops were here to protect the travelers, mail coaches, freighters, and emigrants on the San Antonio-El Paso Road from Comanche and Apache raiders. This fort also was home to two regiments of Buffalo Soldiers. We picked up the map at the visitors’ center and were able to catch a Park Ranger giving an introduction to the park. At the fort Hospital some rooms are set up as they were when the fort was active with interactive boards that tell the story of state of the art medicine of the day. We saw restored buildings showing the shared Lieutenants’ Quarters, the Commanding Officer’s quarters, an example of the officer’s kitchen and servant’s quarters, the Commissary, and the enlisted men’s barracks. A volunteer in the barracks was very helpful, answering questions and pointing out various objects relating to the enlisted men. All during our time there various bugle calls were being played creating the feel of an active military post. We recommend this tour for anyone who comes to this area.

IMG_3296.JPG McDonald Observatory was a fun tour even though the sky was overcast and sprinkling rain during our visit. We chose to go to the daytime program on the sun and guided tour of some of the facilities. At the visitors’ center there is a gift shop, small cafeteria and an exhibit area. We learned a lot about the sun and its effect on earth even though the rainy, foggy weather kept us from actually using the telescopes. Our tour included a visit to the Harlan J. Smith telescope. At night this big telescope is in use, but during the day tour groups are given an up close look at it. We also saw the even bigger Otto Struve telescope. It has an “open design” and doesn’t look like a telescope at all! I am amazed at the technology involved and how deep into space these world class telescopes can see.

We also enjoyed a drive up the Davis Mountains State Park’s Skyline Drive. The view from the scenic overlook is wonderful and well worth the drive.

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Campground review: Davis Mountains State Park – Fort Davis, TX

100_3525.JPGWe’ve heard about this state park for years and we’ve been looking forward to spending some time at Davis Mountains State Park, located near Fort Davis, TX. I’d say the park has lived up to it’s billing. The park is located in a beautiful valley with scenic views all around. As the sun moves across the sky different rock formations are highlighted – all of it is simply outstanding. A drive up the park’s Skyline Drive shouldn’t be missed. We took our lawn chairs and morning coffee and thoroughly enjoyed the view from the top.

100_3539.JPGThe nighttime sky is amazing – something underscored by the nearby world class McDonald Observatory. Unfortunately, we had cloudy, rainy conditions for a good part of our stay. This is unusual and a person visiting the park has a good chance of seeing bright, star-filled skies most every night. We did have a couple of nights to sit out and enjoy the splendor of the sky. It was something special.

100_3534.JPGThe park has many campsites plus a lodge. Several of the sites are full hookup, 50 amp, pull through sites with picnic tables and shelters; really a great camping setup. You do pay for the privilege of camping here. At $25 a night for full hookups plus $6 a day per person this park ranks among the more expensive Texas state parks we’ve stayed in. You can buy a parks pass for $70 and the per person fee at all state parks is waived for a year.

100_3497.JPGIt’s a commitment to come to this state park which is 200 miles east of El Paso and 400 miles west of San Antonio. However, it’s less than an hour south of I10 which makes it a good addition to a trip across west Texas via that route.

Our Verizon cell service was poor to zero. The campground does provide several WiFi locations. We found them to be pretty slow and they tended to drop our connects. However it was better than nothing. Also, we had cable TV available at our site. When you include these amenities the higher-than-most-Texas-parks camping fee seem more reasonable.

All in all, we think this is a campground that shouldn’t be missed.

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Shortstop: Balmorhea State Park, TX

PHOTO_20141017_183822.jpg Long before the Spanish and European explorers ever came to what is now thought of as the Big Bend country of Texas the native Americans depended on this oasis created by the artesian springs of this vicinity. This is dry country and these springs, now called San Solomon Springs, offer welcome relief and surprising life in the desert. Farmers have used the spring water for irrigation since the 1850’s and in 1938 a large V-shaped pool was formed by the Civilian Conservation Corps. After driving nearly 200 miles from El Paso across high, dry desert, this state park remains a welcome oasis for travelers and a popular swimming hole for the locals and – get this – a place for scuba divers to use their gear in the 25 foot deep pool out here in this dry, dry country. Bahmorhea State Park offers water/electric campsites as well as rental cottages. Many of the campsites are pull through and all have covered shelters. My Verizon phone had pretty good 4G and real strong 3G. We enjoyed a swim in the pool with it’s crystal clear waters which remain a consistent 72-76 degrees year round – this just a short stroll from our campsite. Thousands of small fish surrounded us. The pool has a few small catfish and turtles as well. We also saw a fairly large snakeskin on the sidewalk by the pool. Didn’t see the snake though – no complaints about that. In addition to the spring we enjoyed wonderful star-lit skies at night. The Milky Way is in plain view here on the desert plains of West Texas. We had a curious roadrunner (beep-beep) checking out our campsite during the day and, yes, we heard the call of coyotes at night. My only complaints are the lack of sewer hookups in the campground and bathrooms that need some updating and TLC. I’m sure that this state park will be on our itinerary on future trips across west Texas on I10.

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