Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Davis Mountains State Park: August 2015

Donna and I just returned from a week long trip to Davis Mountains State Park. This park is an old friend to us. We have been camping there for over 30 years. When our daughter was young, we'd pitch a tent in a campsite along shady Keesey Creek. Summers there have always been great. The mile-high altitude and clean mountain air means cooler temperatures, with daily highs usually in the upper 80s or lower 90s and nightly lows around 60 degrees, give or take. With the weather so hot lately in the San Angelo area, we were seeking relief from the high temps, and we found it in the Davis Mountains. A couple of nights, the lows hovered around 52. Now that is some crisp weather for August in Texas!

The 2,709 acre park is located about 4 miles northwest of the small but interesting town of Ft. Davis. The Civilian Conservation Corps began work on the park in 1934. Oak and juniper trees are common throughout the park, especially along Keesey Creek, which roughly parallels the main park road from the entrance to the Indian Lodge. In recent years, the park has acquired additional land across Highway 118. This land now forms the Limpia Canyon Primitive Area. This area, ranging from about 4,900 feet of elevation to 5,700 feet, provides primitive and equestrian camping and 11 miles of equestrian trails.

The park offers more than 100 camp sites, ranging from primitive hike-in sites to 30 and 50 amp full hookups. To my knowledge, the park is one of the few in the state park system that provides cable TV hookups. Because of its remote location, you need cable or a satellite system to pick up TV reception. We were unable to even pick up a radio station or a cell phone signal. WiFi was available from our site, but the signal was week. We were able to check email and do some basic web surfing though, such as looking at maps, researching places to visit, and so forth.

Our campsite, #24. All sites in our camping loop have covered picnic areas on cement slabs.
Typical water only site along Keesey Creek a short walk away from Indian Lodge.

View from back of our trailer. Both the Headquarters Trail and the Montezuma Quail Trail are visible from our campsite, and we spent a great deal of time following hikers' progress on these trails. The Montezuma Trail goes over the top of this mountain near the center of the picture, then heads south (left) behind the mountain.

View of our campground and mountains beyond. Our trailer is second rig from left.

This picture is from same position as one above, and taken just seconds later. That is our truck and camper on left. Note the hikers on the trail. There are 2 of them. In very center of picture is hiker with yellowish shirt, black pants, and small dark backup. Other hiker is to the left in darker colors than blend into landscape.

As regards full hookup sites, there are 2 areas to select from. All full hookup sites, by the way, are pull through. Sites 1- 16 are located along Keesey Creek and have pretty good shade. Most of these sites are pretty level as well. However, the trees on some sites really crowd the pads and would probably be difficult for larger rigs. But during the summer, these sites are probably preferable. Sites 17 - 27 are on a slope, but the actual pads are fairly level considering. You will probably only need to level from front to back. There is little shade available for these sites, but views are much better. You might consider these sites during cooler months when the sun would be welcome. We stayed in site 24, but next time we will probably pick 23 or 27. Because of the slope, some sewer connections may be located above the outlet on your rig, thereby causing gravity to work against you.

But when you're in the Davis Mountains, you really don't want to spend your time watching television anyway. There is so much to do in the park and surrounding area.

Bird watching is very popular, and the park provides the Cadillac of bird blinds along the main park road. An additional bird viewing area is available at the Interpretive Center. Hiking is also very popular at the park. In addition to numerous shorter trails within the park, the Skyline Trail connects the park to the nearby Fort Davis National Historic Site. See park map for trail details. We really enjoyed sitting in our site and watching hikers cross the slopes of the mountains around us, especially on the Montezuma and Indian Lodge trails.

Exterior of bird blind along main park road.

Interior of L shaped bird blind.
Park staff is very active, offering numerous programs and activities. During our stay, the following programs were available:
  • "Hike with Homeless Dogs!" A short hike along Skyline Drive Trail with homeless dogs.
  • "Plants and Animals of the Davis Mountains" A discussion of the plants and "critters" of the park and surrounding area.
  • "Strong Backs and Willing to Work!" Program about the Civilian Conservation Corps and its impact on the park and Ft. Davis.
  • "Highlights of the Davis Mountains." Program on the wildlife, plants, history of the park, and other places of interest in the area.
  • "Are You Curious?" Learn about some of the interesting "critters" in the park.
  • "Weekly Birding Walk to the Seep!" 1.25 mile loop to the seep in the Primitive Area.
  • "Welcome to the Davis Mountains!" Program about what makes the Davis Mountains special.
  • "Weave Your Own Basket" Learn how to make baskets with natural materials.
  • "Knots for Campers" Learn how to tie knots.
  • "Full Moon Hike up the Mountain!" Walk up the mountain at night and learn about the moon, stars, and night "critters".
Programs highlighted in yellow above are the ones we attended. These are just some of the activities held the week we were at the park. I do not if we just happened to be there at a good time, or if they always offer this many activities, but we enjoyed the ones we attended. Learning about the park and area only enhances your stay and makes it so much more enjoyable.

Amphitheater, located next to our campground loop.

Interpretive Center. Bird blind behind center can be viewed from both inside and outside on right. Center is just a short walk from our campground and marks start of Skyline Drive Hiking Trail.
One of the great things about this park is the Indian Lodge, a 39 room hotel constructed to resemble an adobe village. Rooms are rustic and well maintained and provide nice lodging if camping isn't your thing. The Black Bear Restaurant at the lodge provides well-prepared and reasonably priced meals daily. At the end of a long day of hiking, it's nice to take the short drive or walk to the Black Bear for a good meal if you don't feel like cooking.

Entrance to Indian Lodge. Office in center. Tall building on left is the Black Bear Restaurant.

Walkway/balcony outside upper level rooms of Indian Lodge.
View from upper level walkway of Indian Lodge. Note pool below. View looks in an easterly direction toward park's entrance.
We were a bit disappointed during our stay to see only a few critters. One evening a mule deer wandered through our site. The next night, a javelina sauntered through, while a small family passed on the other side of the campground. We saw numerous rabbits and birds, but nothing larger. The Davis Mountains are home to some interesting animals, including mountain lions, aoudads (barbary sheep, which are really goats), mountain sheep, golden eagles, montezuma quail, and many, many others. There is a large bird population.

For previous blog entries on the Davis Mountains and surrounding areas, see the following:

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