Saturday, September 17, 2016

Hike Report: Primitive Area, Davis Mountains State Park

I'm really ashamed to even call this a hike. We really only walked a mile or so. But the scenery was great and the experience was interesting.

Several years ago, Davis Mountains State Park acquired land across Highway 118 from the park headquarters. The area is largely undeveloped, and currently consists of primitive camping and several miles of trails, including opportunities for equestrians and mountain bikers. As I mentioned in a previous post, DMSP does a great job with presentations and other events (see Events on their web page). I noticed one event where staff would lead a hike in the new area, so I thought this would be a great opportunity for Donna and I to see that section of the park.

We rose to overcast skies last Saturday. Temperatures were cooler than they had been. Donna and I put on our hiking gear and headed to the HQ. We met our guides there, a volunteer couple from the Austin area who spend several months a year at the park. We had met them a couple of nights before when they gave a presentation on the birds of the park. We were joined by only one other person, a younger man from the Houston area.

After signing in, we jumped in our separate vehicles, and our guides led us the short drive (quarter mile or so) down the highway to the locked gate on the other side of the highway. After opening the gate, we drove through and made our way down the natural surface road to the parking area. Our guides told us that due to recent rains, Limpia Creek was higher than normal. Since the trail crisscrosses the creek repeatedly, we would not be able to hike far.

View northwest from the parking area. I believe this area has the highest elevations in the park, but I'm not absolutely positive of this.

If you view the Trails Map, you'll see that the primitive area (as I will call this area north of Highway 118) is pretty extensive. From the parking area, there is a trail not on the map that runs almost due north to the creek. This is called the Seep Trail because of the seep along the creek in that area. The tour normally follows that trail, but because of the condition of the creek, we headed west along the Sheep Canyon Trail instead.

I'd really like to explore this area of the park more extensively some day.

After a very short walk of a quarter mile or so, we reached the creek. It was running nicely. Had Donna and I been alone and we had all our hiking gear, I would have put on our water shoes and forded the stream and continued our hike to the other side. However, this was not a true hike, so we had not brought hiking gear we normally might have carried; instead, this was a short outing to view plants and animals.

First crossing of Limpia Creek. You can barely make out the trail on the opposite bank. The creek is not deep here, perhaps a foot or two. As I understand, the trail crosses the creek 2 more times. However, we turned right and bushwhacked along the shore.
We then began following the creek downstream, bushwhacking through the brush. Our guides and fellow hiker were bird enthusiasts, so they were happy to stop every few yards and scan the trees and skies in search of birds. Although Donna and I enjoy birds, we are more interested in seeing mammals and hiking. And there are larger mammals in this part of the park that are visible, including aoudad (Barbary sheep), deer, and pumas. However, we saw no mammals on our hike, and we saw very few birds.

In some places, the creek was very shallow, but spread out over a larger area. It would have been fairly easy to ford here.

Cottonwoods line the creek almost the entire distance from west of the park to Ft. Davis.

Nice shot between cottonwoods along a deeper pool in the creek. I really wanted to see some aoudads on that slope.

This photo gives some idea of the flood line of the creek from the recent rains.
As we bushwhacked down the stream, it began to mist lightly. When the brush became too thick, we turned around and began heading back upstream. We arrived back on the trail and turned back east to the parking area. As we worked our way down the trail, stopping occasionally for our birding friends to scan the skies with their binoculars, the mist turned into a light rain. The light rain then grew heavier. I had a hood on my jacket as well as a cap, so I decided to just tough it out for the short walk back to the truck. Donna had no head covering, so we broke out her pancho to cover her already soaked head.

We knew the hike today would be short, so we did not take any real rain gear or hiking gear other than our thin, light-weight panchos and hiking poles. Had we expected a longer hike, we would have taken our rain gear and water shoes and been able to cross the creek and endure the rain more comfortably. As it was, we were happy to get back to our trailer, where we turned on a space heater, took hot showers, and made some hot coffee. Ah, coffee -- the best camping libation there is!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the pics of the primitive area. I still have not made it over there. Be safe.