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Fort Davis and the McDonald Observatory in Texas

April 19, 2006

Hello everyone. Well we arrived at the Davis Mountain State Park on Sunday afternoon. It was a lot cooler than Big Bend by far.

After setting up camp, Lucas and I went on a treasure hunt. Well not exactly a treasure, but Geo-Caching. I've been told about Geo-Caching on several occasions but have never tried it. In case you don't know, it is where people hide things all over the world and allow others to seek them out. You can go to for more information.

Anyway, we had taken the clues from the website to find this cache along the HQ hiking trail and set off to find it. Based on the coordinates it was only 0.3 miles from the RV so how hard could it be right? Well we started off along the trail and before long there was a fork. To the left was the upper trail with a closed sign on it and to the right was the easier lower trail. So we took the open easier trail. One of the clues was that it was located under a fallen tree trunk. After looking under every fallen tree and branch, we discovered that it wasn't on that trail.

So we went back and took the left trail that went up the mountain. Again we reached the top looking under every tree unable to find it. At the top of the mountain the trail forked again and again we chose the trail to the right without success. Well now it was getting late and the sun was starting to set. I decided we better head down off the mountain while we could still see. We'll have to try again another day.

After school on Monday, the boys and I drove down the road to visit Fort Davis. Now I've watched a lot of westerns as a kid and was expecting the fort to have a large wooden wall around it. This one did not. Over half of the buildings were still there, some restored and furnished. The rest were just the foundations or partial stone walls.

The boys received their Junior Ranger questions and off we went exploring the grounds. Afterwards we went back to the visitors center, reviewed the questions and solved the puzzle. Then the park ranger began sharing some other facts and stories about the fort. That's when even I learned something new and interesting. Remember there weren't any walls surrounding the fort? As it turns out none of the western forts had walls. The movies were all wrong. Typically the Indians never attacked the forts, therefore the walls were not needed. The Indians usually attacked the smaller scouting parties, not the larger Calvary.

The park ranger then awarded the boys with their junior ranger badges and we went back to the RV.

On Tuesday afternoon I hiked up the mountain again to see if I can find the Geo-Caching box. This time I found it. I hiked back down and got Lucas. We then returned to the fallen tree where the treasure was hidden. Lucas traded out a few of the items inside while I signed the log book.

That night we all went to the McDonald Observatory. It was really something. It started with a twilight introduction going over the location of the different planets, stars, and solar systems. After the sun set came the Star Party. Have you ever been to a planetarium where they have this machine that produces the stars on the ceiling? This was kind of the same except we were looking at the actual stars. And it was so dark, we could actually see satellites passing by overhead. If you ever get the opportunity to do something like this, don't pass on it. And the next time you're in a really dark area away from lights, just take a moment and look up for a while. You'll be amazed at what you might see.

Afterwards we looked through some of the telescopes they had already setup. Through them we were able to look at Jupiter, Saturn, another solar system, and a comet. Cool.

Today we are finally leaving Texas and heading up to New Mexico.

See you soon,

These are some photos of Davis Mountain I took the previous week when we just stayed 1 night before going down to Big Bend.