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Reviews: Fort Davis, Big Bend, and Terlingua, Texas–fun under the stars and on the sand


Busy, busy, busy!  But not to busy to take a quick trip down to Big Bend National Park, hitting up the McDonald Observatory on the way.

Big Bend--not too far to make in half a day.
Big Bend–not too far to make in half a day.

I got a wild hare last month, and suggested that we take Thor to a Star Party at the observatory.  I am an astronomy nerd, and thought it would be fun to spend an evening star gazing at a telescope park.  We stopped at Cueva de Oso in Balmorhea on the way.  This would be the first of several great meals we had on the road.  Seriously some of the best tacos I’ve ever eaten in my life.

Thor played the part of "Mercury" in a living replica of the solar system.  This meant running around "the sun" while "the Earth" circled him slowly.
Thor played the part of “Mercury” in a living replica of the solar system. This meant running around “the sun” while “the Earth” circled him slowly.

The Twilight Show was informative and fun, and Thor loved being part of the interactive portion of the evening, but I was excited to get outside to the amphitheater for the star party.  Aside from how gorgeous the sky is that far out in the desert, and aside from the thrill I always get when people star talking about galaxies, and nebulas, and red giants, and all that good stuff, I GOT TO SEE JUPITER AND IO!  Not just Jupiter, but I got to see Io!  I was all kinds of nerd dancing around in the telescope dome.  Better, Thor got to look through the telescopes and saw the moon’s surface, the Orion nebula, Jupiter, and a cluster of stars.  How many little kids get to see stars being born?

It was extremely cold, very clear, and viewing conditions were optimal.  I was nerdscale off the charts excited.
It was extremely cold, very clear, and viewing conditions were optimal. I was nerdscale off the charts excited.

Both the Twilight Show and the Star Party get 5 out of 5 stars for me.  It was well worth the time in the car, and did not disappoint in the least.  Oh, and the chicken salad from the cafe was ridiculously good.  Or I was just ridiculously hungry.

We spent the night in Fort Davis, at the historic Hotel Limpia.  The hotel itself was nowhere near Ritz Carlton levels of accommodation, though it was running in to 4 star pricing.  The room smelled kind of funny, had rocks for pillows, was beaten up, and had clearly been decorated from the Dollar General (I love the Dollar General–don’t get me wrong), but it was comfortable for the night and was staffed by very friendly, very helpful people.  Breakfast in the cafe was also fantastic.

The hotel gets 3 out of 5 stars, just because it was a $40 a night room that cost 4 times that much.

 

History and history in the making.
History and history in the making.

Our stop on the way out of town was historic Fort Davis, where we lucked into a tour with a park ranger, who clearly loved his job.  I love things like that, and we had a great time touring through ruins and restoration.  I don’t think Thor enjoyed this part as much as B and I did, but it’s another one of those things that not every little guy gets to see.  If nothing else, we stimulated his cerebral cortex and built him some new neural pathways in his brain.

I absolutely give Fort Davis 5 out of 5 stars.  Very well done restoration, excellent tour, and better than normal you-read-’ems at every exhibit.

My favorite model and the monuments at Fort Davis.
My favorite model and the monuments at Fort Davis.
If you were a soldier at Fort Davis, you got to look at this every day.  Probably got old after a while, but it sure was pretty to me.
If you were a soldier at Fort Davis, you got to look at this every day. Probably got old after a while, but it sure was pretty to me.

 

From Fort Davis, we took off to Big Bend National Park.  I’m not a native Texan, but I am pretty proud to be a naturalized citizen of this great state.  It is one impressive spread of land, from the Gulf to the Desert.  We drove through Marfa, looking for art and hippies.  We saw hippies, but no art.  We did see that someone had spray painted “Lame” over an art gallery sign.

It seemed to take forever to get to our hotel in Terlingua, but once we were there, I was pretty charmed.  We stayed at Big Bend Resort and Adventures, which looked like something out of that Brady Bunch episode, where the Bradys went to the Grand Canyon.  It was a total motel, complete with big plastic keychains for our door keys.  When is the last time you got an actual key to a hotel door?  It also smelled exactly like my great-grandmother’s trailer, but again, I was charmed–and it was nothing a little window-opening couldn’t fix.

Our motel in Terlingua
Our motel in Terlingua

This was another case of Dollar General decorating, and there was no hair dryer in the room (sad, since I didn’t take one with me), but the price was better and they had regular coffee available in the room.  I give them 4 out of 5 stars for what else was available around us–which was nothing.  I’ve never stayed anywhere so desolate!

We dropped off our things and drove into Big Bend National Park, then spent the rest of the day driving through the mountains, gawping and gazing.

Fortunately, he likes being photographed.
Fortunately, he likes being photographed.
From the middle of the river (the Rio Grande), the left side of the photo is Mexico.  The right side is Texas.
From the middle of the river (the Rio Grande), the left side of the photo is Mexico. The right side is Texas.

You know what?  The stars at night are truly big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas.  And you can see miles and miles of it.  And I don’t ever want to live anywhere else.  (Unless we retire to Eureka Springs to open a B&B, the fantasy with which I entertained myself all those long miles of nothing between here and there and back.)

If you like just driving through scenery, camping, hiking, or being outdoors, Big Bend does not disappoint and is all that good stuff on a grand scale.  5 out of 5 stars.

Also getting 5 out of 5 stars?  The High Sierra Bar & Grill where we had dinner out on the upper deck.  Glorious tacos and a big Blue Moon under the stars, watching campfires blooming in the distance, crickets chirping, and nothing else in the silence made for a really nice experience.

Not as good was the Chili Pepper, but with only 2 restaurants open between 2 and 5, we didn’t have a lot of choice at that time of day.  3 out of 5 for them.

Nothing in Fort Davis or Big Bend is luxurious, but everything was very good, and this City Girl felt right at home.  I’m looking forward to getting out there again when we have more time, and hopefully getting our own campsite in the Park.

 

 

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Author:

Happy. That about covers it.

2 thoughts on “Reviews: Fort Davis, Big Bend, and Terlingua, Texas–fun under the stars and on the sand

  1. we were driving through the Davis mountains a couple years ago and fell upon ‘Balmaria’ State Park… a spring out of the ground was cemented in and you can swim with the fishes so to speak… love Teralingua, chili cook offs and river rides (~_~)

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