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Article: Road Trip: Davis Mountains

Patrick Smith

Road Trip: Davis Mountains

Texas Highway 118 ascended steadily north from Terlingua. Beige earth and pale green cactus segued to red-brown dirt and dark green Ponderosas and even some aspen. I was climbing into the Davis Range, what turned out to be a real gem in the middle of the West Texas desert. Mile after mile of mountain road above six thousand feet. I passed the famous McDonald Observatory, perched on Mount Locke and accessed by Dark Sky Road, fittingly. The observatory is owned and staffed by the University of Texas and produces the popular Star Date radio program among many other outreach programs.

The topography of the Davis Range—the overall affect on the senses—is ruggedly pretty mountains. Like the Appalachians back East but more spacious, and drier. Picture in your mind the finest of mule deer country and you’ll have a grasp. High, grassy, but wooded as well, sparsely populated ranch country. The ranches—what could be seen from the road—were unostentatiously elegant. No McMansions anywhere in sight. What buildings visible from the mountain road were tidy, handsome, purposeful. No junked cars or implements. None. But mostly the scenery was simply mountains. I decided THIS country must contain the hunting ranch Judge Scalia passed on while visiting.

The clean and tidy character roundabout applied to the highway. It ran eighty-some isolated miles with no connecting highways, and was the longest stretch of road I have ever travelled without seeing even ONE can, bottle or scrap of plastic bag along the borrow ditches. Not one. The Davis Mountain Texans are a prideful bunch of folks it would seem. If I were ever to make Texas my home it would be in these lovely mountains. The only catch concerns the Rambling side of my nature—it’s all private land. No expansive places for citizen ramblers exist. And that is a pity. It is mighty fine country.

The Lovely little town of Alpine rests in the foothills at the north edge of the Davis Range. 118 continues north through rolling hills to Ft. Davis, also a fine town. Then the country flattens out to link up with Interstate 10. WOW! I hadn’t seen such rolling civilization since shunting off I-25 clear back in northern New Mexico! The countryside was back to beige and pale green, sparse pale green. Very sparse. El Paso lay to the west, a poke of about a hundred and sixty miles of desert. I was last in El Paso in about 1958. The place has grown from a sleepy border town into a modern metropolis with a population of 650,000 citizens. That’s 50,000 more folks than Denver, the biggest town around my neck of the woods. I just kept rolling, concentrating on staying put on I-10 through an incredible maze of mouse trap freeways.

I made it, and sticking to Ten cashed in my chips for the day at a campground just west of Deming, New Mexico. Me and Sheeba had covered some miles! The morning would bring a sashay into the Gila Wilderness!

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