My husband and I have made a few trips out to West Texas before we had kids. We camped at Big Bend National Park and made stops in Alpine and Marfa. The terrain to the west with its deserts and mountains makes us feel like we’re in a completely different state compared to the mostly flat plains of North Texas and rolling hills of Central Texas. One place that had been on our bucket list was the McDonald Observatory near Ft. Davis.
Over the holidays, we picked a free weekend in January and planned a drive out west. Unfortunately, the weather was really cloudy and threatening rain, so the Star Party became an indoor affair, which was still fascinating and educational. We did manage to see Venus through the clouds, which looks like a very bright star with the naked eye.
Most evenings, I’m rushing from dinner to teaching yoga to running last-minute errands, and I rarely look beyond what’s directly in front of me. I miss the stars every night. I forget how vast and beautiful the sky is at night. Our visit to the McDonald Observatory reminded me to look up and soak in that moment of feeling both small and yet interconnected within our universe.
Since we were all the way out west, we found some time in our schedule for a morning of hiking at Davis Mountains State Park. Some friends had visited there before, so I knew our visit came with high recommendations.
Hiking is one of my favorite moving meditations, and the views aren’t too shabby either. The cloudy weather made for a cool, breezy hike. We decided on the Indian Lodge Trail for its vistas, as recommended by the Park Ranger. The trailhead from Indian Lodge took us up a nice incline, and only 50 meters in, the views were already pretty spectacular. Of course, hiking with a 5-year-old and 2.5-year-old, we needed to prepare for frequent stops and occasional whining.
My younger one complained of “losing” all his energy 10 minutes into the hike, so he stayed with my husband on a rock to eat snacks while I continued on with my older son. Bringing walkie talkies was one of our more brilliant ideas as it allowed us to stay in contact without any cell reception.
Up and up and up we went. The trail runs along the edge of the state park, and we walked along a fence on our way to the top. Once we reached the peak, we took in the brisk breeze that cooled our skin and perspiration. The Big Kid placed a stone on top of a cairn to mark his achievement.
The descent was a little more tricky, with slippery switchbacks and loose rock, but the Big Kid managed the whole way down on his own. We had a few moments of almost-freaking-out, but we took slow, steady breaths and slow, steady steps to get us to the bottom. I was so proud of my little hiker! In the mean time, Bear Shark and my husband found a playground at the other end of the trail and waited for us to finish.
We took in a few more views by car and mentally marked other trails to tackle for the future. Perhaps the little one will be ready to handle a night of camping by our next visit!
One of our goals as a family this year is to visit more state parks and national parks. We are eyeing Arkansas for our next big road trip, and Hot Springs National Park is on our list. Lucky for us, there are a number of free admission days for National Parks. The next one is February 20 (President’s Day)!
With the state of our nation, I feel a strong urgency to visit what we can in case budgets are slashed and national park land is sold off for profit. Grrr!
If you need some ideas for which national park to visit, check out this handy infographic by Cotopaxi. They’ve graciously offered 20% off any purchase for my readers, using the discount code REDBOOK20. A percentage of every sale is donated to organizations that promote worldwide health. Go find a park near you this weekend and take advantage of free admission on the 20th!