FORT DAVIS IS QUIET. Really quiet. My husband and I went there for a long weekend a couple of years ago, and I remember sitting on the porch thinking to myself, “It’s so quiet here.” The only noise I could hear was a teenage girl playing basketball. As I sat rocking, I listened to her dribbling the ball, making her way to the basket for a lay-up. The Hotel Limpia had been booked when I called to get reservations, so we weren’t in the main 31-room structure but staying in a historic guest house down the caliche street. I’ve never stayed at the hotel, which is beautifully decorated, but the place where we were suited us just fine. There were some other guests in the house, but we hardly saw them. It felt like we had the whole home to ourselves.
That sense of quiet and peacefulness lasted the entire weekend. We weren’t on a schedule—we were open to anything and everything. After getting our bearings at the house and settling down for a while (that decompression period that comes after the stress of trying to get away from work), we walked into town to see what it had to offer. We passed drugstores, antiques shops, and a few restaurants. This certainly wasn’t like Fredericksburg where there was a shop on every corner; there simply weren’t that many distractions. Excellent.
Although we didn’t have an itinerary, we did have a list of things we wanted to do. Our first stop was the Indian Lodge at the Davis Mountains State Park. We had heard the hotel was really cool, so we wanted to check it out for ourselves. (I had tried to reserve a room there too, but the receptionist chuckled when I asked for a room for the upcoming weekend. It seems that this spot is booked months in advance.) The Indian Lodge really does look like a pueblo in the middle of the mountains. The historic section of the lodge was built in the thirties by the Civilian Conservation Corps and features eighteen-inch adobe walls. We explored a bit and ate lunch in the dining hall (a cafeteria-style atmosphere) before making our way to the park’s camping facility. Once on foot, we hiked for a while and eventually stumbled upon an amphitheater. The Davis Mountains are much greener than most of the surrounding area, providing a good habitat for birds and animals. We even managed to get a few photos of some deer that crossed our path.
Next we decided to drive along the Fort Davis scenic loop. It takes about an hour and a half to complete this 75-mile-long loop that starts at Fort Davis on Texas Highway 118. We passed the McDonald Observatory and then headed into Madera Canyon. There’s a small picnic area off the side of the road—unfortunately, we didn’t pack a snack. We saw some beautiful terrain, though. After turning left on Texas Highway 166, we passed Sawtooth Mountain, which was spectacular. There was not much traffic on this road, so we were amazed (yet not quite dumbfounded) when we found ourselves pulling up behind a truck that was parked in the middle of the road. We noticed a couple wandering around through the brush. We made our way around the truck, hoping that any other vehicles behind us would be going slow enough to allow for some tricky maneuvering. I vividly recall the wind generators (until that time I had never seen any other than on television and in print). The way the white blades cut through the deep blue sky was hypnotic. Finally, Fort Davis appeared on the horizon.
We got back to our guest house just in time to light a fire in the outdoor fireplace and catch the sunset. We thoroughly enjoyed listening to the wood crackle as the rays of sun turned red and then purple. Even though the fire was blazing, it got a little cold, prompting us to go inside and get ready for dinner. We had reservations at Reata in Alpine. My husband and I had heard nothing but good reports about this restaurant, and believe me, we were not disappointed. Our dinner was absolutely fabulous. We tried to find one of the local hangouts where live music blared, but we never could get there. Finally, we decided to drive to Marfa to see the lights.
I’ve met two people who say they have seen the Marfa lights. Two. That night I had hoped to add my name to the list, but nothing happened. We didn’t see a thing (other than the couple kissing off to the side of us). We did meet a man and his date who came somewhat more prepared than we did—they had night-vision goggles. I looked through those things and it was almost like daytime. I couldn’t make out any colors (naturally all the trees and images were red), but I could tell where a car was, where my husband was, and where the fence was. That was our excitement for the night.
The next day we didn’t do much of anything. I read a book on the porch and sipped coffee. By the time we got moving, it was mid-morning. We walked through town, passing old churches and schools. We kept going. It was so beautiful out, so crisp and clear, that we didn’t want to spend any unnecessary time indoors. Finally, we turned around and made our way back, stopping at the Fort Davis Drugstore for something to eat. The drugstore was packed with tourists, the first we had really seen. We ate at the bar, watching a clerk make ice cream floats, and then made a quick exit. Supposedly, folks should get to the Star Party at the McDonald Observatory early, so that’s what we did. The McDonald Observatory was hands-down the highlight of our trip. There were dozens of people there. I remember thinking how serious these people seemed when they snickered every time a car would drive up with the headlights on (ignorant drivers were polluting the sky with light, making it difficult for the stargazers to see). I was recovering from neck surgery, so I couldn’t look up at the stars for long—a shooting pain in my neck reminded me to take it easy—but that didn’t keep me from enjoying the breathtaking view. I’d like to study up on the simple constellations before I go again. The long line to view the rings of Saturn was well worth the wait. I’ve never seen anything like that before. And the moon through a high-powered telescope is very bright. After the viewing, we rushed back to the Hotel Limpia to grab a bite to eat before the restaurant there closed. I wish we would have had more time, especially more time to do nothing but enjoy the quiet.