Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Davis Mountain State Park

Hi all, Dianne here.  The Traveling Whippet-Mobile headed north from Lajitas about 100 miles, to the higher elevation of the Davis Mountain State Park.  Several weeks ago, around April 9, the Texas State Park folks had called us to inform us that they were closing Davis Mountain State Park because of the serious Rock Hill wildfire that was burning thousands of acres in this area.  We cancelled our reservations and were contemplating a "Plan B" until last week, when we found that the park had been reopened.  We promptly made new reservations for the same dates.

The wildfires in Texas are no joke.  There has been little or no rain in parts of Texas since last September.  We know personally that it did not rain the entire four months we were in Mission, except for scattered drops one night (that didn't even wet the pavement).  

As we drove north from Lajitas and entered the area around Marfa, we encountered acre after acre of blackened landscape.  Here's a link to a Reuters news story about the Rock House fire.  One of the four photos in this story shows a temporary sign "Loose Cattle" along the roadway.  We passed that sign as we drove to the state park, and I thought at the time I'd never seen a sign like that before.  Turns out, the fire had burned fences and let loose the cattle!

The small town of Marfa, Texas (best known for its mysterious lights) also has one of the beautiful court houses that can be found in towns all over Texas:

This photo Roger took at our campsite at Davis Mountain State Park (#16) shows just how close the fire came to burning the entire campground down.  This burn area is only a few feet from our picnic table.  We understood why the park was closed!  The Rock House wildfire burned for about three weeks.

We took a short drive on the skyline road the next day, and saw an area of the park that was not so lucky as the campground.  The park's radio building was completely burned, as well as the entire hill surrounding it:

As we walked around the burned area, a park ranger drove up and started snapping photos of the burn damage.  We talked to her a bit, and she explained that the wildfire roared this way from Marfa in 26 minutes' time, and that they had only a half hour to evacuate the park!  Marfa is about 22 miles from Ft. Davis, so that means the wildfire was traveling around 60 miles per hour!  

They evacuated to the McDonald Observatory, and from that hilly vantage point could "Watch our whole world burning," as she put it.  Her home was spared, but she explained that two park employees lost everything they owned in the fire.  

The wildlife here is amazing, even though part of the park has burned to a crisp.  The three deer in the opening photo walked right up to our motor home to eat some brush at our site.

 There is a bird observation area, with a covered shady nook with benches overlooking several types of bird feeders.  While here, so far I've added about 18 birds to my life list!  Some of the more interesting ones include the black-headed grosbeak (shown), blue grosbeak, rose-breasted grosbeak, a female summer tanager, black-crested titmouse, lesser goldfinches, acorn woodpecker, and many more.  I think we have good timing, because this is bird migration time in Texas, so some of the birds we've seen are just passing through on their way north.  The observation area is set up mainly to observe the Montezuma quail that frequent here, but I have not seen one.

I hung my hummingbird feeder out when we arrived here, and within ten minutes a flock of black-chinned hummingbirds were swarming it.  I've had to re-fill it each day since we arrived.

Roger had his own close encounter of the animal-kind when walking Bandido.  I'll let him fill you in on that one!

Roger here....  Bandido and I were taking a short walk back to the motor home from the bird blind.  We passed six javelinas that were wandering around a parking area.  Bandido did a little growling, but did not want to get close.

A few minutes later, while approaching the motor home, I noticed one of the javelinas at our water connection.  He seemed to be nudging and chewing on our water filter.  When we (Bandido and me) got closer, we saw that water was spraying in all directions.  He had damaged the filter to the point of causing a leak.  Poor thing.  He was just trying to get some water, but he needed to move on and I needed to stop the leak.

As Bandido (very subdued - the big chicken) and I approached and challenged the javelina, it stepped aside, turned toward me, and started a staring contest.  Look at those eyes -- I don't think he liked us.  Mr. Javelina was saying, "Hey, I found this water and I am not leaving.  I will charge if you don't leave me alone."   Bandido was saying, "No problem, let's go Dad!"

I have to admit I felt a little bit of discomfort as I picked up a rock to defend us (me and my dog).  The stare-down continued for longer than it should have.  Then the Javelina trotted away.  Score one for me and the chicken-dog.

In Bandido's defense, another javelina approached the campsite just a few minutes ago.  Dianne was outside with Bandido.  This time our brave dog growled and barked, no doubt protecting Dianne.  Good Dog!

Dianne again:  There are two pet photos of the day.  The first one shows how Bandido likes to treat "Mommy" like a chew toy.  When he's scolded, though, he'll give me a big hug:

I think the title of this photo should be "Big Hug from a Big Lug."

1 comment:

Karen and Al said...

Those poor animals must be suffering from loss of habitat from the fire. I'm sure they are hungry and thirsty...maybe a few treats would be good :)