Trip to the Mountains

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Lesli NolenBy Lesli Nolen

Published March 2011

I finally did it! I finally got my trip to the Davis Mountains. When I started working for Ranch magazine, I discovered some of our advertisers and subscribers were in the Big Bend area. So immediately I began brainstorming and coming up with all kinds of ideas, trying to figure out some way to get me and my family to the Davis Mountains.

For two years straight, I planned a trip to the Davis Mountains. But every time something came up causing us to postpone our trip. So this past summer, I decided I was not going to plan anything. I finally came to terms that my dream of going to the Davis Mountains was just not in the cards for me right now.

My husband and I are the youth directors at our church and our pastor came to us and asked us about a summer trip for the youth kids. Our pastor told us he had a friend in Fort Davis and thought that would be a great place to go. I about fell over. After a bit of discussion it was unanimous, we were going to the Davis Mountains!

The travelers viewed Dinosaur tracks like this one near McCamey, Texas, We loaded up the van with our four wonderful youth kids and we were off. Our first stop was just outside of McCamey. We pulled over at the rest area, climbed up the hill and stood there looking at the huge dinosaur footprints. The kids talked and laughed and looked but I don’t think they really understood the magnitude of this, but either way it was pretty cool. We loaded back into the van and continued down the road.

The kids sang and sang. I think after what seemed like the hundredth time of them singing, “My Father’s House,” we were closer to our destination. We all could begin to see mountains in the distance. The talking amongst them grew louder with anticipation. One of our youth kids had never even been out of San Angelo, so this was a true blessing to see her eyes light up with each mile as we traveled farther from home.

As we approached Balmorhea and the State Park on our way into Fort Davis, I  pointed out to the kids the spring fed pool. I told them we would be coming back and going swimming there the next day. They were so excited. The talking in the van grew even louder!! They talked about how cold the water was (so they had been told) and that fish were in there too. They couldn’t wait.

At the camp in Fort Davis, the kids looked out the cabin and saw the striated cliff face rocks and thought they resembled upright french fries. Photos by Lesli Nolen. We kept driving, following along with each mountain. The kids and I “ooh’ed” and “ah’ed” as we drove. They talked about how only God could make something so beautiful. I was speechless and overwhelmed with joy, and the kids were not the only ones amazed and in awe of what our Creator had made. It was so different from what they had ever seen.

We got to our cabin in Fort Davis and unloaded. Our back porch had an awesome view of a mountain. The kids looked at it and said, “french fries!” The cliff face looked like stacks and stacks of french fries on end. Of course once they mentioned french fries they were hungry. We lit the grill and started cooking hamburgers and hot dogs. The kids played; they threw the football, walked around the block, talked and just soaked it all in.

After dinner we grabbed our pillows and blankets and headed outside. We lay there, in the middle of the road, watching star after star fall out of the night sky. I don’t think we planned it that way, but as it turned out we had arrived during the annual August meteor shower. The brilliant meteor display aside, I had never seen stars quite like that. God is good!

The next day we got up and headed back to Balmorhea State Park. It was time to go swimming in the 77,053-square-foot spring fed swimming pool there, constructed in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The water was cold—cold enough to take your breath—and the kids adapted to the cold water a lot better than I did.We swam, tried to catch fish, ate and then it was time to head back to Fort Davis. We had reservations for the Star Party at the McDonald Observatory.

The kids on the trip enjoyed splashing around in the huge swimming pool at  Balmorhea State Park. The pool is fed by San Solomon Springs. It was another beautiful drive up the observatory. We went in and looked around at all the cool star facts and browsed the gift shop. Then it was time to head out to the top of the mountain. We sat there, again in awe, looking at this huge star-lit sky.

The host of the party began discussing the stars and what we were to expect. He told us to look at a particular star and, as we looked up, he pulled out a laser and it looked as if the light was actually touching that star. The crowd went wild. Everyone “ooh’ed” and “ah’ed” again. The next question on everyone’s mind was, “Where can we get one of those?”

After the informative speech we were allowed to walk around and look at the multitude of stars through the telescopes. Again everyone was amazed at what our Creator had made. It was a beautiful, chilly night on top of the mountain. It seemed like we were the only ones on Earth.

Our journey was coming to an end as we hit the road again to come home. As we drove out of the mountains we stopped and took some final pictures. We breathed in the last of mountain air, anticipating our return. The ride home was more “peaceful,” if you will. The kids were not singing as much or as loudly; they were sharing their favorite moments with each other. I’m so thankful we were all able to experience just a small piece of Heaven on Earth and will have those memories with us wherever we go.

The months have passed and our youth kids are already talking about this year’s trip. They are ready to go back. Whether we return to Fort Davis or not, I will not be disappointed for I know when it’s our time to go back, we will, and it will all be a part of God’s plan and not mine!

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