Our crew had worked in canyons, swamps, and the Texas Hill Country this year; so we were anxious to work in the mountains before the end of our season. Imagine our excitement when we found out we would be spending 11 days in one of Texas’ highest mountain environments, at Davis Mountains State Park, maintaining one of its existing trails.
The previous 5 months had been spent in very hot and humid areas. So, a couple of us—including myself—were not quite prepared for the drastic drop in temperature that seemingly happened overnight. The cold weather ended up being very enjoyable once our Field Coordinator, Erick, brought over some extra warm clothes and sleeping bags for us.
The Davis Mountains are very picturesque; some of my favorite sights from this spike are the enormous and towering rocks that form a scenic corridor for the many winding roads that meander through the mountains. I also enjoyed seeing and learning about the different plant and animal species native to that area. We encountered animals like the javelina—or collared peccary—that are most closely related to rhinoceroses, but they look more like hogs. We also saw and learned about the many uses for plant species such as Sotol, different types of Yucca, and tree-like Agave.
During this spike, we worked on one of the park’s existing mountainside trails used for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding. This trail needed to be widened from about 2 feet to 4 feet wide and it also needed 30+ new water drains built, in order to make the trail more sustainable. Using a few different hand tools—such as McLeods, pick mattocks and rock bars—we built the various types of drains needed along this trail, such as rolling grade dips, switchbacks and knicks. The rocky terrain was different than we were used to, which proved to be challenging at times. For example, there would often be large rocks and sometimes boulders buried where we needed to dig the drain, and the drain would initially end up too deep or too wide after removing the rocks.
In addition to trail work, we went into Fort Davis for ice cream, spent time in the historic Indian Lodge that was built in the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), and were lucky enough to visit the McDonald Observatory to attend one of their “star parties”. At the star party, we gathered outside in the dark to hear the presenter tell us facts and stories about the visible constellations. My favorite part about his demonstration was the exceptionally far-reaching green laser he used to point out each star and to trace the constellations. Later, we were allowed to look at the moon’s craters, nebulas, and different galaxies through several of the enormous telescopes at the Observatory. That was my first time to look at anything through a telescope and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
Our Davis Mountains State Park spike was a breath of fresh, mountain air, and a fantastic change of scenery and climate. We learned a great amount more about what it means to be a trail crew and had a lot of fun in the process!
Lacie Partney, Trails Across Texas Crew Member