Saturday, March 21, 2015

Road Trip - Part 4

Our last day was spent much like the first day - trying to make our way back across the great state of Texas. And like we did on Day 1, we planned a fun little caving adventure to break up the trip.

This time, we visited the Cave Without a Name in Boerne, TX.

We have been able to visit about a half dozen caves around Texas and I just have to tell you that this cave, the Cave Without a Name, was one of my most favorite experiences. I think maybe only the Longhorn Cavern northwest of Austin tops the Cave Without a Name in my book.

The tour was not as long as some of the others we have visited, but for some reason I just felt like we were closer to the formations. While touching is a strict no-no, everything in that room feels like it is right in your face. And for some reason, that just made the whole experience seem more personal.

We learned that the owners occasionally host musical events inside the cave. I would truly LOVE to experience a concert of this nature at some point. I'm going to have to keep an eye on their calendar of events for the next opportunity.

All in all, it was another great stop in a whirlwind adventure that I will carry in my memory for many years to come!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Road Trip - Part 3

Day 3 of our Spring Break Adventure didn't go quite like we had planned.

We had PLANNED a second day of exploring Big Bend. But a huge storm over night and continued rain off and on all day forced us to consider other options. In the end, that's pretty much what we did - we explored other options.

To start off the day, we drove from the tiny West Texas town of Alpine to the even smaller West Texas town of Marfa. Marfa was a pretty little town, but it is definitely one of those places that rolls up the sidewalks except on major holidays. We were a bit taken aback by how many things were closed. Even finding a place for lunch was a challenge - though the place we ended up had some of the best, fresh food I've ever enjoyed.

After lunch, we hit the road in search of more to see and do. And to that end, we wound our way to Fort Davis. Fort Davis was an unexpected and most pleasant surprise! It's a truly pretty little town with a lot to see and do. Our first stop was at the Davis Mountains State Park. We got really lucky and the weather cleared off a bit allowing us to get in a short, but enjoyable 3 mile hike through the park.

After all that hiking, we made our way back to town and strolled up and down the town square taking in the fun shops and storefronts surrounding it. The one thing that struck me as we ducked in and out of each place was the friendliness of the Fort Davis locals. We were welcome in each spot and made to feel right at home.

When our legs became weary from the walk, we hopped back in the car and headed back to Alpine, where we did some exploring as well. We spent some time in a couple of really lovely art galleries and some local artisan shops. Then we topped off the day with a tasty dinner and a soak in the hotel hot tub.

So while the day was not as planned, we ended up getting to visit areas we had noy planned on our itinerary. I also added a few places to my "must see if we ever come back here" list, most notably the McDonald's Observatory. Due to the weather, it was not an option for this particular visit, but I hope one day to head back in that direction in order to check it out.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Road Trip - Part 2

Day 2 of our Spring Break '15 Adventure we finally made it to Big Bend National Park as planned!

Day 1 of our trip was rainy and we worried we were not going to be able to spend the day outside hiking as we had hoped. But the weather cleared just enough to make it work. It stayed grey and cloudy all day, but that worked to our advantage as there is not a lot of shade in this arid part of Texas.

I have to tell you, as much as I enjoyed each and every adventure on this vacation, hiking Big Bend was the highlight of the trip for me! I spent the whole day in awe of the raw, natural beauty all around me. If it were not such a long drive to the park, I would go back monthly for as long as my car holds out.

We chose a mountain trail day hike called the Pinnacles trail. We parked at the Chisos Mountain Basin Lodge located in the park and started climbing from there. We covered about 8 miles of trail round trip and climbed to an elevation of about 7,000 ft above sea level. We had been hoping to make it all the way to the top of Emory Peak, but the Pinnacles trail proved to be enough of an effort for our first day of hiking.

Signs along the trail kept warning us about the presence of bears and mountain lions. We never saw any such beasts, but we did see a deer (mule deer are native to the region) and a Mexican Jay.

I would really love to stay at the Chisos Mountain Basin Lodge if we ever get the opportunity to return. To be able to just BE in that environment would really be a treat.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Road Trip - Part 1

I am not at all sure how it happened, but this year for Spring Break Wonder Dad and I managed to wrangle a couple of days off (at the same time) so we could embark on a family adventure!

For those that don't know, distance in Texas is not measured in miles - it's measured in hours. And we have played out about every tourist attraction within a 2 or 3 hour radius from home. So for this family expedition, we decided to broaden that radius to include just about any spot within the great state of Texas. In the end, we chose a location to which no member of the family had yet had the chance to visit - Big Bend National Park.

However, getting to Big Bend from home is no small feat, so we decided to take a leisurely path and planned several stops on our way out West.

Our first big stop was at about the half-way point for day 1 at the Caves of Sonora.

The caves turned out to be just about the perfect spot on our trip to stop, take a break from the car, and stretch our legs. Things were hopping and we had to hang around a bit before our tour started, but it gave us plenty of opportunity to check out the peacocks hanging around the grounds.

The grounds were fun, but of course, the highlight of the stop was the trek through the caves themselves. We took the "Crystal Palace Tour" which covered almost 2 miles of cave passages, taking us to a depth of 155 feet below the surface.

Unlike some of the cave tours we have taken in the past, this was a really warm cave. They told us that the air temperature was about 75F, but with the humidity nearing 100%, it felt more like 85F. It was MUCH cooler outside, but it did make for a nice walk.

If we ever come this way again, we'll have to try the "Discovery Challenge Tour" which takes you off trail passageways and even includes a rappel fifty feet into a chasm dubbed "the Devil's Pit." That's a weekend-only tour and not available on the Wednesday afternoon we came through. But it definitely sounds like fun!

After this sweet little stop, we pushed hard to make it to Alpine, TX where we made home base for our adventures over the rest of our trip (more on that in the next post).