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McDonald Observatory, Fort Davis, TX

By 6:00 a.m., I am on the road. I have seven hours to drive today to Fort Davis, which means at least nine hours on the road with stops. It is still dark outside and very foggy. I am not thrilled that I am not able to experience my surroundings, but I also don't want to arrive at my destination at night.


After about two hours, I finally left behind the busy I-10 and am now on the open Texas desert landscape. Here and there, the first glimpse of spring covers the ground with the yellow carpet of flowers. The desert is vast, with huge skies and beautiful mountains. For hours, it felt as though I was surrounded by nothing but infinite emptiness.


I plan to park at my friend Heather's aunt's driveway at Fort Davis tonight. It is the second time that I have missed meeting Annie. Annie is visiting her family in El Paso. As I get closer to Ford Davis and am reminded of the beauty here, I know I need to camp in nature and stay at Davis Mountains State Park. 


The skies were clear, with billions of stars shining in my presence. I get comfortable in my chair and gaze into the dark sky to watch the longest shooting star I have ever experienced.


Tomorrow, with tickets for both the Solar Viewing during the day and the Star Party at night, my excitement grows.


The emotion of disappointment is part of life. The heavily clouded day and night with the strong wind did not allow me to experience the two programs as I wished. It was still a very educational experience, and overall, I enjoyed my time at the observatory. Well, now I have a good reason to return to this stunning area of Texas.


The star party ended close to ten at night. Looking at the local map, I know there is a picnic area down the road. The ride is on a windy road on a pitch-dark night, which is not the most pleasant way to search for my spot for the night.


The wind is still strong, and the last time I had service and checked the weather, I was expecting the wind to die down soon. I park my van, change for the night, and go to sleep. By two a.m. I am jolted from my sleep as a gust of wind shakes my van like a piece of paper on a breezy night.


Let's talk about fear... Oh wow, what an unpleasant experience! I don't even know my landscape. Am I near the edge of a mountain? Am I on safe ground? The night is so dark that my most potent sense is hearing. All I hear is the rumbling of my van every time a gust of wind hits me.


The wind did vanish into the mountains after a while. I woke up to a beautiful, silent morning. I looked forward to sitting quietly with my breakfast, but unfortunately, the rain chased me out.


Once again, my plan to revisit Guadalupe Mountains National Park, and perhaps attempt the 'Top of Texas hike' is thwarted by the persistent wind.


In one of my conversations with Annie, she recommended visiting the Franklin Mountains State Park just outside of El Paso. So that is where I am heading, and the fun part is I will have the privilege, after all, to meet with Annie. 


We chose to hike the Aztec Cave Trail since it is a short walk from my camping spot. The trail up to the cave is a bit challenging, but the view from its window creates a frame of the valley and the surrounding mountains and makes the effort worth it.


The wind in the last few days has physically and emotionally challenged me. I don't even attempt to cook a hot meal. I don't think my stove will stay lit in this wind. I hope I will not get sick eating tuna since it is an easy way to get protein.


By five, I'm forced to retreat into my van. The wind only gets more assertive, and the air gets colder. The campground is primitive, so there is no option for an electric site to plug in my little heater. I am shivering even with a few layers on me. 


I'm excited for dinner tonight because my avocado has finally ripened, and I can mix it with my tuna. I do love this kind of little enjoyment in life. They let me appreciate and be more grateful for the air I breathe.


I know that if I was still traveling with my Mazda, I would have to take a room in a hotel in this kind of weather. My new setup gives me much more freedom. It is totally a game changer, and I love the privilege it provides me.


Now looking back, maybe staying in a hotel for the night would be a smart idea. The wind is violently shaking my van. Somehow, as long as daylight wraps me up, my fear is under control. As the dark night starts to swallow me, fear gets a new meaning in my body. I even try to understand my fear, which usually helps me to calm myself down. Last night now feels like a joke. There is no escape, so I do what becomes a source of serenity for me, and I write.


By seven, I am too cold, and my only chance to get warm is to get into my bed and turn on my heating blanket. It was a long, loud night as the wind and now the rain were playing with my emotions.


The good news is that the car wash I planned to do is no longer necessary.


Again, I woke up to a silent morning without evidence of last night's drama. My body is relaxed and happy for the beginning of a new day.


I am excited! I am heading to White Sands National Park.



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