Thursday, August 19, 2010

Way Out West

August, the perfect time to get outta Dodge...and head for the hills...or rather the mountains, the Davis Mountains and Big Bend. Hubby and I participated in this year's Texas Hummingbird Roundup and took in some much needed adventure. I'll spare you the entire itinerary and just say that before the Roundup, we went to Balmorhea, hiked in the Chiuahuan Desert at the Research Center and laid out under the stars to see the Perseid Meteor Shower, whilst drinking some Hoptober and enjoying our friend and fellow CAMNer, Bill.

Female Black Chinned Hummingbird in the cage. Christmas Mountains

Female Black Chinned Hummingbird

Male Lucifer Hummingbird

Flowering Huisache

Christmas Mountains

The roundup took place in and around the Davis Mountain Resort, on 3 private properties including the above Christmas Mountains and our final destination was a hike to the bottom of the Chisos Basin at Big Bend.

Tuna, the fruit of the Prickly Pear was abundant.

All over the Chiuahuan Desert cacti were in bloom, like this Century Plant on the hike down the basin. This is another favorite of hummingbirds and bats.

Nicotiana in bloom, the preferred food of the Blue Throated Hummingbird

Ocotillo outside of Big Bend.

The beautiful Texas Madrone tree, in all our hiking we only saw 3 in the mountains, but we saw a few at Sul Ross that had been planted in honor of Deans.

Emory Peak, Big Bend.

One of many blooming mallows.

The trail behind Indian Lodge in the Davis Mountains State Park, it's a relatively easy hike.

The clearing after a brief storm outside Alpine, Texas.

Well, I went through the pink flowers in the "Wildflowers of Texas" book and didn't find this beauty, I'd love an ID.

Indian Lodge trail.

The Indian Lodge from the trail.
The Indian Lodge was built by the CCC, a troop relocated from Bastrop. They made the bricks, built the lodge and also made a lot of the original furniture which still remains. I think it's one of the nicest of the CCC lodges I've been to, and I always try to stay at them whenever possible. However, the bed was lousy, the shower had no pressure and there was no complimentary coffee. The restaurante left us unimpressed, but I must say it was reverently quiet. We ventured into Ft. Davis and found a wonderful Mexican Restaurant, BYOB across from a liquor store and a darling natural food market that resembled a manageable WholeFoods/Central Market in a SunHarvest size, it's attached to Stone Village Tourist Camp, where we stayed for 3 nights and it was wonderful! Organic gourmet coffee free to the guests, pool and they had hummingbird feeders that were packed!
Top of the trail.

Milk Thistle

I love the rock piles created by hikers over the years...this one was huge and had wildflowers growing through the cracks and around the base.

More view from the hike, which took us about 2 hours. We saw javelina, jackrabbit, roadrunner and a bunch of butterflies and other birds, and the cacti were all blooming like this Spanish Daggar.
One of many, many DYF's (damn yellow flower) on the trail.

The clarity of the puddle and the single butterfly wing in it was poetic.

Though I've heard about the dung beetle, I'd never seen them in action. We stopped and watched these two roll this perfectly round ball of dung a few feet...they were amazingly quick.

This jackrabbit didn't seem to mind us watching him snack on tuna.

It was really wonderful to see wild Esperanza! This is taken from the top of the hiking trail off Skyline Drive, overlooking the town of Fort Davis.

Our favorite resting spot on the hike, we went back later that evening to just sit and take in the beauty and silence.

These barn swallow nests were everywhere we went! I totally admire the building style.

Watching Mama Barn Swallow go in and out feeding her kiddos!

Well, this was the last hike we took and we were the first ones on it that morning...made me feel guilty walking through all those spider webs. This hike is rather hard to find as it's tucked behind a picnic rest area about 10 miles from the McDonald Observatory off the road completely. Well worth the time it took to find it.

I wish I knew what this Dr. Seussian thing was! Not knowing her name didn't stop us from admiring her blowing in the wind! Thanks to Lee and Christine, who live way out west...for the's an Apache Plum!

My favorite rock pile on the Madera Canyon trail.

Not the largest grass hopper we saw, but he was very balanced and strong, the wind was blowing and he just went about his business swaying with the DYF.

This is the last view I'm going to leave you with, it's the last place we sat down for a rest on the hike. The trip was magical, the hikes were invigorating and gorgeous and I think West Texas will go on the calendar for next August as well. It was expandingly beautiful and cool in the evenings and though hot during the afternoons, it was not as hot as Austin! I hope you enjoyed the photos from our only escape from town this summer!
Happy Gardening

14 comments: said...

Very cool trip and photos. You are right about the poetry of the butterfly wing. And the Dung beetles. Ugh.

Bob said...

Great pictures. A nice place to visit but I wouldn't want to live there. The winters are killers.

What kind of mallow was that? Did you see any Acanthus? Did you see any deer? Did you s....oh hell, I'll just come see you.

Cheryl said...

Yea, come on by...we finally got the chicken fence fixed and are ready to put up the web-arbor...I want to photograph it and do a brag piece for ya!

Christine said...

In answer to "I wish I knew what this Dr. Seussian thing was! Not knowing her name didn't stop us from admiring her blowing in the wind!" Its an Apache Plume, Fallugia paradoxa. Great plant - great trip, wish I had been there....

Lee said...

Is that Apache Plume? There's a similar prairie plant in the Midwest called Prairie Smoke, but I'm guessing apache plume...beautiful photos!

David, Melanie and family said...

Wow! You covered a lot of ground. Everything looks so green compared to the times we've been there in the winter. Indian Lodge was fantastic as was the restaurant about 10 years ago. So sad to hear it's gone down.
Glad to see all the trails. I love the Davis Mountains. Your wildflower comments crack me up! Wish I could help with the ID, but I'm not any good past the East Texas species.
Great post.
David Tropical Texana/ Houston

ConsciousGardener said...

Thank you Christine and Lee! I'll fix that pronto!

Pam/Digging said...

Yep, apache plume. It looks a lot like the Na'vi's tails in Avatar.

Juliet said...

I think those are cliff swallows, not barn swallows, based on the type of nest. Very cool though...

Glad you enjoyed your trip!

Also, wanted to ask if you have any experience growing pride of barbados from seed, and if so, which methods have worked well for you. Just got some seeds from a neighbor's yard and I am excited :)

ConsciousGardener said...

Juliet, I bought the one I have, but it has reseeded itself, so I'd say to just go ahead and plant the seeds in the ground.

As far as the swallows go, the nests at the Indian Lodge looked like cliff swallows, the ones at Balmorhea looked like barn swallows, but everywhere we went, everyone we met called them all 'barn swallows.'

Kate said...

Too bad the stay at the lodge was disappointing ~ because it looks fantastic. I love your photos. I grow a lot of your Dr. Seuss plant Apache Plume in my dry gardens. It's very pretty and one tough cookie.

Cat said...

Love your hummers.

catmint said...

Dear Cheryl, thank you so much for sharing your hiking experience and knowledge of the birds and bugs. cheers, catmint

Meredith said...

We visited the Davis Mtns in July and just loved it -- seeing so many plants from my garden just growing wild was simply splendid. I would love to participate in the Hummingbird Roundup next year -- we just couldn't time it right with our other plans this year. Maybe it will work out that we can do it together!