Fort Davis, Texas

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Let me start by telling you that you either love this part of Texas with all your heart or you don’t…there really is no in between. Oh, some will tell you there is an in between, some will tell you that it’s God’s country and others will agree because God is the only one that will claim it.

I personally, am in the “Love it” category. My father is originally from the little town of Coyanosa, its twenty-six miles northwest of Fort Stockton in northwestern Pecos County. There is probably 168 people who live in this little community on FM 1776. My grandfather was an extensive contributor during the “booming” years of Coyanosa, I guess you could say he was a cotton king and did very well for himself as well as the growth of the community. They went from the small humble adobe house that kept them close as a family to the “Big House” which they lovingly called the much bigger residence my grandfather provided, and my grandmother made a home. Lots of land, plenty of cattle and growing crops…cotton was a good thing!

 

I don’t remember what Coyanosa was like in its heyday because I wasn’t around yet, but I do remember listening to my family talk about the old days when we would be there during summer vacations…as a child when they would sit around and reminisce, they didn’t think I was paying much attention; to them they were just gabbing, but I was soaking it all in. I remember thinking how they would talk about those times, their home, their memories…yea, it might have been rough at times, but they always made it sound so interesting and intriguing, not to mention the pride they would express with every word spoken. If you ever find yourself on FM 1776 in what’s left of the small west Texas town of Coyanosa in the heat of summer, you really must stop and get yourself a Pecos cantaloupe…your mouth will thank you!

As a child my parents and I would make the 600-mile (give or take) trek to west Texas every summer and stay for about a week, maybe a little longer, but it was never long enough for me. By the time I came around, my grandparents lived in a different desolate dot on the west Texas horizon, but wherever they lived, it was like heaven to me. I couldn’t wait to see my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, and I always cried when it was time to return home. It’s a different world out there, things move at a slower pace, in fact I am pretty sure that you pass right through a time warp somewhere on the other side of Abilene.

I was a tomboy, I wore boots, ball-caps, shorts and t-shirts…I got dirty, I swung from a rope swing that squeaked on the rafters as it carried my cousins and I to the hay bales stacked along the walls, always competing to reach the highest bale,  I fed and rode horses, gathered eggs, I got to bottle feed a calf from time to time, I explored through pastures and hunted for arrowheads, I played with the goats out back and became the best goat caller ever, (or at least I thought so)  I watched for rattlesnakes and hunted jackrabbits and prairie dogs and used my imagination to play.

So, I grew up loving every inch of that desolate land. Now, we didn’t just travel to my grandparents and stop, we went other places, places of immense beauty and places full of history and wonder, even mysterious.

I first visited Fort Davis as a child and wished I could have stepped back in time to the days of the Buffalo soldiers, Comanche and Apache Indians…but then again history has always interested me. But we never went to Fort Davis without stopping at Balmorhea State Park in Toyahvale, TX first, it is a must see. One of the world’s largest spring-fed pools, with water so crystal clear you’ll want to bring your snorkeling gear to experience the underwater world below. Even some of our local law enforcement have trained there in those clear waters as divers.

Fort Davis played a major role in the history of the Southwest. From 1854 until 1891, troops stationed at the post protected emigrants, freighters, mail coaches, and travelers on the San Antonio-El Paso Road hoping to reach the gold fields of California. Fort Davis’s primary role of safeguarding the west Texas frontier against the Comanche and Apaches continued until 1881. Although the Comanche were defeated in the mid-1870s, the Apaches continued to make travel on the San Antonio-El Paso road dangerous. Today, Fort Davis is considered one of the best remaining examples of a frontier military post in the American Southwest.

I can’t remember too many summers or spring breaks that didn’t find me visiting Fort Davis, and since the days of my youth I have brought my husband and children, my friends and even some of their friends several times and we always have an exceptional experience. Fort Davis has lots to offer, if you want to see something out of this world you can drive the 15 miles to the McDonald Observatory where The University of Texas @ Austin oversees the telescopes for their studies of astronomy. Their star watching parties are astronomical! If you want to play cowboy or cowgirl, you should think about visiting and or staying at the Prude Ranch.

Prude Ranch was established over 100 years ago as a cattle ranch. For the last eighty years, six generations of Prudes have run the ranch as both guest ranch and working cattle ranch. For years it has seen many children come through the gates and spend their summers enjoying the life of cowboys and cowgirls, it has bunkhouses, horses, a swimming pool, game courts and gym. It’s one of the few places left in the southwest where children and adults can enjoy wide-open spaces, scenic mountain ranges, pure air, and pleasant temperatures.

Of course, having been to Fort Davis I have stayed a few places, but my favorites are Hotel Limpia, Harvard Hotel and the gorgeous Indian Lodge. Hotel Limpia was built in 1912 and offers most of the modern conveniences, its home to the Blue Mountain Bar and Grill and it houses the only full bar in town. Hotel Limpia has twenty-one rooms and ten suites, a beautiful pool, huge porches, and gathering rooms for special events. Harvard Hotel is directly across the street, it doesn’t have the amenities or the number of rooms like Hotel Limpia, but if you’re lucky enough to get a room with a balcony, you’re able to sit outside and watch the intimate little town settle down at dusk, feel the breeze that curls through the mountains blow through your hair and let your mind rest. Indian Lodge is nestled in the Davis Mountains State Park, it has white adobe walls, a historic aura, and refreshing pool, Indian Lodge is a welcome oasis in West Texas. It has 39 rooms and a meeting room, and you can dine at the Black Bear Restaurant located there on the premises. I can remember vividly swimming in that pool as pre-teen watching a summer storm roll in, ya know, there’s something about a summer storm in west Texas, it looks different, sounds heavier and smells cleaner…it’s breath taking actually, especially when you can watch it from the mountains.

I could tell you everything I love about Fort Davis, but I want you to go, to see it, to breathe in that clean air, to see the bluest skies for yourself. You might find things I have never seen, maybe you can tell me something new. As for me, I think just traveling to Fort Davis is half the fun, I guess you must love to drive like I do, especially out west, because anything out there is beautiful to me. I love the history I have heard over the years from my family and what I’ve learned on my own. I enjoy sharing my love for that desert oasis with my own family and hope that they continue that love with their children someday. There are so many places in the furthest part of Texas that I love and want to tell you about…so next time, maybe I will tell you about Marfa, Alpine or Big Bend National Park.

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