Mile Maker 119389: Davis Mountains State Park Vol. II

What it is, Pigeon Handlers.

I know, I know, this post is late. Well, for your information, that’s just life for you. I’ve been busy. I’ve also had severe writers block, not only for adventure tales but actually fiction stories. Crazy. As I’ve mentioned numerous times before, I am still in the market for a good muse, so if you or someone you know isn’t busy, hit me up.

Well, without any further guilding of the lily, here is a story about the time I climbed, nay scaled, a fucking mountain…

Saturday morning, er noonish, I arrive on site at Davis Mountains State Park. I’m an eager beaver at this point: I’ve done preregistered and packed and all that jazz. The Rangers at the park give me the basic low down on instructables and a quick run down on the map, then I’m off on my merry way to the trail’s beginning.

“Whoa! Slow down there bucko. Aren’t you going to give us a detailed how to on properly signing in and pre-hike checklists and proper sunscreen application methods and the best clothes to wear on these kind of expeditions?” You ask.

No, no, no, and maybe. Folks, I’m just your regular dude who is just starting out on a career in adventuring. This isn’t a how to guide, mostly because “it’s not that hard to climb a mountain.” Ok, spoiler alert, its pretty fucking hard to climb a mountain. I’ve “trained” for months. Basically, I got fat and started running so I didn’t have to buy expensive FRs. Moral of the story, if you are here for a well written outdoors post that is designed to inspire, you’ve come to the wrong place.

A side note: you’ll notice there was a maybe in there. That’s because I’m not going to tell you the best clothes to wear, but I will tell you this [and this is more for the boys out there]: As much as I love Wrangler 13MWZs, climbing a mountain trail isn’t the best place for them. Same goes for regular briefs. I went out and got over priced pantaloons from REI and athletical undies from Academy. The pinnacle of the Earth is not the place for swamp ass.

The Adventure Begins

After parking and getting my pack situated, I down a bottle of water and start the official timer on my watch. 12:30:00PM. I made sure to start at a precise time because occasionally I border on the obsessive side. Putting one foot forward, my transformation was complete. I was still an unsuccessful farmer. Still a mediocre writer. Still the world’s okayest musician. But friends and foes, once I took my first step on my journey, I became something more, the half-assed explorer.

If you find yourself following in my trailblazing footsteps on the already well blazed trail to the Davis Mountain primitive camping sites, you are in for a treat. The first 30 minutes of the hike take you on a horizontal walk through a dry river bed. Don’t let the flat nature of the trek fool you, the loose dirt and river rock offers a nice little introduction into the daunting hike that lay before you. As you sink in, you have to really get those legs working to 4×4 yourself out, especially if you over prepare and have a heavy pack attached.

Luckily, just before the ascent begins, the planning department was nice enough to station a bench to rest on before the real work begins. Here, you can catch some really spectacular views. Looking up and around, you can barely make out the peaks of the hills you are about to climb. Depending on the time of year, there’s also a considerable amount of color around, especially front the blooming cactus flowers. After proper hydrating, I put my trusty camera into my trusty fanny pack and mentally prepared myself for the road ahead.

The Windy Night

You bet your ass this post is in the style of Tarantino. Trust me, there’s a point to all of this. I have a really good ending planned out, but it works best from a different point in the story.

“Seriously?” You sigh with over exaggerated gusto.

Oh, stop whining. If you are still reading this, you didn’t have anything better going on anyway.

When you check in at the front office, the Rangers are kind enough to give you a trail map. And what is a piece of government issued paper without a disclaimer. To paraphrase: “Please beware of mountain lions and javelinas.”

Javelinas are the Texas equivalent of Tasmanian Devils. Growing up, we had some encounters with them when we were running the dogs trying to keep the feral hogs from tearing up the corn fields. Let me tell you this, you have a pack of peccaries run up on you in the middle of the night with a handful of dogs and shit get’s western real quick. All that aside, I really wasn’t overly concerned with those guys. To tell the truth, I really wasn’t overly concerned with Mountain Lions either. Mostly because I was awestruck for most of the hike and it was daylight.

Ol’ night time rolls around and you realize that you are the only person on top of a mountain, 2 hours and 45 minutes away from your vehicle which is at the base, some people might get a little nervous. Now, it certainly wasn’t enough to damper such a beautiful evening, but I’ll admit that I had my multi tool flipped open to a blade and my GOOT Customs Nut Cutter farm knife out and in reach. You know, just in case ya boy Deadly Tedly was going to have to throw down. Am I saying I think I could have fought off a cougar, aided by only two small blades (one of which came from the discount bin)? You’re damned right. I’m short and I’m from Texas; I’ll fight anything, anytime, anywhere. God was wise to make me Polish and not Irish as the world would never have stood a chance.

Aside from that, the night was not too bad. I had a favorable wind, which means it wasn’t typical for west Texas and there were periods of calm. The temperature was awesome, though I’d advise you get a good sleeping bag and sleeping pad. I had acquired one of those shitty mummy bags and kept sleep flexing and busting the zipper.

And this is where I will give you a little piece of advice. As you wake up before the sun on top of a mountain in chilly 45 degree weather, you’ll probably be a little thirsty from the hike the day before. Hopefully you packed enough water. I did. I cracked open my bottle of Ocean Spray Cranberry juice that had been repurposed as a hydration receptacle with good water. Apparently, the juice flavor remained and gave a subtle hint to the water and with the ambient outdoor mountain temperature, that was probably the most refreshing water I have ever drank.

The Descent

Where the trip upward took me just shy of 3 hours, the return trip was considerably faster. 1 hour and 55 minutes. Not bad for 4.5 miles. Or it could be bad, this was my first time. Anywho, the increase in speed was from basic gravity science and a lack of stopping for pictures. That was until about half way down.

Gazing out over a bluff, I spotted a herd of 21 Aoudad Sheep (or Barbary sheep which are technically caprine). They caught a glimpse of me as well and may have remembered me [spoiler???]. They took off, but not with too much haste, which allowed me get some pretty cool shots of them as they scurried back up the mountain. I’ll admit I waited around to see if I could see one silhouetted against the rising sun, but I was also tired and decided to let nature be as I made my way back down.

Along the way, I had found a pretty dope walking stick and I’ll tell you that it made a world of difference. Navigating downhill with the same heavy pack as the day before was quite the exercise and more than once I slipped up on some loose rocks. Luckily, the Gandalf cane was there to keep me balanced. As I made my way to the beginning of the trail and back to the parking area, I left the stick by the trail head for the next traveller.

The Ascent

Departing level ground, the trail wound up a semi steep path up onto the side of a hill. This was the first stage of the journey where I began to find enjoyment in the daunting hike. Sure, I was huffing and puffing, but in such a way that makes you feel alive. Heaving in large doses of fresh mountain air does wonders for the body and mind.

The first stage of the trek takes up along a valley of sorts. The paved road cuts through and as you climb, it’s a wonder to watch the pavement, farms, and livestock get smaller and smaller the higher up you go. Looking upwards, you can really start to appreciate the scale of the rocks you find yourself on as they continue to offer a jagged shape on the horizon.

This part of the trail offers such a diverse range of flora as you walk. Some places are barren and rocky while others are lush with short trees. Succulents and blooming yuccas are scattered all over and the singing of birds fills the air with an easy calm. Every so often I’d come to a clearing that would open up a whole new field of vision, showcasing the mountain range off in the distance. At one point, you’ll come to a place where you can look down on the parking area and take a gander at the Hot Wheel sized vehicle you drove in here with.

One of my favorite places on the hike was a large rock structure that offered a single tree growing from the cracks. Doing my best not to make any “that’s how paper beats rock” jokes, I took a seat and caught my breath. Somewhere along the way, I marveled at just how relaxed I was for being so out of breath. Also, I didn’t realize I was only about ten minutes away from the campsites and I could have sat on another bench.

Once I had arrived, I took a few moments to claim victory on the afternoon. I had done it. I had hiked about 4.5 miles in about 2.75 hours and I hadn’t blown through all of my water. Took a few moments to revel in success before the hard part started. Yes, out of all of the preparing I had done for my trip, I had neglected to set up my tent on a trial run. I broke out all of the pieces and stared at them like I had just lost the instructions to my LEGOs. I tried a piece here and a rod there, but I just couldn’t make out any acceptable tent shapes.

This is where I will admit to going full future while roughing it. I was fortunate enough to have enough service on my work phone to get a picture of my tent and then piece it together from there. I was also able to get in touch with family and share my position for safety purposes. After that, the tent went up and camp had been made. I took a few more moments to relax before the final step in the journey.

The Peak: Limpia Creek Vista 5700’

After another short jaunt up, I had reached the summit. The Peak. The Pinnacle. The Effin’ Top. Again, the planning committee had done their work and there was another bench. I took a seat and opened the ammo can that was setting on the bench. Inside was a journal; a sign in sheet for those who had reached this point. I flipped through the pages, giving a silent nod to those who came before me and then signed my own name, giving a shout out to North Kosciusko, Texas.

From the top, there really isn’t a view comparable to this. Well, sure there is. Everest prolly. But I’ll tell all you Pigeon Handlers this: it sure beats the view from atop a grain silo or a tank battery.

I took a look around and noticed that all of the other campsites were empty. This meant that I had the top of this mountain to myself. For the introvert in me, that was heaven. I made my way back to my tent and gathered a few things. I picked up a jacket because the temp was starting to drop. I grabbed my camera and tripod, because I’m a sunset chaser. And I grabbed my blue mini chair because despite what you may think of someone who just scaled a small mountain, I’m lazy and I like to sit.

I made my way back to the top and set up shop. I started adjusting a playing with my camera in order to catch the best shots of the sun creeping down behind the ranges to the west. Of all things, I heard a loud squeak. Not startling enough to make me jump, but just enough to steal my attention away from my camera. I turned and looked in the direction of the noise and was rewarded. 5 Aoudad had scaled the southern face of the peak and watched me as I watched them. They were about 25 yards away and though they noticed me, they were kind enough to hang around for about ten minutes, giving me the photo shoot of a lifetime. I finally bid them farewell as they departed and I returned my attention to the horizon.

A thought popped into my head as I watched the setting sun. For about seven months, ever since I relocated to Monahans and started working in Pyote, I had been staring at this very mountain range. Every day while I’m stressing about in the oil patch, putting out a fire here and solving a water crisis there, I gazed off and fantasized about this very place. There had been a lot of hard work put into this trip and I smiled as I returned to the sunset. And I can say with certainty that now that I had reached my destination, I hardly gave the east a glance and not once did I try to spot the oil field from where I was sitting.

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