Those of you who follow our adventures in homeschooling know that we utilize travel as a serious part of our education plan. And, I often use the terms roadschooling or worldschooling depending on where we go and what we do. Basically, roadschooling is simply the act of learning on the road. Some of our previous worldschooling adventures can be seen here and our last roadschooling adventure can be read here. This time our adventures were known as the Hahn’s Crazy Christmas Camping Adventures in the Davis Mountains. It truly was fun but a crazy adventure because of all the changes that had to be made.
The original plan was for two days camping at Davis Mountains State Park and then 3 days camping at Big Bend National Park. It is a long drive, one way driving time is just under 9 hours from our house to Davis Mountains State Park. Big Bend National Park is a couple hours further which is why we were breaking up the trip. However, due to waiting for my iron infusions to be completed before making reservations, Big Bend was sold out so we booked 5 days at Davis Mountains State Park with plans to do at least one day trip to Big Bend. Sadly, the day before our departure, the partial federal shutdown began which meant another shuffle of plans. Thankfully, I had a list of options. After 3 nights of camping, we had to leave the Davis Mountains due to weather causing another shuffle of plans. We received a national weather alert regarding wind advisories: 25-35 mph sustained winds and gusts up to 50 mph. 2 hours after we left they updated it to 30-40 mph sustained and gusts up to 60 mph. We couldn’t stay tent camping, so we moved our to one of the last few hotel rooms in Alpine, TX and started the trek back to Houston one day earlier than planned. Thus, I will list where we actually went, the original places, and the optional places for those who want to travel to this side of Texas.
Here is what we actually did:
- Davis Mountains State Park (They have tent campsites, RV sites, and a lodge for those who don’t want to camp. We did tent camping. The park rangers were awesome!!! And, the Lodge looked amazing. The park has nice trails and 2 different bird blinds or wildlife observation areas. Although no cell service, they do have wifi at the Lodge and their interpretive center.)
- McDonald Observatory (We reserved the 2.5 hours guided tour and solar observation. It was a great tour!!! They also offer star viewing parties with advanced reservations but due to the holidays, there were none being offered. For those short on time, there is a visitor center.)
- Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute Nature Center (This is a really neat place. Our visit was shortened by the incoming storm. We couldn’t see the mountains we had just left and it was quickly approaching here. In addition, our son had a fall into cacti that resulted in us removing cactus spines for 30 minutes–always pack tweezers).
- Marfa Airport & National Landmark of Soaring (We stopped at the gate but the airport was closed so we couldn’t see the official landmark.)
- Chinati Foundation (One part is free, other parts are paid admission. It is an art museum in a converter military fort. Original barracks and remodeled buildings from Fort D.A. Russel are still there.)
- Marfa and Presidio County Museum (Tiny, free, and worth the visit.)
- Marfa Lights Viewing Area (Quick stop between Marfa and Alpine, also sits on the old Marfa Army Field.)
- Museum of the Big Bend (Tiny, more modern than the museum in Marfa, free, and totally worth the quick visit.)
- Caverns of Sonora (We learned about them on the way out, so when we got forced off the mountain we made sure we could stop on the return drive to the Houston area.)
- Cascades Cavern (We learned about this from the hotel in Boerne. Stopped after check-out and before driving home. A neat cave and very different from Caverns of Sonora. This cave has living creatures and lots of flowing water.)
Here is where we originally planned on going:
- Fort Davis National Historic Site (This was closed due to the partial government shutdown. It was gated closed with posted closure signs. We pre-printed the junior ranger badges so we could still work on them and will mail them in. You could see the fort from afar both from the road and from up high in Davis Mountains State Park.)
- Nature Conservancy Davis Mountains Preserve (Due to holidays, no scheduled activities. But you can call in advance to make special arrangements. They also have open public days throughout the year. However, the weather caused us to leave the area.)
- Big Bend National Park (Although the news reported it was “open”, the park was considered closed. A National Park Service Ranger distributed flyers to the hotels and state parks indicating which roads would be open but that no visitor centers would be open, no facilities/bathrooms would be open, no trash service, Boquillas Crossing was closed, and no rescues. You would have to call 911 for emergencies. The rangers at Davis Mountains State Park and the guide from McDonald Observatory were advising everyone to stay out of the national park. Thus we stuck to working on the junior ranger badges we pre-printed.)
Here were additional backup options:
- Rattlers and Reptiles (Was closed for the holidays)
- Fort Leaton State Historic Site (Due to change in weather and closed on the holiday, never made it there.)
- Big Bend Ranch State Park (Due to change in weather and closed on the holiday, never made it there.)
- Monahans Sandhills State Park (This is opposite direction from the route we chose when we were forced off the mountains early.)