Living a “well-balanced life” is something we all strive for but rarely achieve without some planning and determination. For me, it comes with a little bit of guilt—intentionally neglecting household duties, stacks of paperwork and social obligations to carve out some time with my husband to relax. Recently we set out on a road trip across west Texas, with no specific plan but to change the scenery and slow down our city-driven pace.
Taking In The View
A long weekend in June in the mile-high Davis Mountains may not be an epic trek but it was a valuable endeavor. Six hours out of San Antonio, a cool drink of ponderosa pine-scented air lifted our spirits, and the sense of freedom that the open spaces can bring marked a fresh start.
We decided we would do as little as possible, and found the area to be readily accommodating. Even more abundant in the absence of activity, population and less technological connection than we expected, we were quickly stripped of our city dweller dependence on restaurants, Wi-Fi, and immediately accessible goods and entertainment.
Arriving in late afternoon, we realized we had underestimated the altitude and overestimated the amenities. Once we had checked in, a slow cruise up Skyline Drive was required to reach the highest point within the park in order to just to call home, but it provided a bonus—a 360-degree view for miles. Breeze and sunset included at no extra charge.
A drive into Ft. Davis for dinner produced sandwiches from the Stone Village Market. A short hike through the park and then a restful sleep, with the beautiful wood-cased crank windows open and bird calls unlike any we are used to, closed out the day. No sirens, street noise, barking dogs, or the rumble of garbage cans. The silence was deafening.
Just Enough Activity
Next morning: Breakfast? Not a lot of options. Maybe those granola bars, blueberries and bottled tea we packed are good enough for now. What next? A walk, then a drive. Short drives to explore Marfa, Alpine and surrounding areas were just enough activity to meet our obligatory tourism interests and still allow us to move slowly, lazily through the loftier altitude and vastly different climate.
Returning to our immaculately clean room at the Lodge (how do they do that?) made for perfect afternoon naps and reading time, although downloading to Kindles and phone use was virtually impossible. Even in this provincial setting, we found ourselves deliberately working to put the electronics away. Guests are often seen (“caught”) looking guilty, standing in the courtyard holding phones to the sky to try to connect with the folks back home. I asked one visitor, “Are we all really addicted to our devices?” and he just answered, “Yes,” and laughed, wandering off to find a better connection.
As it turned out, the main event was the lodge itself. Although we had spent time in the region in past years we had never stayed at the lodge before. A Civilian Conservation Corps project initiated in 1933, it has been expanded and then evolved over the years—fortunately, with historic and architectural sensitivity.
For us, our stay was an opportunity to step back in time, to be comforted by simple, well-crafted surroundings and find respite in something authentic, something real. Although the scale was compact—not unusual for an adobe dwelling—the maze-like walkways and spaces made it feel larger and at the same time more private than a typical tourist court would.
The place had a New Mexico vibe but with a Texas twist. Barn swallows zipping in and out of the shadows, Madrone trees in the courtyard, a beautiful desert garden, and enormous white clouds billowing and sweeping their shadows over the mountainsides were all we needed to convince us that this was a place we could return to any time and be as happy as a grey spiny lizard on a flat warm rock.
I’m always amazed at how people can take the same trip and come away with different memorable highlights. For me, the small delights were the rock shop owned by a woman who was a walking encyclopedia of geology, the remarkable giant 1930s model of the Otto Struve telescope at the McDonald Observatory, and the joy of seeing families camping together, doing the same slowing-down-dance of modern life (seeking balance!) as we were in this serene and peaceful mountain setting—right here in our beautiful Texas.