Friday, August 21, 2015

this vacation

This is not Kyle. I got back to the truck on the top of the mountain and turned around and he was standing there. It was too perfect not to shoot!

Tug took this one for you!

this vacation. this vacation was special - totally spontaneous. watching CBS Sunday Morning we saw a story about the mcdonald observatory in fort davis, tx and its stars. oh it's starsI we ooohed and ahhed and wanted to go. two weeks later - on the road - one last adventure before school starts back. what an adventure it was.

on the 7 or so hour drive, the cedar-laden hill country gave way to dry, nearly treeless, scrubby desert landscapes. and mountains. the further west we went, the stranger. more craggy, and taller the mountains became. it was a feast for the eyes - miles and miles and miles of very little that resembled civilization. this was big bend country tho still 100 miles north of the real big bend.

fort davis and the surrounding areas of alpine, marathon and marfa are referred to as 'high desert' with near perfect weather - mid-high 80's during the day and high 60's a night. our first day, we eased into the day with a breathtaking sunrise, coffee in our jackets, dog walking and bike riding in our pajamas and greeting our mooing neighbors through the brush.

we finally ventured out around lunch time and headed to the indian lodge in davis mountains state park. we immediately fell in love as we hiked after lunch. the trail was narrow and rocky and provided little respite from the sun. it was an easy hike, surrounded by grasses, cacti and large, mean-looking ants that we later found out were fire ants when one bit poor banjo. passing under a small copse of trees, the unmistakable call of a hawk rang out just over my head. looking up, i was no more than a dozen feet from a pair of watchfull eyes. down further in the tree, just a few feet from the caller, sat another hawk who we thought was a mother feeding her babies. turns out the sqeaking we heard was the dying call of an unfortunate rodent. a good lesson in the circle of life. . .

after our hike, we promptly checked out of the private campground we had initially reserved and moved, lock stock and barrel over to the state park where we nestled comfortably into the trees, just up from a dry creek bed the boys and dogs took great joy in exploring.

we hiked and drove and gawked and gasped. we visited the fort for whom the town was named and walked around in the rain, learning about grisly medical practices and life before antibiotics and sterilization. we gazed longingly at the big guns and the little guns and the bigger, booming guns (and i use 'we' loosely here.) we drove out to see the fabled 'marfa lights' (i'm a skeptic) and ate ice cream and rode bikes and threw the football. we played jr. monopoly during a thunder storm and napped and walked dogs and walked them some more. we climbed 1/2 way up a mountain, drove up a bigger mountain and threw rocks at a dead tree stump. it was the slow, leisurely pace of vacation. we saw what we wanted to see, but not in much of a hurry.

the absolute highlight of the trip, the reason we went in the first place - those stars. oh my stars!

around 9 on saturday night, we crawled up, up, up the mountain, snaking along with the other headlights and taillights to the very tippy top, to the mcdonald observatory. what awaited us there is beyond compare. i've seen stars in the mountains of north carolina. i've seen stars in back country of vermont. i've seen the southern cross, shivering on a mountainside in quito, ecuador. but i've never seen stars like this. it was more than i could have imagined. when you live near a city, it's easy to forget the milkyway is out there. after a brief talk about the stars and a short tour of a few constellations, we got to walk around (in the complete inky blackness of night, lit only by low red light) and peer into the heavens through high powered telescopes. we saw galaxies 24 million light years away. we saw the swan nebulous that will become a star when we are remembered fondly like the dinosaurs. but the icing on the cake of our evening under the stars was the perfect veiw of saturn through one of the biggest telescopes i've ever seen. we saw saturn and 4 of its moons. let me repeat - we saw saturn. the magnificence of that night will live with me for a long long time - perhaps 24 million light years.

i was nowhere near ready to leave when the time came, but i returned home with a new perspective; a new sense of what's important in this life. this lifetime is such a blip on the universal map. but that doesn't make it insignificant or unimportant. i think being such a short burst in time makes this life all the more important. don't waste it. make it count. burn as bright and as hot as you dare before you're gone and that nebulous is still sitting out there in the universe somewhere, waiting to become a star.


  1. Brandye, what a wonderful vacantion & beautifully written piece. I've been telling you for years that you should have your stories published. They are descriptive, funny & a joy to read. You never know. Maybe Readers Digest?

    1. Thanks, Carey. That's very kind! I miss you!