I fly from Houston tomorrow morning to the booming town of... Midland, Texas! Well I'm not sure how hopping the place really is, but I can say that when my friend Laurie & I drive west from there to our actual destination in West Texas, we will be laughing it up and enjoying the West Texas mountain scenery and desert oases. Laurie was my companion on my last trip to West Texas when I was researching the Top of Texas cover story for Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine, which covered the best vantage points from various parts of the Lone Star State! I had so much fun on that trip! Laurie & I hiked up Guadalupe Mountain, the tallest peak in Texas, and had quite the experience as I blogged about in "Wendee Holtcamp EXPOSED!" (There are some fantastic shots in that blog post, if I do say so myself - and not of ME - Ha - of the gorgeous scenery of West Texas!)
Laurie is such a fun person and I love her laugh and I am very much looking forward to this trip. I'm off to report three different stories, and love traveling on a magazine's budget and not my own penny! :) Here's our tentative itinerary.
Saturday after we arrive, we will drive out to Alpine, Texas which is about 3 hours west of Midland where we'll drop in on the Shooting West Texas photography symposium at Ross University (I asked the guy in charge for directions, and a physical address, and he said good luck with that, West of the Pecos!)
Realistically, we will probably only arrive for the book signing part around 5pm, but my friend Laurence Parent, a truly phenomenal photographer, will be there, as will Texas Parks & Wildlife official photographer Earl Nottingham, who has shot for several of my articles for the magazine but I've never met him in person. After the book signing, we are going to dinner somewhere in Alpine. Wyman Meinzer was the keynote speaker but he spoke today not tomorrow. I met him when we both gave guest talks at the University of North Texas Nature Writing Conference in 2007.
After dinner, we'll head to the McDonald Observatory for their Saturday evening "star party." I covered this in my Top of Texas article so Laurie & I visited before but it's awesome! We were there in November last time, and the constellations I learned I still vividly remember now. They have benches outside, and several telescopes and they have a guide who teaches visitors about what to expect in the night sky after dark. Astronomers come here from around the world to study the stars, as it has several powerful telescopes (not for your average visitors - for scientists). Last time we actually stayed overnight at the lodge there.
This time, we will be staying at El Oso Flojo Lodge in Balmorhea Saturday and Sunday(the rooms look pretty nice), and then at the San Solomon Court lodge at Balmorhea State Park on Monday night. Balmorhea State Park is renowned for being an "oasis in the desert" (the Chihuahuan Desert as a matter of fact) with a gorgeous, clear, blue cold spring that you can swim, snorkel and even scuba dive in. I'm actually thinking about diving if I can swing it! Just got off the the phone with Neta, owner of the Toyahvale Desert Oasis and Funky Li'l Dive Shop.
Sunday, a guide from Davis Mountains Education Center (DMEC) is taking us birding in Balmorhea State Park and nearby Lake Balmorhea. We also may go to the Madera Canyon Trail, a property owned by The Nature Conservancy in the Davis Mountains. After that, we'll head to Balmorhea State Park's San Solomon spring to swim, snorkel or dive and lounge about until that evening when Jenny from the DMEC Lodge is making us yummy fish tacos for dinner! They have lodging and food but we're not staying there. Maybe next time!
Monday, we're headed to Elephant Mountain Wildlife Management Area to traipse around looking for bighorn sheep! I am doing one travel article, and one piece on bighorn sheep. They reintroduced bighorns here in West Texas, after they were basically exterminated from the state many years ago, and they've been going great guns ever since. After a day hiking if we're not completely about to collapse, we're going to drive around some of the scenic routes (it's part of the Texas Mountain Trail) and maybe even get a massage if we can find a good spa!
Tuesday, we're meeting up with Beth Nobles, Director of the Texas Mountain Trail program of the Texas Heritage Trails Association. We met her last time we visited too. We don't leave until around 6pm, and this day is kind of flexible and we may head back to Midland and go to the Museum of the Southwest or we may go to the Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute in Fort Davis although that's the opposite direction of Midland!
It's my son's 14th birthday and I'm about to take him out to the Happy Buddha Japanese steakhouse - one of his faves - then over to his dad's. I'll post some pics from the road if I can!