This last weekend, the Trail Tamers enjoyed a fun and relaxing trip to the Nature Conservancy’s Davis Mountains Preserve. Several members showed up with their families to enjoy the open weekend hiking and attending other activities in the area. Scott, Vic and Loren took turns working the Trail Tamers outreach table and enjoyed the company of Greg Crow and Tara Polosky. Greg is the onsite land manager and outside of our members, he has been one of our longest lasting and most steadfast supporters. Tara is the West Texas Education and Outreach director for TNC. For those who have an interest in trail tools, Tara notes that when her family immigrated to the U.S. from Poland, her family name was neglectfully changed from Pulaski when they were recorded by a less than literate customs worker. In addition to being an enthusiastic and gracious host, Tara presented on the Owls of the Trans-Pecos (Did you know the smallest owl in the Americas lives in the Davis Mountains?) and she presented a Star Party just outside the McIvor Center.
Some of the other activities we enjoyed at the preserve included hikes to the top of the 5th tallest mountain in Texas. Mt. Livermore is 8378 feet elevation at the top of Baldy Peak (the name of the summit of this mountain) and the hike itself includes 1800 feet of vertical climbing. Other’s took the Livermore Vista Trail and the ever popular Tobe Springs hike where you can see the Texas Champion Ponderosa Pine tree. Much of this area was burned during the 2011 fires in the Davis Mountains and by now, much to our delight, huge numbers of Texas Madrone trees are growing and heathy in the areas that burned. Where much of the forest floor was once shaded by huge pines, now oaks Madrones and other hardwood species are filling in. The more open forest is actually more typical of the area before it was managed to suppress fires for over 100 years. The Nature Conservancy partners with the Texas A&M Forestry program to manage the post fire recovery.
One group was lucky enough to see a covey of about 30 Montezuma Quail – a bird that for many birders can be a bit of a nemesis. Another very unusual and exciting finding is at least two different sightings in different areas of the park of Texas Horned Lizards. These lizards were not thought to populate the Davis Mountains though other species, the round tails and mountain horned lizards are well-known residents of the preserve. On Saturday evening, graduate students from the Borderland Research Institute at Sul Ross University presented on Mountain Lions in the Davis Mountains and on Pronghorns in the Trans-Pecos. These long-running research efforts help us understand, protect and support populations of these iconic native species.Side trips included tours at the Fort Davis National Historical Site, the Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute and the McDonald Observatory. Continued improvements at Fort Davis have made visiting there a far more enriching historical and cultural experience. More of the buildings have been preserved and the interpretive presentations have been updated. The science of astronomy continues to amaze so visits to the observatory offer a first-hand opportunity to see and hear about genuine cutting edge science. The Chihuahuan desert is a living desert with a complex and fascinating natural eco-system. The CDRI brings it alive. The Davis Mountains State Park also offers access to natural and recreational opportunities found few other places. I honestly don’t know of any other area that is so rich in natural, cultural, historic, educational and scientific opportunities than the Davis Mountains of West Texas. The Trail Tamers will continue to work on trails for many different organizations in the area. In addition to the Nature Conservancy, we have worked on trails for all of the other organizations mentioned except the observatory. We will continue to have these fun gatherings in addition to our trail work, so I hope you will join us for both in the near future.