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West Texas and Big Bend National Park

Program Number: 1948RJ
Start and End Dates:
4/7/2013 - 4/12/2013; 2/17/2015 - 2/22/2015; 3/30/2015 - 4/4/2015;
Duration: 5 nights
Location: Fort Davis, Texas
Price starting at: $898.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: National Parks Activity Level: t (see description)
Meals: 14; 5 Breakfasts, 4 Lunches, 5 Dinners    
Meal Options: Vegetarian    

Explore the mountains of Far West Texas! Begin in the Davis Mountains, cool and forested, then travel to Big Bend National Park with its bluebonnets, massive canyons, vast desert and the Chisos Mountain range. Also, relive Texas history at wonderfully restored Fort Davis.




Highlights

• Learn how the 8,300-foot Davis Mountains form a “sky island” of temperate, forested environments amid the arid Chihuahuan Desert, and implications for wildlife.
• In Big Bend National Park, study its complex geology and unique ecosystems of mountains and deserts teeming with wildlife.
• Explore Fort Davis to analyze its impact on the development of the Western frontier.



Activity Particulars

Walking on varied terrain. Optional hiking. No porterage. Elevations up to 8,300 feet.




Date Specific Information

4-7-2013

Big Bend National Park describes its spring bird migration as “in the sky, a river of birds,” and people come from all over the world to it. In April, you are sure to add new species to your list and marvel at the phenomenon of migration.



2-17-2015

When conditions are right, the desert hills come alive with wildflowers & blooming cacti. An added bonus: The annual Trappings of Texas exhibit is on display at the Museum of the Big Bend.



3-30-2015

In April, plants and cacti dot the dessert with magnificent blooms. Bring your binoculars! Late March and early April mark the start of spring migrating season; over 450 species have been recorded in Big Bend National Park.



Itinerary Summary

Arrival Fort Davis, 2 nights; coach to Big Bend National Park, 2 nights; coach to Fort Davis, 1 night; departure.




Fort Davis

Established as a major station on the Overland Route, the west Texas town of Fort Davis is situated amid the beautiful Davis Mountains. Home to numerous outdoor recreational and conservation parks, Fort Davis' clear skies attract stargazers, while abundant wildlife draws birders and nature lovers.



Big Bend National Park

Bordering the Rio Grande, Big Bend is one of the largest and least visited national parks. Its dramatic canyons, desert expanses and Chisos Mountain range are home to exceptionally diverse plant and animal life. Big Bend offers a unique opportunity to experience an ancient and austere landscape in relative solitude.



Accommodations
Fort Davis: Homey cabins with private bath. Big Bend National Park: Nearby resort and spa.

Road Scholar Instructors
These instructors are participating on at least one date of this program. Please note that changes may occur.
Glenn Moreland

Glenn Moreland began playing the fiddle and guitar in the late 1960's around Austin, Texas. He fell in love with cowboy songs and took up the fiddle in order to learn the tunes that were the favorites of the cowhands. After receiving his B.A. in agriculture from Southwest Texas State University, he worked for the USDA as a cattle inspector, and spent a year in the feed lots near El Paso. For the past 30 years, Glenn has worked on area ranches, as well as the family ranching interests. While working as a cowboy in West Texas, he added many songs to his repertoire, including some that he wrote. He has been nominated by his peers as a performing musician to the Academy of Western Artists. Glenn's quick wit, wry humor and knowledge of cowboy history make him a favorite performer.
 
Cynta Denarvaez

Cynta DeNarvaez has a master's degree in quaternary studies from Northern Arizona University and a liberal arts degree from St. John's College. Cynta is a docent with Terlingua Historical Society, and is a fascinating storyteller who is well versed in the history of the settlement of the Big Bend. She regularly leads history tours around the Terlingua Ghostown, a former mercury mining community, and is instrumental in efforts to restore the historic church there.
 
Meals and Lodgings
   Mountain Trails Lodge & Outdoor Learning Center
  Fort Davis, TX 2 nights
   Lajitas Resort and Spa
  Big Bend National Park 2 nights
   Mountain Trails Lodge & Outdoor Learning Center
  Fort Davis, TX 1 night
 Mountain Trails Lodge & Outdoor Learning Center
Type: Lodge
  Description: The lodge is located on 10 acres less than a mile south of historic Fort Davis, Texas. The relaxing, inviting atmosphere features lectures, entertainment, meals, and lodging all on site within easy walking distance. Mountain Trails Lodge & Outdoor Learning Center, formerly Davis Mountains Education Center, in association with Elderhostel and Road Scholar, has provided educational adventures to adults and youth since 1989.
  Contact info: 501 E Musquiz Dr
PO Box 1138
Fort Davis, TX 79734 USA
phone: 432-426-3481
web: www.mountaintrailslodge.com
  Room amenities: Duplex cabins feature wireless Internet access, heating and air conditioning, and private porches. Each cabin has a coffee maker, microwave, small refrigerator, private bath with shower, reading lights above the beds, and sitting area.
  Facility amenities: From your front porch, enjoy wide vistas of the Chihuahuan Desert and foothills of the Davis Mountains. Star pad and telescopes are located on premises for star gazing with our staff astronomer. Classroom and dining areas are within easy walking distance. Parking is available at each room with outdoor parking on site during your program travels. Satellite television and telephone for local calls are available in common areas.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Additional nights prior: $94.00 Lodging is available nights before and after program. For those arriving via our El Paso shuttle, please remember that our shuttle runs on program start and end dates ONLY.
  Check in time: 3:00 PM
  Additional nights after: $94.00 Lodging is available nights before and after program. For those arriving via our El Paso shuttle, please remember that our shuttle runs on program start and end dates ONLY.
  Check out time: 11:00 AM

 Lajitas Resort and Spa
Type: Resort
  Description: Tucked away in Southwest Texas between Big Bend National Park and Big Bend State Park lies the exquisite 27,000 acre Lajitas Golf Resort and Spa. The resort is set among the Mountain vistas and the borderland majesty of the Rio Grande River, the resort's unique destination is rich in Old West history; complimented by the rugged luxury and superior service of a first class hotel.
  Contact info: HC 70 Box 400
Lajitas, TX 79852 USA
phone: 432-424-5000
web: www.lajitasgolfresort.com
  Room amenities: Rooms in the La Cuesta and Cavalry Post buildings are appointed with a "cowboy chic" decor, complete with cowhide rugs and rough-hewn saddles, or "Victorian" decor with softer accoutrements and clawfoot bathtubs. Rooms include a King or Queen/Queen and all the amenities you'd expect to find in addition to a DVD player, CD alarm clock and a make-up mirror.
  Facility amenities: Five-star in-house dining, spa and salon, pool, golf course, equestrian center, hunt club, high-speed Internet access, tennis center, jet-capable runway, 1901 chapel.
  Smoking allowed: No


Travel Details
  Start of Program:
Check in to Mountain Trails Lodge starting at 3:00 PM. Program begins with orientation at 4:30 PM. You will be staying at Mountain Trails Lodge & Outdoor Learning Center that night.
  End of Program:
Program ends after breakfast. Shuttle departs for El Paso airport at 8:00 AM. Independent departures check out by 11:00 AM. You will be staying at Mountain Trails Lodge & Outdoor Learning Center the night before.
  Required documents:
The Road Scholar Health & Safety Form is required. Please return Mountain Trails Lodge Liability Release Form and Personal Information Form before program start day. Important: If you are not a US citizen, you will need your passport at the US Border Patrol check points you will stop at between Fort Davis and Big Bend National Park.
  Parking availability:
Free outdoor parking is available at Mountain Trails Lodge during your program travels. We do have RV parking but do NOT have RV hook ups.
Transportation
To Start of Program
  Location:  Fort Davis, TX
  Nearest highway: Texas State Highways 17 & 118; Interstate I-10, 36 miles north
  Nearest airport:  El Paso International Airport and Midland International Airport
  From End of Program
  Location: Fort Davis, TX
    (Additional transportation information same as above)
Travel Details
 

El Paso to Fort Davis

 

From Airport

 
 

Service:

 

Commercial Van/Shuttle
Mountain Trails Lodge
phone: 432-426-3481
Advanced Reservations Required

 

Per Person/One Way:

 

$150 round trip ($75 one way)
Prices are subject to change.

 

Travel Time:

 

3.5 

 

Distance:

 

200 miles

   

As a courtesy, the lodge offers shuttle service from El Paso to Fort Davis on program start and end dates ONLY. Participants must be at one of these pickup locations before departure time of 11:00 AM Mountain time on program start date: Hyatt Place El Paso Airport (915.771.0022), Wyndham El Paso Airport Inn (800.996.3426) or Microtel El Paso (888.771.7171). Shuttle returns you to the airport by 11:00 AM Mountain time on program end date. Pay on arrival at the lodge by cash, check or credit card.

 
Driving Directions
  From Eastern U.S. - San Antonio to Fort Davis Take I-10 West to Balmorhea. At Balmorhea, take the Highway 17 exit and turn left under the overpass. Follow Highway 17 South to Fort Davis. You will see signs to Fort Davis National Historic Site and McDonald Observatory. When you reach Fort Davis, Highway 17 merges with Highway 118 at a “T” intersection. Turn left, and continue past the Fort Davis National Historic Site (on your right). Just past the courthouse, go left at the "Y" towards Alpine on Highway 118 South. Travel 3/4 mile and turn left through the gate into Mountain Trails Lodge.
  From Northern US - Dallas/Fort Worth and Midland/Odessa to Fort Davis Take I-20 through Midland/Odessa to Pecos. Take the Highway 17 exit and turn left. Travel south on Highway 17 to I-10. Highway 17 and I-10 merge for about a mile. At Balmorhea, turn left under the overpass and follow Highway 17 South to Fort Davis. You will see signs to Fort Davis National Historic Site and McDonald Observatory. When you reach Fort Davis, Highway 17 merges with Highway 118 at a “T” intersection. Turn left, and continue past the Fort Davis National Historic Site (on your right). Just past the courthouse, go left at the "Y" towards Alpine on Highway 118 South. Travel 3/4 mile and turn left through the gate into Mountain Trails Lodge.
  From Western U.S. - El Paso to Fort Davis Take I-10 to Van Horn. Take the Highway 90 exit, and turn right at the light. Follow Highway 90 east through Valentine. Several miles past Valentine, you will see a sign for Fort Davis. Turn left onto highway 505. Follow Highway 505 northeast to Highway 166. Turn right, and follow Highway 166 East to the junction of Highway 17. Turn left and follow Highway 17 to Fort Davis. At the “Y,” bear right towards Alpine on Highway 118 South. Travel 3/4 mile and turn left through the gate into Mountain Trails Lodge. REMEMBER WHEN TRAVELING FROM EL PASO OR NEW MEXICO, THERE WILL BE A TIME CHANGE OF ONE HOUR FORWARD TO CENTRAL TIME.
Elevation Note: Fort Davis, Texas, is at 5,050 feet. This program travels to elevations near 7,000 feet.

The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.


Daily Schedule

Day 1: Arrivals/Regional Studies
(Sunday, April 7)
   
 Afternoon: Orientation and refreshments in the Gathering Place at 4:30 p.m. Meet the program leaders, review the week's schedule and get to know one another.
 Dinner: Sample regional cuisine in the lodge dining room.
 Evening: Discover the natural world of the Chihuahuan Desert and Big Bend region. Our presenter will explain the different landscapes and ecosystems, and discuss the unique flora of the area.
   
Accommodations: Mountain Trails Lodge & Outdoor Learning Center
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: Fort Davis National Historic Site/McDonald Observatory/Astronomy
(Monday, April 8)
   
 Breakfast: Breakfast buffet served in the lodge dining room.
 Morning: After breakfast, meet in the Gathering Place for a lecture on historic cowboy culture by a local western musician and championship chuckwagon cook. Later, a volunteer will guide you through Fort Davis National Historic Site, which depicts the history of buffalo soldiers, Native American inhabitants and skirmishes, and life at the fort for the families of the guardians of the Butterfield Overland Mail route and San Antonio-El Paso Road.
 Lunch: Lunch in the lodge dining room or a local favorite restaurant.
 Afternoon: Join staff at world-renowned University of Texas McDonald Observatory for a solar viewing program. Then tour the large research telescopes, including the world's third largest single structure optical telescope: the Hobby Eberly Telescope (HET).
 Dinner: Enjoy your evening meal with staff and fellow participants at the lodge or a local favorite restaurant.
 Evening: Learn to identify constellations and observe celestial objects in the night sky, either during a Star Party at McDonald Observatory (depending on availability and season) or with staff astronomers at Mountain Trails Lodge.
   
Accommodations: Mountain Trails Lodge & Outdoor Learning Center
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Scenic River Road/Barton Warnock Environmental Education Center/Terlingua Ghostown
(Tuesday, April 9)
   
 Breakfast: Wake up with an early breakfast in the lodge dining room.
 Morning: Depart for Lajitas. Travel through Marfa and Presidio, passing the historic silver mining town of Shafter and stopping at historic Fort Leaton along the way. Meander the scenic river road that hugs the Rio Grande. On arrival, check into the Lajitas Resort & Spa.
 Lunch: The lodge will pack a picnic lunch to enjoy at a scenic location.
 Afternoon: Learn about geology, botany and wildlife of the Big Bend region at the Barton-Warnock Environmental Education Center and Big Bend Ranch State Park visitor's center. In the Terlingua Ghostown, experience the past on a docent-led walking tour of the abandoned mining community.
 Dinner: Indulge in the unique culture that emerged in this community during its unusual rebirth over the past decades. Dine at the famous Starlight Theater, so named because for years it stood roofless while it entertained dancers and revelers.
   
Accommodations: Lajitas Resort and Spa
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Hiking & Exploring Big Bend National Park/ Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive/Chisos Basin
(Wednesday, April 10)
   
 Breakfast: Mexican breakfast at the Chili Pepper Cafe.
 Morning: Discover Big Bend National Park. Your program leader will set the pace depending on the interests and abilities of the group. You will visit the highlights, including the Chisos Basin, Castalon, Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, Santa Elena Canyon overlook, and Panther Junction visitor's center.
 Lunch: Dig into a hearty picnic lunch at a scenic location in the field.
 Afternoon: Continue to explore the vast expanses of this 800,000 acre national park. Participate in an optional hike along Lost Mine Trail to the scenic overlook.
 Dinner: Tex-Mex specialties at the Chili Pepper Cafe.
   
Accommodations: Lajitas Resort and Spa
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Further Exploration of Big Bend National Park / Rio Grande Village / Marathon's Post Park / Museum of the Big Bend
(Thursday, April 11)
   
 Breakfast: Breakfast served at the hotel.
 Morning: Check out of the hotel and return to Big Bend National Park to explore its eastern edge and riparian ecosystem at Rio Grande Village. Leave the national park by way of Marathon, stopping at the Post Pavilion watering hole enroute.
 Lunch: Picnic lunch served in the field.
 Afternoon: Return to Fort Davis by way of Alpine, stopping to learn about the history and cultures of the region at the Museum of the Big Bend on the campus of Sul Ross State University.
 Dinner: Bring your appetite! Traditional West Texas barbeque, with all the fixin's, served in the lodge dining room.
 Evening: Authentic, traditional western music and stories performed by favorite local entertainers.
   
Accommodations: Mountain Trails Lodge & Outdoor Learning Center
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Departures
(Friday, April 12)

Note: Program ends after breakfast. Shuttle for those returning to the El Paso airport leaves at 8 a.m. Check out is 11 a.m. for those who arrived on their own.



   
 Breakfast: Breakfast buffet served in dining room.
   
Meals Included: Breakfast
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Suggested Reading List


A Most Singular Country: A History of Occupation in the Big Bend


Author: Arthur R. Gomez


Description: A Most Singular Country describes the unique geological compositions, seemingly endless desert, intermittent free-flowing springs, and surrounding flora and fauna found in Big Bend National Park. Also relevant is the story of the human inhabitants, beginning with aboriginal tribes wandering through the area and eventually Indians, Spaniards, Mexicans, and later Americans. Arthur R. Gomez is a National Park Service historian. He is also the author of Documentary Evidence for the Spanish Missions of Texas. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.



Big Bend Country: Land of the Unexpected


Author: Kenneth Baxter Ragsdale


Description: Having first visited the Big Bend in 1928, Kenneth B. Ragsdale has been digging around in and writing about the region for the last forty years. In Big Bend Country: Land of the Unexpected, he takes a nostalgic retrospective journey through the times and places of this increasingly popular corner of West Texas to say goodbye to those who made the history, created the myths, and lived the legends. Building his stories around themes of compassion, conflict, and compromise, he profiles both famous and relatively unknown figures. He tells stories of curanderas (healers), charity workers, a woman who practiced medicine without a license, and another who started a private lending library in her store to encourage rural, poor children to read. In contrast to these stories, he chronicles blood feuds, shootouts, and the violence bred in wild, relatively lawless spaces. In a fascinating play on levels of meaning, Ragsdale traces the legacy of J. Frank Dobie and his stories of buried treasure—treasure that turned out to be that of the imagination if not of gold. Finally, he turns his attention to the cinematic portrayal of life in the Big Bend. He looks at the filming of Giant both as a subtext of its own--how the coming of celebrity and celebrities affected local lifestyles and self-perceptions--and as a cultural commentary on the popular perception of the West. Ragsdale's stories cover a half-century, roughly 1900 to 1955, from wagon trains to the filming of an epic movie, a time in which the face of the Big Bend changed: the quicksilver mines closed, a national park was established, isolation and cattle gave way to vacation ranchettes and tourists. Big Bend enthusiasts will want to join the author in his farewell tribute as he recaptures the spirit of the times through the eyes and words of the people who made the region the folklore attraction it is.



The Big Bend Of The Rio Grande: A Guide to the Rocks, Landscape, Geologic History and Settlers of the Area of the Big Bend National Park


Author: Ross A. Maxwell


Description: For years, the definitive guide to the Big Bend, by Ross A. Maxwell, geologist and first superintendent of Big Bend National Park. Geology, history, a guide to rocks, landscape, and settlers of the area of Big Bend National Park. Extremely useful for the scope of its coverage, and the magnificent fold-out geologic map of the area in the back sleeve is worth the price of the book by itself. A classic of the Big Bend.





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