Activity note: Must be able to walk on uneven surfaces up to a mile each day, handle your own luggage, and climb on and off motor coach without difficulty.
Afternoon: HOTEL CHECK-IN: Available from 3:00pm. REGISTRATION & ORIENTATION: 4:00p on 4th floor conference room. Pick up your Road Scholar arrival packet containing your name tag, up-to-date schedule, list of participants, maps, and other important information we will review. Your group leader will greet you with a warm Texas welcome, introduce everyone, and provide key staff contact names and phone numbers. We will review the up-to-date daily schedule, discuss responsibilities, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer any questions you may have. If you arrive late, pick up your packet at the hotel front desk. During this program, you will explore the rugged beauty of the Big Bend National Park area, learn about the diversity of the geology, plant, and animal life of the area, and get an insider’s tour and a star viewing at the McDonald Observatory, Please be aware that program activities and scheduled times could change due to weather and other local circumstances. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. 5:30 p.m. Enjoy the kickback reception on the 2nd floor of the hotel, featuring free hot food and cold drinks.
Dinner: Meet other participants and get to know your group leaders at a welcome dinner at a river walk restaurant near the hotel
Evening: Begin your week with an informative and humorous presentation about the colorful Big Bend region.
Activity note: Participants will travel approximately 400 miles by motor coach, sitting for long periods of time.
Breakfast: We enjoy a hot breakfast buffet before boarding our motorcoach.
Morning: Begin your excursion into the least-populated area of Texas by motor coach. We’ll stop along the way as we cross the scenic Hill Country and enter the dramatic Chihuahuan Desert. Your guide is a Texas Master Naturalist, who will be with you on the entire trip and provide instruction about plants, animals and birds of the area during your journey.
Lunch: PRESENTATION: Discover what archeologists know about life in this area from over 4,000 years ago during a brief stop at the Lake Amistad National Recreation Area visitor center near Del Rio, Texas. See what art on nearby rock shelter walls can teach us about early human and animal life in the area. Continue your journey across the desert and see first-hand the remoteness of the area. Eat a box lunch as you continue your westward journey.
Afternoon: FIELD TRIP: Heard about "The Law West of the Pecos?" You'll get to see it first-hand with a stop at the Judge Roy Bean Visitor Center in Langtry. Step inside the Jersey Lily and begin your exploration of the desert in the adjacent cactus garden learning how to identify species you'll see along your journey. Continue across the desert and begin to experience the remoteness of the area.
Dinner: After you arrive in Alpine, you’ll have a well-deserved chance to stretch your legs at your hotel, which features a manager's reception. Then, enjoy a dinner at a local restaurant.
Evening: PRESENTATION: A long-time resident of the Big Bend area will introduce you to the unique people and communities in the region. You'll begin to see why some people thrive in the isolated region and wouldn't live anywhere else.
Activity note: Behind-the-scenes tour of observatory involves two hours of walking to and standing in buildings and telescope/viewing areas- some uphill/downhill walking. Evening star viewing in amphitheater area, during which time you can opt to walk to telescopes on plaza, some of which require climbing 5-10 steps to reach viewing platform.
Breakfast: Enjoy a hearty breakfast at the hotel in Alpine, named one of the top ten small towns in Texas.
Morning: FIELD TRIP: Visit the Fort Davis National Historic Site, where you will develop a new appreciation of Buffalo Soldiers, early settlers, and native inhabitants of the region. Hear about life on a frontier military post, and the importance of mail coaches and freight wagons during the westward expansion of the United States. Visit the post hospital to get a glimpse of frontier medicine.
Lunch: We'll enjoy a buffet lunch at a guest ranch located on the grounds of a local cattle ranch that is over 100 years old. PRESENTATION: A long time resident of the area will talk about life out west and share some of the history of the area.
Afternoon: FIELD TRIP: Head for the hills as you set out for the McDonald Observatory to take a private tour. You’ll see several of the large, state-of-the-art telescopes and hear about the research conducted there, where scientists and university students continue to make important discoveries. After your tour, spend some time looking through exhibits in the visitor center as you contemplate new advances in the world of astronomy.
Dinner: Dinner on your own in Fort Davis. You may choose to explore the quaint town, or dine at the highly rated restaurant adjoining the hotel,
Evening: PRESENTATION: Return to the McDonald Observatory for one of their famous star parties. Don’t miss this memorable opportunity to see stars and planets from one of the darkest and clearest night skies in the country with an expert guide. You’ll be able to see some objects with the naked eye as our expert describes objects in the sky, and get a chance to view others through the myriad of telescopes around the plaza.
Activity note: Participants may choose to take a one-mile hike to see the Santa Elena Canyon. The path is uneven in spots and requires some uphill walking.
Breakfast: Enjoy a full breakfast at your hotel.
Morning: Head for the border to begin your exploration of Big Bend National Park. Start with a stop at the Big Bend Ranch State Park to learn more about the history and geology of the area. The Big Bend Ranch State Park is the largest state park in Texas, encompassing more than 300,000 acres of rugged terrain.
Lunch: A picnic lunch is provided at the Big Bend National Park.
Afternoon: The afternoon is spent in Big Bend National Park. Visit the desert section and river canyon by motor coach on the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive. A local expert will tell you about plant and animal life in the area. Marvel at the views offered at the Sotol Vista overlook, then visit Santa Elena Canyon and enjoy one of nature's most beautiful places.
Dinner: Our stop at the ghost town of Terlingua includes dinner at the famous Starlight Theater. With little light pollution, Terlingua's evening skies display brilliant stars. The restaurant features a front porch with rocking chairs to sit and admire evening skies.
Activity note: Participants will be given the opportunity to go on a short hike near the Chisos Mountain Lodge. Elevation near the lodge is approximately 5,000 feet.
Breakfast: Enjoy breakfast at the beautiful Lajitas Resort and Spa.
Morning: FIELD TRIP: Return to the Big Bend National Park. Begin with a stop at the Panther Junction visitor center for an introduction to the plants, animals and birds found in the area. Then, you'll head up to the Chisos basin area, where you will see changes in vegetation and wildlife as you rise in elevation.
Lunch: Lunch at the restaurant in the Chisos Mountain Lodge, built in part by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.
Afternoon: PRESENTATION: Get a personal introduction to the Big Bend National Park from a park ranger, who will provide an overview of the park and answer any questions you might have about this large and diverse natural area. FIELD TRIP: You'll have an opportunity to go on a short hike near the lodge, if you wish. Your day in the park ends as you head north through the Persimmon Gap section of the park. Say goodbye to the vast park as you exit through the Persimmon Gap station and end your day of discovery.
Dinner: Dinner in Alpine as you enjoy your final evening in the big sky country.
Activity note: Primarily a travel day. Return to San Antonio via Interstate 10, with occasional rest stops along the way.
Breakfast: Enjoy a hot breakfast at your hotel.
Morning: Bid a fond farewell to the sprawling Big Bend region as you head out by bus. Stop in a scenic Hill Country town along the way.
Lunch: Stop for a well-deserved rest to stretch your legs and eat a hot lunch along the way.
Afternoon: Complete your return to San Antonio. Your group leader will have a movie for you to watch as you travel and will share some thoughts to wrap up your westward journey. Beginning at 5:30 p.m. Enjoy the kickback reception on the 2nd floor of the hotel, featuring free hot food and cold drinks.
Dinner: Pamper yourself with a catered dinner in at the hotel after the long trip. Your group leader will lead a final discussion and present a slide show of photos collected during the week to wrap up your experience as you enjoy a catered meal.
Breakfast: A hot breakfast buffet is included.
Morning: Free Time: Optional morning independent activities include a River Walk stroll along our hotel; or visit the Alamo or Historic Market District, which are located within walking distance from our hotel. Departures. Hotel check out is 11:00 a.m. We hope you have enjoyed this very special event and will return for other rewarding Road Scholar programs in the future. Best wishes for all your journeys!