Cenizo Journal Winter 2023 - Page 15

The state park here is a beautiful thing born of a difficult time . Established in 1933 during Theodore Roosevelt ’ s presidency , the original 560 acres were mostly donated by local landowners - landowners who at the same time were fending off the Great Depression . At a time when the unemployment rate topped twenty-four percent , Roosevelt created the Civilian Conservation Corps ( CCC ) providing a ray of hope for over three-thousand men across the country , including wages , education , and conservation of public areas , Davis Mountains State Park included .
A short five-minute drive from Fort Davis and cell service drops . At camp , the stars roll out of their hiding places and the Big Dipper shifts gently against a serenade of crickets , an unlikely desert mosquito , and the not-sodistant sound of my horse chewing . We sleep well at camp .
By 9:15 the next morning , I ’ m already sweating from the exercise of saddling . The sound of cars along the highway echo across the canyon as we ride upward to the tallest point in the park . Crossing Limpia Creek , a reflection catches my eye - it ’ s me , highlighted in the crisp glass of the creek and framed by Cottonwood trees , a soft contrast to the harshness of this desert . Finally , a breeze kicks in as we climb and the sweat rolling down my back cools me , at least for a minute .
I ’ ve always thought at some point , working with a horse , they decide “ Okay , I ’ m done .” I see it in their ears , in the round pen - it ’ s the turn toward me without being asked , on the trail the sudden circle back to camp . Gently pushing through that moment , however , is magic . As in life , forward momentum flattens , a plateau if you will , and we have a choice . Move through or quit whether you see your way or not .
Hikers turn to watch our ascent as we meander upward . “ It doesn ’ t matter how long it takes you ,” I say , “ as long as you get out alive ” – or rather I wished I ’ d said as they stood aside to let us pass , asking me how long it had taken us to ride the same distance they just walked .
You can see the McDonald Observatory from here , a stark white bubble against the desert cedars . The ground glistens in the sun as whispers of tall grass shift slightly with each gentle breath . A bird perches on a cedar branch and I can see my trailer below like a sparkling grain of sand in the ocean . An old ranch fence cuts across the mountain , owning it at one post at a time , put here by men with far more resolve than I .
At the top we break , and I dismount . My horse , Dex , stands looking to the west over what I think is the Davis Preserve , or maybe the Guadalupes , distance is a hard thing to gauge in the desert . He whinnies , calling out to some unseen horse in the valley below as waves of sunlight chase the velvet contour before us .
I like to think he enjoys the view .
Looking into the desert , I see waves . Cresting , one on top of the other . A land shaped by an ancient sea into an arid stretch of rolling hills and mountains fed by monsoon summers and dry winters .
And I row through this ocean of cactus and creosote to find an island . An oasis of green Ponderosa Pine , Live Oak , Pinon , and Madrones , surrounded by waist high grass dancing in the sunlight . An occasional Alligator Juniper adding texture to the otherwise soft fabric of this world .
Eighteen miles from the State Park along Highway 118 is the Davis Mountains Preserve , established and managed by The Nature Conservancy – a sky island standing tall and proud in the Chihuahuan Desert .
Parking at the Upper Madera Windmill on Canyon Road , we unloaded and tacked up the horses . Our goal today ? To summit Mount Livermore .
The smell of pine mixes with sunlight and together they tease , caressing my shoulders and creeping into my soul . At 7200 feet we stop to let the horses breathe and wait for the hikers ahead to finish their climb , and then , carried by momentum we run up . It drives our determination .
Baldy Peak tops the trail at 8200 feet above sea level . I tie the horses and settle on a moss-covered rock - my recliner to the world - and with sightlines to the Guadalupes , relax and enjoy a celebratory beer . We made it to the top .
In September of 1895 , as the Terlingua mining industry was taking off and just four short years after the abandonment of Fort Davis , two cowboys went hunting on Mount Livermore . We don ’ t know if they brought home sustenance , but we do know they brought home history , and Susan Janes saved it .
Today , if you ’ re lucky , you can see the Livermore arrowhead cache of over 1,700 specimens at Big Bend Museum in Alpine . Thought to be the first humans in the Big Bend to hunt deer , rabbits and other game with bow and arrow , the Livermore community flourished for six centuries and then disappeared . They left behind a ceremonial , and extensive , arrowhead cache on Mount Livermore - the tallest peak in the Davis Mountains .
Understandably , they don ’ t allow many people in this preserve - reservations are limited and required . Gates are typically locked . The animals feel safe here . I feel safe here .
Leaving , I think about how important it is that we protect these special places . Those untarnished in the world around us . And I am reminded not to turn from this world . To hold on with arms wide open and lean in . Investing in myself , my peace of mind , and my surroundings . My world .
Our world . �

Cenizo Winter 202315