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2/6 - 2/10/14 - Balmorhea State Park

Our new home at Balmorhea - look at the mountains in the background.
Thursday morning (2/6) we left South Llano and drove to  Balmorhea State Park which is about 240 miles straight west on Interstate 10.  As we drove there we saw SNOW on the ground (not much) and when we stopped at the rest area the bathroom sinks weren't working because the pipes were frozen.   I guess West Texas is not used to this kind of cold.  It was a grey day but no precipitation so we had a decent drive.   We arrived around 3:30 and found out that the water pipes here are frozen at every campsite - what is going on in Texas?  We got set up and Marty took the electric heater out to the water spigot and we got a little water into our tanks.  

This park has excellent internet but we have no TV signal and no radio stations.  They do have cable stations but we have no cable so we took a trip into Pecos (about 30 miles north) to find some.  We picked up a cable at Walmart (and amazingly nothing else) and drove home.   Marty hooked up the cable and now we still have no TV - the cable hook-up doesn't seem to be working.   I guess no Olympics for us - maybe at our next stop.

Friday morning we once again woke up to cold temperatures and frozen water pipes but we (Marty) thawed them out and we got to take hot showers.  We took a walk around the park and checked out their pool.  It's pretty amazing; it's spring fed and is 25' -30' deep at it's deepest points.  The water is a constant 72 - 76 degrees.  By this point (at 11:00) the outside temperature was around 50 and there were actually two hardy souls in the pool.   This pool is also used for scuba diving classes and there were about six people getting ready to go diving as we left.

Desert flora
There isn't much to do here at Balmorhea except for the pool but Fort Davis State Park is only about 32 miles away.  We took a drive up there and stopped at the Chamber of Commerce in town for some information on things to do.  One of the recommendations was to take the scenic loop driving tour (74 miles).  We decided to do that and also stopped at the State Park to get a map and stopped at the McDonald Observatory to get information on their star party.

The drive was incredible, beautiful mountains and rock formations.   It took about 3 hours to drive the 74 miles because of all our stops along the way.

He'll do anything for a good photo op!
West Texas

Rock On!

On Saturday morning the temperatures were much warmer (50's - 60') and sunny.  Marty decided to try the pool.   The pool is 1.75 acres!  Since it's spring fed you swim with the fishes - Pecos Gabusia (like minnows) and Comanche Springs pupfish (this is the only place in the world you can find this fish).  He was the only swimmer but there was a diving instructor with his diving students.

Come on in, the water's fine!
Cold enough to need a sweatshirt

Too bad he left his wet suit at home
That's not Venus, it's Jupiter!
After Marty's swim we got ready to go to a "Star Party".  Beyonce and Jay Z weren't there but we did get to see Orion, Jupiter and Pegasus with about fifty other people.  This star party was held at the
McDonald Observatory at the top of Davis Mountain.   The moon was about 1/2 full and there was a bit of haze so it wasn't a perfect night for star gazing but it was still pretty cool.  When we got there we walked over to an outside amphitheater where a man with an awesome laser pointer pointed out the stars and their name origin and stories.  After his lecture we walked over to the telescopes where we lined up to take a peek and volunteers explained what we were seeing.  It was an awesome night and I can't wait until we get to New Mexico and Arizona where the skies should be even darker. 

Since I wimped out of swimming on Satuday and since we are leaving on Monday and since the temperatures were in the mid 70's I had no excuse on Sunday not to go swimming.  I'm not real comfortable in water that deep but we have our snorkeling gear and it was all good.  The water was incredibly clear, we stayed in the water for about 45 minutes and I'm glad we got to swim.  This place is an oasis in the middle of the West Texas desert.   It must be a very popular place in the summer.