I turned away from the path of the eclipse onto a route that would take me to deeper and darker skies. There are a number of dark sky areas in Texas, and one of them hosts a famous observatory- McDonald Observatory, home of the Hobby-Eberly Telescope (10m aperture, tied for 2nd largest in the world). The nearest town is Fort Davis (population ~1000), a 45-minute drive away.
Just outside of Fort Davis is Davis Mountains State Park, where, earlier in the day, before leaving the wifi and phone services of Leakey, I was able to reserve a campsite. I learned by calling that there was a lodge at the state park, but it was full (and had been and would be for quite a while). Similarly, I learned that the campground was nearly full—six sites remained! So I provided my credit credentials and reserved one.
I am still adjusting to the new way of getting away, through the use of smart phones and websites to make camping arrangements. I understand this can make the process of accommodating an ever-growing set of camping clients more efficient, but it removes some of the spontaneity of life on the open road– exploring without fixed destinations, and deciding at whim the right place to stop for the night.
On my way to claim my reserved campsite, I was diverted from the highway to a Border Patrol checkpoint. Two uniformed officers, one with a dog, questioned every vehicle. I asked what they were looking for. “Narcotics and human trafficking” was the response. I replied I had neither, eliciting a harsh look. After noting my Minnesota license plates, they gave me a pass and I continued on.
This was on US-90, at a location a hundred miles or more from the border. It seemed odd to me that there would be a large permanent checkpoint here. But I don’t know the patterns of drug and human smuggling.Continue reading