Mt. Livermore, Davis Mountains Preserve, Texas
Looking into the desert, I see waves. Cresting. One folding on the other. A land shaped by an ancient sea transformed into an arid stretch of rolling hills and mountains. Fed only by monsoon summers and dry winters.
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 an otherwise soft fabric.
Formed 35 million years ago, the Davis Mountains make up one of three sky islands in Texas. An isolated range with peaks up to 9,000 feet and a cooler, wetter, landscape. An oasis surrounded by arid lowland Chihuahuan Desert.
Parking at the Upper Madera Windmill on Canyon Road, we unloaded and saddled. Our goal today? To summit Mount Livermore horseback. A short ride of only three to four miles each way but an elevation gain of almost 2,000 feet.
The smell of pine mixes with sunlight and together they tease. Caressing my shoulders. Working their way into my soul. At 7200 feet we stop for a breath, allowing the hikers ahead to finish their climb. And then, carried by momentum, run up.
It drives our desire.
Arriving at Baldy Peak we dismount, topping out at 8200 feet above sea level. I tie the horses and settle on a moss-covered rock. Not the only one to do so, I’m sure.
Thought to be the first humans in the Big Bend to hunt deer, rabbits and other game with bow and arrow, a community known as the Livermore people flourished in this area for six centuries and then disappeared.
Then, in September of 1895, as the Terlingua mining industry was taking off and just 4 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.
An extensive ceremonial arrowhead cache of more than 1,700 specimens, left behind by a vanished people. Found on Mount Livermore, the tallest peak in the Davis Mountains and preserved today in the Big Bend Museum, Alpine, Tx.
A celebratory beer and we turn to make our way back. Watching the sun shift in the sky, and the earth turn.
Sometimes I wander just to hear what’s going on in my own head. Quieting my inner critic. Making sense of the past and plotting the future.
And, as with this jeep trail, the road forward becomes a path – and the path becomes uncertain. Yet in this, the horse takes care of me. He brings me home again.
And I think, I may need him more than he needs me.
To schedule a ride or hike: https://www.nature.org/…/tx-davis-mountains-open-days/