This was a day of significant climbing. While not as steep as the return to Silver City, NM, the nature of the rolling hills, multiple mile long gradual inclines, combined with a long riding day yesterday and poor night’s sleep, meant a day of struggles. But Carter and I were able to roll into the visitors’ center at the McDonald Observatory in the early afternoon. Spent time in the afternoon washing clothes in the bathroom sink and hanging them out to dry in the sun on the patio as we waited for the educational programs to begin. I understand that technically speaking I was on U of Texas, Austin property so I made pretty good time and distance.
I am told that this is the highest point in Texas and that nearby Fort Davis is the highest town. The air is noticeably thinner and cooler. Far from air and light pollution, the night skies are astonishing to the naked eye. I can only imagine how it is to aided eyes. Seeing so many more stars and sections of the Milky Way that I can not usually see, even in my small town of Farmville, I wonder about the costs to our senses of connection to and wonder about the universe brought on by light and air pollution. Before society begin to avoid the night skies by powered lights, how much more were people able to look up in wonder about the universe.
After an amazing nighttime “star party” program about the observatory, night skies, and constellations, we rolled down to the nearest highway picnic area and camped there. Traffic was light on the road but the need to share the winding descent at night with large RVs felt risky due to stone retaining walls with narrow or no shoulders made us feel that it was best to camp as soon as possible and ride the remainder in the morning light. Always, safety trumps mileage but we still managed a tough 36.65 uphill miles today.