Suspension Bridge, Waco, Texas, September 27, 2018

Suspension Bridge, Waco, Texas, September 27, 2018
Suspension Bridge, Waco, Texas, September 27, 2018

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Smoke and Fire, Wigwag & Wires - Part 1, Thurs., Oct. 4, 2018

This five-day mini-vacation is all about doing the walking/hiking weekend put on by the West Texas Trail Walkers. One of the requirements of membership in the West Texas Trail Walkers is that you must volunteer at an event once every five years. If you do, then you do not have to pay another membership fee.

We joined this year, and Bob volunteered to mark trails on the 20k Volksmarch around Ft. Davis National Historic Site and Davis Mountains State Park, and he volunteered to take people in his 4WD truck to the 12k start point on Friday at Davis Mountains Preserve. What a guy! I did not volunteer this year. 

The worker's walk for Saturday's Ft. Davis Volksmarch was today. When we arrived at Ft. Davis a little after 8:00 a.m. there were already 20 volunteers waiting to start. They all needed to check in and get instructions. As you can see, it was a gorgeous day! 



It takes a lot of volunteers to put on an event!
Plotting a course of action.
As soon as the volunteer group started out, I started my own 5k Volksmarch at Ft. Davis. First, I watched the video in the auditorium. After that, I followed the walk instructions around the fort and then into town.

Ft. Davis had so much information...not to mention spectacular high desert views. Ft. Davis was established by Lieut. Col. Washington Seawell in October 1854 to protect travelers on the San Antonio-El Paso Road, guard the mail, scout for water, build roads and telegraph lines, and search for the elusive Apaches or Comanches. 

Administrative and logistical support were also important to the lifeblood of the fort. Reports and muster rolls were written by hand, and mountains of supplies -- from food to ammunition -- had to be ordered and accounted for. A one-way supply trip from San Antonio to this remote outpost took up to six weeks, so failure by the army to properly manage provision orders could prove disastrous. (Information is from history plaques inside and outside the Visitor Center.)



The fort was named in honor of the then Secretary of War Jefferson Davis. It was abandoned by federal troops in April 1861. Reoccupied in 1867, troops from the post helped to bring about the peaceful settlement and development of the nation. 

Today, I will see the enlisted men's barracks, the squad room, commissary, main parade ground, chapel, Officer's Row, hospital, and the Visitor's Center.


Enlisted men's barracks
Officer's Row
While I was exploring the fort, I crossed paths with the volunteers who were checking and marking the trail. This is usually done a day or two before most walks to make sure the trail is clear of obstacles and safe to walk. Markings are put out to make sure people know which way to go. The trail markings are removed immediately after the walks by trail sweepers (who also look for people who have not checked back in at the finish table).

Bob walking in front of the historic officer's quarters.
Marking the trail with ribbons.
Volunteers on the worker's walk.
More volunteers.
Robert from the Kerrville, Texas, club.
Here's one of our markings (AVA American Volkssport Club)
Restored (left) and ruins (right)
I walked over and said "Hi" to the horse.
Below was the post chapel which served as the community center, a social and spiritual hall. Uses included chapel, library, schoolroom, and Friday night ballroom. Friday nights from 8-12 it was used by the officers' families for a dance. The music was supplied by the post band and they stopped playing at exactly midnight...leaving dances unfinished. 

Chapel ruins.
Another view of Officer's Row.
A few of the houses have been furnished as they might have been in the 1860s. Many wives and children lived at the post.


Commanding officer's quarters
Officer's home - front parlor
Officer's home - master bedroom.
Officer's home - dining room.
The Post Hospital.
Hospital furnishings.
From the post hospital, I went to the Visitor Center and read all the exhibits which ranged from Beale's camels to the Butterfield Overland Trail Co. to the Chihuahuan Desert to the Indian tribes that inhabited the area. It was all very educational.  



If you have been wondering what the title "Smoke and Fire, Wigwag & Wires" means, thanks for your patience. Those are the different ways of communicating over longer distances. Smoke and fire refer to smoke signals and signal fires, wigwag refers to flag or hand signals, and wire is, of course, the telegraph.

I bought a few items in the store and stowed them in the truck on my way through the parking lot to walk into Ft. Davis. I exited Ft. Davis through a pedestrian gate onto Fort St., then Cavalry Road, and took that to Hwy. 118. 


Apache wikiup (made with willow and sotol) exhibit
 in Ft. Davis parking lot.
600 miles from San Antonio to El Paso on this road.
Pedestrian gate to Fort St.
St. Joseph's Catholic Church
The walk along Hwy. 118 went into downtown Ft. Davis. A number of historic structures are along the way.

Ft. Davis DrugStore.
Harvard Hotel.
Jeff Davis County Courthouse is beautiful.
Ft. Davis is at an elevation of 4,892'. It's high desert with a semi-arid climate so you could forget that it gets cold here in the winter. When I went into the courthouse to look around, I found this photo that is a reminder that it can and does snow here!
The courthouse in winter.
Sesquicentennial quilt (all hand embroidered).
The creators of the quilt and frame.
There used to be a lot of bear in the Davis Mountains, but they were mostly hunted out. The sculpture on the courthouse porch shows a cowboy's encounter with a bear.


An old water tower?
First Presbyterian Church.
Sleeping Lion Mountain is basaltic columnar jointing
meaning it was formed by lava flows millions of years ago.
From here it was a 3-1/2 block walk back to the pedestrian gate into Ft. Davis. I saw some of the volunteers returning from their worker's walk. They were finishing the 10k walk. Their estimate for the people marking the 20k to return was another three hours. 

I took the truck back to our campsite and loaded photos from my camera onto the computer and edited them. While driving back to the campground from town, I stopped to take photos of a really cool picnic area in the rocks next to the road.
Roadside picnic area.
Same picnic area by the highway.
Picnic area.
Susan Medlin gave Bob a ride back to the 5er when they finished about 2:00 p.m. 

Here are a couple of photos of the volunteers who marked the 20k walk route:

Linda Fields, Susan Medlin, Bob Alton
[Photo by Mark Johnson.]
Linda Fields, Mark Johnson, Bob Alton
[Photo by Susan Medlin.]
 The day has more to it which I will continue in Part 2.

An interesting piece of trivia I learned about Ft. Davis today is that it is home to one of ten dishes comprising the Very Long Baseline Array, a system of 10  radio telescopes which are operated remotely from their Array Operations Center in Socorro, New Mexico. Susan and I just visited the VLA this summer! See my blogs "Everything Changed Today," Part 1 and Part 2 by clicking the links.

To be continued...

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