Mt. Livermore, Texas (Ascent Date: 30 Sep 2006)
Baldy Peak atop Mt. Livermore is the 5th highest peak in the Lone Star State and the highest outside of the ancient fossilized reef that has become the Guadalupe Mountain Range. The Davis Mountains, by contrast, are the remnants of a time when this part of Texas was very volcanically active; mostly intrusive igneous rocks abound though ancient extrusive flows and ash layers can be found in the area. Based on these geologic differences, the two highest ranges in Texas are equally rugged but quite different in character. Whereas the crumbly limestone cliffs of the Guadalupes restrict the visitor to hiking, the relatively solid rock of the Davis Mountains conceals some truly amazing rock routes.
The sun's rays fall on Pine Peak as the shadows grow longer.
A peaceful moonrise from Madera Canyon
Wispy cirrus clouds above Mt. Livermore; it would rain 48 hours later...
Driving up Madera Canyon; Livermore & The Arrowhead loom above
The desert "sky island" was in bloom in the Davis Mountains
Some of Livermore's cliffs overhang Madera Canyon
Devil's Tower or Baldy Peak?
A view from the summit pinnacle with Sawtooth in the distance
Jacko visits the highest point in the Davis Mountains
TX Mountaineer on Texas' 5th highest peak
Looking onto Brooks Mountain from Livermore's summit
As with most parts of Texas, access is an issue in the Davis Mountains. While many of the neighboring peaks are on privately-owned ranches, the two 8000ers in the range are located on land owned by The Nature Conservancy, making hikes and climbs here possible. Though the Davis Mountains Preserve is closed to visitors during the majority of the year, there are roughly 12 opportunities to visit ranging from Saturday open day hikes to extended open weekends that last 4 days. Please visit TNC's website for the latest information.
Mt. Livermore Road
(Grade I, Class 3.0)
Starting Elev: 7311ft
Summit Elev: 8381ft
Elevation Gain: 1070ft
2006.09.29 - Ah the wonderful drive from Fort Worth to West Texas! There are sections with hilly scenery between Weatherford and Sweetwater, and when the mountains come into view near Pecos, its a sight to behold! But then there are the stretches in between... The Mitchell Counties where all you can do is stave off the boredom with speaker-thumping, volume-intensive music. This was my lot in life on Friday, September 29th, 2006. Despite the miles and miles of flat Permian Basin fields and brush, I was excitedly driving toward the "sky island" of the Davis Mountains.
I eventually made my way to the beautifully scenic roads leading up to The Nature Conservancy's Davis Mountains Preserve, thankfully finding the gate unlocked and open. At about 5:00 PM, I urged my Corolla down the bumpy dirt road up to the sign-in table for the preserve's open weekend. I spoke with the friendly folks staffing the event and learned that I was one of the first ones to arrive. With plenty of golden sunlight illuminating Madera Canyon, I wheeled into the nearby campground to take my pick of the best tent sites.
After getting everything set-up in a great spot beneath a large tree (with no "widowmakers", I decided to take a liter of water with my camera and headed off down the main Madera Canyon Road just to scout out the route. Walking along in the peaceful setting, I went about 3.0 miles to the 5th wet river crossing before deciding to head back for dinner. Petite frogs chirped in song as the moon rose over the shallow canyon walls. I made my way quickly back to the car, entertained by a spectacular sunset over McDaniel Mountain in between.
Upon reaching my camp, I noticed that several other cars and a few campers had arrived while I was out hiking. Luckily for me, the RVs were at the complete opposite end of the camping area, so I wouldn't be bothered by the din from generators all night. Lazily dropping my pack inside the tent, I decided to forego the gourmet freeze- dried dinner of chili-mac, and instead head a short distance into Fort Davis for some local fare. Twisty, dark drive where my check-engine-light came on aside (eventually found out it was a catalytic converter trouble code), the burger I had in town was absolutely phenomenal! With a full stomach and dreary eyes, I drove back under the pitch-black night skies to drop into my tent for a deep, warm sleep.
2006.09.30 - I awoke to a glowing panorama of nylon as the first rays of sunlight hit the walls of my tent. Emerging out into the cool, crisp morning air, I was really excited to get moving up the trail to Mt. Livermore. Initially, I had kicked around the idea of walking the length of Madera Canyon and climbing up completely under my own power, however, since I knew that the Nature Conservancy folks would be providing 4WD transportation up to Bridge Gap, it was easy to make the lazy decision. With how grueling the descent from Mescalero Mountain would prove to be later in the day, I came to a real appreciation for my decision.
A bottle of tea and a slice of cold pizza served as breakfast whilst I hurriedly gathered together the gear I would take along for the day. Even though I was cheating to get up to Bridge Gap, I'd still be hiking just under 10 miles with a tough cross-country descent back into Madera Canyon. I tried to keep my pack light, but also wanted to bring enough in case the day took longer than I expected. I drank 2 quarts of fluid before setting out, so I figured that the 5 quarts I brought along would be more than enough. Little did I know then that my reserves would dwindle to nothing with 5 miles still to go in the day!
People slowly trickled out of their tents and over to the trucks that we would be taking up to Bridge gap. After everyone assembled, the group numbered about 15. The largest portion of our party were members of a local Boy Scout Troop along with a leader or two. Splitting up into three SUVs, we headed onward & upward!
Not much to report about the drive except that the river crossings were much wetter and deeper than normal due to the frequent & heavy rains that had been hitting the central Davis Mountains. It was a very good thing that I didn't try to take the Corolla on the canyon roads!
The whole group finally made it up to Bridge Gap and set out en masse toward the summit. Everyone took the road in lieu of the Limpia Chutes Trail at the request of our guides. I initially hung back to listen to the natural commentary provided by one of the knowledgeable folks, and was very interested to learn some more about the flora and fauna native to the area. I soon decided, however, to start making my way up the route more quickly since I still wanted to make it over to Mescalero Mountain. The short mile of road went by very quickly, and I soon found myself as the 2nd person on the summit.
The final pitch up the summit block was not at all difficult, and opened up to a fabulous 360-degree panorama of the Davis Mountains. I enjoyed a snack on this lovely perch and obliged the other hiker to take a summit photo for me. As I sat back down to enjoy my cheeseburger, the population began to grow...
The Boy Scouts had finally made their way up and were zooming all over the area with glee. It was nice watching them experience this, and I even began to reminisce about my own days in the Longhorn Council's Troop 40. My trip down memory lane ground to a screeching halt, however, when a few of the scouts started throwing rocks off the top. I was extraordinarily shocked to see that the leaders didn't seem to care at all that this was going on! After only two or three missiles being hurled down toward the other hikers who were still coming up, I piped up and told them to stop. After a bit of goading, they finally ceased, and I was left as the crotchety guy who wouldn't let anyone have any fun. Thankfully, none of the other were hit, but two ladies commented that they had a close call while walking up to the east base of the tower.
Righteous indignation aside, the hike up Mt. Livermore was spectacular, though brief. At some future point, I plan on returning for a full hike up Madera Canyon to the summit, however, on this occasion, I still had some more climbing to attend to... Across the rocky and sometimes steep Tobe Gap Ridge, laid my ultimate objective for the day: Mescalero Mountain.