Things To Do in West Texas Before the World Ends-Shay’s Bucket List Top 5
According to calendars including the Mayan calendar it seems that the end of the world (doomsday, apocalypse) will occur December 21, 2012. So that had me thinking if I don't have a lot of time left on this earth what would I do. I would love to travel. I want to go to Australia and see the Sydney Opera House and the Outback(not the restaurant). I want to go to India and see the Taj Mahal, Scotland to see the castles and Ireland to kiss the Blarney Stone. I would head to China to see The Great Wall and Egypt to ride a camel to the pyramids and Africa to go on a safari. I would love to spend time on the beaches of Fiji just dreaming. Having said all of that barring me winning the lottery that will never happen! I decided to keep it a little more real and close to home. Here are a few things I would do right here in West Texas, it's a big state and there's A LOT I have yet to see and do.
McDonald Observatory is owned by the University of Texas but is located in the Davis Mountains of West Texas about 450 miles from the University. The observatory runs 4 telescopes from the facility, which is open to the public. They have viewing parties, exhibits, and educational programs available. When I went to Big Bend this past March we weren't able to go to the observatory due to the wildfires burning in the area at the time. I was really looking forward to seeing the stars that evening but it wasn't to be, so that is something I would definitely go back and do.
Palo Duro Canyon State Park was opened in 1934 and is almost 30,000 acres of beautiful scenery. The canyons can be as deep at 800 ft in some places, so if you can't make it to Arizona to see the Grand Canyon this is a much closer option! To be able to see up close how the water has carved out the canyons over the years and the beautiful colors and layers it leaves behind would be exciting. Not to mention seeing a sunrise or sunset over the canyon; magical. Don't forget also in the Canyon during the summer they have a musical called "Texas" where a man on horseback appears on top of a 600 ft. cliff carrying the Texas flag and signaling the start of the show. It is a musical featuring 60 actors, singers and dancers and tells the story of the Panhandle settlers in the 1800's. I've never seen it but my grandparents would go see it and always talked about how great it was, so I would put that on my list of things to see way out West.
I figure if I'm going to die anyway why not jump out of an airplane on my own volition and have fun. There are many skydiving schools around the state to choose from that offer scheduled and drop-by jumps. They generally have an instruction time of 2-5 hours (some are more some much less). Tandem (strapped to a professional) is usually how you go your first time and that's fine by me, I'm not sure I would trust myself to pull the cord at the right time. I just think that flying trough the air would be so freeing and exhilarating. A friend of mine from high school went earlier this year in San Marcos and she said it was sooooooooo fun. That's her in the pic, go Shari!! There is also a skydiving facility in West Texas just outside of Midland called Skydive Westex. Who's with me?
I've been to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico as many of you probably have, but did you know we have some beautiful caverns right here in Texas. Located between San Antonio and Big Bend National Park in Sonora, Texas. The caverns were named a National Natural Landmark in 1966 by the U.S. Dept. of the Interior. They are actually still growing and even have a connection to Abilene. The caverns are located on the Mayfield Ranch and an opening was discovered accidentally on the land by a dog. Many locals had then explored the cave and only got in about 500 feet and only about 50 ft deep; then,long story short in 1955 three speleologists; Bob and Bart Crisman & James Estes of Abilene were exploring a small cave opening when they discovered a large room in the cave. Other explorers followed and you now have the Caverns of Sonora open year round (except Christmas Day) to the public. I've never been to these caverns but the ones I have been to are incredibly beautiful and it's hard to image you are that far underground in huge rooms full of actual living, growing rocks. There is even one room named the Butterfly room (pictured to left) because the formations look like butterfly wings. Nature never ceases to amaze.
The Guadalupe Mountains contain the highest elevation in Texas known as Guadalupe Peak and is about as far West as you can go, with the exception of El Paso. Much like Big Bend there are plenty of animals, flowers and mountain ranges to see and explore. There's horseback riding, biking, hiking, bird watching and much more. Now if anyone tells you "we are just going to hike up here, it's not that far".....DO NOT believe them, it will be further than you think. And don't forget your inhaler if you have asthma. Just some words of advice from the wise. I loved Big Bend but I would love to see more mountains and with the highest elevation being in the Guadalupe Mountains that also means they get snow. I'm told winter is the best time to go, to see the beautiful snow topped mountains. You can get a little of everything at the mountains; greenery, desert, rivers, snow, hot temps to cold temps, salt flats, the Butterfield trail, bears, mountain lions, deer, snakes, lizards, javelina, jagarundee and chupacabra. Ok, well maybe not those last two but it would be a beautiful place to camp out under the stars and watch the sunrise and sunsets unobstructed by city lights and buildings.