Friday, August 21, 2020
Indian Lodge Trail starts at Indian Lodge, goes up the mountain behind the lodge then follows the ridgeline until it drops down and joins Montezuma Quail Trail. Abundant views of Indian Lodge, Davis Mountains State Park and beyond are consistently amazing.
The above annotated map shows the route taken from:
- campsite to
- Indian Lodge to
- Indian Lodge Trail to
- Montezuma Quail Trail then back to
Thinking of this as a loop, the trails were traveled clockwise.
The hike took three hours, starting at 7:00 AM and ending at 10:00 AM. The weather was dry, clear and cool in the morning, then warming as the day progressed. Elevation at the campsite as measured on the iPhone was 5,000 (+/- 50) feet and at the highest point along the mountain ridgeline was 5,630 (+/- 50) feet. A 630 foot elevation gain doesn’t seem like all that much. Assuming 14 feet per skyscraper floor (Google Answer), the elevation gain would be equivalent to a forty five story building which still doesn’t seem like that much.
While the mountain may not be all that tall, the views more than make up for the shortcoming.
In addition to the camera:
- Carried a liter of water. This is the desert.
- Wore hiking boots with thick soles and aggressive treads.
- Wore a hat.
- Brought my iPhone.
Walking down Park Road 3 toward Indian Lodge at sunrise provided a moment. Lit by the sunrise, all the windows echoed back the sun’s fire. The effect was stunning.
Off of Park Road 3 is a shortcut up to the lodge.
The shortcut trail ends at the road passing the lower set of guest rooms.
Turning left, walked up the hill toward the back of the lodge.
Continue past the main parking area.
The turn right and walk around the backside of the lodge and keep walking uphill along the road.
The roads or rather driveways and parking lots around Indian Lodge are somewhat constrained. Vehicles larger than full sized pickup trucks will have trouble getting in and out of Indian Lodge. Towing trailers into the lodge area is an especially bad idea.
The parking area extends past the end of the lodge. At the end of the road/parking lot is a sign pointing to the trailhead.
Past the trailhead, hikers follow the trail up the mountain.
The trail is rocky and snakes around the left hand side of the outcropping before heading off toward the right.
Cairns along the trail help keep hikers on track.
From the left of the outcropping, hikers can now see where the trail will take them off to the right.
From the above view, Limpia Creek out to the junction of TX-17 and TX-118 can be seen. Just follow the valley out to the horizon. The light green trees in the mist are where Limpia Creek flows.
See it now? Skyline Drive is also visible on the mountain on the right.
Still more climbing before reaching the mountain’s ridgeline. Cairns continue to mark the trail.
On the approach to the ridgeline, the world outside the park becomes visible. The settlement between the park and the McDonald Observatory along TX-118 becomes visible. The McDonald Observatory’s three largest telescopes are also visible on the distant mountain on the right.
The above cairn marks a spur trail. At the end of the spur are excellent views toward the inside of the park. We are on the ridgeline.
This early in the morning, the sun and shadows create amazing visual textures. Across the valley are the park’s southern mountains. Another line of mountains are on the way to Alpine and Marfa.
At places along the ridgeline, clear views of Indian Lodge can be found. From far above, the lodge looks very different than up close.
Odd manmade feature on top of opposite mountain grabbed my attention. It is the round cement looking thing on the mountain peak. Ten years or so ago, wanting to get better “chamber of commerce” pictures of Indian Lodge, I hiked over to that hill. Not only wasn’t there much up there at the time, the mountain was too rounded to provide an unobstructed view of the lodge. The tall grass and other vegetation kept getting in the way. There are no official trails in this area of the park. I think I’ll hike over there again some day just to see what that thing is.
Another better view of Limpia Creek and TX-118 out to where TX-17 and TX-118 split off from each other. On the right hand side is Skyline Drive.
The view out towards Mitre Peak. If you take TX-118 to Alpine, there will be a sign on the right hand side of the road pointing to this peak (maybe it was a Girl Scout Camp sign). Not sure which of the many mountains and peaks is Mitre? look for the triangle looking peak.
As the ridgeline gets closer to TX-118 and Limpia Creek, the views of the creek and highway improve.
This trail isn’t the best place to view wildflowers in August. However, there are some hearty plants flowering this time of year.
After this cairn, I’ve lost the trail. Oops!
Looking down from the nearest outcropping, I can see where the trail goes, just not how to get there. The slope looked manageable from the ridgeline. Once on the slope, I discovered it was between 45 and 60 degrees incline. I backed down the hill with my arms and hands out on the hill for balance. It was a bit of a scramble. The hill was steep enough that rocks were easily dislodged and would slide a bit with me on them.
After reaching the trail I finally understood my mistake. The trail drops down off the hill on the back side (side facing the outside of the park) and then wraps around the hill at lower point. I was hung up on the idea that the trail would just continue in the direction it was going or turn toward the inside of the park before going down the hill. I also couldn’t see this trail section. Only the further trail section could be seen.
Happily on my way, I headed onward toward the Indian Lodge Trail and Montezuma Quail Trail junction.
Here Indian Lodge Trail T-bones into Montezuma Quail Trail.
The Montezuma Quail Trail is another great trail. I’ll cover that in a subsequent post.
The Indian Lodge Trail is just super. I plan to do it again. I might try late in the day just to get different shadows and light mixtures. The views to both the inside and outside of the park are just amazing.
Hope to see you on the road ahead!