Sunday, March 30, 2014

Spring is coming to Wild Rose Pass

Cottonwood trees leafing out on Friday in the
Wild Rose Pass area on Hwy 17
The cottonwood trees along Hwy 17 from Balmorhea to Fort Davis are a brilliant green, the first clear sign of spring from the highway. 

From the Handbook of Texas History:

"WILD ROSE PASS. Wild Rose Pass is ten miles northeast of Fort Davis in east central Jeff Davis County (at 30°43' N, 103°47' W). State Highway 17 goes through the pass, which is two miles long. Elevations in the pass range from 4,320 feet to 4,546 feet above sea level, some 900 to 700 feet lower than the unnamed neighboring peaks to the east and west. The pass was supposedly named by Lt. William H. C. Whiting, who traveled through the area in March 1849, for the Demaree rose, which grows at springs and seeps in the area. Local legend has it that William A. (Bigfoot) Wallace, who in the 1850s was a driver on the Skillman mail route from San Antonio to El Paso, once shot a buck atop a nearby cliff in Wild Rose Pass. The dead animal toppled over the cliff, slid down the mountainside, and came to a halt directly in front of the coach, whereupon Wallace reportedly said, "Them's the first mountains I ever seen where the game comes to heel after being killed." Another story holds that in 1859 a band of Mescalero Apaches waylaid a mail coach, killed the guard, and made off with the mail. The Indians became so absorbed by the illustrations in the captured newspapers, however, that they allowed themselves to be caught by pursuing soldiers. Fourteen Mescaleros were killed, and thereafter the Apaches believed that pictures were bad luck and avoided them."
--Martin Donell Kohout
Blooming on Friday along the Hwy 17 roadside near
Wild Rose Pass

Many travelers don't realize that the road doesn't follow the original Wild Rose Pass.  This is clear when you visit Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center and hike the Clayton's Overlook Trail.  At the very top of this trail, there's a 360 degree interpretive exhibit showing the entire Davis Mountains area and explaining the geological and historical background, including a guide to the original and the current "Wild Rose Pass."

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