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September 2009 cover image hunting dog

Park Pick: Harvest Hayrides

Enjoy amazing scenery and a taste of history at Big Spring.

By Sheryl Smith-Rogers

Pioneers who settled across Texas typically carried a repair kit in their mule-drawn wagons that included a hammer and chisel. Using the tools in 1896, Thekla Scholz, a young German girl, carved her name into a limestone bluff that’s now part of Big Spring State Park.

“She had eight siblings, and her family had a homestead and cotton farm at Marienfeld, which is now Stanton,” says Ron Alton, park manager. “We have other carvings along the bluff, too, and some are fairly ornate.”

Little else is known about Thekla, but you can hear other history stories and learn about the park’s biology aboard a modern wagon (actually a flatbed trailer pulled by a pickup). As in years past, park staff will once again host Harvest Saturday, a fall event filled with evening hayrides around Scenic Mountain.

“We tour visitors along Scenic Drive, a three-mile road that loops around the mountain and follows the ledge of our 200-foot limestone bluff,” Alton explains. “On clear days, you can see 28 miles to Stanton, and sunsets are pretty amazing.”

Bring snacks or a picnic so you can come early and explore the 382-acre park, open for day-use only (no camping facilities). Both the park and city of Big Spring were named after a natural spring that stopped flowing after the turn of the century, but once drew early explorers, Indians, settlers and cattle drovers.

Check out the park’s cool limestone architecture, built in the 1930s by young men employed with the Civilian Conservation Corps. From limestone quarried on site, they constructed an open-air pavilion, headquarters, a residence, pumphouse and restroom, not to mention the amazing three-mile loop and its retaining wall.

If you’re lucky, you may spot a horned lizard, a threatened species whose numbers have declined sharply in the past 30 years. “We still have plenty of harvester ants, their only food source,” Alton says. “Fire ants aren’t a problem here yet. We also have lots of other wildlife, such as raccoons, ringtails, opossums and gray foxes.”

Steep grades make the scenic road a favorite with walkers, runners and cyclists. The park also has a 2/3-mile nature trail and an interpretive center with Indian artifacts and fossils.

Harvest Saturday, set for Sept. 26, runs 3 to 6 p.m. Hayrides depart at 3 and 4:30 p.m. No fee, but donations accepted. Big Spring State Park is located halfway between Abilene and Odessa off Interstate 20. For information, call 432-263-4931 or visit www.tpwd.state.tx.us/bigspring.

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