Every year our middle school grades go on a class trip in the Spring. Sixth grade goes to camp, seventh grade goes on a tour of important places in Texas History and eighth grade goes on a science trip. This is my 11th year of teaching and 3 of the years I was too pregnant to go, 1 year I went with 7th grade, 1 year I took a high school group to Jamaica and five years I chaperoned the eighth grade trip to NASA. This year the science teacher decided to switch the trip up and we headed to McDonald Observatory in West Texas and I was so excited about the change of pace.
We left at 4:45 am last Tuesday (yes.... we managed to get sixty eighth graders and 6 chaperones loaded and off campus before 5 am!) and drove to the Caverns of Sonora.
We ate lunch there and then split up into our cabins to take a tour of the caverns. The other caves/caverns that I've toured before have all been cold... this cavern was SUPER hot and humid. It was about 70 degrees, but felt like it was around 90 due to the INSANE humidity!
We worked our way about 150 feet underground and everywhere we turned was something amazing!
The tour was about an hour and a half and was so interesting.
I took a TON of pictures because Luke (who wants to be a geologist) gave me strict marching orders to send him pictures of EVERYTHING ;)
I mean.... incredible, right???
The way out was called "the belly of the whale" and I had a total "Jonah moment" ;)
We drove a few more hours to outside of Fort Smith to the ranch where we were staying.
We unloaded in our bunks, ate dinner and then headed up the mountain to the observatory.
We attended a lecture on moon phases and then headed up the mountain a bit more for a "Star Party". We sat in the amphitheater first and got to have constellations pointed out and then would our way down the mountain stopping along the way to look through multiple telescopes. It was seriously so neat. There was quite a bit of cloud cover that night, but everything was still beautiful!
(Photos via Google)
That night we headed back to the ranch and got settled in and headed to bed around midnight. I had 10 girls in my cabin and while it was "rustic" it was so fun. Think painted cinderblock walls, metal bunk beds and frogs coming up out of our sinks :)
Wednesday morning was GORGEOUS!!! Breakfast was bright and early and then we headed back to the Observatory for a sun lecture and then a tour of the HUGE telescope at the very top of the mountain.
I'll chaperone with these AMAZING friends ANY DAY!!!
(image via Google)
The tour was really interesting and they even got to move the whole top of the dome!
After the tour we had a few minutes to take in the view (and the kids were SO PUMPED because it was the first time we had had cell service in about 18 hours. hahaha)
Back down the mountain and headed to Balmorhea State Park...
We had a little tour of the "desert wetland" and then headed to the pool. Here's some info from the website... "More than 15 million gallons of water flow through the pool each day, gushing from the San Solomon Springs. The pool is up to 25 feet deep, covers 1.75 acres, and holds 3.5 million gallons of water. The water temperature stays at 72 to 76 degrees year-round."
What that doesn't talk about are all the fish that live in the pool that nibble you! hahaha
There were some ominous clouds, but despite a few sprinkles the weather was beautiful.
After a few hours in the water we headed back to Prude Ranch and headed out on a hay wagon to our cowboy cookout.
The kids had tons of room to run around, throw the football and hang out while we filled our foil packs and they were set out on the fire.
The Prude Ranch bus :) #texasforever
The ranch even brought in an authentic cowboy to sing and tell stories. SO FUN!
Dinner was DELICIOUS and I'm planning on doing these with my family this summer! SO FUN and yummy!
The weather got WILD and it started hailing, so I crowded into the bus with all the girls to wait it out. We head to end our cookout short, but headed back to the bunks to let them run off some energy in the pavilion area outside our cabins while the second round of storms rolled in.
If you're a teacher you know that sometimes chaperoning can suck. It just is what it is... you're spending 72 hours with 60 hormonal teenagers who "JUST WANT THE WIFI PASSWORD!!!" BUUUUT if you have an amazing group of fun friends to chaperone with it makes a world of difference. We laughed so hard and had a genuinely great time. I mean... there are no other people I'd rather sit on a mattress on the porch at 11:30 pm and shine a high-powered flashlight on unsuspecting kids below with. :) These are also the people who understand the absolute JOY (and head banging on the wall frustration) that comes with being with middle schoolers all day every day.
(that sentence made sense in my head... but now it's late and I'm just crossing my fingers it makes sense to y'all! hahaha)
Thursday morning the kids got to pick an activity.... either horseback riding, a hike or a scavenger hunt at Fort Davis.
I went with one of the horseback groups and it was AWESOME! We did a trail ride up to this ridge where we could see for miles and it was peaceful and quiet and so much fun.
I took zero pictures (I know, shocking) and have no regrets. ;)
After the morning activities we ate lunch, loaded up and headed back home! We left around noon and got home around 11 pm. It was a LONG bus ride, but we watched lots of movies, the kids were exhausted (which means quiet!) and it was actually pretty enjoyable.
And a post about this trip wouldn't be complete without a shoutout to Dave who handled being solo in stride. He got everyone up, dressed, ready and to school on time... everyone made it to their activities, homework was turned in and the house was clean when I got home. Since neither one of us travel for our job and we both work full time we are truly a "team" when it comes to pretty much everything involved in running our house/family and I know how much is involved when it's all on one person so KUDOS to him :)
If you're considering a trip to West Texas I can't say enough great things about our trip. I told Dave that I'd love to take our kids on a similar trip - they would FLIP for the telescopes, horses and pool!
Happy Thursday, Friends!