Whew-ee, it's a scorcher. Come August, I always feel sorry for those newcomers who moved to Texas from more temperate climes–they're the ones with telltale beads of sweat above their upper lips, limp locks clinging to their foreheads, and damp rings around their armpits.
They'll learn, soon enough, the tricks of assuaging summer's skyrocketing temperatures: Monstrous glasses of iced tea, squeezed with lemon. Frequent dips into the nearest swimming pool, or, better yet, swimming hole. Screened porches with ceiling fans, which keep the mosquitoes at bay while you listen to dog-day cicadas and search for fireflies. Oh, yes, and a trip to West Texas, where you can escape summer's blaze in unlikely places.
Perhaps you're thinking the mercury has gone to my head, and that I'm confused, or worse, clearly crazy. But bear with me: West Texas boasts two of the most pleasant places to hang out in the throes of summer–fantabulous Balmorhea State Park, where the crystalline waters of San Solomon Springs hover around 74 degrees year round, and the Davis Mountains, where temperatures dip into the 60s at night and the stars emerge big and bright. Why huddle in the A/C or suffer the itchy indignity of heat rash when you can kick back in Mother Nature's cool West Texas backyard? While you're here, take one of the state's prettiest scenic drives, come eye-to-eye with two of Texas' most endangered species, set your sights on Saturn, and enjoy a plate of enchiladas you won't soon forget (not to mention a crispy-crust pizza that'll hold its own against the finest Chicago pie).
The entrance to Balmorhea State Park is on Texas 17, about 12 miles southeast of I-10, in Toyahvale (4 miles southwest of Balmorhea). For reservations at the park's comfortable San Solomon Courts, or to reserve a campsite, call 512/389-8900. The pool opens daily, dawn to dusk. To contact the park, call 432/375-2370 or visit their Web site.
The Toyahvale Desert Oasis, where you can rent scuba and snorkeling equipment, buy air for your tanks, and even get certified to dive, is just west of the Balmorhea State Park entrance, on Texas 17. Hours: Daily 10-6. Call 432/375-2572 or visit the Web site.
The entrance to Davis Mountains State Park is 4 miles west of Fort Davis, on Texas 118. For reservations at the park's lovely Indian Lodge, call 432/426-3254; to reserve a campsite, call 512/389-8900. To reach the park, call 432/426-3337 or visit the Web site.