Wild Rose Pass

A Valentine Ghost Story

This post is an excerpt of an article I wrote about nine years ago and I cannot believe I haven’t posted it at Nature is Nurture before now. I suppose the theme is a little more paranormal than horticultural, but since the story references the Super Bowl and includes roses – the flower associated with Valentine’s Day – I find the timing appropriate to share nonetheless.

In February, 2010, my husband, Mike, and I took an impromptu road trip to West Texas. We stayed at Indian Lodge in Davis Mountains State Park near the community of Fort Davis. Indian Lodge is an old (circa 1935), but nicely renovated, pueblo-style structure nestled in the Davis Mountains.

Indian Lodge – Photos compliments of Texas Parks and Wildlife

Before arriving at the state park, we had driven through a beautiful, but desolate, area called “Wild Rose Pass”.  It was mountainous and rocky, not unlike the rest of the desert terrain in the area. I mentioned something about the odd name of the pass to Mike as we drove through it, concluding that perhaps, as unlikely as it seemed, wild roses must grow around there in the spring.

The next day, we visited the McDonald Observatory telescopes located atop a couple of high peaks near the state park. On the way back down the mountains, we stopped at a picnic site that overlooked a valley. It was a stunningly clear day and the temperature was in the 60’s. While I was preparing a sandwich, Mike mentioned he saw a flower in the distance that looked like it was blooming from a shrub. Being the plant person that I am, he asked if I knew of a “bush” that would produce such a flower. I looked up and gazed intently at the white flower. It appeared to be a rose, but I could not believe it was blooming in the desert, let alone in February! My curiosity piqued, I grabbed the binoculars. Ah ha. . . the flower was not real.

I could see the long, false stem of the fake rose winding around the narrow trunk of the scrub tree. As I scanned more of the area through the binoculars, it became clear there were several other shrubs in the ravine that were also adorned with white roses. Some of the flowers had white ribbons attached that were dancing in the wind. We concluded that high school kids may have placed the single bouquets on the trees (football mums?) or perhaps bereaved families had attached them to serve as memorials to loved ones who had met their demise on the steep, winding mountain roadway.

McDonald Observatory

Late that afternoon, while back at the lodge watching the Super Bowl game, Mike and I were sitting on opposite sides of the hotel room when the newly installed TV spontaneously went off. We both quickly assumed the other had turned it off (how dare someone turn off the Super Bowl?!)   But no – the remote was located in the center of the bed and was nowhere near either of us. I reached over and successfully turned the TV back on as Mike laughed and stated the ghost of an Indian Chief had probably become tired of the rowdy noise.  After all, he said, we were staying in an Indian lodge. Ha ha . . .

That night, I left the bathroom light on and cracked the door a little so that neither of us would trip over furniture should we awake before dawn. For those of you unfamiliar with West Texas, the nights are pitch black – especially when there is no moon. (Thus, the reason the area was selected for an observatory.) As luck would have it, in the middle of the night I awoke. I could not see a thing in front of my face – not even the shadow of my hand. Panic setting in, I jumped up and moved the curtains away from the window to see if I could at least glimpse some form of light outside. Whew . . . fortunately my eyes adjusted to a faint light in the parking lot.

But . . . what had happened to the bathroom light? Heart still racing, I looked around the room again and the light was definitely off. I then recalled Mike’s comment about the Indian ghost so I decided to cover my head, close my eyes, and go back to sleep!

The next morning Mike asked me if I was aware the power had gone off in our room. I told him I knew the bathroom light had gone off, but jokingly I said I assumed it was the doings of the same ghost that had turned off the Super Bowl game the night before. He replied that the ghost had apparently turned everything off because the clock radio was flashing and our alarm hadn’t sounded. (I had forgotten about the alarm . . . we were on vacation, after all!)

Well, despite the minor electrical issues we encountered, we had an absolutely magical time in West Texas, taking in acres and acres of beautiful scenery and observing multitudes of wildlife, including javelinas, deer, auodads (ram-looking, mountain sheep), foxes and a variety of colorful birds.

Skyline Drive near Fort Davis

The day after we returned from our trip, I posted several pictures on social media. My brother, seeing the pictures, made the random comment, “You know Fort Davis is haunted, don’t you?”

WHAT!!!???

He told me he had seen the town featured on one of the ghost-hunting or travel shows recently. He couldn’t remember exactly what the ghost story was about, however.

So, I looked it up.

You’ll recall I mentioned we went through an area northeast of Fort Davis called “Wild Rose Pass”? Well, it turns out back in the day (1850-1860’s) there was a rumor that wild white roses grew along Limpia Creek in the high desert area. The young wife of a lieutenant stationed at Fort Davis was homesick for the flowers of her home state, Alabama, and decided to venture out beyond the safe boundaries of the fort, looking for the fabled roses. She never returned. It was commonly known that Apaches watered their horses at Limpia Creek and the fort residents assumed the young woman had met her death at the hands of the Indians. Her name was Alice.

From there, the story goes . . .

From time to time after her disappearance, new soldiers stationed at Fort Davis would report seeing a beautiful young woman strolling along the fort grounds. When they inquired about the woman to long-time soldiers, she was always described as wearing the same clothing Alice had worn the day she disappeared. And, even more eerie, white roses would spontaneously appear throughout the fort during a sighting of Alice!

As I read the ghost story, a chill ran down my spine as I processed the connection of Alice to our experiences – the fake flowers we spotted on a nearby hillside and the multiple electrical outages at Indian Lodge that night.

However, as haunting as it sounds, I think the tale depicts the fascinating lore and lure of West Texas. Alice’s deep longing and determination to pick wild roses, despite knowing the intense danger of doing so, speaks to our human desire to seek out the beauty of nature. And – it adds even more flavor to my extraordinary February weekend in the Davis Mountains.

Some day I hope you have the opportunity to experience West Texas as I did.

Until next time,

Cindy

I actually hope to visit West Texas again soon and be able to deliver additional photos and information (and maybe another ghost story!) In the meantime, I, again, highly encourage you to visit the community of Fort Davis if you ever have the opportunity. There is so much to experience in the area – far more than I can elaborate upon in this paragraph – but a few key places are: Davis Mountains State Park, Fort Davis National Historic Site, McDonald Observatory and the nearby City of Marfa.

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