Saturday, December 30, 2006

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A Great Day Trip to Big Bend

Sometimes people ask me, "Can you do a day trip to Big Bend from Van Horn?" Sure you can, and to prove it, here's the itinerary from yesterday.

Quick rundown:
7am leave Van Horn

Morning drive--sunrise, Prada Marfa art installation on the side of the road, coffee at Brown Recluse in Marfa, Alpine, spectacular ranchland views

Arrive in Big Bend--drive Old Maverick Road to Luna's Jacal, Terlingua Abaja, Santa Elena Canyon hike (first two photos; click on the photo to get a closer look--see how small the person is in the first photo?), the historic Castolon Visitor Center (last photo)

Lunch in Study Butte and drive back through Alpine, Marfa and Valentine, spectacular mountain sunset, arriving in Van Horn, 7 pm.

I'd seen the spectacular photographs of Santa Elena Canyon, of course, and was wowed by the majesty and the scale and by the fact that Mexico seemed just an arm's length away. But I was romanced by the soft fairyland atmosphere of the hike on the riverbank.

If you're the kind of traveler who enjoys the process of getting to your destination as much as being there, this is a wonderful way to spend the day. We packed in quite a bit--art, historic sites, natural wonders, and a great hike. What more could you ask for?

Monday, November 06, 2006

El Paso's Day of the Dead Festival

Put this on your calendar for next year!

Dia de lost Muertos (Day of the Dead) was celebrated by El Paso and Juarez, Mexico, in a festival titled, "Two Countries, One Celebration of Life." The events and exhibits I attended were excellent.

To see what you missed, check the festival's website,

Congratulations, Indian Lodge!

Recently, the Texas Parks and Wildife Department celebrated the grand re-opening of one of the finest and most unique inns in the southwestern United States, the Indian Lodge in Fort Davis.

Original construction began as a Civilian Conservation Corps project in 1933, and the Lodge's first guest rooms opened in 1935. Built in the Southwestern pueblo-style, the inn has received international acclaim as a popular retreat for both vacationing families and political dignitaries alike.

The renovation was extensive, and included replacement of the heating/cooling system, plumbing, electrical and mechanical overhauls, bathroom renovations, and new guest furnishings. The best part of the project, in my opinion, was the effort to return much of the character and original 1930s furnishings (all 197 of them!) to this one-of-a-kind getaway.

For more information on historic hotels in the Texas Mountain Trail region, click here!

Sunday, October 22, 2006


We had a cool, but pleasant morning for the Marathon2Marathon race from Alpine to Marathon last Saturday, October 14. The view of the mountains is spectacular; this is truly a beautiful race. Approximately 200 runners took part in the 10K, marathon, or 2 person relay races, and enjoyed the post-party afterwards!

For more information on the race, check the Marathon2Marathon website.

For a list of favorite runs in the Texas Mountain Trail region, check our running page:
We've posted a few runs already, and we welcome your submissions! Please email us at: to nominate your favorite running route!

Thursday, October 05, 2006


We've had so much rain this summer, so we've got flowers are blooming all over the Texas Mountain Trail Region!

Thanks to Jaime Fushille for allowing us to post this photo, which was taken near Horizon City recently. Thank you, Jaime!

Monday, September 25, 2006

In the News

We've added a page on the Texas Mountain Trail website to share news coverage about fun things to do in the area. Since our mission includes marketing to the traveler and assisting with economic development in our communities, we're happy to help media writers as they write about the Texas Mountain Trail.

Two articles are up now, one on Van Horn-based chef and her plans for a new restaurant in that town, the Sunflower Cafe; and a travel itinerary published in the El Paso Visitors Guide.

Take a look here!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Almost ready

In about a month, the Museum of the Big Bend will reopen in its new location on the Sul Ross State University campus in Alpine! If you're planning to visit the region this fall, consider including the museum in your'll love the new space.

Friday, September 01, 2006

A Main Street Success Story

A new place has opened up on Broadway in the center of Van Horn, welcoming tourists and locals for light meals, snacks, and a beautiful restful place off the highway.

There's a sign up that says, "Elevation, 4010. Blue Quail Coffee Shop. In the Land of the Conquistador, You Be the Explorer, Come Find Your Treasure." Paul Blankenburg, with the help of Van Horn's Economic Development Council and the Main Street program, bought this small adobe building, added a patio and completely renovated the space to give Van Horn a new oasis from the road.

Just as with the Heritage Trails Program, communities in the Main Street program participate in the Texas Historical Commission's statewide program, but the local communities organize their own revitalization programs. Successful ventures take an enormous amount of energy, work, and creativity to make a difference in small towns. Van Horn is centering its activity in the historic district--the Blue Quail Coffee Shop is across the street from the Clark Hotel Museum, down the block from the town's bank (a beautiful adobe building that was once the El Capitan Hotel), and near the intersection of highways 54 and 90--the true crossroads of the Texas Mountain Trail.

Sit in the front of Paul's place and you have a lovely view of Turtleback Mountain. Take a seat under the shade umbrellas on the patio, and enjoy a banana split or a wine produced near Marfa, or a broiled spam sandwich, and let your hours on the road melt away!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Dutch Oven Cooking

This weekend, I attended the Dutch Oven cooking competition at the Big Bend Ranch Rodeo (a rodeo for working cowboys and cowgirls) at Sul Ross State University's arena in Alpine. The food looked terrific, and was made from scratch right out of the chuckwagons parked at the rodeo grounds, and the cooks were only too happy to talk about their work: biscuits, beef stew, beans, squash and okra, creamed corn for cornbread, and cherry pie!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Davis Mountains Fitness and Training Camp

Last week, I participated in the Davis Mountains Fitness and Training Camp at Prude Ranch in Fort Davis. The camp is a participant-run non-profit aimed at providing a reasonably priced adventure in the Davis Mountains--fully supported biking, hiking, running, and swimming activities plus yoga, pilates, massage, nature and health programs. The campers range in age from early 20s to 80s, and participate in all levels of fitness. Some campers think riding the challenging 74 mile scenic loop on their bike as just another "good" ride, others think of that ride as a life goal. For some campers, the hike up Mount Livermore is the highlight of their year.

Two of the photos here show Thursday's ride (and run) through Wild Rose Pass on the way from Fort Davis to Balmorhea. At the top of the pass, there's a marker all the campers pat (and read) before they make their way down the mountain. It says: "In early days the Indian trail through these mountains followed the gorge below, known as Limpia Canyon. To avoid floods, travelers over the San Antonio-El Paso road, emigrants, U.S. Troops, supply trains and the mail chose this higher pass famed for its wealth of wild roses." The view is stunning, and well worth the effort to get up the mountain.

If you're fitness-minded, and want to learn more about exploring Far West Texas in a unique way, consider joining camp next year. Check it out at:

The Wild Rose Pass run and bike ride will be featured on our special interest web pages soon: and

Monday, July 24, 2006

Welcome to the World Sweetpea

Last week, I went to a ranch with the invitation of Shanna Roberts, a culinary school-trained chef who is opening the Sunflower Cafe in Van Horn next year. We're working on a promotion of the Texas Mountain Trail and border food for a Midwest food cooperative to raise awareness of the region as a vacation destination.

In addition to her work building the restaurant, Shanna takes care of an impressive number of animals--geese, goats, hogs, horses, and cattle on her family's section of land.

While Shanna fed the cattle, we noticed a cow who separated herself from the others. As we drove nearer to investigate, we saw a gray spot on the ground. We were delighted to find a healthy newborn calf next to her momma. Sweetpea was born that morning, but was not expected; Shanna figured her mom, February, must have already been bred when she was purchased late last year.

Ranching is an important part of life in the Texas Mountain Trail region, and visitors can learn more about it at the Museum of the Big Bend in Alpine, the Marfa and Presidio County Museum in Marfa, the Clark Hotel Museum in Van Horn, and Hallie's Hall of Fame Museum on the road from Marathon to Big Bend National Park.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

July 4th Celebrations

Happy Independence Day!

There are celebrations all over the Texas Mountain Trail region--parades, historical reenactments, food fairs, street dances, pet contests, fireworks--something for everyone.

I hear one visitor say of Fort Davis' multi-day "Coolest 4th of July" celebration this year, "THIS is the way a town ought to celebrate the holiday." The courthouse square looked terrific decorated with red/white/blue striped banners. The Chamber of Commerce offered carriage rides, gunfighters, a street dance, and lots of great food. I liked the brisket dinner!

"The Great Parade" on Saturday morning was fun because the entire community seemed to participate. As the newest member of the parade's Ladies Kazoo Band, I'm proud to say our silliness was awarded an honorable mention by an apparently impartial panel of judges. It wasn't so bad though losing to the first place winner, the Fort Davis Humane Society float. Here's a fella from that float!

Fort Davis' high elevation makes a mid-summer trip out west cool and comfortable. Consider that next year as you're wondering where to celebrate July 4th. Come join us on the Texas Mountain Trail!

For more information on attractions and events in Fort Davis, visit the Texas Mountain Trail website, here. For additional information on accommodations or dining, visit the Chamber of Commerce website, here.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Visitor question answered!


This afternoon we had a request from a visitor, "what does the rest of the Valentine church building look like?" (See our June 18th post.) Here it is! Keep the questions coming, and don't forget you can submit your own blog entries about the Texas Mountain Trail region to our sister blog, "My Favorite Place,"

Beth Nobles
Texas Mountain Trail Regional Coordinator

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Van Horn's Rodeo

Every year, Van Horn holds a 4-H Rodeo drawing competitors from all over the Texas Mountain Trail region and beyond. Here are some photos from this year's events.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

View from the Road

The Virgin Mary of Guadalupe on the church in Valentine, TX

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Fancy Junk Sculpture

If you're driving through Van Horn, be sure to take a look at the sculpture made by Gerald Scott outside the Los Nopales antique store on Broadway Street. Scott is an inventive artist, combining discarded objects into witty figures. Take a few minutes to walk through the "sculpture garden" and you'll see more alien figures, art cars and even an Uncle Sam!

Friday, June 02, 2006

San Elizario

Last week our Texas Mountain Trail Board of Directors met in San Elizario at the Adobe Horseshoe on the Plaza, thanks to the hospitality of Ben Sanchez of the Mission Trail.

Ever since my first visit last year that plaza has been one of my favorite places in the region. Here are views of the Los Portales Tourist Museum and Information Center and the San Elizario Presidio Chapel. I'm happy to report that the work on the exterior of the chapel is now complete.

The chapel is beautiful. When you travel to San Elizario, I encourage you to step inside for a few quiet moments. I love the hand-painted angels on the adobe walls. It is a special place.

The Museum is housed in an 1850's Territorial-style adobe building, and has exhibits focusing on the rich and colorful historical legacies of San Elizario including the "First Thanksgiving," Spanish Presidio, San Elizario Salt War of 1877 and El Paso's first county seat.

Did you know that the closing scenes of an early Kevin Costner's movie was filmed on the plaza? Though it has since been renovated, it was the location for the wedding scene in Fandango. (By the way, most of that movie was filmed in the Texas Mountain Trail region!)

If you're traveling in the area, you should also plan to stop by the Socorro Mission (Nuestra Señora de la Concepción del Socorro) and the Ysleta Mission (Nuestra Señora del Carmen) and the Tigua Indian Cultural Center.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Dry Season

Because we're having an extended period of extremely dry weather, the region is under an Extreme Fire Danger alert.

All trails in the high Chisos area of the Big Bend National Park are closed indefinitely to smoking.

Please take caution in other areas of our region, too.

Monday, May 08, 2006

A surprise on I-10

If you're traveling east from Van Horn on I-10, take a little break at the Kent exit. As you leave the interstate, you'll see this stone shell of the old Kent School on your right. This beautiful building once held classrooms and an auditorium, and was considered the town's meeting place. The school closed in 1961. Unfortunately it burned many years later, leaving this beautiful structure behind.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Concordia Cemetery Update

This weekend I had the opportunity to visit Concordia Cemetery in El Paso again. Not only were the cactus flowering, but I was able to snap a few pictures of a burrowing owl right after he'd caught some prey. Concordia is a fascinating place--you can see the graves of gunfighters, buffalo soldiers, early settlers, and Chinese workers who came to build the railroad--all in the shadow of the big city's interstate. For more information, photos, and a link to a map, check out our web page on the Concordia Cemetery.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Spring is Here!

Look at what is blooming this week in Van Horn!

Explore the desert wildflowers on a hike in the Texas Mountain Trail Region or visit one of our excellent Desert Mountain Nature Centers!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

"Boot Hill"

There's a special place in El Paso, where a short walk will take you through history. Concordia Cemetery was started in 1856 and in a few years it became the main burial site for the city. That makes it a fascinating place for the visitor. You can see the graves of Chinese railroad workers, buffalo soldiers, and numerous infamous outlaws including John Wesley Hardin.

When I was there recently, I was lucky enough to see an immature burrowing owl guarding his home underneath a tombstone.

To read more about Concordia Cemetery, click here. (Thanks to Bernie Sargent for providing this great photo!)

Friday, March 10, 2006

Stories of Spirits in El Paso

Tomorrow, March 11 (and every month or so), the Magoffin Home State Historic Site in El Paso presents a special program called Stories of Spirits. In this special two-hour tour, the historical tour is expanded to include stories of spirits and odd events that occur in the house!

Starts promptly at 10 a.m.; fees $5 per person, no children under 12 please; reservations encouraged (915) 533-5147.

This is a popular tour and fills quickly, so put these dates on your calendar for future Stories of Spirits tours--April 8, May 13, June 10, August 12 and September 9!

The Magoffin Home Built in 1875 by pioneer Joseph Magoffin, the nineteen room, adobe home is a prime example of Territorial style architecture. This style developed in the southwest in the mid-1800s and combined local materials (adobe) and then fashionable mid-Victorian wood trim. It is a beautiful place!

More information about the Magoffin Home State Historic Site.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Drive the speed limit and you miss it!

Late this summer, I noticed a curious structure being built on the side of the Hwy 90 heading south from Van Horn. Odd. Too small for a house or store. Too large for a bus shelter, and too far from anything to house kids waiting for the schoolbus. Yet, there it was, being patiently built by a small crew of men, just a few miles north of Valentine, population 247. A boxy-looking thing, way out in the middle of the desert.

In early October, I took that road home to Van Horn. The first clue was the portable lighted sign by the only gas station in Valentine. "Welcome Prada Marfa," it said. Huh.

Then I sped by, way too fast to get anything but a hint of what it was. Stop the car, back up. What?!? A Prada store?

There, perfectly and beautifully positioned in the desert, is a sealed time capsule, a non-functional full-sized reproduction of an urban boutique Prada store stocked with the fall 2005 line of shoes and purses. It makes me happy just to look at it. It will decay in time, and the ruin will become part of the landscape.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Get ready for the flowers!

I confess, this is a bit of a tease. These pictures, taken at the foot of the Guadalupe Mountains National Park, were shot last April. (That yellow you see in the foreground of the first photo--all flowers!) But you should know that bluebonnets started appearing in Terlingua just about a month ago, and we're starting to see wild flowers pop up all over the Texas Mountain Trail Region.

Thought you folks in colder climates might like to see some pretty pictures. Come see the flowers for yourself soon!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Taking the time to look at the little things

The stunning vistas in the Texas mountains can certainly inspire us to look up and out. But even on a day with 115 mile visibility at the Big Bend National Park, small jewels can be found by looking down. Look at what we saw on the South Rim trail not too long ago--a beautiful six inch rock bullseye right there at our feet.