Friday, December 31, 2010

Yesterday's sunrise at Big Bend Ranch State Park

Yesterday morning, we were treated to a gorgeous sunrise (see the moon?) from our remote campsite in Big Bend Ranch State Park.  We were out there mostly to camp and do some light hiking on this trip, but we'll be back to do some of the epic mountain biking (hey, if the International Mountain Biking Association calls the ride "Epic," we can too!)  Over the next few days we'll be featuring the adventures available in this park, and the history of the area right here! 

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Hudspeth County Courthouse in Sierra Blanca

This beautiful structure was built in 1919 and is the only adobe courthouse in the state of Texas, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places!  Do youself a favor and get off the freeway at Sierra Blanca to take a look at the inside of the building...the feel of the place is unique and proportions are interesting, perhaps because of its 18 inch thick walls!  To read about the Texas Historical Commission's Courthouse Presrvation Program, click here! 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Pinto Canyon Road Ride

Yesterday we took a bike ride down the paved portion of Pinto Canyon road (FM 2810) heading southwest out of Marfa. This scenic road takes you by buildings from the site of Fort D.A. Russell and just a bit further to the east on the Fort's property, the Chinati Foundation.  This road was also the route of the Marfa 100 bike ride, a September ride to benefit Livestrong and Marfa Public Radio. 

The road cuts through private ranch land and beautiful vistas.  In fact, this area was filmed for some recent Hollywood productions, including No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood.  Local folks ask you to enjoy the views from the road itself; please do not cross fencelines or tresspass into private property.  Further south on this road, the pavement ends, and it becomes a wild and wooly 4x4 drive for the most adventurous motorists.

For more information on cycling in the Texas Mountain Trail region, visit our cycling page:

Monday, December 27, 2010

Fort Leaton

Fort Leaton, just east of Presidio, is a great place to go in the dead of winter.  Just off the Rio Grande, the temperatures are generally quite comfortable and warmer than at the higher elevations in the region.  From the TPWD website:  " Fort Leaton State Historic Site, consisting of 23.4 acres, five of which are the site of a pioneer trading post, is located in Presidio County. The park was acquired December 8, 1967, by deed from a private owner and was opened to the public in 1978.
In 1848, Ben Leaton built a fortified adobe trading post known as Fort Leaton. He dominated border trade with the Apache and Comanche Indians before he died in 1851. In 1936, the Texas Centennial Commission placed a marker at the site."

In addition to visiting this beautiful adobe structure--which is a photographer's dream--Fort Leaton (along with the Barton Warnock Environmental Education Center) is a place you can buy backpacking and camping permits for Big Bend Ranch State Park. 

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Ride/Drive to Post Park: A heritage bike route for everyone!

Today's photos are two views from our newest heritage bike ride, the Ride to Post Park!  The route is easy and historic, suitable for beginning cyclists and families, or even automobile or motorcycle riders.  The ride takes you along an Comanche route, a route used by early miners, and near a post for Buffalo Soldiers.  The route starts and ends at the Gage Hotel in Marathon and is an out-and-back route, with Brewster County's Post Park as the midpoint.  Wildlife can be seen along the way...the first photo shows a couple of pronghorn antelope!  Post Park and the Gage Gardens, both on this route, are also sites on our new Far West Texas Wildlife about it here!

Take a look at the "Ride to Post Park," page on our website, which also has a slideshow of images along the route!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Frontier Christmas at Fort Davis National Historic Site!

Fort Davis National Historic Site holds a wonderful event for children, their Frontier Christmas.  We found this wonderful blog post on this year's event, and secured permission from its author, Michelle Dehart West, to link to it for our Christmas Day Daily Photo!
Take a look here.  The kids are having so much fun learning about the Fort and our western history.  They toured the fort; learned about clothing, children's games, soldiers, barracks, wagons; took a hike; helped bake cookies in a wood-burnning stove!  And THANKS to Michelle for agreeing to share it with us all!

Friday, December 24, 2010

You never know what you'll see!

Yep!  Those are peacocks outside Sierra Blanca's grocery store!  It looks like someone is feeding pays to get off the freeway and explore small'll never know what you'll see! 

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A View Above Fort Davis

Taken from the Hospital Canyon Trail at Fort Davis National Historic Site.  See yesterday's entry for more information and links to a slideshow of the trail, and links to history of the Fort!

Check our regional hiking page for information about more hiking trails and experiences in the Texas Mountain Trail region.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Slideshow of Hospital Canyon Trail at Fort Davis National Historic Site

Yesterday we headed out to Fort Davis to hike the Hospital Canyon Trail at Fort Davis National Historic Site.  This is a short (1 mile to the boundary with Davis Mountains State Park) but moderately challenging hike that offers beautiful vistas and a satisfying workout!  Click here to see a slideshow of views from the trail!   The trail begins behind the Fort's hospital complex, which is being restored to show the "state of the art" of military medicine in the 1870s.  It is an adobe structure built on a stone foundation, and was the site for taking care of soldiers, mostly suffering from disease and injury, not battle wounds.  To read more about the history of the hospital, click here.

Click here to read a fascinating history of the Fort!

Click here to reach our regional hiking page with information about additional trails in Far West Texas!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Total Lunar Eclipse tonight!

Pictured here is our own famed McDonald Observatory north of Fort Davis.  Lots of you will want to include a visit to the Observatory in your holiday here's a link to information on their holiday hours! 

Tonight many of us will set our alarm clocks for the middle of the night to see a total lunar more about it here!  Where else to see it but our incredible dark skies???

Thanks to Randy Mallory and the Texas Historical Commission for providing us this great photograph!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Our signs, and an invitation to you!

Have you seen our Texas Mountain Trail road signs and wondered about them?  Have you taken a photo of any of them?  If you have, we'd like to see them...they could be simple shots, or ones enhanced like the one sent to us by Ted Bell of Little Rock, AR!  (Thanks, Ted!)

You could post your photos to our Facebook page, !  We'd like to see them!

The signs were a part of a Texas promotions program centered around Hemisfair '68.  From our website, here's the history:
 " based around 10 scenic driving trails created in 1968 by Gov. John Connally and the Texas Highway Department as a marketing tool. The trails were established in conjunction with the HemisFair, an international exposition that commemorated the 250th anniversary of the founding of San Antonio.
In 1997, the Texas Historical Commission (THC) was charged by the State Legislature to create a statewide heritage tourism program. The THC based their program on the original driving trails, creating ten heritage regions: Brazos Trail Region, Forest Trail Region, Forts Trail Region, Hill Country Trail Region, Lakes Trail Region, Independence Trail Region, Mountain Trail Region, Pecos Trail Region, Plains Trail Region and Tropical Trail Region."

To read more about our history and our program, click here.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Santa Arrives at the Presidio County Courthouse

Yesterday evening, the Marfa Chamber of Commerce hosted a charming event on the grounds of the Presidio County Courthouse in Marfa.  A tree from The Nature Conservancy's Davis Mountains Preserve was brought in by a volunteer, and decorated with ornaments made by the town's elementary schoolchildren.  The children sang, and then Santa arrived on a firetruck!  Later, all the stores in town were open for evening holiday shopping, and Santa heard all the children's Christmas wishes in the Hotel Paisano, one of our most distinguished historic hotels!  What a great evening in one of our great little small towns in Far West Texas!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

December Skies south of Marathon

A December sky taken just south of Marathon, on the newest heritage bike ride:  Ride to the Post!  This easy 5 mile (one way) bike ride/motorcycle ride/drive) takes you from Marathon to Post Park, and shows you places in geological history, the history of the Comanche and Buffalo Soldier, as well as early ranching and settler history.  This is a great ride for the beginning cyclist or for families! 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Early Ranch Land North of Van Horn

This early scene north of Van Horn from what's now Hwy 54, remains relatively untouched today.  That route, and this scene is on the El Capitan to El Capitan Heritage Bike Ride, from the historic Hotel El Capitan in Van Horn to the base of Guadalupe Mountains National Park.   This scenic route can be traveled by car, motorcycle, or bicycle and remains one of the great roads in the state of Texas!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Presents from Santa long ago at the Overland Trail Museum

Fort Davis' Overland Trail Museum tells the story of early life in Jeff Davis County, and in the collection are a few old toys enjoyed by children many years ago.  The truck is dated 1928!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Scenes from Van Horn's Lighted Christmas Parade

This year's parade was Van Horn's 17th annual...plan to catch next year's event.  This is one of the most charming small-town holiday events you'll find anywhere!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Looking forward to spring!

Taken near Van Horn, but in the spring, this little beauty is seen all over the Texas Mountain Trail region!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Wintertime swim

There's a place northwest of Presidio that offers hot springs and a cool pool with a great view of the mountains, Chinati Hot Springs.  You can camp or stay in one of their adobe/stone cabins, and some of those cabins even have private hot pools.  The place is ultra-relaxed and unpretentious...all meals are on your own and there's a communal kitchen available to every guest at the property.  There's also hiking trails on the property, which we suggest you take early in the morning, so you can see the rosy light on the mountains all around!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Blue Blue Sky of Big Bend Ranch, on My Sight Picture

With this image of impossibly blue sky in Big Bend Ranch State Park, we conclude our week of photographs from our talented friend, Derrick Birdsall.  We recommend you bookmark his photography blog, My Sight Picture, for more shots of travels around Texas and in particular, to our mountains of the Texas Mountain Trail region!   Thanks again, Derrick, for allowing us to share your fine work with others!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Derrick Birdsall in Big Bend Ranch State Park

My Sight Picture's Derrick Birdsall took some great photographs on his recent visit to Big Bend Ranch State Park.  He chronicled his favorite place in that park in this entry, called "Riding the Wave," inspired by this rock formation.  Stay tuned!  We'll finish out Derrick Birdsall Week with one more image from Big Bend Ranch tomorrow!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The Wildness of Big Bend Ranch, on My Sight Picture

Derrick Birdsall of My Sight Picture traveled to the Texas Mountain Trail region last month and got some great images of Big Bend Ranch State Park, one of the wildest places in the entire state.  Click here to see Derrick's original entry and get a preview of a photograph we'll feature as well!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

My Sight Picture at Fort Davis National Historic Site

Here's a great shot of Fort Davis National Historic Site nestled against the mountains, taken by our friend, Derrick Birdsall during his trip last week to the Texas Mountain Trail Region.  We think Derrick has a great eye for the human scale vs the majesty of our mountains.  Here's Derrick's original entry on is blog, My Sight Picture.

Tomorrow, we'll travel with Derrick down to Big Bend Ranch State Park!

Monday, December 06, 2010

Derrick Birdsall Week begins!

From time to time, we feature the work of friends we've met through our Facebook and Twitter communities..this week we're showing the pictures of Derrick Birdsall, a photographer with a wonderful eye and a frequent visitor to our region.  Today and tomorrow, we'll show Derrick's images from Fort Davis National Historic Site in Fort Davis.  Later in the week, we'll show his images from Big Bend Ranch State Park!

To keep up with Derrick's photography, we invite you to become a frequent visitor to his photography blog, My Sight Picture.

This particular photograph is from this blog entry by Derrick from last month!

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Desert Floor View from Smith Spring Trail

Head up the Smith Spring Trail in Guadalupe Mountains National Park from the Frijole Ranch Trailhead, and you soon see desert vistas like this.  Next, you'll head into a section with boulders and then you'll hit the shaded part of the trail, where the spring is located.  Year round, there's water, though sometimes in the winter you'll also see a little bit of ice.  It is a quiet place where wildlife likes to gather, too.

Here's a link to a slideshow of images from this trail! And here's a link to our regional hiking page!

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Another spring lovely!

If we've had good rains all year, your trip to the Texas Mountain Trail region in March, April, May and the rest of the summer may be graced with flowering cacti, like this beauty near Van Horn!
Fort Davis' Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center and Botanical Garden has an amazing collection of cacti, and their cactus greenhouse is open year round!

Friday, December 03, 2010

Courtyard at Marfa's Hotel Paisano

We have an amazing variety of gracious historic hotels in the region, beautifully restored and ready for your stay.  Marfa's The Hotel Paisano (1930) was a cattlemen’s hotel for its first 40 years. In 1955, Warner Brothers selected the hotel as the headquarters for the filming of Giant! starring James Dean, Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor.  The hotel's website is here.

To learn more about the historic hotels in the Texas Mountain Trail region, visit:

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Pinto Canyon Road

One of the best 4x4 adventures in the region is the drive from Marfa to Presidio on FM2810, known as the Pinto Canyon Road.  Driving south of out Marfa, the smooth asphalt turns to rocky adventure suitable only for the most rugged of vehicles and the most adventurous drivers.  While it is tempting to explore off-road, don't, as the road is surrounded by private land and some landowners to not welcome visitors on their property.  That fact doesn't detract from the sheer adventure of traveling the road itself.  Have fun and expect a bumpy ride!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Scenic Vista!

Taken near Alpine by our friends at Texas Parks and Wildlife!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Looking forward to spring already!

If rainfall was plentiful in the summer and fall months, the Chihuahuan Desert cacti start popping out in March, April, May and continue at least through the summer.  This beauty was taken near Van Horn! Fort Davis' Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center and Botanical Gardens has a lovely display of cacti all year round in their cactus greenhouse.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Hiking Santa Elena Canyon

One of the shortest and grandest hikes in our region, Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend National Park.  The park's website says this about this trail:

"1.7 miles roundtrip. This trail begins at the end of the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive. Although a short trail, it is one of the grandest spectacles in the park. After crossing Terlingua Creek, the trail climbs several short switchbacks and then gradually descends along the banks of the Rio Grande. Hikers are surrounded by lush riparian vegetation and 1,500-foot towering vertical cliffs of solid limestone. The trail ends where canyon walls meet the river. Take a lunch and enjoy the scene. Note: Following rains, flash floods, or periods of high water, Terlingua creek can be impassable, effectively closing the trail."

For more regional hiking information, visit:

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Friday, November 26, 2010

Holidays at Magoffin Home State Historic Site

The Magoffin Home State Historic Site is holding a holiday open house on December 4th, in El Paso.
More about this fun event:  "
Join us for an evening of fun as the Magoffin Home comes alive with the sights and sounds of the season. Enjoy the lights and holiday decorations as you wander through the Home. The Riverside Middle School Chamber Choir will be entertaining guests and seven lighted trees will be gleaming in the moonlight. Meet for refreshments in the courtyard. “The Home is especially lovely during this time of the year and a holiday visit has become a tradition for many El Pasoans,” said site manager, Leslie Bergloff. Visitors will enjoy being able to walk through the rooms without a formal tour guide and spend as long as they like in each area. Warm clothing is suggested for the outdoor activities. Adults $4; Children are free. Tickets can be purchased at the door. Please call 533.5147 for more information or see  

From their website:  "A striking adobe structure, the Magoffin Home State Historic Site explores the stories of a multicultural family who influenced the development of the Southwest borderlands. Magoffin family members actively participated in U.S. expansion and settlement, trade on the Santa Fe–Chihuahua Trail, Civil War turmoil, military service and U.S.–Mexico relations. The 1875 home is a prime example of Territorial style architecture and features a center courtyard and peaceful landscape. Explore the home’s authentic art and furnishings reflecting the daily lives of this prominent El Paso family."

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Early Ranching Photos

This wonderful image is in the collection of the Marfa and Presidio County Museum, and this copy was sent to us by Randy Mallory on assignment for the Texas Historical Commission.  The Museum, on San Antonio Street in Marfa, has an impressive photography collection and exhibits telling the story of early Marfa and Presidio County.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Monday, November 22, 2010

Murals in El Paso!

El Paso has truly wonderful murals...this one is located at the corner of Brown and Yandell, just a block from another great place to visit, the city's International Museum of Art.  Since we're celebrating the anniversary of the Mexican Revolution this week, we also want to note that the museum has a collection based on the revolution, including a death mask of Pancho Villa.