Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Marfa's Miniature Rooster

In the town known as "delightfully quirky," Marfa offers yet another surprise.  Out here in Far West Texas--in the land of chicken fried steak and tacos--Marfa's Miniature Rooster restaurant serves the head-turning combination of Indian and Southern food.  We're talking chickpea curry and pakoras and fried chicken and waffles at the same meal, if you want it. 

Can we pause a moment and talk about the fried chicken and waffles?  At first, this combo seems an extreme indulgence to our non-Southern palates--yet, when it arrived at our table we fell instantly in love with its spicy, sweet, soft, crunchy, perfectly prepared juiciness.

The folks at the Rooster perform similar magic on simple vegetables.  We've swooned over their acorn squash (with lime and Hawaiian black sea salt), their beets (braised in balsamic vinegar and served with boiled egg and arugula) and roasted cauliflower (in vinaigrette with capers and tarragon).  In fact, we've been inspired to order all-vegetable, and thoroughly satisfying meals of their small plates and starters.

Those small plates, sides and starters run $3-8.  Entrees include Pork, Beans and Greens; Shrimp and Grits; and Steak and Eggs; cost $14-20.  And the "Low Country Miniature Rooster," a whole roasted game hen with asparagus vinaigrette, potato puree and gravy is $18.

Save room for the desserts.  Our favorite?  The Gateaux de Isle, a rum soaked cake with pineapple and coconut, and a generous dollop of real whipped cream on the side.

Miniature Rooster--1300 W. San Antonio (Hwy 90) is open Tuesdays-Saturdays for dinner starting at 5:30 pm.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Green IS here!

Though we are still under a region-wide burn ban, there are no fires in the region today!
And lots of places offer green respites from the road, including Post Park south of Marathon
From Davis Mountains State Park's garden outside the Interpretive Center

Along the road from Fort Davis to Alpine
Some folks are saying we're all burnt up out here in Far West Texas...and we say, yes, we're still under a burn ban here, but GREEN is here!  There are plants popping out on the roadsides, including one of our favorites...chocolate daisies!!  The photos here were all taken since the wildlfires left our region...

Everything is still here and waiting for your visit...the charming hotels, restaurants, hiking trails....if you need help planning your visit, just let us know!!!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

What you could take home!!!

The back of the Far West Texas Wildlife Trail t-shirt

National Trails Day t-shirt
Next week, we'll be launching the Far West Texas Wildlife Trail at three parties...and you're invited to each of them!  At each party, we'll have drawings for lots of neat giveaways; including t-shirts, hats and lens cloths for the Far West Texas Wildlife Trail, as well as t-shirts for National Trails Day! 

Thursday, June 2, we'll have an 8 am bird walk, starting from Fort Davis' Indian Lodge in Davis Mountains State Park, followed by a 10 am party.

Friday, June 3, there will be an event at Monahans Sandhills State Park.

Saturday (National Trails Day!), June 4, we'll hold a party at Keystone Heritage Park in El Paso, starting at 9:45 am

Friday, May 27, 2011

Burned? Brown? West Texas has green places!

Panorama view of Post Park, south of Marathon in Brewster County

Water fowl and song birds!  (click on the photo for a closer view!)
 Some folks think all of Far West Texas is horribly dry or burned, and we say NO!  One off-the-beaten-path oasis, is 5 miles south of MarathonPost Park is a lovely quiet, peaceful place to spend a hot afternoon.  This place was used as a watering area by the Comanche, was the site of a military outpost, and in the Depression, the WPA worked here to create the modern day park.

This is one of the sites on the Far West Texas Wildlife Trail map, as you can see birds and wildlife here every day.  We've seen 50 wild turkey, and a herd of javelina, turtles, fish in the pond, and lots and lots of birds.

Post Park is also the destination of the heritage bike ride, "Ride to the Post," an easy 10 mile out-and-back route.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Vermilion Flycatcher!

A species found at several sites on our new Far West Texas Wildlife Trail map.  We're launching the map at several public parties next week:

June 2, Indian Lodge, Davis Mountains State Park, Fort Davis
June 3, Monahans Sandhills State Park, Monahans
June 4, Keystone Heritage Park, El Paso

Attend one of the events above to get your free copy!

Thanks to TWPD for this great photo!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Regrowth is starting to emerge; plenty of park to enjoy

Still spectacular views from the Rock Shelter atop Davis Mountains State Park
Bits of green starting to emerge in the hardest hit portion of the park

A view from a burned portion of the park (foreground) of a completely unburned mountainside in the park
These views were taken last night from Skyline Drive in Davis Mountains State Park, from some of the hardest hit portions of the park.  The park is mostly unscathed, only 700 of its 2700 acres burned, so there's plenty of untouched land to enjoy--including all the campsites and the beloved Indian Lodge--all untouched.

The park tells us that, "blackened is not dead!" and there are enough bits of green emerging from some of the blackest soil to feel very hopeful about the prospects for this park.   Yesterday more of the campsites were used by visitors getting a truly special experience in the park...the birds and wildlife were active and easy to see and enjoy.

Being there was quiet and peaceful, though the birds were plentiful.  We saw raptors hunting.  The sky was clear and crisp and blue.

We're all waiting for rain.  The park distributed a Q and A flyer about the fire, and here's an important point:

"Q:  What will the Davis Mountains look like in the future?
A:  Fire-dependent habitats rapidly recover from fires.  New green shoots of growth from existing plant roots and new seed germination can already be seen in many areas that burned.  When the region receives rain, grasses and wildflowers will be common within the burned areas, including species that are fire dependent and are usually less common in the landscape.  Remember, blackened does not mean dead!"

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Look like fun?

Check out our two night cycling itinerary -- Marathon to Alpine to Fort Davis, to Marfa, to Alpine and back to Marathon! Read more here.

More about cycling in the Texas Mountain Trail region: www.texasmountaintrail.com/bike
Our list of cycle-friendly accommodations here

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Oh! To wake up in wilderness!

We've been thinking about some of our great adventures over the past year, and one of our favorites was our camping trip in Big Bend Ranch State Park.  We loved waking up to just us and wilderness, sipping our morning coffee while watching the sunrise.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Wishing we were on the road today!

As the region waits to greet large numbers of motorcyclists this weekend, we are experiencing our own version of wanderlust.  We'd love to be heading to Big Bend National Park's basin on ANY mode of transportation--car, motorcycle, bike, horse, even walking!

Thanks to the THC and Randy Mallory for this great photo of Big Bend's Basin!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Yesterday's photos of Fort Davis: even without the benefit of rain, regrowth begins

Outside Fort Davis, a cholla in a field of charred vegetation blooms!
Overnight runoff provides enough moisture for grass to start growing again
Yesterday we headed into Fort Davis, and even without the benefit of rain there's evidence of life and regrowth since the fires.  This town is fully functioning now--and has been since mid April--and is absolutely ready for you to visit.  If you come soon, you'll witness a special time, when wildlife is easier to see and regrowth is starting to occur.

In Davis Mountains State Park, the campers were enjoying lots of room in the (completely unburned) campground.  In our first 15 minutes in the park, we saw a red-tailed hawk hovering over Skyline Drive--mastering the breeze in order to just hang there--looking for prey. Then a blur of red flew by, which we think was a summer tanager.  We also saw a group of four invasive species--aoudad--catching some shade under a surviving green tree in the midst of a burned area on Skyline Drive.  Most of this park's 2700 acres (2000 of it!) was completely untouched by fire.  So there's plenty of it left for you to enjoy!

At the Visitor Center, we picked up a flyer that explains the effect of the Rock House Fire in this park.  Here's some excerpts:

"How does wildfire affect plants and wildlife, and what is the situation in the Davis Mountains?
  • Plants and wildlife in most parts of Texas, including within the Davis Mountains, are adapted to, and even dependent upon, periodic fires.  The disturbance is a natural part of their world, which creates the habitat conditions required for their survival.  This is particularly true for the grasslands surrounding the higher portions of the Davis Mountains.
  • Most animals escape oncoming wildfires by running, flying or retreating underground.  While these animals may be temporarily displaced by fire, they quickly re-colonize burned areas as habitat conditions improve.  Some animals with limited mobility may succumb to fast moving wildfires."
"I enjoy visiting the Davis Mountains to see wildlife.  Since large areas of the range have recently burned, I will probably not see any, right?
  • Actually, your chances of observing wildlife are at least as good as they were before the fire, and they may be better.  It is common to observe many wildfire species such as deer and turkey entering burned areas within an hour after the fire has passed.  Additionally, fires result in a flush of new plant growth which attracts numerous wildlife species.  Hopefully late spring and summer rains will support this re-growth."
The green we saw yesterday along the roadsides may have been the result of overnight moisture collecting on the road, then draining off giving just a little bit of water to the grass just waiting to pop out.  Just think of how green the area will look after our first rain!  Come on out and see it for yourself! 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

We forgot hiking socks! A good place for last minute provisions

Driving to Big Bend from east of here on I-10?  Cycling through?  In need of a good sandwich for the road, grocery items, ice, corkscrew, insect repellent?  Swing on into Marathon and visit the French Co. Grocer, a small , but thoughtfully stocked store.

Their website says, "reflecting the diverse culture of the town and visitors," and that, it certainly does. 

We featured the store in our Texas Mountain Ride!  two night itinerary through Marathon, Alpine, Fort Davis and Marfa.  If you're touring and have a need for bicycle repair, they stock some items for repair, and will help you find someone to handle tough jobs.

They have prepared food and sandwiches, ready for your day's adventures.  There's a covered outdoor eating area and free wi-fi. 

The list below reflects their stock.

Natural, Organic, and Traditional Staple Foods • Fresh Produce • Organic and Lean Meat • Fish and Chicken • Gluten Free Foods • To-Go” Food • Sandwiches • Salads Domestic and Imported Wine and Beer  • Ice • Anderson’s Coffee • Hot coffee and Tea • Hardware • First-Aid • Bicycle Repair • Camping Gear • Socks and Hats • Toys • Picnic Supplies • Health and Beauty Products •


Monday, May 16, 2011

Thanks to many!

"Community" takes many forms, and we're learning that as parts of the region bounce back from the effects of wildfire.  So many folks are pitching in and working hard.  While most of Far West Texas remains untouched--especially the places visitors most enjoy--everyone is working hard to get things back to "normal" as soon as possible.   

One example--the tree planting project to counteract the effect of the Rock House Fire.  Members of the Tierra Grande chapter of Texas Master Naturalists worked with the Texas Forest Service (TFS) to package tree seedlings for the Fort Davis community.  Volunteers wrapped and packaged  tree seedlings of four species grown at TFS nurseries.   One each of Chinkapin Oak, Black Cherry, Flame Sumac and Pinyon Pine were given to residents after a Fire Wise meeting held Thursday evening, May 12th at the Jeff Davis County Courthouse.  Over 2,000 trees were package by the volunteers for county residents.

The Texas Master Naturalist program includes on-going training for its members about the ecology of the region; additionally trainees are asked to give back to the community with volunteer hours toward the conservation of Texas Natural resources.  Master Naturalist volunteers  Laura Belkin, Clare and Gary Freeman, Jill Goodwin, Madge Lindsay, Mary Malmgren,  Robert Steele, Ellen and Lou Weinacht assisted the Texas Forest Service staff  members Oscar Mastes, Patrick Allen, Charles Stair and others who are continuing to help the town recover from wildfire.  

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Behind these doors, the sunlight of our past

Volunteers have transformed the three rooms of 500 S. Oregon Street into a sunny, welcoming place to learn history
Outside banners and historic markers identify the building as a special place in the neighborhood
An altar honoring healers including Teresita Urrea
Banner honoring Teresita Urrea
Walk into the three small rooms of Museo Urbano, and you walk into a community and a history suddenly illuminated by sunshine and the hard work of volunteers.

This working class neighborhood in South El Paso is truly a bridge between Mexico and the United States, yet in earliest memory it was Apache country.  Museo's exhibits tell a rich rapidly unfolding history of this building at 500 S. Oregon Street:

1827      The site is purchased by Juan Maria Ponce de Leone, part of the area known as El Bosque along the Rio Grande
1880      Ben Dowel, first mayor of El Paso owns the land. His wife, Juana Marquez Dowel is a Tigua Indian.  Their photos are on display.
1881      An adobe U.S. Customs House is built on the property
1893      It becomes a Ladies Hospital, championed by humanitarian and philanthropist Olga Kohlberg
1895      The building becomes the Aoy Public School, also called the Mexican Preparatory School, and teaches 500 barrio children
1896-7   Santa Teresita Urrea, a healer who had inspired revolutions in Mexico and banished by President Diaz moves to the building.  Two hundred people a day come to the home to be healed; here, three assassination attempts are made on Urrea's life.
1900      The building becomes a Chinese laundry
1907      Pierre Cazanabe aka Felix Robert, a French bullfighter buys the building.  While here, he organizes bullfights and fights between bulls and buffalos at Juarez's bullring.  Now brick, the building bears his name.
1911      The building becomes home to a bicycle repair shop
1916      The building becomes a saloon
1919-20 Henry Flipper, the first African-American graduate of West Point, and Buffalo Soldier, lives in the building while working as a land surveyor for Albert Fall, then a U.S. Senator and later Secretary of the Interior and key player in the Teapot Dome scandal.

The building continues to be a residence, making it a living, breathing historic site.  Museo Urbano is clearly a labor of love for countless volunteers--including UTEP students and History Department Chair Dr. Yolanda Leyva, and author of Ringside Seat to a Revolution, David Romo.  They've added photographs of early history from the time it was a laundry, a school, a hospital.  There is a video display of more historic images.  An altar honors healers and an exhibit displays plants used for healing.

Inside there's a community scrapbook, a place individuals have added their own images and memories of this neighborhood.  Community members have also brought in altar items, healing plant materials and other artifacts for display.

Come see it yourself before June 15.  Museo Urbano is open Saturdays and Sundays, 10-2, and by appointment.  Walking tours of the neighborhood are also available by appointment.  For more information, call Dr. Yolanda Leyva, 915-747-5508. 

With additional funding...and they are seeking funds...they can keep the building open to the public past June 15.

Museo Urbano is supported in a variety of ways by many departments at University of Texas-El Paso, by the El Paso Public Library, El Paso County Historical Society, and our own Heritage Tourism Partnership Grant through the Texas Mountain Trail and the Texas Historical Commission.  However, the site slated for demolition in a standing city renewal plan. There is a desire to make the area a historic district, hopefully saving important sites like 500 S. Oregon for future generations. Here's a video from Luis Alberto Urrea, about the site.

For more information on Museo Urbano, follow their Facebook page here.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Within steps, fun on the same block in downtown El Paso!

Friday nights, El Paso hosts a free concert downtown in the space between the Museum of Art and the restored Plaza Theatre. Across the street is the El Camino Real Hotel with its beautiful Tiffany glass dome ceiling.  Last night's concert offering was La Imperial Sonora, a tropical, cumbia band, and the crowd loved them.  Lots of fun, all on the same block!
Interior of the bar, El Camino Real hotel in downtown El Paso, marble and cherrywood with Tiffany glass dome ceiling

El Paso Museum of Art, downtown El Paso, has an impressive collection

1930 beautifully restored Plaza Theatre, downtown El Paso
How's this for a Friday afternoon and evening?

Start by taking in the offerings of the Museum of Art, but be sure to get their early enough to take strong collections in European and American Art, as they close at 5pm.  Yesterday we saw a lovely special exhibition of French Masterworks:  Monet to Matisse

Pop across the street to the Hotel El Camino for a cocktail under the Tiffany glass dome ceiling.

Take in one of El Paso's free Alfresco Fridays concerts, or attend a show at the Plaza Theatre.

Finish with a beautiful dinner at Cafe Central. Their chef, Armando Pomales has been nominated twice for a James Beard award.  His signature cream of green chile soup makes us swoon!

For a schedule of this year's free Alfresco Fridays concerts, click here.
To learn more about the Plaza Theatre, click here.
To learn more about the Museum of Art, click here.
A few more steps, down the block a way is the Central Cafe.


Friday, May 13, 2011

Van Horn's view of Six Mile Mountain

Van Horn offers incredible views of the mountains...here's a signature view of Six Mile (that's three miles to get to it from Van Horn, and three miles back) Mountain from just north of town on Hwy 54.  That's the highway that takes you (again) through beautiful scenery to Guadalupe Mountains National Park.  Get off I-10 and you'll be rewarded with untouched mountain views like this one!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Hummingbirds are out in force!!

Click on the photo for a closer view!
We've got a feeder up and the hummers are ACTIVE!  Lots of places to see hummingbirds around the region, consult the Far West Texas Wildlife Trail Map!   This photo was taken in Dog Canyon at the visitor center at the north end of Guadalupe Mountains National Park; another great place to see hummingbirds (they have a special garden to attract them) is the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center in Fort Davis.

We'll have public launch parties for the map, details to follow soon!  In the meantime, put these dates on your calendar:

June 2, Davis Mountains State Park
June 3, Monahans Sandhills State Park
June 4, Keystone Heritge Park, El Paso

All party locations are also wildlife and bird viewing sites on the map, too!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Texas Mountain Ride--a two day overnight on bikes!

Hwy 90 between Alpine and Marfa
Fort Davis National Historic Site
Marathon's French Co. Grocer, a great place for snacks and cycling supplies
Cool treats available at Alpine's Murphy Street Raspa Co.
Beautiful Presidio County Courthouse in Marfa
Adventure Cycling Association published our three-day, two-night cycling itinerary for Marathon, Alpine, Fort Davis and Marfa today on their new Bike Overnights blog, and we wanted to share some of the photographs that didn't get posted on that great new resource for adventurous travelers.  (Thanks to Marci Roberts for the rainbow photograph of Marathon's French Co. Grocery!)

For more regional cycling information, please visit: www.texasmountaintrail.com/bike  and click through to see our heritage bike routes, mountain biking information and a list of cycle-friendly hotels! 

Monday, May 09, 2011

An Outing Near Van Horn

Scrambling up the rocks near Van Horn to get ready for this photo?

What do you think?  From the collection of the Clark Hotel Museum, in Van Horn.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Come on out! Spring is here!

We wanted to show you what's starting to blossom all over the region, pictured here are prickly pear and cholla blossoms seen outside Alpine's Antelope Lodge, one of our Texas Mountain Trail cycle-friendly properties.  Some folks may have heard about wildfires in the region and are delaying vacation plans to the Texas Mountains...we're saying, things are blooming, the land is starting to green up, and the places you love about the Davis Mountains are still here!  Come on out for a visit! 

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Scenes from last night's Wildfire Benefit Concert in Austin!

The first of several benefit concerts for Wildfire Relief was held last night at the Hotel Santa Fe in Austin--this one featured Moonlight Towers, Erika Wennerstrom, Amy Cook & David Garza, Patty Griffin and Shawn Colvin.  Hosted by Liz Lambert, the concert raised funds for agencies assisting in the wildfire:  Jeff Davis County Relief Fund, Marfa Public Radio and the volunteer fire departments in Fort Davis and Marfa. 

Miss last night's festivities?  Here's another benefit concert planned for later this month:

A benefit concert and barbecue will be held Saturday May 21 in Fort Davis at the Union (behind Jeff Davis County Library). Music will be donated by Los Pinche Gringos and the Doodling Hogwallops. Primary sponsors are Davis Mountains Education Center, Porter's Thriftway, B&S Services, Printco, Johnson's Western Wear and Feed and Uncle Buck's Quick Stop. Suggested donation at the door for music is $10 per person, BBQ dinner is $8. All proceeds go to Jeff Davis County Relief Fund. Dinner is from 6:00 pm until its gone, music from 8:00pm - 1:00am. BYOB

Come, enjoy, help!

Thanks to Pete Szilagyi for the photos!