Sunday, July 31, 2011

Cool Places on Hot Days! Shade of the Rocks at Hueco Tanks!

Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site, just a half hour from El Paso, has caves and rock overhangs that offer shelter from the sun's heat.  These are places early people marked the rocks with pictographs.  It was recently nominted as one of the National Trust for Historic Preservation's This Place Matters campaign.  Their website says this,"This place matters because it gives our visitors a rare glimpse into the minds and cultures of peoples of the past, through amazing painted images. It is a place that allows recreation in a wild and unique landscape, while inspiring stewardship for cultural heritage and the natural environment. This place preserves an irreplaceable connection to our shared past, for the benefit of today's visitors and future generations."

Due to the fragile nature of the rock art and the popularity of this small park for boulderers and birders, entry is limited.  Plan ahead, make reservations and enjoy! 

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Cool Places on Hot Days! El Paso's Downtown Museum Campus

El Paso Museum of History, from Santa Fe Street, Downtown El Paso
El Paso has many great museums, many of them within blocks of each other in the downtown area.
Visitor Information Center, run by the El Paso Convention and Visitors Bureau (on Santa Fe Street)
El Paso Museum of Art (also on Santa Fe Street, right downtown!)

If you have questions about where the museums are located, check out the El Paso Convention and Visitors Bureau Visitors Center, One Civic Center Plaza, along Santa Fe Street, right downtown!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Cool Places on Hot Days! Inside the adobe walls of Fort Leaton!

Fort Leaton's thick adobe walls offer a cool oasis for travelers on the River Road between Lajitas and Presidio.  Now a state historic site, part of the Texas Parks and Wildlife system, it is open for day use by visitors.  A bit about Fort Leaton from its 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."

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Cool Places on Hot Days! Big Bend National Park Hot Springs along the Rio Grande!

Big Bend National Park's Hot Springs is a natural gathering area, and a place to learn (with your feet!) lessons about geothermal power.  If the water level is right, you can put one foot in the cool Rio Grande river, and other in the warm water (105 degrees!) of the hot springs ruin! 

Here's the park's page, "Take a Soak in the Hot Springs"

Here's a guide to the history of this special place!   This page also has a great suggested reading list so you can learn more about the area!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Cool Places on Hot Days! Frozen Limeades at Marfa's Pizza Foundation!

Cherry, Mango, Blueberry Frozen Limeades (L to R) from Marfa's Pizza Foundation
Shaded outdoor patio seating
Located at the flashing red light/4way stop at Hwy 67 and 90 in the center of Marfa
One of our favorite treats in the region, especially during hot weather, is Marfa's Pizza Foundation's frozen limeades!  Made in many intriguing flavors which rotate from time to time (how about watermelon-mint?), they almost always have our two favorites--cherry and mango!

You can connect with them via facebook! 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Cool places for hot days! Smith Spring at Guadalupe Mountains National Park

One of our very favorite hikes in the region is Guadalupe Mountains National Park's Smith Spring trail, offering hikers are true oasis of cool and green in the desert.  The park's website says this about the trail:

Begin this hike at the trailhead sign. Look for birds, mule deer, and elk as you walk this loop trail to the shady oasis of Smith Spring. Take a break here and enjoy the gurgling sounds of the tiny waterfall before continuing around to sunny Manzanita Spring. Scars from wildland fires of 1990 and 1993 are evident along the trail. The trail is rated moderate, with a round-trip distance of 2.3 miles. Allow one to two hours.

Click here for our images and a slide show of this great hiking trail!

For more information on regional hiking, visit:

Monday, July 25, 2011

Cool places for hot days! Chinati Hot Springs' Cool Pool

The "Cool Pool" at Chinati Hot Springs, a nice traditional swimming pool in full view of the mountains
Chinati Hot Springs in Presidio County (west of Presidio, south of Marfa) has a "cool pool" as well as hot springs!  What a lovely way to cool off on a hot day! 

One of the Hot Springs Pools
 From their website: 
An oasis nestled deep in the Chinati Mountains of West Texas, The Chinati Hot Springs offers its visitors a one-of-a-kind experience. Opened in the 1930’s by the Kingston family and once owned by renowned minimalist artist Donald Judd, the natural spring has provided healing waters to the indigenous people of the area for thousands of years. Today, the Springs offer a peaceful atmosphere for people to relieve themselves of the stresses of everyday life and discover the restorative waters that have made this area so magical.
Said to be beneficial for relieving arthritis, stomach ulcers and healing a variety of skin conditions, the waters of the Springs are a great way to regenerate your body and mind. Flowing from the ground at approximately 110 degrees, the waters contain lithium, arsenic, and a variety of other natural healing minerals that will help you relax, rejuvenate yourself and enjoy your time at the Springs.
In order to fully enjoy the relaxation of the waters, The Chinati Hot Springs offers a variety of activities to keep the mind and body active as well. There are trails for hiking, mountain biking, or exploring the natural beauty of the unspoiled lands of deep canyons, cottonwood lined creek beds, distinctive geology and stunning sunsets. Many forms of wildlife are attracted to this oasis, and among them are many species of rare birds, which offer enjoyment year-round. Or you can just kick back, soak and enjoy your surroundings.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Cool Places for Hot Days: The River is UP!

Many visitors to the Big Bend say their river trip was an absolute highlight of their time in Far West Texas.  Mexico released water in to the Rio Grande so now's a GREAT time to take a river trip!  Visit Big Bend has a river trips page, listing Far Flung Outdoor Center, Desert Sports, and Big Bend River Tours as qualified outfitters.

Here's a link to Big Bend National Park's Backcountry River Use page, for your information, as well as their Floating the Rio Grande page, and their river use regulations page.

Thanks to the Texas Historical Commission and Randy Mallory for use of this photo!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Classic Movie Adventure

Lobby of the 1930 Plaza Theatre today

Look up!  Lovely details everywhere, including the ceiling

Stencil art in the Plaza Theatre
 Coming up August 4-14, movie enthusiasts can not only escape the summer heat by slinking down into cushy movie seats and watching classics such as Raiders of the Lost Ark, Fantasia, 8 1/2, The Searchers, Guys and Dolls on the BIG screen, but they can do it in perfectly restored 1930s loveliness.  Ten days of glorious movie history (plus some new flicks, too!) will be shown at the historic--and fully restored--Plaza Theatre in downtown El Paso.  Critics such as Leonard Maltin will host screenings and share thoughts about the films.  The Plaza Classic Film Festival is the world's largest festival devoted to classic film!
Visit our Plaza Theatre Film Adventure page for more information and links!

You won't encounter gooey seats or an "old" theatre experience...the Plaza is gorgeous and perfectly and lovingly restored.  We invite you to take the virtual tour, via the link on this page!  See it for yourself!

The Plaza offers a theatrical experience
inside the theatre itself,
as well as the a lovely light fixture
History from the Plaza Theatre's website
By the late 1920s, El Paso was a growing metropolis. With a population of 100,000, El Paso already had two airports, numerous theaters, a fully-developed trolley system and all of the amenities of any other modern city.
At the center of it all was the Plaza Theatre, which opened September 12, 1930 to a capacity crowd of 2,410. It was advertised as the largest theater of its kind between Dallas and Los Angeles. Designed as a modern film house with the flexibility of presenting stage shows, the Plaza eventually hosted popular traveling shows and movies, becoming a fixture in the lives of theatergoers for generations to come.
Although several theaters existed in downtown El Paso at the time the Plaza Theatre opened, its size, elaborate decor, and technical innovations made it stand out. No expense was spared in creating this elaborate building, designed in Spanish Colonial Revival style of architecture. While the exterior facade was designed to be reminiscent of a Spanish mission-style parapet, patrons were awed by the interior, with its intricately painted ceilings, mosaic-tiled floors, decorative metal railings and sconces and, to heighten the effect, antique furnishings. With such grandiose rococo design, itís no wonder the Plaza was known as The Showplace of the Southwest.
Perhaps most impressive of all was the $60,000 Mighty Wurlitzer Organ, elevating from the orchestra pit to accompany vaudeville shows, sing-a-longs, and to entertain patrons before and after films. Its toy box provided it with the versatility to replicate such sounds as horses hooves, the ocean surf and birds chirping.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Thank you Van Horn and the Hotel El Capitan!

Hummingbird feeders hanging in the plaza patio provide entertainment for visitors

The plaza patio and fountain at the historic Hotel El Capitan
This week, the Texas Mountain Trail hosted the statewide meeting of the 10 heritage trails regions, coordinated by the Texas Historical Commission.  We want to thank the town of Van Horn and its people for their hospitality, with a special thanks to the historic Hotel El Capitan for providing meeting space for us for three days. 

The Hotel is a participant in our cycle-friendly program, and is the anchor for the El Capitan to El Capitan Heritage Bike Route!  It is also a popular lodging choice for travelers heading to Guadalupe Mountains National Park. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Beautiful evening light at Red Rock Ranch

Red Rock Ranch offers guided tours of their majestic mountains north of Van Horn.  We recently took the sunset tour, and were treated to this lovely light at the end of the day.  Below...too small to see...were three big horn sheep!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Van Horn's Red Rock Ranch

Have you ever just wanted to be in a landscape so big you just HAD to capture it and take it home with you?  Look no further than Van Horn's Red Rock Ranch, where we were last night to see the landscape and watch the sun go down....oh yes, and catch a few pictures while we were at it. 
Thanks to Mark Wolfe, Executive Director of the Texas Historical Commission, for this shot of the Texas Mountain Trail's Executive Director, Beth Nobles, shooting the landscape!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Views of Indian Lodge

One of the most beloved places in our region, Indian Lodge in Davis Mountains State Park in Fort Davis.  It is in fine shape, having survived area wildfires due to the work of park officials and fire fighters this spring. 
Open for business and ready for your visit, the historic section of the lodge was constructed in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and features the original interiors and furnishings. In 1967, a major construction project was completed, including renovation of the original structure, which has eighteen-inch adobe walls, hand-carved cedar furniture, and ceilings of pine viga and latilla. It resembles a Southwestern Native-American-style, multilevel pueblo village. Indian Lodge was voted the #1 accommodation in Texas by readers of Texas Highways magazine in 1992.
Enjoy relaxing in this lovely spot after hiking in the park, or take a dip in the mountainside pool!  Make your reservations in advance, for the Lodge is often full! 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sunrise over Hwy 54

How about a sunrise to start the day?  Taken over Hwy 54 just north of Van Horn on the way to Guadalupe Mountains National Park!  This route is also a heritage bike route, the El Capitan to El Capitan!  Read about it here!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Big Bend Ranch Rodeo's Chuckwagon Contest

One of Alpine's premier events each year is the Big Bend Ranch Rodeo, an opportunity for real cowboys to show off real cowboy skills.  This year's event is August 12-13 at Sul Ross's rodeo grounds at their Range Animal Science Center on Hwy 90 E.  Also part of the festivities is a Chuckwagon Contest; read about that here.

For the rodeo calendar listing on the Texas Mountain Trail website, click here.  To visit the rodeo's website, click here.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Taken Yesterday! Wildfire Burned Areas Regrowing Near Fort Davis

The burned roadside along Hwy 17 between Fort Davis and Marfa shows plantlife coming back.  The roadside itself is beginning to be covered in the Irish green of regrowth, and whisps of green are coming back all across the ranchland nearby.  A couple of more rains and we'll be covered with green!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Love those Lizard Pushups! Jack Comics!

Click on the drawings for a closer view, so you can see very nuance!  (Love those lizard pushups!)
Thanks to Chris Ruggia of Alpine, we can once again share a bit of his Jack Comics!  From Chris:

"The Greater Earless Lizard (Cophasaurus texanus) has two appearances in my comics, thanks to two great information sources.

Before I really began making my comic, the late and greatly missed Dr. James F. Scudday (co-founder of the Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute and Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Sul Ross State University) graciously offered me an hour or two of his time discussing the animals of the Big Bend region. In addition to recommending resource literature, he gave me a great overview of animals I might consider as characters and offered many observations on their diets, population dynamics, odd behaviors, etc.

His account of the earless lizard's penchant for warming itself in the middle of roads led to its own 3-page comic, Center Stripe ( ). This short story stands on its own and features a rabbit who is not Jack, but looks amazingly like him.

A couple of years later, after the comic was well underway, I attended a Big Bend Natural History Association Seminar on the snakes and lizards of the Big Bend, presented by BBNP Interpretive Chief David Elkowitz. David offered a fascinating account of a study on the territorial behavior
of earless lizards, which in turn became Episodes 25-29 ( ) of Jack.

More than any other character, my earless lizard owes its existence solely to these in-person contacts with experts rather than to printed or online reference sources.

More episodes of Jack: Adventures in Texas' Big Bend can be found at its web site ( ) and for more frequent sketches and status updates, follow the Jack Facebook page ( )!

Thanks again to Alpine's Chris Ruggia for introducing his Big Bend characters of Jack Comics!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Power of Restoration - Fort Davis

Photo from Library of Congresss:  Historic American Buildings Survey, Marvin Eickenroht, Photographer May 23, 1936 NORTHEAST ELEVATION OFFICERS QUARTERS (EAST FRONT AND NORTH SIDE).
Frankly, we were shocked to see photographs of Fort Davis in the collection of the Library of Congress, dating back to 1936, forty-five years after the closing of the fort.  Today the fort is so loved, it is almost unimaginable to think of the property in such disrepair. 

Why was the fort abandoned?  From the National Park Service website:   "It was peaceful during the last ten years (1881-1891) the fort was in existence. Soldiers from the fort still patrolled the western frontier, but they were more involved in surveying or repairing roads and telegraph lines. The fort, however, continued to grow. By the late 1880s, it had gas lightening, running water, and an ice machine. It had over one hundred buildings, and its excellent hospital treated people from all around the area – not just people who lived at the fort.
   The post, nevertheless, was isolated. Located twenty miles from the nearest railroad station, it was built on land the government did not own. Raiding by Comanches or Apaches was over. By June of 1891, the army had judged Fort Davis to have “outlived its usefulness” and ordered it - one of the largest and most prominent frontier military posts in the American Southwest - to be abandoned."

The Fort Davis Chamber of Commerce picks up the story: "In May 1946 David A. Simmons of Houston, former president of the American Bar Association, bought the property on which the old fort stood with the intention of restoring it and opening it to the public as a year-round resort. Simmons died in 1951, before his plan could be realized, but in September 1961 Fort Davis National Historic Site came into being; the 460-acre site was formally dedicated in April 1966."

This fall, the Fort Davis National Historic Site will celebrate its 50 years as a National Park Service facility. (Stay tuned for information on the celebration!)  Clearly, we're the benefactors of the advocacy, love and care and funding from others coming before us...we still have the fort to enjoy and tell us about the past.  Restoration continues with the leadership of the National Park Service staff and many volunteers. 

In fact, restoration of the fort hospital is an ongoing and active project, aided by the Friends of Fort Davis.  Read about it here.   And in recent years, land was purchased above the property to preserve its pristine setting.  You can join the effort by becoming a member of the friends organization, here.

Read more about the history of the fort, here.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Cathedral Mountain, South of Alpine

Taken yesterday afternoon, from Hwy 118 south of Alpine in the way to Terlingua/Study Butte!  And overnight, those clouds did bring some of the region a little bit of rain!

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Lost Finlay, Texas

"Post office, Finlay, Texas" 1937, Dorothea Lange
"The postmaster's seat, Finlay, Texas" Dorothea Lange
A railroad stop west of Sierra Blanca in Hudspeth County, Finlay was photographed in 1937 by Dorothea Lange for the U.S. Farm Security Administration. 

No longer a stop, Finlay may be considered one of those "lost" places in the region.  On the Southern Pacific line, Finlay's reason for existing is explained by Larry Francell, of Fort Davis, retired Director of the Museum of the Big Bend "Steam locomotives consumed vast amounts of fuel (coal primarily) and water.  Regular water stops were required, with the distances determined by natural sources or locations where wells could established." 

Thanks to Larry Francell and to Texas Mountain Trail board member, Travis Roberts for their help with this entry!Photo Credit: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection, [ LC-USF34-016741-E ] and Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection, [LC-USF34-016740-E]

Sunday, July 10, 2011

You can see for miles and miles with little trace of man

One of our favorite places is a road connecting Hwy 90 to Fort Davis' Scenic Loop...FM 505 is a long, mostly flat stretch of road that allows you to see large swaths of land and sky with very little evidence of man in the way.  It is a wonderful place to see raptors and sometimes pronghorn. To get there, head south from Van Horn, through Valentine.  About seven miles south of Valentine, there's a turnoff to the east...that's 505. 

This road had a starring role in a sweet film about small town Texas (starring Fort Davis), called "Dancer, Texas, Pop. 81".  In fact a view of the road begins this movie! 

For more information on movies shot in the region, visit our webpage, here!

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Looking for a Trail race? Consider the Big Bend Ultra--10K, 25K or 50K!

A runner crosses the 10K finish line in the 2011 race!
Held as a fundraising (and fun-raising!) event by the Friends of Big Bend National Park, the Big Bend Ultra is back!  Held last January after a hiatus, the race was so popular it will be back next year so reserve Martin Luther King weekend on your calendar and ENTER NOW!    The race (choose between 10K, 25K or 50K distances) will be held on the trails of Big Bend National Park, Sunday, January 15.

For more regional running information, visit: