Friday, September 30, 2011

Big Bend's South Rim at Sunset

This beautiful image was taken atop the Chisos on one of our signature Texas Mountain hikes, Big Bend's South Rim.  You can see far into Mexico....beautiful!  It was sent to us by veteran guide, trip leader and author, Jim Glendinning.  He is the author of Adventures in the Big Bend, now it its fourth edition.  A Scottish native, Jim has been a resident of the region for many years.  He's a exemplary tour organizer and guide, taking small groups on trips to Big Bend, Scotland and Mexico. Jim and his books are wonderful resources for travelers...check them out!

Big Bend National Park's website link

Thanks, Jim, for sharing this beautiful photo--taken just 10 days ago at sunset--with us all!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Beauty on the way there

This week we headed to the Guadalupe Mountains National Park, and the drive reminded us just how BEAUTIFUL the ride is north from Van Horn.  Hwy 54 starts at I-10 in Van Horn and runs directly north, right to the national park.  It is a spectacular 55 miles!

The road is also our El Cap to El Cap Heritage Bike Ride, read more about it here!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wildlife studies at one of our gateways--Balmorhea State Park with Texas Master Naturalists

A softshell turtle from the canal
Double-click on any of these photos for a closer view!
Dr. Chris Ritzi, of Sul Ross State University presented an overview of the insect world and led us on our own specimen collecting adventure

Fresh water crayfish, the endangered Comanche Springs pupfish, and other aquatic life from the canal at Balmorhea State Park
Last weekend, we spent time at one of our gateway attractions, Balmorhea State Park, just outside our region.  We were there with the Tierra Grande Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists, learning about ichythology, ecological concepts and soils, and entomology, and the issues and species in our region.  After a lecture on the various species of bees, beetles and other insect life, Sul Ross State University's Dr. Chris Ritzi, gave us each an insect net and showed us how to capture and inspect individual species.

We highly recommend the Texas Master Naturalist Program for anyone who wants to learn about nature in their own region.  And we recommend you take a stroll down the canals and to the cienega, on your next visit to Balmorhea State Park.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Just outside our region: Balmorhea State Park

Many people make a stop just outside our region, on their way to the Texas Mountains.  Balmorhea State Park is one of the most visited state parks, largely because of the unusual pool.  This is the Balmorhea State Park most people recognize...the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) made pool. 

The park's website says:
"the park's main attraction is a large (77,053 sq. ft.) artesian spring pool that is open daily and fed by San Solomon Springs. The springs also fill a 'cienega' (desert wetland) and the canals of a refugium, home to endangered species of fish, assorted invertebrates, and turtles. The pool differs from most public pools in several respects: the 1 3/4-acre size, the 25-foot depth and the 72 to 76 degree constant temperature. It also has a variety of aquatic life in its clear waters. With a capacity of more than 3 1/2 million gallons, the pool has plenty of room for swimmers, while offering a unique setting for scuba and skin diving." 

On our recent visit, we swam in the pool, but we also spent time exploring the canals and the cienega. We encourage you to do that too, on your next visit.

Tomorrow, more photos of the cienega, catching insects with the Tierra Grande Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists and water life!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Honoring the Buffalo Soldiers, Concordia Cemetery in El Paso

One of the best stories and most distinguished histories coming out of our region is that of the Buffalo Solider. 
Many visitors to our region appreciate Fort Davis National Historic Site's connection to Buffalo Soldiers.  Yet our history goes beyond Fort Davis.

Enthusiastic volunteers keep the legacy of the Buffalo Soldiers alive elsewhere.  For example, different groups of volunteers have worked together in El Paso to honor the soldiers.  One of the best places to see their work is in Concordia Cemetery in the shadow of the Franklin Mountains in the center of the city.  Click here to see the website of the Buffalo Soldiers, Donnie W. Brown Chapter, 9th & 10th (Horse) Cavalry Association of El Paso, Texas.

Here's a quote from their website:  "When the Plains Indians first saw the men of the 10th Cavalry wearing with their dark skins, curly hair and wearing fur overcoats they referred to them as "Buffalo Soldiers." The nickname "Buffalo Soldiers" was originally given to the 10th Cavalry by Cheyenne warriors out of respect for their fierce fighting in 1867. The Cheyenne Native American term used was actually "Wild Buffaloes", which was translated to "Buffalo Soldiers." In time, all African American Soldiers became known as "Buffalo Soldiers." Despite second-class treatment these soldiers made up first-rate regiments of the highest caliber and had the lowest desertion rate in the Army."
True West magazine named Concordia Cemetery one of the "Best Preserved Gravesites in the West," and that's because of the countless hours put in by volunteers to preserve the cemetery and interpret the stories of the people of El Paso.  An entire section of the cemetery is dedicated to the graves and the service of the Buffalo Soldiers.  Hats off to the volunteers of the Concordia Heritage Association and the Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club for all their hard work!

Watch the memorial as it is built, through photos posted by the El Paso Buffalo Soliders Motorcycle down at this link!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Acres and acres to yourself--camping in Big Bend Ranch State Park

Campsite in Big Bend Ranch State Park
another view of the campsite at dawn
All the space you could possibly want...that's a hallmark of our region.  And there's few locations with wider, wilder places than Big Bend Ranch State Park.  Camping is truly special.  Here's a link to more information!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Lost Colony exhibit at Alpine's Museum of the Big Bend

Davis Mountains, Watercolor, 1922, 19 X 19, Mabel Vandiver
Fort Hays State University Collection, Hays Kansas
Mabel Vandiver
Mabel Vandiver, 1886-1991, taught at Sul Ross from 1922 to 1925. After leaving, she joined the staff at Fort Hays State College in Hays, Kansas, in 1933. She became head of the Art Department in 1941 through 1951, and retired from the school in 1954. A consummate artist, she worked in all media, including at the age of ninety-nine experimenting with oil crayon.

Museum of the Big Bend is hosting a major retrospective of early Texas artists and their students who were at Sul Ross State University. The Lost Colony: Texas Regionalist Paintings surveys the first 30 years of the Art Department and the establishment of an Art Colony at the school. This Art Colony was active from 1932 to 1950.
The Art Colony began in 1932 when San Antonio native, Julius Woeltz was hired to head the Art Department. He immediately started an Art Colony and chose his former art instructor, Xavier Gonzalez, as the instructor. That first Art Colony was based out of Kokernot Lodge in Alpine, Texas.
The Museum of the Big Bend is located on the campus of Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas.  Operating hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 9am to 5pm and Sunday, 1 to 5pm.  Admission is free. Donations are gratefully accepted. Free parking.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Dan Baeza Week Concludes!

We've been enjoying the work of Van Horn native, Dan Baeza, all week long.  His eye for our landscape and life in Far West Texas helps us all see our high desert land just a little bit better.  Please head on over to his website, here, to see more of his work.   Thank you for sharing your work, Dan!

Thursday, September 22, 2011


We're featuring the new work of Van Horn native, Dan Baeza, this week.  Dan finds inspiration from our Far West Texas landscape, even though he is studying at Texas A&M University- Commerce in Commerce.  Lovely!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The lovely green of agave

We're featuring the work of Van Horn native, Dan Baeza, all this week.  He's just launched a new website, featuring his work.  Click here to see more!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Dan Baeza week continues!

A Van Horn native, Dan Baeza knows horses and mountain landscapes.  Dan is a student in his junior year at Texas A&M University- Commerce in Commerce, Texas.  We're featuring his work all week!  We love this view of horses and landscape...touching and beautiful!  Click here to see other images on his website!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Far West Texas Roadside by Dan Baeza

We enjoyed his work before on this blog, so we were delighted to hear that Dan Baeza had more images to share with you all!   Dan is from Van Horn, is studying at Texas A&M University- Commerce in Commerce, Texas and is in his junior year.  He finds much of his inspiration in the far West Texas region!

Click here to see images on his website, and stay tuned right here for his images all week!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Dawn at Big Bend Ranch State Park

When you're in Big Bend Ranch State Park, the landscape and the sky fuse, especially at sunrise and sunset.  Lots of beautiful campsites; hiking, mountain biking, and horse trails to enjoy!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Watching the hummingbirds at the feeder

All over the region, the hummingbirds are still coming to the feeders!

Double-click on any of these to get a closer view!

The hummers are still visiting feeders in the region.  Here are a few of our favorite places to see them!
Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center, outside Fort Davis
Mountain Trails Lodge and Expedition Center outside Fort Davis (formerly Davis Mountains Education Center)
McIvor Center, Davis Mountains Preserve, outside Fort Davis
Dog Canyon Visitor Center, Guadalupe Mountains National Park
All these places are on the Far West Texas Wildlife Trail! 

Do you have a favorite places to see hummingbirds in Far West Texas in the Texas Mountain Trail region?  Let us know!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Our float down the Rio Grande, through Big Bend Ranch State Park with Big Bend River Tours!

All week we've been featuring our recent one-day Saddle/Paddle tour with Lajitas Stables and Big Bend River Tours down on the Rio Grande in Big Bend Ranch State Park.

Some of us like to travel solo.  Others like to take a tour...and when you've got a good guide, they can definitely add value to your experience.  This was the case with Janelle, our "saddle" guide, and with John, our "paddle" guide.

As we traveled down the river, John deftly read his charges...letting us appreciate the quiet, while pointing out interesting wildlife and geological formations along the way.  His enthusiasm for the region and for the river was infectious, and when we asked questions, his knowledged deepened our experience.  Not only could he tell us about the flora and fauna of the riverside, but he spoke knowledgably about the restaurants and nightspots in Terlingua and Study Butte--we were working up an appetite! 

All too soon, the Big Bend River Tours truck came into view, and it was time to leave the river.  We know we'll be back to enjoy another leisurely paddle when the river level is low, or a rolicking trip on a raft when the flow is higher and faster.  Either way, we'll know we'll have a terrific day.

Our thanks to both Lajitas Stables and Big Bend River Tours, and to Janelle and John!  We'll be back!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Paddling the Rio Grande

All the hard work is done for tour participants, from unloading the canoes to getting us fitted with life jackets!
The Rio Grande was tranquil the day of our tour...
making for a relaxing trip.
All the gear is provided!
Our guide, John, of Big Bend River Tours
It seems we'd just finished our tasty roast chicken lunch in "Lunchbox Canyon" and ridden a short distance back to the stable, when it was time to say goodbye to Janelle and our horses.  We'd had a FUN morning, but it was time for our new adventure, and the folks from Big Bend River Tours were ready and waiting for us!

They took us by van to our departure point, the La Cuesta River Access of Big Bend Ranch State Park.  Because the river level was down, we were going to enjoy a gentle float down the Rio Grande by canoe.  Had we taken our adventure a few weeks earlier--just after Mexico released water into the river--we would have traveled by raft through rapids!  But, today called for a leisurely, relaxing kind of "take your time" adventure the exemplifies the Big Bend.  And we were up for that!

Every need was accommodated; all the equipment provided, even shade umbrellas if we wanted them!  All we had to do was relax and enjoy the water and the steep cliffs of the Rio Grande. 

We watched shorebirds scratch at the pebbly riverbank, turtles catching a few rays, butterflies, tiny lizards, dragonflies, and a squirrel scampering up the canyon wall.

Tomorrow, we continue our adventure on the river as part of our one day, Saddle/Paddle tour!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A delicious lunch pulled from the saddlebag!

We leave our horses for the shade of a canyon, while Janelle pulls a delicious lunch from the saddlebags!
Janelle carves and entire roast chicken for our lunch!
Black bean and corn salad, carrots, cheese and crackers, roast chicken!  Yum!
By the time lunch came, we were more than ready.  The day's heat was climbing and we took refuge in a canyon Janelle said had been dubbed, "Lunchbox Canyon."  Here we sat next to the canyon walls, in the shade, enjoying a few moments of quiet while Janelle pulled a delicious lunch out of her saddlebags.

Next, our afternoon on the Rio Grande....the "paddle" portion of this one-day Saddle/Paddle Adventure on the Rio Grande!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A stop at the top, views from our Big Bend Saddle/Paddle trip

The Rio Grande is far below our mountaintop rest
We stop for photos!
Our guide, Janelle, points out landmarks in the scenery
Our ride takes us past dramatic formations and views of the landscape
Stay tuned!  Tomorrow, we continue our Saddle/Paddle trip..and we stop in a "lunchbox canyon" for a shaded, restful, and delicious lunch!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Saddle/Paddle Tour of Big Bend!

 Over the next few days, we'll show you our recent one day Saddle/Paddle tour of the Big Bend!   
Getting up in the saddle!

If we'd had some trepidation about getting on a horse for the first time in decades, our guide Janelle of Lajitas Stables put all fears to rest.  She put us all on horses that were surefooted and responsive to the reins, and as thoroughly inspiring of confidence as Janelle herself.  A California native, she'd worked with horses for many years, including a stint in England.   Now in Texas for six years, and obviously completely in her element here, we knew we were in good hands.

We headed UP the mountain above the stable headquarters on the River Road, Hwy 170, just west of Lajitas.  The trail was rocky and rough, and we imagine people from other centuries--native Americans, soldiers, settlers, cowboys--moving through this landscape on horseback.  The sky was clear, the day lovely even as the temperature rose.  Our leisurely pace allowed us to see cactus close up, and listen to the breeze rush through the desert grasses. 

Before we knew it, we were on top of the mountain, and the rest of the world seemed far, far away.  No more car noise, no airplanes above.  All we could hear seemed timeless...our horses climbing, the wind, our own hushed conversations. As we continued up through Big Bend Ranch State Park, we eventually saw the Rio Grande down below us, a lovely ribbon of green cutting through the mountains. 

We're on the trail!

Our view of the Rio Grande!
 Tomorrow, more views from the Trail in Big Bend Ranch State Park and our Saddle tour!