Monday, October 31, 2011

Oasis in Big Bend Ranch State Park, Ojito Adentro trail

The trail head: we'll be heading off to the green cottonwood trees in the distance (seen through the ocotillo!)
Big Bend Ranch State Park offers so many lovely surprises, including the Ojito Adentro trail, an easy-to-get-to oasis from the hot sun.  We've just shared 10 seconds of a shaded portion of the trail here, and if you want to learn more, take a look at our friend Derrick Birdsall's blog entry.

Despite our dry conditions, the trail's end does have water and restorative shade along the way.

You can get to the trailhead from the main road to Sauceda 4x4 vehicle required! 

We were lucky enough to be part of a group of Texas Master Naturalists...interested?  Read more here!

Would you like to see more of our videos?  Visit our YouTube page, here.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Fall Color Update for Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Our friends at Guadalupe Mountains National Park are putting fall color updates on their website and facebook page...and we'll also post information on fall color on our Texas Mountain Trail facebook page as well.  Stay tuned for the best information about this rare Texas treasure!  Traditionally NOW is the peak time to see fall color, however it seems we're slow this year and some years there is no real peak.   Best trails for color are traditionally McKittrick Canyon and Devil's Hall.  Enjoy these hiking trails regardless of the time of year...both are terrific!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Presidio's Enlightened Bean Cafe and the remnants of a wonderful lunch

If you're down in Presidio, may we offer a recommendation?  For morning coffee, breakfast or lunch, visit the Enlightened Bean Cafe!  Located on the main street, O'Reilly Street near the intersection with the River Road, Hwy 170, the cafe offers great food.  We had a terrific lunch--the remnants you see here--of a combo fajitas plate, chips and hot salsa, and a luncheon brisket burrito after a quick camping trip to Chinati Hot Springs. Another nearby attraction is Fort Leaton State Historic Site.

Open Monday through Saturday, 7 am to 3 pm!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Who woke us up at Chinati Hot Springs? Take a closer look!

A favorite getaway of locals is the historic Chinati Hot Springs, and that's where we enjoyed camping on Wednesday night.  Isolated, the property is about 45 minutes from Presidio on the "good road" and an adventurous 90 minutes or so from Marfa via the rugged 4x4 only Pinto Canyon Road.  We like camping there because it is a lovely place, PLUS you get the use of a swimming pool (called the "cool pool") as well as the spring-fed warm and hot pools, and a common kitchen.  We last visited the property a few years ago, and upon our arrival this week we were pleased to learn the kitchen had all new appliances making it even more welcoming. 

We brought our mountain bikes and enjoyed the roads leading up to the Hot Springs property, then we took a quick hike on the trail at the top of the canyon walls.  

The Hot Springs property is a site on the Far West Texas Wildlife Trail map, and while we were there we saw many birds including an owl and covey of quail, and look whose bray woke us up in the morning?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

How do you dress for a hike?

Unknown couple, on the Beach Ranch outside Van Horn.  From the collection of the Clark Hotel Museum, Van Horn!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

More from the Museum of the Big Bend's "Lost Colony" Exhibition

Untitled,Oil, n.d. 7 X 10, Anna Keener, Collection of the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum
Here's another fine beauty from Alpine's Museum of the Big Bend's exhibition called,"The Lost Colony," about artists working at Sul Ross State University.
Anna Keener taught in the Art Department at Sul Ross from 1925 to 1926. Of her time spent at Sul Ross she wrote that it "ruined me for all later positions" due to support she received from the college.  This piece is called, "Untitled."  Credit line for the image: Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, Canyon, Texas.

More about "The Lost Colony" from the Museum's website:

"Hidden in the mountains of the vast Big Bend, a fledgling teachers college played an important role in the Texas Regionalist Art Movement. In this remote place, a simple Department of Drawing metamorphosed into a vibrant and dynamic art department.

The Art Department at Sul Ross State Teacher’s College created an Art Colony by inviting guest artists and students to the high desert to challenge themselves in an unfamiliar landscape. For over 15 years, the Art Colony was a successful and popular summer course; however, for reasons unknown it simply faded away.
The Lost Colony: Texas Regionalist Paintings rediscovers and celebrates this important chapter in early Texas art."
Catch the exhibition on display through January 29, 2012!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Nursing Pronghorn Fawns by Carolyn Nored Miller

"Pronghorn fawns spend most of their time alone, inert on the ground until they are strong enough to make a thirty-mile-per-hour sprint.  It may take as little as three days to develop that kind of speed, at which point they can keep pace with the mildly panicked adults.  Still they are not fast enough for a serious chase, so for eight weeks they keep to the ground.  Within hours, sometimes minutes, of birth, they seek a hiding place, drop, and wait.  The technique works.  Wildlife researchers have observed standing fawns from a distance, but when they have walked down, startling the fawns into hiding, they have been unable to find the animals." From The Animal Dialogues, by Craig Childs. 

You can read more about pronghorn here

Again our hearty thanks to Carolyn Nored Miller of Fort Davis for this wonderful photo taken in Jeff Davis County!  With her permission, we'll most more photos by Carolyn from around Fort Davis.  In addition to taking photographs, she's also the publisher of San Angelo Family magazine.  Thanks again, Carolyn!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Pronghorn Herd

"They do not run like deer, who will gather speed with hesitation, glancing back, bounding, jumping and weaving between trees.  Not like elk, the ones that crash and gallop, heavy and solid, moving toward a forest into which they can vanish.  The pronghorn were gone with grace, sprinting into the open.  They moved like birds, swerving together as they aimed for a single point.  They are the fastest long-distance runners on the continent, some of the fastest land creatures in the world, clocked at nearly sixty miles per hour.  They have been known to clear thirty feed without touching the ground."  From The Animal Dialogues, by Craig Childs. 

You can read more about pronghorn here.  (include link:

We thank Carolyn Nored Miller of Fort Davis for this lovely photo taken in Jeff Davis County.  Carolyn publishes San Angelo Family magazine.  Thanks again, Carolyn!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Big Bend Ultra!

Here's your chance to run a trail race in Big Bend National Park!  The folks at Friends of Big Bend National Park announced Friday that spaces in their 50K and 25K race, as well as accommodations on the Martin Luther King weekend (the race is Sunday, January 15) are getting slim so act now and enter!  And there's still plenty of room in the 10K too!

This is a WONDERFUL race in beautiful Big Bend National Park, incredible scenery, with well-trained good spirited volunteers, and camaraderie among runners.  We ran the 10K last year and had SUCH A GREAT TIME!
A volunteer on mountain bike awaits the runners' starting gun to fire

To register for the 50K, 25K or 10K, do it online here. (And the race's facebook page is here.) Make your camping or hotel reservations separately, but do both soon!  This is a benefit event for the Friends of Big Bend National Park and the proceeds go to support park far, over their 15 year history, they've donated $1.2 million to the park!  If you're not a runner, consider joining them as a member.  The Friends facebook page is here!)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Hiking the Window Trail in Big Bend National Park

One of our favorite hikes from the Chisos Basin area of Big Bend National Park, the 5.6 mile Window Trail.  Here's what the park's website says about the trail.

Window Trail
Medium, 5.6 miles round trip.Begin at Basin trailhead.
This trail leads down to the Window, offering views of the Window and desert beyond along the way. During wetter periods Oak Creek may be flowing, and must be crossed several times. Use caution on this trail: the top of the Window pour-off is slickrock with no railings, and the return hike is uphill.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Cycle-friendly Stone Village Tourist Camp

Stone Village Tourist Camp Pool
Open air camp rooms...nice bedding, fresh air!

One hotel property to join our cycle-friendly program recently is the historic 1935 Stone Village Tourist Camp in Fort Davis.  The property features 14 comfortable motel rooms, 6 charming camp rooms, heated pool and a landscaped courtyard and patio. All rooms in the motor court provide a sense of rustic comfort with hardwood floors, throw rugs, cedar ceilings.   There's plenty of room to park your bicycle right in your room for the night!  Next door is the lovely Stone Village Market (their facebook page is here!) for breakfast and lunch treats, and snacks for your day's adventure on the trail or road.  
Stone Village motel room, every one is unique!

To read more about cycling in the Texas Mountain Trail region, visit:

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Yank and Yak at Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center

Sometimes when you visit a place, you fall in love with it and want to get involved.  So many folks are inspired by the high desert in our region, they want to spend part of their vacation helping out.  There are lots of opportunities to do this at Fort Davis' Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center.  

The Nature Center's Volunteer Coordinator, Susan Penney writes this, "Since this past year has given us a myriad of hardships including a severe drought, a hard freeze, a wild fire and flood - the Botanical Garden is in desperate need of pruning, weeding and general tidying up...our Yank and Yak group works in the Botanical Garden from 8:30 am to 10:30 am every Thursday morning.  As you might imagine, mornings are an absolutely wonderful  time to spend in the garden.  Our Yank and Yak Group is fun as well as productive.  If this sounds up your alley, please contact me at:"

One thing you may not know is Susan is a wonderful cook and baker, and though we're hesitant to promise anything, we know Susan often provides great treats for her Yank and Yak volunteers.  The morning we visited, she'd  made mini-southwestern quiches!

Volunteer opportunities are available at the Center anytime, so if you want to get involved, just contact Susan and see what might fit your schedule and interests.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Ocotillo at Ojito Adentro Trailhead in Big Bend Ranch State Park

We're excited because we're spending a weekend in Big Bend Ranch State Park in a couple of weeks with the Tierra Grande Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists, and we'll take EVERY opportunity to experience this vast, wild, and incredibly beautiful land.  This is the national park's lesser known neighbor, but it offers more remote hiking, mountain biking, birding, and rock watching opportunities.

This trailhead is on the main road to the center of the park, Sauceda Ranch.  The unpaved road is rugged, and most cars can handle it fine.  If you have a delicate vehicle or a large RV you might want to enjoy the park's wonderful sights and trails along the paved River Road (Hwy 170) instead.  The road to Sauceda Ranch has a 25 mph speed limit, and that's really as fast as you want to go, more for the scenery than for the rugged road conditions.  The drive into Sauceda will take an hour...we recommend taking it in the morning light, which is when this photo was taken. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Texas Mountain Trail Travel Advice at the Texas State Fair!

If you're in the Dallas area, we'll be at the Food and Fiber Pavilion at the State Fair of Texas through Thursday morning...actually, our travel guide will be available there through the end of the Fair!  Please stop by and say hello!  We're working with the nine other Texas Heritage Trail regions to share travel information for every corner of the state.  You'll find lots of great information to help you explore Texas!

And if you're looking for more information about Big Bend, hop on over to the travel booth at The Grand Place on the fairgrounds right by Big Tex (pictured above).  The folks there would be happy to visit with you, too!  Representatives from Alpine, Marathon, Terlingua/Study Butte and Big Bend will be there through the end of the fair!

Monday, October 17, 2011

From the Collection of the Clark Hotel Museum

This wonderful shot of local Van Horn residents, along with other artifacts of early life in Culberson County, is in the collection of the Clark Hotel Museum!  

The Museum is located in one of the oldest surviving buildings in Van Horn, which served as a hotel for many years. When Culberson County was first created, the Museum site served as the first courthouse while one was being constructed. It subsequently served as a hotel for more than four decades.  It features an old western style saloon with bar and mirrored back bar which have been in the same room since the early 1900’s. There are displays showing the history of mining, ranching, the railroad, and other early activities, as well as personal items which belonged to members of early pioneer families who first settled here.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A View of the Rio Grande from the River Road

One of the best scenic drives anywhere is the River Road, FM170, that connects Terlingua to Presidio.  When you're visiting Big Bend, it is a "must do!"

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Beautiful Davis Mountains Vista

Don't we wish we were there today?  Take a trip this fall or winter....enjoy the beauty of the Texas Mountains!  Taken outside Fort Davis.

Friday, October 14, 2011

What will Caleb say next?

Outside the Stone Village Market on the main street in Fort Davis, there's always a chalkboard with the special of the day....and usually Caleb has something to say about it! Stocked with fresh bakery goods, to-go salads, whole foods, fresh produce and other tasty items, they'll also make-to-order delicious sandwiches!  Here's the link to their facebook page! 

It is a terrific place to stock up on supplies for your picnic, camping trip, or just pick up a snack!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Visiting Fort Davis

Today we're celebrating Fort Davis National Historic Site's 50th anniversary as a national park service property, by reliving "A Day at the Fort" 1870s-80s through social media.

Join in the fun by following along on our facebook page, or on our twitter page,!

And someday soon, plan a visit to the Fort to listen to the reveille calls and visit with re-enactors yourself! 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Join us tomorrow in 1870s-1880s in virtual Fort Davis!

This weekend Fort Davis National Historic Site celebrated 50 years as a national park property.  We wanted to share the festivities with you, so on Thursday, October 13, we'll roll out a virtual "Day at the Fort, 1870s-1880s" on our Facebook and Twitter accounts, with the help of Fort Davis National Historic Site's interpretive staff.

Tomorrow, follow the fun on Facebook.
Or on Twitter!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Texas Mountain Ride itinerary!

With the help of Adventure Cycling Association, we've got a great road cycling itinerary for you here!

Easy distances, great scenery, interesting stops, comfortable and gracious overnight facilities, this route takes you from Marathon to Alpine, Fort Davis, Marfa and back to Marathon.  Two nights on the road, and great memories!  Read all about it here!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Fort Davis National Historic Site at Dusk

This weekend Fort Davis National Historic Site celebrated 50 years as a national park property.  We wanted to share the festivities with you, so on Thursday, October 13, we'll roll out a virtual "Day at the Fort, 1870s-1880s" on our Facebook and Twitter accounts, with the help of Fort Davis National Historic Site's interpretive staff.

On Thursday, follow the fun on Facebook.
Or on Twitter!

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Photos from Wheels for Meals...a great ride!

Along the route..incredible scenery and
plenty of support!
Tiny cyclists..big mountains!
Wheels for Meals cyclists leave Fort Davis

Here's a great cycling event to add to your calendar for next fall.  Great cycling on part of Fort Davis' Scenic Loop, from Fort Davis to the little town of Valentine and back, terrific riding companions, 88 miles of fun (or fewer if you like), good sag and support, and a wonderful cause!  What could be better?!?

Wheels for Meals raises unrestricted funds for the Food Pantry of Jeff Davis County, a grassroots, 501c3 organization providing supplemental food, school lunches and school supplies for eligible children and families who are residents of Jeff Davis County.

Here's a riders' guide on the route, the cause, and raising funds for this worthy cause from this year's race. 

This ride took place last Saturday, October 1.  Come join the fun next year as a rider or volunteer and help a worthy cause! 

Thanks to our friend, Pete Szilagyi for sharing his photos with everyone!

Friday, October 07, 2011

Big Bend With Baby by Rob Hodges

Rob and Zadie
“Ball, ball, ball, ball, ball, ball, ball!”


My 15-month-old daughter may end up being a jock. Zadie has a limited vocabulary, but the choice word in her repertoire is ball. Her favorite toys are balls, she throws tantrums in stores when she sees them, and I’m pretty sure she prefers the word to pedestrian terms like “mama” and “dada.”

But why was she frantically yelling “Ball!” during our hike on the Window Trail in Big Bend National Park? We were halfway into the hike, there was no one around, and she was throwing a conniption fit while strapped on my back and pointing at… what?

Then, I saw it. Of course. The pads of prickly pear cacti. At this stage, anything circular is a ball.

Zadie was the x factor in planning a trip to the Big Bend region about a month ago. Prior to the trip, my wife, Kate, and I questioned ourselves constantly. Were we completely insane trying to do a road trip with a toddler? We want to raise an intrepid traveler and curious explorer, and already she has accompanied us to Connecticut, Colorado, Portland, Seattle, Galveston, Houston, Port Aransas, San Antonio, and parts of the Texas Hill Country. But during those trips she was a subdued infant. Now she’s a willful, mobile toddler. We call her our Drunken Frankenstein—a teetering, stiff-limbed, belligerent, and cute babe—with the potential for monstrous outbreaks. What were we getting ourselves into?

But the trip turned out to be pretty incredible, though not without its challenges. More than seven hours each way in a backward-facing car seat is a lot to ask of a spirited toddler, so we took it slow and stopped several times to let her work out some energy. Particularly memorable pit stops were a beer hall in Fredericksburg, the park in front of the Crockett County Courthouse in Ozona, and the natural swimming hole at Balmorhea State Park.

Our first destination was Marfa, where we spent two nights in a 1951 Royal Mansion trailer at El Cosmico. The property is a hotel and campground with renovated vintage trailers, safari tents, yurts, a teepee, and spots for tent camping. Aesthetically, it has an artsy, do-it-yourself, Burning Man vibe, with eclectic Mexican and chic touches—a pretty good microcosm of Marfa. There is a large art installation constructed from telephone poles, and recycled materials are used in the landscaping, outdoor showers, and outlying buildings.
When we arrived well after dark, the first thing we saw was a lighted maze of walking paths illuminated by solar lights, which evoked the brilliant constellations overhead and the Marfa Lights. Our little rock hound, Zadie, loved walking the paths and picking up rocks by day, though we had to be ever-watchful and discourage that beloved activity since the underside of West Texas rocks is a preferred resting place for scorpions. A less challenging activity was bath time. When she saw we had filled up her inflatable ducky bathtub outside, Zadie squealed with excitement at the prospect of bathing outdoors.

We brought food and utilized the trailer’s kitchen a few times, but it was hard to be disciplined with all Marfa’s great restaurants close by. Fortunately, we brought a booster seat, too, as many establishments in the region did not have high chairs. The minimalist patio at Cochineal was a great option for a roaming toddler, and we enjoyed a fine meal. But it was Miniature Rooster that left the greatest impression. The unique Southern comfort food/Indian menu reflects the two owners’ backgrounds and results in unexpected and amazing flavor combinations. If this place were in Austin, I would frequently fight the crowds.

We spent a couple days in Big Bend National Park, staying at the Chisos Mountain Lodge. The room was fairly standard and nondescript, but the setting was great for a family with a baby. Days before the trip, we had purchased a baby backpack off Craigslist, which turned out to be a great investment. We used it on short dayhikes, including the aforementioned Window Trail—where a black bear ran across the trail about 40 feet in front of me!—Santa Elena Canyon Trail, and the Pinnacles Trail. Zadie was a trooper, tolerating about two to three hours at a time in the backpack, and even napping in it once. For the most part, she seemed to love taking in the stunning scenery as much as we did.

One thing we had worried about prior to the trip was how we were going to get Zadie to take her afternoon naps. She’s at a stage where it’s hard to get her to sleep anywhere unfamiliar. So we ended up rolling with that, quite literally. Every day at nap time, we would take a long drive, and she would snooze in her car seat. Fortunately, the region is blessed with some of the most scenic drives in the country. With Zadie napping, we tackled the hills and curves of River Road/FM 170 from Presidio to Terlingua, Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive in Big Bend National Park, the Davis Mountains Scenic Loop, and SH 17 from Fort Davis to Balmorhea.
During one of those drives, we were near Terlingua when Zadie woke. We were all hungry, so we stopped into the notorious underground—really, it’s partially in a cave!—bar and restaurant, La Kiva. The Star Wars cantina comparison is overused, but it really does provide a sense of the outlaw vibe and the motley cast of characters found in this strange place in a strange part of the world. La Kiva’s d├ęcor might best be described as primitive Western—mostly skulls, bones, hides, chains, and cauldrons adorn the walls and ceiling. The signature drink is a supposedly dangerous concoction called a Mind Eraser. We overheard snippets of conversation about an illegal gun purchase and the etymology of the word, yankee. This is not the sort of establishment that sees a lot of babies.

But, probably because she was such a novelty, everyone loved Zadie. She ran all over the place while we waited for food, and all the grizzled regulars fawned over her. When it was time to leave, she had a fan club. I darted into the bathroom before hitting the road and discovered that the urinal was a cauldron—and there was a live baby snake climbing the wall above it.

Back in Marfa, we stayed another night at El Cosmico, this time opting for a safari tent. Unfortunately, we never got to see the Marfa Lights, but we marveled again at the dazzling starry sky. This trip taught us that traveling with a toddler means being extra patient and flexible. Kate and I had to give up some things such as the Marfa Lights, a late-night dance, the Chinati Foundation, and certain difficult hikes. But we all gained through discovery.

Rob Hodges is a freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared in such diverse publications as the Houston Chronicle, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Austin Monthly, Edible Austin, South American Explorer, national meetings magazines, and Texas Historical Commission travel guides. Having traveled through about 30 countries on five continents, and about 40 states in the U.S., he can say with authority that Texas is a great place to live. His home is about a mile from the Capitol in Austin, where he lives with wife, Kate, and daughter, Zadie. His work can be seen at

The photos in this post were taken by Rob Hodges and Kate Ellis.

Our heartiest thanks to Rob Hodges, Kate Ellis and Zadie for a week of wonderful posts for our blog!  
--Texas Mountain Trail

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Enchanting Rocks by Rob Hodges

I know I’ve driven through Van Horn many times. I must have at least stopped for gas at some point. But prior to this summer, it was just a forgettable blip along I-10.

I take that back… it did become a curiosity for me in January 2010 when I interviewed Greg Vanderpool of the band Monahans, which has an expansive, often instrumental sound described by some as “landscape rock.” He mentioned that he often goes to a friend’s ranch in Van Horn to write, and the band actually set up a makeshift studio in a hunting lodge there to do some recordings in 2009.

This summer, I had the opportunity to visit Van Horn for a couple days—and it became crystal clear why Vanderpool finds inspiration in the setting. The town has some hidden gems, and the surrounding mountain ranges and open spaces are sublime. I was fortunate to stay at the historic Hotel El Capitan, designed by notable southwestern architect Henry Trost in 1930.
One evening, I had the pleasure of touring the Red Rock Ranch, which has scenery on par with the great state and national parks of Far West Texas. The private ranch is comprised of more than 17,000 acres of its namesake rocks, which have provided a dramatic backdrop for television and movie sets. During the tour, I saw something from a distance that I had never seen in Texas before—three desert bighorn sheep! It’s a shame more people will not experience this truly special place. Camping, overnight stays, and unguided hikes are not allowed.  On the other hand, that keeps the crowds away, keeps the land pristine, and makes it well worth the effort to visit this unforgettable, off-the-beaten-path ranch.

One morning, I woke early and rode part of the “El Capitan to El Capitan” bike ride with Texas Mountain Trail Region executive director, Beth Nobles. Beth was gracious enough to put me in touch with the local RV park that rents cruiser bikes. Although we didn’t have a lot of time and I was limited by the single-speed machine, we did manage to log about 12 miles along the scenic SH 54 that heads north toward the Guadalupe Mountains. We followed the Beach Mountains, saw Red Rock Ranch from a distance, and caught a quintessential West Texas sunrise. I can’t wait for the day I return with my road bike to discover what else the 55-mile ride has in store.
Rob Hodges is a freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared in such diverse publications as the Houston Chronicle, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Austin Monthly, Edible Austin, South American Explorer, national meetings magazines, and Texas Historical Commission travel guides. Having traveled through about 30 countries on five continents, and about 40 states in the U.S., he can say with authority that Texas is a great place to live. His home is about a mile from the Capitol in Austin, where he lives with wife, Kate, and daughter, Zadie. His work can be seen at