Saturday, March 31, 2012

Yesterday's Celebration, Brewster County's 125th Anniversary!

Local Boy Scouts salute the colors

Local rancher/historian and Texas Mountain Trail board member, Travis Roberts, shares the history of Brewster County with the large crowd assembled on the Brewster County Courthouse square in Alpine

The crowd on the Brewster County Courthouse steps

Detail, Brewster County Courthouse

Detail, Celebration cake with photo of the Brewster County Courthouse!

On the Courthouse Square, Alpine
Yesterday, a big crowd celebrated Brewster County's 125th anniversary on the courthouse square in Alpine, followed by a community barbecue lunch.  During the ceremony, early settlers and ranchers were acknowledged, and a history of the county was cited.  Dignitaries, proclamations, enthusiasm and pride of our heritage were all a part of the beautiful day.  Thanks to the Brewster County Historical Commission for putting on such a great event! 

Friday, March 30, 2012

Texas Videos: Big Bend, Terlingua

Thanks to our friends at for producing this great video; Big Bend National Park (including the park's Chief of Interpretation and Texas Mountain Trail board member, David Elkowitz; and the folks of Terlingua and Study Butte!

David talks about the Grapevine Hills's what the park's website says about the trail:

"Grapevine Hills Trail
Difficulty: Easy; Distance: 2.2 miles round trip
Begin 6 miles down Grapevine Hills improved dirt road at the parking area.

This trail leads to a group of balanced rocks in the heart of the Grapevine Hills. Initially, the trail follows a gravel wash, then climbs steeply for the last quarter mile into the boulders. Grapevine Hills is an exposed laccolith, with many giant, rounded boulders that are tempting to climb, but watch for snakes." 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Marfa in World War II

View of the Chinati Foundation, formerly Fort D.A. Russell, Marfa
Marfa's new Tourism and Visitors Center is in their 1940 U.S.O. Hall just south of the intersection of Hwys 90 and 67.
Interior of Marfa's U.S.O. Hall with the original dance floor!

The Texas Historical Commission has a great brochure on Texas in World War's the text on Marfa:

"Visitors searching for the mysterious Marfa Lights are actually gazing across the site of one of World War II’s top flight training installations, Marfa Army Air Field. Part of the base’s front gate remains near the Marfa Lights viewing station. Nearly 8,000 pilots once trained here in AT-17s, B-25s and P-38s on five wide runways up to 7,500 feet long. Marfa Army Air Field had a sister installation nearby, a World War I-era horse cavalry outpost called Fort D.A. Russell. The base trained U.S. soldiers and held nearly 200 German prisoners of war. Two POWs were artists who painted elaborate murals inside Building 98, where top U.S. generals socialized in the officers club. The paintings depict U.S. Western scenes as seen through the eyes of Germans who learned about cowboys from watching movies. The rare murals garnered Building 98 a spot in the National Register of Historic Places; the structure is also a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark.

Fort D.A. Russell closed in 1946 and various individuals bought the property. Three decades later, New York minimalist sculptor Donald Judd turned many of the structures into a contemporary art museum, the Chinati Foundation. A one-time warehouse, six former barracks and two artillery sheds now contain works by various artists."

Pillars, a remnant of Fort D.A. Russell, Marfa

You can download the entire brochure from this page.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Window Trail in Big Bend National Park

One of our favorite hikes in Big Bend National Park, with a big, big payoff at the end of the trail, is the Window Trail.  The payoff?  A stunning view of the desert landscape below the small rock window.  This shot was taken on the way back to the Chisos Basin.

Here's what the park's website says about the trail:

Window Trail
Difficulty: Moderate; Distance:, 5.6 miles round trip
Begin at the Chisos Basin Trailhead
This trail descends through Oak Creek Canyon to the Window pour-off which frames panoramic desert vistas. 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.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Beautiful sunrise

Taken along the River Road Hwy 170 between Presidio and Lajitas.  So pretty!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Currant-of-Texas or Wild Currant

We found the Berberis trifoliolata or Current-of-Texas (also called Wild Current) blooming on Saturday near the start of the Hummingbird and Butterfly Trail in the pollinator garden at the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center near Fort Davis.

Since many of the desert plants are waiting for rain, our eyes immediately spotted the beautiful yellow blossoms in the shade of the pollinator garden.  Edible red berries can be expected to appear in summer; they can be used in jellies, pies and cobblers.  Click on this link to learn more about this plant's history and uses. 

The plant can be found across southern Arizona and southern New Mexico to the Panhandle and Trans-Pecos region and into northern Mexico.

The plant is an evergreen shrub growing to 8 feet high and 6 feet wide.  We especially enjoyed feeling the leathery blue-green foliage which resembled holly.

Want to see this lovely plant for yourself, and hike the trail?  Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center's website says this about the trail:

The Hummingbird & Butterfly Trail
"This easy, but rocky, loop is only about 1/3 of a mile long. The trail starts at the pollinator garden and skirts the rocky outcrop of Cactus Hill. The views of Mitre Peak are spectacular and the trees, shrubs, and wildflowers that crowd the hillside attract butterflies, hummingbirds, and other fun creatures in the summer."

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Saying Goodbye to Winter!

Our (early) March weather can offer big surprises...this beautiful image was taken by our friend and former Texas Mountain Trail board member, Pete Szilagyi, near the Lost Mines trailhead in Big Bend National Park earlier this month.  We're so happy to say goodbye to winter, aren't we?  This is a good reminder to plan for all contingencies, especially during the spring and fall.  We're glad warmer weather is here, but we still love winter's grace and beauty. 

From the national park's website:
"Lost Mine Trail
Difficulty: Moderate; Distance: 4.8 miles round trip
Begin at mile 5.1 on the Basin Road, limited parking

This trail serves as an outstanding introduction the flora and fauna of the Chisos Mountains. With limited time, hike to marker 10 (about 1 mile), where a saddle offers stunning views of Casa Grande and Juniper Canyon. The remainder of the trail climbs steeply in and out of juniper, oak, and pine forest. The trail abruptly levels out at the ridge with superb views of Pine Canyon and the Sierra del Carmen in Mexico. A brochure is available at the trailhead."

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Beautiful Presidio County Courthouse

Texas is blessed with beautiful county courthouses, and with the efforts of many people who've worked hard on their restoration.  The Texas Historical Commission leads a restoration program for qualifying courthouses.  One of the recipients of support from the THC's program is the lovely Presidio County Courthouse in Marfa.

One of our favorite things to do when the courthouse is open, is to climb the 80 or so steps to the top of the building for a 360 degree view of Marfa and the grassland surrounding the town.  It is a perfect "mini-break" to appreciate the beautiful building's architecture and the local community and landscape.

Friday, March 23, 2012

A good ride in El Paso

Historic Union Station in El Paso
(photo by Randy Mallory, courtesy: Texas Historical Commission)
Inside the historic Plaza Theatre, in downtown El Paso
Along the route is Concordia Cemetery, and the grave of famed gunfighter, John Wesley Hardin!
There's a great bike route mapped by El Paso's from cycle-friendly hotel Hyatt Place El Paso Airport to downtown.  Here's the route, which is rated as an easy 12 mile ride.  More photos of sights along the way are here!  In addition to downtown's museum and cultural campus, the ride takes you past historic Concordia Cemetery and the lovely Magoffin Home, a facility maintained by the Texas Historical Commission.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Monday, March 19, 2012

Brewster County Courthouse

Brewster County is celebrating its 125th anniversary this month.  A notice from the Brewster County Historical Commission and the West Texas Historical Society:

"The West Texas Historical Association, founded in 1924, will hold its 89th Annual Conference on March 30-31 on the campus of Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas, in the heart of the Big Bend country.  This year, it will be joined by the Historical Society of New Mexico, the East Texas Historical Association, the Center for Studies of the Big Bend, and the Texas Historical Commission.  Dr. Alwyn Barr, Professor Emeritus from Texas Tech University will be featured keynote speaker.  Dr. Bruce Glasrud, President of the Association, has invited the public to attend all history presentations that will be held at the Morgan University Center on the Sul Ross State University campus.  Topics will range from frontier history, personalities, and 20th Century religious, academic and legal issues affecting the West Texas region.  In observance of the Civil War sesquicentennial, a number of important presentations will delve into the West Texas and borderland experience during the war period.  Also, a special session on the anniversary of the creation of Brewster County will be featured during the conference.  Travis Roberts of the Brewster County Historical Commission has invited attendees to a BBQ lunch Friday March 30 on the Alpine Court House lawn to commemorate the county’s 125th birthday.  Book exhibits and other items will be on display, and a silent auction will be held until 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 31.  Following the conference on the 31st, a tour of the Fort Davis area and a buffet at the Prude Ranch will be offered.  Visitors are invited to make plans now to attend the conference.  For more information go to or call 806-742-9076 or email"

Friday, March 16, 2012

Early Van Horn kids

Love the bow!  From the collection of the Clark Hotel Museum in Van Horn.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Pictographs at Big Bend Ranch State Park

Recently we took a GREAT hike in Big Bend Ranch State Park, (BBRSP) along with interpretive ranger, Blaine Hall.  Working with the park's interpreter is the way to go....not only can they take you to some of the best, out-of-the-way spots, but can illuminate the experience with their knowledge of history and natural history.  This was the case for our hike.  Blaine took us to a place only accessible via ranger-led hike, and helped see and appreciate these amazing pictographs.  To hire a ranger for a group experience, call the park's local number, 432/358-4444.

The park's website says this about the early human history in the area:

"The earliest artifacts identified within BBRSP indicate that Native Americans traversed the area as early as perhaps 11,000 years ago, and continued to do so well into the 19th century. Native American site types attributable to the prehistoric era include open campsites, open camps associated with rock shelters, rock shelters, quarries, lithic scatters, Late Prehistoric Cielo complex (ca. A.D. 1250-1680) sites, rock art sites (primarily pictographs, or rock paintings) and special-use or ritual sites."

"Many pictographs that have been recorded within the Park are monochromatic red, black, or white. Bichrome and polychrome (red, black, yellow, white) figures also occur. The figures include humans, animals, insects, tally marks, double zigzags, hourglass chains, star patterns and various other abstract motifs. Most of these pictographs were probably painted during the Late Archaic (ca. 1000 B.C. - A.D. 1000) or Late Prehistoric (A.D. 1000 - 1535) periods. Other pictographs represented by human figures on horses, longhorn cattle, Spanish saddles and crosses date to the Protohistoric (ca. A.D. 1535-1700) period or later."

Want to read more?  Click here. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Another great old view of early life in Van Horn, from the collection of the Clark Hotel Museum.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

More Poppies from the Franklin Mountains

The flowers are blooming now!  Check on the north east side of the Franklin Mountain State Park, near the El Paso Museum of Archaeology.  They don't bloom every year, but they're up now.  Coming up at the end of the month, on March 31, is the annual poppy festival.  Read about it here!

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Poppies are Blooming!

The Franklin Mountains are blessed with blooms of poppies this year!  (To see a full flickr slideshow from two years ago, click here!)  Interested in finding them?  They're on the northeast side of the Franklin Mountains of El Paso.  The Museum of Archaeology hosts the annual poppy festival on March more about it here!

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Brief Hiatus

We're struggling with another bout of the flu, but we'll be back when we're healthy! 

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Early hikers near Van Horn, from the collection of the Clark Hotel Museum.  Check out those hiking clothes!!

Monday, March 05, 2012

Hiking this weekend in Big Bend Ranch State Park

Here's a brief video (very brief) of a spectacular hike our group took this Saturday at Big Bend Ranch State Park.  We were led by the park's interpretive ranger Blaine Hall, for a very reasonable fee, and Blaine guided us over country we wouldn't have reached on our own.  A professional geologist, he gave us great information about the geologic and natural history of the park.  Though you can certainly have a great experience in the park on your own, a guide can help you find just the right adventure in the park's more than 300,000 acres!

If you're heading to the park soon, we're happy to report we saw a few rainbow cacti budding.  We think next weekend's visitors might see some cactus flowers, even despite the drought!

To visit with park personnel about hiring a guide, call the park's local number,  432-358-4444, and ask about availability and rates.  Park personnel can help you with mountain biking rental and guide, and horse rental and guide!  Their website also lists independent outfitters licensed to guide visitors in the park, too!

Sunday, March 04, 2012

El Capitan nearing dusk below Guadalupe Mtns National Park

The view from near the intersection of Hwys 54 and 62/180, at the base of El Capitan and the Guadalupe Mountains National Park.  Van Horn is the nearest community with a hotels and restaurants for your stay at the park, and the road from there to the park (Hwy 54) is one of the most scenic in the state of Texas!

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Sagrado Corazon de Jesus, in Shafter

The beautiful church of Shafter, seen from Hwy 67 on the road from Marfa to Presidio.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Views of the River Road

Hwy 170--the River Road--between Terlingua and Presidio, is part of the historic driving route set in the 1960s, the Texas Mountain Trail, upon which our organization was built to promote the heritage and great places you can visit in Far West Texas!
Rio Grande view from the River Road, Hwy 170
Colorado Canyon river access point from Hwy 170