Thursday, May 31, 2012

Cholla Blooming Season

We're starting to see some lovely cholla blooming in the region!

The tree cholla is common in our Chihuahuan Desert landscape, and often is the only green plant around.  It generally grows between 2,000 and 7,000 feet.  After the plant dies, the long branches dry and reveal a skeleton-like cane.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Lost: Culberson County Courthouse

One thing Texas does VERY well is provide resources for the preservation of county courthouses.  The funds are limited, making the climate very competitive, but the folks at the Texas Historical Commission do their best at making the most of a limited budget.  Read about the courthouse restoration program here.

The program came too late for the folks in Culberson County.  This courthouse, long a community center as well as a governmental center, was razed in the 1960s for a more modern building.  Many a Van Horn resident today, wishes we could reverse the decision to take down the old courthouse.
Centennial Pioneers Dance at Culberson County Courthouse, 1936, Photograph, 1936; digital image, ( : accessed May 28, 2012), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting Clark Hotel Museum, Van Horn, Texas. 

Click on the photos to get a closer view!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Dog Canyon area of Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Photo by Don Baumgardt
The view as you drive into Dog Canyon from the north
This weekend, a fire closed the southern edge of Guadalupe Mountains National Park where many visitors to the park base their stay.  Yet Dog Canyon at the north edge of the park remained uncrowded, open for business, and lovely.

Adjacent to the Dog Canyon campground, corrals for your horse!
Check the park's website here, and page down to read about trails from the Dog Canyon area of the park.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Sunday, May 27, 2012

A cooler place on a hot day down by the river

For a short, easy hiking adventure with plenty of shade from the hot sun, try Closed Canyon in Big Bend Ranch State Park
Light reaches through the narrow Closed Canyon, part of Big Bend Ranch State Park
easily accessible from the River Road between Terlingua and Presidio

This is an easy, 1.4 mile hike in shade most of the time, and considered a highlight of any visit to Big Bend Ranch State Park. 

Hikers enjoy the stroll between tall rock canyon faces; this is a cool and quiet place just above the Rio Grande.  There are stretches with slick rock at your feet, and places with an abrupt drop of a yard or only go as far into the canyon as you feel comfortable.  We'd recommend taking this hike on clear days, since a (rare) day with rain could produce a flash flood.

The trailhead is located on Hwy 170, known as the River Road, between the Ranchieras West and Ranchieras East trailheads.  After a brief hike through typical Chihuahuan Desert terrain, you reach the canyon opening.

Our friend, Dawn, wrote a wonderful blog entry (with lots of great pictures!) about her hike in the canyon.  Read it here.

Here's a link to a detailed trail report.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

in the Greenhouse

A lovely from Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Historical Map of the Region: original murals in Alpine's Museum of the Big Bend

Original mural map still on display in the Museum of the Big Bend in Alpine, on the campus of Sul Ross State University.  From the Museum's website:

"In 1926 the West Texas Historical and Scientific Society was founded for the purpose of creating a museum for the Big Bend region. With funding from the Texas Centennial Commission and the WPA, the Museum was constructed in 1937. 

In 2006 the structure was completely renovated and new exhibits designed and installed. Located in the Emmett and Miriam McCoy building, the Museum opened in August 2007 and is the only native rock structure left on the Sul Ross State University campus" 

The Museum does hold an extrordinary collection of maps, the Yana and Marty Davis Map Collection.   View selections of the collection here.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Van Horn's mountains in fog

A rare shot of Van Horn's Turtleback and Six Mile Mountains in fog!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Have you been behaving?

Perhaps they were sweet ladies.  Perhaps they both sported great senses of humor.  Perhaps they weren't as doubtful or judging as they seem.  What do you think?

This is another great photo of early life in Van Horn from the collection of the Clark Hotel Museum.  We just love their faces and enjoy speculating about their lives.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Baby and Fiddle!

Peforming at the Marfa Book Company recently were the Muletones---musicians Amy Muise (with Emmett in the backpack!), Drew Stuart, and Brian Muise from the Dell City area.  (Learn more at

Want to listen in?  Click here to listen to some brief audio files!

The Muletones will have their next performance June 15 at Vintage Wines in Mesilla, New Mexico, but mark the calendar for  Sept. 28, 29, 30th for their performance at the Dell Valley Hudspeth County Fair and Wild West Chile Fest!  Details here.

The Marfa Book Company in Marfa often hosts performances, readings and exhibitions.  Read more here!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Helping out the Girl Scouts and Camp Mitre Peak

Many girls take their first trip to the Texas Mountains when, as Girl Scouts, they head to Camp Mitre Peak.  Now, those girls (many now mothers and grandmothers!) can help the Camp continue to serve Scouts in the region.

We had the opportunity to ask regional Girl Scout Chief Executive Officer, Diane Flanagan, some questions about the camp:  
Texas Mountain Trail:  Tell us about the history of Mitre Peak Girl Scout Camp and the services it provides to girls in the region.
Diane Flanagan:  The 100 acre camp property was acquired in 1947 from Mrs. A.J. Tippit. Since the purchase, there have been a number of campaigns to raise the fund to improve the facility. Today there are heated cabins, a commercial kitchen and dining hall, and a learning center with an outdoor pavilion. We are celebrating our 65th anniversary this year with an Alumni Reunion at camp on August 9-12, 2012. Everyone is invited.
Texas Mountain Trail:  How did Mitre Peak camp fare in the fires last year?
Diane Flanagan: Last year the fires came right up to the edge of Camp Mitre Peak. We were very fortunate to have fire fighters based on our property and they successfully kept the flames from destroying any buildings. We are very grateful to them.
Texas Mountain Trail:  Is Mitre Peak available for group rentals?
Diane Flanagan: Yes, we love to share our wonderful facility with the public. We have a variety of cabins, dining hall, commercial kitchen, learning center, and other buildings available. If interested, the public can call 800-594-5677 ext.310 for more information.

NOW, the Girl Scouts have a special opportunity to raise funds to help Camp Mitre Peak and New Mexico's Camp Pioneer.  Can YOU help?  Here are the details from the regional Girl Scout Council's website:

"The Abell-Hanger Foundation has granted us a potential $25,000 match for one out of every three new or increased unrestricted dollars received by May 31, 2012. With your help we can raise the $75,000 needed to receive the maximum match from the foundation. You can make your donation on our website, by phone 800-594-5677, or by mail GSDSW, 5217 N. Dixie, Odessa, TX 79762."

Please note, you can also support this grant opportunity by mailing your donation directly to our local volunteer, c/o Beth Francell, P.O. Box 2176, Fort Davis, TX 79734    

Texas Mountain Trail:  These funds raised will go to support the general operating budget of the Girl Scouts of the Desert Southwest Council, which also supports the two summer camps in the region--right?.
Diane Flanagan:  Yes, the funds will also help support outdoor experiences for girls at Camp Mitre Peak and Camp Pioneer. Programs are presented at these camps throughout the year... not just in the summer. Troops from all over the council, and the state come to experience camp on nearly every weekend.
Texas Mountain Trail:   Is there a website link where people could go to read more about the
fund-raising challenge and how the Council is funded.
Diane Flanagan:  Our council website is We do not address funding specifically or the matching grant but there is information on our programs and our mission.
We wish the Girl Scouts the best of luck in this most recent campaign, as they help so many girls experience and appreciate the Texas Mountain Trail region!  

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Tennis Racquets, Horses and Wonderful Hats!

We lightened this early photo of life in Van Horn to make it a little easier to see.  From the collection of the Clark Hotel Museum in Van Horn.
We just love looking at old photographs of early life in our region.  Here's another from the collection of the Clark Hotel Museum in Van Horn.  We lightened it a bit to make it easier to see the tennis racquets, the horses and the wonderful hats on everyone! (Click on the images to get a closer look!)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Indian Lodge has a new website!

An old (and much beloved) favorite lodging option--Davis Mountains State Park's Indian Lodge--in our region just got a new website!  Click here! 

From the website:

"The historic section of the lodge was constructed in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps and features the original interiors and furnishings. In 1967, a major construction project was completed, including renovation of the original structure, which has 18-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."

Want to stay there?  (You'll love it!)  This popular lodge enjoys full or nearly full occupancy much of the time...make your reservations well ahead of time!

Here's a park map!
Click here to learn more about the Civilian Conservation Corps' work at Davis Mountains State Park!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Stagecoach Route Remnants

This little strip of road looks unremarkable, but it is historic with a capital H.  Located on the grounds of Fort Davis National Historic Site, this is a remnant of the old San Antonio-El Paso road, a stagecoach route.

The Fort's website says this:

" In October 1855, Second Lieutenant Zenas R. Bliss, Eighth U. S. Infantry, arrived at Fort Davis seventeen days after boarding the westbound stage in San Antonio. "The Post was the most beautifully situated of any that I have ever seen. It was in a narrow canyon with perpendicular sides, the walls of which were about 200 feet in height," the young officer later wrote. The necessity for the post, located some 400 miles from San Antonio and 200 miles from Franklin (present-day El Paso), stemmed from demands for protection on the San Antonio-El Paso Road. A major link along the most southern route to California, the road experienced an upsurge of travel in the early 1850s following the discovery of gold in California. As travel along the road increased, so did Comanche, Kiowa, and Apache raids into Mexico. Emigrants, mail carriers and merchants journeyed in constant fear of the raiding warriors who traveled between Mexico and their homelands to the north. Despite its picturesque terrain, the buildings were uncomfortable and difficult to keep warm. "I remember once in a snow storm the snow blew under my bed . . . and it stayed there several days without melting," wrote Lieutenant Bliss. In 1856, six stone barracks with thatched roofs and flagstone floors replaced inadequate enlisted men’s quarters. Along with the bakery, blacksmith shop, and a warehouse, they were the only substantial structures of the first fort."

And this:

"The first Fort Davis served as a retreat for thousands of emigrants, freighters, and travelers during the decade preceding the Civil War. It provided protection for the U. S. Mail and saw the establishment of a number of stage stations and military posts in the region, including Fort Stockton and Fort Quitman. It was also an influencing factor in 1859 for the Butterfield Overland Mail to change its route to El Paso. The new route came through Fort Davis instead of following the road through the Guadalupe Mountains. Although the post did little to reduce Indian activity in western Texas, its presence encouraged travel on the San Antonio-El Paso Road and settlement in the Trans-Pecos region."

Straight off the Fort property to the east on "Fort Street" is the Overland Trail Museum, a community museum showing early life in Jeff Davis County.  Definitely worth a stop, visitors not only enjoy the museum's exhibits but the fact that it is along the still unpaved, original San Antonio-El Paso Road.

You can read more about the first Fort Davis (1854-1862) and its history here.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Horses as Landscape

We are doubly pleased to share this lovely image with you once again, because the photographer, Dan Baeza, a Van Horn native and Texas A&M-Commerce student is doing a two week photography internship with us starting today!  We've featured Dan's work twice now on this blog, and we're big fans of his work!  We're so pleased to have him working on projects to benefit our Texas Mountain Trail and Van Horn's Clark Hotel Museum.  Welcome Dan!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Scenes from a GREAT DAY! Magoffin Home Reopens!

The Casa Magoffin Comparneros were in attendance.  This group supports the program of the Magoffin Home and raises funds for many projects, including several aspects of the renovation.  

A Magoffin family member address the crowd.  Several members of the Magoffin family attended the event.
Past Texas Mountain Trail Board President, and Chair of the El Paso County Historical Commission Bernie Sargent presents State Representative Dee Margo with the Texas Mountain Trail Hospitality Hero Award (stay tuned for a future post about this recognition!)
Cliff Seaman plays his original song about El Paso's historic Concordia Cemetery, with Patricia Kiddney (grand dame of El Paso's reenactors and champion of Concordia Cemetery) listens in
Sara Belger and Herb Price represented the El Paso Historical Society
(Herb is also one of our Texas Mountain Trail Board Members!)
Musicians played in front of the Magoffin Home before and after the ribbon cutting
State Representative Dee Margo, Texas Historical Commission Executive Director Mark Wolfe, and State Representative Marisa Marquez cut the red ribbon and officially reopen the Magoffin Home after more than a year of extensive renovation work
Yesterday was a grand day for El Paso history, for the wonderful Magoffin Home State Historic Site reopened after more than a year of significant renovation work.  The large crowd remarked on the spectacular condition of the home and its furnishings, and all were pleased to know future generations will enjoy and learn from the stories this special place can tell.

The Texas Historical Commission, which now administers the site, was responsible for the renovation work as well.  Careful attention was paid to the special historic nature of the 1877 home, from authentic handpainted window treatments, to replacing the roof, to extensive work to the grounds.

Would you like to help?  The sign above says, "Help us restore our landscape.  Donate to the restoration of this area."  One way you can do that is to join the Casa Magoffin Companeros, the Friends Group for the Home.  Founded in 1992, this non-profit organization encourages volunteers to help at the home, "hosts fundraising events, and accepts and maintains donations, endowments and grants."  To learn more click here.   To join, contact them at:  Casa Magoffin Companeros, 1120 Magoffin Ave., El Paso, TX 79901

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Magoffin Home Reopens Today!

The front door of the Magoffin Home
Washing the dust off the windows and shutters, getting ready for the grand reopening today
Inside the courtyard of the Magoffin Home yesterday
One of the grand jewels of historic sites in our region is scheduled to reopen to the public after being closed for more than a year for an extensive renovation.  We stopped by El Paso's Magoffin Home yesterday to get a peek (it looks FANTASTIC) and to see if we could help with the finishing touches before this morning's opening festivities.  Turns out we could help, and we wiped down the windows and doors whose frames had received historically accurate paint treatments.  And as we washed and wiped, we thought about the original workmen who built the 1877 adobe structure, and felt a kinship with those who'd built the home and loved it generation after generation.

Want to learn more about the Magoffin Home?  Here's a quote from the Texas Historical Commission's historic sites website:

"Born in Chihuahua, Mexico and educated in Kentucky and Missouri, Joseph Magoffin (1837–1923) first came to the El Paso area in 1856 to work in his father’s mercantile shop at Magoffinsville. After service in the U.S. Civil War, he returned with his family and became an advocate for the development of El Paso and the region. Using his extensive landholdings, he helped bring railroads, utilities and new businesses to town, increasing his personal fortune. He was a co-founder of the State National Bank, where he served as vice president for 40 years. He also served as county judge, four terms as mayor, collector of customs and in numerous other public offices. His wife Octavia (1845–1906) was a social leader in the community and active in Catholic charities. They had two children, Jim (J.W.) Magoffin (1864–1913) and Josephine (Josie) Magoffin Glasgow (1873–1968).

When Joseph and Octavia Magoffin moved into their new home in 1877, El Paso was a small frontier town. Joseph built the home on property he had obtained from his late father. The adobe construction reflects typical Spanish and Territorial architecture found in the Southwest borderlands and the influence of the Greek Revival style popular in other parts of the United States. In 1887, the El Paso Times described the homestead, “The grounds surrounding it comprise twenty acres, embraced in lawns, flower gardens, fruit orchards, vegetable beds, grass plats and small grain divisions.” The couple was well known for their hospitality and entertained guests frequently in the home."

The Texas Historical Commission acquired the Magoffin Home a few years ago, and has been administering and caring for the site since then.  Come on out today and take a look for yourself!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Time for a picnic!

Another photo of early life in Van Horn from the collection of the Clark Hotel Museum!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Adobe Alliance

Images above: The Swan Home near Presidio and the entrance to Big Bend Ranch State Park
There's an interesting organization in our region dedicated to adobe and earth architecture.  The home shown in the photos is located near the entrance to Big Bend Ranch State Park, near Presidio.

The Adobe Alliance is a non-profit group dedicated to:
  • helping communities apply cooperative building techniques in earth architecture;
  • educate groups in fulfilling the widespread need for low cost, salubrious, energy efficient, sustainable housing; 
  • enhance rather than defile landscapes by designing solid contemporary structures of simple design which respect local climate, environment and culture.
Means to reach these goals include:
  • the use of local renewable, recycled resources and building materials to considerably reduce cost and environmental impact, avoiding the use of industrial materials;
  • providing roofs in the configuration of adobe vaults and domes, a unique yet ancient design feature which eliminates the use of wood, an increasingly scarce natural resource;
  • designs which harness natural energy for heating and cooling . Adobe walls retain heat in the winter and stay cool in the summer, eliminating the cost of mechanical heating and cooling systems;
  • a system to meet local housing needs using indigenous skills, thereby providing a source of employment and simultaneously incorporating, preserving and enhancing local architectural heritage.
  • an appropriate building technique for chemically sensitive individuals, using only materials that are totally non-toxic. 
 Read more about this organization, programs and workshops here. 

The Adobe Alliance is a Texas based tax-exempt 501(c)3 corporation.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

New "El Paso's Hueco Tanks" Video!

There's an excellent new video about Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site available for those with an interest in native peoples, rock art, the Butterfield Overland Mail Stage route, geology, birding, and on and on.  The preview video is right here!

You can purchase a copy of the full video here.

Our Texas Mountain Trail board had a hand in the funding of this project, as we recommended it receive a grant from the Texas Historical Commission's heritage tourism partnership grant program.

(Sadly this grant program was discontinued due to state budget consideration.)

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Celebrating our 1,500th Post!

Texas Mountain Trail sign marking part of the original 1960s driving route
by David Lee Leggett (
Our photograph of Marfa's Presidio County Courthouse
Our photo of Day of the Dead festivities in El Paso
Van Horn native, Dan Baeza captures a lovely image
From a series on Six Man Football in West Texas, Sierra Blanca's team
By Rob Hann (
Fort Davis photographer, Carolyn Nored Miller
Nursing pronghorn fauns (click on photo for a closer view)
Fort Davis photographer, S. Billingsley
Alpine's Chris Ruggia's Jack Comics (
Click on the comic for a closer view!
Austin's Rob Hodges captures one of El Paso's murals
Ocotillo captured by Derrick Birdsall
Kristin Muntean at Big Bend National Park's Ernst Tinaja
Two hikers at Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend National Park
by Clara Maverick Riggs
Big Bend Ranch Rodeo by David Lee Leggett
A historical image from early Van Horn
from the collection of the Clark Hotel Museum
Tiffany Dome in the El Camino Real hotel in El Paso
by Randy Mallory for the Texas Historical Commission

Our photograph of Fort Leaton near Presidio
Red-tailed Hawk by El Pasoan Dennis McElveen
(damfoto at sbcglobal dot net)

More than four years ago, we decided to feature some of the great places in Far West Texas and the six-county region of the Texas Mountain Trail with all of you, and this blog was born.  We hope to continue to inspire you to wonder, appreciate, find adventure in, learn about, preserve, and visit this great place.  With the help of many of YOU, we'd like to have at least 1,500 more days!  Our hats off to the guest photographers over the years (and there are many more than we're showing here) for sharing your lovely work with the rest of us!   Y'all are the BEST!  (click on any of the images to get a closer view!)