Saturday, June 30, 2012

Van Horn from the top of the Hotel El Capitan, by Dan Baeza

Van Horn panorama by Dan Baeza
(click on the photo for a closer view!)

Our photography intern, Dan Baeza, knows Van Horn very well!  A native of the town, he captures it as no one else can.  Here's a look at the western half of town, from the roof of the historic Hotel El Capitan. The large white building on the right side of the photo is the Clark Hotel Museum, which has exhibits showing early life in Culberson County.  While Dan was an intern for Texas Mountain Trail, he also worked for the Museum, creating their first-ever website.  Take a

Thank you, Dan, for all your hard work and your "eye" which captured Van Horn beautifully!!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Franklin Mountains State Park by Dan Baeza and Prizes for Holiday Hikers in the Peak Fitness Challenge!

Photos by Dan Baeza,
All this week we're featuring the work of Van Horn native, Dan Baeza, who spent three weeks with the Texas Mountain Trail and the Clark Hotel Museum on a photography internship earlier this summer.  Dan spent a day in El Paso, shooting Franklin Mountains State Park, one of the parks participating in our Peak Fitness Challenge.  Dan did a great job capturing many of our region's attractions, including several in his hometown of Van Horn.

Starting tomorrow and through Monday, July 9, hikers logging miles in our Peak Fitness Challenge will be eligible for a prize drawing!  Don't know about the Challenge?

It is a cooperative effort between Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Franklin Mountains State Park, Texas Mountain Trail and, with the goal of getting people out on our spectacular hiking trails.  Beginning hikers are welcomed, as are experienced trail runners and everyone in between.  Sign up online at  and add your likes to your total....we'll pick three hikers at random who've logged in hours during the July 4th holiday period (the weekend before, the week of and the weekend after!) for prizes.  And we'll have prize drawings every month, too!  There are easy, moderate and difficult hikes in the Challenge....start where you're comfortable and have a great time!

This is a great way to motivate yourself to explore our parks, and maybe, maybe work up to climbing the highest peaks in both parks, including the highest point in Texas....Guadalupe Peak!  And here's the Peak Fitness Challenge page on the Guadalupe Peak hike.

Here's the link to the Peak's Facebook !
Sign up for the Challenge, HERE!  

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Turtleback Mountain by Dan Baeza

Turtleback Mountain by Dan Baeza
Presenting another lovely image by Van Horn native, Dan Baeza.  Dan was a photography intern with the Texas Mountain Trail and the Clark Hotel Museum of Van Horn earlier this summer when he captured this nighttime view of the town's most recognized mountain, Turtleback Mountain.  Thanks, Dan, for sharing your work with the rest of us! 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Sands Motel, Van Horn

A fun sight greets travelers just off I-10, the Sands Motel sign in Van Horn.  A remnant from an earlier road culture, the sign sits at the eastern edge of the town.  The cafe, which still operates, was a set in the 2005 Cannes-winning film, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada.

Tommy Lee Jones, January Jones, Dwight Yoakam, and Melissa Leo all had scenes in the Sands Motel cafe.

All this week, we're featuring photographs by Dan Baeza, a Van Horn native and Texas A&M Commerce student.  Dan served as our photography intern earlier this summer and created some beautiful shots to share with all of you!

Sands Motel by Dan Baeza

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Franklin Mountains State Park by Dan Baeza

Franklin Mountains State Park
Photo by Dan Baeza,
This week, we're sharing images from across the region taken by our photography intern, Dan Baeza.  Hailing from Van Horn, Dan is a student at Texas A&M Commerce, and spent three weeks with us, capturing images to share with y'all.

To help us promote our new hiking program, the Peak Fitness Challenge, we asked Dan to visit Franklin Mountains State Park. Hikers and trail runners of all experience and fitness levels are invited to participate. For more information and registration, visit the Challenge website, here!  While he was at the park, he encountered this little lizard, lots of scenic vistas and a cactus flower or two!

Cycling in 1895

We're also celebrating--117 years after the fact--the arrival of famed cyclist, Annie Londonderry to El Paso.  We'll be sharing photos of the city at that time, news clippings and other content related to her visit through the July 4th holiday!

Click on the clipping to read is an account of the arrival of Londonderry printed on June 26, 1895!  For more content, visit our Texas Mountain Trail Facebook page! 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Dan Baeza Week Begins!

Hotel El Capitan sign by Dan Baeza
Earlier this summer we were most fortunate to host a talented photographer, Dan Baeza, in an internship with the Texas Mountain Trail and the Clark Hotel Museum in Van Horn.  Dan did terrific work for both entities during his quick three week stint, including building the Museum's first-ever website, and working on several social media projects for the Trail.  This is the start of an entire week of images shot by Dan during his internship...stay tuned and enjoy the entire week!

The Hotel El Capitan is one of the region's beautifully restored historic hotels.  Built in 1930 by Trost and Trost, it was one of five in the Gateway Hotel chain in west Texas and eastern New Mexico.  It was a cattleman's hotel for its first 40 years; ranchers from all over the area bought and sold cattle in business meetings held in the lobby.  Today, it graciously serves visitors to Guadalupe Mountains National Park and other regional attractions, and travelers heading east or west on I-10.

Cycling in 1895

We're also sharing a story from the Victorian era...El Paso's own cycling craze.  On our Facebook and Twitter accounts, we'll share photos, clippings and other content that tells the story.  Exactly 117 years ago, El Paso was awaiting the arrival of famed cyclist, Annie Londonderry, and the town was excited about having her visit the city during the July 4th celebrations!

From the El Paso Herald, exactly 117 years ago, from the front page on June 25, 1895:

An interview with Annie Londonderry, click on the image to get a closer view!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The intersection of Magoffin and San Antonio streets in El Paso c. 1890s
(photo from the collection of the El Paso Historical Society)
Past the July 4th holiday, we're telling the story of the cycling craze in El Paso in 1895.  That year, in late June, El Paso was anticipating the arrival of famed cyclist, Annie Londonderry.  Cycling was a big, big sport and pastime in the city as well as many other cities in the United States.  There was a daily, front page column in the El Paso Herald newspaper. 

Here are some clips from June 24, 1895:

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Proud of our Homestead

Another wonderful image of early life in Van Horn from the collection of the Clark Hotel Museum!  (That's a cute little house!)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Texas Mountain Trail Heritage Hikes--Easy Pinery Station Trail

Stone ruins of Pinery Station
A place to rest along the trail and catch some shade
The Peak Fitness Challenge we launched yesterday incorporates hikes with historical significance ...and there's a variety of hikes for beginning to experienced hikers and trail runners!   We've called them Texas Mountain Trail Heritage Hikes, and today's featured hike is the Pinery Trail in Guadalupe Mountains National Park.

This hike takes you to the ruins of the stagecoach station, where in September 28, 1858, the first coach carrying mail and passengers made a meal stop on its inaugural journey across the U.S. The Pinery, named for nearby stands of pine, was one of the best stops for the Butterfield Overland Mail Stage along the line from Missouri to California, because of abundant water. The stop was used less than a year, as the route passing through Guadalupe Pass was abandoned for a more southerly route through Fort Davis.

This is an easy trail of less than a mile, with very little elevation gain.  The trail's pathway is easy for almost anyone to navigate.  

Join the Peak Fitness Challenge here, and "like" the facebook page for the Challenge to keep up on news, prize information and updates!

BONUS--1895 Cycling Story!
  Here's a little poem in the June 22, 1895 El Paso Herald ...a message from an Alpine cyclist!  

For more clips about the cycling craze in 1895, follow along on our Texas Mountain Trail facebook page or our Twitter account!  

We'll be rolling out the whole story in the weeks to come!   

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Our Peak Fitness Challenge Begins!

(Since the website in in beta, we're inviting folks to use the Feedback button us build the website right at the beginning.  Please send us your suggestions and feedback!  You're part of this effort at the groundfloor!)

The Peak Fitness Challenge, a free hiking program for Franklin Mountains State Park and Guadalupe MountainNational Park launches today, June 21st   at the monthly meeting of the El Paso Hotel Motel Association.  A joint program of the parks, the Texas Mountain Trail regional non-profit, El Paso’s and, the Challenge encourages everyone from beginning hikers to experienced trail runners to get out on the park’s trails.  Participants can earn prizes for their accomplishments.

“Hikers can use the program to build their fitness and confidence levels to reach the highest peaks in the Franklins and the Guadalupes, if they want,” says Don Baumgardt, GeoBetty creator and publisher of the El Paso Visitors Guide.  “Participation is easy and free.  Folks can go online to register, log miles hiked and compete for prizes.  This Challenge is for regional residents and visitors to Far West Texas.” 

Information and sign up is available at .   Hikers and trail runners can compete as individuals or team members.  Participants may count the miles they log on organized hikes or adventures they tackle with friends and family members.  Everyone is invited to join the facebook community for the challenge at

Planning for the Peak Fitness Challenge began last fall, when the new Superintendent of Guadalupe Mountains National Park, and El Paso native, Dennis Vasquez, approached the Texas Mountain Trail for assistance in planning the park’s 40th anniversary.  “The park had ideas for a hiking challenge similar to programs we’d been considering for some time,” said Beth Nobles, Executive Director of the Texas Mountain Trail, a regionally-based heritage tourism non-profit organization serving Far West Texas. “When we invited and their developer Phidev, Inc. to join the project and handle the technical aspects of the Challenge, the program really took off.  With the addition of Franklin Mountains State Park, we knew we had a winner.” 

From the beginning, the Peak Fitness Challenge was designed to encourage everyone to get out on our Far West Texas trails, including beginning hikers.  Adrianna Weickhardt, Parks Interpreter/Ranger at Franklin Mountains State Park, started Women’s Only Hikes earlier this year to encourage more participation at the park.  “They’re great opportunities for females of all ages who may feel some apprehension or fear about starting this new activity.  We cover the fundamentals of hiking, and we take a slower pace, starting with beginner level trails.  There’s an experienced guide along for the entire hike to lead them, assist, and answer any questions.”

To encourage new hikers, Nobles began a blog called, “One Foot in Front of the Other,” (  which features fitness tips and interviews with hikers, runners and cyclists.  The blog has several “Hiking 101” entries already addressing topics such as, “What’s a Trailhead?” and “How do I Find the Trail?”

Some of the trails are labeled “Texas Mountain Trail Heritage Hikes,” to encourage participants to learn about the heritage of the Far West Texas region.  One trail runs past a historic stagecoach route, another was the site of a murder of a Texas Ranger.  The TexasMountain Trail is a regional non-profit heritage tourism and economic development organization, representing the six westernmost counties of the state.  It participates in the Texas Historical Commission’s Texas Heritage Trails Program.

In the days after the June 21st launch, participants may choose join hikes organized and led by volunteers or rangers at the participating parks:

Franklin Mountains State Park:
Make your reservation by calling:  (915) 566-6441
Bring:  Water, snacks, sturdy hiking shoes/boots, hiking stick, camera, binoculars, a flashlight for the tin mines, a map and dogs are welcome on leashes!

Saturday, June 23 –“Couch Potato Hike” on the Lazy Cow Trail   
Start Time: 8:00 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Length: 6.3 miles/ 2 – 3 hours
Trailhead:  Meet at Chuck Heinrich Park/East side of the mountains (call for directions)
*Difficulty Level:  Easy to Moderate.  This single track trail is often used for mountain biking, but is a nice leisurely stroll as a hiking trail as well.  It is not difficult terrain to traverse, however, it is a longer distance and may be challenging for new hikers.  The plant and animal life in this area is readily seen and with the Franklins as a backdrop, this hike is beautiful.

Sunday, June 23rd– Mine Shaft Exploration
Start Time:  8:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.
Length:  1.4 miles / 1.5 - 2 hours
Trail:  Begin on West Cottonwood Springs trail, then enter the mineshaft to explore and end on the Agave Loop. *Difficulty Level:  Easy to Moderate.  Rocky along some sections, with a few short steep stretches.  The exploration into the mineshaft is fun and easy with one initial short belly crawl through the opening. 

Friday, June 29 – Women’s Only Hike – Upper Sunset Trail
Start Time:  8:00 a.m.
Length:  2.6 miles / 1.5 - 2 hours
*Difficulty Level:  Easy to moderate.  We’ll encounter some elevation gains, with some short steep inclines/declines, a few rocky/rough sections, and great vistas as we walk along the ridgeline.

 Guadalupe Mountains National Park:  All hikes begin at 8:00. Bring water, food, sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, and wear sturdy footwear.

Saturday, June 23-- Devil's Hall
Start time:  8 am.
Length:  4.2 miles roundtrip, moderately difficult, but very rocky, 3-4 hours.  Meet at the Pine Springs Trailhead near the RV campground.  Bring water, food, sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, and wear sturdy footwear.

Sunday, June 24-- Smith Springs
Start time:  8 am   (2.3 miles roundtrip, moderately difficult, 2 hours) Meet at the Frijole Ranch Trailhead.  Bring water, food, sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, and wear sturdy footwear.

Sunday, July 1--McKittrick Canyon to Pratt Cabin
Start time:  8 am (4.8 miles round trip, moderately difficult, 3-4 hours) Meet at the McKittrick Canyon Trailhead.  Bring water, food, sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, and wear sturdy footwear.

BONUS---1895 Cycling Story! 
 Follow along on our Texas Mountain Trail facebook page for clips, photos, and insight into cycling in 1895 as El Paso gets ready for the arrival of famed cyclist, Annie Londonderry!

We'll be rolling out the story exactly 117 years after the fact, with clippings from the El Paso Herald from June and July 1895.  

You'll learn all about the cycling craze at the time women were JUST starting to get out on bicycles and JUST starting to wear bloomers! 

And you'll see that cycling hasn't changed much in several ways...there were concerns about road conditions and safety.

And you'll see that El Paso was completely enthralled in Annie Londonderry's story (though there was at least one NOTABLE exception) and thoroughly enjoyed her visit during the July 4th holiday in 1895.  Follow along and join the fun!  

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Starting Tomorrow: Telling the Story of Cycling in 1895 in West Texas!

There were several shops in El Paso selling bicycles in 1895!
 Click on the clipping to get a closer view!
One of our friends, Melissa Sargent of El Paso, rides as Annie Londonderry!
In 1895, El Paso--along with much of the country-- was in the middle of a full-blown cycling craze.  Over the next few days and just past the July 4th holiday, we'll share clips and stories of what it was like to be a cyclist in El Paso.  The city was waiting for famed woman cyclist, Annie Londonderry, to head into town. Annie was on her legendary trip around the world by bicycle; she was the first woman to do so, and El Paso was a city full of her champions!

Stay tuned here, and at our Texas Mountain Trail facebook page and twitter account updates and images!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Meet Abby Austin, A Peak Fitness Challenge Volunteer!

--This post also appears at a blog for newbies to fitness, as part of the Peak Fitness Challenge, at

This is the first of several interviews we'll post with Abby Austin, creator of the wonderful hiking blog, 1,000 Miles on My Own Two Feet.  Originally from Maine, Abby lives in El Paso while her husband is stationed with the military at Fort Bliss.  We LOVED her blog, and were excited to meet her recently...and get her support as a volunteer with the Peak Fitness Challenge!  (We'll announce the challenge on Thursday!)   Abby will be leading a "Couch Potato Hike" in Franklin Mountains State Park on Saturday, June 23.  Make your reservation by calling the park at  915-566-6441.
Lazy Cow Trail, Franklin Mountains.  Abby will lead a "Couch Potato Hike"
on June 23rd for anyone wanting to get out in the Franklins, regardless of experience!
One Foot in Front of the Other:  Last year, you started a quest...well, why don't you tell the story?

Abby Austin: My husband will be retiring at the end of 2012 after twenty years of service in the military. That means we’re in control of our future, and we have backpacking dreams. Fitness was absent in my life—I was a couch potato!—and I was fearful of the trails because I wasn’t in shape. I challenged myself to hike 1,000 miles that year to get conditioned for our future backpacking. What better of a place than the Sun City with three hundred days of clear skies every year?

Hiking in the Franklin Mountains State Park is a great opportunity for me to hike 1,000 miles. There are trailheads just miles from my home. It’s such a gift to be so near to outdoor recreation, despite being in the middle of a city of half a million people. The park is ideal for my needs because it’s easy to find a variety of trails, including trails that would take my day’s mileage into double digits. The Franklins are ideal, too, for providing challenging terrain. I am the least surefooted person you’ll meet, but I love mountain tops, and to see them, I have to trust my feet. I still don’t hike fast, but I feel comfortable hiking on loose rock now, which stumped me when we arrived.

One Foot in Front of the Other:  Why do you enjoy hiking?

Abby Austin: I love to see Mother Nature at her wildest, truest self.  There’s only so much of America I can see from a highway. By hiking and getting into the backcountry, I’ve had the opportunity to see loads of wildlife just here in the Borderland, including Oryx, Barbary Sheep, and Javelina. And I don’t think I’ve ever felt quite as alive as standing on the summit of North Franklin—except for my few snake encounters!

Prickly Pear, Franklin Mountains
One Foot in Front of the Other:  What's your favorite hike? 
Abby Austin:  Do I have to pick only one? This region has so many fabulous hiking opportunities. I love hiking in the Guadalupe Mountains, Big Bend the Davis Mountains, but I’ll pick a favorite from the Franklins because I know this park the best. My favorite trail is Scenic Trail—and don’t let the subtle name fool you because “scenic” isn’t a good enough name. I’ve hiked this trail in the Franklin Mountains many times, and each time I come down feeling as though I’ve been at the spa. I feel refreshed, cleansed and inspired. My favorite time of day there is morning. I’ve seen the sunrise from up there, and a mountain view sunrise is better than the strongest java.  The morning light makes the mountain colors look more brilliant than any other time of day.

Scenic Trail, Franklin Mountains
One Foot in Front of the Other:  What's your favorite fitness tip?

Abby Austin: 
Enjoy the sport you choose. I love hiking. Even on days where it feels like a chore to get out the door, as soon as I see North Franklin Mountain towering over the North Hills, I fall into pace and wonder, why did I want to sleep late?

One Foot in Front of the Other:  What advice do you have for folks who are just thinking about getting started with hiking or fitness in general?

Abby Austin:  Enjoy the trail. There is only so much of America that we can see from the highway.

McKittrick Canyon Trail in Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Have confidence in yourself when you begin finding fitness. Self-doubt and self-consciousness are going to hold you back more so than the rattle snake blocking the trail. You might not look pretty doing it, you might be slower than someone else, but the bottom line is that you’re moving, and that is going to promote good health.

One Foot in Front of the Other: You’re going to be leading a “Couch Potato Hike” in Franklin Mountains State Park as part of the launch weekend for the Peak Fitness Challenge.  Can you tell us about that hike, the trail, and what participants can expect?

Abby Austin:  The Lazy Cow Hike and Bike Trail will be the trail we hike for the Couch Potato Hike. It’s located in the northeast section of the park, and it’s a favorite among mountain bikers, so the trail is well worn and comfortable to walk. The hardest part of the hike is at the very beginning as we will hike to the trailhead which has a slight uphill grade. The rest of the trail is flat, meandering through yucca, prickly pear, ocotillo agave and barrel cacti. The entire loop will be a six mile hike, but for those hikers who wish to hike less, there are loop backs to shorten their hikes.

The hiker I anticipate joining me will be someone new to the outdoors, perhaps someone who likes to walk around their neighborhood, but who would like to step it up a notch. This is a beginner hike, but at least a small level of fitness will be required. Hikers must bring one-two quarts of water and sturdy shoes/boots, sunscreen and/or thin, loose, breathable clothing to cover their skin.  Well behaved pets on leash are welcome (and remember their water!). This is one of the first trails I hiked by myself in the Franklins, and it was here that I gained the confidence to become a daily hiker.
One Foot in Front of the Other:  Join Abby on Saturday for the Peak Fitness Challenge "Couch Potato Hike" at Franklin Mountains State Park.  More information is here!  

**Make your reservation by calling Franklin Mountains State Park:  (915) 566-6441.**
Bring:  Water, snacks, sturdy hiking shoes/boots, hiking stick, camera, binoculars, and dogs are welcome on leashes!

 Saturday, June 23
Peak Fitness Challenge Hike  -   
“Couch Potato Hike” J  on the Lazy Cow Trail   
Start Time: 8:00 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Length: 6.3 miles/ 2 – 3 hours
Trailhead:  Meet at Chuck Heinrich Park/East side of the mountains (call for directions)
*Difficulty Level:  Easy to Moderate.  This single track trail is often used for mountain biking, but is a nice leisurely stroll as a hiking trail as well.  It is not difficult terrain to traverse, however, it is a longer distance and may be challenging for new hikers.  The plant and animal life in this area is readily seen and with the Franklins as a backdrop, this hike is beautiful.

All photos courtesy, Abby Austin!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Cowboy Looking at a Display of Spurs, Ranch Supply Store, Alpine

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection, [reproduction number, e.g., LC-USF34-9058-C]
Just one of many photographs Russell Lee took in Alpine in May 1939, available through the Library of Congress.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Can you tell the story?

Another image from the wonderful collection of early life in Van Horn at the Clark Hotel Museum.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Friday, June 15, 2012

117 Year Ago Today!

On June 15, 1895--117 years ago today--El Paso was in the midst of a cycling craze.  The newspaper had a daily front page column on cycling, there were several cycling clubs in town sponsoring races, and the city was eagerly anticipating the visit of Annie Londonderry, the first woman to cycle around the world.  (These are clips from the front page of the El Paso Herald from 6/15/95.)

Starting next Thursday, we'll tell a bit of the story of Londonderry's visit to El Paso through our Texas Mountain Trail social media venues--our Facebook page, our Twitter account, and right here on our Texas Mountain Trail Daily Photo.  It is a wild story that offers a slice of life view in the city in 1895, and interesting intersection with a classic story about gunfighter, John Wesley Hardin. 

You'll hear about women getting started as cyclists and having to make a difficult decision whether to remove their skirts in favor of bloomers, of squabbles over road conditions and safety for bicycles, and the excitement of first-time riders. And in the process, learn a little bit about life in 1895 in Far West Texas.

Today, El Paso sports some of the best mountain biking opportunities around, mostly in Franklin Mountains State Park.  Our friends at GeoBetty have mapped some great mountain biking and some road cycling routes in the city. 
Photo courtesy Pinata Publishing, credit: Dennis McElveen
 This year, we'll just give a sketch of the story.  We're hoping to secure funds to give a full view of the Annie Londonderry story next summer!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Last Night's Sunset West of Marfa

It was such a hot day, but an incredibly beautiful evening!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Beating the Heat on the Porches of Fort Davis

On hot summer days, porches beckon.  What better place to rest, and take in the soft desert mountain breezes?  Enjoy the shade, and some history at Fort Davis National Historic Site.
As you sit, you'll hear the bugle calls which signal the time of day and the work taking place at the Fort.  Visit our "Day at the Fort" pages to hear them! 

Other great Fort Davis area porches include the CCC-built Indian Lodge, of Southwestern Native-American-style adobe construction in the manner of a multi-level pueblo village.

Great porchsitting and hummingbird watching can be yours at Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center, just steps away from desert gardens and hiking trails.