Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Trip to Candelaria (Part Two) by Monte Riggs

Continued from yesterday's post....
(Click on any of the photos to get a closer view)

On this road through Pinto Canyon Ranch, a ten mile stretch of private property, I stop several times, turn the engine off and just look and listen. Only the sound of wind and bird and maybe your own heartbeat disturb the absolute silence. Though parts of the road are so rough that you can only creep along some it is surprisingly smooth and fast. Shortly after the turnoff for Chinati Hot Springs the road widens and begs for high gear.
Suddenly two of the buildings of Ruidosa appear as I crest a small hill and come around a corner and seconds later I am back on pavement, FM 170, known as the river road. I turn north for the last 12 miles to Candelaria, the end of the road for FM 170. The two lane highway follows the Rio Grande(Bravo) so closely that at several points I come upon great white egrets wading just a few feet off the road. The rugged landscape on both sides of the river is carved out of ancient sediments by the meandering channel which evidence shows changes frequently. Like the river it shadows, the road snakes back and forth, climbs small hills and drops suddenly into dips from old washouts. Cresting a rise I come upon a small green sign announcing my arrival in Candelaria.

Strangely, houses seem grouped in small clusters separated from each other by fields or pastures as if the original settlers were unsure about where the town should be. A small church loosely defines the center of town, assisted by the water tower and the cemetery, an apparently the school, as announced by a sign painted on the salvaged hood of a 60’s era sedan mounted against a power pole declaring “we are proud of our skool.”
Even with the separation between groupings of homes there is an interestingly strong sense of place about Candelaria that I find appealing. FM 170 continues past the sign that says “Pavement Ends” making a turn due west toward the river and the neighboring town on the other side San Antonio de Bravo, sadly no longer a legal crossing.
My first stop is the church, with its low block wall painted white and lovingly built grotto in the side yard. The sanctuary was erected in 1917 and has all the charm of an old world church. After touring the grounds and the cemetery behind it I sat on the block wall in the shade of one of the small juniper trees and ate my lunch. A few local folks came by on or in a variety of vehicles and everyone waved and smiled. I wonder as I’m eating my sandwich and carrots how often they see strangers in town.

Like many places in this region, Candelaria seems like a town with an easily imaginable more vibrant past but a present that seems only to be hanging on. There is no store of any sort or place to buy water or gas. For the visitor it is the end of the road, only a place to turn around and go back the way you came. Perhaps someday the border crossing will reopen and that will change.

Our thanks to Monte Riggs of Marfa, for sharing his impressions and images on possibly the least visited community in the Texas Mountain Trail Region!

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