Tuesday, December 31, 2013

First Day Hikes AND The Best of 2013: Beauty of November's ice storm

Our last "Best of 2013" posts, a rare icy day from November.  We're happy to say this happens only once in a blue moon out here in our Texas Mountains, and just an hour or so after these photos were taken, the melt was nearly complete.  But it was beautiful, right?

The ice that turned much of our region completely white this weekend has all melted, including this beautiful scene along Hwy 90 between Marfa and Alpine.  But it is so pretty, we wanted to share some images from the ice storm...since we rarely have winter weather like it!  Most of the time our winter is clear, bright, sunny and warm!


Tomorrow, celebrate the start of 2014 with our friends at Texas Parks and Wildlife with your choice of THREE First Day Hikes!

Hiking group at Franklin Mountains State Park
 Our friends at three regional state parks are offering guided hikes for the New Year:  Check out the options by clicking at the links: Big Bend Ranch State Park, Franklin Mountains State Park and Wyler Tramway!  Or visit our region-wide events calendar at:  www.texasmountaintrail.com/events

Big Bend Ranch State Park Cinco Tinajas

Moderate-difficult. Begin with a gradual incline over scree, or rubble, proving to be challenging for some; the trail transitions to well maintained terrain with a continuous, yet gradual incline, to the top at Mundy’s Gap. Elevation gain of 1,000 feet.
- See more at: http://texasmountaintrail.com/events/franklin-mountains-state-park-first-day-hike#sthash.coS5boBm.dpuf

Monday, December 30, 2013

Best of 2013: Cycling Marathon's "Ride to the Post" Heritage Bike Route


One of our Texas Mountain Trail Heritage Bike Routes is featured in the current issue of the Texas Historical Commission's magazine, The Medallion!   Click HERE to read the entire issue online--a travel article covering our region including Marathon, the Gage Hotel, and Big Bend Ranch State Park starts on page 6!

Is the route easy?  YES!  A family could easily handle the five miles there, five miles back route.  There's virtually no vehicular traffic, is incredibly scenic and the average slope is only 1.2%!  The elevation gain is only 121 feet! 

Why is this called a "heritage" bike route?  The ride starts out at the historic (and cycle-friendly!) Gage Hotel, continues across the highway and railroad (easy crossings!) to the Gage Hotel's formal Gardens.  From there, you follow signs to the Cemetery and County Park. 
Water Lily from Gage Gardens
The Cemetery is a short detour and has the graves of early Marathon residents, with interesting markings and monuments.

Head further south to Post Park, through country that once held a tent hospital during the 1918 influenza epidemic, a buffalo soldier encampment called Post Pena Colorado, and to Post Park. Be sure to read the interpretive panels on the Buffalo Soldier encampment and the geology of the area, produced by our friends at the Brewster County Tourism Council...and have a GREAT ride! 

Post Park!
The park itself is a great place to watch birds and enjoy wildlife, and was a stopping off point for the Comanche and Apache.  It also was a project of the 1930s Works Progress Administration!
Ride to the Post!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Best of 2013: Meet Tux, Gentleman Cat of the Historic Hotel Limpia

One of our favorite hotel "managers" of 2013:  Tux of the Historic Hotel Limpia!

Meet Tux, Gentleman Cat of Historic Hotel Limpia

Tux takes a break from his vigorous and exhaustive
duties on the Hotel Limpia porch
There's a quiet gentleman overseeing the staff, greeting visitors, and generally making sure everyone has a terrific stay at the historic Hotel Limpia in Fort Davis.

Meet Tux, a big boy black-and-white "tuxedo" cat whose duties also include supervising cushion softness, and sunlight maintenance on porch furniture.  He does a great job, too, as the property maintains a gracious hospitality for visitors to the Davis Mountains.

While the Hotel Limpia has its roots in the early days of Fort Davis, now Fort Davis National Historic Site, the current hotel main building dates back to 1912.  Read about the hotel's history here.

Many hands (and paws, as it turns out) contribute to a hotel's hospitality.  Tux is one of those unsung heroes of the Davis Mountains.

When you're planning a trip to McDonald Observatory, Fort Davis National Historic Site, Davis Mountains State Park, or Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center....or the upcoming Fort Davis Hummingbird Festival (which is hosted by the Hotel Limpia!) consider the Hotel Limpia for your next stay!
Tux on Baseboard Control Duty

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Best of 2013: 5 Great Places to let your Kids Run Off Some Energy in the Texas Mountains...Then Step Inside and Learn!

Another of our favorite posts of 2013...enjoy! 

When you're traveling, sometimes the kids just have SO MUCH ENERGY, and you want a safe place where they can RUN off some steam, right?

Try these:

County Courthouse Squares.  We've got some beauties....the Presidio County Courthouse in Marfa, the Jeff Davis County Courthouse in Fort Davis, and the Brewster County Courthouse in Alpine.  All have well-kept lawns, and locals enjoy them as family and dog-friendly places.   Step inside each of the courthouses and enjoy the architecture, and local history photos and displays.
1.  Presidio County Courthouse in Marfa
2.  Gazebo outside the Brewster County Courthouse
in Alpine
3.  Jeff Davis County Courthouse in Fort Davis

4. Parade Ground of Fort Davis National Historic Site.  The lawn here probably isn't watered as often as our courthouse squares, but there's LOTS of running space for the kids to enjoy.  And, there are shaded benches where tired parents can sit and rest.  When everyone's ready, the historic fort is a gem and the family will enjoy learning about military life in the 19th century. 
5.  The shaded campus of Sul Ross State University in Alpine, just outside the Museum of the Big Bend.  Let them run off some steam on campus, then head inside the museum for some great kid-friendly and interactive exhibits on the history of the entire Big Bend Region.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Best of 2013: A Dream Vacation for Classic Film Fans

Another of our favorite posts--and favorite adventures--of 2013!


Interior of the fully restored Plaza
Theatre in downtown El Paso
Every year, film lovers in the know head to El Paso for the largest (and probably the best!) Classic Film Festival anywhere, its home base the lovingly restored Plaza Theatre.  This 1930 theatre (Wurlitzer organ and all!) offers a step into the past for film buffs.  Full screen showings of some true classics.  Meet and greet opportunities with stars.  Great, great fun.

What's showing?  Old classics like The Graduate,  Fahrenheit 451, The Third Man, West Side Story and It Came From Outer Space!  And new classics like Far Marfa!  Here's a link to the schedule
Watch new and old cinema classics
at the Festival!
El Paso's lovely Union Station
Inside El Paso's train station
May we suggest a true adventure?!?  Take a COMPLETE step into the past by arriving at the festival by TRAIN!  El Paso's station is just blocks from the Plaza Theatre...and the city is on Amtrak's Sunset Limited Line. Get on the train in Alpine, San Antonio, New Orleans, Tucson or Los Angeles to get to the Festival...no cars needed! link to the festival's website for more information!
Once you arrive, you'll be in the center of downtown's museum cultural "campus" with plenty of lodging and dining opportunities!  Here's a
Lodging and dining opportunities just
steps from the Plaza Theatre!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Best of 2013: Five Adventure Treks to Historic Texas Mountain Homes

Today, through the end of the year, we take a look at some of our favorite posts of 2013...enjoy!
Williams Ranch, Guadalupe Mountains National Park
1.  Williams Ranch, Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Adventure Rating:  HIGH. 

Accessible only by rugged 4x4 high ground clearance vehicles (or mountain bike!) on a one lane dirt/rock road, the drive to the house is 7.3 miles and takes approximately an hour.  (how to get there).  Part of this road--the section clearly marked--was the historic Butterfield Overland Mail stagecoach route in 1858-1859.

The rugged road to Williams Ranch
was part of the historic Butterfield
Overland Mail stagecoach route
While you can't go inside the 1908 home, the porch offers terrific views of the salt flat looking west and the Guadalupe Mountains behind.  Very satisfying hikes around the home can have you scampering over boulders, looking for wildlife.  Bring plenty of water.  (Both water and wildlife were more plentiful when the ranch was used by the Belcher, Williams and Hunter families.)  Read more about the ranch history, here.
Magoffin Home State Historic Site
El Paso

2.  Magoffin Home, El Paso.

Adventure Rating:  for EVERYONE.

Your "trek" is an easy walk from downtown, less than a mile from the Mexico border.  (The staff and volunteers are working on a walking tour of the neighborhood.)  The Magoffin Home State Historic Site an 1875 home operated by the Texas Historical Commission, is a wonderful example of Territorial style architecture, with period furnishings and a quiet center courtyard. The adobe home of Joseph and Octavia Magoffin is open to the public for tours, which typically last about an hour.  (Information on visiting the home is here.)  Sitting in an El Paso historic district, this part of town was once called "Magoffinsville."  The homestead was described this way by the 1887 El Paso Times, “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."  Read more about the history here.

View of Homer Wilson ranch from Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive
Big Bend Ranch State Park
3.  Homer Wilson Ranch, Big Bend National Park.

Adventure Rating:  CHALLENGING to EASY:  YOUR CHOICE!  (Can be a starting or ending point for the three day Outer Mountain Loop backpacking trip, a 0.25 mile hike (even though the hike is short...bring water!), or a view from the paved Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive.

Homer Wilson was a geologist, who divided his time ranching and mining from 1929-1942.  By 1942, Wilson was thought to have controlled 40,000 to 50,000 acres in the Big Bend.  The ranch is also known as the Blue Creek Ranch, and was a center of  sheep and goat ranching.  The one story structure had two bedrooms, living room and kitchen.  It was abandoned when the family left in 1944.

4.  Sauceda Ranch, Big Bend Ranch State Park
Sauceda Ranch's The Big House in Big Bend Ranch
State Park

Adventure Rating:  Getting there requires a  rolicking drive at 25 mph over rough (but scenic!) roads, and while exploring Sauceda Ranch is for EVERYONE, the drive there is NOT for every vehicle.All the roads in the park are dirt, and while the main road to Sauceda is maintained, it is VERY rugged.  Download the park's 4x4 guide here.
Road to Sauceda Ranch in Big Bend Ranch State Park

The center of the Sauceda Historic District, the Big House is one of our favorite places to stay in all of the Texas Big Bend.  Operated by Texas Parks and Wildlife, the lovely home offers rooms with adobe fireplaces, and a common kitchen and living area for a relaxed stay in center of the wild Big Bend Ranch State Park
View from the road to Sauceda Ranch
in Big Bend Ranch State Park

The exact date of the home is not known, but the first recorded land owner, George A. Howard may have built a structure in this location between 1905 and 1908.  It was expanded and improved several times, in the 1930s, 1950s, 1970s, and 1980s, yet still has a gracious, but "old" feel.  Want to stay there yourself?  Lodging information is here.  A walking tour of the Sauceda Historic District is here.

Bring your mountain bike with you and from Sauceda Ranch, enjoy easy access to one of the few American trails rated an "Epic Ride," by the International Mountain Biking Association

Historic photo of Frijole Ranch, in what is now
Guadalupe Mountains National Park
5.  Frijole Ranch, Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Adventure Rating:  For EVERYONE!

Now a museum of early life in the Guadalupe Mountains, Frijole Ranch was the center of the frontier community.  The ranch was built around 1876 by the Rader brothers, but it is thought they left the area around 1880.  The Herring/Wolcott family is believed to have operated the  ranch between 1880s and 1895.  The Smith family operated the ranch starting in 1906 as a truck farm, sending their wares to Van Horn by wagon for sale. Read more about the history of the ranch, here.
Cool and shady portion of the Smith Spring trail
adjacent to a natural spring
Visitors can tour the home museum as well as the adjacent school house and teacher's room, the remnants of the orchard/garden, and the 2.6 mile loop Smith Spring trail to Manzanita Spring, through desert scenery and into the mountains. (The Smith Spring trail is rated MODERATE:  hikers should wear hats, sturdy shoes, clothing to protect from the sun and desert, and should carry water.)
View of the Guadalupe Mountains from
the Smith Spring trail by Frijole Ranch

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Wishing everyone a terrific holiday!

One of our favorite photos from our home community, Van Horn, of the Clark Hotel Museum, just steps away from the Crossroads of the Texas Mountain Trail.  Happy Holidays, everyone! 

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Great Mom and Pop Outdoor Store in El Paso

For far too long, El Paso--a city with tremendous outdoor adventure possibilities--had to rely on big box sporting good stores with limited specialty items for their camping and hiking supplies.  Celebrating their first year in business, Reliance Outdoor Supply, offers terrific brands and an impressive variety of equipment for all your escapades in the mountains.
1060 Doniphan Park Circle, El Paso
between Doniphan and Sunland Park Drive
in the building behind Vista Market
Brands like Big Agnes!
Climbing supplies and crash pads for
climbing and bouldering locations like Hueco Tanks!
Camping, gardening, canning, hydroponics, solar
supplies...everything for an outdoor, self-reliant lifestyle!
And plenty of free information on adventures in Big Bend,
Davis Mountains, Guadalupe Mountains, El Paso,
and the rest of the Texas Mountain Trail!
Note: as they are a Mom and Pop store, they're closed December 29 through January 5th, for inventory and family time...and they are closed December 25.  Christmas Eve, they're open 10-2 for those last minute gifts, and their regular hours are: M-Sat 10-7; Sun 11-5!  They also specialize in service and "special" orders! 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Eating Vegan in El Paso

Sometimes traveling is a challenge for folks with dietary concerns, so we wanted to take a day to point out some options for vegans in El Paso.  Not a vegan, but like to consider vegetarian options?  The Vegetarian Society of El Paso has MANY options listed on their dining guide, HERE.
Vegan Tacos at Hello Day Cafe

Located a block from the historic El Camino Real Hotel, the El Paso Museum of Art and the Plaza Theatre is the tiny Hello Day Cafe, at 209 S. El Paso Street, where we sampled the Vegan Tacos late this week.  They use a spicy vegan queso with roasted broccoli, black beans, tomato and green onion.  Their menu is here.  (Meat eaters will find burgers, etc.!)  Their facebook page is here.

Another place for great vegan dining is The Green Ingredient, also in downtown El Paso, in the main floor of the Chase Bank Building at the edge of the Plaza (now under renovation), 201 E. Main, Suite 112.  We've had several delicious meals there, and the menu, like at the Hello Day Cafe, can accommodate poultry and fish-eaters, too.  Their facebook page is here.
Causa Limena from The Green Ingredient
Lemony potato puree with avocado and marinated vegetables

Kale Deluxe Salad from The Green Ingredient
Raw Pasta with Marinara
The Green Ingredient

Avocado Chocolate Mousse
The Green Ingredient