Thursday, February 28, 2013

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Lovelies from the Cactus Greenhouse

One of the brightest places to show color just about anytime of the year is the Cactus Greenhouse in Fort Davis' Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center and Botanical Gardens.
Though our skies are generally bright this time of year, we always feel cheered by what we see in the greenhouse.  Usually something's blooming there!


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

What You Hear at the Fort

When you visit the wonderful Fort Davis National Historic Site, you'll hear the bugle calls.  The bugle was used to signal to the soldiers as to the work of the day...from meal times, to work times, to school for the children at the fort, to lights out at night.  It takes almost no imagination to put yourself back to the 1870s and 1880s when the Fort was full of soldiers.

We wanted to share some of that experience with all of you, with the gracious help of the Fort Davis National Historic Site interpretive staff.

We've organized more videos to take you through a Morning at the Fort.  Click here to experience it!

Consider yourself invited to watch all our videos about the Texas Mountain Trail region!

Monday, February 25, 2013


El Paso native and chef, Aaron Sanchez, talks about a local institution, Chico's Tacos, on "The Best Thing I Ever Ate!"

Sunday, February 24, 2013

New Word on the "Tiffany" Dome

Dome in El Paso's historic
El Camino Real hotel
Photo: THC
For some time, the stained glass dome in El Paso's historic El Camino Real hotel has been a "go to" site for visitors and residents of the city.  It graces the bar of the hotel beautifully.  Long called a "Tiffany" dome, there's been some speculation about its origin. 

Our Texas Mountain Trail board members from El Paso are dilgent in supporting the city's history, and knowing rumor and and they're terrific champions of the truth.  Turns out the "Tiffany" dome is really a Tiffany-style dome.

Thanks to TMT Board President Emeritus, Bernie Sargent, and Prince McKenzie of the Railroad and Transportation Museum of El Paso for scouting out the truth.  From Prince McKenzie:

"My mentor Dr. Clarke Garnsey, Prof. Emeritus, Art Dept. TWC/UTEP, was retained by Franklin Land to evaluate the dome, as they began the building restoration of the hotel. Having been trained at the Cleveland Art Institute, he knew what I D marks to look for and where, and he believed the dome to be designed by a Chicago studio and positively not Tiffany.

Later as a Curator at the Art Museum, I studied the various stained glass windows of the W. H. Turney Home and identified all the makers except one. I identified windows designed by Trost, and even had one restored. The big problem for me was the great Palladian stained glass window on the grand staircase of the Turney Home. I believed it to be the same maker as the dome of the Paso del Norte because of three factors; same period, same quality and same architect.

Now I believe you have found the answer. Garnsey told Franklin Land not to describe it as a Tiffany but stated that it was of equal quality. After the building was sold the new owners could not resist making the Tiffany claim in their advertising."

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Be a Part of El Paso History!!

Downtown El Paso (Plaza in center back) around 1890s
Photo: Collection of the El Paso County Historical Society
Event: El Paso History Summit.
When: March 16, 2013
Time: Noon to 6 p.m.
Where: 1340 Murchison
Scenic View Ballroom of the First Presbyterian Church (near Brown St.) This free event is open to the public and is hosted by the El Paso History Radio Show, El Paso County Historical Commission, El Paso Mission Trail Association, and El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro Trail Association (CARTA). The El Paso History Summit is an opportunity for El Pasoans to help define what El Paso history is and how it should be preserved. Event organizers will use participants’ feedback to better promote heritage tourism for the Paso del Norte region.

Bring up to 10 photos that are at least 25 years old and have all persons identified, if possible, as well as the date and place. Photos are to be scanned onsite and returned back to the owners. The goal is to include all these photos on the interactive Digital Wall that will be installed at the El Paso Museum of History.

The summit will also kick off the “I Am El Paso” campaign, where the public can video record a 1-2 minute message that identifies themselves to the El Paso area. There will be a Town Hall meeting on El Paso history with special invited guests state Senator Jose Rodriguez and El Paso County Historical Commission chairman, Bernie Sargent. The Town Hall will be moderated by hosts of "The El Paso History Radio Show," Jackson Polk and Melissa Sargent.

Other events include screenings of local documentaries, such as, “El Paso’s Mission Trails” and the world premiere of segments from Capstone Productions’ latest documentary, "The Last Tour of theEl Paso Smelter." After three years of filming the demolition of the former Asarco site, the first installment of the El Paso Smelter documentary series covers the history and construction of one of the world’s tallest smokestacks.

Be a part of the first El Paso History Summit by sharing your history of El Paso with the community and help promote our diverse cultural identity. There will also be giveaways and other door prizes throughout the day.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Cloud Watchers

A hand in the clouds?
One of our Texas Mountain Trail board members in El Paso, Herb Price, has a great view of the sky above the Franklin Mountains from his home.  From time to time, he sends photos of El Paso's magnificent sunsets to share with all of you.  This time, he took a great photo of...what's that?  A hand pointing to the sky?  We take it as a reminder to spend a few moments every day to look at the sky and take in the beauty!

Here's one of our cycle-friendly hotel properties to consider when you're heading to Big Bend, Big Bend Resorts and Adventures!  We stayed there during our recent trip to the Chihuahuan Desert Bike Fest, and yes, you can park your bikes in the room overnight!  The convenient location is 12 miles from Barton Warnock Environmental Education Center, 5 miles from Terlingua Ghost Town and a couple of miles from the western entrance to Big Bend National Park.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Riding to McGuirk's Dream, Part 2

Mountain bikers were greeted
by TPWD's Linda Hedges
who interpreted the site
Yesterday, we started our report on our ride to the Contrabando Canyon's rock house ruin, the former home of H.W. McGuirk in the late 1890s.  We were there on a ride at the Chihuahuan Desert Bike Fest, a cooperative effort of TPWD, Big Bend Ranch State Park, Desert Sports, Big Bend Trails Alliance and many other dedicated volunteers.

We took one of the easier rides, an 11+ mile trek to the rock house.  When we arrived, TWPD's Linda Hedges told us all about the ruin, and guided us through an illuminating look at the site. 

Continuing our information from TPWD:

"The roof was constructed with wood timber framing (vigas of cottonwood) as rafters gathered on site, an ddesigned with a shallow pitech to shed water towards the canyon below.  Both the original section and the addition of small fireplaces for cooking, with very nicely constructed chimneys indicating that the work was undertaken by experienced craftsmen.

The rock house ruin's many rooms
shown here
Remnants of a corral in the foreground
Immediately adjacent to the residence is a series of small, ribbon-like stone fence enclosures, no more than 3 feet high, that were likely used to protect small livestock.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Riding to McGuirk's Dream, Part 1

TPWD's (and TMT board member) Linda Hedges
leads an interpretive hike to Casa Contrabando
during the Chihuahuan Desert Bike Fest
Recently, we participated in the Chihuahuan Desert Bike Fest down in Lajitas and Big Bend Ranch State Park.  We took the Festival's Contrabando Ride, 11+ miles in the state park, led by volunteers and knowledgable TPWD interpreters.  We headed north from Barton Warnock Environmental Education Center on Hwy 170, the River Road, up single and double-track trails into Big Bend Ranch State Park.  Halfway through our ride, we ended up at Contrabando Water Hole and the ruins of H.W. McGuirk's stone house from the late 1890s.

From TPWD:

"H.W. McGuirk began ranching in the area around 1885.  He expanded operations and moved his headquarters here to Contrabando Waterhole about 12 years later.   But water contamination in the spring, possibly poisoning, soon forced him to abandon this site and move to the Rio Grande, where he founded the community of Lajitas.

fireplace in the stone house ruin
Begun sometime during the late 1890s, the dwelling at Contrabando Waterhole began as a "patio"--a cleared area enclosed by a short, stacked stone wall.  The building was constructed within these defining perimeter walls, and consisted of 4 rooms built over the course of at least two building campaigns.  Both the original dwelling and the attached addition emply the same mazonry wall construction techniques, utilizing locally-collected native Boquillas flagstone in a random-laid patter, with a minimum of earth mortar used to stabilize the walls. 
There is evidence that, as the structure fell to ruin, efforts were made to reconstruct some of the walls using smaller rocks, tightly packed.  Though very little of the wood framing remains, one can see the location of the window and door openings."  
We loved visiting the Stone House ruin
on the Contrabando ride during the
Chihuhuan Desert Bike Fest.
Thanks to all, including Stonewear
Designs, for your rugged Echo Top!

Our BIG BIG thanks to all involved putting on the Festival, from TPWD and its staff from Big Bend Ranch State Park, Barton Warnock Environmental Education Center, and from across the state, Desert Sports, Big Bend Trail Alliance and many other dedicated volunteers and willing organizations.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

When you say, "You'll go back in time," how far back is that?

Any traveler to the region will tell you:
We've got--
Wide Open Spaces
And not many people---
A lone participant in the Chihuahuan Desert Bike Fest
contemplates the ruins of a candellia factory in
Big Bend Ranch State Park

Our population density is VERY low.. the latest census in Brewster County (where Big Bend National Park, Terlingua, Alpine and Marathon are located) counted 1.49 people per square mile. 
In Presidio County (Marfa, Shafter and Presidio), there are 2.03 people per square mile. 
And in Jeff Davis County (Fort Davis and Valentine) there are 1.03 people per square mile.
And those numbers, by a simple measure used by the federal government (fewer than six people per square mile) is FRONTIER.
How long has it been since your hometown has been "frontier," or this sparsely populated?
So you live in Austin?  When was the last time Travis County had a comparable level of population density? Answer:  The earliest census numbers we could find were in 1850, and by that time, Travis County had 3.07 people per square mile.
Dallas? Dallas County had 1.75 people per square mile by 1860, the first census number we could find; and by 1870, it was 7.77 people per square mile.
San Antonio? Bexar County already had 4.81 people per square mile by 1850.
So when you're looking at landscapes like ours, you're looking at a time long before there were cars to take us around.  That's why we love events that put us out in the landscape, and why we think getting around by horse, by foot, or by bike gives you a better idea of what the "frontier" is all about.

Last weekend, riders in the Chihuahuan Desert Bike Fest were treated to "epic" rides in Big Bend Ranch State Park, and because of the involvement of many volunteers and TPWD interpretive staff, they learned quite a bit about our land and our history.

Participants in one of the Friday rides line up at
Barton Warnock Environmental Education Center
Riders on the Contrabando trail complex in
Big Bend Ranch State Park

Monday, February 18, 2013

Friday's sunset

Highway 90 West in Marfa
Early light of Friday's sunset from above a neighborhood
fence in Marfa

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Scenes from a GREAT Museum

One of the best small museums you'll find anywhere is in Alpine on the campus of Sul Ross State University, the Museum of the Big Bend.  The museum's staff, volunteers and donors have built a tremendous resource for visitors and residents of the area, for the museum illuminates and helps us understand our shared history.
From the Museum's website:

"The exhibit Big Bend Legacy greets visitors as they enter the Museum of the Big Bend. Legacy introduces visitors to the distinctive natural history, human history and confluence of cultures in the Big Bend region.
Native Americans inhabited the area for thousands of years before the arrival of the Europeans. The Spanish, through their system of missions and presidios, imprinted their customs on the region only to be replaced by the nation of Mexico. The westward expansion of the United States brought yet another unique culture to the Big Bend.
Many exhibits are enchanced
with video displays

Big Bend Legacy invites the visitor to experience this panorama of natural and human history.

Every year, the Museum hosts "Trappings of Texas" a terrific exhibition and sale of cowboy gear and Western art...the longest running event of its kind in the country.  Learn more here.

Travel Spotlight!

Members of our Texas Mountain Trail get a discount at the Museum of the Big Bend's gift shop!  Click here to become a member.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Hiking to the Top of Texas, Guadalupe Peak by Sarah Clark

Sarah Clark is a Community Outreach SCA AmeriCorps Intern serving at Guadalupe Mountains National Park.  She's helping us promote the Peak Fitness Challenge, a free hiking challenge in Guadalupe Mountains National Park and Franklin Mountains State Park
Mountain tops seem to hold a special place in men’s minds. Moses came down from the mountain top with the moral code that has shaped the lives of millions of people for thousands of years. Native Americans seek their visions among the mountain tops, while Buddhist monks remain to find nirvana. The mountain top is a symbol of clarity, knowledge, and enlightenment. The effort and struggles of gaining the peak are integral to the significance of gaining the summit. No one would say they had conquered a mountain by flying to the top in a helicopter. No, each step on the way to the top has its own place and meaning.
The hike to the top of Guadalupe Peak is no different. As you work your way up the trail the desert floor falls away; the sounds of the highway gradually fade. Valleys and hills unfold before you, curving away to join ridge upon ridge, knitted together by rock and tree. Rounding a corner opens new worlds, as barren hillsides and sheer cliff faces become mountain slopes covered in pines, only to give way to the grassy shoulders of the peak. The air, thin enough to give pause as you switchback your way through the steepest sections of the trail, fills with the scent of pine. Even with your eyes closed, the air near the peak would tell you that you are far from the rest of the world. The last scramble to the summit, full of white fossil rich rocks of a long vanished reef, brings you face to face with the goal of your long climb. The mountain top is yours. Away below is the work-a-day world. But here, on the top, the press of everyday affairs is far away. Whether the first or the hundredth time to the top, the summit brings its own sense of time and scale to your perspective. As you gradually make your way back down the trail the headiness of the summit will remain. Distances seem changed, perspectives reframed. The memory of the view from the top is contrasted with where you are. Once returned to the base, the moments of clarity on the mountain top, with only the sky above you, the winds around you, and all the world below, remain.
Sarah Clark

Adventure Spotlight: JOIN the Peak Fitness Challenge!

This free, fun challenge is designed to entice you to try new parks and new trails and new challenges!  How does it work?
1) Sign up at  (This is FREE!)
2) Browse the challenge site to find trails you'd like to try
3) Get out on the trail, complete your hike, and log it on your profile on the Peak Fitness Challenge website
4) Once you log a hike, your name is entered in a monthly drawing for
neat prizes!

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Reward of Taking a Closer Look: Part 2

In Van Horn's Clark Hotel Museum, there's a special hat
Thought to be one of movie cowboy's Tom Mix
In Van Horn's Clark Hotel Museum, there are plenty of little jewels.  Take, for instance, a hat reputed to come from early movie cowboy, Tom Mix.

We thank Van Horn native, Dan Baeza, who took a series of wonderful photographs for us at the museum and around Van Horn.  And while he was at it, he built the Clark Hotel Museum's first-ever website!  Thanks, Dan!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Reward for Taking a Closer Look

Beautiful landscape in Big Bend Ranch State Park
On our recent trip to Big Bend Ranch State Park, we found ourselves in a beautiful landscape right near the Rio Grande.  See those blue mountains in the background?  Those are in Mexico.  And while it is tempting to look as FAR away in the landscape you can, there are rewards for taking a closer look. See where we're going?
A little Rainbow Cactus sits atop the rock!
Travel Spotlight!

Now you can join the Texas Mountain Trail as a member! 
Great benefits are available for our members; join here!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Almost Sundown in the Desert

Taken a couple of weeks go in Big Bend Ranch State Park!  So lovely!


The Museum of the Big Bend's ONLY annual fundraiser is coming up and you don't want to miss it!  Trappings of Texas tickets are $50 for the Opening Exhibit Sale and Reception, Saturday, February 23 from 5-8 pm. There's also a DANCE at the Holland Hotel and a Preview Party.  Click HERE for all the information at a wonderful event benefiting a critical resource for our region, the Museum of the Big Bend!

Mark Stewart of Lipan, Texas
 is the current President of the
International Guild of Bit and Spurmakers.
Looking at this bit by him, we think
 we know why is the president!
Mark will have a Santa Barbara
 Style bit for sale in the
2013 Trappings of Texas.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Mary Baxter

Rio Conchos at La Junta
by Mary Baxter
     Our region is not only blessed with jaw-droppingly stunning scenery, but also with artists who capture it beautifully.  We've been enjoying the work of painter and sculptor, Mary Baxter of Marfa.  Mary travels all over the Texas Mountain Trail region, sometimes painting for days and weeks at a time from her trailer.  Recently she was down in the Presidio-Terlingua area painting along the River Road, Hwy 170.

"I moved to the Big Bend region in 1994, when we had leased a ranch Southwest of Marfa for raising cattle. Most of the time I lived there by myself, checking water and putting out feed, and training some horses for extra income.

The landscape was growing on me and I began to paint my surroundings. I had previously studied printmaking at the University of Texas at San Antonio. This was in the pre-digital age and the only place to have film developed was in Alpine, two and a half hours away. So I learned to rely instead on sketches and notes for reference, a practice I still prefer to use today.

For several more years while I painted this area, I supported myself through training and trading horses, and sometimes working a season on the high-goal polo circuit in Florida or California.
Now I just paint and sculpt. I love my job, and I especially like that I can make my living off this land without having to alter it in any way."
Would you like to see more of Mary's work?  Click here to see her website.

Last Light Near Fresno Canyon
by Mary Baxter


Monday, February 11, 2013

Our Thanks to El Paso County Historical Commission

El Paso County Historical Commission's
Bernie Sargent presents a check
to support Texas Mountain Trail
to Executive Director, Beth Nobles
Our Texas Mountain Trail regional non-profit organization is grateful for the participation and support of individuals and organizations across Far West Texas.  We could not do the work we do without the dedicated support of organizations like the El Paso County Historical Commission. 

Year after year, the dedicated folks volunteering their time to serve the Commission are recognized for their vibrant, creative and non-stop advocacy for the preservation and appreciation of El Paso County's history by the Texas Historical Commission and their Distinguished Service Awards.
Inside Ysleta Mission
Photo by Randy Mallory for the THC
From the EPCHC's website, "The El Paso County Historical Commission (EPCHC) is a vital link in Texas' preservation network. Few other states have a built-in mechanism that makes possible a preservation organization in every county. CHCs have statutory responsibility to initiate and conduct programs suggested by the county commissioners court and the Texas Historical Commission (THC). Over the years, CHCs have worked in a dynamic and positive partnership with the THC to preserve Texas' heritage for the use, education, enjoyment and economic benefit of present and future generations. They have been responsible for the preservation of countless historic buildings, artifacts, documents and other pieces of Texas history.

We work closely with the folks at the El Paso County Historical Commission on projects that illuminate the vibrant history and bring travelers to the county.  THANKS SO MUCH for your partnership and friendship!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Remnants left behind, Ranch History at Big Bend Ranch State Park

Two stock tanks--one round, one rectangular--out on
remote ranch land in Big Bend Ranch State Park...which is
older, do you suppose?
If you look closely, the wildlands of Big Bend Ranch State Park reveal relics of its ranching past.  Consider these two stock tanks side by side--one is round, the other rectangular--which do you suppose is older?

The round stock tank was made of stone, and it is believed manual laborers gathered local stone to construct the tanks.

Our TPWD guide, Blaine Hall, believes the rectangular one was the more recent addition--as the shape indicates a form was used to form the concrete stock tank.

Water was pumped from Sauceda to remote areas of the park, and you can see remnants of that enterprise, if you look closely!

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Ranch Buildings at Sauceda, Big Bend Ranch State Park

Tack Room and Bunkroom in Sauceda
in Big Bend Ranch State Park and the corrals,
still used today

The historic ranch at Sauceda in Big Bend Ranch State Park has many intact features, including the corrals (yes, they still have horse there!) and the Tack Room and Bunkroom building, which is used for storage today
Wool barn at Sauceda, built in the 1940s.  At their peak
production in 1955, the Fowlkes brothers sold more than
200,000 pounds of wool, "the biggest clip in Texas"
.Click here to read the park's Historic Walking Tour brochure of Sauceda!

Adventure Spotlight! 

Are you a walker/hiker/runner or cyclist?  Did you know your miles could add up to support charity?

Check out
Charity Miles, a free app to download and record your miles...and every cycling mile means 10 cents, and walking/running/hiking mile means 25 cents can be donated to your favorite charity!  Read more about it here.

May we suggest Feeding America?  If you live in Far West Texas, your miles dedicated to Feeding America will benefit the West Texas Food Bank!

Friday, February 08, 2013

Snuggling by the Fire in the Big House, Big Bend Ranch State Park

Many visitors to Sauceda, the historic ranch in the center of Big Bend Ranch State Park, point to the "Big House" and say, "I want to stay THERE."  Rustic elegance is there for you:  queen beds, bathrooms, a shared kitchen and the romance of an adobe fireplace in your room!  Built in 1908 and remodeled in the 1940s, the Big House is a terrific opportunity to step back into ranching history.  Don't expect city elegance...but DO expect a great experience, peace and quiet and beautiful sunrises and sunsets!
Fireplace in one of the guest rooms
Colored Mexican tile was installed in the 1950s by
Manny and Patricia Stewart Folkes

Shared kitchen with large windows (for viewing the sunset!)

Click here to see more pictures, and learn more about booking your stay in the Big House.  Make sure your vehicle is up to the rugged 27 mile ride to Sauceda.  The speed limit is 25 mph and you won't want to go any faster than that! Click HERE to read the park's flyer on a Walking Tour of Historic Sauceda Ranch!

Travel Spotlight: 
JOIN the Texas Mountain Trail!  Like the tips and travel ideas we post here every day?  Now you can get the inside scoop AND support our work, AND receive great benefits!  Click here to learn all about membership and make your tax-deductible contribution!