Sunday, June 30, 2013

Continuing today--Marfa Film Festival!

This week, the wonderful Marfa Film Festival has been showing short films and features in various locations around Marfa and even in Alpine.  Today's the last day, but it isn't too late to catch a showing.  Click here for the schedule, and here for ticket information.  Locals receive deep discounts!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Fred Clark's Cactus Garden

Fred Clark's Cactus Garden, Photograph, 1940 - 1949; digital image,
From the Collection of the Clark Hotel Museum,
digitized in the Portal to Texas History
The Clarks operated the Clark Hotel in Van Horn for many years, and the building is now the county historical museum.  Fred Clark sold cactus at the hotel, this appears to be his garden by his home.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Sunset in the Guadalupes

Our Texas Master Naturalist group of volunteers were honored to stay at Guadalupe Mountains National Park's research facility, the historic Ship on the Desert.  The sunsets were spectacular from the roof of the second Guadalupe Mountains home of Wallace E. Pratt, which was built in the 1940s.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Frijole Ranch

Training session at the orchard at Frijole Ranch in
Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Texas Master Naturalists gather around Frijole Ranch
to receive training from ranger Michael Haynie, preparing
to lead interpretive hikes at the park during the fall color
period...stay tuned for more information! 

This weekend, three chapters of Texas Master Naturalists, along with our own Texas Mountain Trail received training from rangers at Guadalupe Mountains National Park.  The three chapters are volunteering to lead interpretive hikes during the fall colors.

Frijole Ranch is along the Smith Spring Trail, part of our Peak Fitness Challenge and a Texas Mountain Trail Heritage Hike.  The Smith family operated their truck farming operation for nearly 40 years.
Read more about Frijole Ranch here. It is a great story of survival and perseverence.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Texas Master Naturalist Volunteers in Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Left to right:  Bob Perkins (Llano Estacado Chapter),
Monte Riggs (Tierra Grande Chapter), John Miller (Trans
Pecos Chapter), Benny Pol (Trans Pecos), Nolberto
Pena (Trans Pecos), Xavier Fuentes (Trans Pecos).
Guadalupe Mountains National Park Ranger Michael
Haynie, Pat Hunter (Llano Estacado), Susan Penney
(Tierra Grande).  Photo:  Beth Nobles,
Texas Mountain Trail and Tierra Grande Chapter
This weekend, as we've been showing all week, members of three chapters of Texas Master Naturalists headed to Guadalupe Mountains National Park to receive training, form partnerships and offer volunteer interpretive services.  The group above represented the Llano Estacado Chapter from Midland/Odessa, the Trans Pecos Chapter from El Paso, and the Tierra Grande Chapter from Big Bend/Davis Mtns.

Watch for Texas Master Naturalist-led hikes at Guadalupe Mountains National Park during the fall color period, a direct outgrowth of this weekend's activities...brought to you by the dedicated Texas Master Naturalists volunteers and the Texas Mountain Trail
The group received training from Ranger
Michael Haynie at Frijole Ranch and the
Smith Spring Trail

McKittrick Canyon Trail

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Greater Earless Lizard

This weekend, the Texas Mountain Trail, along with three chapters of Texas Master Naturalists (from El Paso, from Midland/Odessa and from the Davis Mtns/Big Bend) worked in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, learning from rangers, hiking the trails and developing a volunteer cadre to help the park during peak visitation times.  Plans are afoot to invite more Texas Master Naturalists to lead interpretive hikes on the park's trails.

When heading back from our hike to Pratt Cabin on the McKittrick Canyon trail, we encountered this Greater Earless Lizard.  We noticed him first because of his color and his quick movement along the trail.   Then he'd stop running away from us, stop, and wait, perched on top of a large rock next to the trail.  And then he'd do pushups!  The movement is thought to signal territory and send a message, "get out of my space."

He repeated this sequence several times and we crept forward, trying to get photographs to share with all of you. We saw him along the trail near the end of our hike, in the rocky arid pathway not too far from the Visitors Center.  

To learn more, here's a great page on the Greater Earless Lizard from Desert USA: 

Why do lizards do pushups?  Here's an article by

Head on out to the Guadalupe Mountains' McKittrick Canyon...perhaps you'll see a Greater Earless Lizard yourself!

McKittrick Canyon trail is one of the places marked on the Far West Texas Wildlife Trail, a project of our Texas Mountain Trail along with Texas Parks and Wildlife and our neighboring Texas Pecos Trail.

And the hike is one of our Texas Mountain Trail Heritage Hikes in the Peak Fitness Challenge!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Guadalupe Columbine

Guadalupe Columbine blooming
along the creek in McKittrick Canyon
Guadalupe Mountains National Park
This past weekend, three chapters of Texas Master Naturalists (Trans-Pecos from El Paso, Llano Estacado from Midland/Odessa, and Tierra Grande from Big Bend/Davis Mountains) and our own Texas Mountain Trail gathered for the first time to form relationships and discuss possible partnerships including helping Guadalupe Mountains National Park with guided hikes and interpretive programs, especially during the fall color period.

As part of the training we received from park staff, we hiked McKittrick Canyon on Saturday, sharing knowledge with each other along the way.  While crossing the stream in McKittrick Canyon, we found this beauty, known as the Guadalupe Columbine.
Our group crosses the stream in Guadalupe Mountains
National Park McKittrick Canyon, shortly before we
spotted the Guadalupe Columbine
Renowned botanist, Barton Warnock, included the flower in his book, Wildflowers of the Guadalupe Mountains and the Sand Dune Country Texas, with this entry:

Crowfoot Family

"Aquilegia Chaplinei   Indians cooked the roots of this attractive pale yellow flowered perennial herb and used them as a remedy for bruises; infrequent in shaded crevices, on boulders and calcareous soil of moist canyons, especially in North and South McKittrick Canyon of the Guadalupe Mountains National Park; April-November."

Steve West, in his book Northern Chihuahuan Desert Wildflowers, includes the flower with this additional information:

Aquilegia chaplinei
Crowfoot Family (Ranunculaceae)

"Description:  The plant grows up to 19" (48 cm) in height; the leaves are divided.  Pale yellow flowers appear from April to November.
Habitat/Range:  This columbine is one of the beautiful surprises you may encounter while hiking in the Guadalupe Mountains.  Most often, it grows wherever there is permanent water, but it can also be found in moist places where water is not apparent.  This species is easily found in McKittrick Canyon in the Guadalupes or in the adjacent Lincoln National Forest at Sitting Bull Falls, CCNP, GMNP.
Comments:  Diversion of water from these sites could threaten this locally common species."

The McKittrick Canyon trail is on the Far West Texas Wildlife Trail and is part of the Peak Fitness Challenge (and one of our Texas Mountain Trail Heritage Hikes).  Plan to visit Guadalupe Mountains National Park soon! 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

1921 Van Horn baseball team

Click on the photo for a closer view!
Another image from the collection of the Clark Hotel Museum in Van Horn, digitized and included in UNT's Portal to Texas History.  Van Horn Base-Ball Club 1921. The Portal to Texas History.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Visiting Frijole Ranch with the Texas Mountain Trail

There's a little place in Guadalupe Mountains National Park that will give you a good view of early life in our neck of the woods...Frijole Ranch.  Water was key to survival in our region, and natural springs provided it to early settlers. The area around the ranch did have water, and as you hike Smith Spring trail or visit the history museum now at Frijole Ranch you can still see that water.

Tomorrow, Texas Mountain Trail and volunteers with three chapters of Texas Master Naturalists will be leading guided hikes in the park.  See information and the schedule here.  After you hike with us Sunday morning, stop by the Frijole Ranch in the afternoon and say hello, and learn about early life in the area! 

All our hikes are Peak Fitness Challenge hikes, so sign up online and record your miles on your profile may just win some prizes! 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Viva Big Bend!

Next month, there's a terrific music festival in the region--in various venues in Marathon (Gage Hotel), Marfa (Padres, Lost Horse and more), Fort Davis (Mountain Trails Lodge and Fort Davis Drugstore) and Alpine (Holland Hotel, Granada Theatre and more)--the second annual Viva Big Bend.  The festival's website is here:

Who's playing?  Check out the lineup!  (Butch Hancock, Tessy Lou and the Shotgun Stars, Texas Tornadoes, Joe Ely Band, Doug Moreland, and many more) LOTS of terrific bands playing in our best Far West Texas music venues. 

You won't want to miss being a part of this great event.  Tickets are available here. FAQ page is here.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Fort Davis' Coolest 4th of July!

This year there will be a Red, White and Blue dessert contest
and bake sale for the Jeff Davis County Food Pantry!
Somebody's dressing up!
Grand Companions is having a Pet
Costume Contest!
The parade is always a highlight!
Fort Davis hosts one of the best small-town Independence Day Celebrations anywhere, the "Coolest July 4th!"  Click here to read all about it!

History Spotlight! 
Yesterday, we introduced the Fort Stockton Middle School history students who worked on Texas History posters this year for a contest run by the Pecos County Historical Commission. Here's a photo of them arriving at the Rollins Sibley House., and below a poster by Isela Rios about Sam Houston's contribution to Texas History!

Sam Houston poster by 7th grader
Isela Rios.  Great job, Isela!
Click on the poster for a closer view!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Hiking in the Guadalupe Mountains this Sunday with us!

Cool shade of Smith Spring along the
Smith Spring trail in Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Sunday, June 23, Texas Master Naturalists from three chapters across Far West Texas will be offering guided hikes in Guadalupe Mountains National Park!  Join in on the fun, and participate in the free hiking program, our Peak Fitness Challenge at the same time!  You might win prizes, sent to your mailbox!

Trails are easy through moderate...and offer some of the best hiking in Guadalupe Mountains National Park:
Pinery Trail

Smith Spring Trail
Devils Hall Trail
McKittrick Canyon Trail

Most of the trails are Texas Mountain Trail Heritage more about that here!

Read more about the hike here, and join us on Sunday!

Direct link to our calendar listing for the hikes with all the information.

History Spotlight!
William Travis poster by Kayla Acosta
Click on the image for a closer view!

When we visited the annual meeting of the Pecos-Mountain County Historical Commissions and heard about the great work the 7th graders at Fort Stockton Middle School, we wanted to share that great work with all of you!

Nancy Hayter welcoming
students to the Rollins-Sibley
House and announcing
Texas History Poster winners!
Starting today, we'll share posters done by 7th graders for the Texas History poster contest for the Pecos County Historical Commission!  Under the leadership of teacher, Chris Moody, the students produced some great work.  Big thanks to the everyone involved, including Nancy Hayter for bringing the work to our attention!  Nancy is a member of the Pecos County Historical Commission and a loyal volunteer eager to share Texas History with y'all.  First up?  This poster about William Travis was made by Kayla Acosta!  Great work, Kayla! 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Van Horn High School Girls Tennis Team, 1940.

Van Horn High School Girls Tennis Team, 1940.
Collection of the Clark Hotel Museum. The Portal to Texas History.
Click on the photo for a closer view!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Cycling Road!

One of our favorite cycling roads is the region is FM2810 southwest out of Marfa, also called Pinto Canyon Road.  The first 30 miles or so are paved, before it gets VERY rough, a dirt road for high clearance, 4 wheel drive vehicles only.  Few cars travel down 2810, yesterday we took a 16 mile ride and while there were 4 bikes on the road, there were ONLY two cars!  So we had the road to ourselves, along with pronghorn and lizards and scaled quail and other birds on the way.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Yesterday at Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center

Yesterday was a LOVELY day all across the region.  We found ourselves porch sitting at the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center outside Fort Davis.  Click on the photo for a closer view!  (The panorama photo is by our friend, Monte Riggs of Marfa!)

Our view from the porch allowed us to watch birds and lizards and enjoy the fairly cool breeze for a June afternoon!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Shaffer Shuffle Hike tomorrow at Franklin Mountains State Park/Peak Fitness Challenge!

Tomorrow, Franklin Mountains State Park is offering a guided hike on one of our Peak Fitness Challenge trails, the Shaffer Shuffle.  Sign up for the Peak Fitness Challenge, here; then hike the trail and come back and log your miles online.  Once you complete a hike, your name goes into a file...and every month we pick out a few names and send those folks prizes

Sunday, June 16-  ($8.00 – this is the entrance fee + activity fee)
Schaeffer Shuffle Trail
Start: 7:00 a.m.
Length: about 2.5 miles / 1.5 - 2 hours
Trail Difficulty:  Steep initial descent down old jeep road; transition to relatively well maintained trail with technical sections into the canyon, leveling out along the ridgeline, then another steep and technical descent down the backside before becoming an easy leisurely stroll down the trail. We’ll reconnect with the old jeep road and have one final steep ascent back up to the start of the trail.

For Hikes:  Water, snacks, flashlight/headlamp for mine tour, sturdy hiking shoes/boots, hiking stick, camera, and binoculars!  

Friday, June 14, 2013

Calling for Entries! Red, White and Blue Dessert Contest - Coolest July 4th!

Click here to see a lineup of Fort Davis' Coolest July 4th Festivities!

This year the Food Pantry of Jeff Davis County will not only be hosting the Red, White & Blue Dessert Contest at their booth on Saturday, July 6th, but will also have a general bake sale on Friday, July 5th for those who do not wish to enter the judged contest.

Espresso/cappuccino will be sold each day to enjoy with the sweet treats. As in the past, there will also be a grand raffle with gift certificates from grocery stores, thrift stores and many of the popular area restaurants.

Please bring your general baked goodies to the Food Pantry booth on the south side of the Court House on Friday (July 5th) from 9AM to 5PM. Please bring your Red, White & Blue dessert entries to the booth on Saturday (July 6th) at 9AM for judging which begins at 10AM.

Randall Kinzie, Texas Mountain
Trail board member brings an
entry from his Stone Village Market to
last year's contest

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Early Photograph in Clark Hotel Museum's Collection

From the collection of the Clark Hotel Museum
Click on the image for a closer view!
Van Horn's Clark Hotel Museum offers a collection that tells the story of early life in the region.  Located on the "main street," Broadway northwest from the historic Hotel El Capitan, the museum is worth a stop.

Check out the Clark Hotel Museum's website!

Learn more about the Clark Hotel here.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Friday and Saturday nights...all summer long! Viva El Paso!

VIVA! El Paso in El Paso’s McKelligon Canyon Amphitheatre. An outdoor musical drama, VIVA! performance chronicles the 400 year history and cultural evolution of the El Paso region.

For more information on this event--which continues all summer--click here for the entry on our events calendar.  Tickets are $14-20.

Enjoy a BBQ Dinner at McKelligon Canyon before VIVA! El Paso:

Dinners are $20 for adults & $10 for kids. Dinner ticket does not include performance.

Adult Dinner consists of a platter of BBQ Beef Brisket, Chile Rubbed Pork Ribs, Honey Glazed Sausage served with Ranchero Beans, Potato Salad and Jalapeno Cornbread. Comes with a choice of Lemonade or Soft Drink.

Children’s Dinner consists of a BBQ Brisket Sandwich with Potato Chips, Corn on the Cob, Cookie and Drink. Added Value: Free Popcorn or Churro at intermission for each Adult or Kid’s Dinner purchased.

Dinners served from 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm only. On Sunday’s, dinners served from 5:30 pm to 6:30 pm. Dinners must be purchased in advance. The deadline to order dinner is 12 noon Friday the weekend of the event.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

New Dinosaur Found in Big Bend National Park!

We haven't found a good image yet to share with you, but here's some exciting news:

New Dinosaur Found in Big Bend National Park!

From a press release issued yesterday by the park:

New Horned Dinosaur, Bravoceratops, Discovered in Big Bend National Park

On June 1st, 2013, researchers with the U.S. National Park Service and Texas Tech University unveiled a new species of horned dinosaur Bravoceratops polyphemus, recently discovered in Big Bend National Park.  Steven L. Wick and Thomas M. Lehman made the initial discovery two years ago after several months of fieldwork; they were able to recover portions of the giant skull.  Braveoceratops ("wild horn-face") is named after the Rio Bravo del Norte (Rio Grande), which marks the border between Big Bend National Park and northern Mexico.  The new find was first reported online in the journal Naturwissenschaften.

Bravoceratops polyphemus was one of the largest members of the group of horned dinosaurs called chasmosaurines, which lived during the Late Cretaceous Period from 75-65 million years ago.  In life, the animal had a skull about 7 feet in length, with both its brow horns each over three feet long.

More information should be posted soon on the park website,

Monday, June 10, 2013

Looking for a Great Sunday Outing? (on June 23rd!)

Pinery trail
Historic Frijole Ranch house on the
Smith Spring Trail
Devil's Hall trail in
Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Sunday, June 23rd, Texas Master Naturalist volunteers from around Far West Texas are leading interpretive hikes in Guadalupe Mountains National Park as part of the Peak Fitness Challenge.  Everyone is invited to choose the hike they'd like to do that day, and participate in the Challenge!  This is something just about ANYONE can do!  While you're responsible for the usual park admission fees, the hikes themselves are FREE!

You should carry your own water, wear sunscreen and clothing (including a hat!) that will protect you from the sun and desert plants.  Choose the hike that best suits your fitness level, and have fun!

Here's the schedule for that day, and they're also listed on our Texas Mountain Trail events calendar:

8 am Pinery Trail, meet at the Pine Springs Visitors Center.  This is a short paved trail of less than a mile to the historic stagecoach stop along the Butterfield Overland Trail. This trail is rated as EASY.

10 am  Smith Spring trail, meet at the parking lot just before historic Frijole Ranch.  This 2.6 miles loop trail takes you across desert and arroyos to a natural (shaded) spring.  You also hike by Manzanita Spring and the Frijole Ranch house. This trail is rated MODERATE.

10 am McKittrick Canyon trail to Pratt Cabin   This hike will take a few hours to hike the 5 mile roundtrip trail, but has a cool payoff (a rest on the porch of Pratt Cabin) at the endpoint before heading back to your car at the trailhead. What you'll see:  maple, walnut, oak, and madrone grow alongside desert plants like cactus and agave.  All are enclosed by steep walls that formed when the creek cut through the limestone of the Capitan Reef.   Meet at the McKittrick Canyon trailhead building at 10 am. This trail is rated MODERATE.

10 am Devils Hall trail  This is one of the prettiest hikes in the Guadalupes and is 2.2 miles one-way.  At the farthest point you reach Devils Hall, a narrow notch in the mountain, offering shade!  Meet at trailhead next to Pine Springs campground.  This trail is rated MODERATE.

10 am Pinery Trail, repeat of the 8 am hike.

In the afternoon, Texas Master Naturalists will be at Frijole Ranch and eager to visit with all of you, and answer your questions!

If you encounter Texas Master Naturalists along the trail that day, please say hello!

How to participate in the Challenge?  Start by creating a profile at the Peak Fitness Challenge website, here. You can choose any trail in Guadalupe Mountains National Park or Franklin Mountains State Park (El Paso) to hike or even run.  

After you complete your hike, go back to the website to log your miles.  Your name (and address) is put into a file from which we choose prize winners every month!  The more you hike, the more chances you have to win prizes!

As an extra bonus, many of the hikes help us learn about our heritage.  Click HERE to read about Texas Mountain Trail Heritage Hikes!

Big, big thanks to the three chapters of Texas Master Naturalists who are volunteering their time to lead hikes on Sunday, June 23!  They come from El Paso, Midland/Odessa, and the Davis Mtns/Big Bend.  Also we send thanks to our Peak Fitness Challenge partners,, PhiDev, Inc., Guadalupe Mountains National Park and Franklin Mountains State Park! Y'all are great!

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Pretty Downtown El Paso

Flowers at Cleveland Square Park
outside the Museum of History
Decorative fences at the Museum of History
recall the flora and fauna of our region
El Paso Museum of Art

Outside the Museum of Art

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Step Back in Time, Be a Traveler at the Clark Hotel Museum

Van Horn's Clark Hotel Museum
Van Horn has always been a place for travelers, folks heading across the nation.  Before I-10, it was the Bankhead Highway and the Old Spanish Trail or the train, and before that stagecoach lines.  The Clark Hotel was one of several hotels in Van Horn for visitors to spend the night.  Read more about it here.

Located on Broadway, Van Horn's main street, just west of the intersection of Hwy 90 and Hwy 54, the Hotel building is now a historic museum telling the story of early Culberson County.  Visit it, and see how travelers lodged for an evening on their trips across the country.

The Museum's website is here.  The site and the last three photos in this post are the work of Dan Baeza, Van Horn native and our Texas Mountain Trail photography intern last summer.  Thanks, Dan!