Tuesday, July 02, 2013

5 Adventure Treks to Historic Texas Mountain Homes

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

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