Monday, March 31, 2014

On the Way to the Mountains: Big Spring's 1930 Hotel Settles along the Bankhead Highway

We had occasion to travel down I-20 to our Texas Mountain Trail region, roughly the route of the historic Bankhead Highway this week and found ourselves stopping in Big Spring at the newly renovated (and absolutely beautiful) Hotel Settles.

Built in 1930 and on the National Register of Historic Places, the hotel is seen briefly in the opening scenes of the 1969 film, "Midnight Cowboy."

We loved stepping inside and feeling transported into another (and elegant) era for travelers.
Dining room at the Hotel Settles
So, if you find yourself traveling to the mountains and our Texas Mountain Trail region from the DFW Metroplex, plan to stop for lunch in Big Spring's Hotel Settles! 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Spring is coming to Wild Rose Pass

Cottonwood trees leafing out on Friday in the
Wild Rose Pass area on Hwy 17
The cottonwood trees along Hwy 17 from Balmorhea to Fort Davis are a brilliant green, the first clear sign of spring from the highway. 

From the Handbook of Texas History:

"WILD ROSE PASS. Wild Rose Pass is ten miles northeast of Fort Davis in east central Jeff Davis County (at 30°43' N, 103°47' W). State Highway 17 goes through the pass, which is two miles long. Elevations in the pass range from 4,320 feet to 4,546 feet above sea level, some 900 to 700 feet lower than the unnamed neighboring peaks to the east and west. The pass was supposedly named by Lt. William H. C. Whiting, who traveled through the area in March 1849, for the Demaree rose, which grows at springs and seeps in the area. Local legend has it that William A. (Bigfoot) Wallace, who in the 1850s was a driver on the Skillman mail route from San Antonio to El Paso, once shot a buck atop a nearby cliff in Wild Rose Pass. The dead animal toppled over the cliff, slid down the mountainside, and came to a halt directly in front of the coach, whereupon Wallace reportedly said, "Them's the first mountains I ever seen where the game comes to heel after being killed." Another story holds that in 1859 a band of Mescalero Apaches waylaid a mail coach, killed the guard, and made off with the mail. The Indians became so absorbed by the illustrations in the captured newspapers, however, that they allowed themselves to be caught by pursuing soldiers. Fourteen Mescaleros were killed, and thereafter the Apaches believed that pictures were bad luck and avoided them."
--Martin Donell Kohout
Blooming on Friday along the Hwy 17 roadside near
Wild Rose Pass

Many travelers don't realize that the road doesn't follow the original Wild Rose Pass.  This is clear when you visit Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center and hike the Clayton's Overlook Trail.  At the very top of this trail, there's a 360 degree interpretive exhibit showing the entire Davis Mountains area and explaining the geological and historical background, including a guide to the original and the current "Wild Rose Pass."

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Historical Marker Stop: Musquiz Ranch

On Hwy 118 between Fort Davis and Alpine, there's a lovely place with a historical marker that's worth a stop.  Here's the ruin of the ranch of Manuel Musquiz, a pioneer who settled here in 1854. The marker itself dates back to 1936, and a statewide effort to preserve history in honor of the 100th anniversary of Texas' independence from Mexico.
 The marker states that the location was abandoned due to Indian raids, and served as Ranger Station intermittently between 1880 and 1882.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Culberson County's Loss--A look at the Old Courthouse

Culberson County Courthouse, Postcard, n.d.; digital image, ( : accessed March 20, 2014), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting Clark Hotel Museum, Van Horn, Texas.  
The folks in Van Horn regret a decision made decades ago, the demolition of the Culberson County Courthouse for a new building.  Robert Morales, the publisher of the Van Horn Advocate has been reporting on the loss.  (See an excellent article here.)
(Click on the photo for a closer view!)
Frances Hurt Walker at Culberson County Courthouse
, Photograph, n.d.; digital image, ( : accessed March 20, 2014), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting Clark Hotel Museum, Van Horn, Texas. 
The courthouse was a center of the community and the location for many important events in the Van Horn area.
Centennial Pioneers Dance at Culberson County Courthouse, 1936, Photograph, 1936; digital image, ( : accessed March 20, 2014), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting Clark Hotel Museum, Van Horn, Texas. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Frijole Ranch's Orchard in Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Elberta Fay peach tree blossoming
last week at Frijole Ranch
If you want great hiking, natural beauty, and a wealth of history wrapped up in one place, you can't go wrong with the Smith Spring Trail/Frijole Ranch at Guadalupe Mountains National Park.

The area is blessed with springs, including Smith Spring (pictured below) and Manzanita Spring, both places that attract wildlife.  Last week we visited the trail and were delighted to see Frijole Ranch's Centennial Orchard starting to bloom.  More on the park's seeps and springs, here.

Centennial Orchard with the Frijole
Ranch house in the background
The orchard was restored several years ago through the efforts of a local boy scout troop, lead by an Eagle Scout candidate.  Old varieties of apples and stone fruit were planted to represent the diversity of species popular during the Smith family's tenure at Frijole Ranch.   You can read about the Ranch's history (including information on the Smiths) here.

Last week, a couple of varieties of peach trees were flowering and it seemed other fruits were budding as well.

The most beautiful display was from the Elberta Fay peach--Prunus persica--with its label reading:  "Originated in the SE United States, cultivated since the early 1800s.  Uses:  fresh, canned, preserves, dried.  Late-ripening yellow freestone variety from which many other peach varieties were cultivated."
Elberta Fay peach

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Balmorhea State Park's San Solomon Pool (closed for cleaning May 12-19)

Many travelers plan a refreshing stop on their way to the mountains, at Balmorhea State Park's San Solomon Springs Pool.  The pool's water is spring fed, clear, and maintains temps of 72-76 degrees year-round.  Every pool needs cleaning, so we wanted you to know that it will be closed May 12-19 to be ready for the summers' visitors!  If you visit during that week, you'll see a pool that looks like this!
Plan to visit any other time to enjoy a refreshing dip in this CCC-built facility.  It is a favorite of many of our most loyal visitors to the region!

Calendar Alert!

  Check out the Terlingua Music and Microbrew Festival on our Events Calendar....March 29th!

Monday, March 24, 2014

More from the Modesta Canyon Trail at CDRI

The Texas Madrone in bloom
Yesterday, we reported on our recent noontime hike down Modesta Canyon Trail at the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center's Modesta Canyon Trail. Spring is coming to the Davis Mountains and the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center is a great place to see it blooming!
Pool of water in the desert

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Texas Madrone in bloom at CDRI

We took a short noontime hike down the Modesta Canyon Trail at the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center on Wednesday, and look what we found!  The Texas Madrone in bloom! 

From the Nature Center's website:

"Modesta Canyon Trail (1.75 miles)
The hike into Modesta Canyon features permanent springs and pools, fascinating geology, and a rich display of flora and fauna. Here you’ll find huge madrone trees, majestic southwestern chokecherries, and some of the largest Tracey hawthorns in the state. Over 17 species of ferns are found tucked into crevices along the canyon walls. This 1.75 mile, moderate to difficult hike, is a favorite for those who love plants and birds. Please protect the fragile ecology of the springs by staying out of the water."

We also found ferns, bright green and thriving near the pool next to the Madrone! 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

History Almost Lost--Pinery Station at Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Ruin of the Pinery Station stagecoach stop
at Guadalupe Mountains National Park
One of the historic jewels of our region is the legacy of the Butterfield Overland Mail Stage, the first transcontinental delivery of the mail by stage coach.  Just beyond the Pinery Station (the ruins less than a mile from Guadalupe Mountains National Park visitors center) was the meeting of the first westernbound Butterfield stagecoach and the first easternbound Butterfield stagecoach in 1858.  Travelers endured great hardships to make the trip from Missouri to San Francisco, and visiting the ruins gives some insight into the long journey.

The ruins are on the Pinery Trail an easy walking path, for just about everyone.  Pets are allowed on the trail, as long as they're on leash.

The white strip behind the Pinery ruin is the limestone
path left by the September floods, narrowly missing an
important historic site
This fall, the park experienced a unprecedented rains, and a great deal of flooding, which closed most of the park for a time.  And with that flood, the Pinery station dodged a bullet...the stream bed behind the ruin became a roaring river.  Now a gleaming white path as wide as a freeway, just steps from the Pinery, the limestone deposited by the flood.
The wide swath of limestone left by the September flood

Friday, March 21, 2014

'Tis the Season!

This time of year we get some impressive winds, and with them come the tumbleweeds.  Along the roadside, you can see piles of them pushed up against the fences!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Presidio BiNational Arts Festival Next Weekend!

Presidio, Texas Welcomes You to the Arts of the Big Bend of Texas!
The Presidio Arts Festival 2014 is inviting local artists, student artists, professional and amateur alike, dance groups, musicians, performers and cultural organizations to participate in the 3rd annual Presidio Arts Festival. This event will be an annual celebration that will be held this year on March 27,28,29, 2014.
One new event will be our own “Artwalk”… to Ojinaga, on Thursday, March 27th, where artists, dance groups, & vendors will perform and sell their wares. This event is the brainstorm of our own Mayor, John Ferguson. It will give our sister city a chance to shine and participate in our Bi National Arts Festival! You will be able to walk across and enjoy all of the activities!
- See more at:

The Presidio Arts Festival 2014 is inviting local artists, student artists, professional and amateur alike, dance groups, musicians, performers and cultural organizations to participate in the 3rd annual Presidio Arts Festival, March 27-29!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Hospitality Hero--Glennda Merritt-Alcorn

Presentation of the Texas Mountain
Trail Hospitality Heroes Award by Drew
Stuart to Glennda Merritt-Alcorn at the
historic Hudspeth County Courthouse
in Sierra Blanca last week
Our Texas Mountain Trail organization recognizes people of the region who go above and beyond in their service to travelers.  Drew Stuart, TMT Board Member from Salt Flat nominated Glennda Merritt-Alcorn, and we were pleased last week to present the award to her at the historic Hudspeth County Courthouse in Sierra Blanca.  Drew Stuart:

"The woman I mentioned as a nominee for Hospitality Hero is Glennda Merritt-Alcorn, of Dell City and Sierra Blanca. Glennda has served for 6-plus years as administrator of Northern Hudspeth County EMS. In those years, Glennda has transformed the service from a rugged rural operation into a modern, professional ambulance service, pursuing and securing grant funding for new equipment, establishing sources of revenue, recruiting and providing training for responders and overseeing daily operations - all while responding personally to emergency medical calls at all hours of the day and night. For much of her time with EMS, Glennda worked purely as a volunteer.

The vast majority of the calls to which NHC-EMS responds are traffic accidents on Interstate 10  (there's generally at least one each day), and, as a direct result of Glennda's tireless work, travelers to our region are assured of reliable, professional ambulance service in the event of an accident or medical emergency in Hudspeth County.

EMS work can be exhausting and, at times, emotionally difficult (and sometimes thankless) - I think it would be wonderful to acknowledge Glennda's service to the region and to travelers in West Texas!"  

Thank you, Glennda, for all you do and congratulations! 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Combating Nature Deficit Disorder in the Texas Mountains

One of the greatest assets of the Texas Mountain Trail region is our deep connection to nature.  Above is a profound video (12 minutes long) from a young woman who speaks eloquently about the need for experience with the natural world.

Where can you connect yourself (and your kids) to nature?

El Paso's Keystone Heritage Park, Franklin Mountains State Park, Museum of Archaeology, Wyler Aerial Tramway
Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Davis Mountains State Park
Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center just outside Fort Davis
Marathon's Post Park
Big Bend Ranch State Park
Lajitas' Barton Warnock Visitor Center
Presidio's Fort Leaton State Historic Site
Big Bend National Park (if you're interested in outfitters for a guided experience, click here.)
A happy participant at
Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center's
Toddle on the Wild Side
photo: Jessica Glasscock, CDRI

The book referenced in the video is Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv.  Read about it here.

Also, visit our events calendar for experiences and opportunities in our parks and natural areas...more parks and attractions are posting their events with !!

Monday, March 17, 2014

El Paso Heritage Tourism Summit

Register for this important event online, at

8:15 AM:  Welcome
Jose Rodriguez, Texas State Senator      
Veronica Castro, Tourism Director of Destination El Paso

8:30 AM:  What is El Paso’s Heritage?
Gary Williams, Senior Program Officer El Paso Community Foundation
Bernie Sargent, Chair of the El Paso County Historical Commission

9:30 AM:  Speaking Texas Friendly: Engaging Destination Visitors with Quality Customer Service
Stephen Brueggerhoff, Extension Specialist of Texas A&M AgriLife

10:30 AM:  The Value of Place in Today’s Economy: Heritage Tourism and much, much more.
 Mark Wolfe, Executive Director of Texas Historical Commission

10 AM-12PM:  El Paso History Radio Show
Jackson Polk, El Paso Film Maker and Producer and Host for the El Paso History Radio Show
Melissa Sargent, Historian and Co-Host of the El Paso History Radio Show


11:45 AM:  Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, Tigua Social Youth Dancers.

12:30 PM: Town Hall Meeting
Veronica Escobar, County Judge
Jose Rodriguez, Texas State Senator

2 PM:  The History of Dance in the Americas
Rosa Guerrero- Dance, Historian, Educator

3PM: Texas Friendly Hospitality
Stephen Brueggerhoff, Extension Specialist of Texas A&M AgriLife

2 PM:  Educational Break Outs

Understanding the Media
David Crowder, Staff Writer for El Paso Inc.
Erick Pearson, President of El Paso Community Foundation
Able Rodriguez, Promotions/Public Outreach at Entravision Communications El Paso

Using Social Media
Leesy McCorgary, Tourism Marketing Manager for Visit El Paso
Beth Nobles, Executive Director of Texas Mountain Trail

How to Get, Keep and Train Volunteers
Bernie Olivas, Executive Director of Sun Bowl Association

Best Practices for Site Operation- Part 1
Leslie Bergloff, Museum Director at Magoffin Home Historic Site

Mining Heritage Gems
Gary Williams, Senior Program Officer at El Paso Community Foundation

Getting Involved:  Perspective from a Volunteer
Ron Lieman, Volunteer
Mike Lewis, Volunteer
Ron Liekas, Volunteer