Wednesday, November 30, 2011

12 Days of Christmas: Museum of the Big Bend

The Museum of the Big Bend supports traditional cowboy art through its annual Trappings of Texas exhibition each spring
One of our favorite hidden away shopping experiences in the region, isn't really hidden away at all...

Tucked into Alpine's Museum of the Big Bend on the campus of Sul Ross State University, is a great selection of heritage-related holiday gift ideas.  Follow this link to a coupon for a discount!

The Museum tells terrific stories about the entire Big Bend area--prehistory (ancient peoples and animal life!), archaeology, Spanish explorers, early ranching history, railroads, the Mexican Revolution, and much more.

Interested in giving a membership to the Museum this holiday season?
Click here to download a membership brochure!
The Museum's permanent exhibits offer interactive experiences all related to the heritage of the Big Bend region

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

12 Days of Christmas: Historic Kern Place Neighborhood

Kern Place Gate, 1916
Photo courtesy of the El Paso Public Library.
El Paso has to be among the most surprisingly charming cities in the state...get off the interstate and explore and you'll see it for yourself.  There are neighborhoods bursting with personality and history, and are worth your time.  Take, for instance, the Kern Place neighborhood, bordering UTEP, the University of Texas El Paso.

Plans for this neighborhood began in 1914, and Peter Kern's plan for a gracious neighborhood was in full swing with 40 homes by 1917.  Kern had this gate built at the corner of Kansas and Robinson, to help boost sales.

Today, lovely and interesting homes still grace the neighborhood, and it is filled with interesting shops for you to explore too.  A good place for holiday shopping, it is also terrific for dining, too!  The neighborhood is home to what Texas Monthly has deemed the #4 burger in the state, at Toro of our favorites.  And just this month, Texas Monthly named Crave, one of the top breakfast places in the state!  Nearby is Crazy Cat Cyclery, a great bike shop and community center for cyclists.

Take a look at this slideshow with history about the area, by Laura Cruz-Acosta.
Read more about this wonderful area of the largest city in the Texas Mountain Trail region, here.

Monday, November 28, 2011

12 Days of Christmas: Many Days of Adventure and Fun with the Texas State Parks Pass

Want room all to yourself?  View from a campsite at Big Bend Ranch State Park
The lovely interior of Fort Davis State Park's Indian Lodge, a CCC-built facility
Spring bloom of poppies at Franklin Mountains State Park
Another TERRIFIC buy for your holiday shopping that reaps benefit all year long...a Texas State Parks Pass, so you can enjoy visiting our wonderful Texas Mountain Trail region state parks!

Here's a link to information and instructions for purchasing your pass!

Our Texas Mountain Trail regional state parks!  Visit one soon!
Franklin Mountains State Park
Wyler Aerial Tramway
Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site
Fort Leaton State Historic Site
Barton Warnock Environmental Education Center
Big Bend Ranch State Park
Davis Mountain State Park (with Indian Lodge)
and just outside our region, but we'll claim it!  Balmorhea State Park

Give the gift of adventure and fun this holiday season with a state parks pass!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Not one, not two, not three, but FOUR! The 12 Days of Christmas: National Parks Pass

Mule Ears in Big Bend National Park
El Capitan in Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Fort Davis National Historic Site
Chamizal National Memorial
Our region is blessed with FOUR National Parks facilities, so a wonderful holiday gift for your family and friends would be a National Parks they can visit them all!

Big Bend National Park--Sometimes considered "three parks in one," Big Bend includes mountain, desert, and river environments. An hour’s drive can take you from the banks of the Rio Grande to a mountain basin nearly a mile high. Here, you can explore one of the last remaining wild corners of the United States, and experience unmatched sights, sounds, and solitude.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park--From the low desert brush, inhabited by javelinas and desert reptiles, to the high, lush mountain evergreens with nesting golden eagles and amphibians, Guadalupe Mountains is a refuge for plant and animal species of all types.

Fort Davis National Historic Site--Fort Davis is one of the best surviving examples of an Indian Wars' frontier military post in the Southwest. From 1854 to 1891, Fort Davis was strategically located to protect emigrants, mail coaches, and freight wagons on the Trans-Pecos portion of the San Antonio-El Paso Road and on the Chihuahua Trail.

Chamizal National Memorial--The Chamizal Convention of 1963 was a milestone in diplomatic relations between Mexico and the United States. Chamizal National Memorial was established to commemorate this treaty, which resulted in the peaceful settlement of a century-long boundary dispute. The Memorial provides visitors with an opportunity to better understand the culture of our borderland.

Considering the value of the experiences offered at our National Parks, they're a bargain...but want to know the surprise best buy of them all?  A Senior (age 62 and over) pass is only $10 for a lifetime!
Click here to learn more about all the passes, and to purchase online! 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

12 Days of Christmas AND Small Business Saturday, Celebrating and Patronizing our Far West Texas business people!

Inside Alpine's Front Street Books
Included in Front Street's holiday catalog!
We're continuing our feature called the 12 Days of Christmas to highlight the special places you can do holiday shopping in the region.  Today is also Small Business Saturday, and so we thought a business with TWO regional locations, with great holiday shopping was the perfect choice.

Front Street Books, with shops in both Alpine and Marathon, hosts events and readings and promotes books and authors with a regional connection.  We love their Texana section, as well as their travel/adventure/map section to help us plan all our outings. On December 3, they're hosting a holiday event at their Marathon store, La Fiesta de Nochebuena.

Their holiday catalog makes the case for shopping with local retailers:

"When you spend $100 with your local retailer, $68 stays in your community, compared with $43 per $100 spent at a national chain, and $0 when you buy online."

Front Street is holding a 30% off special during the holidays....all the books in their 2011 Winter Catalog qualify for this offer!  We were happy to see that one of our favorite bloggers, Lisa Fain, of the Homesick Texan's cookbook, is in the onto our holiday list goes the Homesick Texan Cookbook!)

Don't live in the region, or can't get to one of their stores?  Just give them a call (432-837-3360), and do your holiday shopping over the phone!  They welcome that! 

Most places don't even have independent bookstores anymore, but we're blessed with several GREAT addition to Front Street two locations, consider shopping at:

Marfa Book Company, Marfa  (They also host WONDERFUL events, exhibits and readings!)
The Bookery on El Paso's Mission Trail

Patronize small businesses today!

Friday, November 25, 2011

TThanksgiving Open House and The 12 Days of Christmas: Day 1, Leapin Lizards Nature Shop at Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center!

A group hikes Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center's Clayton Overlook Trail
Don't miss a visit to the Cactus Greenhouse!

Thanksgiving Open House (Friday, November 25 and Saturday, November 26)

To celebrate the holiday season, Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center just outside Fort Davis, invites you to their Thanksgiving Open House. Admission is free, so bring friends, family, and neighbors! They'll have guided hikes into Modesta Canyon at 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. on both days. On Friday, November 25 come meet artists Willis and Maria LeJeune. They’ll be at the Visitors’ Center between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. to show you their beautiful wood sculptures and wire-wrapped natural stone jewelery.

12 Days of Christmas!
During the holiday season, we'll be featuring fun shopping spots in the region!  First up? 

Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center's Leapin' Lizards Nature Shop is one of the best places in the region to find nature-related gifts, from hummingbird feeders to field guides to Christmas tree ornaments to children's gifts.  All proceeds support the Nature Center's programs!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Turkey Day!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING from the Texas Mountain Trail and one of Marfa's famous wild turkeys!  We're thankful for your enthusiasm for Far West Texas and support for our little non-profit organization!  THANK YOU!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Water and Cottonwoods at Big Bend Ranch State Park

Big Bend Ranch State Park is blessed with water, little spots of oasis that get just enough to support the growth of cottonwoods and other plants.  This was taken on Sunday, just off the main road to Sauceda Ranch.  Even in this challenging year without much water, there's water here, and the cottonwoods are making their beautiful winter transition from green to yellow.  Another spot accessible from the main Sauceda road and a satisfying hike to water, is the Ojito Adentro trail.  Look for the trailhead on the  main road, park, and look for the cottonwoods in the distance...that's where the water is!

Check out our slide show of images from another November at Big Bend Ranch State Park...lots of water that year! 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Mountain Biking at Big Bend Ranch

Wonderful desert vistas on the Horsetrap Trail
Our bike leans against the min-maze on the Horsetrap Trail, allowing us a rest from our ride
Big Bend Ranch State Park's mountains in the distance...lovely views everywhere!
Confession time:  we're complete novices when it comes to real mountain biking.  Sure, we've taken the bikes out on urban pathways marked as mountain biking trails and rough ranch roads, but our first singletrack experience came this weekend at Big Bend Ranch State Park's Sauceda-Horsetrap Trail Loop Ride.  And it was a SO MUCH FUN! 

Never have we hollered, "Wahoo!" and "I did it!" more than we did on this trail, heading out from the historic Sauceda Ranch in the center of the park.  Rated "easy/moderate" we found it plenty challenging AND satisfying as we tackled rock and sand, getting a few minor cactus scrapes along the way.  We took the 5 mile trail clockwise, getting the sandy road out of the way at the beginning, and then a gradual uphill climb and then a challenging rocky descent.  We were surprised, frankly, at how quickly we caught onto the challenges of the trail, and felt we were building skills every minute we were on our bikes.

Our route is the first ride in the park's Big Bend Ranch Biking Guide, which you can download here, or purchase a hard copy at the park's headquarters at Sauceda Ranch.  Take a look, it will conjure up dreams of future adventures!

We can't wait to get back to the park to tackle a few more trails and build up our skills.  The description of  12 mile  Sauceda-Chilicote Springs-Sauceda Loop ride in the park's biking guide is inspiring us!

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Cottonwoods of Shafter

All around Shafter yesterday, the color was YELLOW.  The community's runoff areas and little streams are home to cottonwood trees, and they're in glorious fall color.

The Shafter Mining District was active from 1883 to 1952, taking silver and related ores from the area, and once again, Shafter's seeing mining again.  Drive into town and visit the cemetery and cemetery museum to learn more about the history of this small and proud community, on Hwy 67 between Marfa and Presidio.

And unrelated to cottonwoods or mining, but still pretty interesting.....

The town was also featured in the opening scenes of the 1971 science fiction film, The Andromeda Strain, where it played a small town in New Mexico.  Shafter's lovely church, pictured in our last photo above, can be seen (if you watch for it--glimpses of it near  0:35, 0:55 and 1:05!) in the film's trailer, above.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Brilliant Blue Sky

Since many folks head north to Thanksgiving and have to endure cold gray skies, we thought we'd share a brilliant blue Far West Texas and Texas Mountain Trail sky with y'all!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Big Bend National Park: Castolon

Near Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend National Park, the Castolon area's history is of farming, military activity during the Mexican Revolution, and frontier trading post.  The park's website has a brief interesting history online, here.

Today the park's Cottonwood Campground sits in land that used to be a farmer's field, the La Harmonia Compnay Store is still open (though it caters to visitors, not ranchers or farmers), and there are exhibits and frequently interpretive activities in the area that help tell the area's story.

Most visitors to the park visit Santa Elena Canyon for the short, spectacular hike.  While you're there, plan extra time to poke around and explore the history of this important trading post, too!

Friday, November 18, 2011

One of our favorite wintertime landscapes, on a road mostly locals know

There's a road heading south from Marathon you really need to take...either by bicycle, motorcycle or car.  A 10 mile round trip offers a great adventure--history, geology, wildlife and nature--all packed into a short trip.  On a brisk winter day, we took this photo, looking north on our way back to town.  Lovely, right?

The road is known as the "Ride to the Post Heritage Bike Ride," on our website, but is ready for anyone (even non-cyclists!) to enjoy.  Consider all it offers:
The Road to the Post extends south on Avenue D in Marathon from US Highway 90 and the Union Pacific Railroad, and has an amazing history!
  • Your route follows one fork of the Comanche War or Indian Trails into Mexico—there was a skirmish on the ridge above Post Park in 1855 between Buffalo Soldiers, Texas Rangers and Indians in 1855!
  • It also generally follows the original Ore Roads to haul the ores (lead, zinc and silver) from the smelter at Boquillas in Mexico in 1895-1906, as well as quicksilver from the Terlingua, Study Butte and the Mariscal mines in south Brewster County to the railroad in Marathon as late as 1937!
  • The route takes you near the historic cemetery and the site of an influenza tent hospital from the 1918 epidemic!
  • The area known as Post Park was the site of a military encampment, farms, and ranches. Today it is the place for county-wide dance parties, fishing and birdwatching!
  • The Gage Gardens and Post Park are both sites on the new Far West Texas Wildlife Trail.
Want to learn more?  Visit our "Ride to the Post" webpage for a link to a complete history, by Marathon resident Travis Roberts, PLUS a slideshow of the route!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Outer Loop Trail in Big Bend Ranch State Park

Big Bend Ranch State Park's Outer Loop trail is in the Solitario section of the park with a complex and fascinating geological history.  Read more about the Solitario here.

This hiking trail is on several mountain biking routes in the park's biking guide. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

View along the Guadalupe Peak Trail, hike to the Top of Texas

One of the premier hikes in the region is to the Top of Texas, to the highest point in the state (8,749 feet), at Guadalupe Peak in Guadalupe Mountains National Park.  The trail is a long day hike to the summit, and WELL worth the effort.  The park's trail guide is here!
Most pictures you see of the trail were taken at the very we wanted to show you views from the hike along the way! 

Recently a park volunteer, Rob Junell, made his 100th hike to the summit!  Read about it here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Stained Glass Dome by Louis Comfort Tiffany

One of the many (nearly) hidden charms of El Paso is in the heart of downtown....the stained glass dome by Tiffany at the Camino Real Hotel, across from the Museum of Art.  Originally, the Paso del Norte Hotel, the building was designed by renowned El Paso architect Henry Trost.  It cost about $1.5 million to construct and opened on Nov. 24, 1912.  The Tiffany dome is 25 feet wide and two stories above the floor.  It is now the central meeting point at the hotel's bar.

During the revolution Pancho Villa, New York radical journalist John Reed, Gen. Alvaro Obregón and General John Pershing either stayed at or attended conferences here. In 1914, former Chihuahuan Gov. Luis Terrazas and his family, along with their 27 servants, rented the entire top floor. 

You can learn more about the hotel and its role in the Mexican Revolution here, where the hotel appears on a wonderful historical walking tour.  We like the audio features about each of the walking tour's stops!  

Monday, November 14, 2011

The View from Pinto Canyon Road

Head southwest from Marfa on FM2810, and you're in for a rugged treat....after 30 miles or so of smooth road and scenic beauty, the pavement abruptly stops and the road becomes a 4x4 adventure into spectacular scenery!  You'll drive through remote and rocky canyons of the Chinati Mountain range, pass the entrance for Chinati Hot Springs, and eventually make your way to Ruidosa.

Poke around in Ruidosa a bit and you'll soon see a stunning 1914 adobe Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church, now a just a shell. The Texas Historical Commission and others have provided resources for the stabilization of the structure, but there's still need for restoration of this beautiful church.  You can read about it here.  The Texas Historical Commission also wrote a wonderful article about off-the-beaten-path locations in our region, and included Pinto Canyon Road and the Sacred Heart Church in their it here.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Fall Color: McKittrick Canyon to the Grotto, Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Fall color is still very much present at Guadalupe Mountains National Park this weekend!  The current report on the park's website is:  "Devil's Hall -Extensive. McKittrick Canyon - Extensive between Pratt Cabin and the Grotto."

Our friends at took the McKittrick Canyon trail to the Grotto on Friday and mapped the route on their website, here. is a new (and wonderful!) resource for hikers and mountain bikers, starting with El Paso's Franklin Mountains and expanding to cover other locations as well.  Check them out on !!!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

James H. Evans at Front Street Books for Alpine's ArtWalk!

Join the folks at Alpine's Front Street Books on Friday, November 18 at 8:30 pm as they welcome featured photographer James H. Evans, with an audiovisual presentation spanning two decades of his work in the Big Bend.

"There will be images from both my books," says Evans, "but some will be old and new photographs not included in them." 

Copies of Evans's Big Bend Pictures and Crazy from the Heat will be available for perusal and sale.
For a complete FSB ArtWalk schedule click here!

Complimentary refreshments available to Front Street friends & customers.
No admission, no purchases required--but latter are MUCH appreciated!

ArtWalk takes place Friday and Saturday, November 18-19....visit the Alpine ArtWalk website for more information about this great event! 

Friday, November 11, 2011

99th Climb to Guadalupe Peak! The 100th is planned for TODAY!

This is such a special story, we're going to share Guadalupe Mountains National Park's release with you:

National Park Service Volunteer Rob Junell made his 99th ascent of Guadalupe Peak, the highest peak in the State of Texas at 8,749 feet above sea level, this past Saturday, and plans on reaching the centennial mark on Veterans Day, November 11, 2011. 

Junell, of Midland, TX, has been a Volunteer-In-Parks (VIP) at Guadalupe Mountains National Park since August 2009. As a park volunteer, Junell assists park staff, patrolling park trails, assisting park visitors, answering questions, providing first aid when needed, and being eyes and ears of park rangers on the trail.

One of the things that Junell enjoys most about his volunteer service at Guadalupe Mountains National Park is meeting park visitors from all around the world. Junell, a federal judge in the West District of Texas and a former Texas State Representative, first climbed to the summit of Guadalupe Peak in 2003 while training for a climb in the Andes Mountains, and continues to use the hike as part of his training regimen. However, Junell says he did not start out with the idea of climbing Guadalupe Peak 100 times. It was during the last year with fires closing the Lincoln National Forest and other areas that Junell used to train, that he found himself hiking the Guadalupe Peak Trail with greater frequency and the idea was born. An avid mountain climber, skier and outdoorsman, Junell has scaled mountains in North and South America, Asia and Africa. Junell also puts his conditioning and medical skills to use as a member of the Ski Apache ski patrol. It is believed that Junell will be the first person to ascend to the top of Guadalupe Peak 100 times.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park Superintendent Dennis A. Vásquez said, “This is truly an amazing accomplishment. We do not know of anyone else who has ascended Guadalupe Peak as many times and it is unlikely that anyone will match this feat.”

Regarding his accomplishment, Junell said, “This isn’t about me. It’s about the park and what a treasure it is for the state of Texas and the United States. There is really something for everyone, from day trips to camping out at Pine Springs or at one of the backcountry campgrounds. I just think it is a great way to get out of the day-to-day routine.”

During fiscal year 2011 (October 1, 2010 through September 30, 2011), 83 volunteers donated 13,432 hours of service at Guadalupe Mountains National Park, assisting park staff at the Pine Springs Visitor Center, Frijole Ranch History Museum, the McKittrick Canyon, Dog Canyon and Salt Basin Dunes Visitor Contact Stations, as campground hosts at the Pine Springs and Dog Canyon campgrounds, and presenting interpretation and education programs to visitors. Volunteers assisted with caring for the park’s museum
collection, with inventory and monitoring of natural resources, with historic structure preservation, and assisting park visitors while patrolling trails and trail maintenance. Some, such as Junell, come for a day or two at a time, while others come from across the country and commit for months at a time.

To learn more about the Volunteers-In-Parks Program at Guadalupe Mountains National Park, contact the park Volunteer Coordinator, Craig Tanner at 915-828-3251 x2311 or, or visit To learn what volunteer opportunities are currently available at Guadalupe Mountains National Park or to apply, visit

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Fall View of Fort Davis National Historic Site

We're seeing yellow all over the region right lovely!  This striking image of fall color at Fort Davis National Historic Site was sent to us by Tammy King of Fort Davis.  Fort Davis is one of the best preserved frontier forts in the West, and has amazing stories to tell about our region and country....the contribution of the Buffalo Soldiers, the development of medicine in the 1800s frontier, the defense of stagecoach routes and settlement.  Now's a great time to visit!  (Looks like the animals are enjoying the lovely fall day too!)  Thanks to Tammy for sharing this image with us!

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Evening View of Movie Set in Van Horn's Red Rock Ranch

Just north of Van Horn is the privately owned Red Rock Ranch.  Tours are available and often a trip can be arranged in this magnificent landscape to an old movie set used in the filming of the prequel to Lonesome Dove, "Dead Man's Walk," starring F. Murray Abraham, David Arquette, Keith Carradine and Edward James Olmos.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

The wild landscapes of Big Bend

Even if you just drive through Big Bend National Park and never get out of the car--though we wonder why you wouldn't want to hike and explore--you can enjoy wild, mind-bending landscapes.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Maple Red by Jill Miller

Bright red of maples from last year's color, taken by Jill Miller.  The maples were planted in the 1940s by Espy Miller in front of the Miller ranch house in Jeff Davis County.

Thanks to Jill for sharing this lovely color with all of us!

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Cowboys Drinking Beers in Alpine Texas, by Russell Lee, 1939

Cowboy drinking a bottle of beer in booth of beer parlor, Alpine Texas by Russell Lee, May 1939
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection, LC-USF34-033232-D
Cowboys in beer parlor, Alpine, Texas by Russell Lee, May 1939
Source: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection, LC-USF34-033233-D

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Displaying horse for sale on the streets of Alpine by Russell Lee, 1939

Folks from Alpine, can you identify the place or the people?  Another image by Russell Lee of Alpine from May 1939 from the U.S. Farm Security Administration Archive in the Library of Congress. 

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection, LC-DIG-fsa-8a26199