Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sunset by S. Billingsley

One of our Texas Mountain Trail facebook friends reached out to us recently with the offer to share his photographs with our Daily Photo Blog audience.  We took one look at his work and enthusiastically said, "YES!"  Here's a lovely Far West Texas sunset from S. Billingsley.  Are you on Facebook?  We love what he says as his mission on Facebook, "To leave some lasting Image that will live long after I am gone."  We think you've done just that!

Connect with him on Facebook here.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Sound, Safe and Secure

Another great historical image of early life in Van Horn, from the collection of the Clark Hotel Museum.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Target Practice?

Another wonderful image of early life in Van Horn from the Clark Hotel Museum collection.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

More great hiking attire!

Another great image of early life in Van Horn from the Clark Hotel Museum collection.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Ultimate in Hiking Attire

Another great image from Van Horn's Clark Hotel Museum of early life in that community!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Thanking a couple of invaluable volunteers

This afternoon, Van Horn's Clark Hotel Museum formally thanks two special people, Robert and Nada Stuckey.  For many years, this couple has been at the museum every day, giving tours, running the Museum Quilters program, writing about Culberson County history for the local newsletter.  Sadly, they're leaving Van Horn soon to move closer to family, and their contributions to the community will be sorely  missed. 

Robert and Nada, THANK YOU for your many years of service, and our boundless enthusiasm for Van Horn's history, and your advocacy for the Clark Hotel Museum.  You've been good friends of the Texas Mountain Trail, and community members of our hometown, Van Horn! 


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

1913 Flood in Van Horn

Notice Van Horn's Turtleback Mountain in the background?  Another great photograph from Van Horn's Clark Hotel Museum.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Monday, January 23, 2012

Cold? Pensive? Not ready for a joy ride?

Another wonderful photograph of early Van Horn from the collection of the Clark Hotel Museum.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Old Courthouse Portrait in the collection of the Clark Hotel Museum

One of several portraits of landmarks from the area, this portrait of the old Culberson County courthouse hangs in Van Horn's Clark Hotel Museum.  Alas, the courthouse was razed in the 1960s to make way for the construction of a new courthouse for the county.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The View from I-10 Van Horn's Six Mile and Turtleback Mountains

As you pass Van Horn heading west, the town's two signature mountains come into view.  Above, is Six Mile Mountain (that's three miles from town and back!), and below, is Turtleback Mountain!  Though some people think the "V" is the roman numeral 5, it stands for "Van Horn!"
Turtleback Mountain as seen from Van Horn's cemetery


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Remembering Judy

Judy's burro parked outside the Valentine post office
This time of year, we remember a woman who was a fixture in the region for a long, long time, Judy Magers.  Also known as the Burro Lady, she rode all over our region on the back of her burro, spending nights on the side of the road on blankets and under a bright blue tarp. She lived out in the elements, keeping mostly to herself, and seeing her along the side of the road was a special experience. You can read more about her here.  She passed on a few years ago about this time of year, from natural causes.  She often traveled through Van Horn, stopping at the McDonalds, or the laundromat, or the post office.  This time of year, especially, we remember her with fondness.  To us, and to many travelers, she embodied the region's feeling of freedom.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Downtown Van Horn, 1940

Take a close look at the left side of the photo for the Hotel El Capitan sign.  Now back in business as a lovingly restored historic hotel, the sign is back!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Get off the freeway and visit Van Horn's El Mercado and Farmers Market


If you're heading east or west on I-10, you know there aren't very many stops of interest...at least compared to more populated parts of the country.  But a little bit of exploring can reap some big rewards in rest from the grind of miles of miles of freeway traffic...and the little town of Van Horn offers some smalltown charm, especially when you know what to look for!

Take any of the three exits at Van Horn and head north a block or two to Broadway, the main thoroughfare in town.  In the center of the historic area of "downtown" on Broadway (a couple of blocks west of the historic Hotel El Capitan), you'll find the town's El Mercado.  Most days there's at least one vendor there with fresh fruit and vegetables, including local favorites like chile and mango.  Sometimes there's Mexican style cheese, corn husks for tamales.  On special event days, you may find a band there!


Monday, January 16, 2012

Exploring the old ranches in Big Bend National Park






One of the things we enjoy doing in Big Bend National Park is exploring the old ruins and contemplating the life of early settlers and ranchers in the area.  One of the neatest places to do this--and there's shade!--is at the Sam Nail Ranch site off Ross Maxwell Drive.  Here's what the park's website says about the area:

"One of the many homesteads that once dotted the Big Bend, the Sam Nail Ranch now provides shade and water for desert wildlife. A windmill still pumps water and attracts a great variety of birdlife. Sit quietly on the benches and listen for javelina, painted buntings, and hummingbirds."

The 0.5 mile trail there is easy to navigate and is well maintained.  It leads through the old homestead of Sam and Nena Nail, where remnants of an adobe structure and two windmills remain.


Click here to learn more about the sights on Ross Maxwell Drive!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Flying into El Paso?

Flying into El Paso for your adventure?  Stop by the information booth to pick up great travel information!  Staffed by the wonderful folks at El Paso's CVB. WWW.visitelpaso.com

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Tom Lea at the Gage Hotel


click on the images to read!
Coming up on February 23, a great opportunity to learn more Tom Lea and other important El Paso artists, and enjoy the hospitality of Marathon's historic Gage Hotel!  Click on the images to get a closer read! 

The Gage Hotel is the starting and ending point of our Texas Mountain Trail heritage bike route, called the Ride to the Post.  Click here to read about this easy, family friendly 10 mile ride, and see photos!

The Gage Gardens is a site on our Far West Texas Wildlife Trail,  Click here to see information on the Marathon-Alpine loop on the trail map, and read more about the Gage Gardens!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Are you planning a bike trip?

Touring cyclists on the road from Alpine to Marfa
Check out our Marathon to Fort Davis to Marfa to Alpine itinerary on Adventure Cycling Association's Bike Overnights blog.

Or our heritage bike routes:
El Capitan to El Capitan...to the base of Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Ride to the Post starting in Marathon
Fort Davis' Scenic Loop


Check out our cycling page with more info, including a list of our participating cycle-friendly hotels, B&Bs, historic tourist courts, etc.!

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Williams Ranch Road in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, on the historic Butterfield Overland Mail Stage Route

1908 Williams Ranch house, center of a cattle operation in what is now Guadalupe Mountains National Park

The road to the ranch is marked as the original route of the 1859 Butterfield Overland Mail stagecoach route
The western section of Guadalupe Mountains National Park isn't visited as frequently as the eastern section, but it does not lack in charm nor adventure potential.  Williams Ranch road is restricted (you need to get a key from the rangers at Pine Springs Visitor Center) and limited to two vehicles at a time.  A rolicking 4x4 road, it also provides a good mountain biking adventure.

Sections of the road are part of the original route of the first transcontinental mail delivery by stagecoach, the coaches rumbled over wild terrain carrying cargo, people and mail.  The historic meeting of the first eastern-bound and western-bound stages met near this spot in 1859.  Read more about the Butterfield route in the park.

At the end of the road, is the 1908 wooden frame ranch house, built as the center of a ranching operation.  You can sit on the porch and ponder life in that era.  Click here to read the history of Williams Ranch.

Once you get to the house, there are several options for hiking...up the boulders towards the mountains via Bone Canyon, or on a trail a little north, to Shumard Canyon and connecting to the El Capitan Trail.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

One of our favorite River Road companions

The teepees on the River Road, Hwy 170 between Presidio and Terlingua
One of the most scenic drives in the state is Hwy 170, from Presidio to Terlingua/Study Butte, and if you're a geology buff, one of the best ways to explore the road is with William MacLeod's River Road Vistas.  Mile by mile, the text, photos and diagrams tell how the landscape formed, by volcanic action, erosion and other factors.

Click here to learn more about this book.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Mount Livermore, 1914.

More from the 1914 journal of UT Botany instructor, Mary Sophie Young.
From August 14, 1914:

"We finally lost the trail and, as we had no idea which was Mt. Livermore, aimed for the most attractive looking mountain.  We certainly did some climbing, and Carey with the two canteens must have had a hard time.  We went up a very steep long slope, then around the top of that small mountain, only to find ourselves cut off from the next mountain, the one with high rock bluffs topping it, by deep ravines.  We made our way partly around the canyons them where they were not so very deep."

"Of course, there are no trails in these mountains, but what makes them so hard to climb is the fact that long grass and shrubby plants cover the rocks and loose stones in many places so that one is very much impeded.."


Young's journal selection comes from this book, published by Texas A&M Press.

Visit Mount Livermore in The Nature Conservancy's Davis Mountains Preserve during Open Days and Open Weekends.  We'll post the 2012 schedule as soon as we receive it on our events calendar.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Mount Livermore, 1914

Lunch on Mount Livermore
This week we're featuring current photos of Mount Livermore with the 1914 journal entries of Mary Sophie Young.

 August 21, 1914

"Friday I started shortly after eight o'clock for another tramp to Livermore.  The only available lunch was one huge pancake and some bacon.  It was not an attractive lunch and I did not in the least enjoy eating it.  Cold pancake is not, at best, very appetizing, nor could bacon either.  O, for one grocery store!"


"I went up the canyon by way of the bed of the stream and found it much better than our first climb.  There are many rock falls that help one out, like staircases.  It was on one of these slopes that I found my rattlesnake.  He was lying in a crack between two rocks, taking a nap with his head and upper part of his body sticking out.  I thought, from the cross stripes on his body, that he might be a rattler.  I thought at first of shooting him, but decided that, as rocks were bigger than bullets, the chances of hitting him were greater with rocks, so I gathered an armful and opened fire."

Quotes from American Women Afield by Marcia Myers Bonta and Texas A&M Press.

Today we let snakes be and give them a wide berth if they aren't threatening!

Mount Livermore is held by The Nature Conservancy and its Davis Mountains Preserve.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Mount Livermore, 1914

In the next few days, we're sharing photos of Mount Livermore in the Davis Mountains, with selections of a 1914 journal by University of Texas botany professor, Mary Sophie Young (1872-1919).

From the entry for August 18, 1914:

"It was a fine morning and we started on our trip at about 9 o'clock, with one canteen, two napsacks, and the botany can.  The first part was in the level through the canyon, but soon we began to climb and there the road changed to a trail.  It was a good deal like the Montana trails, except that they were through the open, or oak woods, instead of pine, fir, and spruce, and there was no mud."


"The mountains and canyons are very pretty--of course everything is on a small scale.  The mountains are pretty well wooded--oak on the summits and pretty well down.  A sprinkling of cedar and pine beginning on the high slopes and increasing toward the bottoms of the canyons where, in the high, moist valleys, they form the dominant part of the tree vegetation.  The trail is cut out of the side of the mountain, so one gets a good view.  In places it zigzags back and forth and once or twice goes down for some distance, then up, but most of the time it was a steady climb."

"We were homesick for our house that night.  If it had not been so late we would have come on home, but when I thought of leading Nebuchadnezzar (a mule) through the creek fifty-seven times in the dark, my courage gve out.  So we stayed another night.  It threatened rain some, but the morning was fair......"


From, American Women Afield, Writings by Pioneering Women Naturalists, by Marcia Myers Bonta

Would you like to visit Mount Livermore?  We're waiting for The Nature Conservancy to post their Open Days for 2012 when the Davis Mountains Preserve (and Mount Livermore) is open to visitors.  Check our Texas Mountain Trail web calendar for events in the region!

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

A gracious way to travel...step off the train...and the best of the city is steps away

One of the loveliest and gracious ways to travel to the region is by train, through El Paso's Union Station.  Built in 1905 and renovated in 1982 (and on the National Register of Historic Places), the station was the first passenger station built in the United States specifically for international travel.  The county's website outlines the renovation work that was done to bring the station back to its original glory:

"The original tile floor was installed, the white paint on the outside bricks was removed, most of the original woodwork was preserved as much as possible, marble was imported from Italy to replace the damaged marble on the inside columns, and the tower and steeple were restored to their former place on top of the Depot."  To read more, click here.

Today, Amtrak's Sunset Limited runs through our region on its route from New Orleans to Los Angeles.  El Paso is a fully supported stop (meaning you can check luggage and bicycles!) on the route, and one of two stops in our region.  (Alpine is the second.)  Within walking distance is one of the hotels participating in our Texas Mountain Trail cycle-friendly program is the Holiday Inn Central El Paso.

The station is centered in the historic downtown, near the city's museum campus.  Consider visiting the city's Museum of History and Museum of Art.  Or the Insights Science Museum, or the Lynx Exhibits.  Since you've arrived by train, there's a place of special interest, El Paso's Railroad and Transportation Museum!

Monday, January 02, 2012

Geology of the Big Bend and Mule Ears

Our focus on geology continues today, with a photo of Big Bend National Park's Mule Ears.  We know many travelers like to keep one of William MacLeod's books open while they drive through the region, including:

Big Bend Vistas: A Geologic Exploration of the Big Bend
River Road Vistas
Davis Mountains Vistas



MacLeod's books offer a detailed explanation of the geology of the scenery from the road, making it easy for the traveler to understand (in depth, if the traveler wants) how and why the land looks as it does today.  Don't know geological terms?  There's a glossary in the back of each book.

Included in Big Bend Vistas: A Geologic Exploration of the Big Bend, is an entire section on Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, where we learn the spiky Mule Ears formation is magma that solidified before it reached the surface, and over time, erosion revealed the "ears."  The park's website's page on Ross Maxwell Drive also provides information on where you can stop along the road and proceed on trails to explore by foot.

To learn more, here's Big Bend National Park's website's page on the geology of the park.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Geology Tour of Big Bend Ranch State Park

Geologist and Interpretive Ranger at Big Bend Ranch State Park, Blaine Hall shows the locations of geologic interest to our group, including the Solitario

Color change in these rocks are due to weathering

Geologist Blaine Hall

More weathering indicated by color

Taking a photo of the white rocks indicating a "mountain building event" taking place 300 million years ago

Hiking in the Solitario

Best way to see it?  On foot!
Want to explore the wildest place in Texas' state park system, but want a guide?  Want to explore Big Bend Ranch State Park, but don't want to drive in the park?  Want to learn about geology from a geologist?  One of the best values we've encountered in our region is a personalized tour of Big Bend Ranch State Park by geologist and Interpreter/Ranger Blaine Hall.

We booked a full day with Blaine, who met us at the center of the park at Sauceda Ranch at 9am.  We packed the water and lunches we'd brought into a TPWD vehicle, and started our tour.  Blaine drove us to several locations to see evidence of geological highlights in the park--and Big Bend Ranch has TREMENDOUS geological highlights!  To read more, download this issue of the award-winning El Solitario newsletter and read page 10!

Blaine showed us evidence of four major geological trends in the park:
1)  Applachian/Ouachita/Marathon/Solitario Trend
2)  Rocky Mountain Trend
3)  Trans-Pecos Volcanic Field
4)  Basin and Range Trend

We were game for a hike, too, so Blaine led us on a great trail to continue our lesson on geology...we got to see some amazing views of the landscape! 

To schedule a tour, call the park's local number, 432-358-4444, and ask to schedule a guided tour.  For two of us, we had a full day with Blaine (who is a wealth of information and genial, good-natured teacher and guide) for $150.