Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Alpine, Big Bend & Marathon, Texas

Mon, Feb. 6th - Tue, Feb. 14th

Happy Valentine's Day everybody! We camped a couple nights in Alpine and started to explore the Big Bend area from there. Driving around town, we came across this interactive mural. I had to include it for my family. I'll let y'all guess who's who?

Sul Ross University is in Alpine. We went thru the museum on campus. This pterodactyl wing was discovered in the area. With a 36 to 38 foot wing span it is the largest flying animal yet discovered. The largest of one of a certain dinosaur (I forget which one), was also discovered in a remote area near here. It was so large, they had to take the parts out by helicopter. The vertebrae each weighed up to 1200 pounds and they could only put two at a time on the flatbed of a truck to transport them. Now that's big! During WWII the university served as a flight school for the U.S. Navy and training ground for the WAACs. Dan Blocker (Hoss) played football at the university. Downtown at the movie theater there are murals of him and other actors. Hollywood discovered the Big Bend region with the 1920 silent film "Honeymoon Ranch". That's even before my time. But John probably remembers it. Nearby Marfa was the setting for the 1956 hit "Giant" starring Liz Taylor, Rock Hudson and James Dean (his last movie). Ft. Davis was "Dancer, Texas, Pop. 81" (1998), Marathon appears in "Paris, Texas" (1984), and "All the Pretty Women" (2000) was also filmed here.

From Alpine, we moved down to this campground in Study Butte/Terlingua on the edge of Big Bend National Park. They had an 18 hole golf course in the desert with raised tees and holes and dirt tracks to drive golf carts around from one hole to the next. Fairways were pretty much just cactus and brush.

In Big Bend Ranch State Park, we drove thru a campground at Lajitas. I have been trying to convince John that this is what we need. But he keeps telling me I will have to find a new hubby first. Oh well, a girl can always dream.

Also in Big Bend Ranch State Park is this old movie set where lots of movies have been filmed, including "Rio Diablo" 1993, "Gambler V: Playing for Keeps" 1994, "Streets of Laredo" 1995, "My Maria" Brooks & Dunn 1996, "Dead Man's Walk" 1996 and "The Journey Man" 2000.

Near Terlingua, there is an area called Ghost Town where there are lots of old stone houses that are abandoned, roofs falling in, etc. This old bus is called Las Ruinas Camping Hostel.

These tents sitting in the desert are the rooms for the Hostel. Makes me feel grateful for our RV. I'm not sure how they keep out the tarantulas, scorpions, snakes, etc.

Just up the hill from the bus is The Boathouse. It is a little bar and restaurant. When we drove by at suppertime, the place was hopping. There were cars parked all over here.

Just across the road from the bar and hostel is the Terlingua Cemetery 1902, still currently in use with lots of recent graves. The graves all look like they were dug, covered and decorated in any way each family saw fit with any materials they could find at hand, in the desert or their homes or wherever, jars, bottles, candles, pictures, coins, stones, etc. Very interesting.

We went to the Starlight Theater for supper. It was built in the 1920s and abandoned some years later. The roof was gone by the 1960s, but they started using it again for open-air parties, dances and such. In 1990 someone put a roof on it and fixed it up and started a restaurant/bar. They have live entertainment most every night, as does the Boathouse Bar and a couple of other similar nearby places. I think people just come in to jam for free drinks and tips. The two guys playing guitar and fiddle and singing Woodie Guthrie style stuff were very good. Woodie Guthrie actually spent some time in this area. Other famous people like Willie Nelson and Jerry Jeff Walker have played at the Starlight Theater. I bought two of Hank Woji's CDs (the guy who was playing). You should check him out, Mark. I think you would like him. They had killer Bloody Marys and the meal was very good. Their menu had everything from beans & rice for $3.50 to fancy salmon and seafood dishes for $3o or so. I highly recommend this place. You wouldn't think there were enough people living around here to support all these bars/restaurants, but they all seemed to be busy.

This is a view of the Rio Grande in Big Bend Ranch State Park. It was a very scenic drive all the way down to the border at Presidio/Ojinaga, Mex. We had lunch at a little Mexican place in Presidio and headed back to camp. Presidio is not worth the trip, but the scenery along the way was great.

The next day we drove into Big Bend National Park. We hiked a mile and a half up Santa Elena Canyon on the east end of the park. The canyon is eight miles long and 1,500 feet deep. Some places are only 30 feet wide at the bottom.

This is a beautiful hike. If you look close, you can see John on the trail in the next four pictures. We felt like a couple of mountain goats by the time we got done hiking all over this park for a week, but we would both love to come back here sometime. Six flags have flown over Big Bend, Spain, France, Mexico,Republic of Texas, Confederacy and the U.S.A. The Rio Grande (Rio Bravo del Norte in Mexico) flows from 14,000 foot peaks in the Rockies of Colorado 1,885 miles to sea level at the Gulf of Mexico forming a common border with Mexico for over 1,750 miles.

Demand for water here is greater than the supply and evaporation is greater than precipitation. The Rio Grande and it's major Mexican tributary, the Rio Conchos, drain 185,000 square miles of mostly arid land. The Rio Conchos is the major source. In some spots, the Rio Grande seemed to completely disappear. The park is 80% desert.

The park is in the northern end of the Chihuahuan Desert, the largest of the four major deserts in North America (covering 200,000 square miles, 175,000 in New Mexico, southeast Arizona and Texas and the desert reaches 850 miles into Mexico).

Coming back out of the canyon. We had a picnic lunch by the river when we were done hiking. How very magnificent and peaceful!

The next day we left Study Butte and went into the park and stayed at Rio Grande Campground on the west side of the park for three days. John is on the trail at the top of the hill here. We were taking the long alpine trail to check out the Hot Springs.

"Now where are those Hot Springs anyway? I think I hear someone talking. Oh, look straight down over the edge!" So we just kept following the trail....

Finally we made it and it was very nice, indeed, and well worth the hike. The young folks were jumping from the hot tub into the river and going across to set foot in Mexico. The fine for crossing the border anywhere other than official border crossings is $5,000.00.

The trail behind our campground took us up to an overlook. Across the river we could see the small Mexican village of Boquillas with the Sierra del Carmen limestone cliffs in the background. Farther south over the border is the Maderas Del Carmen Mountains reaching over 9,000 feet and a protected area of over 500,000 acres of the Chihuahuan Desert, making over a million acres with Big Bend and the state parks in this area.

Facing our campground, you can see our camper on the far right nearest to the little fishing pier. In the far background are the Chisos Mountains which are about in the middle of the park. They had closed off some of the trails in that area, as a mountain lion had attacked a six year old boy a couple days earlier and they were still searching for the lion. The boy was okay. He had been hiking with his father and his father stabbed the lion.

Hiking the overlook behind our campground and the Boquillas Canyon Trail behind the little village the next day, we saw many stations like this of Mexican trinkets and crafts, with notes for suggested donations and a jar to leave money in.
The small border crossings were closed after 9-11 and the economy of the small border towns collapsed without tourism. For 21 years the Park had held an annual Good Neighbor Fiesta. The trust instilled by centuries of shared culture just disappeared. How sad.

We were told by the park rangers that the Mexicans snuck over during the night and left the stuff and picked up the money, and they just tried to look the other way. But when we hiked up Boquillas Canyon, we saw this Mexican man riding the trail and checking to see if there was any money or more trinkets were needed. He carried two big bags of desert grasses with him to feed his horse.

We followed him as we hiked into the canyon and he eventually crossed the river back into Mexico. We were surprised that he could do this in broad daylight, as there seems to be many border patrol people everywhere we go. The closing of the border at all the little villages has destroyed their local economies. My Mom told us that when they were here, the Mexicans would take them across the river in canoes and they could either hike up to their village or they would take them up on horseback. Then they would have lunch in their village and there would be all kinds of trinkets offered for sale by the local villagers. We were told that this crossing is going to be opened up again in April with a kiosk where you can just scan your passport and go across.

We continued hiking into Boquillas Canyon where the Rio Grande makes a bend and goes north.

It doesn't look very high in this picture, but we hiked up to the middle cave on the left. There wasn't really a trail, just a lot of very loose rocks.

It was hard enough getting up there, but quite scary coming back down with all that loose rock and nowhere to get your footing, so you wouldn't just slide down out of control.

After leaving the park to the north, we spent the night at a campground in Marathon. I was amazed at the agave plants we saw as we walked around town. They were over twice as tall as any we had previously seen. Some varieties are called Century Plants, but they all take 10 to 20 years to bloom. They only bloom once and then die.

Marathon was a very interesting little town to walk around. This little tin shack is their laundry mat. I didn't stop to look inside, and now I wish I had.

This is the courtyard of the Gage Hotel. It is one of five grand, old, mission-style hotels designed by some famous architect (Trost & Trost). We were looking for someplace to eat, but the cheapest thing on their menu was $17 and you had to have a reservation. This is just a funky little Texas town with not much of anything here, but I guess this is a famous destination hotel. We walked through the lobby and courtyards and peeked in the pool area and dining areas. It looks like a marvelous place to stay and relax for a few days. Be sure to ask for one of these courtyard rooms. It was really lovely and peaceful here.

There are only three other places to eat in town, a bakery that closes at one, a burger and malt place that closes at three and a pizza place where we ate. There is a bar that opens occasionally at the owner's whim. This little B & B looked quaint and charming.

Then we walked around back where we could see it was an ongoing project of adding one little adobe hut after another for individual little bedrooms. Looked like Flintstone village.

This was another little place to stay. It was called La Loma Del Chivo Hostel and looked like a junk yard. The rooms were all sorts of little individual places, like 1940s camper trailers, old run-down RVs, something that looked like a covered wagon, big old discarded barrels or culverts that had been converted to serve as sleeping quarters. Once again, I am greatful for my traveling home.

From here we head toward Austin to visit John's cousin. I will try to get another blog on in a couple days.

On the Road Again,


No comments:

Post a Comment