Southwest Texas

Enjoying the view of Lajitas Mesa from our RV site

Merry Christmas to all of my readers! Life is running a little slower this holiday weekend, so it seems like an opportune time to catch up on where the Twosna Travelers have been. I thought of doing a blog post from Texas to Arizona in one fell swoop, but that was entirely overwhelming.

The truth is, our time in the extreme south of Texas was absolutely golden. We loved the area, particularly the capriciousness of the landscape – flat desert with mostly all one type of cactus here, a mesa suddenly poking up there, a set of hills made out of ancient volcanic ash, canyons and hoodoos. When driving, we would find ourselves all of a sudden in the middle of the most jaw-dropping scenery. The nights were cool and the days warmed up, it never rained, and there was a new direction to head off in every time we were ready to go. If we didn’t, then Lajitas Mesa gave us a wonderful view every time we looked out our window. Here is another view with a look left of the mesa:

The piles of hardened volcanic ash look man-made to me, as if looking at a quarry or gravel and concrete business. The fact that they have been there millions of years makes it all the more fascinating. This view is partly in a state park. The RV park, and the resort in Lajitas that it is part of, sticks up like a thumb into Big Bend Ranch State Park, and somewhere in there is the border between the two.

It was like a moonscape, and we enjoyed some short hikes right from our RV into it:

Mexican Heather growing in the wild – something I planted every year in my flower garden
A prickly pear with the biggest spines I’d ever seen. Don’t dare come close!

It was a thrill one day to see a road runner cross the path near our RV:

One of the highlights of our time here was the day we drove through Big Bend Ranch State Park. Its border is the Rio Grande River. The scenic road, at the very bottom of the United States, winds up and around hills and canyons, always with the river on the left (going west) so that one is always looking at Mexico on that side, and more of the state park on the right. Here are two views of the river at Madura Canyon:

Closed Canyon was a “don’t miss” stop. It was our first slot canyon, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of these as we travel further west. It was marked as an easy-moderate trail but as the canyon walls closed in, the trail became very rocky with steep declines from one layer to the next. The rocks were slick and smooth with lots of crumbly gravel thrown in. We finally called it quits when one dropoff was so deep we couldn’t figure out how we’d get back up!

Entering the canyon – easy enough
The trail was not too bad at first
Cal looks so small compared to those canyon walls!
One of those steep dropoffs!
A place of awesome beauty which made us feel significantly small in the universe

Once back on the road, we stopped to check out a scorpion scurrying across:

From here, we entered the land of the hoodoos. Hoodoos, by definition, are tall, thin spires of rock that stick up from the desert floor. Mostly they are relatively soft rock topped by harder, less easily eroded stone that protects each column from the elements, and are formed within sedimentary rock and volcanic rock formations.

Along the road, this was our first glimpse of hoodoos, and this one looked like a shaggy dog to me:

Several hoodoos at a scenic stop

Our last stop, Ft. Leaton, was a total surprise to us. We thought it might be another western military outpost, but no…it was a trading post used from 1848 to 1884, but the last family lived here until 1925. The original owner had a Mexican wife, and after his death, she remarried and stayed on at the post. Lots of murder and mayhem went on here, and the post had a major fire in later years. Archeologists have found artifacts, and the Texas Parks and Wildlife completed a faithful restoration job. The walls are adobe and the inside rooms were cool and comfortable. A lonely state park ranger was pretty excited to show us a video and then we walked through. This was a very fascinating stop.

Ft. Leaton
A corner of the inner courtyard
The parlor, one of many rooms in the restored family area
Carretas such as these may have been the first wheeled vehicles to enter the United States when the Spanish first brought them in 1590. The wheels on this carreta are 6 feet tall!

Fully loaded carretas were so heavy that it took 10 to 12 oxen to pull them. The carretas here transported goods, most commonly Mexican silver bullion, on the Chihuahua Trail to San Antonio, Texas.

In the picture below is a fence made out of ocotillo, a common desert cactus.

The view from the bakery window
Of course, after this, a picnic was in order!

Before turning around, we decided to drive on in to Presidio, TX and discovered a grocery store! We had been deprived of a real grocery store for weeks, so this was very exciting. There was also a plethora of various dollar stores owing, we think, to the fact that Presidio is a Mexican border entry town.

The town of Terlingua was a short drive from our RV park in the other direction. It is a ghost town, but has a small artist colony which makes for some interesting shopping, and a handful of restaurants. The biggest thing that draws people to Terlingua, though, is the cemetery. It dates back to the early 1900s and is still being used. Many of the graves are of Hispanic heritage but then there is a hippie vibe to it, too.

In the early 1900’s, Terlingua was a mercury mining town and helped supply the WW1 war effort. The town was booming but there were mine accidents, gunfights, and the 1918 influenza epidemic. The town declined through the mid-1900’s and demand for Terlingua’s mercury was not repeated during WW2.

I had fun exploring the ruins of some of the houses. They were so small, and the doorways so short!

This church reminded me of one that has been in the news lately..the movie set shooting.
A 1930’s movie theatre, which is now a great place to eat, have a drink, and listen to live music. All is not dead in Terlingua.

Our RV park, Maverick Ranch, was part of the Lajitas Golf Resort and Spa. Like a poor cousin, the park is set back across and down the road from the resort. While there was nothing at all luxurious about Maverick Ranch, you could be entertained for days at the Lajitas Golf Resort, especially if you play golf. Whatever Lajitas was before the resort was built, the tiny town is now all about the resort. There is an airport built specially to ferry in the vacationers. If you need more entertainment, there is horseback riding, ziplining, jeep tours, and a concierge to arrange whatever it is you might need. There’s also a “boardwalk” (made out of cobblestone) for shopping, although I couldn’t begin to afford anything in the shops. A couple of restaurants/bars round out the offerings.

Down the long driveway from Maverick Ranch, there is a cemetery smaller than the one in Terlingua:

We made a personal call on the Mayor of Lajitas, which is… a goat:

Our last evening in Lajitas, we took a stroll under the starry skies, and a full moon, over to one of the bars at the resort. It was a great way to say farewell to an area that we had enjoyed very much. We are on the lookout for long-term places to winter in the future. If we could boost our phone and internet service, Maverick Resort would be a sure contender. Cheers!

Looking at Big Bend National Park from Terlingua Starlight Theatre, Mule’s Ears on the right

Next time: Alpine, Texas

2 thoughts on “Southwest Texas

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