Wandering West Texas

Since leaving Big Bend, we’ve hit a number of eclectic spots – some planned, some by accident. In any case, it’s been a terrific week for the Campshaws.

Heading out of the Park, we were intrigued by the Terlingua Ghost Town which appeared on our map.wp-1485537560601.jpg It wasn’t far off our route, so we detoured. This was originally a mining site for cinnabar, from which mercury is derived. Most of the old structures have fallen, but there’s a quirky ghost town economy at work here. Along the road into the town are several spots where you can camp in a teepee, or a beatup Airstream. wp-1485537508473.jpgThere’s a real estate office that looks like a spaceship. wp-1485541029427.jpgWe wandered around the fallen buildings, then headed over to the cemetery, which was a real treat. Most of the graves are above ground, because of the difficulty of digging into the rocky surface. wp-1485537526157.jpgModern graves are decorated with objects that reveal the personality of the deceased.20170127_114239.jpg It’s a very interesting place to wander. We topped off our visit with breakfast at a small cafe there (fabulous Mexican breakfast burrito!), and hit the road.

Balmorhea State Park was our destination for two nights, a spot we picked by its location, not its interest. It’s home to a natural spring with a year-round temperature of about 70 degrees. In the 1930s, the CCC built a gigantic pool enclosing the spring, and the Park was born. wp-1485537090527.jpgwp-1485537463120.jpgwp-1485537479921.jpgThere is a bare-bones campground, and motel-type rooms available. It must be packed in the hot summer months, because there sure aren’t any other lakes around. But, it was so chilly and windy that none of the campers ventured in the water. If you look closely at the photos, you can tell from the water surface how windy it was. The pool ranges from 3-30 feet deep, with several diving boards. It was a nice stop, but we wished that we hadn’t reserved two days – we truly didn’t understand that there was nothing around, and nowhere nearby to visit. But, how about this cool door?wp-1485537427688.jpgWe chose a route to our next stop that took us past Guadalupe Mountains National Park, a place that I had never even heard of. We stopped into the Visitor Center, watched a brief slide show about the area, then headed down a trail to check out an old stagecoach stop. wp-1485537411335.jpgwp-1485537399749.jpgFrom 1858-59, the Butterfield Overland Mail stopped here on its route from St. Louis to San Francisco. What a grueling journey it must have been for the nine passengers along for the trip with 12,000 pieces of mail. 24 hours a day for about 25 days – with brief stops to change horses. Yikes. We didn’t have time to explore any other areas of the Park – saving that for another trip.

Hueco Tanks State Park was a gem of a find for our final night in Texas. wp-1485537360354.jpgTanks refers to depressions in the rocks which collect water, and there are hundreds of these in the rocky formations in the Park.wp-1485537348111.jpgwp-1485537330656.jpgFor thousands of years, indigenous people lived or traveled to this area, as evidenced by the petroglyphs which are scattered around the Park. Sometimes, you really have to lie underneath the rocks to see and photograph the petroglyphs.wp-1485537265734.jpgwp-1485537243134.jpg Most of the really great spots are available with a guided Ranger tour only. We were unaware of this, and didn’t allot enough time to do that. But, we did hike three trails, all with great views, and interesting rock markings. wp-1485537220068.jpgGraffiti has taken a huge toll over the years, probably one reason why permits are required to even enter the area, and are limited to 70 people a day. About half of the people we saw were rock climbers, as there are several areas here which provide challenging climbs.20170127_114753.jpg We enjoyed our great campsite. This is another spot which merits a longer stay – we left far too much unexplored.

See ya, Texas! Now we’re in Columbus New Mexico at Pancho Villa State Park. What an interesting spot this is. Columbus was the site of the last hostile action by foreign troops in the US – a raid by Pancho Villa’s troops in March 1916. wp-1485537115250.jpgThis sparked retaliation by troops led by General John J (Black Jack) Pershing into Mexico, with the intent of hunting down Pancho Villa. After a year, the troops came back to the US, emptyhanded. So many historic events surround this event – it was the last gasp of US Calvary troops, the first time gasoline and diesel-powered trucks and cars were used, and the first time airplanes were used for surveillance. Eight two-seater “Jennies” were deployed, and flew into Mexican airspace. However, the planes were not very maneuverable, and most were unable to fly back over the mountains to Columbus HQ. None of the eight lasted past the first month.

We really enjoyed wandering the Museum – check out this photo which shows Villa and Pershing in happier times. wp-1485537126670.jpgNote the caption of the man standing behind Pershing – Michael Collins was the last US astronaut to stand on the moon – a fact we learned a few weeks ago at the Johnson Space Center.

The Columbus Historical Center Museum also has a site there, which we very briefly visited. I lusted after this tiny little tricycle – what kid wouldn’t look great pedaling this around?wp-1485537146389.jpgwp-1485537166654.jpgThe downside to this area is the really lousy weather. Altough dry, the winds are unrelenting and merciless. Temps are in the 40s, and with a 20mph wind, it is most unpleasant. I feel grit etching my eyeballs.

In spite of that, we plan to ride our bikes into Mexico this afternoon and wander around the little town of Puerto Palomas, which is just three miles away. We hear there’s a great little cafe there. It will be a quick ride there, with that north wind pushing us, and a tough slog home. Oh well….

7 thoughts on “Wandering West Texas

  1. I guess I’ll have to do my “out west” traveling vicariously. Patty decided that she can’t tolerate any significant walking which eliminates most of the things I wanted to do unless I did them alone. So we parked ourselves in Foley, Alabama at an RV park near my nephew and his wife. At least he likes to ride bikes so I’ll get some exercise!!!

    Gary

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      • Yes, the 747 with the space shuttle was awe inspiring! We also got to see the huge pool where they do the weightless training for working on the ISS. The shuttle wasn’t there the last time we were and we also didn’t get to see the weightless training pool so even on a return trip there were many new things to see.

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  2. That cafe in the Terlingua Ghost Town must be something very special, as I’ve heard how great the food is there several times in different blogs. I’m not sure why Terlingua is still considered a ghost town, as it’s a popular tourist destination these days. Jerry Jeff Walker and other of the early outlaw country musicians used to play there regularly, and JJW even recorded one of his concerts there.

    In my limited travels across Texas, the thing that I remember most is the nothingness of most of the country, it goes on forever, and the view always looked the same. I will have to remember the Guadalupe Mountains National Park and Hueco Tanks State Park though, they both look like places that I’d love to spend some time.

    What is it about most humans that they feel the need to leave their mark every place that they go, even if they are destroying the historic petroglyphs in the process? I’m happy that they are bing protected now.

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    • There’s the real town, and the Ghost Town, who h is about three miles away. All the fun stuff is on the Ghost Town. I had heard from a other friend about the JJ Walker thing – I’m not a country music fan, so that connection didn’t mean much to me. He probably played at the Starlight Theater, an old theater there made into a supper club. But, that little outdoor cafe rocked!!

      You would love Hueco Tanks, and have the patience and hear to get some spectacular images. Just make sure to have reservations!

      Graffiti will always irk me. Some of the name carvings are 150 years old, and are interesting in themselves, but they are still a case of someone thinking that’s it’s really special to leave a mark on someone else’s sacred spot. That will always be sad.

      We’re at Whitewater Draw tonight, waiting for 25K sandhill cranes to fly in for the night. Can’t wait. We’ll get up very early, watch the Grand Departure, then hit the road agsin

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  3. Yeah, Balmorhea SP is good for an overnight but there’s no reason to stay longer. It’s been ridiculously windy along the coast as well. Must be a huge front. Enjoy the ride into Mexico.

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    • I guess that’s the problem with making reservations in advance. We’re leery of not being able to go where we want, but sometimes get stuck in a spot where we do that want to be. Maybe someday we’ll catch on to the proper theory.

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