– Fort Stockton, Texas to Terlingua, Texas–
Did you even know Texas had a town named Terlingua? I’d be willing to bet that many of you didn’t. The town actually refers to itself as, “The Ghost Town.” I can say with absolutely certainty that a nickname like that doesn’t really sell me on a visit. It is very close to Big Bend National Park, though, which I guess makes up for their really odd plans for attracting tourists.
We started our morning at 6am with a run through a local park in Fort Stockton. It was only 32F outside, so Mark kept making sad faces at me while we bundled up for our run. I could call it dedication, but obsession might be more accurate. I know Mark would make an endorphins joke. Regardless, we went for a run in the cold and our gear kept us nice and toasty warm.
We were also accosted by a stray kitty as soon as we got out of our car. We parked and the kitty hustled over, yowling almost impossibly loudly. I suspect someone must feed the feral cats in the park, because she was way too excited to see random strangers pull up while it was still dark out. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any cat food for her, and she didn’t take to kindly to the fact that we invited our dog along: hereditary enmity and all that, you understand.
We made it back to our hotel around 8, and since we didn’t want to miss the free food, we went to breakfast while still bundled up in our sweaty running clothes. I can only hope no one was offended by my hair. It was a sight to behold, I’m sure. Breakfast was pretty sorry for a La Quinta, and we were forced to eat Texas-shaped waffles. The bananas were all hard and green and there wasn’t much else. In fact, I amused myself by watching a woman trying to make oatmeal when the hotel hadn’t bothered to put out any water for her to use with the dry oatmeal packets. Good times.
We also had a terrible time keeping the shower water warm. The hotel wasn’t full, either, which certainly doesn’t bode well for an even busier morning. At least my shower was lukewarm. I shudder to think what it might have been like if even more people had been getting ready at the same time.
Regardless, we made it out of Fort Stockton alive and clean and fed. Our ultimate goal today, as I mentioned, was Terlingua. We stopped along the way for a few photographs. Today was a much prettier day than yesterday, although tomorrow looks to be worse than either. Time will tell, I suppose.
We made our first major stop at the Fort Davis National Historic Site, which was a much cooler old fort than Fort Stockton. We checked out the visitor center first, then we hiked up a little hill to look down at the grounds of the old fort. It is a large place from overhead. We kept hearing bugle calls in the distance. The park plays many of the original bugle calls for visitors throughout the day. It is interesting to hear, and a little startling if you aren’t accustomed to that sort of thing.
We walked through a couple of the fort’s restored building, including an enlisted men’s barracks and two houses for officers. The commanding officer’s quarters were large and very posh, especially considering that the officer whose items are on display occupied the (rather large) home in the late 1800s. The houses were decorated for Christmas, which I thought was a nice touch. Someone spent a lot of time decorating those displays for the holidays.
As we were leaving the park, we took some photographs of the old cottonwood trees along the road. The area beneath the trees is roped off because the trees are so old, it is dangerous to walk underneath them. Apparently limbs can and do fall at any time, especially in the wind. They are beautiful old trees, even in the winter. It is too bad that they are falling apart.
We stopped for lunch when we left the park. We had delicious veggie burgers at the Fort Davis Drugstore, which is mostly a hotel and a restaurant. maybe it used to be a drugstore? I mean, they did sell sunscreen at the hotel desk, but I would hardly call that a pharmacy.
Our lunch came with a free pot of kettle corn, because they had just started offering flavored popcorns popped there in the shop. I hate kettle corn, but Mark was clearly in love, because we came out of there with our own bag for $5. Popcorn is a savory snack in my book, and kettle corn violates the rules. Mark said it was delicious, though, so if you like kettle corn, I expect the Fort Davis Drugstore is a safe bet.
From Fort Davis, we drove on to Marfa. Many people outside of Texas have heard of Marfa, mostly because of the art installation known as Prada Marfa. What I didn’t realize is, the thing is just north of Valentine, which is 26 miles from Marfa. That would have been 26 miles back to the northwest. Needless to say, we did not get to visit. I don’t mind too much. I can’t imagine it is much more exciting than the pictures of it make it out to be.
Marfa is a really weird place. It is a mixture of broken down, abandoned old buildings and artsy, hippy restaurants and bookstores. One block will be busted up adobe buildings with broken windows, and the next will be filled with kids in scarves getting coffees. I got the feeling that even the locals were a little baffled. I didn’t encourage Mark to linger, and we grabbed his coffee at the gas station. I’m not sure what that says about us. Maybe we would have done better if we’d had our scarves?
We made our way from Marfa to Presidio, which is very close to the border with Mexico. We didn’t have to go down that way, but we thought it would be interesting, so off we went. Presidio is right next to the largest state park in Texas at 311,000 acres, which is called Big Bend Ranch State Park. I had no idea about the “ranch” part of the name. I had just assumed we had a Big Bend National Park and a Big Bend State Park.
Here’s the difference- the state park allows ranchers to use the land for an open range herd of longhorn cattle. I didn’t actually spot any longhorns as we drove through, but I guess they were out there. The most interesting thing about traveling through the area is all of the dips in the highway. The road has regular low spots for washouts during a flash flood. The road will drop down, and a tiny canyon will open up perpendicular to the road, with sooty-looking gray rock spilling across the ground on either side. The water drags the rocks out from the bed of the Rio Grande. The flood stage markers in these spots go over five feet, which must be impressive flooding. I really hope we don’t see any.
We stopped at a trailhead that led out to a little hill overlooking the Rio Grande, as well as a trail that went down towards the river and a rocky outcropping covered in hoodoos. Ripley had some fun hopping up on the edges of the rocks, and she really enjoyed sniffing around in the desert soil. We hadn’t taken her too far out into the desert so far on this trip, and she really seemed to get a kick out of looking around. She isn’t very smart about cactus though, so I have to keep a sharp eye on her to keep her nose from ending up where it doesn’t belong. Neither of us would be having any fun if I had to pull cactus spines out of her face.
From the hoodoos, it was a quick drive on to Terlingua, where we stopped and checked into our motel. We haven’t been paying much attention to the fact that it is New Year’s Eve, but the clerk at the desk told us about the 3 bars in the area that will be celebrating the holiday.
Terlingua isn’t much to look at, and its assertion that it is “The Ghost Town” is pretty apt. It does have a few motels and restaurants and those bars. It even has an art gallery, a quilt shop, and a grocery store. To be honest though, it is mostly a tiny tourist town that makes its money by being close to Big Bend, and that’s okay.
Our hotel is fine. It isn’t anything magical, but I can’t imagine anything here that would be. Our biggest issue is our paper thin walls. Our neighbors were playing guitar and wailing along to country music only an hour ago. I hope they don’t come back any time soon.
We stopped briefly in the grocery store to buy some spinach to go with our dinner before we came back to the motel and made ourselves some egg salad sandwiches. Perhaps tomorrow we will eat at one of the little restaurants in town.
The weather is supposed to change, but our goal is to get out and hike around Big Bend a bit tomorrow during the day. We will see what we can get done.
– Trip Total : 727 miles –