Friday, February 14, 2014

Far West Texas - who could have known?

I apologize for the long lapse since my last post. But, a frozen water pipe and a monumental basement flood forced my return to the farm to coordinate the repairs. During the time I was back, I couldn't bring myself to add to the blog. Dealing with the insurance adjusters and mold remediation people was all consuming and frankly, very depressing. While nothing irreplaceable was lost and it was all just stuff, the tedium of cataloging each item left me with no desire to write. However, I am back with Sarah and the  Mary Joan.
This actually is beginning to look pretty good. 

After leaving Big Bend National Park, Sarah and I visited the town of Terlingua just west of the park. A dusty, former ghost town, it is now an eclectic amalgamation of free-spirited individuals. There are a couple river rafting guides and desert ATV tour guides along with a few bars, a gas station and two grocery stores only one of which was open the few days we were there. 
Terlinqua "Ghost Town"

We see many old aluminum trailers left to decay, so sad.

We were told by someone we met in the hot springs at the park that it would be possible to just boondock anywhere in the old ghost town. However, the sign welcoming us asked that we not park our RV overnight. As we were leaving 'town' Sarah saw an old Airstream motor-home and another trailer in a small dusty parking area. There appeared to be an empty RV utility post next to the trailer and a small box trailer a short distance away. We approached the man next to the box trailer (which we found out later he was living in) and asked if we could park there for a couple nights. He said we should talk to the owner, Jack, who was just down the hill. Jack told us the spot was available and didn't we see the sign advertising his RV park. Somehow we had missed that. It was hand-painted on a small sign that also advertised his veterinary practice and his wife's gift/antique shop. But, we were happy to have a spot within walking distance of the Starlight Theater Restaurant where we planned Sarah's birthday dinner. 
The RV park in downtown Terlingua Ghost Town

While hiking in Big Bend National Park the previous day, we met a couple from Terlingua, who upon learning we would be there to celebrate Sarah's birthday, invited us to their home for margaritas and to watch the sunset. Dan and Tana gave us excellent directions to their home, which when we had settled into our camping spot we could easily see about a quarter mile away just across the highway. Dan and his wife Tana made us feel welcome and at ease in their beautiful home looking out over the desert landscape with a perfect view of the Chicos mountains to the east. Here we learned that in Terlingua, one looks to the east to watch the sunset. The glow of the setting sun reflected from the mountains is different everyday, but it is always beautiful.
Looking east at sunset from Terlinqua toward the Chicos mountains in Big Bend National Park
The view from Dan and Tana's

Before leaving, we inquired as to where would be the best place to watch the football playoff game the next evening. They told us that we would not be happy at any of the bars, since there would be a lot of smoke (smoking is still allowed in bars in Texas).  They said we should return for dinner and watch the game with them. We agreed only on the condition that we cook and bring dinner. 

When we arrived at the Starlight, I observed a small group at the bar that were engaged in friendly and animated conversation. What struck me was not only how different their appearances were from each other,  a cowboy, new-age hippie type, business suited straight, cocktail waitress wannabe pin-up and resurrected goth-girl, but also how they defied the stereotype of their appearance with their choice of beverages. The cowboy was drinking a white wine, the business suite some brightly colored concoction reminiscent of a tequila sunrise and the hippie was drinking a martini. The women had just arrived, so I didn't want to stare to see what they were drinking. Assuming their worldviews and political opinions were as disparate as their stereotypes, it was hard to believe I was in Texas, much less West Texas. It made me wonder if the euphemism, gone to Texas, still meant hiding out from the law or other entrapment. This is a place where you don't ask questions about people's past or appearances.  
The Starlight Theatre

The next day we rejoined Dan and Tana for another wonderful evening. We learned that Dan had been an successful National Park Service Ranger for many years and his wife Tana had taught in a private school. Because of his connections, Dan had the opportunity to meet celebrities and dignitaries in the park at which he served. His stories about his experiences were entertaining and revealing. 

On our last day in Terlingua we joined Far Flung river expeditions for a day floating the Rio Grande. Despite the river being quite low, it was still possible to float though Colorado Canyon. We had a wonderful guide, Erika, whose energetic lectures on geology, anthropology and history were very informative and entertaining. Far Flung allowed us to boondock in their parking lot the night before and after our river float. This made it very convenient for us.
Erika, our guide, was very enthusiastic and informative.
Colorado Canyon, Rio Grande River

Just west of Terlinqua is Big Bend Ranch State Park. The roads are gravel and though well kept have a lot of wash board in some places making the 20 mile trip into the park quite slow while towing the Mary Joan. The camping areas we found were primitive and the road into first one we came to didn't look too friendly for the trailer. However, the next one turned out to be a diamond in the rough. The quarter mile lane from the main road to the campsite was narrow and we had to stop to trim the branches of the shrubs that threatened to scratch the skin of the Mary Joan. 
Trimming branches and prickly pear cactus at the cattle guard

The campsite itself was at the base of a windmill that was still supplying water to the tank adjacent to the parking area. The campsites we found were designed for single occupancy. Due to the miles separating one from another, this produced a wonderful sense of privacy and isolation. A hiking trailhead was at our campsite and we enjoyed a two hour trek into the hills behind us. We saw deer and lots of birds.
Our campsite in Big Bend Ranch State Park (the Mary Joan is in the lower right)
Sarah has never lost her love of climbing
Sunset at our camp site in Big Bend Ranch State Park
We have both been surprised by the beauty of West Texas. Neither of us had ever imagined the diversity of shapes and colors to be found here. The people we have met are open and welcoming. They are proud to show us their home and share it with us. We cannot wait to continue exploring this area.

It was while leaving the park and driving to the town of Marfa, that I got the call that our basement was ruined.  Once in Marfa, Sarah and I settled in at the Tumble In campground. We decided that Sarah should stay with Dot, the cat, while I went home. Sarah could not have been 'stranded' in a better place. 

Stay tuned to find out why.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for returning to the blog after what must have been a painful ordeal. We love West Texas and can't wait to return. We visited Terlingua and went on a Far Flung adventures trips as well. I really want to go back. I especially love the boondocking site in Big Bend Ranch State Park. That is the way to go if you don't mind boondocking. Great post.


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