Terlingua, Texas

During our time at Big Bend NP we used the town of Terlingua (pop. 58) as our home base. Terlingua is only about twelve miles north of the Study Butte (stew-dee) entrance into the park and has a well stocked general store (Cottonwood GS) for provisions and a half dozen restaurants and shops in addition to motel, camping and RV accommodations. Terlingua has two paved roads – FM 170 which runs east to west terminating at Route 118 which runs north to south from Alpine to the park entrance.

Terlingua came into existence around 1900 after the discovery of cinnabar. The commercial value of cinnabar derives from the extraction of quicksilver, aka mercury. Shortly thereafter about a half dozen mining companies staked claims and set up operations. Over time the companies were consolidated as the Chisos Mining Company but still became bankrupt in 1937 due to falling market prices. During WW2 several mines were re-opened as heightened demand caused prices to rise but by 1947 the mines were again closed.

Many of the miners that worked these mines were Mexicans who came north for the work. Many of the descendants of the Mexican miners still live in Terlingua and the surrounding area. We visited the Terlingua cemetery where a number of the miners who died working the mines are buried and which also is the final resting place for many victims of the 1918 flu epidemic. The cemetery is still in use today.

The town itself is pretty ramshackle which frankly is part of the charm. The local residents are very laid back and friendly. The Terlingua Ghost Town is where most of the restaurants and shops are located – scattered amongst the ruins of the mining company buildings and housing. Many of the current businesses occupy the abandoned mining company structures.

We found Terlingua to be an excellent spot for visiting BBNP if you decide to stay outside the park and had a lot of fun after our hikes unwinding and meeting people in the restaurants and bars in the ghost town area.

Be seeing you!

P.S. Terlingua has the most stunning sunrises which you can watch from most anywhere in town as the sun rises over the Chisos Mountains, Class 1 dark skies for awe inspiring star gazing and the loudest packs of coyotes we have ever heard.

Chicken-Fried Antelope and Grilled Quail

Marfa and Fort Davis, Far West, Texas

After departing Carlsbad Caverns NP we traveled through oil country (see Carlsbad Caverns blog) and on through a number of small Texas towns on our way south. Our first stop was in Pecos. We stayed just a short while as the traffic from the Mid-Continent Oil Field has just overwhelmed the town with heavy trucks crossing through the main intersection from all four points on the compass.

We stopped for a picnic lunch in the tiny town (pop.479) of Balmorhea (bal-mor-ray). Balmorhea has a small water canal that runs through town surrounded by Cottonwood trees offering a shady, tranquil spot for our meal and a break.

From Balmorhea we continued south on Texas Route 17 to Fort Davis. Historic Fort Davis, managed by the National Park Service sits just outside of town. This fort operated from 1854 to 1891. Throughout much of its tenure the cavalry and infantry troops stationed here were tasked with protecting emigrants heading west to California from Native American attacks. During the Civil War the Union troops were withdrawn from the fort and it was occupied by Confederate troops from Texas.

Afte the war the fort was reoccupied by U.S. Cavalry troops including several companies of Buffalo Soldiers. From that point forward the troops were again focused on providing safe passage for emigrants and commercial freight operators. With the surrender and deportation of the majority of the Native Americans towards the end of the century the fort was abandoned.

Fort Davis is a great stop if you are interested in the history of the American West. The fort is in excellent condition and you can visit recreated barracks and living quarters.

We stayed the night at the Hotel Limpia (constructed 1912) in the town of Fort Davis (pop.1210). The Limpia is a charming western hotel with an excellent restaurant – Blue Mountain Grill.

Our next stop on this leg was Marfa, Texas. Marfa (pop. 1,981) is another town in Far West Texas that started out as a water stop for the railroad. Today the rail still exists and is operated by the Union Pacific Railroad with six to ten freight trains crossing through the middle of town each day.

During WW2 Marfa was home to a Army Air Corps training base which was abandoned after the war. Marfa became famous as an artists colony after NYC artist Donald Judd moved there in 1971 and purchased some of the empty hangers to permanently house collections of his work and those of other minimalist artists.

While we enjoyed Marfa we came away somewhat disappointed after reading and hearing all of the hype about the town. The minimalist large “art” installations are just not our cup of tea. The town itself is still charming with many examples of well preserved western architecture. There are a number of interesting shops and excellent restaurants albeit the prices are inflated for the tourist trade.

If you do go to Marfa we highly recommend the Hotel Paisano as a base for your stay. The hotel was orignially constructed in 1929 and served as a hub for cattle ranchers and tourists for several decades. The hotel fell into disrepair in the early 2000’s but was purchased and entirely renovated. Today it is a charming hotel with a good restaurant and bar along with great courtyard for relaxing with a cocktail or two.

A political/cultural item we would mention regards a phenomenon we have seen in several places. As Marfa became know as an artists colony a number of “outsiders” have come to town and purchased and renovated properties effectively pricing locals out of the market. The county enacted an adobe tax on adobe structures to capitalize on the rising market which raised property taxes 60% for all owners of adobe structures. Local folks who have made no improvements to their modest adobe homes are caught up in this and are hurting.

Lastly, and very importantly there is an excellent third wave coffee shop in Marfa trading as Do Your Thing Coffee and a very good roaster in town – Big Bend Roasters.

We are off to the rugged backcountry of Big Bend Ranch State Park.

Be seeing you!

The Hotel Paisano
Santa Maria, Federico Archuleta, #el_federico
Presidio County Courthouse, Marfa, Texas

Fire Station, Marfa, Texas
Jeff Davis County Courthouse, Fort Davis, Texas
Fort Davis, U.S. Eighth Infantry, 1854 Texas Confederate Rifles, 1861
Hotel Limpia, Fort Davis, Texas

Adobe Tax

Jaguar XK 140

Northeastern Oregon

After leaving Hat Point and the breathtaking views of Hells Canyon and the Snake River we followed the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway to Joseph, Oregon. Joseph is a small town (pop. 1081) named after Chief Joseph, the leader of the Nez Pearce. The town was historically highly dependent on agriculture and timber as the major drivers of its economy. Tourism and three local bronze foundaries have replaced agriculture and timber.

Joseph is a gem. Despite its small size it has a number of fine restaurants, coffee shops and interesting retail stores. The town is the classic main street with no traffic lights and diagonal parking (no chain stores here!).

We stayed at a brand new hotel called the Jennings located in a turn of the century brick building that was formerly…you guessed it…the Jennings Hotel. A local artist by the name of Greg Hennes brought the hotel back to life through a Kickstarter funding campaign. Each room is unique – designed by a different artist or designer.

The Jennings also has an artist in-residency program and a cooking and crafts school. A very cool and fun place to stay. The second floor has a covered porch where you can sit and watch everything happening on Main Street or take in the Wallowa Mountains that lie just outside the town.

The Wallowa-Whitman NF offers an abundance of hiking, fishing, equestrian and camping opportunities. After leaving the Jennings we ventured into the Wallowa by journeying south some 20 miles into the Lostine Canyon. We camped along the banks of the Wild and Scenic Lostine River from where we could access a number of challenging hikes that provided us with the opportunity to climb high into the Wallowas for views of the Hurrincane Divide and wading in glacially formed lakes surrounded by granite cirques.

We left Lostine Canyon exhausted but happy!

We completed the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway with stops in Enterprise, Wallowa and La Grande before departing further north for the city of Pendleton. Pendleton is the home of Pendleton Woolen Mills and very much the classic cowboy town.

Our visit to Pendleton coincided with the 109th Pendleton Round-Up. The Round-Up takes place over a full week with many activities – parades, rodeo events, pageants, dances and concerts. Rodeo contestants come from all over to participate and the round-up includes a Professional Bull Riders (PBR) competition.

We extended our stay to watch the womens barrel racing event. These riders and their horses have no fear. The speed and power of the horses is amazing – particularly to the unitiated like us.

We are working our way west from Pendleton with the expectation (at least for now) that we make the Oregon coast about a week from now.

Be seeing you!

Hurricane Creek Rapids

Sacajawea Peak, Eagle Cap Wilderness, Wallowa NF

Slippery Rock Creek, Wallowa Mountains

Maxwell Lake, Eagle Cap Wilderness

Hurricane Divide, Wallowa Mountains, Eagle Cap Wilderness

Van Gogh in Oregon!

Womens Barrel Racing, Pendleton Round-Up

Bisbee, Arizona

This post is well out of sequence as we were in Bisbee several weeks ago – oh well – we are confident you will forgive us or more likley that you don’t care.

But, under the better late than never category, we wanted to post about Bisbee. Any place where the town motto is “Keep Bisbee Bizarre” is worthy of comment from our perspective.

We knew we had to visit Bisbee after reading about it’s storied past. Bisbee is located in the Mule Mountains of Southern Arizona, a stones throw from the Mexico border. It’s origin lies with the discovery of minerals in the area – predominately copper. The Copper Queen Mine (which we toured) was one of the richest mineral locations in the world. More than three million ounces of gold and eight billion pounds of copper were extracted from this mine alone. Copper mines also yield turqoise – Copper Queen turqoise is considered some of the best in the world. You may have heard of Bisbee Blue which is the name given to turqoise from Bisbee mines.

The storied past – Phelps Dodge Mining consolidated most of the mining claims in Bisbee and owned and operated the massive mining operation that once supported 20,000 residents. But in 1917 everything changed when the International Workers of the World local (IWW) went on strike. Phelps hired thousands of strike breakers to round up all the union employees. The employees were marched out to a local ballpark and given an ultimatum – go back to work or else! About 800 workers agreed to go back to work. The remaining workers received the “or else” now known as the “Great Deportation”. They were put on railroad cattle cars full of manure. They were taken to Hermosa, New Mexico where they were taken off the train and told to never return to Bisbee – none ever did.

Today Bisbee is an eclectic town of approximately 6,000 residents. It is a mix of transplants fleeing cold weather, artists, individualists, hippies and off-gridders mixed in with a steady flow of tourists. Think a combination of Key West and Provincetown with a mountain backdrop in lieu of the ocean!

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Queen Mine

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Lavendar Pit

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Rapid City, South Dakota

Dahl Art Center

Dahl Art Center is a small art museum located in downtown Rapid Center. We were fortunate that one of the current exhibits at the center is the photography of Chuck Kimmerle. This exhibit consists entirely of black and white photographs which are all depictions of the prairies and and grasslands of the west. His work creates stark images of landscapes which lack notable features. The second exhibit was a water color exhibit featuring notable regional artists.

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South Dakota Air & Space Museum

Yes one of us is an airplane geek! Nice collection of Air Force aircraft predominately consisting of bombers. The museum is adjacent to Ellsworth AFB which is the home of the B1 Lancer long range bomber.

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B1 B Lancer
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Boeing B52
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Boeing B29

Fika & Wine

Rapid City played well with three local roasters producing quality beans delivered well in their own cafe, I highly reecommend you visit The Essence of Coffee,  Harriet & Oaks and Pure Bean on your next trip to Rapid City. In the event you wil not be in the vicinity any time soon you can order their beans online.

We also had a fun time at the Firehouse Winery. There reserve cabernet is made using 100% Napa cab sav grapes and proved to be worthy of the purchase of several bottles to support the next segment of our journey as we prepare to push west into Wyoming cowboy country.

Bismarck, ND

After four days of camping, hiking and dusty back road driving we rolled into Bismarck for a couple of days of hotel living. In addition to attending the International United Tribes Pow Wow, we were hoping for the opportunity to practice yoga, and enjoy a couple of excellent dinners, great coffee and tea. We are happy to report that Bismarck excelled on all fronts. Butterhorn provided a great dinner while Terra Nomad won the cappuccino and chocolate chip cookie portion of the program.

Additionally, we spent several hours at the North Dakota Heritage Center and Museum which had a remarkable special exibit, “The Horse in North Dakota”. The museum traces the history of the area now known as North Dakota from pre-historic time through to North Dakota today through a series of chronologically ordered galleries. As such, the also museum provides a rich history of the native american nations that once claimed North Dakota as their own prior to the arrival of Euro-Americans.

The pow wow was a new and fascinating experience for us. The pow wow runs for three days. Much of the pow wow is in the form of contests relating to various dance forms such as traditional, fancy and grass dancing. The music is provided by 16 drum bands. The costumes are a beautiful and incredibly colorful.

We continue to meet many friendly and interesting people along the way. More on that in future editions. 0030,0031

Funky, Friendly Fargo

We enjoyed a relaxing stay in Fargo after leaving the deep forests of central Minnesota. An old fashioned downtown with plenty of vitality especially on “Broadway” the main street through downtown. Plenty of excellent coffee and tea to keep us fueled while poking around the shops and museums.  We were also able to align our stay with several classes at Downtown Yoga and get in some much needed studio practice.

P.S. While very tempting we successfully resisted the the urge to have our picture taken beside the infamous “woodchipper” used in the movie “Fargo”.

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Young Blood Coffee Roasters

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“HoDo”