On the way from Presidio to Marfa we passed the rock formation that looks like President Lincoln’s profile as well as Elephant Rock (no photo) and we saw a Big Horn sheep which they are trying to rebuild the population in Texas. Our first stop in Marfa was Marfa Burrito which is basically a hole in the wall place where 2 Spanish ladies make the best burritos you’ve ever tried. Their menu is simple, 7 different types of burritos, Sharon had the Primo (beans, cheese, potatoes, pico) and I had the Carne (ground beef, beans, cheese, onions, tomato, and jalapeno) and the only thing to drink is water. The Burritos were huge and the Salsa Verde was excellent. This place is famous as Anthony Bourdain, Mathew McConaughey, Kevin Bacon, and Mark Ruffalo have all eaten there, as well as many others.
In the town of Marfa, we climbed the steps of the 1886 Presidio County Courthouse to see the 360-degree view from the cupola. In 1955, Marfa was the location for the filming of Giant starring James Dean (his last movie), Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson. The Hotel Paisano in town was the headquarters for the cast and crew. They had a small museum dedicated to the film and we also checked out the hotel lobby and courtyard. We wandered the main street, I checked email (finally had a connection) and Sharon checked out some of the funky shops and galleries this small town is known for.
We then drove on to Davis Mountains SP. We had been in this area before but weren’t able to stay at the State Park so thought we’d go back so we could check it out. We hiked the Montezuma Quail Trail, which was a steep rock scramble, to the Indian Lodge Trail, total of about 6 kms. On our previous visit we had toured the 1935 CCC built lodge. The CCC made the lodge bricks out of a mixture of water, straw, and soil. Unfortunately, the lodge just closed for renovations, and they also had part of the trail closed. That afternoon we went to the interpretive centre and saw Ranger Charlie’s presentation on Park Critters, extremely informational. I asked Charlie about the CCC and if they had any interviews from the workers (one of the exhibits mentioned it). He found an old transcript he loaned us, it was hilarious to read through, although we felt bad for the interviewer trying to get information out of CCC worker who wasn’t offering a lot of detail😉 The fellow did talk about making the bricks for the lodge.
The next day we went to the ranger station and signed in to do the hike across the highway. They give you a gate code and ask you to sign back in on your return. We did the 700 ft ascent on Limpia Creek and Sheep Canyon Pen Trails to reach the Vista connector to the overlook and the park’s highest point, 5700’. The winds were incredibly strong at the top (40 mph gusts), but we sat enjoying the view while having our lunch. We decided not to do the entire Sheep Canyon Pen Loop due to the winds and the Ranger said you really didn’t get any extra views on that section of the trail, so we returned the way we came up. When we got near the end of the trail, we took the short Seep Trail and saw the interesting creek bed. All total we did 19.5 kms, another great hiking day.
As we left the park we stocked up on a few groceries in Fort Davis before heading to Balmorhea SP. We were hoping to camp there but it was under renovation, however, we could still go swimming in the San Solomon Spring. Nearly 15 million gallons of water flows daily up from the spring into the pool. They had an interesting stat that 500,000 people could have a 10-minute shower with that volume of water! In 1935 the CCC built the 2-acre swimming pool that used 30,000 square feet of hand finished local limestone rock. There are fish (Pecos Gambusia and Catfish) and soft-shelled turtles in the pool (one turtle was close to 2’ long), the fish like to nip at your skin. It’s like having a spa while swimming, however, a few do take a bit of a bigger bite! We had the pool to ourselves, and it was 72 F so didn’t seem cold to us. Luckily, we had a nice sunny warm day. The outlet from the pool flows into a canal system and down to a lake and is used for irrigation by the farmers in the area. We were going to stay in an RV Park in Balmorhea but none of them looked good, so we drove in the wind to Van Horn to a park with nice mountain views.
The wind was still strong as we left Van Horn the next morning, so we followed the I-10 for a while and then bailed out and followed a rural road called Highway 20. In this area they had a lot of fields where nothing was growing yet and a canal system for irrigation. Further along we started to see lots of Pecan Farms with trees of various maturities. Sharon found one near Clint that sold Pecans and it said Pecan Pies but when we got to there, they didn’t have any pies available. We did buy several other products though. We got back on the I-10 and took the 375-ring road exit to bypass El Paso so we could go up and through the middle of the Franklin Mountains and down to the State Park on the west side. We checked in for our campsite and looked at the exhibits in the visitor centre. They only have 5 spots with no services for RVs, so we were lucky that we were able to get a site for 2 nights. The 5 sites were in a ring, so we met Jason from Ontario (one of the few Ontario plates we’ve seen on this entire trip) and his Pork Ninja’s custom van (food truck turned into a camper) and we met Jim who was full time in his Ram van. After a chat with them we walked down the road to the Nature Walk and Bird Blind where we met Ben who was a volunteer in the park who maintains the Nature Walk and takes amazing photos along the trail. He even runs a FB group for the park. We talked with him for over an hour and he showed us a cactus that was in bloom (I included his picture) and he told us what it would be like in another month when everything was in bloom. We completed the Nature Walk and then took the Tom Mays trail back to the campsite in time to see a beautiful reverse sunset on the mountains.
The following day we had decided to do the Aztec Caves trail and on the paper map it showed a connector to Mundy’s Gap Overlook trail (the map on the boards didn’t show the connector) and in turn we thought we would go see the Tin Mines. This plan did not at all work out this way! The hike up to Aztec Caves wasn’t too long but it was fairly physical as you were climbing straight up about 400’. The cave was very large and had 2 sections. The coolest thing about it was the view from the inside looking out especially with the blue-sky colour.
As we exited the caves, we were looking for the connector that would take us to Mundy’s Gap trail. There was nothing marked and no apparent trail. I started up the left side of the cave opening, and it seemed like they had put a little bit of cement in sections to make pseudo steps, so we started up that side. There was another couple, so we asked them if they knew where the connector was, and they really didn’t give a clear answer. We continued rock scrambling upwards and after several minutes I saw the couple going over the top of the ridge so I assured Sharon that we must be on the right track. When we eventually got to the top of that ridge it was like we were following a goat path. The goat path had spectacular views, but you had to watch your footing as some of the rocks were loose and the drop was very significant. In the far distance we could see Mundy’s Gap trail so we decided it was now easier to continue versus trying to descend back down the difficult rocky section. Sharon almost kissed the ground when we eventually reached Mundy’s Gap trail😉
We continued uphill on Mundy’s Gap trail and the wind was starting to get worse. The gap is cool as you have a 360-degree view showing Franklin Mountain, El Paso to the southwest, and another section of El Paso to the east. I’ve included a video from the gap so you will have an idea of the winds. As we stood in the gap we were trying to figure out where we would go to get to the Tin Mines. Just then a young (possibly military) man came up so we were asking him and he said well to go the Tin Mines you will have to descend the entire eastern side of the mountain and then return the same way to get back to our campsite. He said you would be better off to just drive around the far side of the mountain and go from the base and have a small climb up to the mines. He did say the mines were cool as you could go almost 500’ into them. The Mine was built in 1910 and cost $350,000 to setup and it only produced $7,000 of tin in 2 years of operation so closed down in 1911. We started down the eastern side and got to the junction for the Tin Mines to the left and the trail to the peak of Franklin Mountain to the right (that’s where the young man went). It would be about 4 kms return to go the peak so we started up that trail instead of the Tin Mine. We only got part way up the trail and the wind was even blowing me off the trail so we talked about it and decided the wind would be even worse on the top of the peak so for safety reasons we decided to return. We were both disappointed as we seemed to be so close to the highest point in El Paso (and the 27th highest peak in Texas) but the conditions weren’t right to do it. We went back down the west side along Mundy’s Gap trail and then connected to the West Cottonwood Spring trail which was actually quite tricky as the rocks on the trail were all the size of baseballs. Once back at the bottom we did a short trail called Sneed’s Cory to see where they rock climb and then we took Tom Mays trail back to the campsite. Our total was just under 13 kms and we had celebratory drinks at the RV. The wind was shaking the RV like crazy that night, but we had another nice reverse sunset and then the following morning we woke up to snow, the first we’ve seen this trip!
This now concludes our 3 months stay in Texas for this segment of our trip. We ended up visiting 22 Texas State Parks/Historic Sites as well as several Harvest Hosts and RV parks. There are lots more State Parks to visit so who knows maybe on our way back in April we may find some other gems. We’ve had a mixed bag of weather, but we don’t mind since we are seeing such interesting places and doing lots of outdoor activities. We’ve now entered New Mexico and we’ll see where we go from here. We hope you’ve enjoyed our Texas adventures.
Wow!!!!! First of all – that wind video was the best way to let us know how hard those winds were! Good thing I wasn’t there – I would have blown off for sure.
And I would have been with Sharon, kissing the ground after that Mudy’s Gap trail hike. Goat paths up high? My nightmare!! But the views were obviously spectacular.
Loved the pool where you got your fish nip spa and I so enjoyed the cactus and bird photos.
In the first photo from the Country Courthouse view, it looks like there’s a tornado in the distance or is that just a photo blip??
Safe travels into New Mexico!!
Thanks for your comments Ella, you’re right that photos couldn’t tell the story of the winds. I was scared to hold my camera, worried about the wind taking it out of my hands!! I think the courthouse thing was just reflections off the windows in the cupola.
Phew. It looked like a tornado! 😀
President Lincoln’s Profile rock looks like he has smoke coming out of this nose. hahaha.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Ya we saw that 🤔😉
San Solomon Spring pool is cool. I didn’t expect to find in Texas. I guess skinny dipping could be risky if bigger fish bites off important body parts. LOL
LikeLiked by 1 person
I like this blog post the most, for the many mountains and cliffs. And then there is snow at the end. 🙂
LikeLiked by 1 person
Not quite enough to ski on Danny 😉
Enough to send Texas drivers into panic mode. hahahaha.