The Texas Road Runners !!!!!
Road Trip Adventures, Roadside Attractions, Crazy DIY Projects, Texas Fishing, Rock Hounding and more......
Spring Break 2007 - Boyd's Big Bend Adventure : (Part I)
The sights include : Seriously, No Texas Court House Photos; The San Saba Mission Ruins in Menard, The Texas Tempest Giant Cathedral near Eldorado (Or the U.S. Government versus the next Waco Branch Davidian Want-to-Be's); The Alpine Antelope Rock Shop and Museum; The Prude Ranch; Indian Lodge; The Ruins at Fort Davis and it's Hiking Trail; The Solar Panel Farm, Not !!!; McDonald Observatory; Blue Agate Rock an Gift Shop; Luz de Estrella Winery in Marfa, Apache Trading Post; And Once Again, the Marfa Lights
Forward : (As always, click on the picture for for a larger image and click on the links for photos surprises.)
No more Texas dinosaurs, I swear!!!! After reading last month's newsletter from the Houston Gem and Mineral club, it looks like they are asking for more volunteers to yank out those footprints from Gail's limestone quarry. And can you believe it? Not one Texas courthouse was photographed it this adventure. So you can relax now.
During my last trip out into the Texas Hill country with Boyd, I discussed with him other popular sights to see and visit in Texas such as the Big Bend area. Enough interest was stirred up for a visit in that region and I wanted to go back to also obtain some more material for my lapidary and jewelry projects.
The only problem was that school and my shows, were competing with my time to plan the trip far enough ahead for reservations at motels, lodges or where ever, and we wound up having to settle for some camping. Yes, you read right camping and all the associated problems which you will soon read about.
Again, fair warning, this is another lengthy report. So I divided it into three parts this time. So, sit back and put on that arm chair traveler hat. Here we go again ......
Star Date : 03/09/2007 - Friday, Big Bend Bound !!!
The initials plans were for me to spend the night over at Paula's place and Boyd and I would head out around 3:30 am in the morning to see as much as we could along the way. However, they couldn't pawn off little Luke and Cierra on any of the neighbors to see them off on their last day of school before their Spring Break. Therefore, I woke up around 5:30 am, showered and shaved, and arrived around 7:00 am, helped them off to the bus stop with Boyd. Mom would pick up baby sitting duties on Sunday so that Paula could continue to work until our return. We were then able to leave around 8:00 am, took the Beltway 8 around Houston and were soon heading west on I-10.
Our first stop was just outside of San Antonio for gas and sandwiches and finally cut through the city and then to our first stop.
The Marfa Rock Shop.....
After passing Kerrville, were were really able to put the pedal to the metal due to the new and improved speed limit until Boyd exclaimed "Look, a rock shop!!!" I do remember passing this shop on several occasions, but it was always on a Sunday and thus it was closed. So, of coarse we had to stop.
There, we met up with Audrey and John Landry, the proprietors of the shop. If you are into minerals, you got to see this place. The Landry's really have a little bit of everything here. Inside the shop, I spied a new type of stone that I haven't seen or worked with before called "oolite". From the way it was cut, it looked like the famous Texas Petrified Palm wood with a cross sectional cut, however, instead of the traditional colors of browns, it's color was a white/gray background with black dots. In reality, John stated that it was nothing more than fossilized caviar which he prospected from a claim in New Mexico. It was so cool looking, that Boyd bought a belt buckle with an oolite polished stone in it and I purchased several cabochons to wire wrap with. Additionally, I picked up a couple of medium sized geodes to turn into pewter mining/nature scenes with it. The the photo below :
My Marfa Rock Shop Treasures
The Landry's originally had their shop in Marfa, Texas. Thus the name of the shop. They then moved it to the Kerrville area. Incidentally, when the Alamo Rock Shop in the Borne area moved into town, John bought up all of thier rough stone. So if you need some rough and your in the area, this is the place to go.
Although this was an unscheduled, but a well worth stop, it was time to hit the road again. We said our good-byes and for more information on the shop, see my link below from my Texas Rock Shop Directory :
The Marfa Rock Shop
The San Saba Spanish Mission.....
When we hit Junction, TX, we then traveled north on Hwy 83 to Menard, TX. We then traveled west on Hwy 190 and just out of town on the south side of the highway was the Menard golf coarse. But this isn't just any golf coarse, it's a golf course with an old Spanish mission on it. Ok, ok, and old Spanish mission in ruins. However, it is going through a state of preservation and may some day be complete again.
This building was originally built as a presidio or fort and the Mission was apart from it. After the Mission was attacked and burned by Comanche and Apache Indians, all personnel moved into the presidio. The mission was then abandoned. See the links below for the photo op. :
Menard Golf Course, The Mission in Ruins
A Cave-in of One of the Rooms, The Mission Gate 1
The Mission Gate 2, Ruins in the Back
Warning Signs, Mission Tower 1
Mission Tower 2, Mission Tower 3
For more information on this mission and it's history, please see their website below :
Mission San Saba'
The FLDS Temple.....
We continued west on Hwy 90 and while we were on this religious roll, our next stop was Eldorado, TX, the new home of the FLDS, Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. They are a sect of the Mormons in Utah, however, the mainstream Mormons will have nothing to do with their extreme form of worship and lifestyle that includes Polygamy and sex with minors. Their church leader is Warren Jeffs who is now on the Top 10 of the FBI's most wanted list.
This stop was mainly for a roadside attraction photo of their huge cathedral on their compound that can easily be seen off of County Road 300 just outside of town. I don't mean to demean the good people of Eldorado, but I swear, its a huge monumental building out in the middle of nowhere! So large it is, (Like cousin Melvin's walls), it can be seen from outer space satellites !!!
Below are links to a few photo shots taken before we were ran off by shotgun blasts :
Compound Temple from the Roadside (Notice the big hole their digging.)
Some Kind of Triangular Structure - Your guess is as good as mine.
A Zoom Shot of their Temple
As the first photo illustrates, they are digging a big hole in the ground. Perhaps they have learned from the mistakes of the Waco Branch Davidians. These guys are determined to survive since everyone knows that this will be the next Waco Branch Davidian/US government standoff. I hear they are packing guns now. I guess they haven't seen our missiles in action in Iraq. Moving on.....
Continuing West .............
We continued onward or westward on Hwy 190 and made it through Irran, TX, home of the Alley Opp carton creator and the Alley Opp Park to visit Alley and Dinny. Then, we were back onto I-10 again, to see the big windmill farms. We made it into Fort Stockton to meet Paisano Pete once again. We finally took Hwy 67 and headed southwest to Alpine, TX and our next stop at the Antelope Lodge. The land out here is mighty desolate. Usually, ranchers count how many heads per acre. Out here, ranchers count how many acres per head.
Although I have stayed in Alpine on several other road trip adventures, I never did really hear about this place until "Rock and Gem Magazine" did an expose' on rock hounding in the Big Bend area. Part of the article featured Teri Smith, the owner and curator of the Last Frontier Museum and Rock Shop located in the Antelope Lodge.
We found the lodge just off the north side of Hwy 90 west of town. I would have loved to have stayed there, but I made my plans to late. After some exploration of their facilities, I was even more disappointed in not being able to made accommodations there for the night.
Teri had a nice little rock shop there and in the back was the museum which featured rocks and fossils of the Big Bend area. The the links below for the photo op. of here place :
Terri's Rock Shop
Rocks and Fossils of Big Bend 1
Rocks and Fossils of Big Bend 2
Terri reminded me to tell everyone that she hosts rock hunts to several of the areas ranches and if interested, then please get in contact with here. since she is in the business of rocks, I have included her and her shop in my Texas Rock shop Directory. Please see the link below :
The Antelope Rock Shop & Last Frontier Museum
For more information on the lodge, their rock shop and the Last Frontier Museum, please see their website below :
The Antelope Lodge
On to Fort Davis.....
By then, we were losing our light and so we quickly doubled back into town and headed north on Hwy 118 to Fort Davis. Just north of town, past the Fort Davis State Park on the east side of Hwy 118, we found our lodging for the night at the Prude Ranch. Due to my lateness in making preparations for the trip, the only reservations I could make in the area for the night was at one of their bunk houses. That was good enough for us since we were already prepared for camping. One last thing, when I prepared my agenda for this trip, I was off on the dates by one day ahead. The good folks at the Prude Ranch weren't expecting us till the next day. However, they still made accommodations for us during the busy Spring Break time period. To the folks at the Prude Ranch, my hat is off to you. More will be reported on the ranch tomorrow. One last thing, the high desert sky in the Fort Davis area that night stars were lit up like the Fourth of July!!! Wow, what a sight, thus the reason why..... Well, you'll see tomorrow.
Star Date : 03/10/2007 - Saturday, The Sights of Fort Davis
The Prude Ranch.....
While registering the night before, Betty, the owner of the Prude Ranch reminded us that they have on of the best breakfasts around. We certainly did not want to miss out on that, so we took full advantage and made the lodge our first stop of the day. The lodge had a great rustic feel to it including a tree growing inside of it. Yes you heard me right, it even went through the roof. It also looked liked a baby black bear snuck in for the night. We then made it into the buffet area for the morning chow and had a great breakfast. As Betty puts it, if you leave hungry,, then it's your own fault! They also had a nice bar area in which I bet it had a story or two to tell. (If walls could speak, the stories they could tell.)
After breakfast was over, we slowly walked back to the bunkhouse to check out some of their facilities. Click on the links below for out little photo op. of the ranch :
Betty's Cars, Our Bunk House
The Morning Sunrise
Nurses Station (Hey Paula, you were looking for a new Job?)
Their Swimming Pool, The Coral
The World's Biggest Spur, And Why it's There
Sunset Over the Ranch
Andrew Prude purchased three sections of land here in 1897 from J. F. Taylor, and established the A. G. Prude Ranch. Soon he moved his wife Ora to a small log house on their property on Limpia Creek. In 1900 he completed a wooden frame house for their family, and in 1902 he added 1257 acres to the ranch. In 1911 a large 2-story ranch house was built of adobe bricks cast in a nearby stock tank, and was called the "Big House." By 1920 Andrew Prude had expanded his ranch to 40 sections of land. In 1921 the Prudes started a guest ranch to share the beauty of the land and cool summer months with city dwellers. Early guests arrived on the Southern Pacific Railroad. When a severe drought and the Depression of the 1930s forced Andrew Prude to sell his cattle and most of his land, the Prudes decided to operate the guest ranch full time. Soon a new highway was built, and guests traveled here from many locales. New guest houses were built, and a coaching school and rodeo were added. Followed by summer camps for boys and girls, and educational programs. the facilities have expanded over the years to accommodate a wide variety of activities. Prude Ranch continues to be a popular tourist destination.
I also love their motto :
To The Mountains. Enjoy The Pure Air.
I honestly can't say enough of this place. The folks there were warm and friendly and like the Antelope Lodge in Alpine, I plan to pay them a visit again the next time I am in the area. For more information on the Prude Ranch and their accommodations, please se the website link below :
The Prude Ranch
Indian Lodge .......
Our first activity for the day was to visit the old Fort Davis National Park to see the re-built ruins and to hike the mountain trail above it. But on the way over there, we passed by Fort Davis State Park and made our way in to see the historic Indian Lodge.
The Indian Lodge is a 39 room, pueblo-style hotel located in the Davis Mountains State Park near Fort Davis. Constructed of adobe over 50 years ago by the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Indian Lodge resembles a multi-level pueblo Indian village. The hand-made furniture, fire places, 18 inch thick adobe walls make this a wonderful place to get away from it all. Reservations are a must since I they laughed at me when I tried making them two weeks prior to our departure.
For a closer look, please click on the links below to see our little photo op. of the place :
A Lone Ocotillo
Courtyard and Rooms 1, Courtyard and Rooms 2
Main Courtyard 1, Main Courtyard 2
Their Swimming Pool
Melvin, You Got Competition
One last word. This is really a popular place to stay. We met some ladies who tried to make reservations 3 months in advance and still could not obtain a room there. For more information about Indian Lodge, please see their website below :
Fort Davis National Historic Park .....
The next stop, as I was leading up to, was back into town to the historic Fort Davis Historic park. We paid a nominal entrance fee which was well worth it to hike up the surrounding mountains and take in the views of the old fort and city below.
Fort Davis is nationally significant because of the key role that it played from 1854 to 1885 in defending a vital and often dangerous segment of the southern transcontinental emigrant road and in protecting the Texas frontier from hostile Comanche, Kiowa, and Apache Indians. Fort Davis draws added significance from the fact that, in extent of surviving structures and ruins, it is the best remaining example in the Southwest of the typical post Civil War frontier fort.
Established in an attempt to curb Indian depredations along the San Antonio-E1 Paso Road, Fort Davis was one of several forts which stretched from the established settlements of central Texas to the Rio Grande at El Paso. As the largest and most important of the forts along the road, Fort Davis was strategically located to command not only the Trans Pecos portion of the E1 Paso Road but also the southern stem of the Great Comanche War Trail, the major routes of Mescalero Apache War parties destined for Mexico, and the crossings of the Rio Grande used by the Indians in their forays against Mexican settlements.
Fort Davis was initially constructed in 1854 as a collection of log, plank, and adobe structures, but following the Civil War, a more substantial post was erected of-stone and adobe. Primarily staffed with four regiments of black "buffalo" soldiers, this new fort continued to serve as an important link in the frontier defenses of western Texas and as a springboard for offensive operations against the Indians. During 1879- 1880, it played a major role in the campaign against Victorio and the Warm Springs Apaches. During the late l870's and early 1880's cattlemen began to enter the area and establish ranches. By 1891, Fort Davis had outlived its usefulness and it was permanently abandoned.
Click on the links below for a short tour of the fort and the sights along the trail we hiked :
Entering the Park, Officer's Quarters
The The Fort Hospital, The Hike Up
The Slot in the Trail, The Officer's Quarters Below
The City Below 1 , The City Below 2
The Fort Below, The Hospital Below
A Cool Gatling Gun, Headquarters
A Starving Horse, The Commissary
You would probably have to have the whole day to see and experience everything there and we just didn't have that kind of time. So we continued on with our journey to the McDonald Observatory. We headed back out of the park and traveled north on Hwy 118 until.....
The Fort Davis Solar Panel Farm ...... (NOT!!!!!)
Every time I'm in the Fort Davis area, I make an attempt to visit the Solar panel Farm just north of the city off of Hwy118. Every now and then, I'll get a chance to see some new clean energy technology at work here. Unfortunately, this time it was all gone. We saw some cyclist who told us that they started to dismantle everything about a year and a half ago. They obviously did not send me that memo!!!
Here are some photo shots from my last trip up there :.
Solar Panel Farm 1, Solar Panel Farm 2
Solar Panel Farm 3, Solar Panel Farm 4
Here are some updated photos of the site :
The Solar Panel Pavilion, The Information signs are Gone
An Empty Field 1, An Empty Field 2
Well, I'm sorry to see this local sight is gone now. It was always interesting to stop by it and see clean energy being produced. Perhaps the website below can shed some light (No pun intended) on the subject :
AEP Solar Panel Research Website
(From what little I was able to research and read, it looks like wind power won out or the research project was completed or loss it's funding!)
The McDonald Observatory .....
After leaving the Solar panel farm, we continued north on Hwy 118 until we finally reached the observatory. By the way, did you see the big telescopes on the mountain top from the Solar Panel photos?
This is one of the great observatory centers of the world. Built in the 1930s under terms of legacy from William Johnson McDonald (1844-1926), a Paris (Texas) banker interested in the stars. A well-educated man, McDonald lived frugally. As a hobby, he read science books and viewed planets through a small telescope. His will granted to the University of Texas $800,000: "to build an observatory and promote the study of astronomy." This site was selected because of its high ratio of clear nights, its 6,800-foot altitude, and its quite low latitude that permits observation of southern skies. The observatory was operated for its first 25 years mainly by astronomers from the University of Chicago, more recently primarily from the University of Texas. Until 1948, its 82-inch telescope was second largest in the world. Its fine work and site have resulted in the addition of other telescopes including a 107-inch instrument sponsored jointly by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Science Foundation, and the University of Texas. Discoveries made here have included interstellar polarization and the satellites of several planets.
The last time I was out here, I did the grand tour, but it was overcast and drizzling. At least this time I was able to get some better photos!!! Click on the links below for our little photo op. there :
The Visitor Center
The Big Telescopes on the Hill 1, The Big Telescopes on the Hill 2
The 82 Inch Otto Struve Telescope, The 107 Inch Harlan Smith Telescope
The Hobby-Eberly Telescope, The Hobby-Eberly Telescope's Mirror
The Visitor Center Down Below
While there, a volunteer had set up a smaller scope aimed at Venus. It was easily seen in the clear sky of the day. Do ya see it Boyd?
After we saw all that could be seen there, we hit the road back into town. For more information on the telescopes and touring their facilities, please see their website link below :
The McDonald Observatory
The Blue Agate Rock Shop ....
I had read somewhere, and I don't remember where, that there was moonstone to be found in the Fort Davis area in some road cuts south of the city. It was time for a rock hunt and this meant going back through Fort Davis again. As we made our south back into town, we stumbled upon the Blue Agate Rock Shop. It was closed the last time I was here, so this time I finally made it in.
The shop is owned and operated by Donna Trammell. As it turns out, Donna used to have a rock and jewelry shop in West Columbia which is just a stones through away from the Lake Jackson area.. Again, its a small world. When Donna was living in the Brazosport area, she also worked the craft show circuit here and she gave me many tips and pointers for my shows.
My main mission here was to procure some nice agates and other stones that are indigenous to the Big Bend area to wire wrap with and create a tray of "Gemstones of the Big Bend". Donna and her husband used to hunt for the now rare and elusive Balmorhea Blue Agate. I picked up several pieces from her along with some other stones that where representative to the Big Bend area. Donna also had a really cool polished piece of Christmas Agate that I have heard some much about, but never really have seen. This stuff must be pretty rare!!! She told us to hit the Maverick Rock Shop in the Study Butte are for more of this gem. We will have to keep this in mind when we go out there.
Before leaving the shop, I asked Donna about the moonstone that could be found in the area. She stated to check the road cuts that were by the entrance to the Chihuahuan Desert Institute. So off we went.....
The Moonstone of Fort Davis .....
As we headed south on Hwy 118 from Fort Davis and approached the Chihuahuan Desert Institute, we found our first road cut to investigate. The GPS coordinates are as follows :
30° 32.664 North and 103° 51.398 West
We hit the pay dirt for this stone. There were veins of it embedded into the rock. Click the links below for a few more photos :
A Vein of Moonstone
Another Vein of Moonstone
Pieces can be picked up off the ground
We did search some of the other road cuts in the nearby area. However, we had no luck there and so the location at the above GPS coordinates is the only one I'll list here. On final thought, I really did not think the material was of that good of a quality. Therefore, what I collected was really souvenirs for this trip. But hey, try your luck if you like.
Luz de Estrella Winery .....
The last time I was here, I had visited Patrick Johnson wine extraordinaire and owner of the the Bell Mountain Winery. Since Boyd is a coinsure of fine wines, I decided to take him there. So we backtracked to town and headed southwest on Hwy 17 and took Hwy 166 west which is part of that "Scenic Loop." Unfortunately, it looked like the winery had close down. Patrick, what happened to you? Heck, first the Solar panel Farm and now this?
As luck would have it, I picked up a few of those tourist brochures back at the Prude Ranch and one of them included a winery that I have never heard of, the Luz de Estrella Winery. The directions stated that it was just east of Marfa off of Hwy 90. So we backtracked and took Hwy 17 to Marfa and Hwy 90 east. The winery was just outside of town on the south side of the highway a few miles before the Marfa Lights Observatory Center.
We pulled into the winery and were immediately welcomed by the bovine committee and then welcomed by the canine committee. Finally, once inside, we were greeted by Linda Armstrong, the proprietor along with her husband John.
We began by telling Linda our sad story about trying to visit the Bell Mountain Winery and luck out when we found her winery. As Linda poured our samples of wine to try out she told us the story of how Patrick's vines caught some plant disease and died out on him. But never fear, she and her husband bought his operations and moved the facility to Marfa. They also retained Patrick as their wine maker!
We tried many of their wines including the Paisano Blanco, 2005 Riesling, Big Bend Blush, Big Bend Red, and the Paisano Rojo. Of coarse we wound up with a few bottles to take back home with us. It is very nice and peaceful out their. In fact, I recommend that you go out there just before sundown, buy a bottle of your favorite wine and sit out on the patio area to observe the Marfa Lights. Yes, they are that close to them. Linda also gave us a little tour of their winery. Click on the links below to see the results of the photo op. :
The Visitor Center, The Vineyard
The Fermenting Tanks, The Bottling Area
The Shipping Area
When trying out the Paisano Blanco, I asked about the meaning of it's name since it is the same name of a nearby ancient volcano in which the paisanite stone comes from. The paisanite only comes from this location in the world! I finally found out that the meaning of Paisano is fellow country man and that the volcano can be seen right out front of their door. This led to a little rock hound talk and in the end, we were invited to hunt rock out on the winery grounds. Wow, two rock hunts in one day.
We began searching on a dirt road at the end of the property and came up with a good few finds including the famed paisanite! Click on the photo links below to see our newly found treasures :
A Handful of Agates and Volcanic Conglomerates
Some White Agate and Volcanic Conglomerates
We concluded our field trip and said our good byes. For more information on the winery and their events, please see their website link below :
The Luz de Estrella Winery
The Apache Trading Post & Jack-Assic Park.....
After visiting Alpine on a number of occasions, I never did obtain an Alpine refrigerator magnet for my collection. Another one of those brochures that I picked up from the Prude Ranch was an advertisement for the Apache Trading Post and Gift Shop just west of Alpine and outside of town. I figure I could finally get one there.
We were already heading back east again on Hwy 90, so we were off. However, we made a quick stop at the Marfa Light Observatory and I told Boyd the Story of the mysterious Marfa Lights. Then we saddled back up and made it to the shop. While there, we noticed that they used the ole' Jack-Assic Park Gimmick from the Jurassic Park movie. (Ok, I know I said no dinosaurs this time and I meant it.) Of course it was nothing but a bunch of real asses looking for handouts. We finally made it into the shop where I did find my Alpine refrigerator magnet and a Marfa Light one also!!! Boyd found a t-shirt. Hey, we killed two birds with one stone. Granted, a gift shop is a gift shop, but here's their website link below :
Apache Trading Post
The Mysterious Marfa Lights .....
Our stomachs began screaming at us to feed them. Once that was done, we went back to the Marfa Light Observatory and began our watch of the mysterious lights.
The Marfa Lights, mysterious and unexplained lights that have been reported in the area for over one hundred years, have been the subject of many theories. The first recorded sighting of the lights was by rancher Robert Ellison in 1883. Variously explained as campfires, phosphorescent minerals, swamp gas, static electricity, St. Elmo's fire, and "ghost lights", the lights reportedly change colors, move about, and change in intensity. Scholars have reported over seventy-five local folk tales dealing with the unexplained phenomenon.
You see, my digital camera doesn't do well in the dark and wants to keep the shutter open for a longer period of time than it should. So, I may have gotten something that shows squiggle lights. Please click on the links below to see our little photo op. of the site and perhaps some of the lights.
The Marfa Lights Observatory
The Paisano Volcano Viewed from the Observatory Site
A Nice Sunset 1, A Nice Sunset 2
Nice Sunset 3
Possible Lights 1
Possible Lights 2, Possible Lights 3
For more information on the Marfa Lights and the observatory, please see the web link below :
The Marfa Lights
Bed time for Bonzo .....
Wow, that was quite a day! After the light show, we drove east on Hwy 90 to Alpine and then north on Hwy 118 back to Fort Davis and the Prude ranch. I did notice something quite interesting. While approaching Alpine, the city was all lit up. However, when we approach Fort Davis, the city seemed very dark. The city lights were as wimpy as it can get. I wondering if it has something to do with those telescopes.
At this point, are you ready for a break? After reading all of this, I know I would. So go get yourself another cup of coffee and if you are on your lunch break at work, then it's probably time to punch in again. Therefore, I'll conclude this segment as Part I. To pick up on Part II of the story, then click on the link below :
Spring Break 2007 - Boyd's Big Bend Adventure : (Part II)
So, until next time, take care and I'll See you... on the road, or in the workshop, (which is really just my garage) !!!!
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