Twin Sisters of Alpine

Under the Twin Sisters, 6,116 and 6,135 ft. above sea-level is their city at 4,500 ft. above sea-level.  Originally titled Osborne, then called Murphyville, it didn’t get right until this town’s name was identified by its mountains-Alpine.  More than something on the westward glance from town, the Twin Sisters have ruled its core by symbols and art.  Like the room of a loyal brother, everywhere in Alpine are images of its Twin Sisters.

33044268   1 Welcome to Alpine from the east on US Highway 67 and 90.

2IMG_0650 DSCN1445 Southern Pacific Rail Station 

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DSCN6646Patch of slain Alpine police officer Jaime Primera Rodriguez.

ts3142012 brewster642012 (5)-082City seal and Chamber logo.

DSCN2367 IMG_5024E Avenue Civic Center and front page of Alpine weekly paper, the Avalanche.

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ts7 IMG_1534 Holland Avenue stores

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DSCN5840  DSCN5841  IMG_2824-501 Intersections of 5th Street and Holland

IMG_3542 IMG_3543 Alpine Christian School

brewster102012 (182)Jackass Park at the old Apache Trading Post.

brewster642012 (1)-081 IMG_3043-601Big Bend Art Gallery and Trans-Pecos Bank

ts7_3 Elm Grove Cemetery

The Twin Sisters are truly lovely-volcano goddesses, plumed out of the Paisano Caldera.  Their iconic gate and cool double cones are not lost on the conscience or imagination of Alpine.  Remade at least twenty-five different places (and counting) in the mountain and valley town the double peaks are a sacred part of the heart.  I hate to end the colorful post with a sad piece but it is part of a subject that I will often trail on about till more than I can make a solution.  A non-conversed irony toys and toils with the Twin Sisters and Texas.  Though they are a beloved view and cherished symbol for many in Alpine and Texas, the Twin Sisters are restricted.  Like all the other mountains there, the Twin Sisters can turn a romantic or family hike into jail time, fine, and a record for criminal trespassing.  Scores of illegal immigrants, hunters, and always hundreds of habitat destructive livestock have their way around the rock slopes and canyons across the Paisano, Sierra De Norte, Davis, and Glass Mountains.  Hikers, campers, folks that love the land of Texas, however, are not welcomed by the ranchers but treated as violators of precious private borders.  Organizations like the Davis Mountains Trans-Pecos Heritage Association “preserve the land through private ownership.”  This is an obvious impossible idea considering that ranchers and their employees could never effectively protect the many thousands of acres many of them have.  Without State and public help much of the land is rumbled by cattle and littered on by sneaky traffic.  I would never wish or want folks in West Texas to give up the rights of their land but I honestly believe that there could be some balance where trails could be allowed.  After all, the Hollywood Hills behind LA have trails, so do the Franklin Mountains behind El Paso, Pikes Peak by Colorado Springs, Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, and Sandia Peak with Albuquerque.  Must places like Alpine or Sierra Blanca (with nearby Sierra Blanca Peak) be so unfortunately different?  I bet there is a  naturally nice hike up the natural wonder, Twin Sisters, with an incredible view of Alpine and surrounding mountains from their summits.  I pray that someday Texans and Americans will be welcomed there by the land owners-that some balances should be found and formed with compassion to public appreciation, land conservancy, and private rights.

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Green-Alpine Creek Valley

ALPINE, TEXAS

Sunflowers shine like the sun at night in my camera light.

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Prickly Pair and Cow Tongues extend pads and peddles of pins and pricks in the dark. And little clusters of little yellow clovers were born here too.

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China Berry Tree with your leaves and china berries, give the green and blue a little plumage of gold.

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Ultra violet horns and and deep blue bells lurch and perch from curly climbers of green in every Morning Glory scene.

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There is too much litter in Texas.  Too much we can recycle and reuse.

There can never be enough respect for what we share on God’s green earth.

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MORNIN’ GLORY

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Green and Aspen White

The Cloudcroft Constellation

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US Highway 82 from Alamogordo to County Road 99 to State Highway 244 to US Highway 70 to State Highway 48 to County Road 532 (backtrack to US Highway 70 to Alamogordo)

The Constellation is the Alamogordo and Cloudcroft square loop with a sixty-four mile double-back hook.  There is no other way for an Alamogordo, Cloudcroft and Ski Apache round-trip.  The tail is too much though the twenty-four mile double back of County Road 532 between Alto and Ski Apache is unavoidable but beautifully forgiven.

Why did we have to see both Cloudcroft and Ski Apache?  I’ve been to Ski Apache and Cloudcroft in my youth and life so many times my memory established Cloudcroft as a lot closer to Ski Apache, dismissing the presence of Ruidosa altogether.  So when I planned the autumn 2012 trip to Ski Apache I looked for the road to Cloudcroft.  And Further, as fall Aspens were a required view for the ride, I could only remember the groves near Cloudcroft…and forgetting the forests of Aspens nearer to Ski Apache.  It was a memory verses map in the long run.  I learnt since the Constellation there are plenty of my precious Aspen near Ski Apache and Cloudcroft is a long stretch from there.  It is viable to visit both places lest you’re on a round trip from Alamogordo.

This trip had two Rocky Mountain goals-one was the autumn blazes of Aspens already mentioned.  And Sierra Blanca, at 12,000 feet, is the highest mountain in the Old South and southern Rockies.  It is less than two-thousand feet above Ski Apache.  I am not a tree hugger but my soul has a sweet spot for Quaking Aspens.  Porcelain trunks and leaves that shimmer green and gold are the color in colorful Colorado and enchantment in the Land of Enchantment.  I actually don’t live very far from my be-fabled Aspens.  I live just thirty miles from a mountain forest w/ groves in the Davis Mountains Nature Conservancy.  However you need a 4×4 to get to the trail and its only open on certain Saturdays.  There are other Texas Aspens in Big Bend and Guadalupe National Parks and the trails are more accessible.  Yet, as priceless as the hikes are there is no road to yon Texas Populus tremuloides.  The nearest roadside Aspen is in Cloudcroft, New Mexico.  From Alamogordo of the desert to Cloudcroft in the clouds it is an amazing assent.  US Highway 82 does not lollygag with getting a traveler from the gypsum White Sands to the gypsum white bark.  The first groves are at the Lincoln National Forest Osha trail head (just below Cloudcroft).

DSCN1579 DSCN1580 DSCN1581  The Aspens on the Osha trail are right on the beginning near the picnic and parking area.  They were crisp and ultra-yellow with a crisp and blue aluminum autumn sky.  Beyond the grove the Osha Trail goes by clearings of the last views of the distant desert floor- the White Sands National Monument and Missile Range are a white blur long below.  It isn’t difficult to imagine the differences between Alamogordo and Cloudcroft, New Mexico when the former is home to national sand dunes and the latter a national forest.

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 DSCN1588 DSCN1596 DSCN1598 DSCN1600 DSCN1601 DSCN1605 DSCN1606We love to romp in the woods wherever forest is.  And no treasure hunt is better than looking for the flaunts of gold in the evergreen treetops outside of Cloudcroft.  Whether in groves or thickets Aspens lead exclusive and inclusive social lives.  They are dens of white in dark forests and in fall, islands of gold in seas of green.

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DSCN1640 DSCN1634There’s gold in them hills! On the edge of two pastures along the creek (with two different thistle blossoms) waited Aspen groves to my delight.  A wider lens and more detailed focus would be better.

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DSCN1738Behind the parking area of Ski Apache is a hunting trail that rambles over a piece of deep forest creek peace. 

For most people the ski slopes at Ski Apache mean skiing.  For me they mean a dream-to take a gondola to the top of the slopes, go over the summit of Lookout Mountain, 11,554 ft and just beyond, mount Sierra Blanca.  It is the little hike my heart has been dying to beat on, to reach the top of the lower Rockies.  On this trip the gondolas were closed.  But at least we were still high enough to be surrounded by forested mountain hiking.  The hunting trail skirted along the edges of pastures, woods, and Aspens.  Below the path was a gorge cut by a creek newly born from its head water point maybe a little further up.  I was humbled and enchanted that it might someday in its maturity be the Rio Grande.  It was raised by gravity to become the Atlantic.  I was stilled in moments of enjoyment-a trance of love and appreciation by the appearance of nature (only a hippy or holy roller might understand).  Every light in the spirit was re-lit. My family and I walked through the mountain woods, each person enjoying their own state of minds there.

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vlcsnap-2013-02-22-17h11m54s32*from the Tularosa Basin overlook on US Highway 82. The living mascot of Smokey Bear was a scorched cub rescued from a fire in the Lincoln National Forest in 1950.  In 2011 mountain and valley sides in the same national forest and surrounding area burned above Ruidosa to the tree-line.  Yet, like the Aspen many of the high evergreens were more benefited than hurt.  The ultra bright of green, wild whites, and ghost black burns blazed the scenery before night fell.  Months after the fire life here is larger.  We left the land to the dark and ice that would surely still the newly creeks till morning.

We headed down vowing to come back to hike higher.

DSCN1776 DSCN1777Sierra Blanca, 12,000 ft. from County Road 532.

I love the Rocky Mountains! They’re a steady purpose in a purpose driven commitment to live in awe of Earth.  I cannot define the love or relate it to another kind. Only it is a habitat that encourages my spirit to live another thousand years and explore every day.  I was eight Weeks old when I first experienced the Rockies by my mom, dad, sister, and I being turned around by the slippery slope of Wolf Creek Pass in southern Colorado.  I was sixteen when I first loved the Rockies whilst traveling with my brother and dad in southeast Wyoming and Colorado. Dad was dismayed that I felt so close to geography outside of the unparalleled nature of Texas geography.  I comforted the old Texan reminding him that all the highest parts of the Rockies in New Mexico, Colorado, and a southern tip of Wyoming were all once a part of Texas.  For nine years of independence and five years of statehood (1836-1850) my favorite mountains were the heart of Santa Fe County in our favorite state Texas.  Further, I’ve studied that the Franklin Mountains in El Paso on the western tip of the state are the true extreme southern end of the Rockies.  My soul is with Texas the beautiful but my heart of the Rockies goes to Raton Pass and Cheyenne.

The Confederate Rockies
I cannot give out enough expression to declare my fondness toward Lincoln National Forest for the preserved and shared beauty.  In fact the United States especially south in West Texas could do better with more places like it.  Nevertheless its namesake is unfortunate and clad in gross irony.  In spite of being established as the most beloved character in American history President Lincoln levied a war against the South from the Potomac to the Colorado River.  The Confederate States Territory of Arizona included modern-day Arizona and New Mexico below the thirty-four degree line.  It was the western extremity of the President’s campaign to capitulate the Confederacy.  The Territory only saw some minor skirmishes between the hostile and defending forces. By the end of 1862 it was succeed by US forces.  Yet, today we suffer not only the negligence of the truth but are raised to love the name of a leader sick to reverse the destiny of a new nation.  What else should we expect for a victorious martyr?  If England had defeated the Colonies in the English American War perhaps this beautiful place would have been called King George National Forest.  Regardless of the outcome of wars no place this beautiful should be named after rulers that killed their own people just to maintain national authority over colonies or states wanting to go free.  When the Territory of Arizona seceded on March 28, 1861 Sierra Blanca became the highest point in the Confederate States of America.
riptims (28)A forgotten name from the former Territory of Arizona was torn by torture and died because of the name that most Americans would readily name another national forest for. Private Joseph Wills from Company G 1st Arizona Cavalry is one boy of over six-thousand others piled in the largest mass grave in North America.  Located in Oakwoods Cemetery in South Chicago,Illinois, Private Joseph’s name, along with my great great uncle William Jackson Tims, is remembered on the Confederate mound monument.  To die in Chicago for Confederate veterans meant a long suffering and long end. The logistical strength of the government gave Camp Douglas no excuse why its inmates endured the same devastated outcome as prisoners from Andersonville.   The Lincoln administration was as much responsible for the morbid malice at Camp Douglas as the commandant and guards there.   I do not believe that the memory of President Lincoln should be censured or blasted off of Mount Rushmore.  Nevertheless I can think of some homeboys like Private Joseph Wills I’d rather see such a beautiful old place preserved in memory of.

VIDEO 1
We gain very fast and very extreme elevation up US Highway 82 along a fault gorge.  At the pull-out you can see the vast distant White Sands before Cloudcroft-and exposed shelf layer geology.   The footage further includes State Highway 244 and County Roads 99 and 532 high in the New Mexican Sacramento Mountains- an unwinding and unyielding forum of Fur and Aspen.

VIDEO 2
The charred forest and a steely dusk light met the white forest magically.  There is an eternal spell over the large Aspen woods below Ski Apache on majestic County Road 532.  We secondly hiked higher-the headwaters creek and trail at Ski Apache 10,000 feet high and 2,000 feet below Sierra Blanca’s summit.  Under the dying crest of light we discovered enchanted forests of Rocky Mountains’ likeness.

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1/29/2013-Big Bend and Blue Bell

In the end of January 2011 we started the year camping in Big Bend National Park.  There was no one then to cat-sit Blue Bell.  Taking him with was the only other option-the option that I always feel is the best way-bring Blue Bell

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We can’t imagine for a moment what went through the brain of my black cat.  The home body creature of comfort suddenly on the welcome sign of a wild land.

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A short hair domestic feline of the black pursuit faces off gallantly to PANTHER Junction, MOUNTAIN LION country, and PANTHER Pass

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As we’d done as kids we chose the Basin campsite guarded by a great granite boulder.  Somehow this one is always open for us-the one with the boulder we loved to climb.  Climbing was always the point and this boulder was the center of a very high and rugged place.  Vernon Baily, 6,600 ft. above sea-level is the marshmallow rounded face of bald granite on the norther end of The Window. Casa Grande, 7,300 ft. is the Big House over the eastern end of The Basin

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Vernon Bailey from Museum

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Tough south face of Basin peak.

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The stuffed Panther in the exibit stole Blue Bell’s attention. What a cat! Seriously though, we were unable to climb Emory Peak, 7,800 ft. w/ Blue Bell.   The 2011 drought drove a lot of wildlife down hill from the safety of the peaks.  Even pets on leashes could have proved too tempting to a larger and hungrier cat than Blue Bell. 

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Hot Springs

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Panther in the Palms of Dug Out Wells.

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Cerro Castolon and Tuff Canyon 

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Santa Elena Canyon

Thank yall for revisiting a time in an era of mine I took my black cat to Big Bend.

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1/6/2012 Big Bend Below 6,000 ft.

Between the southerly-northerly great bend of the great river, Rio Grande, is an untypical land.  Big Bend country sweeps southward between the Pecos and Rio Grande Rivers in West Texas.  It composes of four mountain ranges over 7,000 feet above sea-level and the state’s deepest canyonlands. Big Bend National Park is an exclusive and reclusive island in the Prehistoric sea that is the Chihuahian Desert and is two-hundred miles from the nearest city over 10,000.  The Park and surrounding Country is a giant’s land of desert, mountains, and high forests. It is surrounded on three sides by Mexico and only four routes, all going south, can get you there.  Yet, in spite of this epic isolation the soul feels sound and secure somehow.  Despair and uncertainty are not in the nature of a place where nature has been so unspoiled.  You don’t experience any sense or or scent of melancholy as you would in Death Valley,CA.  A melody of joy and curiosity are the most common responses from people coming to see.  West Texas mountains are the last best kept secret as a major vacation point.  Few but the ghosts of the Chisos, dancing skeletons of the sodded ghost towns or the Marfa Ghost Lights frequent this mystery land.   Though most of Big Bend Country is privately owned in an iron curtain of barbed wire, the region is home to the  largest state park (Big Bend Ranch) and national park in Texas.

My youth in the flat part of Texas it was vacations in my youth to Big Bend Country that seeded and sowed my love for the outdoors, my state, and the mountains.  My dad, who was also a proud Texan, loved showing us Texas our Texas and the trails over her ridges and peaks.  It does wonders on adult curiosity and imagination having visited an unforgettable place like Big Bend early on.  The swelling point of anticipation and greed to hike high soured as we crossed the Pecos to a more rugged and desolate environment.  There are many different lands in the land of Texas.  Crossing from the wooded and rolling Heart of Texas to the canyons and highlands of the Trans-Pecos was an amazing adventure every time.  Today the Chisos Mountains, ghosts of the past, call my rugged heart back to the Basin, and my soul for adventure back to the Big Bend.

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This review of the Big Bend is only half of what’s here.  I have many photos of the park and the routes to.  Yet, they’re all taken from below the Chisos Mountains’ summit-land of six to seven thousand eight-hundred feet above sea-level.  For every palmed oasis there is an evergreen forest and for every rare Agave there’s an Aspen.  This is a work about the canyon-lands and the Basin.  Another work, another elevation, are for another day.

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There are three gateways to Big Bend National Park…

ORANGE ROUTE-Panther Junction via US 385 from Marathon,

RED ROUTE-Study Butte via State 118 from Alpine,

BLUE ROUTE-Study Butte via US 67 to Farm to Market 170 from Marfa

or

GREEN ROUTE-Ranch Road 2810 to Pinto Canyon Rd to Farm to Market 170 to Study Butte from Marfa

….

GATEWAY MARATHON (Orange Route)

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Rugged features Denuded Ouachita Rock Belt, east face of Mount Ord 6,812 ft, and Santiago Peak 6,539 feet above sea-level between Marathon and Big Bend National Park.

There are two rugged points on US Highway 385 and both are on the northern and southern extremes.  Yet, the Chisos Mountains near the bottom of 385 are six-hundred feet higher than the Black Hills of South Dakota on the other end.  (A revelation to Texas-mountain-deniers especially considering that most of 385 goes through Rocky Mountain states Colorado and New Mexico).  The Colonel Henry Harman historical marker near the intersection of US 90 and 385 and the marker for the Denuded Quachita Rock Belt marker several miles south are worth the see and learn.

The greatest opinion I recommend to folks is to visit Big Bend National Park one way and take another route back.  For example, to the first time visitors I suggest they see the red and blue (or) green routes leaving and coming back.  However, for the guranteed second vaca the most eastern route should finally be revealed.

GATEWAY ALPINE (red route)

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Six sweet mountains over six-thousand feet along State 118 south of Alpine.  Mount Ord (west face), McIntyre Peak 6,366 ft, Cathedral Peak 6,867 ft, Elephant Mountain 6,228 ft, Cienega Mt 6,565 ft, and Santiago Peak 6,539 ft. above sea-level.

The red route State 118, south from Alpine is recommended as the best way south to Big Bend for first time people.  First of all Alpine is largest of the three gateways and the most picturesque surrounded by twelve mountains over six-thousand feet. Secondly the trip to the Park from here is a green to desert beauty madness.  I recommend West Texas Wings for dinner and heading south early after a Magoo’s Place breakfast.

Side trips on Red Route-County Named for Confederate Colonel Henry P. Brewster memorial on 6th Street side of Brewster County Courthouse and College named for Texas Confederate General Sul Ross memorial in front of the Dolph Briscoe JR building at Sul Ross State University,Calamity Creek/Woodward Ranch,  Elephant Mountain Wildlife MGMT Area, and Aqua Fria.

GATEWAY MARFA no.1 (blue route)

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Marfa is the highest gateway city to the Big Bend.

Though from Marfa the Davis Mountains 8,370 ft. above sea-level are a blue bulge in the distance they’re are the highest elevations near a Big Bend gateway.

In the southwest is old bold and lonely Chinatti Peak 7,739 ft. above sea-level also at an unimpressive distance- a far glimpse of the flat headed giant Santiago Peak as well.

US 67 runs from northeast Iowa to Presidio and like US 385 the highway’s highest mileage is in the Big Bend Country.

From the southernmost of US 67 in Presidio Farm to Market 170 begins, aka the River Road.  Besides the Davis Mountains Loop the River Road is arguably the most scenic drives in Texas.   The mountains and desert are bare but for lit in color like geological wildflowers.  It is a a collision and chaos of shades of volcanism.  Besides beauty the River Road is the most wild ride in Texas-a Rio Grande version of the Pacific Coast Highway or Blue Ridge Parkway.  Two lanes climb and plunge high over the shores of Texas and Mexico.  Cliffs and box canyons curve the River Road in and out of the land.  As a part of Big Bend Ranch State there are dozens of pull outs for pictures and trails.

In Lajitas the River Road finally escapes the River and passes through the Chihuahian Desert’s version of the Painted Desert.  The Rio Grande on the other hand tightens its bend to the south and Santa Elena Canyon.  The Terlingua ghost town is an eroded city of Mexican and miner homes from a less tragic time.  Magma dunes and ash clay graves in the cemetery are gray and rosy in this modern day Pompey.  It is a beautifully strange area-populated by ghosts and human mystery.

Farm to Market 170 ends in Study Butte.

Side trips-Ghost towns Shafter (US 67) and Terlingua (Farm to Market 170). Captain Henry Skillman,C.S.A. historical marker in Presidio (US 67) and Big Bend Ranch State Park on Farm to Market 170 before Lajitas.

(First timers, best for the return trip).  Arrive in Marfa in time to see sun set over Davis Mountains, visit the Marfa Mystery Lights pull-out center, and take supper at the Food Shark.

GATEWAY MARFA no. 2  (green route)

(Covers the same mileage between Presidio and Study Butte on Farm to Market 170).  From Ranch Road 2810 in Marfa to Farm to Market 170 in the unincorporated border town Ruidosa the trip is special.  It is the most lonesome and below the Chinatti Mountains is the most rugged route to the Big Bend.  I have no photographs of the wild territory…

FOR NOW!

Side trips-Captain Henry Skillman, C.S.A. historical marker in Presidio (US 67), Terligua ghost town and Big Bend Ranch State Park on Farm to Market 170.

BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK (Chisos Basin Road)

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My dad said it was the safest place in the world.  Some things about the Basin in Big Bend National Park make many of us feel a love here like that.  It is the center of the highest mountains over 7,000 ft. on the southern end of the main forty-eight States.  It is a wide heart in the middle of the Chisos Mountains.  Summits in the Ghosts like Casa Grande 7,300 ft, Vernon Bailey 6,600 ft.  and Lost Mine Peak 7,535 ft. above sea-level are the revealing places for views crossing hundreds of miles of international wilderness.  Emory Peak 7,800 ft, the highest sports forests of Fur, Ponarosa Pine, Juniper, and groves of the southernmost Aspen in the U.S.

Ascending the Chisos from Panther Junction and the desent over Panther Pass is the only way into the Basin .  Of my experience at more than 100 national parks across the U.S. the ride into the wild heart of the Chisos Mountains is a particular joy never called old.  The Goliath view opens and then slants between “The Window” (A breach on the west face of the Basin which slants to the Basin bottom in the shape of a V).

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The Basin is the most frequented part of the park.  A restaurant, museum, gift store and amphitheater group here.  I am not sure if the motel up there has changed since many years ago when my family changed our minds about staying there.  More ghetto barracks than motel, we’d, meaning I, expect nicer lodging to go with such a nice place.  Nevertheless the campground in the basin is one of the most starry and sunny places to camp in the U.S. and better not missed.

Every site has a unique view of the massive earth that bears up a massive sky.   Lastly, The Basin is the spear point of trails going up the major peaks, to the north and south rims, The Window and summits of the major peaks.

(Other best places to stay and sleep are the Chinatti Hot Springs off the Green Route on Hot Springs Road.  Also, the Paisano Hotel in Marfa, Holland Hotel in Alpine, Gage Hotel in Marathon, or my childhood favorite by the Christmas Mountains Terlingua Ranch east of Study Butte).

BOQUILLAS CANYON (Park Route 12 )

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The little hike along and above the Rio Grande to get to Boquillas Canyon from the end of Park Route 12 is worth it to see and easy going. Boquillas Canyon is the deepest canyon in Texas and the old Confederate South, cut by the River’s strange direction north.  Here the border is almost non-existent.  Mexican nationals sell art and crafts and a small ferry and fun donkey ride brings visitors to the little cafe town of Boquillas, Mexico.

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Gold and blue-gray lava clay canyon northwest of Boquillas Canyon is unique but like the deep color layered geology of Tuff Canyon on the Santa Elena side of the Park. A violent earth and peaceful nature are connected here by a thing of beauty.

(Hot Springs Road)

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Halfway between Panther Junction and Boquillias Canyon is a cozy green place well known to people that know Big Bend.  The hot springs is one of my favorite stop and hikes below the mountains.  Ironically I don’t like the hot spring itself.  It is little more than a warm baby pool inhabited by snotty hams who horde the small space with possessive glares.  There is better there than this to spend time at. Along Park Route 12 there are a few cooler Oasis’s including Dugout Wells and Grapevine Hills.

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Pictographs illustrate the ancient people’s bond with the Big Bend.

SANTA ELENA CANYON (Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive)

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Chisos Mountains from Santa Elena Canyon and Rio Grande River

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Almost a mirror side of the northerly flowing Boquillas Canyon but darker and a few feet lower, the southerly going Santa Elena Canyon cuts a formidable border line in between the Alleys Mexico and United States.

Some people who like Big Bend adore one canyon over the other-the southward flowing Santa Elena or northward going Boquillas Canyon.  A true Texan never tells…but I will say that I would be happy to name a daughter Santa Elena.  The big bend of the Rio Grande is the most inspiring feature found anywhere on the border.   The thin canyon den is dim most of the time and quite but for the trickle of international waters.  Seriously-if you believe in an enchanted spirit go see Santa Elena Canyon.

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Chisos Mountains from Tuff Canyon, Rox Maxwell Scenic Drive

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 Cerro Castolon rises phoenix like from a garden of rosy and violet volcanic ash.  Each desert sunrise and sunset its summit is lit in layers of fiery orange and red.  It is the high point of a dike extending southeast from Blue Creek.  At its base is a canyon land of iron rich volcano rock strewn over large smooth mounds of volcano clay. You owe the magnificence of a borderline sacred wonder the delight of seeing it at least two hours after sunrise and one before sunset.  Pepper reds and cream whites layer this canyon place.

The half mile of Ron Maxwell Scenic Drive is where barren meets beautiful and there isn’t an ode religious enough to describe it.

STUDY BUTTE (Red route)

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IMG_3017-590 IMG_3014 IMG_3009 IMG_3006-582Chisos Mountains from lava beds and Beehive Mountain on State 118 northern town-line of Study Butte

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Willow Peak and Wild Horse Mountain on State 118 north of Study Butte.

We go back to the boss route of the Big Bend, State 118.  I would have made lil Study Butte population 233, down from 267 in 2000 a gateway route except that it is a part of destination Big Bend.  From here you are only a few miles north of the Big Bend National Park sign, an entrance into a multi-verse of desert, mountain, and canyon glories.  From Study Butte you see a broadside of the Chisos Mountains.  Chisos is Spanish for ghosts and this how they appear-calling you south of Study Butte into its unrivaled natural domain.

Like on Park Road 12, the Ron Maxwell Scenic Drive, Terlingua, and later at Aqua Fria,  lava sediment drifts, pillars, dunes, gorges, and colors can’t be missed on the east side of Study Butte near the intersection of the red, blue and green routes. Beehive Mountain, Willow Peak, and Wild Horse Mountain prostrate along State 118 north of the town.  They’re like three sisters born and frozen in volcano fury.  And like many of the volcanic temples and valleys of the Big Bend they glow fire like from stolen sunlight at the end of the day.

AQUA FRIA (Aqua Fria Road)

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Aqua Fria Rd. is around twenty-miles north of Study Butte.  Aqua Fria Spring is one of the five side-trips on our Red Route.  Different from the green sides of Calamity Creek on Calamity Creek Road seventy miles north,  Aqua Fria pours, pools, and ponders through  a volcano desert scape.  Ashen clay and sandy sediment in the water heals and re-youths the swimmer.  The water is deeper in July, August, and early September.

From the high lava clay drifts over the Aqua Spring Valley you can see the volcano rings before Study Butte, the ghost box square Chisos Mountains, the Christmas Mountains, and the savage cone of Cortizone Peak.  The Big Bend…

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Terlingua Ghost Town Cemetery and lava rolls

*MAKE BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK IS AN AT LEAST FIVE DAY DEAL TO ENJOY IT RIGHT

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Blue Bell Holiday

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BLACK CAT HALLOWEEN 2012

Through a black cat on Halloween and a black cat w/ a Santa collar in December we celebrated the holidays this year as if they and it was our last.

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Trick or treat cat

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BLUE BELL CHRISTMAS 2012

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Why are there no black cats in Christmas carols, the manger, or on top of Christmas trees?

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Some yule Yuccas

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and Silver bells and Blue Bell.

Its Christmas time in Alpine…

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Christmas puss in boot.

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Civic Center red, green, & Blue Bell

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Blue Bell in Christmas spirit and one of two biggest Yucca trees in town.

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O Yucca o Yucca thy spears are so unchanging!

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Brewster County courthouse Blue Christmas

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For the Christmas feeling and a light stranded Wal-mart Balsam Fur with family and kids around it Blue Bell and I traveled far West Texas to furthest West Texas to a Christmas in El Paso.

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O Blue Bell O Blue Bell

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In El Paso away in the manger.  Different Christmas carols w/ twists appropriately reoccur in subtitles for my red, green, and black holiday expo.

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Josiah and Blue Bell, friends of milk during the Walton’s Homecoming Christmas.

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Going home Blue Bell and I

would spend New Year’s Eve alone but in good company.  With friends and family we celebrated holidays last year.  The holidays were celebrations in a world that didn’t have much to celebrate.  But in my life, if not so much my world, my black pet and I have much more to celebrate.

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January 2, 2013 Cheshire Cat in Heaven

January 2, 2013

Cheshire was a unique cat-I never knew a more handsomely thick soul, butter-creamed coat, or a more lovable creature.  Of a species never known to smile no one smiled more than him.  Of an animal I’ve never seen more adored none more adored life than Cheshire. Of my sister’s seven cats she will never have a seventh so sweet.  Rescued from an El Paso shelter shortly before my daddy passed it was a shame for everyone else in the world that didn’t get to get that jolly big soul.  In the past several years God has taken my parents and two stepparents as well as twenty children from Newton Connecticut.  That such a wonderful and beautiful feline friend could be added to Heaven today I think with such sad absolution that

God sure knows how to pick them

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and so does Blue Bell.

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Before Blue Bell I liked cats but never liked the own one.  All the things special in him changed the mind.  I was adopted.  It was like this for Jed and Cheshire too.  Though my brother lives at my sister’s house she wouldn’t give the big darling to him.  It was that impossible to do.  And it was this impossible for Jed to let the thing go so she left the big cat to him in her will.  Thanks to the unhappy reign our Lord gave death over such magnificent characters in our lives like Cheshire neither Jed or Rebecca were left with their butter-creamed Blue Bell tonight.

Jed, Rebecca, Leslie, Timothy, Lorena, Josiah, and I will miss you big boy.  Our parents and grandparents now have a big n’ beautiful pet to hold in Heaven

till we are near too…

A month later Rebecca and Leslie’s fifteen year old wedding present Thomas died.  Another one to miss…

dec2012176-DSCN4858On Christmas, 2012, a happy and kind old gentleman slept, so far from death then.

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