The Longdogs

The Longdogs
Harley takes his role as navigator seriously!

2023-9-22 Marathon Texas

Friday morning Elaine and I slept in and relaxed before we had to head out. It was only a couple hours to the stop we picked out. We decided to go to Marathon to a motel and RV park I have heard about over the years. We also decided that rather than go back up to Alpine the way we came down and then drive east to Marathon, we would drive east through the national park and then go north to Marathon. I've never been that way so it would give us yet another view of the park. My GPS said that the distance would actually be less going that way but, of course, we would be driving slower in the national park. We were not in a hurry so that didn't matter. we were hoping to stop at the dinasaur exhibit but the sign came up unexpectedly and you had to drive down a road to get to it. Not knowing whether there would be room to turn around or park both our RVs, we kept on going.

We found the RV park without any problem and they honored our Passport America membership so camping was half price. Score.

I thought I took pictures of our RV sites but I guess not. We had pull-through water and electric sites. They also have full hookup sites. The camping area is 3 rows of pull-throughs in a desert gravel setting with a picnic table. The rest of the park is quite nice. This is a very large enclosed by adobe patio area which has lots of trees, grass, roses and other plants as well as a beautiful fireplace alcove with seating. I took Harley out about 10pm and heard some faint guitar music so I think we missed out on a performance.

This was the interior of the enclosed area.

This was an enclosed dining area and I think there was also a small restaurant. 

The motel part consists of numerous cabins with two rooms per building.

One of the reasons we wanted to go to this particular motel/RV park is that they do star parties here.

Unfortunately, the woman at the desk when we checked in told us that the astronomers said they would not be having one until the beginning of October because the moon was two bright. that was disappointing but there will be another time.

The star parties are not the only interesting thing in Marathon. I unhooked the care and we drove to the Gage Hotel. The history of the hotel is very interesting. Alfred Gage had a ranching empire of over 500,000 acres. When the railroad came to Marathon, Gage felt there was very little to offer in terms of places to stay. He commissioned famed architect Henry Trost to design a hotel. The Mission and Spanish hotel opened for business in 1927. Gage died the following year. The hotel hosted illustrious guests for a while but it fell into disuse. It was finally purchased in the 1970s by JP Bryan and his wife as their private residence. In 1981, they opened it to the public but it was years before they had any business to speak of. Knowing how important it was to the community, they persevered.

The hotel is unique and beautiful from the adobe walls to the layout and grounds.

The rooms open off the grass courtyard filled with trees. This particular grass is not real but it is real and just as green in the other courtyards.

The walled pool area was gorgeous.

We walked through this courtyard which was being set up for a wedding dinner. I hope it was a very late dinner because the temperature was about 100 degrees. The lobby was small but equally impressive. The Gage has an inhouse restaurant and the white Buffalo Bar as well as owning the V6 Coffee Bar and the Brick Vault restaurant and brewery next door. They also have an extensive beautiful garden that is offsite and open to the public. It was being used for the wedding as well so we headed back to the rV park.

Another interesting place in Marathon is Eve's Garden Bed and Breakfast. There are organic gardens and the rooms are handbuilt with recycled content, paper/adobe fiber-cement content.

Even without the star parties, it was a very interesting and worthwhile stop. The next morning Elaine headed north early. I used the dump station and headed east towards home. One more interesting site was the miniature Buc-ees located between Marathon and Sanderson on Hwy 90. I was planning to stop at the Judge Roy Bean museum but they have rebuilt the highway and it is no longer on the main road. I did not know that until I saw the sign for the turn off and was past it before I could change direction. There was no good place to turn around or another turn off so that will also have to be for another time.

I made it home in time for dinner. I'm already looking forward to my next rally in October.

2023-9-21 Lajitas and Ziplining

 Thursday, some of the group that went to Boquillas or went canoeing headed back into Big Bend to see areas they had missed while some of us headed south to Lajitas.  It seems like the word about ziplining at the resort got out. Elaine said doing a zipline was on her bucket list and it seems like 4 other women agreed. It's about 25 minutes to Lajitas which consists mainly of the resort which also has an RV park called Mavericks and the Visitor's Center for the Big Bend State Park. We weren't sure where to find the zipline office so we asked an employee crossing the parking lot. He said it was his first day but if we could wait just a minute, he would be right back with the info and he was. He told us the shortest route would be to go through the lobby to the other side and go left out the door.

The lobby was beautiful and the staff was very friendly everywhere we went. This is the registration desk.

And this is the sitting area.

There was an open area between the hotel lobby and shops and the rooms on the other side. A large crew was in the process of putting in a concrete walkway down the middle. You can just make out the very neat motorized cement delivery machine. Out of the truck, into the concrete delivery machine, and unloaded into the formed area.

We found the zipline office and after a briefing, the women got suited up.

Here they are all ready to go.

The plan was for me to take pictures but that was foiled because the zipliners were whisked away to a canyon on private property via ATVs.

So the three of us who accompanied them to Lajitas checked out some shops on the way to the coffee shop and bakery. This T-shirt pretty much covered our trip but I was surprised they didn't add Lajitas to it.

We had to cross part of the construction area to get there. By the time we relaxed with our coffee and a cinnamon roll, the concrete was all poured in the main area and the crew was busy with forms turning it into "paving rocks". It was really amazing to watch them.

We checked out this corridor that led to a restaurant at the end.

There was inside and outside seating.

And a lovely green grass patio area. The golf course was off to the right.

After the zipliners came back, Elaine and I spent a little more time checking out Lajitas. This is the general store/gas station/snack place.

And this is Clay Henry, the mayor of Lajitas. It's a very small community.

We checked out the RV park but I didn't take any pictures as we drove through. There are many who love it but I would rather be closer to Big Bend if that is why I am in the area. I will admit the pool was nice. An those staying in the RV park have access to the resort and golf course.

Next we headed to the Visitor Center for the Big Bend Ranch State Park.

The Visitor Center had a lot of information about the area in an exhibit that spanned about three rooms. One unique thing about the state park is that while the park has camping, it is dry camping and the sites are located off to the side along the road that continues along the river headed towards Presidio. Apparently there are a few campsites further into the park on gravel roads/trails for the extremely adventurous.

A few more pictures of the intrepid zipliners.

Back at the office, this is a picture of the zipliners plus their guides on each side.

All in all, it was another interesting day in the Big Bend area.  we leave tomorrow but I am already looking forward to my next visit.

2023-9-20 Big Bend Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive/Castolon

 Wednesday morning Elaine and I were off to tour the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive. There are three distinctively different areas in Big Bend and I strongly recommend you plan at least three days to tour the park. 

Federico Villalba was one of the many key pioneers in the Big Bend area.

Sam Nail was another big Bend pioneer. The remnants of this ranch are close to the road so it's a pretty easy hike to see it. There are remnants of the adobe house, a couple of windmills, one still working. There are figs and pecans that the Nails planted to transform the desert.

You can see the desert the ranchers worked on transforming.

The picture above is the mountains shown on the left in the Sotol Vista.

The Mule Ears are very easy to see in the distance.

As we went further along the drive, these white hills appeared. I think they were part of a mining operation.

From up on the hill we could see across the border to a small Mexican town. Remember that this is the far eastern part of the park and this town has no crossing to the U.S. and no road to Boquillas.

We were at Castolon at this point when we looked across the river and saw the tiny town. The ranger station and Visitor Center were closed but we found a young man who worked in the park having lunch in the shade behind the rangers station. He told us about the town. Castolon has a small store but the woman working there said she was just filling in and knew nothing at all about Castolon or this part of the park. Hmmmm. There was a much larger store there with a big covered area and picnic tables but it burned down a couple years ago and has chain link fence around it. This is a different building that is falling into disrepair.

Some of the old equipment is still around.

Magdalena's house where she raised 5 children as a widow while she worked for the La Harmonia Company.

The Garlick House is located below the Castolon bluff. It was used by the farm manager for the Harmonia Company, Fred Garlick.

At one point the cavalry was posted here.

The next stop was the Cottonwood campground. In my opinion it may be the nicest campground but it has no hookups just shade and grass around the sites. A mama javelina and her baby come out of the brush far down the campground from us. The mama nursed the little one and then it went back into the brush. Javelinas are peccaries not wild hogs but they can still do some damage if you aren't careful to pickup around your campsite but this campground was not open to camping right now. Every site has a bear box.

Once again we saw lots of roadrunners. This one was very brave. He maintained his position 3 feet away while Elaine got up from the picnic table to get our phones/cameras out of the car. 

This was the store used by early settlers near Castolon.

It was actually like a small compound with buildings on 3 sides.

While the sides still look good, the reed style roofs have caved in. The windows and doors have wire across the openings.

This was the boat ramp to the Rio Grande near Castolon. We met this woman and her husband down at Santa Elena Canyon again. They were from Germany.

Santa Elena Canyon, the left side is Mexico and the right side is the U.S. 

The river is very low right now but it was high not long ago when it covered the road. That is why the gate was closed. They had to bulldoze the mud from the road.

On the way back down the road, we met these travelers.

Coming back along the road, we stopped to look down at the Homer Wilson ranch. You can hike down there but it is down a steep hill and then across the valley.

Everything looks like you could move right in but that is really not the case. You can see a corral behind the house.

While we were doing this tour, some of our intrepid friends were in canoes paddling their hearts out. It ended up being canoes rather than rafts as the river was too low for rafts. They went with a local outfitters who drove them to the canoe site. That is not the Santa Elena Canyon but a canyon further south.

Another great day in Big Bend National Park.