Thursday, March 27, 2008


West Texas rolls on, and on, and on. Dry, prickly, glaring and monotonous after the first 100 miles. Just as I decide I hate the place, we come upon something wonderful.

This is the courthouse of the small town of Marfa, Texas, (population 2,200) “famous” for three things: the gracious Hotel Paisano, where James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and Dennis Hopper stayed during the filming of Giant in 1955; the Chinati Foundation, an arts center occupying the buildings of Fort D.A. Russell, built during the Mexican Revolution to protect Marfa, now a magnet for artists from both coasts; and for the mysterious “Marfa lights“, reported by Native Americans, early settlers, and current residents, an unexplained phenomenon twinkling in the distance.

Rolling though miles and miles and miles of empty, dry country on the way to Marfa, thinking about the Marfa lights… it’s the kind of landscape that makes you turn to your spouse and say “What would you do if you saw a UFO?” They could land a dozen of ‘em around here and no one would notice.

We spent most of a day in Marfa, checking out the unexpectedly interesting sights and hunting for a couple of screws and a new bit for our drill. That gave us an excuse to visit three small “sort of” hardware stores in the little town.

At one, Doug, the owner of a bed and breakfast, gave us his business card and told us to give him a call if we couldn’t find the screws we needed - he thought he might have some extras around. That reminded us of why we enjoy Texas: Texans are so friendly!

We visited the Hotel Paisano, beautifully restored with a gorgeous tiled lobby, a covered swimming pool, and a shrine of “Giant” memorabilia. Around the corner from the Hotel was Doug’s B&B. Odel went to thank him while I browsed the hotel’s gift shop; he met Doug’s parents, in town for a visit.

At our next stop, an unexpectedly upscale cafĂ© and juice bar named Squeeze Marfa - where Odel was given Stevia sweetener for his green iced tea, “better for you than artificial sweeteners“ - we ran into Doug and his entire family having lunch. That’s what they mean by “small town”!

After they left, the adjacent table was occupied by a dancer from Houston, in Marfa for an improvisational dance theatre performance on Saturday. After her "Hey, how y'all doin'?" greeting, she filled us in on the thriving arts scene in Marfa, and made us (read: Laurie) wish we were staying a bit longer.

“Home” for our three day visit to the area was Davis Mountain State Park (read our campground review here), north of Marfa near the town of Ft. Davis. Ft. Davis DOES have an historic fort, now a designated National Historic Site. The town is smaller than Marfa, but in a prettier location on the edge of the Davis Mountains, with a beautiful stone hotel of it’s own, the Limpia Hotel.

On our first day at the park, we saw a coyote, a fox, several deer, birds galore, and a javalina - thanks to Luna, who was hyper-vigilant in the presence of so many wild animals. When her ears pricked up and her eyes got as round as saucers, we peered out into the twilight in the direction she indicated - there was the javalina, rooting around our campsite.

We didn’t have much of interest for him, unlike our bozo neighbors who left their garbage bag outside that night - and awoke to trash EVERYWHERE. (These same neighbors fed doughnuts to the deer, in spite of posters on all the bulletin boards, restroom doors, and in the visitors’ center imploring campers NOT to feed the wildlife. What’s with these people???)

Davis Mountain State Park is nestled in a steep-sided valley in the Davis Mountains, emphasizing birding with ranger-led walks and bird feeding stations. The hiking is great, with hikes of varying lengths through canyons and up to the ridgetops. At night, it is DARK, DARK, DARK! No light pollution, just zillions of stars. Another great Texas State Park experience.

1 comment:

  1. That state park looks very nice, we'll have to stop someday and check out the area.

    Hugs, Sharon & Ron