Sunday, February 12, 2006

12:51 PM Sunday February 12, 2006

Our stop last year in Van Horn, Texas was an overnighter. We were headed east for San Antonio and didn’t want any grass growing under our feet. This stop we decided to stay long enough to do some exploring—and we have done that. On our second day we decided to drive our little Lone Ranger north on Texas State Highway 54, heading toward a shadowy vista of mountains off in the distance. We were out in the middle of nowhere but along the way we passed miles of windmills up on the ridge to the east (see website noted below). The map showed the road passing through the sparsely populated plains of the Chihuahuan Desert with the Sierra Diablo Mountains off to the west and the Delaware Mountains toward the east. This desert surrounds the ancient Guadalupe Mountains, part of one of the finest examples of an ancient marine fossil reef on Earth formed 260-270 million years ago. While being held up by road construction we decided to continue as far as the Guadalupe Mountains National Park created in 1972.

These mountains include the ominous “El Capitan” as well as Guadalupe Peak, which at 8,749 feet is the highest elevation in Texas. While not as tall as Guadalupe Peak, El Capitan’s sheer rock formation reaching for the sky is by far the most awe-inspiring to admire from the highway. At the visitor’s center, we wandered through the small but very well done displays of flora and fauna then watched a 12-minute video. The woman volunteer was very friendly and knowledgeable about the area and sent us off to explore the campground (no hookups, first come, first serve at $4 per night with a Golden Age Passport) and the Frijole Ranch History Museum. It was closed but we wandered around this early homestead located on one of the six bubbling fresh water springs in the area. The National Park Service maintains the ranch and barn where they keep park service horses. As we were leaving, our curiosity took us across the road to examine the Park Service Ranger’s settlement and the housing provided for volunteers. A spectacular view (the sunrises and sunsets must be dramatic) surrounds the single family and duplex cottages and we could appreciate where it would be an incredible place to spend a few months. The volunteers, many being full or part time Rvers, are a win-win situation for the National Park Service.

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