VISIT BIG BEND – Our Senora Scott went on a five-day adventure in Big Bend. Her stops included Marathon, Study Butte-Terlingua, Big Bend National Park and Alpine.
“I recommend that people plan ahead and give themselves a day to drive here, a day to drive back, and several days in between to see all the great things this area has to offer,” Madison Shiller, Public Relations Assistant for Visit Big Bend said.
A sample itinerary can be seen below:
- Arrive in Marathon TX, Check in to Marathon Motel
- Dinner at 12 Gage Restaurant
- Check out of accommodation/Breakfast at V6 Café
- Leave towards Big Bend National Park
- Stop at Fossil Discovery Exhibit
- Leave for Panther Junction
- Leave for Study Butte-Terlingua
- Arrive in Terlingua Ghost Town
- View Historic Areas / Visit Shops
- Lunch at DB’s BBQ
- Trail Ride at Big Bend Stables
- Return from ride, Dinner at Long Draw Pizza or Starlight Theater
- Check out of accommodation
- Breakfast at La Posada Milagro (Order Lunch to-go)
- Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive/End at Santa Elena Canyon (Travel time from Terlingua straight to Santa Elena Canyon is 1 hour then travel time from Santa Elena Canyon to Chisos Basin Lodge is 1 hour)
- Arrive in Chisos Basin Lodge/Check in to accommodation
- Recommended Hikes – Lost Mine Trail (4.8-mile loop/Chisos Basin Loop 1.8 mile loop)
- Dinner at Chisos Mountain Lodge Restaurant
- Check out of accommodation
- Breakfast at Basin Convenience Store (Grab and go Hot Breakfast Sandwiches)
- Leave for Barton Warnock State Park (you’ll pass through Terlingua again)
- Lunch at Chili Pepper Café
- Spend more time in Terlingua or Lajitas or Travel to Alpine
- Visit shops and attractions in Alpine
- Leave for the Gage Hotel in Marathon
- Check in to Gage
- Dinner at Brick Vault Brewery and BBQ
- Check out of accommodation/Travel back
Marathon is beautiful in the daytime but when the sun goes down, it’s time for the real show to begin.
“Polaris is the North Star so where would you think to look for Polaris…in the North. That’s where it begins,” Danny Self, owner of Marathon Motel and RV Park said.
When it comes to Danny’s story, taking over the business in 2000 was the start of something greater than he ever imagined.
“In 2011, we picked up on the astronomy part because we’ve got one of the darkest skies in the country. So that’s when Scott Mecca, an astronomer from Wyoming, showed up. We knew we’ve got a sky like this, you can see the Milky Way, you can see nebulas with the naked eye, there’s lots of features to a sky like this but what do you do with it? So he was the one that introduced us to it when he stayed here at the motel and he took us out with his green laser pointed out constellations and so that’s when the starts took shape. And so that led to photography, which lead to observing, which lead to the McDonald observatory donating a 24 inch telescope to Marathon independent school district which he have the housing for at the motel,” Self said.
Now, this self-taught astronomer has turned his motel into a star gazer’s paradise. Complete with stargazing parties, constellation tours, and fun facts about the skies above. Novice or expert, it’s a place where anyone could feel small…in a good way….and a place that keeps people coming back to experience the wonders of space.
“You put it out there and they will come and that’s what happened. You can come out now and look through the telescope, Bill, or myself or whoever will do the constellations tours and what I’ve had a lot of fun with is taking people out and introducing them to it and you look at Saturn, Jupiter, they’re seeing things they’ve never seen before because of a sky like this,” Self said.
Reflecting on the path that lead him here, Danny says this isn’t what he had in mind…
“Oh no, no, no. This motel has taken me on one heck of journey. I mean we’ve done it all out here. We’re so remote and we’re located in a basin so there’s things we could do out here that I couldn’t do in Austin, there’s things we can do in Marathon that we can’t do anywhere else and vise versa. So when I first came out here, it’s just aspiring to just figure out how to run a motel and ended up doing astronomy with astrophotography, I’d never even heard of that so it’s been an incredible journey over the last 21 years,” Self said.
So, when it comes to Danny and his motel, I guess you could just say…all the stars aligned.
The photos above were submitted by Danny Self.
Big Bend National Park
Big Bend National Park is diverse, unique, and breathtaking.
“Big, wild and wonderful, Big Bend in West Texas was relatively unknown for a long time. It wasn’t until the 1930s that the area began to be accessible. People started looking westward to this amazing resource,” Tom Vandenberg, Chief of Interpretation and Visitors Services for Big Bend National Park said.
According to Vandenberg, the area was first called “Texas Canyon State Park” in 1933 but the name was changed to “Big Bend State Park” just a few months later. The State of Texas knew they wanted the land designated as a national park but that designation must be approved by Congress.
In 1935, Congress approved the designation for Big Bend National Park but it was up to the State of Texas to to raise the funds. That money went toward purchasing the land because many ranchers and miners still lived in the area and ran their operations. This process took many years and cost the state 1.6 million dollars to purchase more than 600,000 acres. Texas then donated this land and it officially became Big Bend National Park.
Today, the park is 800,000 acres and hundreds of thousands of visitors come to the park each year.
Big Bend National Park is often referred to as “Texas’ gift to the nation.”
Terlingua got its start as a mining town according to the Texas State Historical Association:
In 1902, in addition to the mine complex, Terlingua consisted of several temporary structures occupied by some 200 to 300 laborers, mostly Mexican. Three years later, the population had increased to 1,000. When the Marfa and Mariposa mine closed in May 1910, the Terlingua post office, which had been established in 1899, was moved ten miles east to the Chisos Mining Company camp; the name was retained. During the next two decades, both the village and the mining company prospered. By 1913, Terlingua’s 1,000 inhabitants had access to a company-owned commissary and hotel, a company doctor, erratic telephone service, a dependable water supply and three-times-a-week mail delivery. Brewster County organized the first public school at Terlingua in 1907; the first classes were held in a tent-house structure. In 1930, the mining company erected the permanent Perry School.TSHA website
Three decades ago, Bill Ivey (who was born and raised in the area) bought Terlingua Ghost Town and has been working to restore and preserve the town since.
“Most of the buildings were in dire need of repair or they were falling down,” Ivey said. “I didn’t have a lot of money to rebuild a town so that’s why it’s taken 30 years to get to this point. It really was a ghost town, there were maybe 4 or 5 people living here. It’s a big project and we take it one piece at a time.”
Ivey, a man of vision, says that there are no politics in Terlingua. There is no mayor, no city council. He says the citizens and businesses owners all have a say in how the town evolves, what businesses come in…and what doesn’t.
“We don’t allow politics here. The town runs itself. It’s a unique situation,” Ivey said.
Ivey said there are some rough living conditions such as no running water and no electricity because in some areas, those things are just not available. Some people choose to live off the grid and choose to do so in Terlingua.
“The people who live here, they don’t live here for a job they don’t live here for family. They live here because they want to. I don’t know of very many other communities that is completely comprised of people that want to live there and that’s why they’re there,” Ivey said.
*The content above is sponsored by Visit Big Bend.