Tumbleweed Smith
Tumbleweed Smith

The Texas Mountain Country has had one of its most beautiful blooming seasons. Bluebonnets started showing in January. The ocotillo was bright red.

The prickly pear came later but showed off its yellows, pinks and purples. I was there in mid-April, just past the height of the bloom, but pale bluebonnets almost the color of lilac lined the highway from Fort Stockton to Marathon.

I spent Tuesday night in the historic Gage hotel. Before dinner I toured the Gage Gardens, a botanical masterpiece in a dry country. Wednesday morning I saw the whimsical Eve’s Garden, a bed and breakfast. Next I visited with Danny Self, who has the Marathon Motel. A resident astronomer lives there and gives star parties every night, weather permitting. A building on the premises holds 6 sophisticated telescopes. The owners might be in Tennessee or Florida, but when the stars are out, the building’s roof opens and they can see the Texas stars on their computers. The motel also has a trained chef that serves paella on Sundays.

Wednesday afternoon I went to the Big Bend National Park and interviewed Bob Krumenaker, the new superintendent. He is fascinated that so few Texans know about the Texas Mountain Country and are surprised when they come. From the park I went to Terlingua, once famous for mining mercury. Now it’s called Far West Austin and is increasing in population. Land prices have exploded. After a delicious meal of chalupas at La Kiva, I spent the night in Bill Ivey’s Teacher’s House, one of his many properties where guests can spend the night. He told me about restoring the Perry Mansion, where the mine owner lived. We talked in a room that once held a Gatling gun, for protection against raids from Pancho Villa. That night the Terlingua moon provided a gigantic light in the sky and softened the little ghost town.

Thursday morning I interviewed Mimi Webb Miller, who among other things is a casting director for movies and television commercials. She is an entrepreneur who owns a motel, a couple of eating establishments and a ranch in Mexico. I also interviewed Ring Huggins, who has a rock shop called Many Stones. The big treat was getting to meet Carolyn Ohl at her bird sanctuary on the Terlingua Ranch.

From Terlingua I went to the Lajitas resort, most famous for its golf course, which has driving tees on top of mesas. Golfers hit balls onto the fairways and greens 200 feet below. The resort also offers zip lining, shooting several types of weapons, horseback riding, paddle boarding on the Rio Grande, fishing, hunting, shopping and relaxing. The Palo Verde trees were in full blossom and yellow leaves shimmered in the breeze. I spent a restful night in one of the well-appointed rooms, which had a saddle and a rope in it.

Friday morning I visited with Nate Gold, superintendent of the Big Bend Ranch State Park, the largest in the state park system. All other state parks could fit inside the BBRSP. It is rugged country. RVs are discouraged. My trip was from Tuesday afternoon until Friday noon. You can do a lot in a few days in the mountains.