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Marfa Bus Stop

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Marfa and the Big Bend Experience

Desert Beauty, Small Towns, Music, Mountains and Curiosities Abound

Marfa, Texas is a curious little desert town of 1,800 people in West Texas. The city website claims, “Tough to Get Here. Tougher to Explain. But Once You Get Here, You Get It.” Since I love back road trips, I’m not sure it is true about “tough to get here”, but it is more than a day’s trip from Boerne. There are two routes to Marfa: a 5.5-hour trip via Interstate 10 or a 7-hour trip traveling U.S. Highway 90. I suggest traveling one to Marfa and the other back home.

Marfa is known as an arts destination. The Chinati Foundation, founded by artist Donald Judd in 1994, displays huge indoor and outdoor installations on former Fort DA Russell army base with 34 buildings on 340 acres. The venue displays an “interplay of art, architecture and land – the austere beauty of the Chihuahuan Desert”.  The Ballroom Marfa arts center hosts exhibitions, concerts and the Marfa Myths cultural festival. Some say, “It’s more than just a place. It’s a state of mind. Where you’ll find tortillas and teepees, Warhol and beer gardens. Where wide-open spaces evoke meditation and mountains invite morning hikes. It’s live music, star gazing, film festivals, art galleries, mystery lights and small bites.”

Life in Marfa is slow-paced, with most shops closed on Mondays. You can still enjoy the peaceful desert surrounded by mountains, sprawling ranches, and stunning sunsets. There are two stories of origin for the City’s name. One states it was named by a surveyor’s wife after a character in “Brothers Karamazov” and an 1882 Galveston newspaper says it was named after a character in Jules Verne’s novel “Michael Strogoff, Courier of the Czar”. Whichever is true (or not), Marfa attracts creative spirits. It was founded on a railroad water stop in the 1880s. The City is surrounded by working cattle ranches and is a typical rural town with a main street, court house, churches and well-kept homes. The hotels are filled with movie star memories of the movie “Giant” and its actors: James Dean, Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor. There is eclectic lodging such as El Cosimco’s vintage trailers, scout tents, 22-foot Sioux teepees and campsites. There is the uber-modern Hotel St George and the Hotel Thunderbird. There are diverse eateries and on-going performances by musical groups. It is reported that in 1964 Apollo astronauts studied the volcanic geology of the area to identify similar structures and processes that may be found on the moon.

As a haven for the arts, music and fantastic scenery, Marfa and other towns in the Big Bend area host Viva Big Bend featuring fifty plus bands in Marfa, Alpine, Marathon, and Fort Davis in July; the Trans-Pecos Festival of Music and Love in September; the Marfa Light Fest in September; the Chinati Weekend in October; the Marfa 100 Bike Race also in October; the Alpine Annual Artwalk in November; the Marfa Invitational Art Fair in April; and the Marfa Myths Annual Festival featuring music, film, and visual arts in April.

Other sites to visit in the area include Big Bend National Park in the Chisos Basin of 801,000 acres with canyons in the high desert. Terlingua Ghost Town has the remnants of a mining town where you can hear live music on the porch of the Trading Company. The cemetery holds 400 souls of mostly middle-aged Hispanic men who were mercury miners for four decades. The graves are covered with cone-shaped dirt and rock mounds called relicaritos. Santa Elena Canyon has a thirty-mile route of the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive plus a 1.5-mile trail in the Terlingua Creek canyon. Balmorhea State Park boasts of a 1.75-acre pool fed by San Solomon Springs. Prada Marfa is north of town in Valentine.


 

  • Teepees at El Cosmico
  • Marfa's Main Street and Courthouse
  • Sun Rise at Big Bend Near Mexican Border
  • Sunset at Big Bend National Park
  • Doorway in Marfa
  • Violet Purple Flower Cholla Cactus
  • Marfa Bus Stop