Fea­tures

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who find their way to this land of en­chant­ment.

Lo­cated in far West Texas, the park is nes­tled in the bend of the Rio Grande River along the Tex­as­Mex­ico bor­der. It’s a long way from any­where, but get­ting there can be part of the fun. If you’re fly­ing, the clos­est air­port is Mid­land/ Odessa. From there, you’ll have about a 200-mile drive to the park’s east en­trance. Along the way, stop in Fort Stock­ton, if only to see Paisano Pete, one of the most rec­og­niz­able road­side at­trac­tions in the South­west. The town’s un­of­fi­cial mas­cot was erected in 1980 and de­clared the largest road­run­ner in the world at 11 feet tall and 22 feet long. “Pete” has been an en­dur­ing sym­bol of the com­mu­nity since his ar­rival and is one of the most pho­tographed “birds” in the world.

You also might want to stop for an overnight in Marathon, a quaint high desert town that serves as the gate­way to the park. Some folks make it their base as it’s cen­trally lo­cated to many of the area’s at­trac­tions. There are a va­ri­ety of lodg­ing op­tions in Marathon, in­clud­ing the renowned Gage Ho­tel, re­cently ranked the top ho­tel in Texas by Condé-nast. This dis­tinc­tive his­tor­i­cal prop­erty has been des­ig­nated a Texas trea­sure. Each room is finely ap­pointed with ar­ti­facts and au­then­tic fur­nish­ings from the di­verse cul­tures of West Texas. Din­ing at the ho­tel’s 12 Gage Restau­rant is a must. The award­win­ning es­tab­lish­ment of­fers Tex­as­in­spired spe­cial­ties with a gourmet twist. In the up­scale din­ing room, you’ll be sur­rounded by cow­boy chic dé­cor, while the out­door pa­tio with its fire­places and foun­tains pro­vides an in­ti­mate and ro­man­tic al fresco set­ting.

There’s also a full ser­vice spa, swim­ming pool and fit­ness cen­ter on site, as well as nearby Gage Gar­dens: 27 lush acres with lovely ponds, foun­tains, rose gar­den, vine­yard, fruit or­chard, na­tive land­scaped park, walk­ing trail and nine-hole putting green. Eve’s Gar­den is an­other unique lodg­ing op­tion in Marathon. This in­no­va­tive or­ganic B&B is con­structed with pa­per­crete, a light-weight, al­ter­na­tive build­ing ma­te­rial com­prised of a mix­ture of re­cy­cled pa­per, sand, clay and ce­ment. The place is a re­mark­able feat that’s been a la­bor of love for owner Kate Thayer, along with her son No­ble Baker and daugh­ter-in-law Alaine Berg, as well as for­mer con­struc­tion man­ager, Clyde Curry. Large in­door or­ganic gar­dens bloom with roses, bougainvil­lea and count­less flow­ers, while the seven dis­tinct, hand­crafted guest rooms open to a cen­tral cov­ered court­yard with a pond and tea room. Walls are painted in con­tem­po­rary Mex­i­can col­ors that give the space a bright, joy­ful aura, and lo­cal art­work is in­cor­po­rated within the decor. There’s even a so­lar-heated lap pool and a stargaz­ing deck to take in those mem­o­rable starry Texas nights.

For those who wish to stay right in Big Bend, there’s one lodge in the park, as well as sev­eral camp­grounds. The Chisos Moun­tain

Lodge, lo­cated in the Chisos Basin, is a well-sit­u­ated, full-ser­vice prop­erty. From there you can ac­cess many pop­u­lar hik­ing trails and ma­jor sites of in­ter­est. To ori­ent your­self, make sure to stop at the Pan­ther Junc­tion Vis­i­tor Cen­ter, where you’ll find friendly park rangers ready to an­swer all your ques­tions. They’ll steer you in the di­rec­tion of the per­fect hike. With over 200 miles of trail, it’s help­ful to get some guid­ance. There are also sev­eral in­ter­ac­tive ex­hibits at the cen­ter which pro­vide an over­view of ge­ol­ogy and nat­u­ral and cul­tural his­to­ries of the park, as well as an in­tro­duc­tory movie that does a com­mend­able job of show­cas­ing the park’s bold land­scape.

Chisos Moun­tains Basin, nes­tled among the stun­ning, cloud­kissed Chisos Moun­tain peaks, is in the heart of Big Bend. These spec­tac­u­larly eroded moun­tains rise nearly 8,000 feet and are akin to an is­land in the desert. If you have lim­ited time, take a walk along the Win­dow View Trail for easy ac­cess to moun­tain vis­tas and a mem­o­rable sun­set view. The Basin Loop is an­other short hike for an over­look of the basin area. For a hike with el­e­va­tion, take the Lost Mine trail. It’s of medium dis­tance and dif­fi­culty and pro­vides a max­i­mum of views, but no mine. The trail gets its name from a legend that sug­gests that a secret mine ex­isted in the area. Story has it that work­ers were blind­folded be­fore be­ing brought to the mine to work and so could not dis­close the lo­ca­tion of the mine. Later, they were sup­pos­edly killed by lo­cal Co­manche, and the mine closed up to hide its lo­ca­tion. As you’re hik­ing, you’ll spot Casa Grande Peak, and once you’re at the top, you’ll be re­warded with a mag­nif­i­cent vista of Ju­niper Canyon and the South Rim.

An­other high­light in the park is the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive. Big Bend’s ge­o­logic splen­dor is on dis­play via the many scenic over­looks and ex­hibits along this route. Of note is Cas­tolon Peak,with its mul­ti­ple lay­ers re­veal­ing mil­lions of years of vol­canic events, and Mule Ears, a for­ma­tion that per­fectly fits its name. Con­tinue the drive to famed Santa Elena Canyon,

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