Invariably in our cross-country journeys, we find ourselves at the border of Texas. We steel ourselves for the crossing, knowing that it will be DAYS before we see another state. There is a lot we like about Texas, but there are parts that are interminable, particularly the flat, barren drive through the panhandle of the northwest. Ranching/cotton fields/oil derricks/wind turbines pretty much sums it up.
It’s no Santa Fe, but we generally discover interesting things along the way; some things pan out more successfully than others.
Sumner Lake State Park, Fort Sumner, NM
It’s not in Texas, but judging by the terrain, it might as well be. We typically like state parks, and at 150 miles from Santa Fe, it was a good stopping place. We were the only people camping there, which was a little weird. When dusk fell and the hordes of mosquitoes and flies appeared, we understood why. Nonetheless, our view was gorgeous, and we took a nice hike on the lakeshore in the evening at sunset and again in the morning.
Muleshoe Wildlife Refuge, Muleshoe, Texas
We visited this refuge 10 years ago and enjoyed a magical sunrise watching thousands of sandhill cranes awaken, rustle around, and with haunting cries, gracefully take to the sky. We’ve wanted to return ever since. Eric called to make sure the cranes had arrived for the fall and was told there were 2500 cranes on the refuge. Not a huge number, but worth the trip. But evidently, the cranes decided that day to go elsewhere. We found less than two-dozen, almost out of binocular range. But the sunset was glorious, and we camped on the refuge—again, we were the ONLY people there.
San Angelo, Texas
If you were to guess where the first North American International Water Lily Garden is located, I’ll bet none of you would say, “San Angelo, Texas!” We certainly never expected such a tropical delight in the midst of hot, arid west central Texas ranching country. A cactus garden, maybe.
But there it was—six glorious pools filled with exotically beautiful plants—with fanciful names like Pink Starlet, Blue Cloud, and Wedding Dress. The most amazing of all were the enormous (several feet in diameter) lily pads of the night-blooming Victoria, native to the Amazon.
Other unexpected treasures of San Angelo include the River Walk, a gorgeous four-mile meander along the Concho River, replete with beautiful parks, waterfalls and fountains, and adorned with an assortment of art pieces—including a mosaic tile covered VW Beetle and a mosaic pick-up truck.
It’s an easy walk to historic Concho Avenue (with interesting and bizarre shops), the Water Lily Garden, and the Museum of Fine Art, where $2 gets you in to view their selection of contemporary American ceramics—it was a very small museum, much to Eric’s relief.
And finally, there’s the Chicken Farm Art Ranch, a chicken ranch that hatched an artist’s co-op in the early 1970’s. The first Saturday of every month is an open house, with the artists displaying their creations, local country/bluegrass music (including the Chicken Pickers), and art classes.
And that gets us halfway through Texas.