December 31, 2012

Home again!

I know I need to upload pics, but thought I'd give an overview without them. Hopefully I'll add pictures in the next couple of days.

Big Bend was beautiful.

Restful. Lovely. Fun. Quiet. (NO lizards. No scorpions. No snakes. Thank goodness for winter! In fact, outside our cabin, we heard no sounds AT. ALL.) I'd found the cabin on line before there were any reviews. Overall, we loved the cabin itself. It was isolated, yet cozy. If Brex cried in the middle of the night, there was no one to hear. He loved to totter around outside the cabin and find the biggest possible rock he could heft.

At night we could put him down in his portable bed in the shared bedroom, shut the door and then sit in the living room next to a gas fire. We'd turn out the lights and eat dinner looking out floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the rising moon. As we watched Orion trail the moon higher in the sky, we'd talk or just look. We let the peace outside saturate us inside.

The first night, Brex woke up scared at 4 AM. I finally got him back to sleep and then went outside to look at the stars. The moon had set so the whole sky blazed with more stars than I've ever seen; I could barely make out the Milky Way because all of them were so bright. Poor Jrex, the moon set later and later each night, so he never got to see the sky without the moon.

The only real downside to that cabin was it took an hour and a half just to get to a trail in Big Bend. On the other hand, it was a lovely drive so we didn't mind too much. The last 20 minutes to the cabin were dirt and gravel roads, so it felt like an adventure each time. If we go again, we'll likely try to leave the dog in a kennel and stay in the lodge (or a cabin) inside the national park.

The two hikes we did were each five miles or less. One was through grassy meadows and down a canyon to a view called "The Window" where you could look down and out across the valley. The second day we did "Lost Mine" which climbed up 1000 feet of switchbacks to a rocky outcropping with beautiful views in all directions.

The third day (Christmas), Brex and I rested and played in the cabin while Jrex did a solo hike for a few hours. Then I made dinner and Jrex gave me a lovely card. That was it for our big Christmas celebration, but for us, it felt just right.

Marfa was a disaster.

Perhaps it was the rave reviews that set us up for disappointment. Perhaps it was the fact that many of the restaurants closed for the holidays. We suspect, however, that it's not a place to be with a toddler. Perhaps when Brex is eight or older it would be worth trying again.

In reality, the only things to do in Marfa are go look at Donald Judd art/installations/architecture, or go out to eat. Yet the only place we ate that had even one high chair was a bar. The only place with a changing table was the gas station (we mostly changed him in the back of the car). Brex woke at 6 AM both mornings we were there. The earliest place we'd found for breakfast said it was open at 8:30. We walked the three blocks in 32-degree weather and got there at 8:30. By 8:45 we gave up and went back to Squeeze (where we'd eaten the day before. So-so food. We'd had no desire to go back). No high chairs. Crowded. Full of people who don't smile at children.

Lunch at the famous Food Shark food truck. Yes, it was the best falafel I've ever had. Yes, the shrimp gumbo was delicious. Waiting in 40-degree weather for 45-minutes AFTER placing the order? Not so much. We tried to go to the famous hipster bookstore while we waited. It looked like they had an amazing selection, but once inside, we could smell what we'd been too numb to notice. No changing table meant we had to walk back to our car to change him, and by then the food was almost ready.

We'd thought to redeem the afternoon by visiting the modern art installations at The Chinati Foundation. Unfortunately the building labeled "Chinati Foundation" in town turned out to be different than the one outside of town which WAS open from 2-4 pm. Sigh. We gave up and tried to get Brex to take a nap. No go. We did to pizza take out from The Pizza Foundation (we had to order the pizza two hours ahead). It's a small town, there aren't that many people that can mob you, could you people figure out some better operation models so that these stupid hoops don't exist!!!??

Our last hope for foodie heaven was a local restaurant that was supposed to open at 8 AM for breakfast. This time we called ahead at 8 AM only to find they opened at 9. Fuggedabatit. We grabbed burritos at the gas station and shook the dust off our feet.

As we drove home, we passed Ft. Davis. It looked much less pretentious, but had an historic fort to tour, a walkable 'downtown' area and was a close drive to a mountain top observatory. Our experience in Marfa reconfirmed that as much as we enjoy good food, in the end we like to feel we got a great deal, and nothing in Marfa was cheap, or easy. Next time? Big Bend Lodge with a day or two in Ft. Davis on the way in.


Lori M. said...

Wow, this is my parents' home stomping ground. They're from Alpine, although my Dad spent some time in Ft. Davis as a kid, and they've both always loved Big Bend. I'll have to tell them that Marfa has become a hipster enclave; when they were kids, in the 50s, I think it was very Last Picture Show.

Glad you all made it back in one piece - it's HARD traveling with little people. See you on FB! :)

Jack Towe said...

Did Brex enjoy the drive, as well as the arrivals?

Marfa sounds like a real downer at any age, but Ft. Davis sounds like a joyous discovery.

I'm glad that Big Bend was even more than you expected, and except for Marfa, it was a safe and happy trip.