Marfa to Terlingua—Includes the Big Day! or The Route of Road Repair

I left the Marfa Lights viewing area just at dawn and headed south on Texas 67 toward the border town of Presidio. 67 is a simple country road with windmills scattered on the bases of hillsides. The scenery is beautiful—rolling hills of golds and greens, a lovely twisty road, and mountains as a backdrop in every direction. But not enough pulloffs for viewing and photos.

Two road repair areas held me up briefly, but in all, it was a loverly drive.

For some reason, in my mind Presidio was a little semi-ghost town, maybe a population of a few hundred. I envisioned collapsed roofs and falling-down, crumbled adobe structures.


Imagine my surprise when I found a small bustling town of about 3300 people. I learned there was a coffeehouse in the downtown area and, of course, headed right there.

Town was busy, but the lone coffeehouse was closed. A woman on the street said it was always closed. There went my only chance at a good cup of coffee.


On to Texas 170, the road to Terlingua, a road often called the most scenic in Texas. That claim gets no argument from me.

The views before, after, and in the middle of each curve begged me to shift my eyes from the road. And there must have been at least two hundred curves or twists in the sixty-two mile drive. Google told me it would take about an hour and half. Closer to two and a half for me.

Even the straightaways, which were few and often lasted only about a quarter of a mile, were stunning. But as on other routes, not enough pulloffs, and the those that existed weren’t near the view I’d wanted to capture. Pullovers! I want more pullovers!


Sadly, the several road repair stops never offered much of a view.

The journey took me quite close to the Río Grande, sometimes coming withing about ten feet of the river.

I took it slowly, stopping just to gaze around when I’d (finally) find a pullover. I saw a number of camping areas along the way, some close to the road and others further away. No services, just a place to stop and spend a few days hiking and taking in the beauty.

In a few hours, I reached the town of Lajitas. Once a booming town and location of a major border crossing, when area mines closed, Lajutas dwindled to just four residents by the early 1970s.

That’s when a Houston corporation bought it, restored what buildings it could, and created a golf resort.

Yes, it’s true. In the middle of wild rugged mountains, a small valley on the Río Grande is now a golf resort with a private airport.

Lajitas, Texas: A Big Bend Country Ghost Town (Turned Resort)

The irony of it all is not lost on me. My guess is the resort is filled with people who won’t go to “scary” Mexico, in general support a border wall, and under almost any other circumstances, would never go to a small border town. But they fly in to Lajitas, golf, and spend the winter in a beautiful area with daytime temperatures in the seventies.

And like the rest of this route, there is no border wall. A wall would destroy the wild beauty. As one who lives just a few blocks from a thirty-foot wall, I can’t tell you the delight I found in driving so many border miles of unspoiled, intense beauty.

I reached Terlingua near 1:00 and splurged on lunch at DB’s Rustic Inn BBQ. I then wandered town and found a $2 shower. Wow! I settled myself in the shade of an old porch in the ruins of the Terlingua ghost town to read and write a bit.

I camped in a quiet spot, had some great coffee at Espresso y Poco Mas, and headed for Big Bend.

My senior pass I bought years ago got me into the park free. I didn’t wander but headed right for Boquillas Crossing.

Yay!! Crossing to Mexico by rowboat had been the impetus for this entire trip. I got to Boquillas Crossing and entered the Customs building where a Park Service employee verified that I had a passport. Then, down the path to the river.

To Mexico, where I then rode a burro into town!

I had a nice lunch and returned to the US where I had to go into the Customs building again. A Park Service employee took my passport and held it up to a computer screen where its image was sent to a human somewhere else. The Park Service man returned my card and I approached the screen. A bored, disembodied voice asked if I had anything to declare. When I responded that I didn’t, he sent me on my way.

What a bizarre re-entry to the US!

From there, I searched for a (free) place to spend the night, but everything was either taken or w-a-y down a bumpy dirt road. Spring break. What did I expect?

So I headed out of Big Bend, my mission to cross the Río Grande accomplished, and headed to Sanderson for a visit with another woman who has roamed the country. She landed on my property at the beginning of the Covid shutdown and was basically stuck there for a few months. But at least she had a full van she could stand up in! I’m in my RAV.

An aside: As I sat in the shade in Terlingua Ghost Town and wrote, a couple walked by. The woman waved. Just then her husband got a call and wandered the other direction to talk. The woman and I chatted awhile, exchanging bits of info.

We found we were on a similar route. I then mentioned I was from Bisbee. “Bisbee! We were there a few weeks ago for the Vulture Festival!”

I told her I’d been there also. We laughed and kept chatting. She said they were headed to Big Bend next and planned to take the little rowboat across the Río Grande the next day. I laughed again and told her I had plans to do the same thing.

And guess who I ran into in Boquillas the next day! By the time we’d talked in Boquillas, I had an invitation to their home in northern New York. And then we found we were both headed to Texas Hill Country! And we laughed again realizing they live just a few blocks from the northern border while I live a few blocks from the southern.

To finish, here’s the hardware store in Sanderson.

More soon!

Published by Emilie

I'm a retired instructor from a community college where I taught Developmental English and Reading as well as English as a Second Language. I'm also now a published author of a bilingual children's book entitled. Luisa the Green Sea Turtle - Luisa la Tortuga Verde del Mar. It's available from me, through Amazon, and is in a few (more and more each day!) bookstores.

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  1. To praise this travel story is easy because it brings back memories of a country I, we, Bertie, Lise, Clay and I have loved. Big Bend, the Chisos, Terlingua, so remote and we’d, natural, yet easy to get to. Thanks

      1. Last words should read:

        “. . . So remote and wild and easy to get to . . . “

        Sorry for not proof reading better. 





        Sent from my iPhone


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  2. Great informal travel writing! I enjoyed it. My ex-wife and I spent some time at Big Bend about forty years ago. We car-camped in the Grapevine Hills. That was my first exposure to the marvelously transparent atmosphere of the High Desert.

  3. Stuck as I am in an old folks’ home in rainy Oregon, I love the freedom to roam the beautiful desert that you provide! I’m still wondering who done it in the fine mystery you started when we were in a writing group a decade or more ago. You get more beautiful and more adventurous with age! Sige!

  4. Lisa and I went rafting on the Rio Grande along there. The water was so shallow we drug the raft through the Santa Elena canyon. If there’s water I highly recommend it.

  5. I finally was able to sit down and read your blog, and I am enjoying your travels. The pictures make me homesick for the Southwest. The adventure of a lifetime, yes? I’ll write more soon in a personal message; meanwhile, I just wanted to wish you continued safe and happy trails, and to tell you I look forward to your sharing of your travels.

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