After Fort Davis, we headed south to Terlingua, a "ghost town" near Big Bend National Park. The drive to Terlingua through the Chihuahuan Desert region on 118 was unexpectedly gorgeous. I'm so used to driving from point A to point B in Texas not bothering to look through the side windows because the view from the roads and highways connecting Austin to Houston or Austin to Dallas is so bland. West Texas was surprisingly more beautiful than I ever imagined.
Cathedral Mountain outside of Alpine, TX
When we were at the Star Party at the McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis, the guide mentioned that they had a snowstorm in early May of this year. We thought that was outrageous and didn't think twice about it until I suddenly had to hit the brakes in the middle of the desert because of the snow left over from the said storm! This was mid-May!
Snow in mid-May on 118 towards Terlingua!
We made reservations with Far Flung Outdoor Center for a 2-day river & overnight camping trip through Santa Elena Canyon for the following day. Terlingua was our very last hope for running water and a good night's rest in a comfy shelter. I originally planned on just staying at one of the handful of motels in town, but fortunately, I came upon the Ten Bits Ranch website through Tripadvisor. Believe me. You do not want to pass up a chance to stay at Ten Bits Ranch. It was a truly unique experience! Jennifer, the owner, and I communicated by email prior to the trip. Just to give you an idea, when I asked her for the address or concrete directions to Ten Bits prior to the trip, she said that neither GPS nor cell phones will work out there. If I get lost, I would have to stop by a specific phone booth a couple miles before the signless and unpaved North County Road off of 118. Thankfully, North County Road was easier to find than the lone phone booth (we saw a phone booth sign, but absolutely no phone booth in sight!). Part of Ten Bits's beauty is in its seclusion.
The car took a beating on the windy, rocky North County Road as we drove up to the property at 3,200 ft, but the view was worth it.
View from North County Road on the Way Up to Ten Bits Ranch
Ten Bits Ranch just happens to be situated at what must be the most beautiful spot around Terlingua. The mountain formations are all big and majestic in the Big Bend area, but the mountain scenery at Ten Bits is more varied. I especially love the occasional skinny rock formations surrounding the property.
Ten Bits Ranch
Jennifer and Steve built the ranch with old Western movie sets in mind. Each building contributes to the theme of an Old West town, "Chimney Rock." There are 4 guest houses: the Bank, Gunsmith, Schoolhouse, and the General Store. We were some lucky bandits in the Bank!
Ten Bits Ranch
Gunsmith; Schoolhouse and Sophie, the Great Dane
The Bank-Our Cabin in the Badlands!
We decided to drive into Terlingua in the early evening for dinner so that we would be able to return to our cabin before sunset. Ten Bits is around 20 minutes outside of Terlingua. There are no street lights in or outside of Terlingua, and North County Road is a rough ride in daylight and guarantees to be an even tougher drive by nightfall.
I read rave reviews about Starlight Theatre, and was intrigued by their menu posted online. It's located right around the old ghost town area. The one thing I wasn't able to do although it was in my itinerary was tour the ghost town. You can get a $1 ghost town self-guided tour map right next door to Starlight and easily walk to all the abandoned buildings. However, we were short on time and had to get back to Ten Bits before sunset and there were quite a few drunks around the abandoned buildings and even outside of Starlight.
Odd Mushroom Cloud
Race Against the Sun-Still Not on North County Road
By the way, Sophie, the Great Dane of Ten Bits Ranch, is one of the sweetest dogs I've ever encountered. I miss you, Sophie!
Sophie Eyeing my Bagel