A CannonRide Around the Bend (Big Bend Region)

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Cannonshot, Mar 4, 2012.

  1. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Took a ride up Dagger Flats Road.
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    There is an interesting array of desert plants along this road.
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    The Chihuahuan Desert is the second largest desert in North America. Most of it is in Mexico. Rainfall averages 10 inches or less per year most of which comes in July and August.
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    Lechuguilla or "shin dagger". These stout leaves can produce some nasty punctures.
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    Creosote bush. Camels would eat these when other animals wouldn't. Leaves in the desert are bad for a plant (water loss) so these have a protective covering to preserve water.
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    Ocotillo. Most of the time this thing is thorny stalks. In good times it grows small leaves and loses them when water is scarce.
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    Strawberry Pitaya.
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    Prickly Pear Cactus. Almost every state in the US has some species of prickly pear.
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    Texas Persimmon. This variety produces sweet fruit and the black juice is used in drying leather.
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    Torrey Yucca. The old leaves protect the trunk.
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    I mentioned candelilla wax production. It comes from this candelilla plant.
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    Candelilla stores water in the stems which are protected by a covering of wax. People would harvest the plant and then remove the wax by heating the material in a mixture of water and sulfuric acid. The wax is heavy and is useful for chewing gum, cosmetics, car wax, shoe polish, and other products.
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    Giant Dagger Yucca
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    Back in 1914 a guy and his two sons were herding goats on Dagger Flats. The old man went to town to get supplies. He hired a young fellow he found in Marathon to help out with the extra work at kidding time. The kid arrived in Marathon on a freight train and was pretty much a hobo.
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    When they got back to camp at Dagger Tank they found the kid wasn't much of a worker. Instead of work., the kid wanted to read wild west novels.
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    The men were making dinner when they heard the action on a Winchester rifle cycle. One herder named Bill turned to see the boy they hired shoot him. The bullet tore up two ribs and then smashed his jawbone. Another herder rushed the boy to get the gun and he was shot in the head and killed. The old man that hired the boy was shot and killed whiled trying to get up out of a chair.
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    Though wounded, Bill was able to flee into the darkness. He made it about five miles out to the road when he met some Mexican boys that were freighting who took him to Bone Spring. From Bone Spring Bill continued on toward another ranch. Eventually he ran into a rancher who took him to Marathon. Bill told the rancher he had traveled about 30 miles trying to get help and that he only had one drink of water. Twenty eight hours after being shot Bill arrived in Marathon.
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    The doctor in Marathon put Bill on a train to El Paso but said he thought Bill wasn't going to make it. He did and was still going strong about 40 years later.
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    The boy thought he had killed all three of the men so he cooked up a story about how they were attacked by Mexican bandits and how he survived.
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    Some think the kid got some ideas from reading those novels. In the end he was declared insane and put in a nut house in his home state of Illinois.
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    Some time later, the kid escaped from the Illinois facility and killed two more men without cause. He was eventually executed.
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  2. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Old Ore Road (North to South)
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    The Old Ore Road was used for hauling lead, zinc, and silver ore from the Boquillas area mines to the railroad in Marathon. Part of it still exists in a rugged condition. We are riding a segment that is around 27 miles long and primitive.
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    An early morning run is recommended for photographers.
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    The road is rocky.
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    There are some soft spots in the crossings.
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    Some nice views along the way.
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    The spring is said to be pretty reliable.
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    Roy's Peak campsite.
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    During WWI, the Army ran a telephone line through this canyon.
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    It connected Stillwell Crossing with La Noria.
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    A pouroff at Alto Relfex.
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    Needs a rainstorm to function.
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  3. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Continuing south on the Old Ore Road.
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    Willow Tank is a good wildlife watching spot as there is a spring there. Tanks are dugouts that ranchers put in to hold water for cattle.
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    The Ernst Basin campsite is at the top of a segment of the original ore road. The original road is open to hiking.
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    Along this stretch you cross an old road to the west that heads over to the old Joe Loftin place. The road is closed so it is a walk to the ruins. In 1933 Loftin was convicted of killing Jose de Leon, the guy whose grave is along this road.
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    There are some tinajas that hold water along this creek.
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    La Noria used to be a substantial community. Little is left now.
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    Max Ernst started the development in 1898. It was a farming community for over 30 years. Ernst ran a post office, store, and was justice of the peace here. In 1908 he was coming back from a visit to Mexico after checking on a mail order fraud case when he was shot in the back while riding through Ernst Gap (coincidence?). He died a day later. It is believed that the shooter was a hired to kill him. No one was convicted.
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    The Ernst Tinaja is off to the east a bit. You can hike to it. It is a pretty significant tinaja. I guess it is deep enough that it is difficult to get out of. Some soldiers installed a metal ring to use to get in and out when they swam there. I lion got in it once and couldn't get out as did an assortment of other animals.
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    Part of the trail to hike up there.
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    The grave of Jose de Leon (murdered by Joe Loftin) is nearby.
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    Candelilla plants at this campsite.
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    The end of the Old Ore Road where it meets the paved road to Rio Grande Village.
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  4. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Went back and added to the Black Gap Road segment of this report that on March 12, rangers investigated a report of a truck broken down on Black Gap Road. When they investigated, they found a truck laden with 2,179 pounds of marihuana. The smugglers abandoned the truck and hoofed it back to Mexico.

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  5. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Part one of the Boquillas/Rio Grande Village area.
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    Just south of Old Ore Road is a tunnel that takes the place of the old Dead Man's Curve that went around the tunnel hill to the right. This is where Max Ernst was shot in the back with a .44 on his way back from investigating some mail fraud.
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    Lots of warnings not to buy stuff.
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    This was originally built as a US Customs House. For a while it was a residence. Now researchers stay there.
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    Some of that stuff you aren't supposed to buy.
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    Taped over warning sign telling people not to buy.
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    I watched one of these guys ride back to Mexico from the US side.
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    From 1915-1919 an aerial tramway hauled ore from a mine in Mexico six miles into Ernst Canyon.
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    90 buckets, 7 tons per hour.
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    After the tram ride, the ore was hauled by wagon about 85 miles to the railroad on the ore road.
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    You can hike a trail to where this tram house once was.
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    The same day Glenn Spring got hit by bandits, Boquillas got hit as well. The bandits took their time stealing stuff from the mines and stores on both sides of the river. They took so much stuff that they had to steal a truck from the mine to haul it in.
    The bandits took a couple of hostages along to drive the truck as well. The hostages were clever and dogged behind the bandit horse column until they claimed to overheat the truck and then pretended to get it stuck. Convincing the bandit guards (included a Mexican Lieutenant Colonel) that they needed to push, the hostages surprised the bandits by backing over them and taking their weapons. They delivered the bandits that had previously held them to the Sheriff on the US side.

    In the mean time, the US Army was called to chase the bandits down in Mexico. They showed up with horses and cars. To make a long story short, they chased around in Mexico, with a film crew in tow, and ended up getting back much of the loot.

    Part of the tram route.
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    If you hike into the canyon you will see some of these ancient grinding holes where grain was ground over hundreds of years.
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    Boquillas is across the river. It suffered quite heavily once the border crossing was closed in 2002.
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    The good news is that we will open an unmanned border crossing next month that will allow about 15-20K visitors to go to Boquillas MX each year to buy tacos and trinkets. Huge economic boon to the town. It will also allow some Mexicans to come to the store at Boquillas instead of taking a 240 mile alternate route through Ojinaga. This will cost the US government about $220K per year to maintain this crossing - about $15 per crossing.
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    This store used to be on the US side years ago. If a rancher needed Mexican laborers (illegal) he could go to the store and leave word. The store owner was said to have acted as an agent to get work for people. By the time you left the store, there would be the manpower you needed in the back of your truck.
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    Texas Rangers at Boquillas (US).
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    This is the approximately $3.5 M border station under construction. It will bring about 8 additional border patrol agents to live in the park. Some people worry about smuggling because the station is unmanned (cameras and scanners). [​IMG]

    Groundbreaking.
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    Boquillas MX to the left, river in the middle, border station to the right.
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    Entrance to the border station.
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  6. MizzouRider

    MizzouRider Long timer Supporter

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    I'm totally in awe on the amount of time and effort you've put into this RR, and the amount of research you did.
    It's great reading. The pics, maps, etc are great.
    Thank you..:clap:clap:clap:clap
  7. philipbarrett

    philipbarrett Been here awhile Supporter

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    It's worth repeating - fantastic ride report. You should host a GPS class, I'd be there for sure!
  8. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    More on the B/RGV area.
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    Besides having a store and gas, there is a nice campground in Rio Grande Village.
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    The park advises you to keep things buttoned up unless you want visitors.
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    Rio Grande
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    Before so much water was diverted from the Rio Grande, farming in the bottom lands was quite popular. Things like melons, corn, and cotton could be grown. This 1920s adobe house is from the farming days.
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    Visitor station at RGV.
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    On this side of the tunnel there is a nice overlook off to the left.
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    When you head down toward the Hot Springs, the road splits off into two single lanes that hug the sides of a wash.
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    Years ago the site of the hot springs was a health spa. They advertised they could cure a bunch of stuff. For a while the site had to be abandoned, around 1916, due to a revolution in Mexico.
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    Once back in operation, they developed the place a little more by putting in a store and a motor court.
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    Like other stores along the river, the place became a trading center for people from Mexico who would travel long distances to get here.
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    To get to the hot springs, you have to hike a little less than a half-mile to the old spring house site.
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    At the time I was there, I was pretty hot and only wanted to get some cooling air moving by riding the bike. Hiking a half-mile to a hot spring was not appealing at that moment. I think that it would be great another time though.
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    For those that haven't seen it already, here is a picture of the old foundation and hot spring nestled next to the Rio Grande.
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    An aerial of the site. You would hike along to the east to reach the old foundation.
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    Back out on the pavement, this bridge cross Tornillo Creek. One may wonder why there is such a large bridge there. When it rains, things get wild. After a storm in 1996, water was lapping over the top of this bridge.
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    This thing empties out about a mile down near the hot spring.
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    Looking toward the Chisos which are a handy reference landmark from most places in the park.
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  9. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Thanks WWMC! I'm trying to make it a little easier for someone to plan their own trip to the Big Bend region while sharing a few stories that might allow them to get a little more out of it. Hopefully this will encourage a few more people to explore in the area. Hope I didn't scare too many away with the smuggling stories.

    Thanks Phil! I'm glad you are enjoying the report. I do put on a GPS class from time to time to encourage more people to record and share tracks which can contibute to a larger ride catalog in our community.
  10. CosmicWally

    CosmicWally n00b

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    Cannonshot,

    Your RR is fantastic and appreciate the great photos accompanied by the history lesson. Good reminder that the Texas/Mexico borderlands have ALWAYS been violent...then AND now. Keep up the good work!http://d26ya5yqg8yyvs.cloudfront.net/clap.gif
  11. bomose

    bomose Long timer

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    When my wife and I were at the Hot Springs a few years ago, there were some Mexicans who would come halfway across the river and try to entice us to buy some wares. I had been advized that the Rangers could arrest me if I traded with them, so I didn't. Sure enough, I looked around and saw a Ranger on a hilltop with binoculars. It is a beautiful setting, though!
  12. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Neat story! I see the park service also puts out some warnings about theft in some of the parking areas along the border including the one at Hot Springs. They advise you to keep things locked up with anything of value stored out of sight. That can be difficult to do on a bike sometimes.
  13. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Heading north toward Marathon.
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    Santiago Peak is pretty prominent in this area. It started as a lump of magma forced up beneath the ground. Erosion over the years has exposed the lump which is now a mountain. Some say it is named after a guy named Santiago who was killed by Apaches when he tried to recover some horses they stole from him. Others say it is named for Don Santiago who was Chief of the Chisos Indians. Santiago surrendered to General Juan de Retana after an all day battle. Few people know that there was actually a meeting convened to properly name landmarks in the area many years ago.
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    What is most interesting about Santiago Peak is that there was a sucker city platted out on the flat top of the mountain back in 1910. It was called Progress City.
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    A couple of guys filed a plat with the county that laid out 6,400 lots that sold at varying prices. Some of the lots were only 12' wide. Most single lots sold for $1.50 each, but if you wanted two adjoining lots the price was $11.50. Thousands of lots were sold. The plat showed stuff reserved for a city hall and the like.
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    The only residents were eagles and wild burros. There were not trails up there. There was a big grand jury investigation that exposed the scam, but the promoters never got charged. The bad publicity sort of ended future sales. Perhaps those buyers should have googled up the aerial imagery before making their purchases. The land office was over 400 miles away making it difficult to get a clear picture of things back in 1910.

    The county carried this plat for many years. Since it was costing the county money to deal with the tax issues, etc, they finally just cleared the books of the whole Progress City scam.
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    At first I thought these were some of those ridges formed when magma forces up between rocks (like we saw in BBNP). I guess they are folds of rock instead.
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    You'll hit one of those border patrol inspection stations along this route.
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  14. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Thanks Wally! Nice to hear that you find it all interesting - I sure did. I guess you make a good point about the historical violence along the border. Good thing those incidents don't come up often enough to keep people from enjoying this wonderful area.
  15. Pantah

    Pantah Jiggy Dog Fan from Scottsdale Supporter

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    Those rock folds pictured in your last installment. What are rock folds, and is the wall at Shiprock the same thing?

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    Thanks
  16. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    I think that Shiprock is igenous. The ridges are made up of dikes of magma from which other material has eroded away. Those dikes are similar to the ones we saw over on Ross Maxwell.

    I think that folds are formed from a flat layer of sedimentary rock that gets reshaped under great pressure. The exposed rocky ridges we see are the hinges of the folds.

    But, I'm no geology guy . . . :D

    UWSP

    Wiki
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  17. The Toad

    The Toad on the go since...wait. where am I ?

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    Great RR and Great PICs :thumb:thumb


    -Brian
  18. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Marathon is a town of about 450 people. I think it is the second largest in the county.
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    Someone once observed that Marathon looked like an old saddle blanket laid out on the desert to dry in the sun.
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    It started out as a water stop when the railroad came through in 1881-1882.
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    It was founded by an old sea captain.
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    Ore from the mines down Boquillas way was hauled up here to the railroad via wagons.
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    Cattle were shipped from here for many years.
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    At one time the town had a rubber factory that made rubber from the desert guayule plants. Over harvesting and the low cost of tropical rubber killed that off.
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    Been a while since this place pumped gas.
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    A well to do rancher built this place as a ranch headquarters and as a place for guests to stay.
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    There is a little more to the Gage Hotel now.
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    Old stock pens along the railroad tracks.
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    I think this building is part of the Gage Hotel. I know they use the fitness center. Part of the rest of the building has a large nicely finished dance floor for weddings and such.
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    The town had a few different jails. At first they just chained you to a windmill downtown. After a few colorful escapes from other facilities, they opted to build this fine structure.
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    When they replaced the cells in the Alpine jail, they sent the old ones over here.
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    I see that the Sheriff uses a satellite link. Back in 1911 troops were sent here because of the Mexican Revolution. Captain Douglas MacArthur's company was the first to arrive in Marathon. There was a special order to move troops into Texas to aid civil authorities in maintaining order. MacArthur's unit was replaced by troops led by Lieutenant George S. Patton. By the way, Patton launched the very first US Army assault using armored vehicles on a ranch near San Miguelito, Mexico, as a result of this conflict which resulted in a Villista General (and others) being killed.
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    Rugged looking town once you get into the neighborhoods.
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    Looking over toward Santiago Peak and Progress City.
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    Swung through the cemetery to look around.
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    Different culture. Brightly decorated graves.
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    Back in 1879 we were still having problems with indian raids. These kept the area from developing more substantially. The Army dropped in Camp Pena Colorado on a water source right on the commanche trail.
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    The site of the installation, a cantonement that was not fortified, is now a nice day park.
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    The place had some buildings, corrals, and a granary, but usually most of the troops were on out patrols.
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    Blocking a water source on the war trail.
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    Before the railroad came through and Marathon came into being, some people settled around the post since it was a secure spot. These cowboys are enjoying the spring.
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    The mission of the post was to protect the area and the developing railroad and to control a strategic water supply.
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    The post lasted until 1893 until it was no longer required.
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  19. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Well, I used my 10,000 post to finish off this Big Bend area ride report.

    Hopefully it will prove useful to others that might have an interest in visiting the area.

    If nothing else, I hope it proved to be entertaining to at least a few folks.

    I'll put a post here with a link to a related GPX file that people can download to use in their planning or on a ride. I'll get to that in a day or two once I get it polished up.

    I'm no Big Bend expert, but I'll be happy to answer questions or offer additional information if I can.

    Many thanks for taking an interest in this report and riding along! :D
    scarysharkface likes this.
  20. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Thank you Brian! Glad you found it entertaining.