Our First Year at Dos Arbolitos

As the year draws to a close, it’s hard to believe that our journey to develop our little off-grid property in the Big Bend Valley section of Terlingua Ranch started only ten months ago. We still can’t believe that we own a few acres situated right smack in the middle of some of the most amazing views in Texas.
The really cool thing is that all of the views of the distant mesas and mountains, of the magnificent sunrises and indescribable sunsets, and of the starry, starry nights are all free of charge. Every time we visit our little place we still shake our heads in awe as we breathe in the wonder of it all.
One of the first things we did was to set a timeline of things we wanted to see happen before the first anniversary of our purchase. First on that list was to have our acreage officially surveyed and then to file that survey along with all requisite legal documents at the Brewster Country Courthouse and at the Tax Office. Done.
Once our survey was completed we arranged to have our turnaround (basically our driveway) done. Watching the yellow Caterpillar sculpt our turnaround out of the desert floor was so much fun. As the big blade scraped away the creosote, it was easy to start imagining what this place can look like. The best part of its all was finally having access onto our property which sits a little more than a foot higher than the road.
Cheryl and I opted to fence in our place, mainly to keep critters out when we camp. Enter an amazing group of friends who made two trips with me to get the job done. I loved every minute of the fencing. I certainly learned a lot about putting in posts that are straight and stretching wire and all of the others things that make for a fence that should outlast me by a hundred years.
The final project we wanted to complete before the end of the year was purchasing and having a cargo container shipped to Dos Arbolitos. Earlier this month we purchased a container from Far West Texas Container Sales in El Paso and had it delivered two days after Christmas. Having a place to store some tools and future building supplies is a big plus. Tom, with the container company, took good care of us and helped us each step of the way from purchase to arranging delivery.
Cheryl and I drove out to Dos Arbolitos in the wee morning hours of the day after Christmas. We had to get a site cleared before the container arrived. So, we drove all night and worked all day but got the job done. The following morning, we met Mando, the freight company driver, in the parking lot of McCoys Building Supplies in Alpine.


Mando was kind enough to let us load some railroad ties and lumber for shelving onto his truck. Once we arrived at Dos Arbolitos and showed Mando where we wanted the container, he helped us get the railroad ties in position and then he placed the container on the ties. He was spot on and positioned it perfectly.


Cheryl and I spent the rest of our time building shelves and a small workbench inside the container. The best part was getting to leave our work stuff in the container and not having to haul it back to our home in Katy. And we still have so much room to store lumber as we look ahead to starting work on our little cabin next year.
So, the past ten months have been a fun journey. We can’t wait for the day when we will actually have a little cabin with solar power and water catchment where we can sit and enjoy our bazillion dollar views. But, until then, we are enjoying every minute of the journey — of watching our dream unfold just a little bit at a time.

We still have so much work to do and are pretty happy about that. It’s fun for us to do this together and with the help of good friends who are willing to drive across the state to lend a hand. Everywhere we look we see the kindness of God — a kindness expressed in practical ways through the hands of those who have blessed us with their presence and their hard work at Dos Arbolitos.

Thanks for following our adventure. We can’t wait to see what the New Year will bring.

All Fenced In

By now, those of you who follow my blog are familiar with Dos Arbolitos. That’s the name my wife and I gave to our little tract of land in the Big Bend Valley section of Terlingua Ranch. It’s really too small to be called a ranch or even a ranchette for that matter. But to us, it’s our small slice of heaven on earth.
Purchased less than a year ago, we have made every ten-hour drive from our home in Katy to Dos Arbolitos count. This month my fencing friends and I made the trek to far west Texas with our supply laden trailer in tow to finish fencing Dos Arbolitos. We departed Katy at 2:00 AM and arrived at the front gate before noon.
We wasted no time because we only had a day and a half to get the job done. So, we set up camp and then each took ownership of specific tasks and got to work. My wife Cheryl and I had put in all but four of the remaining cedar posts on our trip to Dos Arbolitos in November.
Our first order of business was to put in the remaining cedar posts as well as almost a hundred t-posts. Pounding in t-posts and keeping them straight is a task in and of itself. But, we got it done. Between the cedar posts and t-posts, the fence will have good bones and should easily outlast my lifetime.

Once we finished pounding in the t-posts, we stretched several 330-foot rolls of welded wire fencing. As I noted in a previous post, our intent is not to keep anything in but rather to keep any pesky critters on the other side of the fence. We then topped the welded wire with a single strand of barbed wire.
Fortunately, the weather was amazing. With forty-degree nights and seventy-degree days, we worked long hours with no problems. One of the best things about this final fencing trek was sitting around the campfire in the evenings. The night sky in Big Bend is indescribably beautiful. We mostly sat quiet and watched the flames dance under the Milky Way.

With the fencing completed, I am now turning my attention to some type of storage unit for the tools we need to keep at the property. It will be exciting to watch this next phase unfold. At this time I don’t know if we will purchase a unit or build one from scratch. Still researching and looking at the most cost-effective options.
Our little sub-ranchette has already become a fun getaway destination. Cheryl and I are excited about watching this dream become reality. We are enjoying the journey. We know it will take time for all of this to happen but, in the meantime, we are having the time of our lives. We find ourselves talking a lot about the place and bouncing ideas off each other.

Thanks for following our adventure as our Dos Arbolitos story slowly unfolds. It will be fun to look back years from now and reflect on the journey. We want to make sure that we make lots of good memories that we will enjoy for a lifetime.

Turning Our Dream Into Reality

In March of this year, my wife Cheryl and I purchased a few acres of land in the Big Bend Valley section of Terlingua Ranch. We named our little place Dos Arbolitos. We feel fortunate to own a little piece of the Chihuahuan Desert and all of the sky that comes with it free of charge.

Last month, a few of my buddies joined me to start fencing Dos Arbolitos. We were able to complete the front section of fence, including the gate. We also set and tensioned all of the corner posts and added bracing at the midway points of each property line.
Last week, I returned alone to Dos Arbolitos to camp out and to clear the brush along our property lines. This next step had to be completed in order to make it possible to finish the fencing in the coming weeks. With the boundary lines clear, we will have an easier time of setting the cedar and t-posts and then stretching and securing the welded wire fencing.

I don’t mind admitting that clearing brush is hard, especially when working alone. The before and after pics tell the story. The scratches on my body tell the rest of the story. And the feeling of satisfaction in my heart completes the story. So happy to have this phase finished.

One thing I am learning is that even though we have a small piece of property, there is always something that needs doing. I find myself thinking about the next project when my brain has a minute to slow down or when I go to bed at night. There is so much to think about and so much I am learning.
At sixty-two, I could have found an easier path. Instead, I am glad that I have something hard to do, something that challenges me to learn how to do things I have never done before. In my spare time I find myself reading about solar power and water catchment and desert flora and about all kinds of off-grid stuff.
The process of turning our dream of a desert getaway into reality is happening slowly but surely — a nickel and dime at a time. Dos Arbolitos is more than 600-miles from our comfortable suburban home in Katy. It’s a long haul to get there. We know it’s going to take lots of trips between dream and reality.

Every trip requires lots of planning. We have to make sure we have everything we need in order to complete a project because forgetting something means having to drive a long way to the nearest town for supplies. We make and check our supply lists at least twice.
One thing is certain, we are enjoying the journey. It’s fun to dream and to dream again — to draw up plans, rethink them, and then refine and draw them again. Every trip to Dos Arbolitos gets us a step closer to the day we will have our little place where we can get away to drink in the quiet, breathe in the refreshing desert air, and take in the spectacular views.

Thanks for following our adventure of making our little dream come true.

Fencing Dos Arbolitos

Standing behind the counter of the Little Burro Country Store located a few miles north of Terlingua, Betty greeted me with a friendly Texas howdy as I walked in. This little supply depot is where we turn east off of Highway 118 to get to Dos Arbolitos, our little place in the Big Bend Valley section of Terlingua Ranch.

I asked Betty if she had Texas roots. She did not. Curious, I asked how she ended up in one of the most remote parts of the Lone Star State if not the world. Without missing a beat she replied rather matter-of-factly, “My husband and I tossed a coin!” That was not what I expected to hear.

I wanted to know more. Betty explained the she and her husband were looking for a change and considered moving to either Alaska or the Big Bend of Texas. The rest is history. Big Bend won the coin toss and they have been here ever since — with no regrets.

There is a lot that is hard to put into words about this wide part of Texas. And while the folks who call the Chihuahuan Desert home all have a story about how they ended up here, they all share one thing in common — a hard to explain love for wide open spaces, vast skies, and views that just make your heart feel good.
The views, among other things, are what led Cheryl and me to look in this direction for a little plot of desert on which to build an off-grid get-away. And while our place is not at all big by Big Bend standards, it does give us access to million dollar vistas.
This past week, a few friends and I made the long trek from Katy to Dos Arbolitos to start the first phase of our fencing project. The fence is not designed to keep anything in but rather to keep curious and possibly pesky critters on the other side. And the fence will be low-profile so as to not obstruct any views.



This whole fencing thing is new to me which is what really got me excited. I loved learning to do something I have never done before. And that is exactly what happened. My friends Selim, Mike, Phillip and I worked under the guidance of our friend James - who actually knows what he is doing when it comes to building fences. We worked some really long hours to get the job done and together we accomplished what we set out to do.


The best part of this adventure was sharing the experience with friends. We camped on location, set up a bathroom and shower tent, cooked under a canopy, worked hard all day, and enjoyed some of the most spectacular sunsets any of us have ever seen. And the night skies — beyond beautiful!

After a couple of days of clearing brush, digging post holes, tensioning corners, driving t-posts, hanging a gate, and stretching welded wire, we completed phase one of our fencing project. I estimate it will take about three to five more trips to finish the work. But, no matter. Cheryl and I are absolutely enjoying the journey as our dream of a little getaway slowly blossoms into reality — one step and a few dollars at a time.
We understand that the Chihuahuan Desert is not for everybody, but it is a special place for us and made even more so because of the kindness of friends. I will continue to chronicle our progress at Dos Arbolitos. Thanks for following our adventure.

Sunset at Dos Arbolitos

I have been in a hurry for as long as I can remember — at least in regard to the adult years of my life. I have lived my life in fast forward for so long that I am actually a bit fearful of slowing down. Don’t ask me why because I can’t explain it. On the bright side, however, I am convicted by the thought that God did not design us to live life dazed and out of breath because of incessant hustling.

That said, I do try to intentionally build periods of adventure into my schedule. Opting outside has proven to be very good medicine for me. There is something unmistakably therapeutic about the outdoors. Fresh air, beautiful vistas, and even muscles aching from strenuous activity somehow trigger my internal reset button. Perhaps that is why I can’t seem to get enough of the outdoors.

This past week, my wife Cheryl and I have been hard at work outdoors. Earlier this year we purchased a few acres of land in one of our favorite places in Texas — Big Bend. For the first time since signing on the dotted line, Cheryl had the opportunity to return with me to Dos Arbolitos, our little slice of heaven on earth. With our property officially surveyed, we couldn’t wait to start piddling around on our place — or at least piddling with a purpose.
We drove across the state with a list of things we wanted to accomplish. Until we decide on what kind of tiny house we will build we have plenty of other things that need attention. Our first order of business was to identify all of the trees on the property that have the potential to accentuate our place with their own natural beauty. We marked more than forty trees we would like to nurture.
We started with the mesquite trees located on or near our turnaround. When it comes to mesquites, folks either love them or hate them. As for me, I love mesquites. The mesquite is the tree of my youth. They are rugged, defiant, grow in whatever way suits them, and are hard to kill. Every mesquite is unique because of the way it grows in response to the challenges of its environment. I love that about mesquites.
Because the annual rainfall in the Chihuahuan Desert is only a few inches per year, we wanted to give our trees a little advantage. So, we pruned all of the sucker branches and scooped out the ground around the perimeter drip line of each tree. This way, when it does rain, each tree will have its respective water catchment basin. This should give these trees a little growth advantage in their tough desert home.
Cheryl and I worked from early morning to sunset. We set up our canopy, camp chairs, and ice chest packed with electrolyte drinks and food and then worked like Trojans. The absolutely best part of the day was watching the sun go down and then waiting for the first stars to grace the expansive night sky. The colors at sunset in the desert are beyond amazing. There is no way to describe the magnificent colors painted on the canvas above layers of rugged mountains in the distance. Each sunset in the Big Bend is indeed a masterpiece.
Sunset at Dos Arbolitos was everything we imagined it would be and more. Getting to watch a magnificent thunderstorm move across the Big Bend Valley one afternoon was an added bonus.  We can’t wait to come back later this year to continue our labor of love and to just slow down and unwind in what is truly the great outdoors — the Big Bend of Texas. We are beyond refreshed, unquestionably blessed, and excited to watch our Dos Arbolitos adventure continue to unfold.

Surveying Dos Arbolitos

Beauty is indeed in the eyes of the beholder. And when it comes to Texas, I especially love the beauty of the Trans-Pecos — where the sprawling Chihuahuan Desert paints the landscape with brushstrokes hundreds of miles long. This wide part of the Lone Star State is not every Texans cup of tea. But for me, there is a beauty here that is hard to explain.
A few months ago, my wife and I purchased a few acres of land in the Big Bend Valley section of Terlingua Ranch. Our little slice of Texas is located between Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park, two of the most beautiful places on the planet. We have named our place Dos Arbolitos, the subject of an earlier blog.
Our intent is not to retire at Dos Arbolitos but rather to have a place where we can occasionally get away from it all — a place so quiet we should be able to hear the sun coming up in the morning and so dark we should be able to see the Milky Way bisecting the night sky. We are beyond thrilled to have visual access to some of the most amazing views of the Big Bend from Dos Arbolitos.

This past week we were able to check off two more important items on our checklist as we take baby steps to develop our property. The first of these was to get our property surveyed in order to identify our corners. My friend Gil Harris accompanied me to Dos Arbolitos to meet the surveyor.
We agreed to meet the surveyor at the Little Burro Country Store at the corner of Highway 118 and American Legion Road, the dirt road that leads back to Dos Arbolitos. While we waited we enjoyed some great conversation on the front porch of the store with the Deputy and some of the locals. One things for sure, folks in the area are pretty friendly.

Relaxing and chatting on the porch at Little Burro got me to thinking about the absence of front porches on homes today. I think that we lost something special when we abandoned our front porches and opted to do all of life inside of our comfortable homes. The conversation and interaction of years gone by has been replaced by so many high-tech distractions inside our homes.

A porch is definitely on our to-do list for whatever tiny home structure we build at Dos Arbolitos. Since our place is so remote, we will depend on solar power (available in abundance) and rain catchment. So, no distractions — just plenty of opportunities to sit on the porch and feel the warm desert breeze.
But, back to our survey. Our surveyor set up his very cool equipment which connects with satellites and marked our corners to within an inch. He drove his markers into the ground and Gil and I added T-posts to more easily see the corners from anywhere on the property. As soon as I get our Metes and Bounds document I will file those papers at the Brewster County Courthouse in Alpine.
The second key thing I was able to check off our list was getting our turnaround cut into the property. This will give us easy access from the dirt road that runs north and south on the west side of our property. Dennis, who operated the heavy equipment, helped me identify the best location for the turnaround as well as a potential site for future building.
Something transformative happened when Dennis drove his big rig onto the property and began to clear land. Seeing the creosote bushes scraped away and the mesquite trees exposed made it much easier to visualize the potential of our little place. I can’t wait to go back to trim trees and arrange for phase one of the project which will be a permanent shade awning that will become an outdoor cooking and seating area.
So, the adventure continues. Cheryl and I know that it will take time for all of the pieces to come together and are committed to inching along at a pay-as-we-go pace. We don’t want to incur any debt in the process. So, if that means doing things a bit slower, that’s ok. We will enjoy the journey.
I will continue to post updates on the development of Dos Arbolitos. Hopefully my posts will be helpful to others who are considering owning their own little slice of heaven in Texas and developing it on a budget.

Special thanks to my friend Matt Probsfelt for taking the photo of the sunrise over Nine Point Mesa to the east of our property and the drone photo of Dos Arbolitos.

Introducing Dos Arbolitos

When it comes to amazing vistas in Texas, the Trans-Pecos region is at the top of my list. The expansive spaces, distant silhouetted hills, distinctive desert flora, deep in the heart of Texas skies, and mesmerizing chiaroscuro splashed across the faces of desert mesas all work together to create iconic Texas views.
I first felt the call of the Chihuahuan Desert when I was a Boy Scout. My grandfather’s stories about Judge Roy Bean, the Law West of the Pecos, stirred my curiosity about this part of the Lone Star State. I made my first trip to visit the Jersey Lilly when I was a Boy Scout and I was hooked. I loved everything about the desert.
Throughout those years I came across numerous ads about Terlingua Ranch — a rugged 100,000 acres tucked between Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park. For little money, the ads touted, you could own a piece of Texas. These ads drew a lot of people to this remote region. Folks fell in love with what they found and the land started selling like hot cakes and continues to sell to this day.
Last month, through the kindness of a friend, my wife and I were blessed with a remarkable gift — our own little slice of Texas at Terlingua Ranch. I had dreamed about this as a Boy Scout but never imagined that one day I might own land in one of the most iconic regions in Texas. So, we begin a new adventure to develop a place to enjoy off-grid getaways.
We are now the legal owners of a piece of property in the Big Bend Valley with million dollar views in every direction. From our little place we can watch the sun rise over Nine Point Mesa to the East, enjoy the views of the Christmas Mountains to the South, and watch the sun set behind the distant mesas to the West. Amazing stuff any way you slice it.

The next step is to have our land surveyed, confirm our corners, and get our metes and bounds document. Through the kindness of another friend, all of this is in motion. We are taking this a step at a time, don’t want to incur any debt in the process, and are excited about watching things unfold.

As Cheryl and I talked about a name for our little slice of heaven in Texas, we immediately agreed on Dos Arbolitos, translated Two Saplings. This is actually the name of one of our favorite Spanish songs. Translated, the lyrics say, in part:

Two little trees have been born on my ranch,
Two little trees that look like twins,
And from my little house I see them alone,
Under the holy protection and the light of the heavens.

They are never separated one from the other
Because God wanted the two born that way,
And with their very branches they caress each other
As if they were bride and groom that loved each other.

We are beyond thankful for this unexpected blessing. Whenever I need to clear my head and my heart, I always seem to head West toward the Chihuahuan Desert. And when I do, I always come home refreshed after enjoying the views, watching the sun set, and sitting under the stars. There are no words to express what it means to call Texas home and to have been blessed with Dos Arbolitos.
I have added a new Dos Arbolitos category and will post updates as things continue to unfold. We know it is going to be a long process and we are committed to enjoying the journey. Thanks for following my adventures in the Lone Star State.