Terlingua is a place like none other in the Lone Star State. Nestled between Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park, this ghost town has a character uniquely its own. The name of the town is derived from the Spanish words “tres lenguas” meaning “three tongues” — a reference to English, Spanish, and Native American, the three languages spoken there in the days of the Old West.
If you have never ventured to the Chihuahuan Desert or to Terlingua, you owe it to yourself to visit this fascinating and mesmerizingly beautiful part of Texas. Terlingua was once a thriving mining town that was abandoned after the Second World War. Starting in the 1970’s, Terlingua became a destination for adventurers, entrepreneurs, artists, musicians, and just plain folks who were bewitched by the old ghost town and decided to stay.
On a recent visit to Big Bend Ranch State Park, my buddies and I ventured to the High Sierra Bar and Grill in Terlingua in search of a hunger busting burger. There are not a lot of places to eat in Terlingua so we were happy to find the High Sierra and even happier to learn that they had burgers on the menu.
I ordered my usual bacon cheeseburger with a side of onion rings and a tall glass of iced tea. We enjoyed the ambiance of the place while we waited for our burgers. The staff was friendly. The iced tea was cold. The mix of locals and outsiders made for some interesting people watching. And the music was perfect, especially because Johnny Cash was on the playlist.
My burger and hand-battered onion rings arrived hot and ready to eat. The generous-sized and cheese covered meat patty was cooked just the way I like. The bun was slathered with a combination of mustard and mayo, every ingredient was fresh, and the bacon was nice and crispy. I cut my burger in half and eagerly took my first bite.
The first bite always tells the story. And this first bite was delicious. Wow — it was so good. I savored every tasty bite. When I finished, my only regret was that I did not have the bandwidth in my stomach (nor the metabolism) to do it all over again. Without question, this was one of the best burgers I have eaten in the Lone Star State. And the onion rings were pretty tasty in their own right. All in all — a delicious meal!
No matter where you go in Texas, you can find a delicious burger. However, you must be willing to get off the beaten path and walk into places you might not otherwise visit. I’m glad we stopped to eat at the High Sierra Bar and Grill. This eatery will remain high on my list of places to eat the next time I venture west of the Pecos River. If you find yourself anywhere near the ghost town of Terlingua, check out the High Sierra Bar and Grill.
Last year’s Chihuahuan Desert Mountain Bike Endurance Fest was one of my favorite Lone Star State adventures. The venue for this bike fest that draws hundreds of mountain bikers from across the state and beyond is the expansive Chihuahuan Desert at Big Bend Ranch State Park — without question one of the most beautiful and mesmerizing places in Texas.
The Chihuahuan Desert Bike Fest is an annual event offered on Presidents’ Day Weekend in February and sponsored by Desert Sports of Terlingua, Big Bend Ranch State Park, and Lajitas Resort. If you are interested in riding, then be sure to register early. The event is capped at 500 riders and fills up well before the registration deadline.
One of the best things about this event is that it is a ride and not a race. Whether you have a multi-thousand dollar full-suspension mountain bike or an entry-level hard tail, you will feel right at home. There are guided rides for every skill level. You can ride at your own pace and not feel embarrassed if you have to dismount and walk your bike up a scree-covered incline.
Base camp for the big event is the Lajitas Maverick Ranch RV Park in Lajitas, located adjacent to the old town cemetery that looks like something out of an old western. The surrounding desert hills and mesas only add to the old west mystique. The ride turns the RV Park into a boomtown crammed with RV’s and tents, brand name bike vendors, and evening campfires and music and conversation.
This year I returned to the Bike Fest with several friends. We had reserved a couple of sites after last year’s ride to make sure that we would have a place to pitch our tents. And, because we enjoy this event so much, we have already reserved our spaces for the next two years and hope to encourage a few more of our dirt-loving buddies to join us.
As soon as the sun came up we enjoyed a delicious breakfast and then mounted our mechanical steeds and headed off into the desert. We enjoyed two and a half days of riding and logged a little more than sixty trail miles. To say we had a blast would be an understatement. Sharing this adventure with good friends made it all the more enjoyable.
I love events that bring people together — and the Chihuahuan Desert Bike Fest does just that. We enjoyed sharing our dutch oven desert with our neighbors at the campsite, talking with other riders, sharing tales of our daily rides, laughing a whole lot, and warming our feet at our evening campfire under the watchful glimmer of billions of stars in our deep in the heart of Texas sky.
If you are a mountain biker, then I encourage you to add the Chihuahuan Desert Bike Fest to your list of adventures. Get it on your calendar now. Register early. And then join the fun in one of the most amazing places in the Lone Star State. Hope to see you in the Chihuahuan Desert in 2018.
The ghost town of Terlingua is located in the heart of the Chihuahuan Desert, one of the most rugged and hostile environments in Texas. The name of the town is derived from the Spanish words “tres lenguas” meaning “three tongues.” The discovery of quicksilver in the mid-1880s turned Terlingua from a sleepy little village into a town of a thousand-plus residents.By 1913, Terlingua had a dependable water supply, mail delivery, somewhat reliable telephone service, a hotel, and a physician. Sometime in 1914, St. Agnes Church, also known as Chisos Mission, was established and became the focal point of the mining town. Itinerant priests held services at the church once a month and also officiated at baptisms, weddings, and funerals.Church records indicate the priests adopted the Terlingua Cemetery. The burial ground is listed as St. Agnes Chisos Cemetery on church records but the official death records continued to list it as the Terlingua Cemetery. And although the town was segregated with Mexican families living east of the company store and Anglo families to the west, both Mexicans and Anglos were laid to rest in the same cemetery.The adobe building was constructed on a raised stone foundation on the side of a hill overlooking the town. The building has survived the ravages of time and remains an iconic symbol of the importance of faith in this remote place. The interior is completely unpretentious — offering worshipers hard wooden benches, a weathered pine floor, painted adobe walls, and a simple altar. The spiritual comfort the faithful have received here, however, more than makes up for any lack of creature comforts.I hope to return to Terlingua to learn more about the old church and its history. Suffice it to say that St. Agnes Church has a beauty all its own. We’ll never know how many people over the years found solace, refuge, and the help they longed for inside the walls of this old church. St. Agnes Church remains as an enduring reminder that faith is important and can thrive in the harshest of places.
Terlingua is one of the most fascinating places to visit in the Lone Star State. If you want to see this old mining town, then you have to adjust your compass settings to off-the-beaten-path. What remains of Terlingua is nestled between Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park in far southwest Texas.
The name Terlingua is derived from the Spanish words “tres” and “lenguas,” meaning “three tongues.” Some folks say three tongues refers to Native American, Spanish, and English — the three languages spoken in the early days of the region. Others insist that the name refers to the three forks of Terlingua Creek. Either way, Terlingua is a cool name that somehow fits this rugged and hard place.
At the turn of the twentieth century, Terlingua became a flourishing mining town that yielded copious amounts of mercury, called quicksilver at the time. Today, Terlingua is a ghost town — the most visited ghost town in Texas. The town still has a few residents who live among abandoned ruins slowly being reclaimed by wind and weather. Visitors will find unique lodging options, a few places to eat, art galleries, a trading company, and a whole lot of vast open spaces and endless skies.
One of the most interesting places in Terlingua is the old cemetery that dates back to the 1900s. Workers who lost their lives in the mines, victims of the influenza epidemic of 1918, gunfighters who were seconds too slow on the draw, and early residents are all buried there. Every year in November, folks gather at the cemetery to celebrate Day of the Dead and to offer their respect to the departed.
Walking slowly among the old graves is a sobering experience — the kind that makes you reflect on just how hard life is in this remote and rugged land. Names of the departed etched on weathered wooden crosses are no longer legible. Creosote, ocotillo, and cactus cling to life among the rocks that cover the graves. Plastic flowers and miscellaneous mementos placed on graves are the only indications that some of the dead are not yet forgotten.
The Terlingua Cemetery is a time-capsule. Every grave holds secrets and stories that will never be told. Visitors can only speculate about the deceased and what their daily lives must have been like in days when quicksilver turned this region from a sleepy little village into a community of a couple of thousand — and eventually into a ghost town.
Even though Terlingua is out of the way and far from just about any place in the Lone Star State, it’s definitely worth visiting. And, when in Terlingua, take a quiet and meditative stroll through the historic Terlingua Cemetery. You’ll be reminded that we are only here for a season and then we too will be laid to rest somewhere, maybe even in an old cemetery like the one in Terlingua. As for me, it doesn’t matter where you bury me as long as it’s in Texas.