Westward Ho, Here We Go! – West Texas

From Fredericksburg to the western state border in El Paso is about 590 miles, and because we didn’t want to rush our way across Texas we selected five stops before leaving the state.  On these layovers we explored a cavern, hiked a mountain at a National Park, had a total surprise meet up with new friends, and enjoyed an unplanned visit to El Paso that changed our initial impression of the city.

Caverns of Sonora

For those of you who have followed us during our journey, you know that not only do we love to climb/hike mountains, we also enjoy going the other way to be amazed by what’s hidden underground.  Many caves have similar features, but each has its own attributes that make it unique from any another.  We understand that caving isn’t for everyone – especially claustrophobic folks.  But if you’re thinking about an underground adventure, feel free to check out some of the ones we’ve explored:

Back to Sonora, Texas, we stayed overnight on the property of the Caverns of Sonora, a first come first serve small RV park provided to visitors of the caverns.  The tour led us into a warm cave 155′ and 360 steps below.  For almost two miles we walked along highly-decorated cave passages leading to and through the Crystal Palace:

There were only six people on our tour, and we were all expressing our amazement at the glittery and surreal scenery caused by speleothems that lined the walls, roof and floor of the cave.  Every turn we made presented us with new exquisite and fragile formations:

Looks like a snake pit!
This wall is described as “coralloid” formations

The features that made this cave unique and caused it to be established as a National Natural Landmark were the heavy concentrations of calcite crystal formations, especially the rare helictites in the Crystal Palace area.  They changed their axis during growth from vertical formations to horizontal, creating amazing odd shapes.  We were all stunned by these fragile and spectacular formations!

Butterfly formation

After two hours of being wowed, we thought the $20/person fee was totally worth it.  If you want to take a worthwhile break while driving across Texas on I-10, make this stop – you’ll be glad you did!

Fort Stockton

Our next stop was at Fort Stockton, where we just chilled for two nights.  This and the next three stops involved almost constant wind-blown dust and sand, so we completely gave up any attempts to clean Betsy or the car.

A wonderful sight, mountains!

Our only activity here was to see an easy bird to photograph, a Roadrunner called Pete Paisano.  Standing 11′ tall and 22′ long, he welcomes all visitors to his town, and allows anyone to take his picture while bringing smiles to passersby:

Pete Paisano greets visitors at Fort Stockton

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Continuing on our westward trek, the next stop was at Van Horn, Texas.  It’s the closest town from which to explore Guadalupe Mountains National Park.  We were originally going to camp at Pine Springs Campground in the park, but canceled when we realized there were no hookups and it might be packed over the Easter weekend.

The happy faces of Mark, Steve and Joodie – we love unplanned meetings like this!

So we drove the car there, and as we prepared to start our hike, we heard our names called.  Amazingly, we were spotted by Mark and Joodie of Chasing Dirt!  Although we’d been following each other’s blogs, we had no idea they were camping here.  Amazing!

We chatted for a bit and learned we’d be meeting again at our next stop – Hueco Tanks S.P.  After that excitement, we continued on with our only hike in these mountains, the Devils Hall Trail.  It was a nice moderate trek that eased us back into hiking mode with minimal elevation gain and some scrambling around boulders in a wash.  All the while we marveled at nearby large cliffs rising up to Guadalupe Peak, with plenty of beautiful landscape surrounding us.

Devil’s Hall, a fascinating creation of geological processes
Beautiful Texas Madrone trees lined the trail
The landscape at Nature’s Cliff was beautiful

There are several trails here that we missed, check out what serious hikers Mark and Joodie did during their stay if you’re thinking about a visit.

El Paso

We were getting close to the western Texas border, but we weren’t done yet.  Because of our aborted plan to camp at GMNP we ended up parking Betsy in eastern El Paso.  After a few days of investigation the city turned out to be nicer than we had remembered, possibly because a lot of improvements have been made since our last pass-through in 2013:

Many new and BIG overpasses in El Paso…
…and nice looking, too!  see that brown border wall ?

On our way to Palisades Canyon trailhead, we made a wrong turn and stumbled upon a unique outcropping at the southern tip of the Franklin Mountains.  At the top was Murchison Rogers Park, a small spot with an overlook that provided panoramic views of El Paso and across the Rio Grande to Ciudad Juarez in Mexico:

Foreground – El Paso, background – Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.  See the wall running across the middle?

There were interpretive signs displaying regional history lessons, using geographic locations provided by the historic points of interest:

La Equis, or the “X” stands in Juarez, Mexico.  To the left of it is the International Border and wall

We began our hike at Palisades Canyon Trail, an easy hike on the southern end of Franklin Mountain Range that featured interesting Chihuahuan Desert landscape:

Ocotillos speckled the Chihuahuan desert with red blooms
Steve wanted something more challenging and went straight up the mountain.  See the white dot in the middle?

Waiting for my hubby, I found some interesting desert plants:

Taking the 375 loop home, we drove along the border wall and passed by the “X” we’d seen earlier from above:

La Equis on the other side of the wall

While near the border we enjoyed Mexican seafood at Coco Loko, browsed a local market and quenched our thirst at Deadbeach Brewery.  Their beer was good enough that we filled our growler, hoping to impress Mark and Joodie when we met up at our next stop – Hueco Tanks S.P.

Everything is bigger in Texas – this Jenga was as tall as me 🙂

Our three nights here barely scratched the surface of what El Paso has to offer, and we enjoyed our stay on the eastern outskirts of the city.

With mountains all around us, we know we’re definitely back in the west now, woohoo!




  1. I love the change from where you are to where you’ll be. Now if everyone would do this I could stop my spying antics.

    I like the use of B&W.

    Caves, well, maybe…

    • The B&W came out just right, thank you for noticing. It was STeve’s idea to add the new widget and hopefully no one would be “spying” on us since we are now expected to be someplace somewhere sometime 🙂

  2. Yes, I agree that the widget for upcoming travels is brilliant! I’ll have to figure out how to add one of those to mine, too.

    Thank you for the lovely mentions and links! And the ego-boost description as “serious hikers” since I’ve been feeling my age a bit lately and occasionally feeling wimpy for not always choosing the hardest routes. I only regret that we didn’t have more time in order to go out for a hike together — I know we will, though, and we are looking at our own route plans to try to make sure we run into you again before we all scoot out of Arizona in early 2020.

    I especially love the B&W photo, the photo of the madrone tree (we didn’t get any good ones of those, but they are gorgeous), and the photo of you pointing to the big X — very clever! You also make us think about reconsidering an El Paso visit someday. It didn’t look very inviting when we passed through last year, but it looks like we may have judged too quickly.

    And we WERE impressed, not only by the growler, but by it all 🙂 ❤

    • We were not impressed with El Paso the first time we drove through there and Steve even dread the drive. But thanks to our aborted plans at Guadalupe Mountains we were handed a chance to change our mind. It is Steve’s idea to add the widget, I just showed him how to add it :). First week of Jan 2020 is a date!

  3. Love the new side widget you added. I discovered it only AFTER we emailed each other. Looks like you discovered some unique sites in west TX. We’re usually buzzing straight through. We may want to slow it down next time we had to Corpus. Hope to see you soon!

    • I know, Texas is so huge that all you want to do is breeze through so you can get out of there. But there are cool stuff to explore, mountains and caves!

  4. Whoa, that tower of shrimp! And you didn’t even have to use any from your Florida stash!
    We’ve always avoided El Paso because, well…you know. (That’s how we discovered Hueco Tanks.) But you make El Paso look appealing!

    I’m so glad you enjoyed Caverns of Sonora. You guys have had a lot of underground adventures, way more than we have! We prefer above-ground adventures, but we did enjoy those crystal caverns. Your photos turned out great!

    That is SO fun that you met up with Joodie and Mark. I love it when our favorite people meet up with more of our favorite people. :-))

    • You can just imagine the laughter and the giggling at the moment of surprise. Unplanned meet up is so cool. We do like underground adventures for it always surprise us how amazing the formations are down there. Thanks to paving the way for our visit to the cavern.

  5. Caverns of Sonora is one of our all-time favorite caverns, glad you enjoyed it too. We were the only folks on our tour, ended up going into some places not on the regular tour. Looks like the mountains in west TX should be explored one day. Great new widget.

  6. We try to hit caves and caverns whenever we are near one on our travels. Our favorite so far is Carlsbad. You are right about many of them having similar formations but each is unique in its own way.

  7. The Caverns of Sonora are spectacular! There were a few features I’ve never heard of. I’d love to see the Butterfly feature. Very cool!!

  8. When we drove by El Paso last year, we weren’t all that intrigued, but it sounds like things are on the upswing and they are making efforts to improve it. Hell, I’m pretty impressed by that shrimp tower! It never ceases to amaze me how small our little RV community is. Glad you all got to hang out with each other and your new widget will, undoubtedly, lead to many more fun meet ups!

    • IF not for our aborted plans we would never know that beyond our own personal perception, El Paso really has lots to offer. We were glad that TBG was spying in the neighborhood or he would have not seen us. It is a small world after all!

  9. El Paso surprised us. We ended up spending more time there than we originally planned due to heavy winds. Those days actually came in handy as there was still a lot for us to see and do in the area.

  10. We visited El Paso a few months ago…not my favorite place, but it was a lot different than I expected. I like your widget also….

    I would love to see the Caverns of Sonoma; maybe next year. I think caves are so neat. We went to Kartchner and Carlsbad earlier this year.

    • We have the same initial impression about the city, but when we were sort of stuck there we gave it a second chance. The city has its pluses.

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