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Written by Texas Highways

Fresno Ranch

What: Fresno Ranch

Where: Big Bend Ranch State Park

When: Year-round

Between 2006 and 2013, writer, photographer, and artist E. Dan Klepper—a contributing editor for Texas Highways—lived on and off at the Fresno Ranch, a deserted tract of land in the Chihuahuan Desert. The 7,000-acre ranch—which was purchased by the state in 2008 and added to Big Bend Ranch State Park—contains a human history spanning centuries, including prehistoric camps, and Mexican and Anglo settler sites from the 19th- and early 20th–centuries. In Why the Raven Calls the Canyon, Klepper explores his fascination with this remote corner of the country and its sharp contrast to the urban routine. As a photographer, he was initially allured by the landscape’s rough, raw edges, but soon Klepper began to embrace the simpler, less complicated way of life. “I started this project with an insider’s vision of a particular place and time in the Big Bend, and ended up with a much deeper appreciation for the state’s wildest place,” he says. “I hope readers will too.”

Klepper will be signing copies of his books at the Texas Book Festival on Nov. 4-5, 2017 in Austin, in the Texas A&M University Press tent 1:30-4:30 p.m.

Target Marfa

What: Target Marathon

Where: US 90 between Marathon and Alpine

When: year-round

The Galveston, Harrisburg, and San Antonio Railway first reached Brewster County in the 1880s—turning this isolated spot into a shipping and supply point for area ranchers. Despite its stark beauty, the area remains one of the most unpopulated parts of Texas (the 2010 census counted only 1.5 people per square mile). Sometime in early 2016, the world’s smallest Target store quietly “opened” in a former railroad structure along US 90 west of Marathon—a nod to Prada Marfa near Valentine, perhaps. Unlike its high-end predecessor, no artist has come forward to claim this clever commentary on consumerism, so there’s no telling how long this quirky photo-op will remain. However, those who have ventured inside for a shopping spree report the tiny big-box store carries little more than a beehive and the occasional rattlesnake. Consider yourself warned.

Arborist Steve Houser examines the California Crossing tree, a pecan with a bent trunk that points to a low-water crossing in Dallas.

No historical marker indicates that this particular pecan tree near the grounds of the Texas National Guard Armory in northwest Dallas is special—just the fact that its trunk grows along the ground for about 25 feet before turning upward. Sometimes natural forces, such as ice storms, can bend trees into strange shapes like this. But for this pecan, its shape is no accident.

Astronaut Charlie Duke

Only 12 people have walked on the moon, and New Braunfels resident Charlie Duke is one of them. Duke became the 10th astronaut to walk on the moon as part of the Apollo 16 mission in 1972. It was a life-changing experience for Duke, who was the first person to collect moon rocks from the lunar highlands. And the 82-year-old still shares his observations frequently as a guest speaker at events across the globe.

Illustrated map of Pittsburg, Texas

In Pittsburg, the hot links are plump, mermaids abound far from the sea, and a Baptist preacher invented a flying contraption that got off the ground a full year before the Wright Brothers made their famous first flight.

Pie in Hico

This little town southwest of the Metroplex may be small but it’s not lacking when it comes to Texas-size tripping. Hico’s history is mysterious, its desserts are mouthwatering, and its silo-climbing is intense.

This iconic bar in the Fort Worth Stockyards boasts hundreds of cowboy hats nailed to the ceiling and walls, plus live music every night.

When friends and family visit me in Fort Worth, they ask to see the real Cowtown. Piece of cake, I say, and we head out for the north side of town to explore the Stockyards National Historic District. After what seems like hundreds of trips through the beloved old neighborhood, I still get a kick out of seeing our mounted city police force in their cowboy hats with their beautiful horses. Just as much fun is catching the re-enactments of an 1880s Longhorn cattle drive, which take place twice daily on the weathered bricks that cover North Main Street and Exchange Avenue, the crossroads at the Stockyards’ heart.

Since 1975, Fonda San Miguel in Austin has served authentic Mexican interior fare, including a lavish Sunday brunch.

Even before you step through the restaurant’s massive, hand-carved wooden doors, you’ve been transported to a place that usually requires a passport. A light breeze rustles palms and other exotic tropical foliage while young chefs clip fragrant sprigs of cilantro, mint, and epazote from the culinary garden. Inside, gleaming Saltillo tiles, the exhilarating aroma of freshly squeezed limes, and squawked greetings from Paco, the resident parrot, ensure you’ve reached full-on vacation mode. Welcome to Fonda San Miguel in Austin.

Roy’s Cafe in Corsicana serves breakfast all day, including a belt-busting option that combines scrambled eggs, hash browns, and chicken-fried steak.

Driving the 240 miles of Interstate 45 between Dallas and Houston reveals gentle changes in elevation, pastures in the north, pine forests farther south, and a relief from big-city traffic. If you are hungry and looking for an alternative to fast food, a few minutes’ diversion from the highway allows for some satisfying small-town Texas dining. Such options provide a respite from construction zones and 18-wheelers, with no charge for the smiles of hometown servers.

About 7 miles south of Weatherford, you can go “glamping” in a safari-style cabin within a mile’s hike of the Brazos River.

The ideal getaway experience doesn’t always involve traveling long distances to an elaborate resort, as I rediscover on a recent trip less than an hour from home. Hearing about a prime “glamping” retreat outside of Weatherford, my husband and I are intrigued to see what sort of escape awaits so close to our usual stomping grounds in Fort Worth.

Located in the Crockett County Courthouse square, Judy Black’s statue, "The Tie That Binds," depicts a young pioneer family.

You get the idea of just how empty and remote the country around Ozona is when you learn that local officials installed a red light on top of the 1902 Crockett County Courthouse not only to summon the sheriff’s deputy but to guide travelers to town after dark.

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