In the spring of 2019, John Dyer set out to see what the edge looked like close up. Dyer is a San Antonio-based commercial photographer who has authored photography books on vaqueros and conjunto music, written two novels, directed several short films, and shot numerous magazine covers including Selena for the May 1995 issue of Texas Monthly. But he’d never taken on a project quite like this.
Whether your idea of getting away includes four-star meals or a retro camper in a dense forest, these five escapes promise serenity and seclusion
Andrew Stuart is the poster boy for the “next best place.” Raised in Austin, Stuart lived on both coasts before falling in love with West Texas. He spent two years as a reporter for the now-defunct Desert-Mountain Times in Alpine and three years as the news director at Marfa Public Radio. In 2009, he moved to Dell City, a Chihuahuan Desert farming community with little but a mercantile, a gas station, and two cafés. It’s a place once described by The New York Times as a “borderline ghost town.” But factor in the Guadalupe Mountains—the area’s primary tourist attraction, rising 20 miles to the east—and the feeling that you’re out in the middle of nowhere, and it’s easy to see Stuart, 44, has found his place. “I knew I wanted to live in the desert by myself, a go-west-and-reinvent-yourself kind of thing,” he explains one morning over breakfast tacos at Spanish Angels Café. “The writer Marilynne Robinson said, ‘Out west, lonesome is a positive.’”
West Texas winds transform an ever-changing landscape of sand dunes at the 3,840-acre Monahans Sandhills State Park. The field of dunes begins south of Monahans and stretches north into New Mexico. Opened in 1957, the state park harbors a peaceful Chihuahuan Desert playground where people can explore the rolling landscape, slide down the hills, picnic, camp, and take in extraordinary sunrises and sunsets.
Tune in to your local public radio station around lunchtime on a weekday and you’re likely to hear the dulcet voice—and sharp questions—of Krys Boyd. The host and managing editor of Dallas-based KERA’s Think delivers a one-two punch of mellow curiosity and deeply considered topics in her two-hour interview show. While she’s hosted big-name guests like actor Bryan Cranston and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, the most fascinating episodes often cover topics outside of the 24-hour news cycle. Boyd has tackled everything from spelling bees to failed spy techniques.
T he judging of the International Frank X. Tolbert-Wick Fowler Memorial Championship Chili Cook-Off in Terlingua is underway. There are 10 of us seated at a long table, and to the casual observer it would seem we’re performing an ancient religious rite. We plunge spoons into the numbered, 24-ounce Styrofoam cups of brick-red chili in front of each one of us, and raise them to our lips.
At Pierogi Queen in League City, the menu of unfamiliar words like bigos and golabki might confound those new to Polish cuisine. Fortunately, regulars and Polish expats who frequent the restaurant are always around to offer pointers. And of course owner Eva Sek has recommendations at the ready. These are not just the foods of her homeland, but the dishes of her childhood.
Brisket is an easy sell in small-town Texas, but try adding a $5 latte to that three-meat combo plate, and you’ll likely never hear the end of it from the locals. At Miller’s Smokehouse in Belton, though, no one complains much.
When it’s time to ditch the phone, the Netflix queue, and civilization in general, then it’s time to head west to the Davis Mountains. One of Texas’ three sky islands, this majestic range rises from the desert floor, creating a postcard-worthy panorama in every direction.
World War I is over, and the Jazz Age is on. Prohibition is the law of the land. Bootleggers are running booze, flappers are pushing social mores, and the Great Depression is brewing. None of that concerns Johnny and James Hayes, though. All they can think about is a giant catfish. Everything about this photo, taken by their father, Dallas Times Herald photographer James (Denny) Hayes, is period-perfect: the knickers, the caps, the cans of worms, and the cane poles. While we don’t know where in Dallas the photo was taken, the city—home to about 200,000 then—was growing rapidly. It’s a Texas that no longer exists, a place of sweet memories. Both boys later became photographers themselves. But on this day, there are fish to be caught, and little else matters.
B eneath a warm Caribbean sun, down a twisted road from the tattered colonial city Santiago de Cuba, an American soldier stands frozen in time.
It’s a statue, actually, in a small park that commemorates the derring-do of Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders, formally known as the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry, who helped drive Spain out of Cuba during the Spanish-American War in 1898.
The great cypress swamp is lovely, dark, and deep. There is no debating this. The wildly intricate and critter-infested maze of bayous, lakes, ponds, sloughs, and interconnected channels known as Caddo Lake and Big Cypress Bayou is one of the country’s most spectacular nature shows. It contains arguably the most diverse collection of species in Texas. The place has a mystical feel, too, an impression enhanced by the ghostly Spanish moss that drapes the trees, by the cypress roots known as “knees” that rise from the swirling mists like Excalibur in the Arthurian legend, by the lily pads with lotus flowers that spread everywhere and suggest Celtic fairylands.