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Written by Texas Highways

Mama Sugar in Fresno. (Photos by O. Rufus Lovett)

We weren’t looking for just any barbecue restaurants. We had no interest in places that used electric or gas-fired barbecue ovens. We were looking for the keepers of the flame—the last of the old-fashioned Southern barbecue pits,” explains Texas food writer Robb Walsh in the preface of his new book Barbecue Crossroads: Notes and Recipes from a Southern Odyssey.

Robb Walsh’s new book, Barbecue Crossroads: Notes and Recipes from a Southern Odyssey, is full of tasty barbecue recipes. Here’s a brisket recipe, as well as supplementary recipes for mop sauce and barbecue sauce.

“We really enjoy receiving Texas Highways every month. There are so many beautiful places here in Texas!”

—HILDA MELENDEZ GOMEZ, TH Facebook Fan

Memories Unleashed

I almost fell over when I opened my mailbox and saw the most beautiful Boston terrier ever on the May cover. Almost the exact image of my late terrier, Sir Leo Winston. It brought tears to my eyes.

I always enjoy the many places you show and write about and have been to most all of them. You can point your camera any which way in Texas and always get a beautiful shot of God’s Country. Keep up the beautiful issues.

JACK ESTES, Tahlequah, Oklahoma

Fair Representation

A big thank you for publishing the photo of the State Fair mural located in uptown Dallas, in May’s TH Taste. The talented artist happens to be my son, Michael Longhofer. His website is www.longhofer.name

PATRICIA CAPPS

Landing in San Angelo

Regarding Anthony Head’s story on airport dining [TH Taste, June]: The list of great airport cafés is not complete until you add Mathis Field Cafe in San Angelo (325/942-1172). All of their food is good, but their specialty is Chinese. Wonderful! We often have to stand in line to get a seat. When on commuter flights from Dallas to San Angelo, we often hear the crew talk about how they can’t wait to get to San Angelo so they can eat at Mathis Field Cafe.

PATSY SHERO

Summer Fun

TH Facebook fans’ summer plans:

Fort Davis and Davis Mountains State Park, with a side of the McDonald Observatory! Also, a stop in Marfa and dinner at the Late Night Grilled Cheese Parlour. 

—CARLA COOPER-HICKS

 Camping and paddling at Caddo Lake.

— JUDITH LEARNED

Heading to San Marcos, then to New Braunfels to tube the Comal River.

—RENEA HO-GLAND TAYLOR

 In June, camping at Galveston Island State Park; Balmorhea and Davis Mountains state parks in July.

—ELAINE PLUMB

TH READER RECOMMENDATION

Tchaikovsky and Mini-Golf              

A must-see at the annual “Concerts in the Garden” at Fort Worth Botanic Garden [weekends, June 7-July 6]: At one of the final summer performances (June 23 this year), the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, led by conductor Andrés Franco, plays Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture complete with fireworks.

KAY WARD DAVIS, TH Facebook Fan

Fort Worth Botanic Garden is at 3220 Botanic Garden Blvd., 817/871-7686. For Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra concert dates, go to www.fwsymphony.org.

 

Play Faire Park in Abilene offers great music, great atmosphere, and great mini golf!


MELISSA GREEN, TH Facebook Fan

Play Faire Park is at 2300 N. 2nd St., 325/672-2977.

(Courtesy www.txgenweb.org)

The newest addition to Galveston’s shoreline, the $60 million Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier is futuristic by boardwalk standards, with 16 rides, various carnival games, and dazzling LED light displays. But the history of the island’s seaside amusement park dates to the 19th Century.

 Foxfire Cabin, located one mile south of Lost Maples State Natural Area, offer a comforrtable base for exploring the surrounding Hill Country. (Photos by J. Griffis Smith)

By Melissa Gaskill

A chorus of birds and sunlight through the curtains woke me up. I started the coffee pot, pushed open the screen door, and settled into a chair on the deck. Through the tops of the trees, I caught glimpses of clear, flowing water and white limestone cliffs.
A few white clouds punctuated the wide blue sky overhead.

The seven cabins at FoxFire each have two bedrooms, one bathroom and a living room.I could have spent the entire day in this spot at FoxFire Cabins in the western Hill Country. Four miles north of Vanderpool, and about 45 miles southwest of Kerrville, this collection of seven two-bedroom cabins offers a quiet retreat for the weekend. It makes a great spot to gather the entire family, too, without distractions from anything but nature and one another. The cabins are simple and comfortable, with queen beds in each bedroom, a comfy couch and wood-burning fireplace in the common area, and a small but complete kitchen. The cabins cluster close enough together to share social time with neighbors, but far enough apart for private conversation, or listening to birdsong during the day and the chorus of frogs in the river below in the evening.

Set on the Sabinal River, FoxFire’s five-acre property sports a wide, clear swimming hole surrounding a smooth rock large enough to hold several sunning youngsters. The spring-fed headwaters of the Sabinal are just a few miles upstream, and they keep the swimming hole full even in recent dry summers. I waded in the brisk water, spying tiny fish and several turtles, then warmed up on the spacious grassy slope above the pool’s thumbnail of gravel beach. I spotted a hummingbird and a dragonfly almost as large as the bird, while yellow butterflies the size of butter pats swirled over the water. I’d found my happy place.

In addition to the cabins and swimming hole, the property houses a playground under some towering oaks, a basketball rim, picnic tables in a grassy circle, and little gems here and there, such as a rope swing hanging from a tree. Around every corner, bird feeders beckon visitors like wrens and hummers. The office has a supply of games, puzzles, and fishing poles, and there’s a free laundry room on site. There are also campfire pits and grills outside. Perhaps best of all, my cell phone didn’t work, but just in case, there’s a phone in the office. The place, it seems, is custom-designed for quality family time.

FoxFire's cabins overlook the Sabinal River, which originates from springs a few miles upstream near Lost Maples State Natural Area.“We’ve always been a place to get out of the city and away from all the hustle and bustle,” says Burt Herrmann, who owns FoxFire with his wife, Lacy. Lacy grew up on this land in a three-bedroom log home now available for rent. When Lost Maples State Natural Area opened just down the road in 1979, Lacy’s parents, Lanell and Bill Kellner, noticed more cars on the road. Knowing there was little lodging in the area, the Kellners decided to build some cabins on their property. In partnership with Lanell’s brother and sister-in-law, Wayne and Betty Boyce, they took out a bank loan, bought kits from Canyon Log Homes in Leakey, and put up seven of them, doing most of the work themselves. FoxFire opened in 1984, with the Kellner family kitchen table doubling as a registration desk. The Herrmanns, who are raising their own family nearby, bought the property 10 years ago when the Kellners decided to retire.

The FoxFire property makes a great base for exploring the area’s dining and sightseeing activities. I started with the drive between Vanderpool and Medina on Ranch-to-Market Road 337. The road ranks as one of the most scenic in the state, winding up and over a ridge with sweeping Hill Country views, which are especially beautiful in golden, late-afternoon light.

In Medina, I followed my nose to Keese’s Cafe & Fresh Pit Bar-B-Que, open for 13 years across from the post office, in the middle of the few blocks that make up the town. Diners have a choice of covered picnic-table seating outdoors or tables inside. Hearty breakfasts—everything from chili to oatmeal, biscuits and gravy, omelets, and pancakes—are served daily, and lunch specials offered Monday through Friday include Frito pie and a six-ounce rib eye. The barbecue aroma left me no choice, though: I ordered a brisket sandwich, which arrived piled high with thick slabs of meat—none of those thin “tourist slices,” owner Keith Keese assured me. The desserts include buttermilk, pecan, and cedar bark pie (walnuts and coconut in a pecan-pie filling, resembling cedar bark); cobbler; and German chocolate upside down cake, which is as rich as it sounds.

Apple pie at The Apple Store. A few blocks away, The Apple Store sells all things apple, from the trees themselves to apple-flavored coffee, pie, and ice cream—all made with tree-ripened fruit from nearby Love Creek Orchards, where 11 varieties grow. The orchards open for pick-your-own harvesting when the apples are ripe in mid-summer. Take ad-vantage of the orchard picnic area, or, at the Patio Café behind The Apple Store, choose from a menu of hamburgers and sandwiches, topped off with a slice of apple pie, turnover, or some other apple-y treat.

One mile north of FoxFire lies Lost Maples State Natural Area, with about 12 miles of hiking trails through rugged limestone canyons, across windswept plateaus, and along the Sabinal River. There, I saw more birds and butterflies, springs, and a glimpse of a pair of elusive wild sheep.

Between the park and cabins, the Lone Star Motorcycle Museum sports a collection of racers and vintage bikes dating to 1910, all shiny enough to reflect your smiling face. Lost Maples Country Store, three miles in the other direction, in Vanderpool, carries most of the essentials in case you forgot something. You can also put together a complete picnic from the store’s selection of fresh sandwiches, gourmet chips, and bottled drinks.

Of course, you could just skip all the side trips and spend the entire weekend relaxing at FoxFire. I sure wouldn’t blame you.

 

 

 

When Big Tex caught fire during the final week of last year’s State Fair of Texas, rumors started circulating immediately regarding Tex’s replacement in 2013: Would his wardrobe be updated? Would his signature “Howdy folks” morph into something more cosmopolitan? And could he somehow look, well, friendlier?

Viva Big Bend showcases music in West Texas venues

Soul Track Mind, an Austin band that performed at last year's Viva Big Bend, also is scheduled to play this year. (Photo by Tanya So/Courtesy Viva Big Bend)An abundance of live music will fill venues across the Big Bend region July 25-28 as more than 50 bands converge on Alpine, Marfa, Marathon, and Fort Davis for the Viva Big Bend music festival.

Texas artists including the Joe Ely Band, Texas Tornados, Randy Rogers Band, Jonathan Tyler and The Northern Lights, El Tule, and Terri Hendrix will perform as part of the event, representing the state’s diverse culture and musical genres.

Event producer Stewart Ramser said about 1,500 people turned out for last year’s festival, exceeding expectations and laying the groundwork for a bigger event this summer.

“I spend a lot of time in West Texas and realized there are a lot of great venues out here, and there are a lot of musicians who love to play out here,” said Ramser, who also publishes Texas Music magazine. “We have a wide variety of genres represented—local bands, as well as bands from across the state, and even a few from outside of the state.”

Venues in Alpine—among them the Granada Theatre and Railroad Blues—and in Marfa—in-cluding the Lost Horse Saloon and Padre’s—will host nighttime shows. Daytime performances will be held at the Gage Hotel in Marathon on July 26 and in Fort Davis on July 27 (venue pending as of press time). Viva Big Bend will provide shuttles to transport attendees between Alpine and Marfa during the night performances.

Viva Big Bend is also organizing events for music industry professionals during the festival, including a luncheon put on by the Texas Chapter of the Recording Academy and a songwriting workshop led by Hendrix and Lloyd Maines.


                                                      —Stephen Ray, Texas Music Office

The streets of Old San Antonio have long been noted for their winding and crooked courses. And if you travel the way I sometimes do—the mule-headed “guy way” in which we set out exploring without maps or directions—you’ve no doubt gotten happily lost in the Alamo City’s avenues.

Scenic roads crisscross the Big Bend region, giving travelers many opportunities to watch changing weather. While the views are spectacular, it’s important to remain vigilant and make safety a priority.

For one, don’t try to negotiate a flooded low-water crossing. Wait it out. Your tires, like balloons, are filled with air. They’ll float! If the skies are looking particularly green, you might want to pull under the nearest shelter. Hail may be imminent. If you must pull onto the shoulder, don’t forget to switch on your hazard lights. If lightning is striking nearby, stay inside your car. Your tires will ground you. Your hiking boots won’t.

Here are several roadways ideal for viewing Big Bend weather.  Find area information at www.visitbigbend.com.

US 385 between Fort Stockton and Marathon. Ten miles north of Marathon, there’s a paved pullout that provides unobstructed views of grasslands on one side, and the east-facing ridge of the Glass Mountains on the other side influences seasonal weather events from thunderstorms to snow. You’ll also be located within the southernmost recognized prairie dog town in the continental United States.

US 67 between Fort Davis and Marfa. This mile-high desert territory creates especially towering cumulus clouds. Watch out for hail. It’s frequent enough that local hydroponic greenhouse operators dread the rising rain clouds.

US 90 between Alpine and Marfa. This desert grassland/cholla country produces dozens of dust devils on warm, sunny afternoons. Pull into the Marfa Mystery Lights viewing area and watch ‘em rip.

Casa Piedra Road between Presidio and Big Bend Ranch State Park. This caliche road begins just east of Presidio along FM 170 and travels north before splitting, directing most traffic to the interior of Big Bend Ranch State Park. The first few miles offer some of the most expansive views of the mountain ranges westward from Mexico to Marfa. Some of the most dramatic weather in the region arrives here first, striking the ocotillo flats with an astounding force.       

FM 170 between Terlingua and Lajitas. Surprising views south of the roadway encompass the Chisos Mountains, miles of low Chihuahuan desert, and the mouth of Santa Elena Canyon along the giant Mesa de Anguila.

US 118 between Alpine and Study Butte. Descending rain clouds often surround the crown of Santiago Peak like puffs from a volcano, alluding to the peak’s geologic origins.  

                
                                                                                    —E. Dan Klepper

 

A series of limestone ledges partially surrounding the small lake inside Meridian State Park has long been my go-to place when I need to disconnect with the hectic world and enjoy a quiet interlude with nature. Just over an hour’s drive from my home in Fort Worth, the park’s cedar thickets, rocky hills, and serene water, tucked away in the landscape that gives way to the Hill Country, restore me when city life wears thin. 

34-35 OrangeSky

In the Big Bend country of West Texas, a region composed of mountains, ocotillo flats, and grassy rangelands of the northern Chihuahuan Desert, weather is often a wily beast. A storm can rise above the arid plains in surprise puffs, turn wicked green in the blue of a Sunday afternoon, and then suddenly dissipate as if collapsing in the effort. Air currents, moisture, and temperature serve as the storm’s coconspirators, revising its characteristics in seemingly predictable yet uncanny ways. Ice, wind, and fire are its progenies, delivering a glass-shattering torrent of hailstones on a balmy spring day, kicking around a whirlwind of dust and flying debris, or, more devastating, striking up a wildfire with 100 million volts of electricity.

Kayaking on Buffalo Bayou offers a natural respite from the city bustle of Houston. (Photos by Will Van Overbeek)

The Houston Astros got things on the right track back at the turn of this century, when the ball club abandoned the Astrodome’s unnatural indoor confinement for the refreshing outdoor playing field
at Minute Maid Park. Swapping synthetic turf that can make balls bounce funny and players’ knees balk for real grass was maybe the smartest trade the baseball club has ever made.

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