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Written by Texas Highways

IMG 1561V2Most people think to visit Austin’s Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in the spring, when Mother Nature rolls out her most outrageous show of color.

141109 1830If you’ve ever driven across the Sidney Sherman Bridge in East Houston, you’ve likely taken notice of the incredible sweeping views of the Houston Ship Channel. Located where Interstate 610 crosses the expanded Buffalo Bayou, the 135-foot-tall freeway overpass affords an urban panorama of one of the largest ports in the world.

Kiepersol-WInery68

While the Texas Hill Country and the Panhandle have grown popular for wine touring, I’m here to make a case for a culinary-viticulture escape to the East Texas Piney Woods.

01-KLEPPER-BBRSP-STAR-PARTY-4A wide asphalt airstrip stretches 5,500 feet into the desert landscape toward a row of hills in the distance. I spread out a thick blanket and lie back for an unobstructed view of the sky in all directions. Not a single manmade structure or light source mars the darkness, only a mesmerizing number of twinkling stars.

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When most people think of canyons in the Big Bend, the large chasms come to mind: Santa Elena, Boquillas, Mariscal, and Colorado. I’ve seen all of these Rio Grande canyons—by raft—from Colorado Canyon in Big Bend Ranch State Park to the Lower Canyons below Big Bend National Park. Nothing beats drifting down the river and admiring the canyon walls towering above with the descending trill of a canyon wren sounding in my ears. However, as I’ve learned in my years of traipsing around the two parks, the region’s smaller canyons also have much to offer the adventurous traveler.

 

Mesa de Anguila

When William Hennessy, a guide at Far Flung Outdoor Center in Terlingua, called me out of the blue with an idea for a Big Bend adventure, my interest was piqued.

Courtesy Texas State University School of Music

Texas State University will honor the legacy of San Marcos-born jazz pioneer Eddie Durham February 6 with the Eddie Durham Jazz Celebration. Born in 1906, Durham started his career in San Marcos with the Durham Brothers Orchestra. By the 1930s, he was writing, arranging, and performing big-band jazz for the likes of The Count Basie Orchestra and Glenn Miller. The free 7:30 p.m. event features a big-band concert and a talk by jazz historian Dan Morgenstern. On February 7, Texas State hosts the Hill Country Jazz Festival, culminating with a show by the Texas State Jazz Ensemble.

J. Griffis Smith

Far from the battlefields of the Southeast, a little-known but influential chapter of the Civil War unfolded on the Texas-Mexico border as Rebels and Yankees fought for control of valuable cotton-trading routes. On February 28, developers of the new Rio Grande Valley Civil War Trail will celebrate the launch of the trail with a history symposium at UT-Pan American in Edinburg (free and open to the public). The trail offers a bilingual website, brochure, and podcasts that trace some 60 historic sites, such as the Port Isabel Lighthouse (above) and Palmito Ranch—site of the final Civil War land battle, which recognizes its sesquicentennial in May.

Courtesy Amarillo Convention & Visitor Council

For the 50th consecutive year, the Kwahadi Dancers of Amarillo will present their Winter Night Ceremonials on weekends in late January and February. Made up mostly of teenagers, the Kwahadi Youth Dance Theater interprets the traditional dances of the desert farming people of the Southwest for the performance, titled “Tyuonyi: A Journey in Time.” The performances, held at Amarillo’s Kwahadi Museum of the American Indian, cost $9 for adults and $5 students.

John James Audubon, printed by John T. Bowen, Amon Carter Museum of American Art.

The naturalist John James Audubon (1785-1851) is best known for his effort to illustrate and catalog the breadth of America’s bird species. Later in life, he embarked on a similar project for mammals with his book Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America, featuring hand-colored prints of creatures like bison, raccoons, and wolves. In Fort Worth, the Amon Carter Museum of American Art displays some of these prints in Audubon’s Beasts, which runs January 15-August 2.

gage restaurantv

When I first began traveling to Big Bend in the late 1980s, my introduction to lodging—other than a tent in the Chihuahuan Desert—was a room at the Gage Hotel in Marathon. Quiet, rustic, and largely undiscovered back then, the yellow-brick hotel stood as an outpost of civilization on the edge of Big Bend National Park’s vast wildness.

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