Roadtrip (Archive) (385)
A museum-redesign showcases the history of Presidio La Bahía
By Nola McKey
It’s a new day for the Presidio La Bahía, a National Historic Landmark near Goliad. Despite the Presidio’s importance—historians consider it the world’s finest example of a Spanish frontier fort—the site has lacked the resources to showcase its rich history until recently. Last month marked the completion of a three-and-a-half-year, $500,000
museum-redesign project—funded by the Presidio La Bahía Foundation—that promises to lure visitors from across the country.
“The Presidio has a big story
to tell,” says site director Newton Warzecha. “It isn’t just about the Goliad
Massacre—which took place here three weeks after the Alamo fell—and the Texas
Revolution, but also about the Spanish Colonial and Mexican periods and the
tumultuous time leading up to the revolution. To give you an idea of the
scope we’re talking about, the Presidio dates to 1721, and nine flags have
flown over this area, not six. The fort’s Our Lady of Loreto Chapel, which
Among the improvements: new signage throughout the property and a wheel-chair-acces-sible entrance in front of the former officer’s quarters, which houses the muse-um. Inside, a viewing room near the gift shop offers a 15-minute vi-deo orien-ta-tion. Visitors can then proceed through the ex---hibits, which have been reorganized so that each room represents a different chronological period. New display cabinets exhibit selected items from the Presidio’s collection of 54,694 artifacts—all found on site—including Spanish Colonial bits and bridles and a rare shako plate from a Mexican military cap.
Presidio La Bahía presents living-history events throughout the year and offers limited overnight lodging in the former officer's quarters. Call 361/645-3752; www.presidiolabahia.org.
By Paul Christensen
Texas poets, the majority of them women, began writing about wildflowers the moment they crossed the Sabine River. Lindale native Lexie Dean Robertson, poet laureate of Texas from 1939-1941 and author of the book Red Heels (1928), recaptures Wordsworth’s exhilaration at the sight of a field of wildflowers in “Mesa Miracle”:
She was out of breath when she topped the rise,
And there lay a beautiful lake!
Dappled and bright, bloom spread in the sun.
As lovely as water could be:
And her mind found peace while she laved her heart
with bluebonnets, blue as the sea.
Annabel Parks, another early 20th-Century Texas writer, called bluebonnets “a part of the afternoon sky” in her 1935 poem “Texas Bluebonnets.” And Jean Pendleton, who was born in Virginia but came to Texas in 1914, wrote as if she were herself a yucca in “Yucca by the Roadside”:
Spite of all the loud new ways
Here my spiky leaves grow thick,
And from out their green I raise
Holy, white, my candlestick.
Pattiann Rogers may well be today’s best wildflower poet, an award-winning writer who lived in Houston but whose mind was always loose in the remnants of pure nature along the rivers and at the fringes of the Big Thicket. In her poem “Idee Fixe,” she observed:
What I wish is that the creeping
clover, in the integrity of its own pod
and purple peas and trailing stems,
actually contained something of me.
I wish the blooming chicory held
a silent, desert-consistent assent
to my presence right in the crown
and ovary of its blue-ray blossom …
Unlike the myth of the Wild West, where cowboys and ranchers are made to seem indifferent to the nature around them, the real culture of Texas has long cherished the glorious abundance of wildflowers thriving in often harsh terrains. Lady Bird spoke to this gentle side of Texas when she advocated planting vivid reminders that nature is not only “red in tooth and claw,” as the 19th-Century poet Lord Tennyson wrote, but fiery orange like the Indian blanket, deep blue like the bluebonnet, and yellow like the sunny coreopsis.
See related: Road to Chinati
Chinati Hot Springs is about 50 miles southwest of Marfa, via FM 2810 (Pinto Canyon Rd.). From Marfa’s main street (Highland Ave.), drive west a few blocks on US 90 to Moonlight Gemstones (432/729-4526, www.moonlightgemstones.com). This first-rate rock shop marks the left turn south onto FM 2810. The last 20 miles of FM 2810 are unpaved, and portions of the road through Pinto Canyon are steep and rough, with several stream crossings. Avoid this route during heavy rains. While you don’t need 4-wheel-drive, it’s best to use a high-clearance vehicle with good tires. Allow about an hour and 45 minutes for the drive. See the website for an alternate route.
Chinati Hot Springs opens year round. Reservations are a must. The entire resort (7 rooms) is available for reunions and group retreats . Camping also is available. Guests have free use of the mineral baths. Day use fees apply for non-guests. The swimming pool is closed during winter. Guests have full use of the communal kitchen, picnic areas, and grills, and should bring their own groceries for meals.
For details, contact Chinati Hot Springs, Inc., 432/229-4165; www.chinatihotsprings.com.
Because Dog Canyon is considerably higher in elevation than McKittrick Canyon, it’s much easier to start the hike in Dog Canyon. You need a car shuttle to avoid retracing your route. With an early start, the trail can be hiked in a day by strong hikers, but it’s much more relaxing to camp for a night at McKittrick Ridge campground. Take clothing and gear appropriate for the weather. Even in summer, it can get chilly at night in the mountains. For a one-night backpacking trip, take 1.5 gallons of water per person, possibly more in summer.
Park entrance fees are $5 per person. A free permit is required for primitive camping. For more information, contact Guadalupe Mountains National Park, 915/828-3251; www.nps.gov/gumo.