Texas is full of Podunk towns. On the hundred-mile plus stretches between more bustling cities, little towns dot the rural landscape, many equipped with not more than a questionable three pump gas station and a Dairy Queen. But one little town had much more to offer.
My visit to Alpine, Texas, and its surrounding areas was accidental. My parents had planned our 2013 holiday vacation to the Big Bend National Park too late, so all the hotels surrounding the park were booked. The nearest available lodging was in the small town of Alpine, one hour away from our mountainous destination. We weren’t expecting anything special as we endured the drive west, looking forward to simply a quiet room and cozy bed to crash in.
Our hotel, the Holland Hotel, was built in 1928 and is a landmark of downtown Alpine. The historic building features a unique blend of art deco and rustic Texan design, complete with a reading room, pool hall, outdoor patio, and inviting fireplace. In 2013, the hotel was remodeled to include more modern amenities, including a signature haute cuisine restaurant, the Century Bar and Grille. Housing weary hikers, vacationing families, and adventure-seeking couples, the hotel is a haven for all ages. Enjoy a complimentary breakfast of hearty hand-baked pastries in front of the fire before starting a day of exploration. (thehollandhoteltexas.com, 209 W Holland Ave, Alpine, TX 79830)
Big Bend National Park may be the main attraction out in west Texas, but for a closer (well, in Texas time) outdoor experience, drive 30 minutes to the Davis Mountains State Park. This under the radar park features views comparable to the more hyped national park, but the 7 miles of trail along the Davis Mountains are much less crowded. The namesake Fort Davis National Historic Site, a mere 6 minutes from the park’s entrance, is a perfect example of a traditional Texan Indian military post. Walk the trails, take a self-guided tour of the restored military buildings, or cruise along a 74-mile scenic route within the mountains. Keep a keen eye out for scorpions and tarantulas that cross the road right in front of you! (www.tpwd.state.tx.us/state-parks/davis-mountains, Texas 118, Fort Davis, TX 79734)
Whether you religiously watch the X-Files or are an alien fanatic, then you’ve undeniably heard of the Marfa Lights. These mysterious “lights” appear sporadically above US Route 67, by the town of Marfa, 26 miles away from Alpine. Enjoy the anticipation of a rare sighting from the viewing tower, or from the comfort of your own car. Even if you don’t see the notorious lights, you will see something celestial. The rural spot has virtually no light pollution, allowing for the naked eye to gaze at a stunning array of stars. What big city can offer a view of our very own Milky Way? Kick your feet up on the dashboard, or better yet, bring some blankets and lie down as you look up towards the twinkling constellations. (www.marfacc.com/todo/marfalights.php)
As we spent more and more chunks of our vacation in Alpine and the areas nearby, we realized we enjoyed it even more than the Big Bend National Park, what we came to see in the first place. As for the train that passes through the city? It not only masked my father’s snoring, but served as a reminder that the bucolic charm of the Old West isn’t lost.
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