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From The Senator's Desk. . .
December 30, 2009

Best Town In Texas--North by Southwest

Here in God’s Country, where the northern tip of the Sierra Madres meets the very end of the Rockies, square in the heart of the Chihuahua desert, where Ocotillos and Texas Rainbows mark the trails up the Franklin Mountain State Park, the light is special, and life is good. Here is the “frontier of the future’ where North meets Southwest, where the culture, the people and the beautiful spaces are unlike any in all the rest of Texas.

Written by Senator Eliot Shapleigh, www.shapleigh.org

 

 

Here in God’s Country, where the northern tip of the Sierra Madres meets the very end of the Rockies, square in the heart of the Chihuahua desert, where ocotillos and Texas Rainbows mark the trails up the Franklin Mountain State Park, the light is special, and life is good. Here is the “frontier of the future’ where North meets Southwest, where the culture, the people and the beautiful spaces are unlike any in all the rest of Texas.

 

West, not four hours from where I now write to you, travelers can wake up in Paquime, the ancient city in the northern state of Chihuahua, Mexico, now a UN World Heritage Center. Almost 1200 years ago, traders up from the South brought macaw feathers to trade for shells from the Pacific Ocean, or gold and turquoise from the North. With several thousand inhabitants by 800 AD, Paquime was one of the important centers that joined Mesa Verde, Bandelier, Grande Quivira in robust trade routes dating to a time when Europeans were just starting to think about the Cathedral at Norte Dame in Paris. Back then, immigrants were just travelers, moving north or west or south, in search of adventure, trade, or maybe even then, a better life.  

 

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North, again, up the road past Deming, you can find yourself on a wilderness trail, moving to the confluence of the middle fork of the Gila River and Sapillo Creek, quite close to the cave of old Ben Lilly, last of the West’s famous mountain men, one in a long line from Kit Carson on, who killed the last grizzly in the state of New Mexico, where nearly untouched cliff dwellings line the caves above the campsite near the sycamore trees along the Creek. The Gila is America’s first Wilderness Area, extending over 558,000 acres, and was created by Congress in 1924 at the urging of Aldo Leopold, father of much of the current National Park System.

 

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From my office, it’s just twenty minutes to the put in site for a canoe trip down the Rio Grande. Not many people, even here in God’s Country, know that beavers still paddle around the Upper Valley of El Paso in the Rio Grande close to places like Canutillo, Texas or Anthony, New Mexico.  

 

Rio

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Right along the Rio, you can bicycle for miles all the way to the New Mexico line, then go over to the little Diner in Canutillo for a full plate of red enchiladas washed down by cold, adult beverages to help work back the calories you just left on the River.

 

Bike

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Or you may enjoy a hike into Fusselman Canyon, off Transmountain Road in the Franklin Mountain State Park, the largest urban park in the US, right at dawn to see a herd of deer move up the trails with the “Rise and Shine Program” hosted by your own Senate office. Here, high school seniors and UTEP SGA officers hike together before dawn hoping to catch the sunrise and talk about what opportunities lie ahead at the University of Texas at El Paso.

 

You may want to take the “Trail of 10,000 Steps” all the way to the Tramway, the only mountain tramway in all of Texas, then ride it to the bottom and save yourself the walk! 

  

 

Ben

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Or, make a weekend, do some world class rock climbing, watch as javelina amble ahead of you, and see the Indian rock art at Hueco Tanks State Park, where Native Americans from the Jornada Mogollon culture to the Apache painted some the best rock art in the Americas.

 

 

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South, a day, then another half day by rail, stop at Divisadero, and spend the night at the Barranca De Cobre, one of Mexico’s most amazing parks, with seven canyons, all nearly as deep as Arizona’s Grand Canyon. There, off the trails, and way across the mountain tops, the Tarahumara have lived since long before Hernan Cortez came with Spanish immigrants to begin his conquest of other parts of Mexico.

 

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And from here, it’s just three hours to skiing at Ski Apache on Sierra Blanca up in the White Mountains near Ruidoso.  

 

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 For the truly intrepid, join the handful who jump off the Franklin Mountains in hang gliders to ride the hot updrafts off the desert floor, before landing somewhere near Gallegos Park. For this one, you will definitely need a guide! When you are all done here in God’s Country, go listen to Radio La Chusma, the best new sound in Texas, to think about when and where you’ll be buying a house! 

 

 

 


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