Day 18 Thursday, February 15, 2018, we left Willcox, Arizona, for Van Horn, Texas, for a two-night stay at Van Horn RV Park. The rain decreased around Las Cruces, and by the time we reached Van Horn, it had stopped. Plenty of cloud cover and windy but not too strong. A congregation of doves had settled at the RV park, waking us each morning with their cooing. Plenty of cholla had been planted around the park along with a few trees and the surrounding area consisted of dried grass. The next morning, nature treated us to the most amazing sunrise colors I have ever seen.
We headed out to the Clark Hotel Museum only to find a closed sign and thought that perhaps it would be open later.
Off to Hotel El Capitan to take photos and a drive up and down the main street to snap pics of other buildings, which are great examples of mid-century architecture.
Hotel El Capitan, designed by Henry Trost and built by McKee Construction Company, operated from 1930 into the late 1960s.
The hotel was converted into the Van Horn State Bank in 1973. All of the original bathrooms were removed during the conversion.
Lana and Joe Duncan purchased the property in 2007 and restored the hotel replacing all the plumbing and electricity. I think the Duncan’s did a great job in bringing back the rustic look of the hotel.
Guests can now reserve one of the forty-nine rooms with private baths, order a cocktail at the bar, and enjoy a meal at the restaurant.
We stopped by the museum again, but the closed sign was still there so we drove up and down the main street to find other restored buildings.
Another cruise by the museum that was still closed required us to find something else to do. Let’s drive to Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Maybe we could find a hike. But first, we had to have lunch. No telling if there were any restaurants near the park. In business since 1959, Chuy’s looked popular with all the cars and trucks out front so we gave it a try.
Football fans might recognize the name on the sign and on the bus on the mural inside. Apparently, John Madden stopped at Chuy’s on a Monday night in 1987 to enjoy a meal while he watched a football game on the television.
So impressed with the restaurant, Madden wrote flattering articles about it and named it an All Madden Haul of Fame. He continued to visit the restaurant every year always ordering the John Madden Chicken Picado No. 21.
With our bellies full, we were off to see the Guadalupe Mountains. Overcast skies and cold winds did not prevent us from braving the elements and enjoying the nature hike near the visitor center. As visitors enter the park, El Capitan is hard to miss as it rises to 8,085 feet.
The Guadalupe Mountains National Park, established September 30, 1972, is located where erosion has exposed a portion of a Permian (251 to 299 million years ago) fossil reef that includes Carlsbad Caverns National Park to the north and extends to The City of Carlsbad, New Mexico. Other exposed areas of the reef can be seen in the Apache Mountains near Van Horn, Texas, to the south and the Glass Mountains near Alpine, Texas, to the southeast.
The park is also home to four of the highest peaks in Texas. Guadalupe Peak tops out at 8,751 feet. The fourth peak is Bartlett at 8,508 feet.
Archaeologists have discovered evidence that suggests humans have inhabited the mountains on and off for the past 10,000 years. More recent history of the people who called Guadalupe their home, begins with the Mescalero Apaches, which viewed the area as their last stronghold after Comanches drove them from the plains.
The Buffalo Soldiers, enduring significant hardships and prejudice, entered the area to fight the Mescaleros and protect the settlers. They also were instrumental in exploring and mapping the region.
After the cavalry and Buffalo Soldiers had driven the Mescalero Apaches from the Guadalupes, farmers and ranchers entered the area. Most of them failed. Three families survived and worked their property for decades until Judge J.C. Hunter owned most of what became the Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Hunter’s son sold the land to the National Park Service for $22 per acre after his father’s death.
To learn more about the geology, people, and other features of the Guadalupe Mountains, visit the NPS site.
There is so much to explore, we’d like to make it back to the Guadalupe Mountains someday when it is warmer. There are spaces for RVs in what looks like a converted parking lot, which would be just fine for a couple of nights.
Coming up next is our tour of George H. W. Bush Library and Museum. After visiting the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum in 2016, we have added other presidential libraries to our list of places to see. Time to see the two Bush libraries.