Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Eagle Pass, Uvalde, Leakey, Camp Wood and One Big Mexican Flag

Heading Southeast out of Del Rio on highway 277, we follow the border toward Eagle Pass.  Along the way we start to see a theme in this part of Texas -- towns that began as large ranches, like Quemado, which started as a ranch back in 1871. Growing to a population of around 400 at its peak, Quemado appears to have a few people still there today,  but many of it's businesses are abandoned.  Just a few miles more you pass through Normandy, which also started as a ranch, but, now is no more than a spot in the road.

As we get closer to Eagle Pass, we top a hill and spy something large on the horizon to the south and west of us.  We are still about 6 miles out of town, but you can clearly see this enormous Flag waving in the distance. Turns out it's the Mexican National Flag at the border crossing between Eagle Pass and its Mexican sister city Piedras Negras. As of December, 2010, this is the largest Mexican Flag in the world, with the pole measuring over 393 feet, making it the tallest in Latin America and second tallest in the world. The flag measures 196 by 111 feet, so it's no wonder why we could see it so far out of town.  Would love to see the United States put a similar flag on our side. Or better yet, how about a Texas flag double the size?!

Eagle Pass got its start as a settlement next to Ft. Duncan after a trading post was opened in 1850.  The fort was established in 1849, named after James Duncan, a hero in the Mexican-American War. It was used sporadically through World War II and still has several intact buildings, including a museum.  Eagle Pass is now the county seat of Maverick County, which was established from Kinney County in 1856, and has a population of around 27,000. Unlike Del Rio, with several downtown businesses still closed, we found Eagle Pass downtown to be thriving, with many shops and stores and a bustling border crossing.

From Eagle Pass, we back track a few miles on 277 to Highway 131 and then north toward the ghost town of Spofford. This one wasn't started by a ranch though, it got its beginnings from the railroad back in 1882. Not much to see, and still several residents in this town, although it did have what appeared to be an old rusty shell of a Jail halfway standing.

From Spofford, we move on down 131 and hook back up with now familiar highway 90 and go east to Uvalde.  The county seat of Uvalde County, the town got its start in the mid-1850s and was actually called Encina at first. Situated on the road from San Antonio to Fort Duncan, Uvalde is considered the southern limit of the Texas Hill Country, or the most northern part of South Texas.  It was also home to some famous names from the past and present, including former US Vice President John Nance Garner (aka Cactus Jack),  actress Dale Evans and even present day actor Mathew McConaughey. Of course, we are more interested in the fact that Outlaw, turned Lawman, John King Fisher is buried here. This bad Texas dude served briefly as Uvalde County Sheriff after settling down a bit in life, but up to then he was known for cattle rustling over in Mexico near his Maverick County ranch.  An arrest by the Texas Rangers convinced him to give up his trade and start more legit ranching.

From Uvalde we take Highway 83 north on a scenic journey through Texas Hill Country. The hills provide some beautiful views winding up in Leakey (pronounced Lay-Key), a quaint little town of about 400 that got it's start from settlers in the 1850's taking advantage of Leakey Springs.  As the county seat of Real County, the town depends on tourism now as many come for its location near the Frio River and Garner State Park.

In Leakey, we turn on Ranch Road 337 toward Camp Wood and see the Texas Hill Country beauty at some of its finest. The gorgeous winding drive through these small mountains makes us feel like we aren't in Texas anymore, and we happen to run into a local Rancher who allows  us take a pic of the awesome view from a point on his land. Thanks Randy!

The small town of Camp Wood was established in 1920 by a lumber company, however the immediate areas history dates back much further, to the San Lorenzo de la Santa Cruz Mission, founded in 1762, and later a military post from which it took its name.  Today Camp Wood is home to about 800.

From Camp Wood we trek back South over the Nuesas River, hook up with a small Ranch Market Road 334 and head back toward highway 90 to Del Rio.  Another great road trip from our temporary West Texas base. We loved the hills, but get ready for the Texas Mountains of Big Bend on our next adventure.

Of course, if you want to see more pictures of our journey, just click the link at the top of this blog post and follow us on Facebook

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