Thursday, April 28, 2016

Day Trip: Marathon, Texas

Donna and I took a short day trip to nearby Marathon this morning. It is only about 30 miles east of Alpine, so it's a short drive.

I've always liked Marathon. During my days working at Region 18 Education Service Center in Midland, Texas, I visited the schools in the Big Bend region quite often, and I always enjoyed Marathon. The town is quite small, fewer than 500 people, and the lifestyle is definitely laid back. It is one of the major gateways to Big Bend National Park, with visitors using US 385 to enter the park through Persimmon Gap.

Street scene from Marathon. The Gage begins where the tall trees are in the center of the picture, then continues west (left).
The town of Marathon was founded in the early 1880s. Early day settlers included Captain Albion E. Shepard and Alfred Gage. Shepard actually applied for the post office and, therefore, decided on the name of Marathon. The story goes that the area reminded him of the area around Marathon, Greece, where he had previously traveled as a ship's captain.

Gage came west from Vermont and eventually amassed thousands and thousands of acres. In 1926, he commissioned famed El Paso architect, Henry Trost, to design and build a hotel because there was no lodging in the town of Marathon. Today, that hotel is known as the Gage, and it is a favorite place to stay while in the Big Bend region. The hotel today actually consists of two parts. The old part contains 15 rooms, 5 on the main floor and 10 on the second floor. The newer section, called Los Portales, contains 20 adobe style rooms just west of the historic hotel. Landscaping is beautiful. If you venture to the Gage, keep in mind that there are no in-room televisions; television is available only in the lobby.

The historic Gage Hotel.

Courtyard of the Gage

Los Portales portion of the Gage
Today, the Gage Hotel also owns and operates the Captain Shepard House, originally built in 1890. Today, the house contains 5 rooms, while another 2 rooms are available in the backyard in the carriage house.The Gage also operates the 12 Gauge Restaurant and White Buffalo Bar. The restaurant is very upscale, with very upscale prices. But the last time I ate there, the food was very, very good.

The restored Captain Albion Shepard House, which offers guest rooms courtesy of the Gage Hotel.

Patio area of the White Buffalo Bar of the Gage.

A handful of shops line the highway near the Gage, including 2 or 3 other restaurants. There are also a couple of curio type shops.

We took a sort drive south on Avenue D to Post Park, which is where Camp Pena Colorado was established about 1879. The post existed for about 15 years, with the original purpose to counter hostile Apaches in the Trans-Pecos area. The park is now an oasis in the desert, as it lies on Pena Colorado Creek near a large spring. The post was finally abandoned in 1993.

The dammed creek at Post Park.

Tall shade trees and water make a West Texas oasis.

Another view of inviting Post Park with its green grass and shade trees.
The views from Marathon of the mountains to the west are really impressive. Even though it is located at the junction of US 90 and US 385, the town is really quite peaceful. If you are looking to get away from the fast paced modern world while not giving up all comforts, you might want to give Marathon a try.

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