Inspiration: Las Cruces – Alpine – Marfa

What a great time! It started with a hike and ended with a drive, and there were more than a few stops. There’s usually landscape inspiration if you know what to look for.

Photos from Feb. 14-15, 2020:

Picacho Hike 1_2020-02-14-SML

I shared one of my 3-times-weekly hikes with Gayle: a few national monument trails behind the neighborhood. Soft, gentle sand in the arroyos, firmly packed desert pavement on level areas, and slight elevation gains between the arroyos and my car.

In late winter, one can see the legibility found in good design. Green vs. dormant, negative space vs. mass, and flowers-optional.

Picacho Hike 2_2020-02-14-SML
Picacho Hike 3_2020-02-14-SML
Picacho Hike 4_2020-02-14-SML

Always a surprise. Flowers on this old cactus clump this summer!

Picacho Hike 5a_2020-02-14-SML

A quick link from Kevin in Sweden on how creosote bush isn’t poisonous to many species including cacti or grasses, a common misconception in my state, perpetuated by range science courses and those who believe deserts are just dry holes in some vast grassland.

Countless examples occur around the Chihuahuan Desert.

It’s an easier, more fulfilling choice to learn from such examples of companion plants, than to be a contrarian.

Picacho Hike 5b_2020-02-14-SML


A few hours later, the serene hike then chaotic El Paso driving are far behind. The annual Valentine in Valentine event must require a 4 pm arrival to get the secret code, so we checked out something I drive by almost every trip to that area.

Pictures were taken but were not needed at that event.

Since this faux boutique’s commissioners are ignoring their original mission – something like ‘decay back to the earth from which adobe is made’ – I choose to return its name to the place it’s actually near, 1 mile away. Prada Valentine!

Prada Valentine 1-SML


After another 40 minutes on the road and no deer carnage, it’s Marfa! Even a coffee roaster has a mini gallery in their lobby to enjoy some artists’ works.

Big Bend Coffee Gallery 1-SML

That was followed by a refreshing Ranch Water drink from the Capri, a block away. The Capri stop was about the best experience in their town this trip: hospitality, atmosphere, or patronage.

But we were on the way to a serene room in another town, Alpine. It’s larger yet more like a small town.

Alpine-Maverick Inn 3-SML

It was even more welcoming than that photo implies. Seriously deep sleep in southwestern comfort, only to shower, dress, and walk out into this light and scene! 

Alpine-Maverick Inn 1-SML

A good coyote fence / step railing detail to employ some day

Alpine-Maverick Inn 2-SML

Who tires of native plants when bold specimens are not just regional but local natives? Only those without their desert eyes on.

Alpine-Maverick Inn 4-SML

I’ve learned that July 2013 in downtown Alpine was a “month of murals”, including these below showing their sense-of-place.

Alpine Panorama Mural-SML
Alpine Mural-Ranch Brands-SML
Alpine Calendar Mural-July 2013-SML

Wild west serenity

Alpine-LS Vignette-SML


Now, we’re back in Marfa by daylight, when one can see it.

That after the usual start following my last visit a year earlier. “What happened to that restaurant?”, or “they were open as of 2 days ago on Instagram, so what’s with the ‘for sale’ sign?”, or …

Gayle and I found an OK breakfast where I’ve had great lunches other times. Then, a few blocks away to join our breakfast burritos, excellent coffees were had from a refreshingly quiet Frama.

Marfa-GG Frama-SML


Chinati! Here one can see and be inspired more each visit. It’s a special place and always great to escape all the vibe-seeking from trendy visitors that much of Marfa has become.

Gladly, the opposite personalities are also found, if one knows where to look.

Pre-Covid-19 by a month, there are still so few people.

Marfa-Chinati Barracks 1a-SML

Unfinished projects, too

Marfa-Chinati Barracks 1b-SML

For now, interior photos from several buildings are posted…I’ll probably delete these. Deleted!

You can visit the Chinati Foundation website for Dan Flavin’s work – here

Walking towards other works… Judd’s 100 Works in Mill Aluminum are different each visit. In the light of thickening cloud cover, it’s subdued into almost black and white.

Just don’t use “sculpture”, or “minimalist” or “reductive” art to describe his works. Judd didn’t like such terms for his specific objects.

Marfa-Chinati Sheds Mill Alum 1-SML
Marfa-Chinati Sheds Mill Alum 2-SML
Marfa-Chinati Sheds Mill Alum 3-SML


From the enclosed to the expansive, Judd’s 15 Works in Concrete

Marfa-Chinati Conc 1a-SML
Marfa-Chinati Conc 1b-SML
Marfa-Chinati Conc 2a-SML
Marfa-Chinati Conc 2b-SML
Marfa-Chinati Conc 2c-SML
Marfa-Chinati Conc 3a-SML
Marfa-Chinati Conc 3b-SML

Waves, repetition…get it? That’s only the start. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen these works, always with a mindset that’s open to learning more.

Marfa-Chinati Conc 4a-SML
Marfa-Chinati Conc 4b-SML
Marfa-Chinati Conc 5-SML
Marfa-Chinati Conc 6a-SML
Marfa-Chinati Conc 6b-SML
Marfa-Chinati Conc 7-SML

That distant row of trees has me pondering what species were there before being choked out by volunteers of that invasive non-native Siberian elm. They line the arroyo that soon joins in with Alamito Creek.

Marfa-Chinati Conc 8-SML

It reminds me of similar areas on the great plains, especially where those lower into the prairies east of the famous 100 degree meridian. Those have elm, hackberry, walnut, cottonwood, and even some redbud.

No clue what once grew here


Before the 4 hour drive back to Las Cruces, we walked the area just beyond the Presidio County Courthouse for glimpses of the iconic water tower and some of their architectural entropy.

Marfa-Cthse Area 3-SML

Marfa has even more examples of entropy than where I live.

Marfa-Cthse Area 1-SML

Plus, well-tended properties

Marfa-Cthse Area 2-SML

Hopes for the present and future

Marfa-Plaza Bench1-SML
Marfa-Plaza Bench2-SML


Earlier and then later in the day, this spot always shines. The row planting of Desert Candle / Dasylirion leiophyllum by Chinati’s Chamberlain building proves that mass and abstraction with a space is powerful.

Marfa-Chamberlain Out 1a-SML
Marfa-Chamberlain Out 1b-SML
Marfa-Chamberlain Out 2a-SML
Marfa-Chamberlain Out 2b-SML

As opposed to, “Who needs so many plants of one species. I mean twenty?” – nameless and without her desert eyes on.

In line with the above quote, our attempt to catch a good, pre-return drive meal and drink failed miserably. Photos for that are unnecessary to post, too.


The drive back including the seemingly endless sunset were too good to photograph!

4 Replies to “Inspiration: Las Cruces – Alpine – Marfa”

  1. I have observed that grasses and herbs grow more densely under the canopy of creosote (Larrea tridentata) than elsewhere. One of the reasons I love creosote is that it can actually improve the soil and facilitate survival of grasses and herbs that grow under it’s canopy.

    Agreed, and thank you so much for that excellent link – very helpful compared to what my town’s ag school teaches and many of our native plant society people believe. Even their creosote range map is better than most. Many benefits and companion species. Just not cows.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So bizarre seeing life in the ‘before’. Also, gives me hope.

    Those concrete sculptures are interesting but also give me the creeps in some way.

    I rarely refer to things as related to Covid, but here it seemed necessary. I loathe the new buzz-phrase “new normal”, since it unnecessarily limits good people who think for themselves and adapt beyond TV and the gov’t. There’s lots of hope among proactive, kind people, nature, etc.

    The concrete works do really cause several different reactions!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I like the examples of Hedgehog Cactus growing under and actually at the base of Creosote Bush which supposedly according to scientists Alelleopathic properties which prevent any other plants from growing next to or around Creosote Bush. I’ve seen numerous examples of large Crosote Bush at 4,000′ elevation growing within other Chaparral shrubs like Redshank, etc. And the entire system looking healthy. Like all the myths about fire, this is yet another narrative that falls flat on it’s face.

    The Circle Ranch there in your area of West Texas is a prime example of where Creosote rather than an invader, is merely a symptom of over grazing and how ranch keyline plowing allows flood waters to spread out and soak into the floodplain letting grasses and forbes to move back in and around Creosote.

    Thanks for the link, I saved it. I think I’ve interjected this topic of creosote bush being picked on, when it’s not so much the alelleopathy poison of creosote bush or climate change, but cows overgrazing desert grassland and creosote colonizing from where it already is. People like to ignore creosote is already present, not new to the area since 1900. Another person I know who knows better says my photos of grasses, cacti, and other plants often under creosotes only proves something else…I forget.

    Lots of myths!

    Liked by 2 people

Comments are closed.