On my cross country tour this winter the most fascinating and unexpected stop ended up being a former ghost town near the Texas-Mexico border called Terlingua. Terlingua is the closest town to the entrance to Big Bend National Park.

The town was created during a quicksilver boom in the 1880’s and then abandoned in the 1940’s. In the ’70’s river guides navigating the Rio Grande took over the old trading post as their base of operation. The town now has a population of 40 people but the old porch of the trading post and the four nearby bars act as the social hub for the innumerable desert rats spread throughout the area.

Every evening locals descend upon the porch to drink beer, socialize, play music, and watch the amazing sunsets casting their glow on the Chisos mountains that jut up from the desert floor. The ghost town feels wild and raw and fairly lawless; even the sheriff is a fiddle playing regular on the porch. Terlinguas’ isolation from any large city makes it truly a distant, foreign land.

Mark Lewis is one of the locals there and a great old time fiddler.  He spends his days leading river trips and his evenings playing fiddle on the porch waiting for other locals to catch the old time bug; or for traveling musicians to stop in for a visit.  It’s out of the way but definitely worth the trip.

View a photo show of my cross country desert trip here.