Sunday, April 26, 2009

My New Favorite Road


Texas has many great roads.

Drives that are scenic and awe inspiring. I have many that I have taken and greatly like. I think about the view as one crests the Hueco Mountains on US 180 out of El Paso. Or the cliffs and canyons of the Bofecillos Highlands along FM 170, AKA -the River Road. Or the rough gravel road that follows the Rio Grande through Big Bend- another River Road. Or hill country along Hwy 16. Or the Davis Mountain Scenic Loop.

But with just one visit, I think I already have a new favorite- FM 2810, the Pinto Canyon Road.

One visit. The middle of the day at that. And I am sold on it.
The best road in the state.
Seriously.

What make it so great you ask? Well, lets just say it is the best example of west Texas I have seen.

It starts in Marfa and winds 50 some miles to Ruidosa. 50 some miles is not that long of a road, so you can bet it packs a lot into those miles. It goes from the Marfa Highlands, across the Cuesta del Burro Mountains, down through Pinto Canyon, and across the desert to the Rio Grande at Ruidosa.

So back to Marfa. For those who have not been there, Marfa is in the middle of the vast open high grasslands south of the Davis Mountains. This just looks like what you would expect a giant Texas ranch to look like. Or maybe a movie.

That is why Marfa has been an area used in several films. Giant was filmed here. As was There will be Blood, No Country for Old Men, Fandango, and Dancer, Texas.

FM 2810 starts driving across this open range landscape.

A lonely road heading southwest toward the mountains. A road you are likely to see more pronghorn than people on.
My kind of road.

After a while the road climbs up into the Cuesta del Burro Mountains and the views get bigger. The golden grasslands of the open range roll into deep valleys and out across the Marfa Highlands.

Stands of yucca become the forest here.
The rugged peaks of the Chinati Mounains rise beyond the Cuesta's and between them lies the deep Pinto Canyon where this road will descend to the Rio Grande.

The views go for miles. I cannot seem to drive for more than a few hundred yards at a time. It seems that another spectacular view presents itself that often.

Fifty miles takes well over five hours. There are just too many places to stop.
I am filling memory cards like crazy. This is just too neat of a place.

And this is the middle of the day. I need to come back here and watch the sunset from this road.
After cresting the Cuesta del Burro Mountains, the pavement ends and the road begins a rapid decent on a rough unpaved one lane track down into the deep Pinto Canyon.

The canyon divides the Cuesta's from the Chinati Mountains and steeply drops from the mile high reaches of the Cuesta del Burro Mountains to the much lower elevations along the Rio Grande.

As you quickly descend the canyon on twists, turns and bumps the lush grass fades. Cactus and rock dominate the view. The road works it's way past cliffs and peaks into the desert country below. It crosses several streambeds. It passes the sign for turn to the Chinati Hot Springs. finally it ends at the few buildings that mark the small village of Ruidosa.

There at the Rio Grande the unpaved track joins the paved FM 170 and heads toward Presidio.

This is a drive not to miss. But it is also not a drive I would take a car on. the first 32 miles are paved but the last 20 something are not. There are also several rough patches on it. I think you would be better off with some clearance. Second note, I think this road is better driven from Marfa to Ruidosa. That lets gravity pull down the rough part.

Be sure to have plenty of memory cards, film, and you widest lens. In this big country you will need it. Drive it. It just might be your new favorite road too.

You can see more of my images from FM 2810 in my galleries:

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