Southern Pacific

In the 100 miles of arid West Texas desert between El Paso and the Guadalupe Mountains, don’t miss tiny Hueco Tanks State Historic Park (915/857-1135, daily 8am-dusk Oct.-Apr., daily 7am-dusk May-Sept., $7). Located on the eastern fringes of sprawling Fort Bliss, some 25 miles east of El Paso, then eight miles north on Hwy-2775, the 860-acre park was established to preserve the approximately 3,000 pictographs painted on the syenite basalt boulders. The “hueco tanks” of the title are naturally formed rock basins that collect rainwater, making the site a natural stop for passing travelers, from prehistoric Native Americans to the Butterfield stagecoach in the 1850s. Unfortunately, sometimes the historic pictograph graffiti is overwhelmed by more contemporary spray-paint versions. But the site is pleasant enough, with a popular campground and excellent opportunities for bird-watching and rock climbing.

Some 36 miles east of the Hueco Tanks turnoff the tiny highway town of Cornudas has the welcome middle-of-nowhere May’s Café (915/964-2508), “Home of the World Famous Cornudas Burger.” At mile marker 82.5, there’s a row of false-fronted Wild West buildings.