XBar7830If you’re looking for a relaxing get away with all the comforts of home, Sonora‘s the place.

It’s on I-10, just south of Eldorado, and it’s home to X Bar Ranch Nature Retreat and the Caverns of Sonora.

I was tired when I arrived at X Bar Ranch.  Before Sonora, I visited Balmorhea, where I camped, and Marfa, where I slept in a safari tent and bathed outdoors.  I loved doing all of those things, but four days of traveling, living outside (in the rain) and packing in as much activity in as I possibly could made me ready for some peace and quiet.


X Bar Ranch offered a cabin with air conditioning, a very nice lodge with a full kitchen, long porches with rocking chairs, an outdoor grilling area and a swimming pool, among other amenities.





The grounds can accommodate quite a few people, but I was the only one there that night.  I was thankful for that.

Even though I was tired when I arrived, I wanted to take advantage of the gorgeous property and it’s 16 miles of hike/bike trails.  After I unpacked and had a quick walk around, I went on a sunset hike starting on the south end of the lodge, on the blue trail.  (Click here for a trail map.)

I took my camera in search of a nice place to watch the sun set.



I didn’t hike very long before heading back to the lodge to make dinner.  Meal preparation was very easy at Live Oak Lodge.  The kitchen had everything you’d possibly need, including a few basic food items in the fridge.

They thought of everything at X Bar.  There were magazines and books and DVDs and board games.  Satellite TV (though who needs TV when you’re at such a beautiful place?), comfortable furniture, extra blankets, ice, juice boxes and popsicles for the kids.  They even had a rack of cowboy hats inside the front door in case you forgot yours.

After dinner it was still warm outside, so I took a moonlight swim.  The pool area is lit, but I turned out the lights and floated in the water by myself, gazing at the moon and the stars, listening to the sounds of crickets and owls.  It was wonderful.

The stars were so beautiful!  X Bar Ranch is out of the way enough that there’s not a lot of light pollution.  It’s a destination for astronomy fans and I can definitely see why.  I took a few photos from the lodge before heading to bed.  (Make sure to check out the link at the bottom of the post for the Eldorado Star Party – Oct. 28 – Nov. 2, 2013.)



The next morning I woke to watch the sun rise from the back porch.  The sky was cloudy and not very colorful, so I had to be a little creative with my camera.  Even with a drab sunrise, the rugged landscape was lovely.


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I got dressed and made some breakfast before heading out on the trails again.  I took a longer hike this time, but there’s no way I could’ve covered all of the trails in one morning.

I took the other end of the blue trail, the north end, and hiked for about an hour or so before turning back.  The trails are marked fairly well, but it’s easy to get off track.  The rocky land can be deceiving.


Make sure to wear closed toed shoes and long pants and sleeves.  Be careful where you step, the cactus here are no joke!  That being said, it’s worth braving the elements.



After my hike it was time to pack up, eat some lunch and head over to the Caverns of Sonora.

I’ll admit, when I arrived there, it looked very touristy.  There was a large gift shop with a snack bar, some out-of-sort peacocks roamed the property and there were a few run down activities for children.

I bought a ticket for the next cave tour and walked around a bit, fairly unimpressed.  It came time for the tour and the guide was strict about what not to do inside the cave.  No purses or bags, only one camera per person, no food or drink, no touching anything except hand rails.

We finally entered the cave and suddenly I understood why there were so many rules.  This cave is recognized as the most decorated cave in the world.  It has more natural formations inside the two-mile trail than you’d see anywhere else.

I’m not a geologist, but even my untrained eye could recognize how special this place was.  The pictures don’t do it justice, but here are a few images that I snapped during the one hour and 45 min. tour.







It was room after room of stunningly gorgeous features.  Really amazing!

They offer a photo tour that allows you to bring in a tripod and other photo equipment and spend extra time inside the cave, but it must be booked at least two weeks in advance.  They also offer an adventure tour that follows the discovery process of this cave.  They provide caving gear and guide you through crawl spaces, through passageways and let you rappel 50 feet down in to Devil’s Pit.  That tour also requires advanced booking.

By the end of the tour I was thoroughly impressed.  It might be a little touristy, but it’s definitely worth the trip.

I finished my trip in Sonora and headed home, ending my short tour of west Texas.  I miss it already!

Here are a few links to help you plan your trip to Sonora:
X Bar Ranch Nature Retreat  (lodging, booking, activities, etc.)
The Caverns of Sonora  (tours, photos, history)
Eldorado Star Party  (Oct. 28 – Nov. 2, 2013 at X Bar Ranch)

One comment on “SONORA
  1. jp tomas says:

    WOW ,Ashley way cool .again so very happy your having some fun amd getting the R&R you need ,so thankful for all the great photo’s ..

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