You can walk from one end of Marathon to the other in 5 minutes if you want, but what’s the point?
The quiet crossroads, which serves as an overnight stop for visitors heading to Big Bend National Park, begs for a little exploration.
But first, some history. A former sea captain named Albion Shepard founded Marathon in 1882, declaring that the landscape reminded him of the plains he’d seen during travels around Marathon, Greece. Today, about 430 people live there, and it’s a tight-knit group that includes a healthy number of artists, photographers and craftspeople.
What to do while you’re there?
First, swing by the French Company Grocer + Deli for sandwiches, salad, cookies and drinks. It’s like a little Whole Foods in the desert, with a selection of natural and organic food, plus supplies for bike repair, camping and more.
Second, take your grub over to the Gage Gardens, located on the south side of the Highway 90 near the intersection of Southeast First Street and Avenue F. The 27-acre oasis of native landscaping includes ponds, a small fruit orchard and fire pit, and it’s a nice spot for a picnic. Walk the quarter-mile trail through the landscaped garden or go for a quick run on the 1-mile exercise loop.
Third, wipe your hands clean, then hit the shops and galleries along Main Street.
At the top of the list? Evans Gallery Fine Art Photography, 102 East Highway 90, headquarters of longtime resident James Evans, who has been photographing the area since 1988. You’ve probably seen his two brilliant photo collections “Big Bend” and “Crazy From the Heat.”
Around the corner, you’ll find Klepper Gallery, 105 North Avenue D, where writer, artist and photographer E. Dan Klepper, whose “Why the Raven Calls the Canyon” captures the desolate beauty of Texas, sells his stuff.
Other galleries of note include Wes Spears’ Sonworks Gallery for woodwork, at 900 East U.S. Highway 90; Carol Townsend Photography inside the Cactus Flower gift shop on Main Street; and Maisie Lee Hand-Carved Wooden Doors, whose work is on display at Eve’s Garden B&B, 200 NW Third Street.
Fourth, keep in mind that Marathon hosts events year-round, including a Fourth of July Dance and Barbecue that has taken place annually for more than a century. The event always takes place the Saturday closest to Fourth of July, and it coincides with the annual chili cookoff at Post Park. (For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org.)
The lineup for this year’s Viva Big Bend Music Festival, scheduled for July 26-29, will be unveiled in May, but expect a couple of local venues — the Gage Hotel and Eve’s Garden — to participate in the event, which includes more than 50 musicians performing in Marathon, Alpine and Fort Davis. For information, go to vivabigbend.com.
The Marathon Arts, Crafts and Quilt Show is set for Sept. 8 at the Marathon Community Center, and it’s free for viewers.
The West Fest Cabrito Cook-Off and Dance takes place in mid- to late September at Post Park, and cooks compete for accolades for best cabrito, brisket, salsa, dessert, bloody mary and margarita.
And last of all, grab your running shoes for the Marathon 2 Marathon, scheduled this year for Oct. 27. Nearly 500 runners participate in this USA Track & Field-certified, Boston Marathon qualifying race. The good news? It’s usually dry and cool, and the course is a gradual downhill with very little traffic. Learn more at marathon2marathon.net.