In June, 2003, my friend, Lorrie, and I headed out for a week of primitive camping and doing a lot of nothing. The only deadline we had was to pick up my kids at their dad's in San Antonio, Texas. Starting out from Clovis, New Mexico, we headed north up through Santa Rosa and then south down through Roswell, Carlsbad and into Texas.
The first four days of camping, we'd learned a few lessons, like sleeping in the back of my Explorer (with the back seat down) was easier than setting up a tent. We'd also gotten the campfire, cleanup and cooking situation down to a "t". By the time we headed into Texas, we were thoroughly enjoying ourselves "roughing it" and staying anywhere except commercial campsites.
We had already spotted Marfa, Texas on the map, and decided to make that the last leg of our jaunt. Our plan was to go to Marfa, figure out where the Marfa Lights were, try to see them, spend the night somewhere and head into San Antonio the next day. Pretty loosey-goosey, but as single mothers with hectic lives, it was just what we needed.
The scenery was absolutely spectacular as we headed into Marfa. Rough and isolated with small mountains jutting off into low-lying clouds, the place was very Wild West and very remote. To our surprise, there was a "Marfa Light Viewing Area" set up off Highway 90. It was like a rest area, with signs that had clear descriptions and gave a history of the lights. Basically, it said the lights had been around well before automobiles, and in the field where they were seen (a fenced field right next to the viewing area) there were no roads to confuse car headlights with unexplained lights. The description also gave the Indian legend of an Apache warrior being the source of the lights.
The place definitely felt unsettled, and it was easy to imagine Apaches whooping and hollering while they thundered past on horses. Despite the well-marked viewing area, Lorrie and I had no intention of spending a good part of the evening with other tourists hoping to catch a glimpse of the lights. Our previous nights had left us full of confidence about our primitive camping skills, and we had so thoroughly enjoyed our isolation that we had no desire to share one of our last few nights in a crowd.
Leaving the viewing area on our right, we headed back down Highway 90. Not a mile down the road, we spotted a small dirt road jutting off to the right. Turning in, we were now running parallel to the fenced-off field and traveling further away from the highway. About a mile and a half later, we spotted a hill surrounded by very bushy bushes and a few small trees. We swung over near the hill, drove around the trees and found ourselves tucked neatly away from both the small country road and the highway.
We were very pleased to see that we could set up our camp chairs and have a direct view into the field that hosted the lights. The sun was going down as we removed items from the back of the SUV and got ourselves set up for the night. We ate a quick dinner and spent a good half hour trying to decide where to set up our chairs for the show.
Finally getting settled in and comfy, we waited anxiously for any signs of lights. We were so far from the highway that we couldn't see any headlights from there. In fact, we couldn't see any lights at all. We were starting to worry that we had driven ourselves too far away to see anything. We actually started to think we might join civilization at the viewing area. It would be such a shame to have come this far and tucked ourselves too away to see anything at all.
Suddenly, off in the field, we could see a red light. It was far away and we thought, "Well, maybe..." The red light disappeared... and then there were two orange lights. These orange lights wandered around, bobbed up and down, and got closer and closer to each other until they joined, flared briefly, and became a yellow light that slowly disappeared.
The Marfa light show had begun! Once, when a green light bounced into view, it split into two green lights. The two lights wove around when suddenly a white light appeared. The three lights moved in different directions then the white light flared and disappeared, a green light sank and disappeared, while the last green light turned blue.
This went on and on. There was always at least one light within view and sometimes we saw two or three at a time. All in all, the lights appeared in many colors, the most prominent being orange, green, yellow and white. We saw a few red ones and fewer blue ones. As the show was completing its second hour, the lights were becoming fainter and harder to see.