Marathon

The Gateway to Big Bend offers enough tasty food and worthy art to attract even the hiking-averse.
Marathon
Marathon Coffee Shop

1. 
Marathon Coffee Shop

The tempo at this laid-
back cafe is mercifully unhurried, just like the town itself. 
Practice the art of not 
checking your email every 
thirty seconds by focusing 
instead on a plate of breakfast enchiladas (stuffed with 
green chiles and onions) or 
a cinnamon roll the size of a 
saucer. The service can be 
a bit slow on busy weekends, 
but it won’t matter. Between nursing your bottomless cup 
of coffee and striking up conversations with the friendly locals, 
you won’t have time to mind. 301 NW First, 432-386-4352

2. 
Gage Hotel

Whether you’ve driven sixty miles or six hundred to get here, you’ll feel as if you couldn’t have arrived at this remote resort soon enough. With key in hand, proceed to a room in the original two-story structure or one of the newer Los Portales rooms that encircle a lush courtyard. Then it’s off to—take your pick—the pool, to sink into the inexplicably icy water; the 12 Gage, to dine on lavender-marinated elk medallions; or the White Buffalo Bar, 
to raise a margarita topped off with Topo Chico and toast to your good fortune. 102 NW First, 800-884-4243, gagehotel.com

3. Johnny B’s Soda Fountain

It’s not hard to find a good breakfast in Marathon, though 
it’s not easy to find a better one than the migas and huevos rancheros and Trash Can burritos (eggs, hashbrowns, pico, 
bacon, sausage, and more) served up at this fifties-style diner. 
When hunger pangs strike again a few hours later, head back 
for a burger wrapped in a flour tortilla and a pineapple milk 
shake. The owner used to be the local constable, so don’t even 
think about running out on your bill. 109 NW First, 432-386-4233

4.
 Pitaya Verde

This Western wear boutique 
takes its name from an endangered cactus found only in these parts. 
Not threatened with extinction are the Dale Evans types the store caters to, who favor tooled leather (like scallop-edged Leaders in Leather cross-body purses), turquoise (on everything from necklaces to belt buckles), and accessories with a bite (think silver bracelets with bullets for charms). As the ladies sift through Double D Ranch prairie skirts, their cowboys can pick out Ryan Michael snap-button shirts. 107 NW First, 303-408-3122, pitayaverde.com

5.
 Front Street Books

Though smaller than its sister 
store, in nearby Alpine, this indie 
shop requires a significant chunk of time to sift through all of its gems. 
Fill some gaps in your personal library by stocking up on classic Texas titles like I’ll Gather My Geese , frontierswoman Hallie Stillwell’s city-girl-gone-country autobiography, and Federico Villalba’s Texas , an account of a Mexican pioneer’s Lone Star life. The rest of the afternoon can be spent reading local trail maps or scanning the back-room shelves for 50-cent paperback westerns. 105 NW First, 432-386-4249, fsbooks.com

6.
 Evans Gallery

Like many of the folks you’ll meet here, photographer James H. Evans is an expat—in his case, from Austin. For the past 23 years he’s lugged his camera through the desert to take photos of stunning and sun-soaked vistas, which are available in this sleek, well-lit space as framed and unframed prints. If you prefer fauna to landscapes, Evans (a TEXAS MONTHLY contributor) has silk-screened images of horned toads, tarantulas, javelinas, and other underappreciated animals onto pillowcases and T-shirts, as part of his Desert Critter Wear line. 102 NW First, 
432-386-4366, jameshevans.com

7.
 Klepper Gallery

West Texas is a natural haven for artists like E. Dan Klepper, a San Antonio native who has an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an enthusiasm for the outdoors (he’s the author of 100 Classic Hikes in Texas ). His vividly hued photographs, which he prints onto 
canvases that range in size 
from a modest two-feet-by-two-
feet to panoramas that would almost cover a queen-size bed, 
offer stirring snapshots of 
enormous cumulonimbus clouds, 
imposing mountains, and multicolored horizons. 105 N. Avenue D, 
432-386-4107, kleppergallery.com

8.
 Burnt Biscuit Bakery

Though the original proprietress, Shirley Rooney, retired in 2004, her beloved fried pies are now churned out daily by Don and Jackie Boyd, a Houston couple to whom Rooney bestowed her secret recipe. The crimped half-moon treats are dusted with sugar and come in a dozen flavors, including blackberry, pecan, and jalapeño—welcome additions to the three flavors (apple, apricot, and peach) that Rooney offered. As for the biscuits, which are laden with gravy and heaped with sausage, you’ll wish they were burnt to deter you from ordering another plateful. 
 113 NE First, 432-386-4008 

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