May 25 & 26, 2017
Despite my fairly extensive pre-trip research I didn’t learn about this phenomenon until I arrived in Alpine and studied a tourist map of the area and saw something showing as “Marfa Lights Viewing area”.
(Photo credit: nps.gov)
On Thursday May 25 I did quite a bit of driving on scenic roads in the area and ended up in Marfa, a small town about 26 miles west of where I was staying in Alpine. Having now read about the Marfa Lights online I thought I’d head out there after dinner to check it out for myself. I had stopped at the facility along highway 90 during the day and spoke with someone who had his Jeep parked there and was planning to be there after nightfall. There is actually a well-marked Marfa Lights Viewing Center (MLVC) a little more than halfway between Alpine and Marfa.
I broke my “no driving after dark” rule for the second time in three days – really letting my hair down out here in rural Texas – and when I arrived at MLVC after dark there were already quite a few people there (around 40, as I recall).
Here are photos I took the next day:
The structure at MLVC actually only houses restrooms, built in a yin and yang shape when seen from overhead. Behind the building is a paved viewing area with a low stone wall around it (to keep critters like snakes and scorpions out – hopefully…).
From the MLVC humans are supposed to look out over the desert southwest, towards Route 67, which runs north to south, and the Chinati mountains on the other side of that highway. If you look very closely you’ll see a Chinati mountain peak between the two utility poles in the photo above. After dark there is a telephone tower in the distance with a red light on top of it which spectators are informed is a good reference for seeing the lights, generally to it’s right.
Reports have said people often see lights flashing on and off or remaining stationary, and on occasion zipping from side to side or traveling in “packs”.
I stood there for over an hour (well after dark) and yes, I did see stationary or slightly moving blinking lights, generally in the same area. Most times it was a short burst but on occasion it lasted a little longer. There were oohs and ahhs from the crowd when the lights first appeared. I didn’t see any “zipping” along the horizon, nor did I see anything which I would remotely consider extraterrestrial. Information online seems to indicate that the lights are usually very low, near and below the horizon. Color me skeptical but now that I’ve seen at least an hour’s worth of “Marfa Lights” I don’t think you need to be a rocket scientist to surmise that what you are seeing is probably lights from vehicles on a highway (Route 67, duh) perhaps being caused to flash by passing behind trees or other roadside obstacles. I think it’s all a bunch of hooey.
As I was driving out to the MLVC that night I got excited when I did see three bright lights coming towards me. Turns out it was a train on tracks parallel to the highway!
Move along, folks – nothing here to see…