Day Trips: The Desk, Alpine

Beat-up desk attracts visitors to a West Texas desert hilltop


photos by Gerald E. McLeod

The desk. Mere mortals would ask, "Why lug a heavy metal office desk to the top of Hancock Hill above Alpine?" The rest of us know instinctively the intrinsic value of such a nonsensical event.

According to a March 2020 Texas Monthly article by Sterry Butcher, the desk first appeared in 1979 (some sources say 1981). Jim Kitchen, a distance runner on the Sul Ross University track team, and a couple of his buddies dragged the desk to a scenic overlook on the backside of the hill.

Over the years the climb up the rocky path to see the desk has become a popular, if not a major, tourist attraction. A notebook in a drawer gives visitors a chance to record their presence.


Sometime around 2005 someone hung bicycle parts to a tree as a sculpture and sign that you're near the desk.

The first half of the 1.3-mile hike up Hancock Hill is a steep slog over loose, sharp rocks. This is no place to wear flip-flops.

By the time we got to Rock Pile 1, an aptly named landmark, we were huffing and puffing. The trail leveled out somewhat by Rock Pile 2, but the terrain was still littered with sharp rocks and sharper cacti. From here the view of Alpine and the Twin Sisters peaks is worth the hike.


About 10 minutes later I was standing at the desk looking over a large brown valley toward Marathon and the Glass Mountains. It was a beautiful view that I probably wouldn't have seen without the attraction of a beat-up metal desk.

The desk in Alpine is accessible from the university parking lot at the northeast end of East Avenue B. Remarkably, "Sul Ross Desk" appears on many GPS programs. Obtain maps at the Alpine Visitor Information Center, 106 N. Third St.


1,658th in a series. Everywhere is a day trip from somewhere. Follow “Day Trips & Beyond,” a travel blog, at austinchronicle.com/daily/travel.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Sul Ross Desk, Hancock Hill, Alpine, Texas Monthly, Sterry Butcher, Jim Kitchen, Sul Ross University, Twin Sisters, Marathon, Glass Mountains

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