"Of all the paths you take in life make sure a few of them are dirt" US Forest Sevice

Showing posts with label Texas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Texas. Show all posts

Monday, February 24, 2020

Southeast Texas

Strange Places

When a person isn't feeling well, they want to go back to what is familiar. While we were sick, I wanted to cancel our eastward plans and just go back west. But we would have later wondered why we turned around when we got back to Colorado.

Our short day of driving ended in La Grange, TX. We needed to get some exercise. So we checked out what La Grange had to offer.


La Grange, Texas

La Grange Quilt Museum

Old City Hall from 1800s

 Monument Hill and Kriesche Brewery

The Monument Hill is hallowed ground with the remains of men that perished is the struggle of Texas's independence from Mexico.
During the Mexican War, the "Black Bean Death Lottery" resulted when the spiteful General Santa Ana was enraged by an escape of captured Texans as they were being marched to Mexico City.
Some 176 of the men were recaptured. A decree that all who participated in the break were to be executed was later changed to kill every tenth man. The victims were chosen by lottery, each
man drawing a bean from an jar containing 176 beans, seventeen black beans being the tokens signifying death. Some of the men left messages and letters for their families with their companions.
The doomed men were shot at dusk in 1843. 

Mural of Death Lottery


 The Kriesche Brewery on the hill overlooking La Grange. Not only were there some nice hiking trails, We learned a thing or two.

Overlooking the brewery
 In 1849, a German immigrant Kreische purchased 172 acres of land with the Monument on it and built a house for his family and the first commercial breweries in Texas. When a new batch of beer was ready, Kreische would raise a banner with the German phrase "Frisch Auf" or Freshen up.
We could imagined local citizens enjoying a pint of Kreische’s Bluff Beer while looking out at the Texas landscape.
He used the natural springs to make and move the beer.


 Buescher State Park

 The 12 mile County Road C1 connecting Bastrop State Park and Buescher State Park is a route many local cyclists liked to ride. There were lots of cyclists of all ages in the parking lot when we arrived. The ride was nice for a few miles along the ridge of the hills before the hills kicked in. The hills were steeper than those we had been riding in Stonewall. After four steep climbs and at least two more ahead, I called it. This was our first ride after being sick and I was getting jelly legs. We had to ride those four hills on the way back too.
 A steep downhill before the up.
Houston on a Sunday morning
Texas has a lot of churches and dancehalls which makes driving through large cities on Sunday morning much less stressful. I guess everyone was in church or sleeping off the effects of last night.

Big Thicket National Preserve

Big Thicket National Preserve protects the incredible diversity of life found where multiple habitats converge in southeast Texas. Hiking trails and waterways meander through nine different ecosystems, from longleaf pine forests to cypress-lined bayous. 

The rangers and campground owners filled us in on how hurricanes have affected the area. 

I am not sure why I had to make this stop other than it was in the area where we needed to end our day of driving.
 Hiking in the preserve is eerie in a creepy kind of way. The sign at the trailhead made me wonder what we were getting into. Other than the slick boardwalk after the rain and a few mosquitos, it was a pleasant walk.
But my eyes were on alert for critters.


One trail lead us to the carnivorous sundew and pitcher plants that eat insects to get the nitrogen that the soil lacks.
We saw lots of chimneys that Crawdads create in the swampland when they carry mud up from their burrows.
The trail was a noisy place that sounded like a jungle with all of the frogs and different birds even though we were the only people out there. The little tree frogs get pretty loud.
Bald cypress trees love water but need their fluted trunks and knees (all those protrusions) to anchor them. Water moccasins also like the warm swampy areas so we stayed on the trail.

Actually, it was a good stop. 
Driving into La Grange, I asked Mike what he though of a change of plans. He smiled and said he was thinking the same thing.We cancelled most of our Texas reservations and figured out a new plan of action. I often talk about the currency of time and didn't feel like more of the same was a good investment. Even though Texas has some very nice state parks, Louisiana was calling. We were excited to see what was next.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Our Good Fortune

A change of plans

My fortune cookie from the Chinese restaurant said I would be traveling and come into a fortune soon. I thought that $50 would be a fortune to me. We picked up our mail on the way home and had an unexpected check for $498. I think we should go back for Chinese again, next week.

Another hike at Enchanted Rock State Park

We had a good run of staying healthy this past year until the pesky virus caught up with us.

We had booked a trip to Merida, Mexico, the capital of the Yucatan. Fortunately, we had purchased travel insurance. The doctor recommended that we not fly and gave us the documentation to submit to the insurance company. If we had chosen to board the plane with hacking coughs, there may have been a rebellion ending with us in the Gulf of Mexico. We should be getting an insurance check for the flights and hotel.

A hint of spring to come at Enchanted Rock.

Another funky Fredericksburg restaurant for brunch.

We were disappointed to miss swimming in the Mexican cenotes and bici ruta (bike ride through the city on Sunday mornings) but there are plenty of good things to see and do on this side of the Gulf. We are looking forward to warmer weather to recuperate from the ugly virus.

Before leaving LBJ State Park, Mike helped move three young buffalos that were heading to auction. The process is choreographed with 3 people opening and closing the gates on the chutes while Jeff ushered them into the livestock trailer. 

 Fortunately, a rowdy guy lead the way and two more followed him through the chute and into the trailer. The older buffalo were running back and forth on the other side of the fence but settled down once the young ones were loaded. They are sold to other ranches to keep the bloodlines separate and the money is returned to run the state park. 

Caprock State Park in Texas's panhandle has a wild heard of buffalo that LBJ SP is working with to eventually rotate and build up its herd in the future.

Down at the Sauer Beckman Farm, they had butchered a cow and were making sausage as we made our rounds. We took a hard pass when Daniel offered up his blood sausage and head cheese.
We filed our income taxes before leaving the Hill Country and are getting a refund. Woo Hoo! We appreciate the good fortune the cookie foresaw. Now for the traveling part.

 We are headed south and east over the next couple of months.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Hamilton Pool

Dripping Springs, Texas

When we were new to volunteering, a fellow camphost told us to be sure to get away from the park on our days off to avoid becoming stir-crazy. We found that to be very good advise. This time we found ourselves returning to Guadalupe River State Park and Pedernales Falls (P Falls) on our days off. We loved the River Road bike ride in New Braunfels and found ourselves meeting up with the local cycle group.
The ranches and wineries in the Hill Country are big wedding venues for weddings. During my doctor's visit, the LPN mentioned that her daughter was getting married and having a country wedding. The venue she reserved was $5000 dollars for the day. My chin hit the floor. It sounded like her parents were overwhelmed by the cost of the up coming nuptials.
 Before the weddings, the bachelorette parties are out in full force visiting the wineries up and down Highway 290 wine trail. 

Even though we have enjoyed our time here at LBJ, we have found 3 months a little long for us.
While camping in Guadalupe River SP, I heard wings beating on our pickup. A crazy cardinal was jumping on our truck mirrors, pecking and flapping her wings. It didn't looked like she was going to stop so we placed towels over the mirrors. Next thing we knew, she was beating her wings and tapping her beak on her reflections in the trailer's windows. We put a tarp over the windows to help allay her anxiety since we didn't have any bird Xanax. She must have been staking out her territory and was trying to chase the bird (her reflection) away. She would have kept it up for hours if we hadn't covered the reflections.
Hamilton Pool Preserve just outside of Dripping Springs was another great getaway for us. The hiking trail to the pool is steep with uneven steps that were slick when wet.

It was very quiet since we were the first to arrive. I have a feeling that the sound carries and gets loud in the summer. 
Hamilton Creek spills out over limestone outcroppings to create a 50-foot waterfall as it plunges into the head of a steep box canyon. The waterfall never completely dries up, but in dry times it does slow to a trickle.




Hamilton Pool Preserve is a part of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve. Reservations often required. Temp of the water is 55 degrees and I didn't last long while wading in the pool.



We were getting sweaty with the temps getting up to 80 degrees as we took the hiking trail from the pool to the Pedernales River.

A mile from Hamilton Pool is Westcave Preserve, an environmentally rich canyon with a 40-foot waterfall tumbling over fern-covered travertine columns into an emerald pool. Like many other parks in Texas, a reservation is required to see the Grotto by tour. The upper area with bird blinds is open to the public once you pay your $7.
These falls are similar to Hanging Lake in Glenwood Springs, Colorado and are fortunately being protected.

We made this stop to see how "wintering" in Texas would compare to our past 5 winters in Arizona. I think we like the warm dry desert better.


Thursday, January 23, 2020

San Antonio, Texas

Getting out of town

Driving through San Antonio isn't for the faint of heart. Fortunately, Mike did a great job maneuvering through construction zones and congested interstates. We had stayed at the KOA on the north side previously, taking the bus into the tourist (middle) section of the city but missed riding our bikes on the River Walk. This time we headed south to the Baunig Lake RV Park which is a
Passport America campground with a PA rate of $28/night compared to the $60-70 campgrounds. We were ready for a little time away from LBJ State Park with less hilly roads to ride on.

San Antonio's River Walk runs 13 miles south of the Alamo past 4 more historic National Park Missions and an aqueduct from the 1700s.
Our bike rides took us to the five Missions of San Antonio.
After 10,000 years, the people of South Texas found their cultures, their very lives under attack. In the early 1700s Apache raided from the north, deadly diseases traveled from Mexico, and drought lingered. Survival lay in the missions. By entering a mission, they foreswore their traditional life to become Spanish, accepting a new religion and pledging to a distant and unseen king.
San Jose is known as the "Queen of the Missions", the largest of the missions and was almost fully restored. Spanish missions were not churches, but communities with the church the focus. The stone masons were hard at work with restoration as we walked our bikes through the mission.



Just north of Mission Espada is the Espada Aqueduct. The Espada Aqueduct was constructed in 1745 by Franciscans to serve Mission Espada farmlands brought water traveling in an acequia from the San Antonio River.
It’s here at the Alamo that a pivotal battle took place in 1836, where the Texans fought for their independence from Mexico. For 13 days, less than 200 Texans defended the Alamo against more than 1800 Mexican soldiers. Although the Texas rebels lost the battle and their lives (including the legendary Davy Crockett), their sacrifice fueled the rebellion and helped to win the war, carried forward by the battle cry of “Remember the Alamo!”


The downtown River Walk is a beautiful area to enjoy restaurants and strolling musicians. Our last visit was during Marti Gras and was less congested this time.

Riding to the downtown walking only section, we took to the streets to find the Mercado which has music playing and outdoor market during the weekends. It was already afternoon so we grabbed a couple of tacos to enjoy while watching the families strolling the market.

OK we had more than the tacos...
Our four days off ran out and we missed the Pearl Brewery Complex, probably due to the extra bike ride that took us through an iffy area of town with many dogs per household ready to help us get our heart rates up. 
Feeling refreshed after our four days away made us ready to return to the Hill Country for the second half of our stay. We headed a different direction out of San Antonio hoping for less construction. No such chance. The rough roads vibrated one of the trailer's windows open. Mike finally found a place to pull off so he could close it before it broke once we cleared most of the construction. 

Back in Fredericksburg


Trade Days (an antiques swap meet) are held the third weekend of each month seven miles from Fredericksburg. People love antiques here and would bring wagons and dollies to haul out their purchases.
Live music and jam sessions can be found any day of the week without a long drive. We settled in and enjoyed an afternoon of tunes and dancing in the Biergarten.

We passed on the Hemp lotion samples were being offered as we walked around the booths since we weren't feeling any pain and headed over to the fire oven pizza truck.

We continue to visit Pedernales Falls State Park to hike and mountain bike and were offered a host position next winter if we would like.