Friday, December 20, 2019

Christmas in Hill Country


50 years of LBJ State Park

This was the 50th anniversary and tree lighting celebrating Christmas at LBJ's Parks and quite an event. with 800 people attending.
One of our jobs was collecting cedar branches for the top of the manger for the live nativity scene. We thought it looked rather nice.
After the tree lighting ceremony, there were decorated trolley rides with a tour of LBJ's childhood Junction School lead by the National Park rangers.
My job that evening was to hand out brochures and let people know what was going on. When I told President Johnson's daughter about the trolley ride and directed her to the table to get a ticket, she declined and said she was here for the presentation. The superintendent quickly intervened and lead her away. Oops.
This was an extra shift to help out so once we got tired, we went home.

Sauer Beckman (Living History) Farm

After the tree lighting, the trail was lit up leading to the farm. 500 people lined up to tour the decorated home and get the volunteer made cookies. They are still offering us leftover cookies every time we have lunch at the farm.

 Daniel was hard at work doing his blacksmithing. 
The best part of the evening was sneaking down the path and sitting around the fire listening to the harmonica playing cowboy under the twinkling stars.
A stop along the path to the farm.

One of our daily walks.

Luckenbach, TX

Luckenbach is only 5 miles from Fredericksburg and has music everyday.

We enjoyed the fire and some very good music and stories on a cool morning.

We made the drive to Boerne (Bernie) for a visit to Quest labs for a blood draw. I asked the phlebotomist for a recommendation for breakfast since I had been fasting and it was 9:30 am. She suggested Bear Moon Bakery and their peach turnovers. Who am I to argue with a turnover in peach country? Why stop with a peach turnover? We added a Kuglehopf (a sweet yeast bread with raisin from Austria and Germany) when the lady in front of us in line to order said she always took one home after breakfast. Good thing we are 40 minutes away or this would become a problem for us. They were both amazing. Who knew Brussel sprout hashbrowns could be so good?

I have to go back in 6 weeks for another blood draw. Looks like a return trip to Bear Moon may be in order.

Guadalupe River State Park

The Guadalupe River State Park is near Boerne and our next stop. It has 4 miles of riverfront where you can swim, fish, tube and canoe. While on land, you can camp, hike, ride mountain bikes.

We were having a cold snap and the park was pretty empty. But the hiking trails were nice and easy through the woods and along the river. This is a place we could spend a little more time someday.
Floating the river on a warm summer day would be a real treat.

One more armadillo. Now to find an opossum.
We have had questions about what is involved in the volunteer positions here. 
The visitor center has set hours 10-2pm. On the farm they lead tours, take care of some of the animals, cook or clean along side the rangers.

 So far, we are pleased with our job as maintenance volunteers 3 days a week 7-11am, well maybe 730-10am unofficially some days. This is a day use park and the work for us varies each day. We get our daily walking in and get to visit the other volunteers on our rounds.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Texas Hill Country

Some time to explore

We are volunteering in LBJ State Park in Texas for three months. After two months on the road, we were ready to settle in for a while. I think we are turning into whimps. This area deserves more than just 1 month to explore. We will miss the wildflower season but caught it two years ago.

Before President Johnson passed away, he had established the donation of his ranch to the National Park System. Maybe he didn't want his legacy to only be about the Vietnam War. He was responsible for Medicare, Headstart, Voting Rights and Civil Rights Acts. He actually signed more legislation than any other president other than FDR who had three terms compared to his 1 1/2.
The ranger gave an insightful and interesting tour.
Lady Bird Johnson, the first lady, had quite a history of her own. I won't go into it here but she had a good head on her shoulders.
It takes quite a bit of time to visit the state and national parks along with the national park in Johnson City but well worth the effort. There is also the Presidential Library in Austin.
Air Force One was too large for the runway on the ranch. The President and other officials were shuttled from Bergstrom AF Base by LBJ's smaller jet, "Air Force One-Half" as he called it.

Cycling in Hill Country has its own hazards. Traffic is quite low in the small towns and hilly back roads. But you never know what type of critter that will cross your path.
This mom cow was not letting us pass until all of the calves were safe.
Riding through the national park was jaring as we crossed some wicked cattle guards. We startled a couple of black angus (big cows) as we passed through a field. They charged out
out of the trees just missing us. Once was enough for me. I don't care how many online bike routes say it is a great ride.

We finally found an armadillo that wasn't roadkill. He moved faster than I expected.
Blackbuck antelope were brought from India and have no hunting limit they are quite prolific like the deer in Texas without predators . They also quite speedy as they cross the road.
Our ride while on duty.
Our job as maintenance host is 3 four hour days per week. That's a lot of time to get to enjoy the area.

Christmas is a big deal in Texas Hill Country. Fredericksburg has a tree lighting or parade every weekend in Dec and Johnson City went crazy with their beautiful lights. 

LBJ State Park has a huge Christmas lighting celebration and volunteers bake over 800 cookies in the week leading up to the event. This is the 75th anniversary celebration making it an even bigger deal and as they say "all hands on deck."
 Our campsite overlooks pecan and oak trees that the deer and cardinals visit everyday.

Sauer Beckman Farm

The Sauer-Beckman (Living history) Farmstead is a living history farm, presented as it was in 1918. Interpreters wear period clothing, do the farm and household chores as they were done at that
time, and conduct tours for the visitors. Part of their demonstrations is cooking what they grow and  in season. On our "working" days, we can have lunch with them for $1 donation.
They are quite tasty. We pass on bean and cornbread day or sausage and cabbage.
Hanna hard at work making bread in the very warm kitchen. They use a wood stove for cooking and no running water. Lunch always smells so good when we arrive.
One of the local volunteers spinning wool from the sheep into yarn.
Kids making candles to decorate the farm for Christmas.
Johan Friedrich Sauer and his wife purchased 188 acres along the Pedernales River and moved here with their four children in 1869. They built a log and rock cabin for the family, with a sleeping loft and a porch. As their family grew, they added rooms to the structure. By 1885, they completed a two-story stone dormitory for their 10 children.
Several German farming families made their homes on land that is now part of the park.

The Danz family built their dogtrot (porch in the middle of the rooms) cabin on a scenic spot overlooking fields above the Pedernales River some­time in the 1860s.

Hye Market and Post Office

The Hill Country is dotted with small towns like Hye with a post office that is also a great place for lunch just down the road from us.

Enchanted Rock State Park

Enchanted Rock is 17 miles from Fredericksburg and has fascinated humans for thousands of years. Most of the stories are rooted in fancy rather than fact.

Tonkawa Indians thought that ghost fires flickered on top of the dome. The odd creaking and groaning coming from the dome frightened them. Geologists say that the dome creaks and groans as temperatures change. As for the ghost fires, the rock glitters on clear nights after rain. The glittering is reflections from collected water.
One story tells of an Indian maiden who saw her tribe killed by an enemy. She threw herself off the top of Enchanted Rock, and her spirit haunts the rock still. Another
story tells of a young Spanish soldier who rescued his true love just as Comanches were about to burn her at the base of the rock.

We reserved our day pass for an entrance between 8:30 and 10 am. By 11 am the park was getting busy. 

We took the Summit Trail to the top of the hill while few people were around. By the time we had climbed back down and headed to the Loop Trail. The Rock was getting busy.
We didn't feel any ghosts.
If you come without an entrance pass, watch for flashing yellow lights along the highway that will signal closures due to capacity, weather or other emergencies. We had our pass and no signs were flashing.
Enchanted Rock was much steeper that it looked.

Going down, we were glad we were wearing our grippy hiking boots.
Our travels have evolved over the past 18 years. We thought volunteering would be a short term thing but have found staying in a place for a little while a good fit. We like contributing to the parks and living in a lovely place while seeing the sites. It is fun having a different window view every so often. Sometimes, it is good to just stop and enjoy a quiet day with my friend.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Thanksgiving weekend

Feeling Thankful

Caverns of Sonora

The music on the radio as we were driving through west Texas is George Strait, Dolly and Willie. We see a lot of cowboy hats, boots and tight jeans and hear lots of "yes, ma'ams". We have crossed over into a strange new land.
The Caverns of Sonora, in the middle of Texas ranch country claims to be the most beautiful show cave on the planet. We thought "yeah right" as we ponied up our $20 each
for the long tour.

 We entered the dormant section of the cave and it looked just like a hole in the ground, interesting but it was a cave. It was a warm 70 degrees and a 98% humidity. Which made for hazy photos but I could feel my wrinkles plumping up. 
We came around the corner to the living section and it looked like someone had decorated for Christmas. You can't see the sparkles but they were shiney.
The calcite that makes the water hard here made beautiful formations. It also had a higher concentration of CO2 as we walked lower into the cave making us feel like we were
walking at 7000 feet.  
The 1 hour 45 minute guided tours allow for no more than 12 people at a time to protect the cave.

The soda straw stalactites are hollow as the water runs down the middle and forms on the end.

Of course, we had the lights out section as we all sat on benches.

We have been through a few caves and agree that this was the most beautiful one we had see so far.

We camped at the campground for 2 nights one of which was Thanksgiving. The family that owns the cavern and ranch invited all of the campers to join them in the hall for Thanksgiving dinner. We broke out the pie in the freezer. It was fun sharing dinner with other campers and the ranch and cavern staff. The local deputies were even invited.
Two fireplaces made it cozy on a drizzly day. And there was so much great food.

Junction, Texas

We always stop at Lum's BBQ in Junction if we are nearby. Who cares if it is 10 am.

Now that is a Texas Longhorn.

Fredericksburg, Texas

We head to Fredericksburg a day early to catch the tree lighting. It seemed almost everyone it Texas had the same idea. Even with hundreds of campsites in the area, we were lucky to score a site at the KOA that someone happened to cancel but a required 2 night stay.
There were carolers in the park before the lighting of the tree and German pyramid followed by cider and cookies. The city had a video that was far better than my pictures.

Thanksgiving weekend is a huge deal in Fredericksburg. There is a huge craft festival and a polo tournament across from our campground that ended with 30 minutes of fireworks and hot air balloons. No wonder there weren't any campsites or hotel rooms available. Everyone we spoke with made reservations months ago. The parking lots to the wineries were packed.
As we walked through town there were musicians and bands in the outdoor restaurants. We followed the sound of music from a band in the courtyard and had a beer. They were quite good.
A person can find music playing every day of the week somewhere in town.
We are heading 13 miles east to Stonewall and LBJ State Park as volunteers. We agreed to 3 months of volunteering since we had plenty to keep us interested and other things adults just have to do.
 We will see how living in Hill Country is in the winter once the weekend crowd clears out. So far so good.

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