The Lone Star State’s “Hill Country”

November 20, 2009

Not having spent much time in Texas other than at business meetings in places like Dallas, Houston, and Austin, my impression was that Texas was just a pretty flat state. I remember standing and looking out the window from about the 40th story of a building in Dallas, and I couldn’t see a single hill anywhere! Well, Jane did the research on this disputable “fact,” so we decided to visit the Texas “Hill Country,” which begins somewhere in West Texas and stretches east to Austin. Many a city slicker has slapped leather at Hill Country dude ranches, (Bandera, the County Seat pictured in our gallery, claims to be the “Cowboy Capitol of the World.”) and Jane was especially taken with the strong German heritage of many of the region’s charming small towns. Fredericksburg, a good example of these qualities, sits in about the middle of this region, and we decided to stay there in a B&B for a couple of nights to give the Texas hills a good looking at. And what a look!

Cypress trees at the Rio Frios River, Garner State Park

We happened on Garner State Park, not far north of Uvalde, and there we found a magical combination of colors like the photo shown above. The river was shallow there, and the sunlight gave it an emerald-like sheen, which along with the majestic old Cypress trees along the banks, created some wonderful sensory moments for the eye and the camera. Just beautiful! There’s a panorama from there in our daily gallery, but I really liked the shot above the best.

You can see a hill in the shot above; actually, the hills of this region aren’t exactly like another Rocky Mountain range, or even Appalachians. But they are definitely hills, rolling, often covered with a Texas form of “color,” and can be pretty scenic when they want to be.

A Guadalupe River crossing

Driving through the Guadalupe River valley, we crossed it several times, as pictured above. We also found some pretty decent fall colors in the Lost Maples Preserve, shown there on the left. We took a little hike up the Sabinal River at Lost Maples, even had to cross some rocks, which have always been my nemesis, but managed to keep dry this time! 😉 You can see more of these experiences and colors in the gallery, of course. Also in today’s gallery is a snapshot of our Fredericksburg B&B, the Corner Cottage Bed & Breakfast on Orange St. It’s a really excellent and also economical place to stay. The two mornings of great food and great family-style breakfast conversations with the other patrons and our hostess Marsha really created a great memory of our stay in the Hill Country. We decided to go out to the LBJ Memorial out on the Pedernales River. (If you’re like me, you might not have been pronouncing this word correctly? I thought it should sound like “peddernallus,” being ignorant of Texas lingo. The correct pronunciation is “Purdinallus,” just as Lyndon Baines Johnson himself would have said it). After stopping at the Visitor’s Center there, we checked out the Sauer-Beckman ranch site nearby, a ranch representing the way things were done back in the days when Lyndon himself was growing up on the Johnson ranch across the river. Then, we crossed the river and entered the Johnson ranch itself. I got myself nose to nose with a very friendly horse:

A really friendly horse looking for a handout on the Johnson ranch

We took a Ranger-guided tour of the Johnson White House. LBJ did a lot of work from that place, where he felt really at home, able to perform at his best. No photos were allowed inside, but you can see the building itself and some of its associated artifacts in the gallery. We also got a good look at the home where LBJ’s was born (he grew up in Johnson City), but didn’t enter it. Here’s a snapshot:

LBJ's boyhood home on the Johnson Ranch

As we were leaving the Johnson Ranch, we got our first glimpse of actual Texas Longhorns:

A Texas Longhorn steer from the Johnson Ranch

One of the projects of the Johnson Ranch is to preserve and protect a herd of Longhorns, as it seems they are a diminishing breed. I wasn’t sure about the racial purity of these animals; if you look in the gallery you’ll see we found Longhorns of several different colors.

The old "Elephant Bar" of Fredericksburg, now an art gallery

Before heading for Austin next day, we strolled down Main Street of Fredericksburg itself, quite a colorful and interesting place. Over there on the left is a very interesting building, at least by its appearance. Built in 1888, it started out life as the “Elephant Bar,” and it served drinks and vittles to a host of patrons in that capacity. But time wears on, and the Elephant Bar has undergone several role changes, including once being a Ford dealership. It has just recently become an art gallery, only been open in that capacity for a couple of weeks.

But our hostess had told us that we “must” visit Rustlin’ Rob’s, and Dooley’s 5-10-25 cents store. Rustlin’ Rob’s is really an amazing place, where they sell every conceivable type of sauce, condiment, you name it, and not only do they sell them, you can sample any of the different offerings from dishes in front of each file of jars. We wound up buying more than we could cram into the Prius, but it was fun! I did get a kick out of some of the titles:

Selected sauce offerings from Rustlin' Rob's, Fredericksburg

Finally, we headed out for Austin, got there in time to fill an out-of-state prescription I needed at a Walmart there, and also, to have dinner with my nephew Phillip and his wife. A little history is maybe in order? I first met Phillip when he was born. I was there in Blytheville, Arkansas in 1956, when he emerged as my middle sister’s first and only baby. I next saw him in Dayton, Ohio, in 1967, when he and his Dad (who by then had divorced my sister) came there to visit me while I was there on business. Fast forward to 2009, when Phil and I “friended” each other on our FaceBook accounts. Here we are in Austin, 2009:

John and Phil, Austin, 2009

Phil works in Austin, as does his wife Liz. She is a writer, and I’ve actually read two of her books prior to meeting her for the first time last evening! A great experience for your old blogger, to have this reunion after so many years.

Well, we had great intentions to take an Austin tour and do the town up right, but Mother Nature intervened, and today came in with a very heavy rainstorm. So we decided to migrate west, and have now managed to drive away from the rain, spending our last night in Texas in Fort Stockton, from which tomorrow morning we’ll ride on up to Carlsbad, New Mexico, to check out them caverns, Y’all! (Guess you cain’t visit Texas without having a little rub off?)

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3 Responses to “The Lone Star State’s “Hill Country””

  1. Gerry said

    I love Texas. Did you get near Ft worth?

  2. I absolutely ADORE the Texas Hill Country. Most of my family lives there: in Fredericksburg, Willow City, Johnson City, Canyon Lake, and some in Austin. I just got back from there yesterday…visiting for Thanksgiving. Thanks for the pretty pictures! I miss it already!

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