Hill Country Weekends, Vol. 2

DSCN2187.jpgQuick, think of a Hill Country town where you can find a relaxed pace of life, unique arts and crafts, delicious food, AND a really great cup of coffee. If you guessed Fredericksburg, then you’re of a similar mind to the thousands who swarm Main Street every weekend. But if you’d prefer to get away from the crowds, no other place in the Hill Country can offer a better small town experience than Mason, Texas (population 2,148).

If Dripping Springs is the gateway to the Hill Country, then Mason is the last stop before the Panhandle Plains. It sits 40-some miles northwest of Fredericksburg along Hwy 87, which is off the beaten path unless you’re making for Brady or San Angelo. Being on the road less traveled has allowed Mason to retain its slower pace, without all the chain stores and kitschy tourism that come with traffic.

The only flavors they serve in Mason are local, and they’re surprisingly varied. Santos Taqueria is not just the best Mexican food in Mason County, but I’d put its gorditas and tacos up against any Austin establishment for freshness and flavor. Traditional fare is handled respectably at the Willow Creek Cafe, while Keller’s Riverside Cafe serves affordably upscale cuisine with rustic gourmet flare. And, being a small town, there is always a Dairy Queen around to satisfy your Blizzard fix.

Hunting is Mason’s primary attraction due to the copious deer and fowl that roam the area. Those without firearms can still enjoy the outdoors with tours of Fort Mason or canoeing on the nearby Llano River. Indoor activities include films at Texas’s 2nd oldest movie theater, shopping for handmade beeswax candles, or sipping a latte at The Coffee Mug. As with most small towns, gossiping is a contact sport, although visitors seldom get asked to play.

Despite its many attractions, Mason is not exactly the place to get your freak on. The county is dry, and most restaurants keep limited hours. The town turns into a pumpkin on Sunday when the meager population is busy attending one of 19 churches, and with the local meth lab shut down, alternative entertainment is in short supply. To enjoy a visit to Mason, you have to be willing to embrace the country lifestyle and all that it implies. I returned from this weekend with a fuller appreciation for Austin’s unending activities, and thanks to Mason’s solitude and quiet charms, I have the renewed energy to enjoy them as well.

Mason photos are available on my Flickr page.

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