More Texperiences

Alone in ParadiseIn the Sunday Statesman, Mike Leggett mourned the passing of natural simplicity and urged readers to pursue a litany of activities that exemplify the rich outdoor opportunities that still remain. I haven’t done more than a handful of his checklist items, but many of us have similar experiences that evoke wonderment and appreciation intermingled among the fond memories.

The following are some of my favorite outdoor moments, near and far, experienced courtesy of the Lone Star state. I wouldn’t say that these are “must do” events, because Texas, like life, isn’t something that can be checked off a list. Just about anyplace can be special with the right experience, and in that context Texas offers a nearly unlimited supply of grandeur. Perhaps these items give you some new ideas for your next journey, or rekindle fond memories of destinations past. Feel free to share your own Texas experiences, or better yet, just go out and create some new ones.

  • Watch the stars from McDonald Observatory: There aren’t many better places to watch the night sky than outside Ft. Davis, where the pros do it on a nightly basis. The organized Star Parties are a great way to watch and learn, but my favorite nights were spent standing in solitude while the 107″ slowly spun into position.
  • Hike it in and do primitive camping: There are lots of state parks to chose from, and the majority of camping spaces are given over to RV’s and drive-in access. While easy access allows for better food and drink, primitive camping provides solitude, exercise, and the culinary satisfaction of open flame cooking (when and where allowed). Colorado Bend and Lost Maples (off season) are two of my favorite parks that have beautiful primitive sites with only a mile or two hike required.
  • Walk around Barton Springs Pool: How many times have you been to Barton Springs and headed straight for your favorite sunny / shady spot to commence immediate relaxation? Next time, take a few minutes to stroll around and explore the rocky path, the shallow end, the clubhouse, and the secluded hillside corners to appreciate the full variety of natural and human scenery. And don’t forget the free side, where families and dogs always have way more fun.
  • Drive TX-337: This stretch of Hill Country road takes you West of Bandera through some of the best scenery that Texas has to offer. It may not be PCH or Deal’s Gap, but it’s pretty stunning nonetheless. There’s a lot to see along the road, and more attractions off of it for those looking to explore.
  • Be the first visitor to Hamilton Pool: Early birds can have one of Austin’s crown jewels all to themselves, especially on a weekday or murky mornings. As LCRA paves the way for more development, expect the pristine solitude to become harder to come by, in which case you can always take the oft-overlooked hiking trail to the Pedernales.
  • Watch the sunset from a Loop 360 overlook: Mention sunsets around Austin, and you’ll get loads of suggestions to climb Mt. Bonnell or trek out to the Oasis. Don’t forget there are also the limestone cliffs above Loop 360 that provide romantic views without subjecting you to multi-million dollar mansion envy or bad food. Just park South of Courtyard Dr. and hike up to the nearest trail to get to the overlook.
  • Swim in a secluded spot along the Barton Creek Greenbelt: If it ever rains more than a couple inches again, the Greenbelt will once again come alive with running water. Sculpture Falls can get pretty dense, so my wife and I often hike in from the Zilker entrance and see what interesting rapids have formed along the trail. The trail along the south bank between Gus Fruh and 360 has a number of great little spots to let the water wash over you.
  • Hike along Bull Creek: This is another spot that requires some rainfall, lest you make the journey in stagnant warm water. Starting at the low water crossing along Lakewood Dr. (entering either off 2222 or 360), hiking either up or down stream is typically pretty shallow and easy going. Upstream has the hidden falls, downstream has big rocks and smooth riverbeds. Either path is great for a relaxing stroll in the water. And the nearby trails and BCP land are enough to keep you occupied all day.

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