We are spending a LOT of time in Texas, a month and a half to be exact. As you know, Texas is a larger than average state (there are ranches that are comparable to some states), and its diversity demands time to explore. We have traveled down the Gulf Coast spending time in Houston and Galveston. We spent a week volunteering in Donna along the Mexican border. Now, we are spending our time in Texas Hill Country enjoying the blooming wildflowers. Allow me to fill you in on some of the sights that make Hill Country so welcoming…
Wildflowers I can not explain in words, or even photos, the exuberance of the abundant color this time of year. With the wildflowers in bloom, driving around Hill Country is like traveling through a Monet painting, all the colors blurring with movement as you pass by. Stopping and getting outside of the car is a must, so that you can appreciate the smell. For me, it is a more “perfumey” fragrance, like hyacinths in your home at Easter. Do take a moment to allow the wildflowers to saturate your conscientiousness, and you can thank Lady Bird Johnson for all the roadside flowers.
Just to name a few…
Festivals We happened to time our stay in Burnet (pronounced Burn It) with their annual Blue Bonnet Festival. It was similar to what we call Fairs back in Pennsylvania, but with a Texas twist of course. There were dozens of crafts and vendors, carnival rides, live country music, and events such as the cavalry reenactment and demolition derby. And for the Texas twist??? There was an Old West Town with a shoot out reenactment. Naturally, they use real guns and blanks 4 times as powerful as the ones used in Hollywood. I also found the Border Patrol Recruitment stand to be a unique sight.
Fort Croghan Burnet is also the home of the Fort Croghan Grounds & Museum. Fort Croghan was the third of the first 4 forts built by the US government to protect those on the frontier. The actual fort lay outside of town, but now you can visit several of the fort’s buildings along with pioneer homes that have been moved to the Museum Grounds in Burnet. The site and museum are free and really help you to imagine what life was once like on the Texas frontier. The museum director is a very special lady who comes from a local family who have played major roles in the area through several generations. The director and others like her are what make road tripping so vital to really connecting with America’s history. I love museums, but there is a big difference in visiting a large museum in a city and being able to travel the countryside, stop at small towns and hear the stories of locals who have firsthand accounts from ancestors. With each passing generation, we are further removed from our past. These local museums with older people manning them who are proud of their heritage and committed to preserving it provide the authentic experience we are looking for as we travel. The Fort Croghan Museum reminded me of so many others we have visited, particularly in Nebraska. Locals have donated most of the items within to keep their town’s history alive. It is important to them, and it is important to me as an American. If you make it to the Burnet area, do stop by Fort Croghan Museum & Grounds. It may be the best part of your visit, as it was ours.
As an aside, George Pickett served at Fort Croghan, along with some other names you may recognize from the Civil War.
Historic German Towns We did not realize how much Hill Country would feel like home until we began seeing the area’s German towns. One of our favorites was Fredericksburg with its over 700 historical buildings, some featuring Texas limestone . They have great shops and restaurants in their historic downtown. We spent so much time downtown that by the time we managed to tear ourselves away, the other sights we wanted to see (Texas Ranger Heritage Center and Wildseed Farms) were closed for the day! They also have the National Museum of the Pacific War and a Pioneer Museum. So much to see, so little time.
Fun Facts & Tips
- We stayed at Big Chief RV Resort on Lake Buchanan. This is a very quiet campground with practically no internet service right on the lake. There are coots, white pelicans and turtles on the lake, and we even saw a bald eagle and several ospreys fishing and could hear an owl at night. They have a small nature trail and outdoor games for your benefit. Also, the road to get to the resort has beautiful stands of wildflowers. They have an amazing pool for the summer heat. We loved our stay due to the quiet and location, and we even got to take the kayak out for a sunset paddle.
- If you are in Burnet, do the Vanishing River Cruise. It takes you on the Colorado River above Lake Buchanan featuring beautiful waterfalls, cliffs and bluff, eagles and other wildlife in remote Hill Country. The rugged terrain you traverse used to be the home of jaguars and may still be the home of a few remote mountain lions.
- Now I know why cowboys wear jeans and boots. The land can be a real assault on bare skin. You will be facing bugs, fireants, red ants (they also bite), snakes, prickly pear cactus, and more. Chris wore shorts a few times, but I wouldn’t risk it. I wore jeans and kept my boots in the car for any non-paved walking excursions.
- State parks –there are a myriad of state parks in the area all that look well worth a visit. Texas offers an annual State Park Pass which is around $70 per vehicle – a great deal if you are going to be checking out several parks.
- Johnson City, home of President Johnson and Lady Bird is nearby and features a national historic site for the couple.