Monday, June 22, 2015

Hamilton Pool Preserve, a Texas Hill Country wonder

You're not close to much but God on the road to Hamilton Pool Preserve in the wilds of Travis County, west of Austin and north of Dripping Springs.

But when you get there--if you're early and lucky enough to be one of the limited number admitted to the popular natural swimmin' hole--you'll walk down a steep-ish quarter-mile path lined with bushes and trees, emerging at a natural blue-green pool fed by a cascading waterfall. 

Created by the ancient collapse of a limestone cavern, arching remnants remain around one side of the sinkhole.  

Open-air stalactites drip into being around the edge.

In ordinary times, a path leads down across a low bridge to a small sand beach, around under the rock overhang, behind the waterfall and back to the start. 

Recent high water has taken the bridge and covered the beach. Swimming is currently prohibited due to high water. And the only way to the overhang is to walk toward the waterfall, then take the stairs to pass behind the pouring water. 

But walking into living geologic time is worth the trip.

Hamilton Pool Preserve is a Travis County park, with 232 acres, including a 3/4 mile hiking path to the Pedernales River.  

24300 Hamilton Pool Rd., Dripping Springs, TX 78620   
Entry fee is $15/car or $5/car for seniors (cash or check, no credit cards). Hours are 9 a.m.-6 p.m. daily, weather permitting.  

Call before you go (512) 264-2740 to find out if swimming and hiking is currently allowed, particularly during rainy periods.

Plan your trip to avoid crowds--early on weekdays, preferably off-season.  The park department warns:  Be aware that in the summer when swimming is allowed, most visitors are turned away and are not allowed entry due to overcrowding in the preserve...It is slightly easier to gain admittance to the preserve on a warm-weather weekday, but weekdays are very crowded too with long waiting lines. 

And don't forget to bring your camera, you'll want to remember your trip back in time.

Copyright 2009-2015 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Hill Country Water Gardens

Encircled by the small town of Cedar Park just beyond the northern edge of Austin's sprawl lies one of the most unique garden-store playgrounds in Texas.

Splashing fountains, pools and ponds flow through five acres at Hill Country Water Gardens, a garden center "making outdoors awesome since 1999" with water features of every kind plus aquatic plants--and enough terrestrial green to make any vegetable, herb, native or habitat gardener happy.

When we moved from our last home, we left behind the fabulous waterfall Denny built for my birthday in 2007. 

I miss it. 

For our new place, he suggested a sculpture instead of a water feature. But I'm among those who know that everyone who doesn't live in the desert or the Arctic needs water in their outdoor space. Flowing water is the jewelry of a garden--energy, sparkle and shine that sings to the soul.

So we trekked to Cedar Park in search of a fountain. 

We found fountains of cylindrical petrified wood, striated spikes of rock and bubbling boulders of Big Bend. 

Each would have been a good choice except for price.

Eventually we found the perfect fountain for our smaller, more citified yard: sculptural, sky and earth colored, and in our budget. 

It doesn't look like much now, disassembled on the dead circle of lawn which will become a terrace with raised beds and paths.  But when we've hacked out the ground and leveled the slope, wired and plumbed electric and water, built paths and planted beds, put the fountain together and placed it in the center, and water runs from the top of the sphere disappearing into the pedestal base, my gardens will look and sound like home.
Copyright 2009-2015 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Back to the joy of living

Mom had a stroke in February.  It was a "light" stroke, from which we learned that even a "little" brain damage can change your life.

Speech therapist Liz working with Mom on swallowing.

She's doing well, still in therapy three times a week but without tubes and able to get around on her own. Still feisty.

I haven't written much since her stroke, in part because I've been at her place a lot. Also because it's been hard to concentrate. 

I'm ready to write again now that she's improving. 

Mom's first night back at home, when she crawled into Dad's hospital bed to snuggle.

And I can focus on gardens and travel and birds and dining and the joy of living.

Copyright 2009-2015 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Hang out your feeders--spring hummingbird migration is on!

Male black-chinned hummingbird.
For the last four years, our first Spring hummers flew in March 10th

Black-chinned males first, always. The guys want an early start to stake out territory. They know that the boys with the best turf get the girls.

We might have seen the front-runners a little earlier than other folks in our south-central Texas range because hummingbirds return to places they've found food in the past. 

Our feeders stayed out through the cold season, catering to over-wintering rufous hummers.

Rufous hummingbird.

And our gardens included hummingbird-habitat with early blooms such as native Coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens).

Black-chinned females follow later, usually by at least two weeks.

The feeders do more than offer a rest-stop; quick energy can be the difference between life and death for early arrivers encountering wet and cold.

Copyright 2009-2015 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Spaces: Beauty on a Budget

Fun accents in this room-- a pillow that pops, a coffee table made from an upside-down crate topped with a padded coffee bean sack, budget bling lamps from Target and a tableau of found art (centered by a favorite family picture) flanked by antique horns.

I love writing about unique homes and the people who create them. Some homes are elaborate and grand, others cozy and comfortable.  I learn from every one.

Cheryl Gordon's home was an eye-opener for making a 1950's place fresh and modern, on a budget. 

The photos here show a few ideas for inexpensive updates. For more, check out my Spaces story about Cheryl and her home, with nearly two dozen professional photos: Budget-minded beauty makes an aging home fresh .

A box made from old measuring sticks holds spirits.  And gives new meaning to the term 'open bar'.  

Copyright 2009-2015 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Bluebonnets Are Coming

Looks like this will be a blue-bonnet year. Sweeps of Lupinus texensis luring folks to the countryside; people celebrating floral sky on the ground and the beauty and promise of life.  Amen.

Copyright 2009-2015 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Fossil Rim Wildlife Center

There's a little bit of Africa at Fossil Rim Wildlife Center near Glen Rose, Texas, where visitors are confined to vehicles while approximately 1,000 animals roam free about the 1,800 acre property.

The wildlife center's mission is preservation of native and exotic species in peril, including Texas' endangered Attwater's Prairie Chicken.

  A visitor on a guided tour feeds an addax.

But the center is open to visitors for driving tours, one of the ways the mission is publicized and financed.  Although the animals are wild, many are acclimated to accept food, and visitors may hand-feed or toss food (sold at the entrance).

Three species of zebras live at Fossil Rim. 

I don't recommend feeding zebras by hand, although the scrapes on mine healed without incident.

Ostrich are another species known for aggressive table manners. 

The aodad's horns look fierce but the horizontal pupils in this mountain sheep's russet-colored eyes make you want to stare into them.

A herd of giraffes sometimes hangs out in view of the Oasis diner, the (fenced-in) lunch and bathroom facility located about mid-way through the 9.5 mile scenic drive.  

When you roll down your window and a giraffe approaches, he stops about a bedroom's length away from the car, because that's how long his neck is. 

You hold out your hand and his head begins a slow descent, giving you time to realize just how big it is, how many teeth he has and how strong a bite it must take to eat leaves and shoots from trees. Then he brushes your palm with soft whiskery lips, inhaling the kibble in a tickle.

Folks who want to wake up with the wildlife may reserve a tent in a safari-like encampment (fenced in). The tents are actually more like tiny cabins, with AC, heat and private bathrooms complete with hot and cold running water, shower and flush toilet.  

For rustic luxury, the original ranch house is a B&B with more traditional accommodations. 

Advance reservations suggested for both.

Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, 254.897.2960, 
Park address:  2299 County Road 2008, Glen Rose, Texas 76043
Safari camp, Lodge address: 3002 County Road 2010, Glen Rose, Texas 76043

Take your sweetheart, kids or grandkids...and enjoy a little Africa in Texas.

Copyright 2009-2015 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Blanco and the Old Blanco County Courthouse

Texans love their historic courthouses, early structures of order in unruly lands.  Even if the courthouse is no longer the courthouse, as in the little town of Blanco where the seat of county government moved to Johnson City in 1890.

Today the classic 1886 Old Blanco County Courthouse designed by Austin architect Frederick Ernst Ruffini is owned by a community group and rented out for events.  No word if ghosts remain from her years as a hospital.  If you want to see for yourself, the building is also the town's visitor center, open Monday-Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Sunday noon-4 p.m.

As in most county seats, the courthouse has pride of place in the center of a downtown square populated with local businesses. Among my favorites is Liz on the Square, a shop specializing in an only-in-the-Hill-Country combination of lavender products and Harley Davidson leather-wear. If you're lucky, Liz's husband Nelson Broyal will be there when you go, or you'll be able to catch him playing somewhere that night around the square.  Click his name for a sampling of his soulful tunes.

Another favorite is Redbud Cafe on the other side of the courthouse. Simple food deliciously made. Don't miss the homemade soups. And get a sampler of Real Ale, locally brewed and changing with the seasons.  The Redbud pours more varieties than anyone, including the brewer.

When you're through at the Redbud, you might want to walk or swim it off at the Blanco State Park

A little further afield and if we've been blessed with timely rains, a spring-summer Hill Country drive may find the fields colored with petals. 

If you go in June during the Blanco Lavender Festival, you might also find rows of fragrant purple blooms. Check the link for locations.

Then check into the Best Western Plus Blanco Luxury Inn & Suites and smell the roses. Really. About 700 bushes surround the building in a floral rainbow. Inside, every room is a suite, more than comfortable, with free breakfast downstairs in the morning.

Texas is a big state of small towns and Blanco is one of the sweetest.

Copyright 2009-2015 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Sunset Meditation

Sunset at Corpus Christi Bay, Snoopy's pier.

A sunset is the beginning and the end and all the beauty in between.

Copyright 2009-2015 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.