Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Dinosaur Time

I believe stories are all around us.  But sometimes in the tumult of my days I miss them...until I go to a place like Glen Rose, where stories emerge from the elements, of life and death and the fabric of the earth beneath our feet. 

Denny and I stood at the edge of the Paluxy River, squinting into cool clear water.  A light limestone shelf wandered in and out of the wet.  Somewhere along that shelf, a 113 million year old minute was waiting for us.

Texas in the Cretaceous period, approximately 145-65 million years ago, was largely covered by a shallow sea.  Covered and uncovered over millions of years, each immersion leaving behind calcareous layers.  Over time the layers solidified into limestone and other forms of rock, each layer a depositional slab of time told in the language of skeleton and chemistry.

Dinosaurs were the largest Texans of those times, roaming the coastal marshes and savannas in search of food.  

Acrocanthosaurus, illustration from Wikipedia Commons library.
Plant-eating dinosaurs lived on the abundant tropical vegetation.  Carnivores consumed whatever they could catch, including other dinosaurs. And sometime 113 million years ago, a pack of Acrocanthosaurus, carnivores 20-30 feet long, chased a plant-eating Paluxysaurus jonesi through limey mud at sea's edge.  The 20 ton prey was 60-70 feet long with feet that left tracks sometimes a yard wide. 

But Paluxysaurus was likely slower, possibly without defense for a pack of sharp teeth and claws. The chase played out on shoreline mud, leaving voids of haste along the waterfront.

Experts say the tracks dried in the sun and were soon covered in another layer of limey mud, filling the tracks and preserving them.  Layer on layer, a buried story.

In 1909 a nine-year old boy found giant bird-like three-toed tracks in a tributary of the Paluxy.  The river's flow had worn down through rock until the dinosaur tracks were revealed. 

Young park visitor standing in a Paluxysaurus track. 


A visitor fits her foot into the fossilized cavity from the center claw in an Acrocanthosaurus track. 

Many tracks remain underground...we don't yet know  whether Paluxysaurus escaped.  

Today's visitors to Site 1 in the park can see the flight in stone and other tracks.  But wind, water and freeze continue resculpting rock and an ancient limestone minute won't last forever. 

If you go: Dinosaur Valley State Park is a few miles outside of lovely Glen Rose, Texas, as sweet a little Texas town as you're likely to find, with a historic town square, unique lodging, good food, a fine western art museum and the Paluxy River running through it--plus the state park and proximity to Fossil Rim Wildlife Center.   

The Park's roughly 1,525 acres include track sites, hiking trails, restrooms, picnic and camping areas.  No food service on site.  Call before going to see if high water covers the tracks. Open daily 8 a.m.-10 p.m.  Day Use fees: adult (over 13) $5/day, children free. 1629 Park Road 59, Glen Rose.  Information: 800-792-1112.  Rates and reservations: 512-389-8900.  Website

P.S.  There are more stories in Dinosaur Valley, or you can go with loved ones and create your own.

Copyright 2009-2011 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Are We There Yet?

It's been hot here in the Hill Country since early May, hitting triple digits since early June. Every living thing wants a rest...
See my resting companion?
Copyright 2009-2011 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Rockin' K's Texas Hill Country Coconut Pie Tour

^ From Bum Doodler's Cafe in Boerne.

Adventure starts when you leave the beaten path.  Chef Kitty knows that, it's why she drove two days from southern Florida to join me in a quest for the best coconut pie in the Texas Hill Country.

<---Chef Kitty leaving the Blanco Bowling Alley, where the pie we tasted was still warm from the oven.

Three days, ~ 650 miles, 12 small Texas towns, 20+ pieces of pie and 3 new pounds on my scale.

Our rules were few: **Local places only.  **Pies made from scratch.   **Every piece photographed, described and rated on our 1-5 scale (5 being a perfect score, and yes, there were 5's).  Remains were carted home in a cooler for later comparison.  I know, what were we thinking?  That twenty pieces of pie weren't enough and we'd want to taste them all again???  My refrigerator is still filled with little styrofoam boxes...

As with any journey, there were a few unexpected destinations. We got lost in Lampasas when the GPS sent us to the backside of a pasture instead of the Yumm Factory, an old-fashioned cash-only diner. Turned out Yumm is on a major road, not hard to find if you're using a map instead of GPS.

Our Yumm lunch of smoked-on-site brisket and home-made Green Chile Chicken Stew, yes we splurged on onion rings.

And in spite of our mission--coconut pie--we tasted every Buttermilk Pie we found, on the theory that a person might only pass that way once.

Silver K Cafe's Buttermilk Pie in Johnson City, made from our server's great-grandmother's recipe.

We also learned about  segmentation of  the coconut pie genre: meringue, cream and a much-loved variation closest to chess pie.  Texans hold distinct opinions about which is best but Kitty and I are ecumenical, we rated them all on the 1-5 scale.
We deviated in Glen Rose for to-die-for German Chocolate Pie at Riverhouse Grill. It got a "5" on the scale, as did the nearby Pie Peddlers Very Berry Pie, with a pucker-up-honey-you'll-love-this sweet, tart, succulent filling of raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and a bit of rhubarb wrapped in a tender flaky crust.

By the end, we'd tasted so many good pies we knew that folks all over the Texas Hill Country can find good pie not far from home.

But if I ever want to drive for coconut pie again, I'll point my headlights toward Fredericksburg Pie Company's creamy coconutty dream of a flaky-crusted tender-meringued Coconut Meringue Pie, a guaranteed 5+, and count myself lucky to live just a few hours away.

Coconut Meringue and Cream pies at Fredericksburg Pie Company.

Copyright 2009-2011 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Coconut Pie Quest

Last night Chef Kitty and I kicked off the Quest, a search for the Best Coconut Pie in the Hill Country.  We started with a toe-in-the-water taste at the Red Rooster in New Braunfels. And it was good, maybe even the best.

Elvis on stage at the Red Rooster ---->

But one pie is not a Quest so today we drove north, up and back, 337 miles, 12 pies in 5 towns.  We found another best but it was German Chocolate so the Quest continues.

Tomorrow we take a more westerly loop, another dedicated drive and pie all-day effort. Wish us luck. And Pie. I'll share results with you when the sugar rush subsides.  

Copyright 2009-2011 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.