Hill Country Holiday

Amanda and I took a somewhat last minute, short notice road trip over the Independence Day holiday to the Texas Hill Country, where we stayed in a cabin outside of Fredericksburg. We set out after work Wednesday evening and made it to the cabin REAL early Thursday morning, driving in the dark from about Houston westward. Over the last 1.5 hours of the drive we counted about 62 deer passed on the road, which was both exciting and a little nerve racking.

We woke up Thursday morning and stepped outside on our deck to a pretty impressive view, where we were soon joined by a couple of hungry deer. The reason we had a view was that our cabin actually sat on the ridge that separates the Pedernales and Guadalupe watersheds.

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Thursday was spent in and around Fredericksburg just playing tourist. The downtown historic district was pretty cool, but I think Amanda got the biggest kick when we got back to the cabin. We chatted with the owner who lives on site and he invited us over to come see the baby skunks and fawn they had been raising. The skunks had just been descented so they were okay to handle and the fawn had lost its mother, so they were bottle feeding it back to health. Amanda is not much of an
“animals as pets” person, she loves them at a distance, so it was fun to watch her pet the skunk and the deer. We ended the day in true American fashion with steaks on the grill. Admittedly we didn’t go see any fireworks on the 4th, opting to stay in and watch them on TV.

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On Friday I convinced Amanda to head to the South Llano with me so that I could try and catch a Guadalupe bass while I was within their native range. The state fish of Texas, they are only found in the Hill Country region, think of them like a Texas brook trout. The South Llano was a pretty river, much wider and deeper than I thought it would be, at least in parts, which made wading a little tough. It really looked like big largemouth territory though I didn’t catch any. I caught a few Guadalupe bass, 9″ was the biggest, and lots of different sunfish, which was a nod to how diverse the river is. I also got to see the Rio Grande cichlid in it’s native environment while I watched pairs of them protect their spawning beds.

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Neither of us had really ever visited the Texas Hill Country (sure I’ve been to Schlitterbahn in New Braunfels, but that hardly counts) so the landscape was a pretty stark contrast to what we were use to. The hills are covered in short, stubby Texas live oak and prickly pear cactus, it was almost like being in a different country as I walked back to the car.

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We headed back to Fredericksburg via US 290 and had to do a double take as we passed a herd of deer under some trees. They weren’t the normal white tailed deer we had been seeing, they had to be something exotic, I know the ranches have plenty of exotics. We just couldn’t put our finger on what exotic they were. Some locals tried to tell us they were Axis Deer, but their antlers looked more like Reindeer to us, I’m still not really sure what we saw, but there is a large herd of them under some trees on a ranch outside of Harper.

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We capped the day at Old Tunnel State Park, where we got to see the bat emergence. No good pictures were taken as it was close to 9pm, but imagine a swirling vortex of millions of bats leaving an old tunnel and flying downhill just over the tree tops – a pretty cool sight to behold.

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Saturday we decided to take a trip over to Enchanted Rock to do a little hiking. Enchanted Rock, like Stone Mountain in Georgia, is a huge granite batholith. Enchanted Rock though is a bit further from civilization and by default, less touristy. Don’t get me wrong there were plenty of tourists there (including us), but  Stone Mountain is like the Gatlinburg of Atlanta, you’ll just have to check it out for yourself. I like to imagine Enchanted Rock being more like Uluru out in Australia, landscape and all. We hiked to the top, then came down and made a loop around the rock. It was a nice hike that got pretty hot toward the end. I failed to mention so far that the weather was awesome the entire time we were there. Highs were in the mid 90s, but lows were mid 60s – mornings were very pleasant.

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We stopped for lunch in Fredericksburg where I had some killer enchiladas at Mahaley’s Cafe. Then we headed over to the Pedernales Brewing Company for a tour and some beer. Wore out from our hike, we napped at the cabin after that and finished the trip with another solid meal at Alamo Springs Cafe – one of the best burgers I’ve ever had.

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On the way back to the cabin I had to stop for a picture with this agave, as you can see it was a pretty impressive size. We also ran into some more deer. As we came to find out, the Hill Country has a deer problem. We counted over 260 deer during our stay there.

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Sunday we woke up and hit the road for the long trek back to Baton Rouge. We really had a lot of fun on our trip to Texas. If you are looking for lodging in the area, I can safely recommend the Walnut Canyon Cabins near Alamo Springs. Dave and Laurie were incredible hosts and the cabins were the perfect getaway for just the two of us.

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2 comments
  1. Nice report Ben. Thanks for posting. I’m at the airport right now after a week-long trip to California with Lisa. My report will be similar to yours, except replace wine with beer. We spent two days visiting wineries in Lodi and the Napa/Sonoma Vallies.

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  2. Andy said:

    I’m glad you enjoyed your visit Ben. The deer are a huge problem in the hill country. The state has programs for landowners to kill more than the allotted 5 deer limit, but its become such a “trophy” oriented sport that many hunters don’t shoot near enough deer. I was on a lease near where you were, and two of my hunting companions combined for a grand total of one deer taken. They were waiting on a big one. I, on the other hand, shot 7 along with two exotic antelope. Whitetail deer hunting in the Hill Country is almost as action packed as small game hunting in other parts of the country.

    Those Guadalupe Bass don’t get big, but are cool because they are a different species. Well done.

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