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Letter from the Editor CEO AND PUBLISHER Mitchell Moorhead PRESIDENT AND PUBLISHER Scott O’Neill COO AND EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Erin Baxter CREATIVE DIRECTOR Tony Maples DEPUTY ART DIRECTOR Meg Moorhead MANAGING EDITOR Max McNabb SENIOR WRITER Spring Sault DIGITAL EDITOR Yehoshua Flores CONTRIBUTING AUTHORS Robert C. Deming, Gay N. Lewis, Sonia Ramirez, Spring Sault, Sarah Schmidt, Melissa Trevathan-Minnis, Jenny Webster Jurica CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS Hannah Burton, Robert C. Deming, Todd Leckie, Kenneth LeRose, Tony Maples, Texas Parks & Wildlife Division, Russ Tomlinson, United Way of Hays & Caldwell Counties, Jessica M. Williams

We love our summers and all of the floating the river we can handle, but there’s just something about anticipating the arrival of fall in the Texas Hill Country that soothes the soul. Slowly but surely, we’ll notice the colors start to emerge—rusty red, golden yellow, and burnt orange—then we’ll begin to hear the whistles during football games and smell the aromas of fair food and campfires. It’s the perfect time of year where the leaves teach us an important lesson – it’s beautiful to let go. And, we’ll let go of the Texas summer with all of the wonderful memories we made. In this issue, we bring you the best of all Hill Country Fall Festivals, including pumpkin patches, apple orchards, and other activities your family will love. Of course, we never forget Oktoberfest and the German heritage that weaves us all together. But, the most interesting story you’ll read this fall is about our exploration of Lost Maples State Natural Area. Known as one of the most beautiful fall destinations in the Hill Country, you’ll get an insider glimpse into the area. We’d like to thank Texas Parks & Wildlife Division for their guidance and assistance on our journey. As always, thank you very much for your continued support and love for our Hill Country and Heart of Texas Magazine. Without loyal fans like you, we couldn’t proudly exclaim, “We are Texas Hill Country!”

Erin Baxter

Editor-in-Chief

COVER PHOTO Todd Obiedo MARKETING DIRECTOR Laurel P. Vera MARKETING SPECIALIST Sondra Phoenix SALES REPRESENTATIVES Corporate Sales Office PO Box 8343 Horseshoe Bay, TX 78657 (512) 763-0051 sales@texashillcountry.com

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Heart of Texas Magazine produced by Texas Media Group


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YOUR ULTIMATE FALL FESTIVITY GUIDE

PUMPKIN PATCHES, FALL FESTIVALS, AND MORE

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LOST IN THE MAPLES

DISCOVERING LOST MAPLES STATE NATURAL AREA

OKTOBERFEST

EXPLORING OUR GERMAN HERITAGE AND HISTORY

CONTENTS A Hill Country Award-Winning Oil Painter.....10 Hill Country Artist Spotlight: Donald Darst

Hill Country Apple Orchards................................36

46

A BORDERTOWN GAL HILL COUNTRY ENTERTAINER SPOTLIGHT: VALERIE PONZIO

Where to Pick ‘Em and How to Cook ‘Em

Giving Thanks for The Hill Country...................56 The Top 15 Reasons Why We’re Thankful

‘Living United’ is Way of Life.......................................64 United Way of Hays & Caldwell Counties Give Back

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FALL CAMPING

WHERE TO CAMP, WHAT TO SEE, AND USEFUL TIPS

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Donald Darst

AWARD WINNING OIL PAINTER by Gay N. Lewis

“Maria Serpent Bowl” Have you ever been to Grey Forest, Texas? No? Well, you’ll Before trying his hand find an award-winning oil painter there: Donald Darst. And, at oil, he’d worried about he’ll welcome you into his studio. mixing paint colors, but a good artist/teacher Located on Scenic Loop Road, Grey Forest is a small town artist taught him to with about 500 residents, and it is 17 miles northwest of San relish the process. He Antonio. In the early vehicle days, caravans of San Antonio says, “When I’d come residents drove their Model T’s over the winding, picturesque home from work, sit at road to enjoy Sunday afternoons. Travelers later built summer the canvas, mix colors and paint, the stress left me. It was houses along the mile and half loop road. The shady expanse absolutely wonderful.” of forest provided relief from Texas heat. He loves painting still life and landscapes. He describes Donald Darst served two terms as Mayor of Grey Forest. his landscapes as atmospheric. Unlike most artists, Darst During his tenure, San Antonio set aside 400 acres for a loves rain, fog, and mist. He takes his easel outside and natural preserve. As the top-ranking official at the time, Darst paints on these hazy days. He also paints in his studio from persuaded the city to purchase an additional 100 acres for a photographs he’s previously taken. When it comes to the conservation park. Darst, along with other Hill Country artists, Texas heat, he says, “The studio is more comfortable.” finds the reserve an ideal setting to paint. The natural habitat provides numerous romantic, curving, gratifying little byways. He built his current studio in Grey Forest, and he teaches there and gives demos. He loves to engage the public as he Originally from Kentucky, Darst now calls himself a Texan. works. How did a Russian interpreter and an IT expert for the retail giant, Sears and Roebuck and Company, get from Kentucky Teaching, or “coaching,” as he calls it, comes naturally to to Texas? Darst. He earned a BA in Behavioral Science and an MS in Adult Learning. While employed at Sears, he headed their Friends and family. Friends had vacationed in the Hill training department. He used his degrees to make work Country and telephoned him at his home in Kentucky. They processes better and build team dynamics. He’s also taught said, “You’d love it here. It speaks of you. There are old stone in colleges. cottages, eclectic dwellings, creeks, and woods.” Later, Darst received a phone call from his son, “Dad, there’s a statue of So how does a Russian interpreter become an IT consultant? one of our relatives in Alamo Plaza. He defended the Alamo!” By way of the Air Force. As a young man, he enlisted. Test scores indicated he possessed language aptitudes, so the Donald and his wife Linda, were looking for a retirement military sent him to Syracuse University to learn Russian. He home, and when the time came, it seemed fitting for them to then spent four years in the Air Force as a linguist. During move to Grey Forest. that time, he took computer classes, and after completing his service, he returned to Kentucky to work in the computer Darst discovered his love for painting in oil in 1994 while industry. living in Kentucky. He’d always drawn pictures but had never tried painting until Linda gave him an oil painting class. During his Air Force days, Donald met his wife, Linda. He’d 10 / Heart of Texas Magazine Fall 2018


“Along Turtle Creek” gone home on leave to Louisville, and his sister arranged a on canvas, and he appreciated what I’d created. A lot of work blind date with Linda. The couple fell in love in short order, but went into that piece, and the sale encouraged me. When dated for two years before they married. someone buys a painting, it provides impetus for an artist to keep going—to continue his art. It’s a win-win. Both the buyer After marriage, Linda traveled as a pharmaceutical and the painter receive something.” One buyer placed a Darst representative and Donald trekked in his work as an IT painting on the wall across from his easy chair. He told Darst, consultant. They often crisscrossed paths on their extensive “your painting calms me.” trips. Once, in an airport, Donald came up behind Linda, grabbed her, and surprised her with a big hug. Needless to Darst’s favorite Texan is Jacob Darst, a distant relative say, the hug brought a squeal and lots of attention. and defender of the Alamo. Jacob Darst is depicted on the Memorial to the Alamo defenders: The Cenotaph, also known Like Donald, Linda was an artist. She became a skilled as the Spirit of Sacrifice. Jacob Darst arrived in Texas in ceramic artist and rug hooker. The couple loved traveling 1831, and was one of the first Darsts to leave Kentucky and across country in their RV with their Jack Russell, Buster, and come to Texas. His unit of volunteers arrived at the Alamo on their dachshund, Wrigley. Donald calls his 5th wheeler, “his March 1, 1836, and he died five days later. studio on wheels.” The Darsts enjoyed 49 years of marriage before Linda’s death in 2017. Donald’s favorite food is a toss up between tacos and fajitas. He laughs and says, “Tacos. No, wait, fajitas. No, The Darts have three children and three grandchildren. tacos.” He likes cooking and would love to learn more about One son and family live in Chicago, a daughter lives with her it. family in Colorado, and a son lives with his family in Grey Forest. Donald says, “I’m proud of all of them.” Darst opens his studio to the public each October for the Grey Forest artists tour. Other artists open theirs as well. You Darst finds inspiration for his oil paintings in the Texas Hill can find information at www.greyforestopenstudios.com. Country. The region around Grey Forest provides rolling hills, trees that appear grey/green, animals, barns, and assorted For more information on Donald Darst, visit his website: buildings. He sets up his easel in the protected, refuge www.DonaldDarst.com. You will also find his work at the areas and paints tranquil vistas. Ranchers often give him Carriage House Gallery in Boerne, the Fredericksburg Art permission to paint on their property. He’s delighted when he Gallery in Fredericksburg, and Old School House Gallery in finds old barns. Start Lake, Wisconsin. At the 27th National Juried Exhibition of Representational Oil Painters, Darst won an award for his still life painting of native American pottery. His early canvases featured native American artifacts, and he sets them up to his liking to paint. Darst remembers the first sale he made as an artist. He says, “I was so excited. The buyer saw what I tried to convey

About the Author: Gay N. Lewis, a pastor’s wife, lives in Houston, Texas. She is the bestselling author of the Sarah Series, as well as other works of fiction. Find Gay on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online stores. Catch up with her on her award-winning blog gaynlewis.blogspot.com. TexasHillCountry.com / 11


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Fall Festivity Guide: TThehe Best Autumn Adventures in the Texas Hill Country

by Jenny Webster Jurica

Once the summer weather begins to ease and school is finally back in session, folks flock to the Texas Hill Country, where they will spend their weekends making the most of the many fall festivals, fairs and fiestas that the region hosts. Beginning in September and lasting until well into December, you will find an event for everyone to enjoy, during what is arguably the best time of the year to be in Texas. To help you make plans for your own autumnal adventures in the Texas Hill Country, we’ve compiled a list of the area’s most special and unique celebrations of culture, nature, food, drink, eerie events, and even some early holiday thrills. See y’all there!

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e:

Family Fun:

Pumpkin Patches, Corn Mazes, and More Families delight in experiencing a true “farm experience,” and snapping priceless photos of children among the vibrantly hued pumpkin patches this time of the season. With hayrides, petting zoos, corn mazes, and even marshmallow roasting, families can enjoy the fall weather while taking advantage of some homegrown, farm-style fun.

01

Hondo: Graff 7A Ranch

The Graff 7A Ranch is home to “South Texas Maize,” the Hill Country’s best outdoor fall recreational event, featuring a seven-acre corn maze, a pumpkin patch and more farm animals than you can shake a stick at! Open weekends beginning September 15 through November 25. Visit graff7aranch.com for more information.

02

Bastrop: Barton Hill Farms Fall Festival

The Barton Hill Farms Fall Festival features the, “Most Scenic Pumpkin Patch in Texas,” as well as a corn maze, backyard games and much more. Held weekends beginning September 29-November 4. Visit: bartonhillfarms.com for more information.

03

Elgin: Elgin Christmas Tree Farm Pumpkin Patch

The Elgin Christmas Tree Farm has, not just a pumpkin patch, but a corn maze, “Crazy Maze,” train rides, and more! Fall fun begins October 5 and lasts through October 31. Visit elginchristmastreefarm.com for more information.

04

Pipe Creek: Christmas Tree Farm Pumpkin Patch

This pumpkin patch and farm delights all with pumpkin painting, scarecrow dressing, marshmallow toasting, and so many other fun fall activities, that several visits might be in order! The pumpkin patch is open on weekends beginning September 30 through October 29. Visit pipecreekchristmastrees.com for more information. TexasHillCountry.com / 15


Fall Celebrations of Hearty Food and Drink

The turning of the calendar to the fall months often invokes a craving for savory, hearty, and complex flavors, and there’s no better way to try out new food and beverages (or explore your perennial favorites) than a fall festival celebrating some of our favorites. Check out these food and drink fests that are sure to please your palate and warm your belly.

01

Medina Lake: The 38th Annual Cajun Festival

The Medina Lake Cajun Festival is billed as the “Number 1 Cajun Festival in Texas,” and this gathering puts the spotlight on good food, family time and Zydeco music. Don’t miss this Bandera-area event that continues to delight residents and visitors year after year. Held on September 22 from 11 am until 10 pm. For more information, visit cajunfestival-medinalake.com.

02

Blanco: ‘Raise The Roof’ Cook-Off and Festival

Enjoy live music, food vendors, a domino tournament and much more at this annual event that raises funds to maintain and refurbish the historic Twin Sisters Dance Hall. This event will be held on September 22 from 9 am until 12 am at Twin Sisters Dance Hall. Go to twinsistersdancehall.com for more information.

03

Gruene: 32nd Annual Gruene Music & Wine Fest

The Gruene Music & Wine Fest returns this year with four days (Oct. 4-7) and four distinct events, showcasing the best of Texas wines and music. One of this historic town’s most popular events, the Gruene Music & Wine Fest will feature the musical talents of Michael Martin Murphey, Hal Ketchum and Aaron Watson this year. For more information, go to gruenemusicandwinefest.org.

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Fall Celebrations of Culture and Music

01

New Braunfels: Comal County Fair and Rodeo.

September 20-25. Attend the largest county fair in Central Texas and enjoy live music, rodeo and carnival rides that will delight everyone from young to old. To learn more, go to comalcountyfair.org.

03

Fredericksburg: Fredericksburg Oktoberfest

October 5. Celebrate Oktoberfest at the state’s most German-influenced town at this year’s Fredericksburg Oktoberfest. Held in downtown Fredericksburg, you’ll enjoy authentic German food, drink, music, and tons of family fun. To learn more, go to oktoberfestinfbg.com.

05

Austin: Austin City Limits

October 5. The “granddaddy” of all central Texas music festivals, the Austin City Limits festival features a gigantic array of musical talents. Headlining this year’s event is Paul McCartney and the festival is packed to the gills with music, food, art, and even kid activities. To learn more go to aclfestival.com.

07

Ingram: Kerr County Celtic Festival & Hill Country Highland Games

October 6-7. Grab your bagpipes and head to Ingram to partake in a little Celtic entertainment. Learn more about your Celtic heritage and enjoy the Highland Games at this unique event in the heart of the Texas Hill Country. Go to kerrcountyceltic.com to learn more.

02

Dripping Springs: Songwriters Festival

October 19-21. The Dripping Springs Songwriters Festival proclaims itself to be a welcome change from the typical “Austin-Palooza-Music-Fest” that everyone is familiar with. This annual event offers people the up-close and personal chance to see, hear, and get to know some very talented performers who have a deep love of the art of songwriting. Learn more at drippingspringssongwritersfestival.com.

04

Seguin: Pecan Fest Heritage Days

October 26-28. This Seguin institution celebrates the city’s famous nut as well as the heritage and cultures that make Seguin diverse. Activities include a pub crawl, shopping, food, and drink. To learn more, visit seguingonuts.com.

06

New Braunfels: Wurstfest

November 2-11. No trip to the Texas Hill Country in the fall is complete without a visit to Wurstfest. Celebrating the German culture that is alive and well in New Braunfels, Wurstfest touts itself as a 10-day salute to sausage. Enjoy tons of food, live music and a carnival for the little ones. To learn more, go to wurstfest.com.

08

Austin: 27th Annual Austin Powwow & American Indian Heritage Fest

November 3. Get a glimpse into the culture and heritage of Native American people in this authentically Austin atmosphere. Enjoy shopping, food, wildlife demonstrations, and traditional dance competitions at this fascinating gathering. Visit austinpowwow.net to learn more.

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Celebrate the

Natural Beauty of the Hill Country

01

Stonewall: ‘Seed Stomp’ at Lyndon B. Johnson Park

September 22. Learn about native wildflowers, and help to spread seeds in the park in an effort to continue the legacy of former first lady, Lady Bird Johnson. Learn also how to properly spread, nurture and grow wildflower at your own home. To find out more, go to tpwd.texas.gov

02 Fredericksburg: Monarch Celebration at Wildseed Farms

October 13. Celebrate the migration of one of the state’s most beloved of seasonal visitors. Participate in the “tag and release” program to help monitor the movement of these beautiful creatures and learn more about how to help the butterflies in your own backyard. Great fun for the whole family! To learn more, go to wildseedfarms.com.

Jumpstart Your

01

Holiday Spirit

New Braunfels: Weihnachtsmarkt

November 16-18 The most exclusive shopping experience in New Braunfels (and perhaps in the whole Hill Country) happens over one weekend in mid-November in New Braunfels. This German-style Christmas market showcases unique gift and decor items and hosts a festive atmosphere with food and drinks. Benefits go to the Sophienburg Museum, located in downtown New Braunfels. To learn more go to sophienburg.com.

02

Boerne: Dickens on Main

November 23 & 24. Held every year over the Thanksgiving weekend, Dickens on Main transforms Boerne’s historic downtown area into a vintage winter wonderland with snow, ice sculptures and holiday shopping at the area’s best shops and boutiques. Music, food and fun create a fabulous atmosphere to kick off the holiday season. To learn more, go to boernedickensonmain.com.

03

Stonewall: Holiday Cookie Decorating & German Tradition

November 24. Bring the whole family to the Hill Country on Thanksgiving weekend to learn about edible ornaments, wreath making, candle making, and other holiday activities and traditions from the early 1900s at the Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm at the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park & Historic Site. When you’re done, visit nearby Johnson City’s spectacular holiday light display. To learn more, go to tpwd. texas.gov 18 / Heart of Texas Magazine Fall 2018

Spooky Adventures for Big Ghouls and Little Ghouls

01

San Antonio: Nightmares of San Antonio

September 22. Visit the Haunted Toy Exhibit and learn about 400 years of haunted toy history while looking into the creepy eyes of many (supposedly) haunted dolls. The Nightmares of San Antonio Paranormal Fest will also host mediums, psychics, and ghost tours for the bravest souls in the Hill Country. For more information, go to: facebook.com/CuriousTwins.

02

New Braunfels: New Braunfels Ghost Tours

Weekends in October. Enjoy a 90-minute walk around historic (and haunted!) downtown New Braunfels and learn a bit about the heritage and the souls who haunt one of Texas’ oldest towns. To get more of your “spirit fix,” join the tour for their monthly Haunted Pub Crawl of New Braunfels. To learn more, go to nbghosttours.com.

03

San Antonio: Bud Light Haunted River

October 26. Held along the scenic San Antonio River Walk, the Bud Light Haunted River features a spooky vibe that still manages to be family friendly (until after 9 pm). A river parade with costume contests, face painting, and music round out this festive Halloween event. To learn more, go to thesanantonioriverwalk.com.

04

Kyle: Center Street Trick or Treat

October 27. Hosted by the City of Kyle, this event is geared toward the little ones, with safe and fun daytime trick or treating (that promises not to interfere with bedtime). Pumpkin decorating and a costume contest round out the fun at this family friendly Halloween event. For more information, go to cityofkyle.com.

About the Author: Jenny Webster Jurica lives near New Braunfels with her husband and two children. She is a freelance writer for several internet and print publications and enjoys bird and wildlife watching from her back porch in the Texas Hill Country.


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Lost

in the Maples

L

by Robert C. Deming

ooking down into Sabinal Canyon forests of New England. Leaves canyon. I know what that means

from a limestone ridge 330 feet which in a few months are destined and smile in anticipation. above the canyon floor on a warm to delight with their bold bright but not hot August day was not the colors

are

now

subdued.

Dark

A mile-long walk from the East

view most of this park’s visitors cedars and bright green Bigtooth Trail trailhead through a lush valley come to see. Most anticipated by maples line the creeks below with of grasses and trees habituated by the 60,000 or more people who subtle variations of a consistent quiet deer and freewheeling hawks walk these trails for just a few and

limited

weeks in the fall are bright yellow- larkspur,

cardinal

orange-red leaves so sought after milkweed, by southerners on a fall color weed,

palette

and

along

flower,

with circling above takes the hiker across Texas limestone bottomed shallow clear

cedar

sage,

clammy water creeks on stepping-stones.

low

ruellia.

Grassy The deep blue sky is peppered

pilgrimage. Texas indeed has fall meadows are covered in panic with white cumulous clouds which, colors in its palette, but they are grasses and Indian grass. From as usual, present no possibility small, and not the assertive, even this bluff I can see a glint of light of rainfall.

There are few other

pushy, foliage one finds in the reflecting from the bottom of the hikers on this trail on this Sunday 22 / Heart of Texas Magazine Fall 2018


Photos by Robert C. Deming and Courtesy of TPWD morning. In August, even the birds heavy use. The water is clear and and surprising to come across. are quiet, and the only sounds are there are many sunfish and bass, Its cool, clear, refreshing water shoes crunching on the gravel perhaps

even

the

rare

Official entices me in, and if you stand still

and breezes blowing through the State Fish of Texas, the Guadalupe for very long, you will have sunfish trees. A large roadrunner crosses bass. After my climb to the top of nibbling on your toes. the trail in front of us and stops to the canyon on a rough and steep survey the area before moving on. trail, the clear water looks inviting.

Resting beside the pond, it is

We continue, and after making the Unlike the nearby Frio River, the not hard to imagine Paleoindian wrong turn at two trail junctions Sabinal is not lined with people families resting just like I am, but we arrive at The Ponds.

in lawn chairs sipping cold drink there is evidence of habitation from ice chests. In fact, we are 11,200 years before the present,

This

long-time

backcountry alone in the shade of cedar elms almost

6,000

campground was recently changed in this Texas Hill Country mini- pyramids

in

years Egypt

before were

the built.

to day use only to allow the paradise. The pool is much larger According to the Park’s Resource landscape to recover from years of and deeper than our city park pool Management

Plan,

these

early

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people are known from their distinctive stone tools, with projectile points named Clovis, Folsom, Scottsbluff, Angostura, and Golondrina. With these points, they hunted mammoths, wide-horned bison, camels, ground sloths, antelope, and a small horse ancestor. Paleoindian sites in Sabinal Canyon are scarce but extant, as perhaps these hunter-gatherers also were. Later inhabitants left behind burned rock middens with lots of fire cracked rock. To the untrained eye, these blackened and broken rocks look like they might have come from a fire ring built by cowboys a hundred years ago; in fact, they are remnants of earth ovens in use 5,000 to 8,000 years before present. Changes in the climate gradually resulted in increasing populations and movement, with elaborate artifacts of shell and stone implying contact with people in the eastern parts of North America. Eventually populations decreased, perhaps caused by conflict over scarce resources, as stone points have been found embedded in human skeletal material. Conflict between Lipan Apache and Comanche in historic times was widespread, as was conflict with Spanish invaders and Anglo-American settlers. The Spanish fought a three-day battle in the 1700s at nearby Bandera Pass against a band of Apaches who had been stealing cattle in San Antonio. Ranger Captain Jack “Coffee� Hays of Enchanted Rock fame led a company of 40 Rangers against a hundred or so Comanches in the Pass in 1842, resulting in a draw and a nighttime retreat by the Indians, who had lost their chief. Mormon leader Lyman Wight and his followers settled for a time in Bandera County in 1854 after their Zodiac community (four miles east of Fredericksburg on the Pedernales River) was destroyed in a series of floods. Local tradition says that the last Indian massacre in the area took place within the bounds of the present park, but the last one verified was the murder of Jack Phillips in 1876 at nearby Seco Pass. 24 / Heart of Texas Magazine Fall 2018


Legendary Texas Ranger Big Foot Wallace fought with Indians on the divide between the Sabinal and Medina Rivers during 1862. The final Indian raid in the area may have been when two settlers were killed by Lipan Apache seven miles north of Leakey in 1882. Cattle ranching was the primary economic use of this land for a hundred years. However peaceful the park looks now, it could be dangerous for Indian and AngloAmericans alike even within the lifespan of our great grandparents. Now the area is popular with birders, who delight in searching for the rare Golden Cheeked Warbler and Black Capped Vireo. Spring and fall are the favorite times for bird-watching with as many as 300 bird species, and about 90 year-round resident species. There is a bird blind beside the East Trail parking lot, and in March and April, a pair of volunteers give birding tours and identify varieties from the blind. If you are not yet a birder, the park staff has a nice field guide with photos and a checklist – you can become one! The Park Superintendent is native Texan Lisa Fitzsimmons, and like all the other park staff I met, is passionate about the land in her care. Her eyes sparkle with enthusiasm as she describes her history with the park, and she explains the difference between a State Park and a State Natural Area: by law, her priority is preservation over recreation. She is in her first year as superintendent and has dreams for this place so special to her and her family. One of them is to restore the historic Murphy cabin for visitors to better understand life on the old cattle ranch. Next year brings the 40th anniversary of the 2,208 acres inclusion into the State Park system and its conversion from ranching to a popular and well-visited park. Any story about fall colors in Texas includes this park. For many people, the story of Lost Maples State TexasHillCountry.com / 25


Natural Area is all about Bigtooth maple trees, also called Canyon maples, and their spectacular fall colors. While this species grows in the Rocky Mountains and other places in Texas and Mexico, the trail-accessible views bring as many as 35,000 to 40,000 visitors in just four short weeks. These are believed to be surviving relicts of the Pleistocene Ice Age. As the ice retreated and the climate became hotter and drier, the Texas maples only survived in sheltered canyons. Acer grandidentatum, the scientific name for these trees, are close relatives of sugar maples. There is a leaf report on the park’s website and by phone recording (park office 830-966-3413) but the weather has its hand in the display. Some years are better than others, with rainfall, sunshine, and cool nights playing an important role in the colorization of the canyon in late October and early November. The Maple Trail is the most popular, but some visitors say that the trees along the more remote Can Creek/ Dry Can Creek and Hale’s Hollow are the better displays. The Maple Trail is an easy 0.36 miles along the Sabinal River, and it connects with the East Trail to make a strenuous 4.4-mile loop. There are 11 miles of trail in all, with some composting toilets and primitive campsites in the back country. The traditional caraccessible campground is of the old rural park style and charms its temporary residents. It often fills up on weekends and advanced reservations are advised. Bicycles are only allowed on trails for the first mile. During peak visitor times, the park will close when its 300 parking spaces are filled. TPWD is introducing a new business system in 2019, which will allow visitors to reserve an entrance permit up to two weeks in advance. Fall and winter visitors need to be prepared for very cold temperatures and the possibility of rain. Back in the Pond, I float lazily on my back, watching turkey vultures soaring high above, wispy clouds drifting by, pondering life here a hundred, or five hundred, or five thousand years ago. I imagining that I am a tribal elder in a family of 30 First Texans, with a wife weaving a basket, a son knapping stone points, a daughter-in-law preparing lunch, and grandchildren angling for bass just up the creek. And then, the image of coconut meringue pie drifts into my mind. I swim back to the bank and begin the walk back to the car and the scenic 15-minute drive to the Lost Maples CafÊ in aptly named Utopia. About the Author: Robert C. Deming lives in Fredericksburg. He is the author of four novels, a lifelong hiker and mountain climber, and has recently walked Camino Trails in Spain, Portugal, and France. 26 / Heart of Texas Magazine Fall 2018


texas parks Lost & Wildlife Maples state Park TexasHillCountry.com / 27


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Cover Photo - Joshua Todd Obiedo Creek Waring, Texas TexasHillCountry.com / 31


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Russ Tomlinson Enchanted Rock TexasHillCountry.com / 35


Get to the Core of the Fun This Fall

by Spring Sault

The Texas Hill Country has an abundance of fresh seasonal fruit and fun-filled family experiences centered around it, but none seems to speak to fall time quite like a crisp, juicy apple. Apple orchards are a fall time focal point – much like the apple pie is the symbol of America. The experiences that can be had at pick-your-own places or roadside orchard stands are surpassed in seasonal satisfaction only by the amazing apple recipes that are generated by this delightful ingredient. And, in the Texas Hill Country, Medina has, for years, been a mecca for apple enjoyment – it’s even referred to as the “Apple Capital of Texas.” Where can you go to enjoy this fruitful abundance? We have some great recommendations.

that can’t be missed. Situated on the south side of Medina, heading towards Bandera, this is the place to be if you enjoy picking your own fresh fruit right from the tree. With at least 11 types of apples (including Granny Smith, Gala, and Pink Lade, to name a few), the orchard also features scrumptious baked goods you’ll be tempted to try before you even leave the parking lot! Some of that delicious apple pie that’s synonymous with autumn (and maybe a dollop of Blue Bell), breads, and melt-in-your-mouth apple butters are just a few of the products they’ve incorporated the delectable fruit into. The store also boasts great apple products and pies (quite possibly some of the largest you’ve seen), which can be purchased to take home or within the onsite Patio Café (which also features delicious deli Open to the public year-round, the Love Creek sandwiches, burgers, and, of course, apple dessert Orchards and The Apple Store is a fall time apple stop options!)

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Another great option is Apple Valley Orchard, located in lovely Llano. They feature a cornucopia of fresh apples of the season, from July through October. But, you’ll also want to visit their apple house and bakery and try their homemade cider. Home to a quaint picnic pavilion, Apple Valley Orchard lends itself nicely to the Autumnal experiences perhaps you had as a child and now you wish to have with your children and grandchildren. Home to 24 types of apples, the orchard gives tours throughout September and October, including trailer rides, school field trips, and group tours. You may find it hard to pull away from the wonderfully delectable desserts they have on hand however!

puddings, and even ice cream that can be made using fresh Texas Hill Country apples is a sight for sore eyes (and a joy to the taste buds). And, who hasn’t visited a fall fair only to walk out with a bunch of candied or caramel apples for family and friends – if they last on the ride home! The apple dessert, spread, and cider recipes that our families have passed down through the generations are made just that much sweeter by having picked the fruit your own self or purchasing it fresh, locally. On the next page are a couple of the Speaking of desserts, is it any wonder that apple and wonderful recipes that will make experiencing fall in appetizing seem so similar? The syrups, jams, bread the Hill Country all the better for having done so. TexasHillCountry.com / 37


Hill Country

From The

Baked Apples Ingredients: • 4 Granny Smith Apples • 4 Tbsp. Butter • ½ Cup Brown Sugar • 2 Tsp. Ground Cinnamon

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Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Core the apple, scooping out from the top, leaving a well for the other ingredients. (Don’t cut all the way through or you’ll lose all the good stuff in the baking process!) Fill each apple with 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and 1 tablespoon of butter. Place the apples in a shallow baking dish and sprinkle each with cinnamon. Bake the apples for 15 minutes, until the sugar begins to caramelize and the apples become tender.


y Kitchen Caramel Apples Ingredients: • 6 Apples • 6 Craft Sticks (For Handles) • 2 Tbsp. Milk • 14 Oz.-Pkg. of Individually-Wrapped Caramels, Unwrapped

Butter a banking sheet to set your finished product. Remove the stem from each of the apples and press a craft stick in through the top. Place the unwrapped caramels and milk into a microwave-safe bowl, and microwave on high for two minutes, stirring once. Allow the caramel to cool, only briefly. Quickly roll each apple in the caramel sauce to coat well. Place on the prepared baking sheet to set.

About the Author: Spring Sault is the Senior Writer for Texas Media Group and Editor-in-Chief of her own publication Ranch & Reserve Magazine. Her favorite topics consist of western living and lifestyle, wine and wineries, and travel/ tourism in the North American west. TexasHillCountry.com / 39


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Oktoberfest

A Primer to the Hill Country German Frenzy

Article and Photos by Robert C. Deming

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here are a dizzying number of Oktoberfest events in Texas, by my count 26, and that is too many to list here, but I’d like to explain to you what all the frenzy is about. Beer, or bier, that’s what it’s about. Beer plus music and German food, and it all started with a royal wedding in 1810. The bride’s name was Therese, and the place the celebration was held was a meadow outside of Munich called Theresienweise (Therese’s Meadow) in her honor, and now abbreviated as Wiesn. The original event included a big horse race and has been held annually almost every year since. As more than 15% of Texans claim German heritage, the spread of these beer festivals in the Lone Star State was inevitable.

eschewed drinking and dancing, whereas the settlers in the Pedernales watershed were Catholic and Lutheran, and they loved drinking and dancing. Perhaps it is not a coincidence that people from Llano must visit Fredericksburg to have all that fun. To their credit, Llano hosts an annual event called Llano Earth Art Fest each March, as different as night from day from Oktoberfest, but great fun and worth your time. Fredericksburg’s Oktoberfest was started by a local group of artists to raise money for scholarships in the arts, and 38 years later the sponsoring group, Pedernales Creative Arts Alliance, supports fourteen area college students studying the arts.

An Oktoberfest gives patrons the opportunity for some These fests aren’t everywhere – the original settlers in pleasures not available just any time and place. Music the Llano River watershed were German Methodists, who provided by German and Czech bands isn’t going to be at your 42 / Heart of Texas Magazine Fall 2018


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local dance hall often, if at all. Traditional polkas and waltzes are played by bands like the Comal Community Band, Jodie Mikula Orchestra, Austin Polka Band, German Schuhplattlers (shoe slappers), the Seven Dutchmen, Walburg Boys, Boerne Village Band, Czechaholics, Czech & Then Some – you get the idea. There will tubas and yodeling and alpenhorns and skirts swirling, and at some point you will be pulled to the dance floor to participate in the irresistible Chicken Dance. Having worked up a thirst on the dance floor, you will find yourself at a bar with as many as 60 choices of fresh, cold draft beer. The authentic original Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany, only has beer made in the city’s six breweries, and the style served is a traditional Oktoberfest Bier with roots in the original fest. Now the beer served in those giant tents is lighter than in prior times, the most popular being Hacker-Pschorr, but including Augustiner, Paulaner, Spaten, Franzikaner, Hofbrau, and Lowenbrau. And at many Texas Oktoberfests, you can buy all of these beers on draft, and taste the original flavors of these beers imported just for you. But wait, there’s more! You will also find some of your favorite brews and others you’ve never heard of, but which will raise your curiosity. Locally brewed Oktoberfests tend to be slightly darker in the older Marzen style, and these beers often medal over German breweries in international contests. The winner of the international US Open in this category for the last three years is Lobo Oktoberfest, brewed right here in the Hill Country! Popular food items are the legendary potato pancakes and funnel cakes, flammenkuchen. What’s flammenkuchen? Its a TexasHillCountry.com / 43


thin crust pizza topped with crème fraiche, sour cream, onions, and bacon you won’t find on your local pizza menu. Predictably, you will also find sausages galore – on a bun, on a stick, with sauerkraut or without. This is not fine dining, but it is accessible and tasty, and you can eat it at a long table with hundreds of other people tapping their toes and singing along with the band. And, if you like, it is perfectly acceptable to participate dressed traditional German clothing, including lovely damsels wearing dirndl and men in lederhosen, traditional leather shorts with suspenders. As an experienced Oktoberfester, here is my advice: don’t pass up the opportunity to find out how much fun you can have at one of these fests. In Texas they are generally the first full weekend in October. Forget your usual beer, search out the imported beer tent and try these wonderful Oktoberfests, this opportunity generally only comes once a year. And when the person next to you prods you to get up to do the Chicken Dance, even if they have a goofy chicken hat on, get up and do it. You will leave the fest resolved to follow the lead of these old-timey Germans and have more fun in your life. About the Author: Robert C. Deming lives in Fredericksburg, is the author of four novels, and has been an Oktoberfest bier meister for the past 15 years.

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Valerie Ponzio A Bordertown Gal

Taking the Country Music Scene by Storm by Sonia Ramirez

Photos by Hannah Burton

“A dream can live in a piece of land, pray for rain to come again. You know you’re blessed when thunder rolls begin,” a beautiful lyric from the recent single “America” from rising Country Artist Valerie Ponzio. Since her performance on Season 12 of “The Voice” where she garnered a rare four-chair turn from judges, Ponzio has been trailblazing across Texas captivating the hearts of thousands of fans with her debut EP “Timeless.” This Bordertown gal from El Paso, Texas invites you along her journey, and experiences this past year: from pursuing her dreams and facing her fears and putting it all on the line on The Voice, to moving to Nashville with the love of her life and fiancé, to touring and attending the Country Music Awards. The dreams of this talented independent artist are breaking down barriers as she steamrolls through showcasing not only her powerhouse vocals reminiscent of the late great Amy Winehouse, but she and her fiancé, Mike Minjarez co-write most of their songs. A triple threat of sorts as she highlights her talented gifts on the guitar as well. “Valerie is unique, you know she’s got a very earthy, very different quality about her sound,” Blake Shelton shared from her time on The Voice. “I love that kind of Americana storyteller voice that she has.” Her jaw-dropping performance of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire,” which she auditioned with is a prime example. Growing up with a musical background, Ponzio’s gift for storytelling seems to come naturally as she has been writing her own music since the tender age of 13. “I just never stopped. I entered every talent show I could. I sang on the weekends at church. Just constantly singing at every turn,” shared Ponzio. “I grew up in a Texas border town that I had a lot of musical influences that I drew from that are all kind of coming together now in a way.”

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With her latest EP “Timeless,” Ponzio is creating music that resonates and hits home on many levels. Each song has its own unique spark with a little something for everybody: Latin, Country, Pop and even a little bit of Hip Hop. “I am very passionate about infusing all of my influences and making those influences that are very different relevant to the music of today,” shared Ponzio. “We had to work really hard and really curate the whole process. I just feel like I finally, through this EP, put all of my influences together with the Latin, and with the country. It all came together, it all made sense. What’s her secret? Collaborating. Ponzio shared for this latest EP she stepped out of her comfort zone and joined forces with some of Nashville’s talented producers like Brad Hill and Lalo Guzman, and songwriters such as Latin artist Sammy Arriaga, and Joey Ebach. Previously, they had collaborated with his brother Justin Ebach who co-wrote the Country #1 hit “Can’t Sleep without You” with Brett Young. “It’s been interesting trusting the process with other people. This next phase has been a ton of collaboration and rocks my world to see how that can just heighten and really lift your music,” shared Ponzio. “Coming to Nashville there is a beautiful array of different music and different people working on different style projects and bringing that to the table is kind of like a musical melting part.” Some of her musical influences include Chris Stapleton, Luke Bryan, Jason Isbell, Jennifer Lopez, Shakira, Florida Georgia Line, among others. A musical smorgasbord of sorts as can be heard in the songs on her EP like “Timeless” which she also recorded in Spanish and collaborated with her mom on to help her translate the lyrics. “The Beat Made Me Do It”

is the quintessential Latin Country song,” shares her team. “Morning” is a fusion of Pop, Country, Latin and a little bit of Hip Hop. And “Hologram” is a song about loving someone who seems real and attainable, but in reality, is incapable of loving you back. “Going to the writing room, I know where I want it go. I’m not sure specifically what we are going to talk about but I know I want to evoke this kind of feeling,” shared Ponzio regarding her music making process for her songs. “I’m very lucky I can work with people who can hear where I want to musically and stylistically take it and they will go in that direction with me. They bring their emotions and I bring mine and I can just bring a very full concept to a particular direction I want to go in, and voila, there’s a song.” Her latest tour has taken her on a journey through various Texas and Southwest towns such a Marfa, Lubbock, El Paso, New Mexico and beloved venues across the state. Most recently, she performed at the Railroad Blues in Alpine, Texas, for the Viva Big Bend Festival over the summer. “It’s such a heartfelt place and definitely love coming back to Railroad Blues. It’s so classic and so Texas and you just feel at home.” Ponzio went on to highlight how in her live shows it’s easier to feel that connection with the audience and take you along on

her journey of Valerie from a border town, to Nashville, to here, and all the emotions that have come with what she has been through. “Being a representative of different styles, being true to who you are, for me being Latin, being Country, you can bring it all to table and come to a town like Nashville to find the right people to help you execute that,” shared Ponzio. “Timeless” is garnering plenty of attention across Country, Pop, and Latin platforms such as Latin Divas Spotify playlist. Her music has also been featured on #NewMusicFriday #Latin playlist on @Spotify. She’s even been making the rounds on headlining a Hispanic Heritage Month performance for AOL Build, and recently attended the Country Music Awards on behalf of Latina

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Magazine. Her fan base affectionately called “Val Pals” is also growing across social media as fans from around the world are getting to know this talented trailblazing rising star from the Lone Star State. “At the end of the day I have to be honest of who I am and where I come from, and I have to bring that first and find a way of making that connection through my honesty. Despite the challenges, when I stay true to what I’m trying to say about what my journey has been, and when I find a way to make sure it’s relatable and I’m connecting the pieces with my fans, that’s when things just work,” shared Ponzio. Great advice for finding your focus as you make your way along this path we call life with shining stars like Ponzio captivating our hearts with music that resonates across the border. About the Author: Sonia Ramirez lives in Houston, Texas. She enjoys sharing stories that touch peoples’ hearts and the good work others do in their communities. She has worked in print, TV, radio, and with non-profit organizations making a difference in the Houston community. She published her first article at 19 and hopes to write a children’s book one day. Her motto: Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift to be a blessing wherever you go.

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As the weather begins to hint at the possibility of fall, if slightly, Texans begin to consider more outdoor activities, no longer convinced that a fully blasting A/C unit is a necessary prerequisite for agreeing to an activity. Fall in the Hill Country is the perfect mix of slightly cooler temperatures, but is still often warm enough for t-shirts and light jackets. As the air begins to cool and the leaves begin to change, outdoor camping and hiking often moves to the top of many people’s list of things-to-do. Here we have compiled a list of a few spots in the state you might want to check out for camping this year. Some are more popular than others so plan ahead and book your dates as soon as you can!

A Glorious Fall

CAMPING GUIDE

by Melissa Trevathan-Minnis

Davis Mountains State Park

When thinking of Texas, and particularly West Texas, many don’t consider mountains as part of the landscape. In many parts of West Texas, this is valid, but Davis Mountains State Park is a welcome exception to the rule. With miles of trails and open sky, this is the perfect place for stargazing by night and birdwatching by day. In fact, they have the “best little bird blind in Texas” for bird enthusiasts to enjoy. In addition to camping, the park is also home to a historic motel, Indian Lodge for those more interesting in glamping than camping.

Photos courtesy of Texas Parks & Wildlife Division 50 / Heart of Texas Magazine Fall 2018


Enchanted Rock Enchanted Rock sits in the Hill Country and is just 18 miles north of Fredericksburg. This area has been sacred ground to many for centuries. In fact, there are multiple state archeological landmarks to be discovered along the trails. The pink granite rock looms over the area and draws both novice campers and professional rock-climbers alike. Some stop to camp while touring other local attractions, while others come from all over just to visit the park. Plan ahead as reservations fill up quick for Enchanted Rock!

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Dinosaur Valley State Park Anyone that loves going back in time or investigating the archeological remains of dinosaurs will appreciate camping in Dinosaur Valley State Park. A short drive from Fort Worth, children and adults can walk where the dinosaurs walked. While strolling along these stunning trails, check out dinosaur footprints left long ago in the muddy banks of the Paluxy River! Swimming and fishing in the river are also popular activities so bring your swimming and fishing gear!

Colorado Bend State Park Colorado Bend State Park is just two hours northwest of Austin. Touting their vast unspoiled wilderness, the landscape and rolling hills are accompanied by Gorman Falls and Spicewood Springs. In addition to beautiful water, visitors can enjoy navigating their way through caves! Check availability for drive-up, tent, and primitive camping sites as well as larger group camp sites.

McKinney Falls State Park McKinney Falls State Park lies within Austin’s city limits, making it a highly sought after park for many Austinites, but also people all over the state. Interacting directly with the swimming holes and waterfall is a favorite of many visitors. Visitors can also fish in Onion Creek, check out an early American homestead, and a primitive rock shelter while in the park. Camp sites tuck into the trees making this a quaint site for overnight camping and enjoying nature as the leaves change colors.

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While the camping spots that made our list are sure to please, you can check out other sites all across the state by visiting tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks. Here you can also check for availability and make reservations for your fall camping trip as well as get daily updates on camping and weather conditions which is helpful when planning and preparing for your trip. As you plan, consider the conditions and what makes the most sense for the people in your group. If children are involved, do some research ahead of time for foot-friendly trails. Others might prefer a higher octane experience and will be interested in looking for more demanding trails and climbing options. When deciding on a specific camping site, consider the distance the site is from a toilet and shower if that is important, as well as the proximity to other campers if quiet and privacy are important to you. If traveling with pets, be aware of rules regarding pets and leash laws. Always be prepared with drinkable water as some places will not have potable water accessible at all times. Many like to plan ahead for food and snacks as well. While planning, consider if you want a rustic adventure far from restaurants and cities or the ease of driving down the road for dinner after a day of fun on the trails. As fall approaches, step out and enjoy all that the beautiful Texas landscape has to offer‌ and pack a tent! About the Author: Melissa Trevathan-Minnis is a psychologist and professor of psychology and an entrepreneur living in Austin. In addition to academic writing, she is completing a book for young cancer survivors and loves to write about travel and Hill Country finds in her spare time. Melissa is an animal advocate and supports rescue work whenever possible. She is a mom to one small human, two furry children, and one shell baby. TexasHillCountry.com / 53


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Why We’re Thankful

for the Texas Hill Country

by Sarah Schmidt

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hat an amazing place, the Texas Hill Country; with all the great things within its boundaries, it’s hard not to be grateful that we get to live and play here. Exploring this area is truly a worthwhile experience! Here are 15 examples of truly unique things both residents and visitors alike are thankful for in this part of the Lone Star State.

named after this interesting animal, Freetail Brewing Company.

3. Unique Culture. Looking to experience cultures beyond your own? Look no further than around here! The Texas Hill Country is a diverse melting pot of a wide variety of people, places, and things that give a unique flair to this area. Some examples of the vibrant cultures are Hispanic, Native American, German, African-American, Polish, 1. Hill Country Art. Asian, French, and Czech. Each has their own legacy Art is in the eye of the beholder and its range can and contributions that make Texas great! easily be found here. Indoors, outdoors, and even on the roadside! Just a few examples are the Western 4. Dino DNA! Art Museum in Kerrville, San Antonio’s Mexic-Arte Dinosaurs once roamed this trek of hilly land. Search Museum, the Round Rock Artspace, and Hanna Springs as a family for evidence of nearly 110 million year Sculpture Garden found in Lampasas. old Acro can thosaurus and Sauro po sei don dinosaurs in Government Canyon or learn via larger than life 2. Holy Bats, Batman! replicas at the Bandera Natural History museum. Don’t be afraid of the official flying mammal of the state of Texas! Mexican Free-Tailed Bats are champion 5. Hill Country Cuisine. insect eaters and have a long history here. Did you We love comestible treats made in the Texas Hill know these creatures were used as experimental Country! Delectable eats and handcrafted beverages weapons in World War II? View through the fence to are a big source of pride for many towns and cities see the Hygieostatic Bat Roost outside of Comfort here. Try some while you are there, then bring home which was built in 1918, then check out a colony at more for later or gifts. the Old Tunnel Cave or the Ann W. Richards Congress Ave Bridge in Austin. Or just enjoy a refreshing brew

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6. Festivals. A good time outside can be found any time at festivals. Our moderate climate allows for this fun to take place all year long! Many dot this area and widely range in type, so be sure to keep an eye out! Just a few examples are the World Championship Goat Cook-off in Brady, the International Accordion Festival in San Antonio, and Wings Over the Hills Nature Festival in Fredericksburg.

9. Hill Country Dance Halls. When the sun goes down for the evening, it is time to enjoy yourself and time with friends! Music and dancing are essential elements of Texas; put those together and you can see why there is a rich tradition of dance halls in this region. Bonus: beautiful architecture and rich history truly make these places truly special. There are many, many places with weekly, monthly, and quarterly dances with live music. Here are only a few examples of polished wood floors to kick up your 7. Creeptastic Graves. heels: McQueeney Hall, Albert Dance Hall, Arkey Blue’s If you find cemeteries and gravesites interesting, Silver Dollar Bar, Kendalia Halle, Coupland Dancehall, consider a visit to pay respects in Comfort at the Anhalt Hall, Hangin’ Tree Saloon, Quihi Dance Hall, and Seashell graves, the Dead Man’s Hole in Marble Falls, Martinez Social Club. Brackettville’s Seminole Negro Indian Scout Cemetery, or the final resting place of the feline guardians of 10. Bountiful Nature. the Alamo. The associated history is mysterious and The Hill Country certainly is a little slice of heaven. fascinating, and provides distinctive perspective on Nature abounds here with diverse topography, various groups. beautiful flowers, majestic trees, distinctive animals, and, of course, pink granite! All forms of outdoor 8. Fantastic Museums. activity is popular here; try something new today with Another activity not in short supply in the Texas Hill adventurous friends or the whole family. Country are museums! Check your local area to see what has been collected and memorialized, or try 11. Rivers, lakes, and waterways. these out: the Nutcracker Museum in Seguin, Blanco’s It does get pretty hot here in the summer! Don’t worry Buggy Barn Museum, or San Antonio’s L-Bird Flying though, natives have found plenty of places to cool Museum and Magic Lantern Museum. off and are happy to share with you. In the heat of the day, find people exploring caves, diving into spring-fed TexasHillCountry.com / 57


pools, floating the rivers, boating around lakes, and queuing at the ultimate splashdown option: Schlitterbahn in New Braunfels. 12. Road Trips! Road warriors, there is plenty for you too! With so many backroads and small towns, in addition to cities and highways, you just never know what you’ll see. Perhaps a sighting of the Hippos in Hutto, the World’s Oldest Largest Pecan in Seguin, or a giant Old Time Wooden Nickel and the World’s Largest Virgin Mary Mosaic in San Antonio. 13. Texas Artisans. Small businesses and entrepreneurs are everywhere you look in the Texas Hill Country! Storefronts, market days, vendor showcases, and specialty purveyors all feed back into the local economy. Shop local and support that Texas independent spirit. 14. Spine-Tingling Tales. Well-established history often means spooky places are nearby. Read up on ghost stories of this region, then listen for things that go bump in the night while riding along the Devil’s Backbone near Wimberley, driving past Woman Hollering Creek on I-10, or wandering among the exposed remains of Old Bluffton Ghost Town close to Burnet. 15. Trail Rides It’s happy trails everywhere here. Take a walk with friends along the 4.2 mile River Trail in Kerrville, ride your bicycle along the Old No. 9 Trail in Boerne where trains used to run, or see 12 historic country schools with family loaded in the car on the Gillespie County Country Schools Driving Trail around Fredericksburg area. This list is just the beginning of amazing and wonderful things to experience in the Texas Hill Country. There really is something for everyone and every interest. Make yourself at home, take lots of pictures, and thank God for Texas! About the Author: Sarah Schmidt -aka- the Honky Tonk Foodie, was reared in small-town South Texas to a blaring Willie Nelson record, a tortilla in one hand, and an eye on the horizon. Though cemented as a multi-generational Texan, temporary insanity lead her to Connecticut College, where she obtained a B.A. in English. She has traveled around the world aiming to talk to strangers and taste things she cannot pronounce. Currently residing in the bushes near Boerne with an outdoorsy husband and a cat that’s hawk bait, Honky Tonk Foodie thoroughly enjoys river sitting, star gazing, and wandering road trips. 58 / Heart of Texas Magazine Fall 2018


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On’s

Blue River Camp

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Let the Fun Begin ans of Son’s Island, located in Seguin, will be delighted to know that Son’s Island now has a sister camp located along the banks of the scenic San Marcos River. Son’s Blue River Camp offers many of the amenities that have made Son’s Island famous, such as cabanas, “glamping” and tubing but Son’s Blue River Camp has the added appeal of the crystal clear San Marcos river.

Simply Show Up and Let Son’s Blue River Camp Do The Rest Family time is hard to come by and life can get downright hectic once school starts. Enter Son’s Blue River Camp, offering guests the ease of camping and a quick getaway without the hassle of setting up camp and hauling supplies. Bring your family and friends to Son’s Blue River Camp, simply show up to your thoughtfully appointed “glamp” site or cabana and let nature take center stage! With the glistening blue waters of the San Marcos river at your disposal, tube or kayak your way down the river and marvel at the quiet and secluded space that you get to enjoy. Roast marshmallows and watch the stars against the background of nature’s sounds as you glamp the night away! Located in Fentress, on the Beautiful San Marcos River Located in Fentress, Texas (near Leisure Resort Campground), Son’s Blue River Camp has glamping tents that include memory foam mattresses, cots, and fans, and your own barbeque pit, among other amenities. Book your trip to Son’s Blue River Camp today at bluerivercamp.com or follow them on Facebook to see all of the fun that folks are having at the newest and coolest spot to play and camp on the San Marcos River.

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‘Living United’

to Give Back in San Marcos and Kyle

by Spring Sault

Photos courtesy of United Way of Hays and Caldwell Counties Essential to the success of the respective communities, United Way of Hays and Caldwell Counties is launching its fall fundraising campaign with a focus on October being “Live United Month.” Supporting their 18-partner programs as well as their four internal programs (all of which are top-tier in terms of individual and family support), the campaign and its integral events and goals have a community impact which is unparalleled in the San Marcos and Kyle areas. Looking to generate that level of support throughout their Texas Hill Country catchments, their mission is to assist the continuing needs of those they service, which now number upwards of 50,000 people.

Over the course of the season, with a concerted effort taking place in October, those who would like to donate to the United Way of Hays and Caldwell Counties can do so via their website www.unitedwayhaysco. org as well as at one of their fundraising events. Funds that are raised throughout the fall campaign will replenish the organization’s general fund, which provides much-needed dollars for each of their partner and internal programs. Companies can also express their benevolence in the fashion of program or event sponsorship as well as the unique opportunity to establish an employee giving program, through which payroll deductions can be coordinated for ongoing contributions. Interested parties are asked to contact In a recent interview, Michelle Harper, President Harper directly by calling 512-353-1420. and CEO of the organization, identified “United Way of Hays and Caldwell Counties fights for the health, One of the integral events of the United Way of Hays education, and financial stability of every person and and Caldwell Counties’ fall fundraising campaign is the every community that we serve. To do this, we partner TASTE 2018 event, taking place in Kyle on October 18. with non-profit agencies and programs throughout all Now in its 9th year, this is the largest fundraiser for the of our communities to ensure families have what they organization and features taste selections from more need to live happy, healthy, successful lives.” than 15 different restaurants, and auction with over 75 luxury items, and entertainment by Grammy-award64 / Heart of Texas Magazine Fall 2018


winning country music artist Rick Trevino. The show’s open act will also be none other than Holly Tucker, who was a top-six finalist on season four of “The Voice.” Tickets for this event are $75 per person or $140 per couple and can be purchased on their website or by texting “uwhays taste” to the number 313131 (which will take you to the link for ticket purchase via phone). Chet Reed, Assistant Vice President and Financial Center Manager for Broadway Bank in San Marcos, as well as United Way of Hays and Caldwell Counties Board Member, is the 2018 fall Fundraising Campaign Chair, and Sarah Longoria, Center Store Leader for H-E-B in San Marcos and United Way of Hays and Caldwell Counties Board Member, is the Campaign Co-Chair. Together with Harper and the supporting staff of the organization, they hope to make this year’s campaign a success. Harper explained, “United Way isn’t just one organization. We are the power of multiple organizations coming together to solve community problems. By supporting United Way, you are supporting multiple nonprofits throughout the community. It’s going to take everyone supporting our

fundraising campaign to support our partner programs and internal initiatives.” Real, human lives are impacted in the most powerful and positive ways when communities come together to support the type of outreach, health, and education programs that the United Way produces internally and in its partnerships. Giving to their fall fundraising campaign or attending one of their events, such as TASTE 2018, ensures that each of our community members can benefit from these programs and support. Helping one’s neighbor has always been the hallmark of a Texas Hill Country community and resident, and United Way of Hays and Caldwell Counties wants to ensure that continues in the most heartfelt way possible. About the Author: Spring Sault is the Senior Writer for Texas Media Group and Editor-in-Chief of her own publication Ranch & Reserve Magazine. Her favorite topics consist of western living and lifestyle, wine and wineries, and travel/tourism in the North American west.

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Jessica M. Williams “waiting on the rain” 66 / Heart of Texas Magazine Fall 2018


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