Hey there!

So I’m having a good time in Texas. I have been trying to take it slower this week in my time off, and take in some sights, local culture, and food.

When I last wrote, I had just made it to Austin, Texas.

I found a sketchy place to park after writing and crashed, and caught up on some much-needed sleep. The following morning, I walked to the capitol building and checked it out. I had wanted to see if they were doing tours that I might get a glimpse of the inside, but there was some major dystopian-looking shit going on around the outside, with whirring machines and tents that no one seemed to be entering or leaving, armed guards, and men patrolling the grounds with german shepherds (multiple??), so I took a quick picture and left.

After this, I drove over to Zilker Park, and walked the house green grassway and enjoyed the sights of downtown Austin. Everyone was here with their dogs; I felt left out.

Next I checked out Barton Spring Pool, which was just across the street. Even though it’s called a pool, this place is a natural spring that is teeming with the local blind salamander (cute, right?), and it’s naturally around 68 degrees year-round, I believe. It was maybe 55 degrees at this point, so a little cool but nice in the sun, so I went for a swim, which was phenomenal minus freezing my butt off once I had to get out and dry off.

For lunch that morning I stopped in at Black’s Barbecue, a local phenomenon of all things smoked and meaty.

It. Tasted. So. Good.

My next stop was at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center outside of Austin. Sadly, I visited just before the wildflowers were to be really poppin but the weather was warm and balmy and the scent of pine and grass was in the air and it was magical to walk around in the sun.

Then, I tripped out to Pedernales Falls State Park, and learned the beautiful lesson that the Texas state park system operates by reservation only. So, I was able to take these quick photos, but if I really wanted to hike around in depth, I would have had to make a reservation online in advance, and we all know I have commitment issues.

I made a drive southward to get to Jacob’s Well, a natural area where there lies a natural deep cave and spring. Indeed, there was a big ol’ hole in the ground, which looks absolutely terrifying to dive into to see all the little fish and salamanders, but apparently people do it. Swimming is permitted there during the summer but not during other times in order to preserve the natural environment and ecological habitat for the local wildlife.

During the drive, I stopped along the way on the side of the road to catch a view of the Hill Country, and stumbled upon a memorial wall covered in poignant messages and keepsakes of lost loved ones.

The drive ended at Canyon Overlook Park, a gorgeous lake surrounded on one side by a massive dam that’s walkable and hikeable AND swimmable (whew)! I heard the sunsets here are gorgeous but I had other plans for my sunset that evening —

For the evening, I returned to Austin at dusk to view the flight of bats from under the Congress Avenue Bridge at the Statesman Bat Observation Center. Under this bridge are hundreds of bats, sleeping all day, and venturing out into the world to eat an egregious amount of their bodyweight in insects at dusk. There were a bunch of people gathered around murmuring about the bats, which erupted into cheers and laughs (and some concerned gasps) when the tiny bats emerged from hiding.

The following day, I began my morning at the Barton Creek Greenbelt trail, a must-see of the area. Many hikers with many dogs prowled around the paths in the warming weather.

I grabbed some Tex Mex at the local mainstay, Matt’s El Rancho, and headed up to Mt Bonnell, the local high point, to eat and enjoy the view.

The high point of my trip around Austin was ironically deep inside the cave at Longhorn Cavern State Park.

I took so! many! pictures! So sorry for this, but WHAT a phenomenal place! Seriously, this cave blew me away after seeing Mammoth cave (which, by the way, is the only other river-formed cave in the US)! I was initially thrown by the price tag (about $20 for a cave tour) but decided to put my money anxiety aside and I am so glad that I did.

The cave is full of natural formations and history and the tour guides did a great job of explaining it all in an interesting and relevant way. It developed over slow erosion of limestone over the last million+ years and has been used by Native Americans, US soldiers and settlers, and bandits and outlaws. The cave currently only hosts tours (and weddings) and these little teeny bats that just hang out right in front of your face (literally, you could bump into one if you aren’t careful).

The cave also hosted a huge amount of calcite crystal formations covering the walls.

Continuing my journey, I traveled by Enchanted Rock, another state park that again reminded me that I would have needed a reservation. Anyways, I was able to get in and snap a few pictures without getting into too much trouble. It’s a giant pink granite mountain in the middle of nowhere and totally takes you by surprise — like, bam, there it is, in the middle of your hilly, scrubby Texas drive.

When in Texas, I wanted to have the full country experience, so I stopped in at a rodeo! I found one going on Saturday night at the Tejas Rodeo, and though I made it there late, I was still able to enjoy some of the rambunctious going-ons that the locals were so buck wild about. The lady at the gate advised me to “find a cowboy,” but alas, I had no such luck.

As a side note totally note purely related to my not “finding a cowboy,” I’m feeling a little lonely in Texas. I think people can tell I’m an outsider (thinking I’m one of them damn libruls with them face piercin’s) and so I’ve been a bit starved of emotional connection and conversation. But I’ll be OK. I think this feeling is also because on this trip so far, I’ve been around people a bunch. I haven’t noticed it as much or at all when I’m in the woods or camping and hiking alone. So, I’m looking forward to exiting the hustle and bustle of the city for a time.

I found myself in San Antonio for the night, the home of the Alamo and the San Antonio river walk, which I checked out the following day.

I was appreciative to have a change to learn about the Alamo firsthand after a brief, whitewashed version in my childhood history classes.

Right nearby, the river walk did not disappoint. It was a gorgeous day, and I took a leisurely stroll around the walk, watching people enjoy river cruises or eat meals with loved ones. It felt like a pleasant reminder of what I have to look forward to at home when I return to better weather.

It was a sweltering day, and I ended up making the Eastward trek to the San Marcos river at River Trail Park, wanting to rest, relax, and catch a nap in the hammock.

So here you find me! I’m in Seguin, Texas, using the local library’s WiFi. The only place in town I’ve checked out so far is the Powerplant Texas Grill, where I chanced a chicken fried chicken. Not bad! I’m looking forward to taking it slow while I finish out my work week here.