Heading for the Hills – Texas Hill Country

Hooray, a milestone for us – this is our 500th post!  Have we really published that many stories?  It’s hard to believe, and we’re so happy to memorialize and share our travels with you, our readers and followers.  We thank you for jamming on down the road with us!

In real time we’re in Tucson, AZ, enjoying gorgeous 90º weather – finally!  I’ve once again put a hold on writing blogs in favor of spending time outdoors enjoying and capturing moments, while hanging out with friends.

And that’s just what happened in April as we slow-poked across Texas…

So let me go back to our normal programming 🙂

From the Texas gulf coast we headed for the hills, Texas Hill Country, that is.  The state is so huge that driving across it on I-10 covers about 850 miles, and there’s no way we were going to miss as many nooks and crannies as we could along the way.

I just realized we’ve visited all of the state’s seven regions during our travels; the South Texas Plains, the Gulf Coast, the Piney Woods, the Prairies and Lakes, the Big Bend Country, the Panhandle-Plains and now the Hill Country region.  Our previous 28 Texas posts highlight everything we’ve seen and enjoyed here up to this point.

Our first glimpse of what was to come, Bluebonnets at Lake Somerville

The George H.W. Bush Presidential Library in College Station, TX was just a half-hour drive from our site at Lake Somerville COE.  We spent several hours learning about the lives of the president and Barbara Bush before and after his presidency.  Their love of family, sense of adventure and strongly-held value of civility and service to the country was inspirational.  The museum is well organized, detailed and comprehensive.  We recommend it regardless of your political affiliation.

We heard and read a lot about the many things to do while in Austin, but big cities don’t appeal much to us.  We did do three things during our short visit: toured the state capital building, ate some good BBQ and took a hike at McKinney Falls State Park.

We were able to catch a guided tour for our 9th state capitol visit.  By joining it we were able to learn more details than from a brochure, but other than being impressed by the huge size of the building we were a bit underwhelmed.

The star in the dome measures 8′ point-to-point, we’re definitely in Texas!

And we came to eat some of that famous Texas BBQ!  Although we probably haven’t worked off all the calories gained from our cajun country adventures, here we are again on another gastronomic tour.  Fortunately we had a list of places to visit from John and Sharon, plus Kevin and Laura’s excellent post detailing Austin BBQ.  We only had time to check out two of them, so we tried Smitty’s Market in Lockhart and Rudy’s Country Store in Austin.  Although a bit of a “rustic” experience (spoons but no forks at Smitty’s?), we thought the meat at both of them was yummylicious!

To work it off, we took a hike at Mckinney Falls State Park:

Upper falls
Just a small section of a Bluebonnet meadow

Next we moved on to Fredericksburg for a rendezvous with our friends Harry and Chris, who were visiting family in the area.  They signed us up for a tour at Garrison Brothers Distillery where we could taste some serious Texas bourbon.  We had a great time tasting and smelling bourbon in the making.

Fredericksburg is also the center of Texas Wine Country.  Its wine production dates back to the original settlers who used the native mustang grape to produce wines.  So when the four of us Californians got together we had to taste the local wines and give our expert opinions.  Although we liked the red wines at Grape Creek Winery, the $21 tasting fee impressed us more than anything else there!

After that we all hung out at our camp site next to the local airport and enjoyed an unexpected free airshow.  Apparently a group of WWII aircraft owners were there on a fly-in lunch, and we were the benefactors of a practice for an airshow with several formation flights over the airport.  Steve’s pilot buddies would have been in heaven!

Thirteen planes heading for the moon
Oh yeah, there were some flowers here too!

We stretched our legs and pumped up our lungs at the pink granite dome known as Enchanted Rock, which rises 425′ in elevation.  We’d been flatland walking for several months, and hiking this trail to the summit was an awesome return to what we love to do!


Granite that broke away and tumbled down
The weathered dome is known to geologists as a monadnock.  See the hikers up there?

The Texas Hill Country had been on my wishlist for some time, and thanks to our wintering in Florida and heading back along the southern coast I can check it off my wishlist.  Having seen pictures of hillsides carpeted with Bluebonnets and other wildflowers, I yearned to see it personally.  And here we were oohing and aahing at all the patches of colors along the highway, on empty lots, in meadows and almost everywhere else!

A good place to see wildflowers this time of year is at the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site.  Our 36th president was a native son of the Hill Country, and together with Lady Bird he left a lasting legacy in the hills.  After watching a movie about the president we walked around the complex that included an interpretive center about his life.

A commoner emulates LBJ walking among the wildflowers

We bought a permit to follow an auto tour at the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park.  Unfortunately the Texas White House was closed due to structural issues, so we stuck to driving around the ranch where LBJ was born, lived, died, and was buried.  After the president’s death in 1973, Mrs. Johnson lived at the ranch part time until her death in 2007.  Their holdings included approximately 1,570 acres, 674 of which are now federal land.

If you like flowers like I do, then Wildseed Farms is a must-do when in Fredericksburg. They’re the nation’s largest working wildflower farm, growing over 200 acres of beautiful flowers for 35 years.  They have walking trails, and admission is free – yay!

Red Corn Poppy in full bloom

Wildflowers are the big thing in hill country, and the whole area turns into a painter’s palette of blues, reds, yellows and purples dotting the fresh green of spring. We drove in and around the Hill Country and the extra-wet winter made it a sight to see that even took Steve’s breath away!

So I can tick another one off my bucket list – springtime in Hill Country – I couldn’t ask for more!




  1. Outstanding photos, Mona Liza! The WWII planes and the moon….simply beautiful. 😊 You’ll have to get back to the Texas WH someday…it’s pretty cool. Be sure to spray on the bug spray before going into those bluebonnets! 😉

  2. After seeing it was your 500th post I had to go see how many we had done. We are far behind at less than 300. The hill country of Texas is one of our favorite areas and never get tired of visiting there. You certainly cannot beat the bbq!

    • Had we not winter in Florida we would have missed the Hill Country altogether. I too can believe I have written 500 long and short posts! But at the rate you are publishing about your house construction, you will soon hit the mark too!

  3. Love the WWII airplane shots and how lucky for the free airshow. With spring the flowers are awesome

  4. Not just “500 posts,” but “500 posts that are full of gorgeous pictures, helpful information, and which save Laura tons of time travel planning.” Yay!! 🙂

    I, too, really loved the George H.W. Bush Library. I’ve been to several of them and that one always stands out in my mind as being particularly well done, and his life story is so inspirational.

    Glad you got some good Texas barbecue. We heard good things about Garrison, but didn’t make it there and we missed the Texas wineries… though a $21 tasting fee would probably be a “no” from me. You know you can buy a whole BOX of wine for that, right??? 🙂

    • Thank you Laura you are so sweet! And I know you can relate the amount of time and effort to publish a post. I know the $21 tasting fee was ridiculous, Steve almost fell down when he heard it!

  5. Your blog is great. We love your photos and writing. We’re finishing our season as volunteers at the LBJ National Park on his Ranch. This has been the best year for wildflowers. Y’all will have to come back and visit more wineries, breweries and distilleries and dance halls!

    • Im so glad we came at the right time and the best year for wildflowers! Were the other wineries you went tasting cost as much what we paid at Grape Creek? $21?

  6. Aren’t the flowers spectacular! We so enjoyed our time there but didn’t manage any wine or bourbon tastings! It wouldn’t have been the same without you two sharing your samples…… Loved the curly headed Hereford.

  7. As always, your wildflower pictures are amazing ML. We spent a month there, but it was fall and also really pretty…but looks like we need to return in the spring.

  8. Oh yay, you got to see the Hill Country in full bloom! You definitely hit the flower jackpot. And you captured gorgeous photos. It doesn’t look like you had any problems getting Steve to pull over for photos. I remember pouting because there were some places I wanted to take photos and Eric wouldn’t pull over—of course we were pulling the trailer, LOL!! :-))

    We love the Hill Country and really enjoyed Wildseed Farms, Enchanted Rock, and the LBJ Ranch. Did you have a chance to visit the Sauer-Beckman Farm next door? Your post makes me want to return! I think we’re heading that way next spring.

    Wow, 500 posts. That is amazing! You have put so much work into creating such a beautiful journal of your travels. Thank you for sharing so generously with all of us.

    • I did not dare ask to pull over while he was driving Betsy, for like you pouting did not work 🙂 This time however we were on our Honda so I sweetly ask him to pull over to take pictures. After a three stops, he started rolling his eyes 🙂
      Yes we did follow the trail that led to Sauer-Beckman Farm, and also the long loop that took us around and the wildflowers were just begging to be photograph. We did hit the area at the right time!
      Thank you, I cant believe 500 posts of blood and tears 🙂

  9. Those massive waves of color remind me of the Skagit Valley tulips in spring, sans the rain and gray skies.

    Can’t wait for TLG and I to see that area sometime in spring and only hope I can nail a few shots as good as yours

    • You know Skagit Valley remained in my bucket list! We were too late when we got there in 2012, they were all harvested and tulips are my all time favorite flower.
      Thank you Mark for your kind words 🙂

  10. When I said that yours was the next blog I needed to go back and start from the beginning, I didn’t realize you were up to 500 posts. I may have to re-think that. Just kidding! I will happily read and re-read your travel tales. Congratulations on making so many wonderful memories and sharing them with all of us.

    Ah, the wildflowers. Simply breathtaking! You captured their color brilliantly. The one of Steve “modeling” them cracks me up.

    Bourbon, BBQ, and big boulders — you did Texas right again!

    • Steve thought your “Bourbon, BBQ, and big boulders” should have been the title of this post!
      You know what they say, be careful with what you wish for, you may be surprised with what you get, 500 post to read!
      The wildflowers were breathtaking, wherever we went in the Hill Country!

      • Ha, you could still change the title if you want & use it!
        It is a lot to read from start to finish, but I know it’s a great story and so worth it.
        Flowers make everything better!

  11. You couldn’t have timed it any better than you did for all those gorgeous wildflowers! Your photos are amazing. I can only imagine how beautiful they were in person because the photos are wonderful And once again, in the right spot at the right time, the Air Show! Just what Steve needed! Fun!

    • Yes, we did! It made me happier when Steve was also blown away by the dense colorful flowers all around. We all jumped out of our seats when we noticed the plane lined up for take off, a surprise free airshow!

  12. Congratulations on 500 blogs. That’s no small achievement. So glad you got to see the Texas wildflowers in full bloom. Bob surprised me one year and took me to Wildseed Farms. It was another year with incredible blooms. He is so romantic. I go hiking at Enchanted Rock as much as possible. The usual route we take is to climb to the top, come back down, and then take the trail all the way around the rock and lake. It is beautiful, but we have to take food or else we run out of energy half-way around. The total length of that hike is eight miles.

    • Thank you Susan! I couldn’t believe it at first that I have published 500 posts! That was our original plan to hike around but a section was closed due to flooding, but we still manage to do 7 miles. Love that park!

  13. Hoping to do the TX wildflowers next spring with Curt & Glenda. Wasn’t sure about April there until you started posting on FB all your beautiful photos.

  14. Our timing never worked for the Hill Country in bloom. We enjoyed McKinney when we visited Austin to spend time with one of my highschool friends … but it was way too hot to do any outdoor activities by our standards.

    • I really thought I won’t be able to see the wildflowers. Our wintering in Florida made it possible to see places such as the HillCountry possible. And we were both amazed at the wildflowers super bloom.

  15. Great pics! I’m reading all of your 500 blog posts….I’m only up to February 2013. I have a few more to go!

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