Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Barton Springs, July 5th

The wife (web moniker pending) said she wanted to come back from visiting San Antonio in-laws early so that we could go hiking.  Though hiking is a great idea for one who blogs about hiking, I protested: so long as you're stuck in San Antonio, you might as well be drinking tequila in some form.  To come back early meant sobering up.  The Wife votes twice (once for herself, and once for the patience required to live with me), so we headed north.

The 4th of July, like Thanksgiving, is about traditions: hot dogs, hamburgers, grilling, water, and blowing stuff up.  So after dropping the oldest child at work, I took The Wife and the younger two down towards Campbell's Hole, which was their first swimming experience on Barton Creek years ago.

The number of cars we found parked on Barton Skyway confirmed our fears, and then some.  We knew it would be too crowded at Campbell's Hole for us to have any fun, and that the pack of unleashed dogs would make our "untested" lab too hard to handle.  So at the bottom of the Barton Skyway entrance, we turned right instead of left, towards Gus Fruh.

Luckily, the water levels were just right.  On the way to the Skyway Crossing, we found a place with swift-moving but shallow water, about 1/4 mile from the bottom of the Barton Skyway trail entrance.

Earl loved it.  Dawg found it too difficult to navigate.  After a quick dip, we moved on to the Skyway Crossing.  The water was perfect -- though it did smell a bit brackish.  (We later found that the brackish water was nearby, not connected to the water in which we swam.)

The Skyway Crossing is .48 miles from the bottom of the Barton Skyway trail entrance.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Sunday morning I woke up and checked the normally over-stuffed calendar to find nothing I couldn't stand to miss.  I wanted to take the family hiking, and found Palmetto State Park.  (Web search #1.) Texas Parks and Wildlife has a video (Web Search #2) about the park that features heavily its beginnings as a Civilian Conservation Corps.

Here's the summary: Palmettos usually grow in the swampy areas you'd find in the American Southeast; in fact, this particular stand of Palmettos is the farthest West.  Many visitors will find it fascinating to find that there is a "swamp" in Central Texas.  Hiking at the park will take you through the Palmetto stands and give you a chance to see an ecosystem you don't normally experience in our region.

And here's the video.  (Link takes you to Texas Parks and Wildlife's website.)

Checking the map (Web Search #3), I noticed that it was just south of Luling, and we'd have to go through Lockhart to get there.  Bonus!  Somewhere, I remember hearing about the best barbecue in Texas, or something like that, being somewhere around Lockhart.

With Web Search #4, I found a couple of articles in Texas Monthly about the Best Barbecue joints.  The first was from 1973 (link takes you to Texas Monthly's website,) and with a lot more clicking around (Web Search #5), I found an article and landing page from 2008 (2008 BBQ, again, from Texas Monthly.)  After reading 2 pages of barbecue lore, I finally found it -- Kreuz's Barbecue in Lockhart has arguably the best barbecue in Texas, and we'd pass right by it.  (Web Search #6 found Kreuz's on the map.)

I knew that Earl, the youngest, would want to fish.  So I searched again (Web Search #7).  TP&W says, "Activities: Activities include camping, picnicking, hiking, fishing, birding, nature study, pedal boat and canoe rentals, swimming, tubing, and canoeing."  So there's fishing... but for what?  And where?

I packed up the car in the not-so-early-as-I-wanted morning, including 3 rafts, 2 tubes, 4 fishing poles, 2 dozen worms that looked like they came from Chernobyl, towels, food, drinks, bug spray, and SPF "Casper" sunscreen.  I woke up the kids, and stretched the truth: "It's not really that early.  We're going hiking in a swamp.  We'll also go canoeing, swimming, and we'll even do some fishing."  Earl cheered.  His older sisters cheered, in spite of the hiking.  "On the way back, we'll pass by Kreuz's, which has the best barbecue in the WORLD."  My wife cheered.  They put shorts and shirts over swimsuits, jumped in the car, and immediately fell asleep.

Don't get me wrong -- the trip was a blast.  Even the 16-year old said the 5 mile hike was "worth it" and that the Palmettos were "neat," even though seeing 5 would have been as good as hiking through 1/4 mile of them.  But...

We didn't get to fish, canoe, or really swim.  The best place to fish is the Oxbow Lake, which is a drive from the other activities.  The closest swimming to the hiking is the San Marcos river, which is nice, but the river runs so fast that the only place to enjoy the water is in the lee of a low-water damn.  Anywhere else and you're swept to the Gulf.  So there was no tubing, and no floating, and to "relax" meant to lean your body 45 degrees upstream against the current to keep yourself in place.  While we enjoyed the hike, we went the wrong way -- we should have started where we ended.  All of my research was wrong.

I spent 2 hours searching the web to find out about the place, and in the end, found no meaningful answers.   Oh, and when we drove up to Kreuz's, it was closed.  That moment convinced me to do something to help other semi-adventurous want-to-be-more-active types find places and things to do outdoors, and do them with success.

In coming posts:  Palmetto State Park, Emma Long (City) Park, and (a quite insufficient intro to) Walnut Creek Park, with dog.