Much of the state has always been grasslands. This makes for large stands of sun-loving wildflowers, helped along by the 30,000 pounds of wildflower seed sown by the Texas Department of Transportation each year.
Fighting In The Front Seat
Texas has been preserving and encouraging wildflowers and native grasses along all rights-of-way since 1934. By so doing, they’ve controlled erosion, reduced the need for mowing, and provided habitat for wildlife. It certainly makes for beautiful drives along Texas roadways. And also created a few slightly heated interchanges in the front seat of our truck that went something like this:
“Wow, did you see that? Pull over so that I can take a picture.”
“I can’t pull over! There’s no place to pull over!”
“But I want to take pictures of the flowers. We just passed by an amazing field of flowers with (choose one: horses/old tractor/cows/old barn/rolling hills)!”
“This is a two-lane road! I’m pulling the trailer! There’s no place to pull over!”
“Well how am I going to take pictures? I can’t take good pictures while we’re driving at 55 miles per hour.”
“There’s no place to pull over! You’re going to have to wait until there’s a safe place to pull over!”
“But that’s not where the flowers are!”
In The Heart Of The Hill Country
Even though Texas has suffered from a three-year drought, we still found an abundance of wildflowers as we traveled from Breaux Bridge, Louisiana to Fredericksburg, Texas. This is the heart of the Hill Country, known for some of the finest wildflower displays in the state. En route, we spent an unmemorable overnight at Village Creek State Park in Lumberton (151-mile drive) and two pleasant nights at Lake Somerville (180-mile drive) in a gorgeous Corps of Engineers campground. That’s where we discovered our first stand of bluebonnets that we could photograph at our leisure.
Another 170-mile drive brought us to Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park, just a few miles outside of the lovely town of Fredericksburg. We settled in for a week of exploring the area, which included a visit to a wildflower farm, a wine and music festival, a trip to the wine country, a gorgeous hike to a unique geological formation, and a small local nature festival of winged creatures. We also strolled the historic downtown area, and enjoyed an excellent dinner at Vaudeville Bistro, a unique supper club.
Here, the highlights of our wine and wildflowers adventures in the Texas Hill Country:
Fredericksburg is a pretty, small town (population 10,500) founded by Germans in 1846. Many descendants of the original settlers still live here, are proud of their heritage, and maintain a number of historic buildings, including the Vereins Kirche, which served as the town hall and church for all denominations.
The Pioneer Museum Complex down the street is worth an hour or two; it’s a three-acre museum with a dozen relocated original early German structures, including a schoolhouse and Sunday house, which the settlers used only on the weekends when they came into town to attend church and stock up on supplies.
Seven miles east of Fredericksburg is Wildseed Farms, the largest working wildflower farm in the country, with 200 acres of wildflower fields. It’s a beautiful place to visit in springtime. We were there during the Hill Country Wine and Music Festival, which made it even more fun.
In a beautiful location among fields of blooming wildflowers, we enjoyed locally produced wines from eight vintners and great music. Everyone in Texas waltzes and two-steps, and we dusted off our waltzing skills to join in. Seeing as how we’ll likely continue to spend a good bit of time in Texas in our travels, I’ve convinced Eric that we need to learn to two-step.
Texas Wine Country
At least two-dozen boutique wineries are in the hills east of Fredericksburg; some folks are calling it the next Napa Valley. The terrain and the wineries are beautiful, and we sampled a wide variety of tasty wines. We spent a leisurely hot afternoon at Becker Vineyards with a chilled Riesling.
Wings Over The Hills Festival
We were delighted to discover a birding and dragonfly festival was taking place right next door to our campground in the park. The highlight for us was a hike with James L. Lasswell, a renowned dragonfly expert and author. I think dragonflies may be even more difficult to identify than birds.
Enchanted Rock Natural Area
Rising 425 feet above the terrain to 1,825 feet above sea level, this massive pink granite dome gave us our first opportunity for a “real” hike in many months (we’ve been at sea level since last November). The name comes from the Tonkawa Indians, who believed the creaking and groaning sounds coming from the rock at night are the rock “talking.” (The sounds are actually caused by the rock cooling at night after it heats up during the day.)
Made famous by Waylon Jennings’ 1977 hit “Luckenbach, Texas” we couldn’t pass up a visit to this iconic Texas wide-spot-in-the-road, which consists of a general store, saloon, and country dance hall. The Sunday afternoon “Picker’s Circle” was full of characters and free-roaming chickens. It wasn’t quite as lively as our recent music experiences in Breaux Bridge and New Orleans, but we agreed we would return in the future for an event at the dance hall. Time to get practicing on our Texas Two-Step!