Hiking in Hill Country Natural Area

As we headed out for our January trip we were watched from above.

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Great Horned Owl

Our destination is the Skyline Ranch RV Park in Bandera, TX where we’ll attend an Escapees rally with the Alamo Area Escapees . We’ve been to Bandera, the self-proclaimed Cowboy Capital of the World, before.  It’s an interesting place.  At the rally we met a lot of nice people and had a fine time swapping RV stories at the nightly happy hours and dinners. But these were the only planned activities.   As you know, we refuse to live an uninteresting life.

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Happy Hour

The park certainly isn’t much to write home to mother about. It’s half full with winter Texans and the rally took up most of the rest for this weekend. They chose this park because it’s close, the rates are low and it has a large rally hall.  I see their point, but….

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Our campsite

On Friday we did some exploring and discovered the Hill Country Natural Area.   It’s a former cattle ranch that was donated to the state.   Just inside the park is the main ranch house and related outbuildings.

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The Bar O ranch

The ranch house was built in the late 1800’s.  For a while it was used as the park manager’s residence but now it’s vacant and needs restoring, according to the park ranger.  It’s closed to the public but we got close enough to take a better shot of the ranch house.

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The main ranch house

As we ventured farther into the park we saw an interesting creature out in the former pasture.   There are lots if various non-native deer in Texas kept mostly for private hunting.

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I didn’t have my long lens with me, so the shot above is the closest I could get. But, I blew it up afterwards to provide this closeup.  Not very clear, but I believe it’s a Black Buck.

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Black Buck?

Black Buck

As we meandered through the park, we came upon this primitive campground where they announced bring you own horse.   Each site has a corral.  We thought this was pretty cool.   I love horses, but I’m not a horse-person.  I’ve done a little group riding, but that’s it.

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The park has lots of trails that are open to hikers, mountain bikes and, you guessed it, horses.  It was too late to start out that day and we weren’t dressed for hiking, so we made a plan to come back the next day, since we assumed, correctly as it turned out, that the rally group activities included sitting around, eating and drinking, all of which we like to do, but we need more!

So on Saturday we headed out to do a hike to the overlook.  The trail head parking was at the horse-friendly campground mentioned above. The trail map denotes that this path is rugged and steep, and they didn’t lie, at least about the steep part.  Each of these steps are about 2 1/2 feet, a few higher.

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They also make a good bench

At the top of this section we turned onto the trail to the overlook but after a quarter-mile or so the trail began descending and angling back to the trail head.  We had made a wrong turn.  Still wanting to see the view we back tracked and got going in the right direction – up.   At the top there is a loop trail that goes around the mountain.  I availed myself of the provided bench to enjoy the view.  If you look real hard you might be able to see the ranch buildings at 11:00 from my head on the far side of the pasture.

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Here’s a zoomed in view

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The ranch house from the overlook
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Riders on the trail below

Here I am on the trial with Miss Chloe.  Sorry for the poor quality.  It’s an iPhone shot.

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Near the top we met this couple on horseback.   The white horse is staring at Chloe, but all creatures got along well.

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At the summit
At the summit

We brought plenty of water but forgot Chloe’s dish so Mary Lou resorted to hand feeding.

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Chloe gets a drink

Back at trail head parking lot this bush with bright red berries caught my eye.  A little internet research revealed it to be Possum-haw holly (Ilex decidua).

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Possum-haw Holly (Ilex decidua)

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We returned to our camp and did happy hour and dinner with the group and had a fine time again, but it broke up early.  On the way back to the rig we could hear live music.  Since it was only 7:30 we walked over to the Crazy Horse Saloon, had a few beers and enjoyed the music.  There is a rumor that I was seen on the dance floor.

That’s all for this trip.   We have another planned, so keep watching.  As always I enjoy your comments.

 

Canyon Lake – Potters Creek Park

 

For our second actual camping trip we took the trailer to Canyon Lake and stayed at Potters Creek Park, a Corp of Engineers campground.  We encountered Cafe Frank Bait & Taco while exploring.  More on that later.

Potters Creek was recommended to us by a friend and it’s close to our home, so off we went.  The campground is large and very well maintained.  The spots are spaced nicely.  In addition to individual campsites they also have family sites, that accommodate two RVs and group sites for even bigger gatherings.  There are sites in the flats by the lake, nice now but likely intolerable in the Central Texas summer, and beautiful spots in the oak trees further back.

Potters Creek park
Potters Creek Park

We had #97 in the flats with a view of the lake (if we tried real hard).

Our campsite
Our campsite

I suppose there is a lot of boating-oriented activities in the summer, but there isn’t much else to do in the park itself.  We ventured out.   It was a sunny day and we went to visit the dam that creates the lake.  There is a nice half mile walk on top of the dam from one end to the other.   Nice views of the Guadalupe river on the downstream side and the lake on the other.

On the dam walk

This turned out to be the nicest day weather-wise so we had chosen wisely.  After our dam walk we encountered Guadalupe Gorge.  I assume this is the natural river gorge from before the dam.  It’s fenced off and only accessible by guided gorge tours, but I took a nice photo.

Guadalupe Gorge
Guadalupe Gorge

Then we headed into Sattler looking for lunch.  I’m fond of Airstreams so was attracted to Sergio’s Tacos, but it wasn’t open.  We think Sergio probably lives in the house behind the trailer.

Sergio's Tacos
Sergio’s Tacos

On the way we had passed this interesting looking place but it was closed, but not on way back.  We stopped at Cafe Frank Bait & Taco.  It’s an amazing place.  After the dining customers left, Eddie, the owner, spent a good hour with us showing us his collection of memorabilia – and there’s lots of that.  He serves the tacos in the front dining room, which is through that door on the left bellow.

Eddie - proprietor of Cafe Frank
Eddie – proprietor of Cafe Frank

The rest of the former restaurant is a museum, as he calls it.  It is crammed full of interesting old stuff.  Eddie originally started the collection but now folks who have seen it send him stuff.  I commented that there wasn’t  room for any more and his response was “I see empty space everywhere”.

Part of Eddie's collection
Part of Eddie’s collection

And should you need a little tech support, he’s there to help.

Need tech service?
Need tech service?

He also took us to see the bait shop, which is indeed open 24 hours.  You ring the bell and he gets up to provide you with live bait.  We ambled back to the park and experienced a great Texas sunset.

A Texas sunset
A Texas sunset

Seems someone had a big day.

Signing Off

The next day it was cold and windy and we ended up spending the day inside the trailer. We played scrabble.  I lost but there were some dubious words on the board. 🙂

In summary, I would say that we didn’t enjoy Potters Creek as much as Ink’s Lake SP, but we always have a good time whenever we’re camping.

As it is forecast to get into the low 20’s later this week,  I undertook the task of winterizing the trailer.  I couldn’t figure out how to access the heater bypass, but the dealer showed me it’s right there( if you remove the back half of the lower bunk floor.)   The trailer didn’t come set up with a bypass valve on the water pump and I didn’t want to put the pink antifreeze into the fresh water tank, so I decided to add one myself.  I got the kit from the dealer but had to make a Home Depot run to get the right connectors.  But, here it is.   It worked as intended and the rig is ready for the cold weather.

Bypass valve
Bypass valve

We have another trip planned and it will be our first time in a private RV park, so adios until then.