Thursday, April 22, 2010

Wildflower time in Texas

Forget your weekend chores - forget that long "To Do" list - it's time for a springtime Texas road trip. This won't be the same old interstate scenery. Get ready to get off the "beaten path" and try out the U.S. Highways, Texas state highways, Farm to Market Roads (FM), and even some Ranch Roads (RR).

If you have only an afternoon, just hop into the car and head south on I45 for some bluebonnet sightings in nearby Ennis. A couple of years ago, they were prolific and spectacular in the Ennis area and all around its small neighbor, Bristol. Never heard of Bristol? According to the Memorial and Biographical History of Ellis County, Bristol was almost our state capital. It missed being chosen as the capital by only one vote in the Texas Legislature. Find Bristol by heading east out of Ennis on Texas hwy 34, and turn north on FM 660. The fields of bluebonnets and wildflowers here can be amazing.
If you are prepared to spend a day or two, or even three or four days on the road, take out south on U.S. hwy 67 to Glenrose. From there, follow Texas hwy 220 to Hico (High- co with a long o) where you'll find the famous Koffee Kup cafe at the junction of U.S. 281 & Texas 6. You may see lots of Harleys and bikers there, but this is a good sign. If it's lunchtime, be sure to get your chicken fried steak fix, but leave room for a big slice of one of their outstanding pies - try the coconut cream with the sky-high meringue.

After taking this break, continue south on U.S. 281. At Evant, go west on U.S. 84 to Goldthwaithe, where you will be turning south on Texas hwy 16. Follow 16 through San Saba and down to Llano (Lan- o with another long o). On this drive you'll begin seeing larger and larger bluebonnets. For some of the most scenic routes, full of photo-ops, be sure to drive RR 152 and FM 2323 (the old Prairie Mt. School road) just outside the south side of Llano.

Back in Llano, you should not be expecting to find the Llano winery - it's way across the state out in far west texas - in Lubbock. But, you will find Cooper's Barbeque, and don't leave town without treating yourself to a taste of this Texas legend.
At this point, you can choose to stay in the area and spend one night and return to the Dallas area in the morning. If you aren't too picky about your accommodations, you can usually take pot luck on finding a hotel/motel room, and you'll probably come out just fine. Even if you have to drive to the next town to find one, it's not that far.
But....if you want to continue your adventure, go south out of Llano toward Frederisksburg on Texas hwy 16. You'll pass Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, where you may want to stop and climb and explore. However, just down the road a few more miles, you'll find the Willow City Loop, accessible on farm road #1323. Look carefully, or you may miss it. This loop makes a horseshoe loop back onto Texas hwy 16. There is no real town here, but you will see why this loop is renowned for its scenic rustic vistas and bountiful bluebonnets. It is a "must see" for all bluebonnet hunters. Be sure you have your camera!
Once you've seen the Willow City Loop, you must drive on into Fredericksburg (still going south on Texas 16) where most of the original architecture still remains in the central business district of this charming German community. If you love to shop and/or eat German food, you'll love it here.
Now that you are this far south, you can explore Kerrville (still south down Texas hwy 16). Just outside of Kerville, you'll want to take the drive following the Guadalupe River through Ingram and Hunt. Also, in this area, you can drive "The Three Twisted Sisters" - Ranch roads 335, 336, & 337 where you will have such magnificent "Hill Country" views that you won't be able to believe that you are still in Texas. These three curvy, winding, hilly roads are a favorite of sports car drivers and bikers!
Just down the road at Texas hwy 173 and RR 337 is Bandera, "The Cowboy Capital of the World." Here you'll find lots of dude ranches and the famous Arkey Blue's Silver Dollar Nightclub.
If you take this trip in the fall, you'll not want to miss Lost Maples State Natural Area. You can follow RR 337 (this is one of the "sisters") to Vanderpool and go north on FM 187 to find the park with its grove of red maple trees, which are not found elsewhere in Texas.
Hungry again? Grab a burger or a bite to eat at the quaint Lost Maples Cafe in Utopia, just a few miles south of the park on FM 187. You may see bikers, here, too. They know all the scenic routes and all the best cafes in the state.
Once you discover the Texas state highways, FM roads and ranch roads in Central Texas, you will want to return. So, get off the interstate and out of the major cities to discover the "real Texas."
Texas abounds with opportunities for interesting road trips. Find more Texas adventures at and in the Texas Highways monthly magazine, available on newsstands and at the Richland College Library.
Also, at the Richland Library, you'll find The Back Roads of Texas by Earl Thollander in the main collection at NC139.T47.A4 and the Handbook of Texas, 6 volumes, available online, or in print in the reference collection at F384.N48. It's always handy to have a copy of the Roads of Texas Atlas by Texas A&M Univireity and Cartographics (our Richland copy is missing).
For recent Texas wildflower sightings, check the web at Become an expert on the wildflowers of Texas using Texas Wildflowers: a Fieldguide by Campbell and Lynn Loughmiller (reference QK188.L68). Find it and 10 other wildflower books in our library, including a Net Library book, available for reading on the web, titled A Field Guide to Southwestern and Texas Wildflowers by Theodore F Niehaus.
Happy trails to you!
Alice Fulbright

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