Over the 4th of July long weekend, the three of us buckled in and drove over to Austin for the weekend. It had been quite a while since we had just tinkered around Austin without camping plans, so Chris found an available hotel room in north Austin and we set off to do some Austin exploring. I even came up with a list of new things to do after trolling around on Google Maps and checking out various parks, but of course we resorted to going to the places we always go to! And they are good places, of course, but one of these days we’ll manage to see something new.
(Photos from my phone. I haven’t gotten around to process camera photos yet. At this rate expect those in December. hah!)
And then a hop over the Brazos River and we were heading west. We were close to Brenham when Forest announced his belly hurt, something that has become a common refrain over the last several months, starting with a trip to the recycling center and library, with the library portion being aborted for a trip back home. It happened again later on and then he mentioned it briefly when we were near school one day. Finally it occurred to me on this trip that maybe he was getting car sick. So, I spent the rest of the time in the back seat trying to keep his attention on other things instead of doing my car reading. I always look forward to long car rides because I can get huge chunks of reading in. I guess I’ll be looking into some car sickness remedies for longer trips—though as I’ve mentioned, even shorter trips are becoming problematic.
I suppose the one thing we did do that we hadn’t done before was visit Inner Space Cavern in Georgetown. It was one of the last few bigger named caves we haven’t been to (Caverns of Sonora is what we are now missing—though there are lots of other smaller caves that requires permits and such to get into) and Forest’s first cave experience. This one is right off of I-35—and it was found when they were building I-35 in the 1960s. One of the unique features is that in one of the rooms when everyone is quiet you can hear traffic driving above you!
In the lobby area there is a great map showing all of the rooms and tunnels that the cave has. It is much bigger than the main tour that most people go on. There’s a second tour that requires a bit more skill and direction, and then of course the other rooms are for technical caving. Inner Space was interesting, though not my favorite cave that I’ve been to.
After out dinner at Chuy’s, it was still early for getting a spot at the Barton Creek Square Mall where we planned to try to watch fireworks. We killed some time by stopping at Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park to let Forest play at the playground and go for a little hike. The park had been on my list of places we could potentially explore and it worked out for this short outing. We ended up finding Wells Branch which comes into the park from the north and eventually merges with Walnut Creek later on. We never got that far along our creek explorations. There were a lot of bike trails through the juniper in the area.
The following day we found ourselves at Pedernales Falls State Park and swimming in the Pedernales River. In the morning we crossed at Trammel’s Crossing and found a quiet spot downstream just a bit. There was luckily a shallow enough area nearshore that Forest could play in and Chris and I took turns going into the deeper parts to wade and test our luck against the current. I can’t wait until he’s big enough to tube and we can start tubing some of these Hill Country rivers! I haven’t been tubing since college!
Roadkill porcupine on US 290. We saw it on the way out there and made a note to stop on the way back for iNaturalist photos. It’s my first porcupine, even after hiking on the AT! The map of sightings on iNaturalist is interesting: heavy in the northeast/New England through the Great Lakes, up into the Canadian Rockies, down into the Cascades and Sierras, into the American Rockies, and then down into Texas, staying central to west Texas. Sightings in the Hill Country are almost as dense as New England. There are no sightings starting in the 98th meridian or thereabouts and then pretty much south of the Great Lakes and Mason Dixon, with a few exceptions on that border area. So, nothing really in that large broad mid-west/southeastern area. Which prompted me to wonder what they needed that that area didn’t provide. I just thought it was interesting to see that spatially.
Of course Forest fell asleep on the way to Cedar Valley to eat dinner after a day of swimming. We had planned to eat dinner at a pizza place called Pieous but we caught them on their summer break and were closed. Next door was Hat Creek Burger and thankfully it had a play area, even though for the first while Forest was too sleepy to play.
Crossing the Pedernales River at Hammett’s Crossing on our way to Westcave.
We’ve been to Westcave many times but it has been quite a while since we’ve visited. Forest might have been a baby when we went last. Due to the holiday weekend the place was very busy. Nearby and across the river is Hamilton Pool which is run by the county and now has a reservation system in place for visitors so it is nearly impossible to visit randomly during the summer. Because of this I think Westcave is getting some of this overflow but even they still have limited tours down to the grotto. This time we actually hiked in their uplands, which was really lovely and I’ll share those photos when I process them. The tour was a bit annoying because of the crowd size. We have been used to visiting when there are fewer people and the fact that it was a bit long winded on the education aspect, that’s only because we know most of the tidbits already. We just wanted to look at plants and take our time!
We found ourselves back at Pedernales Falls later that afternoon for a second day of swimming. This time when we were changing at the bathroom I found an interesting insect. When I put it into iNaturalist and did a little reading this turned out to be the Dobson fly, the adult to the hellgrammite larvae Chris had been finding in the river! Really cool to see it in both stages!
Hopefully I can get my act together and get my backlog of photos from spring until now processed and get some posts written before the end of August. We have some big plans for later this summer that will involve even more photos and writing so I’d like to not be constantly catching up!