March 26, 2013

Texas Hill Country

March 15th we flew about 1400 miles south to visit the Texas Hill Country. 
We were able to drive by the ranch near Comfort, where Mitch used to stay with his grandparents during his summers as a kid.
It was nice to hear birds singing, we haven't heard them here up north in a while. 
We explored twisting, climbing highways, and safari-like ranch roads.
Just outside of Kerrville, we met up with "Scrappy," the town's school mascot.
Scappy is a scrap metal sculpture of a whitetail deer, some 16 feet tall, standing on a smashed car body.  A pretty impressive piece of work!
Kerrville is home of 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny "Football" Manziel.  We passed by his high school field a few times - notable for the pair of football enthusiasts with us.

Throughout our stay, we saw wildlife & animals galore.
Turkey, whitetail deer, fallow deer, axis deer, amazing Scimitar Oryx and Red Stag. Some of these creatures I'd never seen before.  Exotic sheep; Mouflon, Black Hawaiian, Corsican. 
Part of our trip involved a Texas hunt.  While hogs were what they were really after, Mitch, Mason & Eric each had success with a ram. (I'll share in a separate post.)

We saw beautiful Blackbuck antelope from India that are now thriving in Texas.. herds of them leaping, young babies bouncing, and bucks, who I learned turn black as they mature (hence the name.)

We even came upon a horse along the countryside that had two zebras as it's pasture mates.

I spied a few Texas turtles sunning themselves.  Mitch also found an empty shell that we brought home.

We crossed the Guadalupe, Perdernales, & Llano Rivers a few times. 
I had prepped myself with knowledge of water moccasins beforehand, and did creep near edges of waters a bit.  Thankfully, of the many creatures I saw, snakes didn't make the list.

Hill Country is full of prickly pear cactus and fences.  Lots & lots of them both. 

There were small, purple flowering trees scattered throughout.  I think they are redbud?  

The towns we passed through were filled with fantastic architecture.. they were also crowded with people while we were there, so other than a good Texas cafe breakfast and BBQ at Cranky Franks near Fredericksburg, we stayed mostly to the country. 
Some of the modern ranch compounds were unfathomable to me.   I prefer the beautiful old barns and simple two story stone houses.

One of my favorite (if not my most favorite) things about the south is the live oak trees. 

I spent a good deal of time reading under the one below.  Mason couldn't resist climbing up into it.

And I can't forget about the watusis.  We saw a small herd from a distance a couple of times on the ranch we were staying.  I got within photo range of this bull on his own, staying near trees at all times.  Mitch said he couldn't get to me there, because his horns wouldn't fit.  ☺

How about those horns!?   

This guy kept an eye on me.  (And I on him.)
The Hill Country land is very rocky. 

I wanted badly to take this rock home with me, but I didn't have room in my luggage.  I know where it is if I ever go back, though!  
I did gather a good collection of smaller flint & stones from creek beds.
Ancient arrowheads are found throughout the state of Texas. 

These rough & rugged, prickly areas were dotted with the tiniest purple flowers here & there.

We visited LBJ Ranch (Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park) where I acquired an interest in Lady Bird Johnson, someone I've never known much about before.  I share her love for native wildflowers.
As mentioned the other day, I found some Texas bluebonnets to photograph.
Oh, beautiful, beautiful Texas,
Where the beautiful bluebonnets grow,
We're proud of our forefathers
Who fought at the Alamo.
You can live on the plains or the mountain
Or down where the sea breezes blow,
And you're still in beautiful Texas,
The most beautiful
State that we know

This song, "Beautiful Texas," played while we cruised through the LBJ ranch. 
I was won over.
I definitely hope to return to see more of this diverse & wide spread state.


  1. what a great trip that was! i enjoyed the pictures :)

  2. Oh gosh - how very beautiful!

  3. What a fine set of pictures, and I especially love those oak trees, too. And the bluebonnets are just gorgeous! :-)

  4. So many beautiful pictures! My favorite is the one with the butterfly.

    Have a happy Tuesday. ☺

  5. Amanda, you've got some lovely shots here. I love the one of the stream and the scrappy deer is great fun!

  6. Oh, this takes me back to our trip to the Hill Country. We just loved Fredericksburg. You got some beautiful pictures of your trip and glad your hubby got to revisit his youth.

    1. Fredericksburg was very nice! We could have gone on exploring the Hill Country for weeks. And thanks, I'm glad he got to go back after all these years, too.

  7. All shots are good but the colour in the flower and butterfly shot is superb . Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

  8. What a great trip. I could just feel the warmth from those photos. I loved the horns on that bull. Not so sure I would have been able to just sit and watch him though. I think I would have made my escape.

    1. I actually stalked him from a creek bed for quite a ways.. but I made my husband come along. :)
      It was so nice to feel the warm weather.. winter is growing long back home!

  9. you have taken some beautiful pictures. I have never been to Texas. It is so very different from here in New England.

    1. I've never been to New England, and it's been at the top of my wish list for years!

  10. What a wonderful trip! I love the animals, the barn and tat butterfly shot is gorgeous!

  11. Oh, my, I really, really enjoyed all the pics....very nice post.

  12. great post. so much to offer. love the animals. the stone work on that one barn & the windmill. so fun!! ( :

  13. So many beautiful things and wonderful photos! The buildings - amazing, the bull with massive horns - never seen anything like them! Delightful butterfly too.

  14. Great post - I live the clear stream and the avenue through the trees. I dont think I'd want to be on the wrong end of those horns!

    My kids make me laugh - so I thought I share their comments around!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  15. Thank you for this journey with you Amanda!
    I have never visited in person this kind of landscapes, this is just the point of blogging :)

    1. I agree, Leena! It's fun to learn and share!

  16. Beautiful photos! I have never seen horns like that, even in photos! You'd think that poor guy would have a headache, bumping into things. I too love the live oaks. Enjoyed all the photos. Thanks for stopping in at Cranberry Morning, neighbor! I'm following you via Feedly. :-)

  17. Lovely tour of the Hill Country- I was raised there! The flowering tree is indeed a redbud, and the little purple flower is a verbena, one of my favorites. You got some really great shots, particularly of the wildlife. Glad you and your family had fun!


    1. What a great place to grow up! Thanks for the confirmation on the redbud & the identification on the verbena!

  18. I've never been to the hill country of Texas, but Betsy has told me several times how beautiful it is. We would like to get there sometime when the bluebonnets are in bloom, but with all there is to see I would settle for any time. It's too bad you couldn't fit that rock in your luggage, but I'm glad you didn't encounter any snakes on your hikes.

    1. Me, too! I love most all creatures in the world, and gladly welcome most reptiles, insects & amphibians into our home.. but I just don't care for snakes!
      While I couldn't fit the rock, we squeezed in a nice selection of shed antlers and sheep horns and a turtle shell. Our younger kids, who stayed home, love these kinds of "souvenirs."

  19. i can't say i blame you for the drowning... what is the purpose of a skunk? they're one of God's creatures, but i sure don't get what they're good for... i hope the fox pee works for me & your sister's horse barn, i know how expensive hay is, my mom has horses & it would be terrible to have to lose a few bales, much less a whole barn full!

    i love these images, esp the flutterby, & of course, the barn shots... & the saddles!

    thanks a million for joining =)

  20. Fabulous image of that cow with the awesome horns! Made my day :)

  21. you did a fine job of capturing a very good 'essence' of texas hill country. glad you were able to visit during bluebonnet season. yes, those are red buds. we're just starting to get our bluebonnets here in NE Tx.

  22. Amazing wildlife. I'm bound to wonder if many of these "exotics" are running wild or kept in game parks?

    1. Texas left me with curiosities on all of the exotics, too. I find it strange! It is said that the Texas landscape does resemble some parts of Africa and India, and I really did feel like we were on safari as we explored our way around off-highway roads.
      My husband was used to all of these same animals being there 20-30 years ago.
      I learned some while we were there, and have done some investigating. Here is what I learned:
      There is very little public land in Texas, almost none outside of national park areas. It is mostly owned by ranchers (whereas here in MN, we have in the millions of acres of it.)
      Most exotics have restricted movement because of game-proof
      fencing (high fence) and are owned by landowners. All that private land, I was very aware is fenced. Gated ranch estates surrounded by cattle guard & miles & miles of fences.
      The animals inside those fences, if exotic, are considered the same as livestock. But many are “free-roaming.”
      According to the West Kerr Currant,
      "Many escaped exotics and their descendants have been free-ranging for generations, yet their numbers continue to increase.
      The beautiful spotted Axis deer is the classic example of a successful exotic. Surveys suggest that as many as 40,000 free-ranging Axis may exist in Texas today, and that the numbers are still growing. Fallow, red, and sika deer also range free in smaller numbers in Kerr County, as do populations of blackbuck antelope, auodad and various other species of antelope, and wild sheep and goats."
      Another source says, "Texas ranches, high-fenced and not high-fenced, have been raising exotic species from all over the world for decades now, creating herds large enough for hunting. In many cases, those exotic animals have become threatened or endangered in the wild (Africa, India, etc.) But not so where they live a protected life on huge Texas ranches.
      In fact, many exotic species that have been nearly wiped out in their foreign lands flourish in Texas."
      According the the MN DNR, "In Texas, fenced enclosures may total tens of thousands of acres, and game essentially runs wild."

      The oryx and red stag we saw were definitely in high fenced ranch acreage. That rancher owns them.
      The rest of the blackbuck antelope and other deer, we saw as we were out driving highways & random roads. Again though - it appeared to me that pretty much everything in TX is fenced, so who knows what property they were on. In a way, the wildlife experience was similar to driving through a National Park.. but the animals are not that tame & used to people. They're still quick to spring & disappear. Very alert & wild. (Except for the zebras - they appeared to be kept as livestock or pets - the were pasturing with a horse.)
      We weren't in any parks, though, other than LBJ Ranch, where we saw antelope and cows.
      They say exotic deer are hardier than the white tail, and have established their herds in Texas just as successfully as native species.
      We did see a lot of free roamers by the freeway at night.
      Hogs are a major problem (they are also non-native, but considered an invasive problem now.. millions of them destroying vegetation & causing all kinds of trouble on all levels.) Early Spanish explorers probably were the first to introduce hogs in Texas over 300 years ago. I understand ranchers hate them for many reasons, but they also make a lot of holes in fences..
      My husband witnessed deer being able to jump the 10 ft. fence when he was a kid. And again - the fenced area of a ranch is up to thousands of acres. A much wilder & more undeveloped terrain than I expected there.
      I don't know what I think of it. Ranches like the YO Ranch and King Ranch are in the hundreds of thousands of acres & important to conservation.. But it is odd to me, bringing in all these exotics.
      Those reserves even have giraffes & animals they call "super exotics." (We didn't go to either the YO or King.)

  23. I've never been to that part of Texas, it really looks beautiful! And oh my, those horns n that animal - I've never seen anything like that! What a wonderful trip!

  24. WoW...I may have to go to Texas someday to see that beautiful hill country for myself! I absolutely love the photo of the saddles and harnesses in the tack room...classic! Thanks for your visit today! Happy Trails~

  25. Thank you Amanda for sharing your little saying about the full heart in your comment - I love it and it's so true!

  26. Beautiful landscapes and so rich wild life - the oak trees and the river flowing beneath the branches! The vatusses look so grounded and solid ... Such a strength and power that is hidden in those muscles... And the tiny, fragile but strong flowers, that grow in the midst of the rocky landscape - Thnak you for sharing your journey in Texas, Amanda!

  27. Amanda,
    Such a talented photographer you are! These photos are stunning-and each one is so detailed and has a story to tell.
    I loved them all!
    Sweet Hugs!