Travelling through the Texas Hill Country -my happy place

At the beginning of August, I was getting a little restless. We’ve enjoyed several vacations this year, some extended and others just a quick jaunt for a long weekend. But all in all, wonderful and memorable. Still, vacations for me include repeated questions and requests (more accurately, demands) from all of my tribe. So while we may be somewhere else, beautiful as it is, I am still focused on entertaining kids and tasked with chores.

And believe me, I’ll take that any day of the week.

But after my hubby took a week-long getaway with his dad – a much-needed catch up opportunity between the two mind you – I was a bit envious of his ability to just pick up and go – no guilt, no worries – and I voiced it.

To which he replied: go for it, take a trip that’s just for you. Enjoy yourself! So I decided to do just that!

I love planning trips. I love finding places to go and researching things to do. I love looking through listings of accommodations. I just love all of it. And I’m good at it. I have found so many wonderful rentals from my hours of perusing websites and the VRBO . We have made some incredible discoveries and now have a long list of places we will return. And the cities and towns we have happened upon have been hidden gems.

So I started my search, which here recently has taken me (and us for that matter) back to the Texas Hill Country. Now, I will admit that when we first moved to Texas, the landscape left me wanting. I come from the land of white sand beaches. Northwest Florida, with its mix of beaches and pine trees, was just fine with me. So to come to Texas, which gave me the heat but not the cool relief of the water, trading the pine trees for mesquite trees; none of this helped. My other love is the Smoky Mountains. Any mountains really, but the Smoky’s are what I am familiar with, having traveled there all of my life. So beach and mountains; needless to say, Texas left me hot and flat. Or did it?

We branched out a bit a few years ago, planning some family vacations that were a little closer to home. We had been to Austin and San Antonio in the past but never ventured too far out into the country side. A few quick trips to Canyon Lake, Lago Vista and Leakey gave us exactly what we needed. It was Leakey, TX that opened up our eyes to the real beauty of the Hill Country. So many welcoming, cozy little towns connected by winding roads – peaks and valleys with lush fields and stony cliffs – that left us breathless after rounding each corner.

Utopia,Medina,Bandera,Vanderpool – tiny towns with much to offer. We fell in love. And it seems most of our future vacation talk centers around these areas. So naturally, when I was looking for somewhere to escape to on my solo woman trip, I immediately thought of the Texas Hill Country.

My planning lead me to Tarpley, TX. One of the places I found for my husband and his father to stay on their journey from Big Bend back to the DFW metroplex was a small cabin in Tarpley. When they arrived home from their trip, they couldn’t compliment the place enough. A quick message to the owner from my husband, and I was ready to reserve it for a couple of nights. But I didn’t want to limit myself to just one place. I had 3 nights away planned and I can tell you it is hard to find a rental property that allows just a one night stay (hotels not included, but I’m not interested in those accommodations for this type of trip). So this brought my search to Boerne, TX.

Boerne gave way to several rentals, one of which seemed perfect for a gal looking for the rustic feel but still with some modern touches, and I found one to match my needs. The hosts were glad to offer a one night minimum for a girl passing through and that location was booked.

The day came for me to leave and I was as giddy as a kid on Christmas Day. Kisses to everyone, kids off to school and I hopped in my truck and left. It only took about an hour for me to start coming into green pastures and just a little farther than that before the hills started to rise up ahead of me. Within a few hours, I was immersed in rolling hills and rocky ridges. By myself, music blaring, little traffic – this was what my vacation was all about!

I arrived in late afternoon at my first destination. Just outside of Tarpley, I rented a one bedroom cabin on a 20 acre property. The owner is a local herbalist and there were natural touches to the property that made it interesting. A compost toilet, an outdoor shower; by the 2nd night stay, I was completely on board with it all. Peace and quiet, except for Roddy, the sweet pup that lives on the property. Star gazing at it’s finest from the roomy deck, a grown up tree house for relaxing and a flowing creek, all to myself.

Cruising the roads that snake through the area, I made a few stops for sightseeing or the occasional indulgence (apple pie a la mode at Lost Maples Cafe in Utopia) and decided to work in a little cardio time. Garner State Park, which has quickly become one of my favorites, is beautiful and offers great hiking trails. I took a shot at Old Baldy and after much sweating in the late August sun and some pretty steep climbs, I made it to the top and was in awe of the view. Before leaving, I couldn’t pass up a quick lunch at the Garner Grill food truck parked at the pavilion in the park.

The next day, I took as much time as I could to enjoy my last moments at the cabin. Having spent 2 days with no TV or WiFi, I had  the chance to read and finish 2 books, and drown myself in music, food and wine! When the hell was I gonna get to do that again anytime soon? I walked the property and soaked in the last little bit of this treasure before packing up and heading out.

With only an hour drive from Tarpley to Boerne, I thought I would do a little more sightseeing to kill time. I made my way in the opposite direction, to Lost Maples State Natural Area

. Almost empty, I felt like I had it all to myself and what a lucky girl I was! This place was stunning. I have no idea what dictates making something a State Park vs a State Natural Area but I didn’t see much of a difference. I checked out the campsites to make a mental note for future trips. I then chose 2 shorter hikes due to time and headed out. I saw no one else on my first hike. Total solitude. Except for the boulder that appeared to be moving as I walked by and heard a clicking sound. Turns out, Daddy Long Legs are extremely noisy in clusters and there had to have been several thousand inhabiting this rock. I sat, fascinating, watching them walking all of each other and hanging off the rock like a furry ball. Mating maybe? I don’t know, but it was pretty amazing.

My second hike was a little longer and I actually came in contact with a handful of people, although only during quick passes on the path. I added this park to the list of “go-to’s” for us. After wrapping up my hike, I started to make my way to Boerne.

Boerne was much bigger than I expected. Not a quaint little town but a thriving area. I found the rental property and was greeted by Rick, one of the owners. Although this property was not secluded, it was still beautiful and serene. My little studio style cabin was rustic, with recycled wood and tin. But ending my trip with pure, unadulterated access to satellite TV was welcomed. I binge watched shows. I put on a robe, kicked my feet up and enjoyed a glass or two of wine. Heaven. Once again, there was an outdoor shower. In fact, the entire bathroom was set up outside. Tastefully done, and I’m not too high maintenance, but I was starting to sense a theme for my solo girl weekend.

A quick zip around the corner to pick up takeout from an Irish Pub, I indulged in greasy food and enjoyed my last evening alone. Once again, in the morning, I made some coffee and lounged around, in no hurry to leave. More binge watching and as the check out time sneaked up on me, I packed my bag and closed the door on my solo gal getaway. As I headed north, the hills began to flatten, although the green pastures stayed with me for a while. And by late afternoon, I pulled back onto I-20, making my way to the grayness of interstates and buildings that surround home.

As soon as the door opened however, 2 little squishy cheeked girls jumped me and 1 larger silver-haired fox greeted me. Ah, home. Til next time Hill Country – we’ll be back!





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