The Latest Adventure

Texas Hill Country Bats, Caves, Gems & Champion Trees - 2005

The sights include :  More Texas County Courthouse Photos, More Roadside Attractions Including  More  Luling Oil Pump Art, The New Braunfels Snake Farm, Gem Trails of Mason County, Concan & Rio Frio, Leaky, TX, the Frio Bat Cave, Garner State Park, the Devil's Sinkhole and it's Bats, Utopia, Lost Maples State Park, the Frontier Times Museum in Bandera and back to Devine Chocolate Agate/Flint.

    

Forward :

         I hope you enjoyed the Gem Trails of Texas : South Texas 2005, Part II  page. There are gems out there and I will be going back.  Next time I will do a little more research and try to see if I can get into any gravel pits which would already have a concentrated pile of rocks to sift through as opposed to just looking on the sandy ground for something nice.  Which reminds me, you may have noticed the new Texas Road Runner Rock Hound Pages.  I'm including an area for a rock shop directory for Texas.  I had to buy a new rock tumbler and gave the folks at King's Gem Center a quick visit to help me out.  Treasure Hunter Supply also helped me out with some grit and polish. 

          Buddy Bill and I have been talking off and on about a trip into the Hill County to try our luck with Topaz hunting in Mason county and to see more bat emergences.  Bill really needed a break from work.  So a road trip will do him some good.  As a member of BatCon, International, I should be able to get us into Bracken Cave north of San Antonio.  Unfortunately, I tried making reservations too late in the year and had to find a new site for my bat fix.  Then I started thinking.....

          Back in early September of 1999, a computer vender at work invited myself and a few others to a dove hunt in the Rio Frio area of the Texas Hill Country.  The hunts went well and we all had a great time.  This was the first time I had returned to the Hill Country since I was a kid and we never did venture into these parts.  Don and I had a chance to explore the area some and I certainly fell in love with the place and vowed I would return someday. 

          It took me about two years to get back, but it was to the more commercialized areas of the Highland lakes, Fredericksburg and Kerrville. (See the Texas Hill Country Adventure of 2001.)  Due to literature I had picked up during that past dove hunt, I knew there were bats out here and I needed that fix.  So plans were made and the adventure began!

Star Date : 06/30/2005 - Thursday

          One of the main objective of this trip was to try our luck in Mason county again for topaz.  So, Bill agreed to meet me in Mason.  I told Bill to take his time due to me coming in late to take advantage of this time to collect more Texas County Courthouse photos.  Oh Bill, don't forget my rock sifter

          Dad's computer was broken down again, so I had to leave the house really fast before I got talked into fixing it back up.  So, I got into my car and began early in the morning and zigzag my way along I-10 heading westward and picked up the following Texas County Courthouse photos :

Colorado County Courthouse : In Columbus, TX

Its a courthouse with its own watch tower!

Fayette County Courthouse : In La Grange, TX

Gonzales County Courthouse : In Gonzales, TX

Caldwell County Courthouse : In Lockhart, TX

Hays County Courthouse : In San Marcus, TX

Comal County Courthouse : In New Braunfels, TX

And

Bexar County Courthouse : In San Antonio, TX

          Traffic was heavy on I-10 and I managed to pass this fellow hauling a huge propeller blade.  I betcha, it's going to the windmill farm just west of Irran.  I did make a few short stops along the way.  I had heard of the World's Smallest Catholic Church in Warrenton, TX and so while in the La Grange area, I decided to check it out.  At least they claim it is the smallest.  I think the one in Bulverde is just as small or smaller.  None the less, it is still used for mass. After mass was over, it took me forever to find my car among all of those who parked here.

          Warrenton is near Round Top, which is a major antique area for Texas.  While heading in that direction to check it out, I found another muffler man guarding the Sterling McCall Old Car Museum.  There wasn't enough time to check out the museum, so if you have ever been out there, please let me know how it is.  I understand they have some really cool cars there.

          Another quick stop was made at Palmetto State Park.  I entered the office to see what this place was all about since the Hill Country Outdoors Group frequents the park.  I found out that the small palmetto palms which are so abundant in our area of the gulf coast are also found here in an area that it is not normally indigence to.   They had a trail to hike to check out the palms, but I could see all I want of these things in my back yard!  So, I moved on.  However, for more 411 on this park, please see the link below :

Palmetto State Park

          While passing through Luling again, I picked up a few more oil pump art photos :

Tony the Tiger

A Hungry Grasshopper

Shamu, the Killer Whale

     The Snake Farm :

          While in the New Braunfels area off of I-35 on the west side of the highway, I found the Snake Farm and decided to take a quick break and check it out.  If you are in the area with a car full of kids singing that familiar song, "Are there yet?, Are we there yet?"  Then, this is the place for you to stop for a break and let the kids have a little fun.  The farm has more than just snakes to see, it also has one of my favorites, the alligators.  Though it does have plenty of snakes.   Even in the gift shop area there is a deep pit full of the rattlers Just don't fall in.  Click on the links below for additional pictures of this little zoo :

Pythons

          There are more animals on exhibit out in the back of the farm.

The Zoo Out Back , The Petting Zoo Area , Lemurs , A Meandering Peacock

and  Zebras

          For more information on this unique and interesting little zoo, please click on the link below :

The Snake Farm

          Also, while in New Braunfels shooting a photo of the Comal County Courthouse, I stopped by the Rocks Etc. Rock Shop.  Be sure to check them out while in the area.  They were just a few block from the courthouse.

          While in Hondo, I noticed their welcome sign.  I love it, "This is God's Country, Please Don't Drive Through it Like Hell."  I also stopped by Bruce's Rock Shop, but he was closed.

          It was getting late, so I headed north on Hwy 173 to Kerrville, then Hwy 16 to Fredericksburg and finally, Hwy 87 to Mason and the Red Door B&B.  Bill then rolled in 15 minutes later (Wow, what timing.)  There was still a little bit of evening left, so we hit a local bar.  Our waitress was a real bitch to us, so I rewarded her with an honorary degree.  We finally gave up trying to pick up some of the local chicks so, we left and then prepared for tomorrow's dig.

Star Date : 07/01/2005 - Friday

     Hunting for Mason Topaz :

          It was another early morning start due to beating that Texas heat, therefore, we hit the Nu-Way convenience store, obtained out permits, keys to the gate and map to the Garner Seaquist Ranch and headed on out.

         We pulled into the ranch and was welcomed by the bovine committee.  We parked by the creek, set up our sifter and brought in material from various areas of the creek.  We found some material that could be topaz, but would it pass the quartz test.  Meaning, will it scratch quartz?  You know what they say, the third time is a charm.  I think we really got something here out of three hours of sifting.  We decided not to be greedy and save some for others.  In this picture, a scratched quarts crystal is to the left of the topaz which scratched it.  It was time to go, someone upstairs had turned on the heat.

     Rio Frio and Concan :

          After returning the keys, we took Hwy 377 southwest to Junction, then Hwy 83 south and finally stopped in Leaky to obtain lodging at the D' Rose Inn & Cabins.   The next big event was the Frio Bat Cave.  We had a few hours before nightfall, therefore, we took a brief tour of the area.  As it turns out, Leaky is the county seat of Real County.  At a metal art shop in town, we found this interesting remediation of a chopper.  Leaky also has some wonderful gift shops, mom's birthday is coming up so I better find her some perfume.

          We continued south on Hwy 83 and entered Cridder's Resort.  On the property, is one of the world's biggest and oldest Cypress trees in the state of Texas.  The trunk was enormous.  It was located in the back cabin area right by Buffalo Creek.

          We continued our southbound trek, but on FM 1120.  On the south side of this road just across the street from a small church was another champion oak tree.  So old it is, it gets it's own hysterical marker.

          We continued our southbound journey into more of the Rio Frio area and showed Bill some of the sights Don and I visited the last time I was down here :

Rio Frio Landscape 1

Rio Frio Landscape 2

A Cool Biker

More Cool Biker Chicks

                                                 The Outdoor Cafe -   A great place for breakfast tacos and lunch.  The Hot Dogs here are great !.

The House Pasture Cattle Company - A great place for diner.

           We continued south on Hwy 127 and stopped briefly at one of the many Frio River crossing in the road in the Concan area.  This is another area to slow down and enjoy the scenery along the beaches and banks of the Frio River.  Remember, this is God's country.   Finally, we stopped at the Big Tree Ranch to obtain permission to take a photo of their big tree.  We had to be careful due to the marauding Indians, but we made it to the house and gained access to their land.  We simply headed just a little further south on Hwy 127 to the next entrance to the ranch and followed the dirt road to the tree.  Man this was huge.  I think its bigger than the one in Cridder's place.  I could literally drive my car through it.  Also, this area of the ranch provides great access to the Frio Rio.  I think the next time I come back, I'll ask if we can hit the river at this point.

     The Frio Bat Cave  :

          It was getting late again.  So we gassed up and made our way further south on Hwy 127 and took Hwy 2690 south to the gate to the Frio Bat Cave.  The gate entrance was just past the crossing of the Frio River and marked with a yellow sign stating "Bat Crossing."

           Our guide with the Hill Country Adventures company met us at the gate around 7:30 PM and then we all followed him in his truck to the parking lot of the cave.  We then read the rules and took a short hike up the hill to the Frio Bat Cave.  While waiting for the emergence, our guide answered our questions and gave a short presentation of the cave and it's history.  During the Civil War, this kiln was used to cook the guano mined from the cave to concentrate the nitrates in making gun powder for the war effort.  Up on the hill of the cave, we were treated with a beautiful view of the landscape.  The Emergence began and the following photo links is what we observed :

Bat Flight 1 , Bat Flight 2 , Bat Flight 3

Bat Flight 4 , Bat Flight 5 , Bat Flight 6

The bats finally all emerged from their cave and it was finally nightfall.  Our guide told us that there will be another emergence in 20 min. and we could stay if we wanted.  In my opinion, if it is too dark to take pictures and actually see them, then what's the point?  Therefore, we headed back to our motel in Leaky and before crashing for the night, found a little hole-in-the-wall to put down a few cool ones. Again, we tried to pick up a couple of local babes, but, there were difficult to hack into.

Star Date : 07/02/2005 - Saturday

     Garner State Park :

          You guessed it, another early morning start.  But first, breakfast.  Bill needed his daily ration of coffee.  After we ate, our adventure this time was in Garner State Park.  We made our way to the visitor center for more 411 on the park and a trail map.  The trail map showed a trail to a cave called Crystal Cave.  We decided on that trail and thus headed to the trail head which started at the Pavilion.  We found the Madrone Trailhead and began our hike.  A word of warning, the trail up the hill is made of slippery limestone and very loose rock.  Yes, I took a spill but finally made it to Crystal Cave I looked down and decided to make my decent.  Bill followed and we noticed an abundance of graffiti.  We made it in and took a look around.  You could probably cram 30 people in here, but I wouldn't want to be one of those 30.  We made our own emergence from the cave and took in the views.  We headed a little further to view Painted Rock before my leg cried out in pain from the fall.  It was time to head back down.

          We took in a view or two while heading down and found the trail head to the river.  And took in the view.  We made our way back to the Pavilion area and decided on a little driving tour of the park.  Wow, Putt, Putt Golf And there's basketball!  We made it to the campground areas and it pretty much looked like a squatters camp and that's not camping to me.  We made it back to the dammed side of the river and then decided to move on.

          The next big bullet item on our agenda is to see the bat emergence and the Devil's Sinkhole near Rock Springs.  So, off we were on Hwy 337 west to Camp Wood and then Hwy 55 north.  Please be careful when traveling this route.  It is full of steep grades and sharp curves.  So take it easy, obey the road signs and soak in the views.  Remember, this is God's Country.  Rock Springs is the county seat of Edwards County.  Also on the town square, is the Rock Springs Visitor Center in which we checked out.  Inside, we obtained more info on the bat emergence and anything interesting in the area.  Since it would be late in getting back from the bat emergence, we decided to obtain lodging in town and found shelter at the Sorrell's Inn.  We also did some local shopping.

          We still had plenty of time before we had to meet back at the visitor's center, so I talked Bill into going to Sonora and Eldorado for their courthouse county photos.  We made our way west on Hwy 55 and then north on Hwy 277.  The following courthouse photos were shot :

Sutton County Courthouse - In Sonora

Schleicher County Courthouse - Eldorado

The Trooper Who Almost Gave Us a Ticket

     The Devil's Sinkhole :

          After the courthouse photo op, we made it back into Rock Springs and rested a while until it was time to meet back at the Rock Spring's visitor center at 7:00 PM and board their Bat Bus.  Andrew, our guide who is also a local high school teacher, gave us a brief history of Rock Springs on the way to the cave.  We arrived on the preserve and continued our journey through the state natural area only stopping once to see a site where the Indians quarried for flint.  We finally arrived at the sinkhole and Andrew continued to give us the 411 of the sinkhole including that this cave was also mined for guano and showed us the remnants of the past enterprise.  There was a platform in which visitors were allowed to view the cave in safety.  The cave/sinkhole may look familiar, it was used in Nissan's Exterra SUV commercial called "The Anchor."  Andrew also had a bat detector which was used to listen to the bats in the beginning of their emergence.  The bat flight began late and I therefore, could not take very good shots without the light.  So, some of the photo's below were borrowed.  And now, shots of the emergence :

Inside the Devil's Sinkhole

(No, we did not go in, I stole it off the Net somewhere.)

Devil's Sinkhole Bat Flight 1

Devil's Sinkhole Bat Flight 2

Devil's Sinkhole Bat Flight 3

(Another one off the Net, Just to give you a better idea.)

Devil's Sinkhole Flight 4

Close-Up of a Bat , A Bat Having a Good Time

          After the emergence, it was quite dark and we boarded the bus back into town.  From there, Bill and I made it to out lodging and called it a day.  For more information on this Texas Bat Site, click on the link below :

Devil's Sinkhole Tours

Also see...

Texas Parks & Wildlife Devil's Sinkhole Page

Star Date : 07/03/2005 - Sunday

     Lost Maples State natural Area :

          It was another early start and we decided to check out Lost Maples State Park.  We back tracked it Leakey and then travel south on Hwy 83 and took Hwy 1050 east to Utopia for breakfast at the Lost Maples Cafe.  After breakfast, we headed north on Hwy 187.  While traveling north near Vanderpool, we noticed the Lone Star Motorcycle Museum.  I hear they have some interesting motorcycles here, unfortunately, we lacked the time to check it out and continued to the park.  However, for more info on the museum, please click on the link below :

The Lone Star Motorcycle Museum

          We hit the visitor center and got the low-down on the park through their exhibits.  The park is well known for its dog tooth maples.  After the glaciers fell back to the north, the sugar maples followed.  However, this species of the dogtooth maple was able to survive the Texas heat by living within the creek and canyon areas of the Texas Hill Country and several other the mountain regions of Texas and New Mexico.  We hit the West/East trail to check out those maples :

East/West Trail Photo 1 , East/West Trail Photo 2 , East/West Trail Photo 3

East/West Trail Photo 4 , East/West Trail Photo 5 , East/West Trail Photo 6

East/West Trail Photo 7 , East/West Trail Photo 8 , East/West Trail Photo 9

I hear the park is really a beautiful place to visit during the Fall Season due to the changing colors of the maple leaves.  I'll have to return someday.  For more information on this park, please click on the link below :

Lost Maples State Park

     The Frontier Times Museum

          We noticed that FM 470 between Utopia and Vanderpool led to Bandera the cowboy town of Texas and the county seat of Bandera County.  Therefore, we backtracked a little and made it into town.  We found the courthouse for Bandera County and we also noticed a sign pointing the way to the Frontier Times Museum.  I have heard of this place and we decided it worthy of investigation. Here's what we saw :

Gallery Room 1 , Cabochons , Antlers Locked

A Cool Mantle , A 1500's Rocking Chair , A Shrunken Head

Another Cool Mantle Made of Fossils , A Close-Up of the Fossils

A Two-Headed Lamb 1 , A Two-Headed Lamb 2

Gallery Room 3 , Why I Don't Like the Dentist , Gallery Room 4

          Please check out the museum's website at the link below :

The Frontier Times Museum

          After our brief tour of the museum, it was time to go home, Bill back to the Dallas area and me back to Lake Jackson.  We said our good-byes and I decided to take the back roads home to obtain a few more county courthouse photos.  I continued to head south on Hwy 173 and noticed I would be going through Devine, TX, the site of Devine Chocolate Agate, or should I say flint.  I neglected to take pictures of the site from my last visit here so now that page is complete in the Texas Rock Collecting sites.

          After leaving the Devine area, the following Texas County Courthouse photos were collected :

Atascosa County Courthouse - In Jourdanton

Karnes County Courthouse - In Karnes City

and

De Witt County Courthouse  - In Cuero

          Well, this concludes this latest adventure.  A lot of new territory was explored and I know I will be going back some day.  By the time I got home, everyone was celebrating Dad's birthday.  We got him a new lawn mower

          Well, hopefully you will find the info useful and I highly recommend the Concan/Rio Frio area to enjoy without dealing with the masses of other folks around you.  Hope to see you around there soon!

          So until next time, take care and I'll  see You, on the road!!!

                                                     Francis                        

     

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Bracelets

Rings

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Christmas Tree Ornaments

Pewter Display Scenes

Refrigerator Magnets

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