Following the bluebonnet trail in the Texas hill country.
The drive from College Station, TX to Leander, TX., our destination for tonight, was uneventful thanks to good smooth roads, little traffic and lots of blooming roadside wildflowers, The back roads were chosen to avoid Austin traffic but skirting the north of the city put us unexpectedly on a toll road.
A single red Indian paintbrush in a field of bright blue bonnets.
When driving off the toll road at the Austin North KOA exit, there was no toll gate, only a sign that says tolls are collected electronically. There is no need to slow down or stop to pay toll to a clerk. Unfortunately, out-of-state drivers will pay 33 percent more than locals which they won’t learn until arriving home and receive the toll bill by mail.
We will stay in Leander for the next five days, sampling the area’s well-known barbecue restaurants and driving the back roads while enjoying the roadside wildflower blooms.
Thanks to meds, Heidi, our golden retriever, is a much improved passenger and is entertained by a half dozen Texas longhorn cattle grazing in a fenced pasture about 20 yards behind the RV campsite.
A bluebonnet field on private property not far from Ilano, TX.
It’s early April and weather in the Texas Hill Country has been comfortable with mid to upper 50 degrees at night and 80’s day time. For three days we have managed to enjoy good weather. On the fourth day we were watching early morning local teevee news when a bulletin came across the screen that a tornado warning, accompanied by 60 miles per hour straight line winds, large hail and heavy rain was expected within an hour.
RV’s are not safe places to be during a tornado. Compare it to a reinforced cardboard box.
Together with Heidi we joined about 30 other campers in a clubhouse building and followed the approaching storm on television until power went out, just as heavy lightning, rain and winds passed through the area. Winds probably reached 50 or 60 miles per hour but all the RV owners in the clubhouse were relieved that hail and tornadoes missed the area. Although the campground was full with RV’s and trailers, most chose to ride out the storm.
Wild bluebonnets along a dirt road in the Texas hill country.
Later in the day, we drove the bluebonnet trail, a circular route from Leander south to Highway 71 going west to Beecave and then northwest to highway 281 to Marble Falls and Burnet and east to highway 29 south back to Leander on Highway 183. From our campground, the route was about 85 miles.
Bluebonnets and other wildflowers were sparse along the road until midway between Marble Falls and Burnet when we happened upon the “bluebonnet house,” locals name for one of the most prolific bluebonnet blooms in the area. The pasture in front of the vacant house is fenced, and posted which keeps tourists off the bluebonnets and helps protect next year’s bloom. The entire field probably covered eight to ten acres and was a solid color of bright blue– filled with bluebonnets at peak bloom.
About a half dozen people were leaning over the fence photographing the scene when we arrived with most using phones to record the bloom. More arrived before we left about a half hour later.
Bluebonnets and cactus growing alongside a small creek.
The following day we joined a photography tour led by an area professional photographer who took us off the highway onto back roads where we found more blooming bluebonnets along with Indian paintbrush, Indian blanket, pink primrose and other wild flowers. Along with the blue color of the bluebonnets, there were reds, pinks, yellow and purple wildflowers. Some fields were all yellow which the photographer said could be canola. We photographed in the Ilano area, found a beautiful patch down a dirt road near an old bridge and more at a vacant old stone house near Pontotoc.
Serious wildflower photographers who are unfamiliar with the area, would benefit from joining a photo tour group rather than spending hours driving and hunting for places to photograph. Even with the tour guide, we were unable to cross the fenced and posted fields and had to photograph the blooms from the road rights of way. Texas, he said, is one place you don’t want to trespass.
Yellows and blue wildflowers mixed in this large pasture scene near Burnet, TX.
“Keep out here means exactly what it says.”
Thanks to the tour guide, we managed to hit the bluebonnet bloom at its best.