Cavalry fort and star gazing in Fort Davis, TX
For a couple hours this morning, it was cool enough to roll down the Winnebago Aspect motor home windows and smell the sagebrush as we drove across the desert in southwest Texas headed for Fort Davis.
An old Army freight wagon on the grounds at Fort Davis. The fort once housed 800 soldiers who provided protection for settlers, freight and travelers heading west to California.
Like most of this huge state, this is cowboy and Indian country and no small town in Texas says it better than Fort Davis and the nearby original army fort by the same name. Locals wear boots and hats and wide belts with big buckles. They are real, not the drug store cowboy types but the real working models. Most are long and lean, sport heavy sun baked tans and smile when they say “hello” passing on downtown streets. They wave to passing strangers from their dust colored pickup trucks which all carry at least one rifle racked in the back window and “Don’t mess with Texas” bumper stickers. It’s flat desert country with the Fort Davis Mountains in the distance and known as the highest town in Texas at just over 5,000 feet. Most every ranch flies an American and Texas flag.
The parade grounds at U. S. Army Fort Davis in southwest Texas.
Our campsite at Davis Mountain State Park near Fort Davis, TX.
Having grown up in an era when youngsters played cowboys and Indians, Fort Davis feels almost familiar after seeing replicas of the old army forts on local movie screen western movies. The fort is the largest and most well-preserved cavalry post in the west.
Fort Davis was built in the 1850’s along the fabled San Antonio to El Paso route in an effort to provide protection for westward bound settlers, mail, and freight through the dangerous Pecos region of West Texas. Seven forts were established along the route to protect travelers from frequent Comanche and Apache raids.
Records show that “In 1850 the largest supply train to use the road” left Fort Inge for El Paso with 340 wagons, 4000 animals, 450 civilians and 175 soldiers.
Some original fort buildings have been restored and open to the public. Foundations of others were also preserved, giving visitors a better understanding of the fort’s original layout.
McDonald Observatory, near Fort Davis, TX., houses the world’s third largest telescope.
Later in the day we drove the 74-mile Scenic Loop Road through the nearby mountains and canyons. The road begins and ends at Fort Davis.
On the second day of our stay, we visited the McDonald Observatory, which is less than 15 miles away from Fort Davis. Built on top of Mount Locke in 1939, the observatory at one time had the second largest telescope in the world. It is operated by the University of Texas. We took a tour of two of the 10 large telescopes at the facility, including the world’s third largest Hobby-Eberly Telescope, and heard an interesting presentation on ongoing observatory research including planetary systems and stars.
Visitors touring the McDonald Observatory.
One of the telescopes from the McDonald Observatory Visitors Center.
Scenery along the 73 mile Scenic Route Loop road through the Davis Mountains, near Fort Davis, TX.
Visitors to the area should not miss the Observatory tour. The high and dry peaks of the Davis Mountains make for some of the darkest and clearest night skies in the region. We visited during daytime when the observatory showed live photos of the sun but special nighttime viewing of star and planets visits are available.
From our campsite at Davis Mountain State Park, we watched a family of deer grazing alongside a nearby creek and mountain goats on a hill overlooking the campground.
NEXT: Las Cruses, New Mexico and Billy the Kid
Zero-Zero visibility blankets scenic mountain ride from Skagway
Buildings in Carcross duplicated colorful native art work on these new structures, housing sandwich and ice cream shops.
It happens occasionally when least expected: driving the RV and tow car into a parking lot crowded with cars and big tourist buses and not enough room to turn around.
We had stopped for lunch in Carcross, Yukon, Canada, partially because we were attracted to the colorful buildings located adjacent the White Pass and Yukon Railroad track which runs through the middle of town, when the RV parking snafu occurred. We also stopped because it’s lunch time and both driver and passenger were hungry and for the first time since leaving Florida six weeks ago and almost 7,000 road miles, we let our stomachs overrule common sense and drove head-on into parking lot too small to accommodate RV and tow car.
Carcross, like most small Alaska and northern Canadian town consists of only a few blocks of commercial businesses, but more than enough to take care of its 300 year-round residents. The railroad and the Klondike Highway, however, bring thousands of parading tourists through here most every day bringing smiles to business owners and a bit of aggravation to the locals. Several hundred tourists bailed out of the train as we bailed out of the RV to unhook the tow car. Even more had bailed out of the buses.
We managed lunch in a busy new sandwich place, enjoyed a black walnut ice cream cone for desert then paired the tow car to the RV again and headed back on the highway to Teslin, where we will camp for the evening.
The weather was bright and sunny, the road flat and smooth (remarkable for a change); quite an improvement since this morning when we left Skagway, AK, and headed up the mountain for Canada during a heavy misting, drizzling rain and strong north winds. It worsened about 10 miles out of town, turning into ground clouds and thick fog. Visibility was zero-zero as we puttered slowly up the mountain and then crossed the William Moore suspension bridge which spans a 110-foot-wide over a gorge at Moore Creek, 180 feet below. We failed to notice the truck emergency runout ramp or vehicle turnouts approaching White Pass probably because of the fog and the steep incline which required an all-hands-on-deck effort.
The weather improved somewhat when we passed through Canadian customs a few miles down the road than finally gave way to sunshine, showing off the “beware of avalanches” signs.
The road passed through a rocky valley referred to as a Moonscape” where the landscape of stunted trees and lakes represents a transition zone between the treed lower elevations and the tree line, as described by Milepost Magazine. It was like waking up in a different world.
The weather was clear and dry for a change however, the landscape offered nothing to brag about. And, there was no wildlife to see.
We drove the Tagish-Carcross Scenic Loop and arrived in Teslin about 4 p.m. and enjoyed a dinner of fresh Kenai sockeye salmon, salad and potatoes with our traveling friends Don and Sue.
Today’s trip from Skagway covered 165 miles, which is less than an average day’s drive of about 250, but tomorrow’s trip to Dease Lake will cover 300 miles, making up
Dove Island and Windy Arm, a tributary off Tagish Lake, was a nice rest stop on the road from Skagway, AK to Carcross and Teslin.
DAYS ON THE ROAD: 76
GALLONS OF FUEL: 844
COST OF FUEL; $2,836
MILES ON THE ROAD: 7,599
Taking the train through the mountains to Silverton, CO.
Day 24, Durango, CO., to Silverton Train Ride
33-Day Western National Park RV Caravan Tour
It’s a steep, curvy downhill road into Durango. Like nearby Telluride, visitors can’t help wondering how early settlers managed to negotiate the mountains on horseback and horse-drawn wagons more than a century ago.
The Durango to Silverton train ride goes through a high mountain pass in the San Juan Mountains.
Today we boarded the Durango to Silverton train for a 3.5 hour thrilling ride along the Animas River through valleys, canyons and forests of the San Juan Mountains to the little mining town of Silverton.
The narrow gauge railroad train is powered by a coal-fired vintage steam locomotive, complete with lots of steam and smoke. Passengers ride in authentic train cars, one of which is open on both sides for great views.
Fall leaves were appearing in the San Juan Mountains when we took the Durango-to Silverton train ride.
Conductor in authentic uniform from the past, punches tickets of train riders.
Windows get a last minute cleaning before the train leaves the station at Durango.
Train enthusiasts will enjoy the sounds and smells associated with a coal-fired steam train from the yesterdays.
Mesa Verde boasts over 600 cliff dwellings
Day 21, Mesa Verde National Park, Cortez, CO
33-Day Western National Park RV Caravan Tour
I’ve always had a fascination with cliff dwellings, maybe because I grew up on the plains of
Visitors enter the Cliff Palace along a narrow trail on the side of the mountain.
Oklahoma and had difficulty understanding why people would build their homes on the edge of a mountain cliff and live there for maybe a thousand years.
Other than Monument Valley, Mesa Verde National Park will be the highlight of new adventures on this 33 day Western National Park RV Caravan Tour.
Entrance to one of the Kivas is through a small opening and down a ladder.
We drove from Moab, Utah, 111 miles through mostly flat farming country arriving early afternoon in Cortez, Co. and boarded a tour bus the following morning and drove to nearby Mesa Verde National Park. Here are the best preserved archaeological sites in the country, including 600 cliff dwellings. Although Cliff Palace is visible to visitors from high above a fenced overlook, entrance to the actual dwelling is available only with a Ranger-guided tour.
The kivas were used for ceremonial purposes by the Pueblo people.
Visitors must descend a narrow and somewhat steep stone stairway and follow a trail alongside the mountain before entering the dwellings. Here are 150 rooms and 23 kivas partially built under an overhang on the side of a cliff. One of the kivas, which is an underground meeting room only accessible through a small hole and down a wooden ladder, was used for ceremonial gathering purposes. The doorways and kiva entrances are small because the Pueblo people who lived here were short–about 5’5″ tall.
Getting out of the dwelling wasn’t easy, either; climbing a long wooden ladder up the steep side of the mountain. Another nearby cliff dwelling called Spruce Tree House, is accessible via a paved walkway and much easier for people with ambulatory issues.
Visitors can take a day trip to Telluride which is a 70- mile drive through scenic farm and mountain country where the elevation reached 10,000 feet. The popular ski community is also the site of the first bank robbery of outlaw Butch Cassidy.
Navajo Antelope Slot Canyon is dusty, scenic wonder
Standing on the floor of Antelope Slot Canyon and looking up through the top.
DAY 8: Antelope Slot Canyon Tour, Navajo Nation
33-Day Western National Parks RV Caravan Tour
Death Valley, Rainbow Bridge, Zion and Glen Canyon’s Lake Powell, were very impressive places to visit, but just a week into this caravan tour, the visit into the Navajo Nation to see Antelope Slot Canyon, was an unexpected scenic wonder.
Getting there, however, was a little frightening.
Prior to boarding open air pickup trucks of Chief Tsosie’s Tour, we gathered in downtown Page, AZ., under the canopy of a converted gas station and watched a couple Navajo tribal members in full native costumes entertain the crowd with a couple native dances.
The narrow passage way through Antelope Slot Canyon was claustrophobic for some tourists. The path was less than three feet wide in some areas.
Our tour guide suggested purchasing bandannas in the nearby tour store because the dirt road leading to the Canyon was dry and dusty. That was an understatement.
For the five mile or so trip out of town to Antelope Slot Canyon, we loaded into the rear of a half dozen blue pickup trucks and sat on metal benches and remarked that riding in the rear of an open bed pickup was illegal back home.
The truck driver, who was also our canyon guide, never slowed from paved to pot-hole dirt roads where we all hurriedly struggled to tie on the bandannas, hold onto our hats and avoid falling overboard all at the same time. It was a jarring, dusty ride and somewhat scary.
Antelope Slot Canyon was created by water running through the rocks that eroded the soft sandstone and over time, created a twisting, turning canyon open at the top through narrow slits that allow beams of sunlight to light the canyon floor. It is open on both ends and the tour consists of walking through the canyon and back for a quarter mile each way.
We entered the canyon through a narrow passage off the dirt parking lot. There was ample sunlight filtering through the top of the canyon but the curvy canyon walls displaced the light, emphasizing the different shapes of the stone wall. Some areas of the walking path were only about three feet wide and claustrophobic.
The depth of the canyon varies and is partially determined by recent rains. A quarter inch the previous day washed 14 feet of sand onto the canyon floor. The tour guide said another rain would probably remove the sand or possibly add more.
Flooding through the canyon is common.
Bandannas proved effective against the dusty dirt roads leading to the canyon.
Visitors to Antelope Slot Canyon are ferried in the back of open air pickup trucks. Some of the route was on dusty dirt roads.
Antelope Slot Canyon opened for tours as a Navajo Tribal Park in 1997. It was quite a visual experience.
NEXT; North Rim Grand Canyon, Jacob’s Lake, AZ
Pigging out on Hill Country barbecue
The Caldwell County Courthouse in historic downtown Lockhart, TX., home of at least 10 barbecue restaurants.
Barbecue joints in Texas are as numerous as the corner convenience store. From walk-up trailers to mega eateries seating hundreds, finding one is not difficult.
We’re based in Austin for the next ten days, gearing up for the annual Austin Music Festival and utilizing the spare time to eat Texas barbecue–the one they refer to as “classic” Hill Country barbecue and featuring the famous smoked beef brisket. To be the classic choice, it’s naturally served without sauce. Locals say the sauce covers the flavor of good, smoked meat, so leave it off. While it is not slathered on the meat during the offset smoking process, it is offered as a side item at the serving tables for those who don’t want to taste the real thing.
But finding the best is not always easy because real BBQ fans’ taste buds span the spectrum from sauce to no sauce, dry rub to no dry rub and brisket to ribs. In Lockhart, Tx., about 40 miles from Austin, the town of just over 12,000 boasts 10 barbecue restaurants. They range from small store fronts to the huge Kreuz Market, a 113-year-old BBQ place that seats hundreds and brags “no sauce, no forks, no kidding!” That line could easily be the motto for this part of Texas barbecue joints.
We visited three mega barbecue places during our Hill Country visit. Coopers Old Time Barbecue in Llano, The Salt Lick in downtown Driftwood and Kreuz Market in Lockhart. Coopers and Kreuz were easy to find but Salt Lick, located in tiny Driftwood, a town with a zip code and not much more, is in an unincorporated area on a Texas Farm to Market Road.
Despite the rural location, Salt Lick’s parking lots will rival those at any big box store. It’s not unusual to find tour buses, packed with tourists from Austin, stacked up on the highway waiting for a parking spot. The place is very big and seats hundreds in several different venues. Salt Lick is also different from the two others we visited–they actually have waiters and menus who bring your food on a plate. Here we both tried the sampler which included brisket, pork ribs, sausage and turkey. An additional order of ribs and turkey were ordered as take out for the next day.
Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que in Llano, about 75 miles from Austin and rated by a national television network among the 10 best rib joints in the country, was the smallest restaurant but offered the largest menu. At Coopers, visitors line-up outside the restaurant and follow the smoke into the pit area where the pit master is holding service over a very large open smoker filled with meat. Here’s what we remember seeing: beef ribs, brisket, cabrito, chicken, ribeye steaks, pork chops, pork loin, pork ribs, prime ribs, sirloin and t-bone steaks and turkey. There may have been more offerings that we missed.
Hamilton Pool Nature Preserve features a 60 foot waterfall that cascades into a limestone-walled jade green pool we visited en route to Driftwood, TX.
The pit master takes your order and places it on a serving tray covered with butcher paper. I think we had a piece of most everything in the pit except the cabrito, beef ribs and the steaks. We did order a large cut of very juicy smoked prime rib. From there we walked into the restaurant where the meat items were individually weighed, wrapped and placed back on the tray along with the meat ticket. At checkout four different kinds of homemade cobblers were among the deserts.
We carried the food tray to the sides table and chose the cole slaw, passing over beans, corn on the cob, potato salad and baked potatoes and joined a young couple at a family style picnic table large enough to seat 20 to 30 people. We unwrapped the meat and used the butcher paper as a plate and ate lunch with our fingers, using a plastic spoon for slaw. No forks. The food was spectacular and certainly worthy of Cooper’s annual top five listing in the best of Hill Country Bar-B-Que. Sitting across from us was a couple from near Dallas where he was a working cowboy on a ranch and in Llano for a calf roping contest who shared some “must see’ sites for tourist visiting the area. With a to-go piece of butcher paper, we wrapped the left-overs before discarding the bones and butcher paper in the trash. Coopers doesn’t have waitresses. Customers take care of themselves.
Lockhart’s Kruez Market was so successful that they abandoned their old building and moved to the outskirts of town and built a huge new barn-like barbecue joint, but like The Salt Lick, still manages to maintain the quality that has made them famous in this part of Texas. They offered most of the usual barbecue items, but we had had enough variety and settled for ribs, brisket and homemade sausage lunches served in the traditional butcher paper style. No plates, no silverware, no sauce.
“We really pigged out,” Martha wrote in her journal.
NEXT: Joining the crowd at Austin Music Festival
Returning to the Alamo 47 years later
Mission Concepcion is the most preserved of the five missions and is located several miles from downtown San Antonio. Catholic Mass is held here each Sunday morning and according to a tour guide, those attending are descendants from original settlers here in the 1740’s..
After 46 years, the Hugheses (we were just kids) are returning to San Antonio today to once again visit the Alamo amid talk that the federal government was only days away from closing the doors on all national parks. With the city full of tourist and like the Hugheses, the majority, if not all of them, came with one purpose in mind–to see the historic old Alamo. There would be many unhappy campers if they showed up at the gates of the most visited place in Texas and found them padlocked.
That did not happen. While the Alamo does receive some government funding the historic mission is owned by the state and run by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. As a result the Alamo remained open during the shutdown while National Park Service facilities across the country closed their doors.
The Alamo Mission and wall surrounding the grounds.
First-time Alamo visitors are surprised to see the old shrine surrounded by skyscapers in downtown San Antonio. Their vision was no doubt formulated by John Wayne’s 1960 epic motion picture “The Alamo” which showed the mission surrounded by miles of empty and rugged Texas landscape.
In reality, Wayne’s movie was filmed in front of an Alamo replica in Brackettville, TX., about 120 miles west of San Antonio, that still stands today and open to visitors. The replica is a copy of how the Alamo appeared in 1836 and also includes a representation of the village of San Antonio of the same time period. A dozen other Alamo films have been shot there and over 100 westerns, according to Wikipedia.
We rented an audio tape which told the story of the 200 Texans who held off 1500 Mexican troops for 13 days and became the main event leading to the Texas Revolution and its independence from Mexico. All Texan defenders, including Davey Crockett, Colonel James Bowie and William Travis, died in the battle.
One of five missions in San Antonio, the Alamo was originally a mission established by the Catholic Church but was converted to a make-shift fort. It was designed to provide protection against warring natives, not an army bringing artillery to the fight. In fact, President Santa Anna discounted the fort saying it was an “irregular fortification hardly worthy of the name”, according to Wikipedia.
The Alamo Mission was crowded with visitors on our weekday visit making it difficult to see some of the battle scars described in the audio taped tour. However, the fort appeared exactly as we had found it over 47 years ago plus a few more tourists.
Tourist take a ride on a boat on the San Antonio River at River Walk in the city’s downtown area.
After the Alamo tour, we walked across the street, down a set of stairs to River Walk. The network of walkways follows the San Antonio River through downtown San Antonio and is lined with bars, shops, hotels and restaurants. We enjoyed a cold drink in a British pub and watched the riverboats pass loaded with tourists. The popular river walk gained more notoriety during San Antonio’s 1968 World’s Fair. During the past few years the River Walk has been extended to outlying areas along the river, providing walk/bike paths along several miles of the San Antonio.
During our three day visit in San Antonio, we stayed at a RV park adjacent the river where we walked each morning.
NEXT: Austin: A heavy dose of BBQ and good music.
CLICK ON PHOTO BELOW FOR GALLERY PICTURES OF SAN ANTONIO:
Good food at chuckwagon, but not the real thing
On an RV trip out west several years ago plans to attend a chuckwagon dinner at a real, wild west ranch, failed to materialize.
We would have even settled for a dude ranch–one with drug store cowboys but for one reason or another, we missed the opportunity and left the idea on the proverbial mental bucket list.
Visions of sun-burned working cowboys on horseback, mean looking bulls and a bearded old cook crankily doling out beans, biscuits and steaks half cooked over an open wood fire, was what we had in mind. Another cowboy would be strumming a Gene Autry guitar and singing songs made famous by one of the 50’s singing cowboys. If it sounds like a Hollywood movie set, that’s where my vision originated. I grew up watching B westerns as a kid on Saturday afternoon matinees at the local movie theater. I watched them all and managed to perfect the dream in hopes of one day, having a chuck wagon dinner on the lone prairie.
Texas ranches all have distinctive gates that welcome visitors, including this one at the YO Ranch.
A long deer crosses the YO Ranch main gate entrance road.
As we learned at the YO Ranch, a sprawling 55,000 acre working ranch an hour drive west of Kerrville, today’s version of the chuckwagon dinner is slighted more upscale but a fine meal, even without the outdoor cowboy trimmings.
We arrived at the ranch main gate and were immediately greeted by a flock of about 25 wild turkeys which appeared to weight 20 to 30 pounds each. Later we learned from a ranch hand that turkeys there can weigh up to 40.
Once through the gate, we drove over seven miles through rugged Texas land that was mostly inhabited by Texas longhorn livestock. The entrance road was not fenced, giving livestock and other inhabitants free range.
The lodge area provides guests with overnight facilities including a lounge and pool at YO Ranch.
At ranch headquarters which includes several rustic wood and native stone buildings, we found the Chuckwagon and enjoyed a sit-down lunch of fried pork chops, beans, a salad and dessert with other ranch employees in a dining room setting. There was not a cowboy in sight although there were plenty of wild game trophy heads hanging on the walls. One assumes the animals were bagged on ranch property which also offers exotic animal trophy hunts.
Most roads inside the sprawling 44,000 acre ranch were not fenced, leaving plenty of room for cattle and other animals to roam freely.
The YO Ranch has been in existence since 1880. It offers exotic wildlife tours, horseback riding and the opportunity to participate in a Longhorn trail drive. They also offer lodging and meals at the Chuckwagon.
NEXT: Remembering the Alamo
A walk on the wild side in Kerrville, Texas
[codepeople-post-map]Schrieder Park is a very nice city owned recreation facility in Kerrville, Texas, offering Guadalupe riverfront campsites along with a bunch of cross-country walking trails. Trails in the 517 acre park vary in length and take participants into undeveloped, rustic and scenic Texas landscape. It is located a few miles from the city.
However, a prominent sign at the park entrance warned of venomous snakes and panthers.
Martha decided we would walk the campground paved roads, rather than choose one of the trails, adding “No explanation necessary.”
We walked five miles on asphalt roads at a pretty good clip with Martha frequently looking over her shoulder and at overhead tree limbs.
One day in Utopia
June Naylor is the Texas tourist’s answer to Europe’s Rick Steves. A sixth-generation Texan and long-time travel writer for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram newspaper, she is the author of the popular”Off the Beaten Path Texas” which has been our guide book since arriving in the state. Whether its the Piney Woods, Marathon in the Big Bend or Canyon Country in the Panhandle, her book is taking us off the beaten path to less traveled scenic byways with surprises around every corner. And in every little town, she’s suggested restaurants “where the locals eat” rather than those catering to tourists. A believer in
every town has a story, Naylor has managed to hand pick the best Texas has to offer and compiled her findings in a well-done tourist guide.
Scenic vistas between Kerrville and Utopia, TX.
Today, we’re following her suggestions and driving from Kerrville to Utopia for chicken-fried steak at Lost Maples Cafe. Our trip follows Highway 39 southwest where lots of native stone homes from the turn of the century are visible along the highway. It’s typical Texas hill country. The road winds along the Guadalupe River, which, surprisingly, is flowing somewhat despite the extended Texas drought. We pass several resorts, youth camps and huge ranches with typical stone and iron ranch welcome gates, some that cater to hunters seeking exotic trophy animals and kept within the ranch boundaries with high fence wire.
There are few cattle grazing in the pastures. News accounts say many rancher have sold livestock because of the drought. The drought and heat also makes growth difficult for native grasses but it fails to halt the wild growing sage plant which is plentiful and in full bloom. In other hill country areas we have visited, cactus appears ready to bloom, also.
Martha mentions we have no cellphone service, which is not a surprise. We are in the boondocks and seldom meet another car on the highway.
Texas hats are featured in this store in Fredricksburg, TX.
Tiny Utopia, population 227, is a one street town with a few boarded up businesses and a couple others catering to farmers. Except for the pickup trucks parked alongside the highway, we might have driven right past the Lost Maples Cafe and missed out on the chicken fried steak and homemade pies. It is the town’s most thriving business and we aim to do our small part to help it continue.
Although the restaurant seats were half-full, we were obviously the only tourists. We are well off the beaten path. All patrons seemed to be farmers and ranchers. And yes, bring us the house special, I told the waitress, one large and one small. The cooked-to-order chicken fried steak was smothered in white gravy and covered three fourths of the plate, leaving little room for homemade onion rings and a couple pieces of Texas toast. The steak could be cut with a fork and there was plenty of gravy.
In between bites, I had earlier noticed a “Seven Days in Utopia” movie poster featuring Robert Duval, hanging on the wall near the kitchen but gave it little thought, thinking that it might have been some local joke. Finally, I asked the waitress, after ordering a couple pieces of buttermilk pie (mine with ice cream), the reason for the movie poster. She immediately launched into a story about the movie being filmed in Utopia and nearby Fredricksburg and the restaurant’s role.
A private resort along the South Fork of the Guadalupe River in an area popular for swimming, canoeing and fishing
Since the very popular Lonesome Dove book and subsequent television mini-series a couple decades ago, I have been a fan of Robert Duval and was surprised he had made a movie that I did not see. Duval was in Utopia for the filming, took his meals at the Lost Maples Cafe, and more than likely sampled the house special and homemade pies. There were pictures on the wall of Duval with the owner of the restaurant and some staffers. The movie was for real.
“Seven Days in Utopia” is a religious drama and tells the story of a young promising but struggling golfer who landed in Utopia after his car breaks down and meets up with Duval who promises to turn his career around if he would spend seven days with him in Utopia.
The Texas tour book did not mention Utopia’s connection to the Duval movie because it was filmed here after the book was printed. Just another one of those unexpected pleasantries that happen along the road.
Still following instructions from “Off the Beaten Path Texas,” we take Highway 187 to Vanderpool and drove into the Lost Maples State Natural area. The park is home to a thriving forest of Bigtooth Maple trees which are far removed from any maple forest, accounting for its “lost maples” name. The park attracts thousands of visitors during the autumn leaf change. On our visit, we were the only vehicle in the park.
From Vanderpool we took Highway 337 toward Medina and drove through a hilly scenic area with lots of switchbacks and large panoramic views before returning to Kerrville, our home base.
The Guadalupe River near Kerrville, TX.