Fredericksburg, Texas and Beyond

What a wonderful early birthday and Easter weekend rendezvous!  David found a cute little apartment over one of the shops on the main street of Fredericksburg and planned a fun two night stay.

Fredericksburg holds a special place in my heart from winning my first medium pony championship at the Gellespie County Fairgrounds to spending time around that area when I attended camp Mystic as a kid.  I was so excited to return as an adult, especially given the last time I tried during my road trip around the USA the weather was lackluster at best.  Sleet blew sideways, and VANilla’s doors froze closed!

Admittedly, the forecast called for dreary weather this weekend, so I hoped my luck would be slightly better than February 2011.  It wouldn’t take much as we headed northwest from San Antonio beneath cloudy skies.  Our first stop was outside of Boerne at the Cave Without a Name.

The Natural National Landmark is a limestone, solution cave which is created by a combination of water and acid that erodes the rock.  The cave is tens of thousands of years old as evidenced the remains of prehistoric animals, though the cave went largely unnoticed until the 1920s when a moonshine distillery was installed in the uppermost cavern during the Prohibition.  It wasn’t until 1935 when local children found the cave and were the first to enter its main chamber 90 feet below ground!

The owner of the property, Jim Horn, decided to open it to the public in 1939.  As part of the opening, Mr. Horn held a state-wide contest, offering $250 for the best name.  A young boy suggested the cave was too beautiful to have a name and was awarded the prize.

As we followed the 126 step staircase to its main cavern, I couldn’t help but think of the children who clambered down and back up the walls with only the light of a lantern.  We took an hour tour of six chambers which covered only 0.25 miles of the 3.5 mile cave.  Researchers are still exploring the cave which requires diving in the underground extension of the Guadalupe River which runs through it.  They still haven’t found its end.

IMG_1336 river

I expected the continuous 66 degrees would feel cold, but the cave was a nice temperature for us and several cave critters including bats, cave frogs, and salamanders.  I loved seeing these species as I think it is fascinating that an animal evolves to be blind or are born blind since the darkness provides no use for eyes.

20150403_112701 frog

The cave is home to a variety of formations including stalactites, stalagmites, cave bacon, soda straws, draperies, columns and more.  I particularly liked a dome structure, not because it was the prettiest formation, but because it was a type of formation I hadn’t seen in other caves.  It is truly amazing to realize how long it takes for the formations to grow.  We saw a small blob on the ground, not even an inch high, and it is 80 years old!

80 years old
80 years old

Another awesome feature in the cave is the rimstone dams.  One area looked like terraced rice fields in China only the small dams held crystal clear water in pools.  The water was so clear that at times we couldn’t see it, and at other times we thought a four-foot deep pool was only one-foot deep.

It was nice that cave tours took place upon arrival as well.  There were not any scheduled times so the group was really small, just four of us.  To see the cave on a scheduled time, however, it is possible to go in the evening for a concert like Italian Pops.  Apparently the acoustics are great.

Upon finishing up our tour, we continued north to arrive in Fredericksburg for a late lunch. We squeezed into thebuzzing bar area at the Fredericksburg Brewery.  That is about the best description I can give to the place.  We should have heeded the TripAdvisor reviews.  The room temperature beer was fair and the food not much better, maybe worse.  I ordered the fish tacos which were decent, but David ordered the fish and chips which frankly tasted like a fish dock.  I don’t know how he ate them.  Overall, I suppose it didn’t really matter.  We were both hungry and just trying to get some sustenance before we wandered along the crowded main street with a German influence.

Window shopping is our cup of tea, so we weaved between the shoppers as we glanced through the glass.  Occasionally we found a boutique interesting enough to stick our head inside, including the fudge shop and a gallery owned by an artist David knew.  What surprised us the most, however, was to find the National Museum of the Pacific War in such a small Texas town.

Truck owned by artist
Truck owned by artist

In 1971, the Nimitz Foundation was founded to establish the original Nimitz Museum in the former Nimitz Hotel.  These efforts slowly evolved into the museum today.  Not being a World War II history buff, I didn’t know anything about Nimitz.  A Fredericksburg native, Nimitz was serving as Chief of the Bureau of Navigation in Washington, DC when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.  He was handpicked by President Roosevelt to relieve Admiral Kimmel at Pearl Harbor.  He commanded an aggressive combat team that made all the right moves in the Battle of Midway which is considered the Navy’s greatest victory to this day.  In 1944, he was promoted to Fleet Admiral, only one of four at this time.  He also signed the Japanese Instrument of Surrender on behalf of the United States while stationed on the battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945.  I can only believe I have never heard of him because I couldn’t stand history as a kid, as he seemed like one impressive guy.

The skies had cleared and with the weekend forecast sounding dreary, we didn’t want to spend any time inside the museum’s walls.  We thought we might have time for that later in the weekend, so instead, we simply enjoyed the sun while walking around the peaceful courtyards. We also checked out the massive propeller, canons, a mast, and submarine that lined the front of the building.  Soon after our stroll, it was time to check into our cute apartment, The Angel Inn, and relax before David took me for a lovely early birthday dinner at the Vaudeville Supper Club a block away.

Dressed up a little more than necessary in Fredericksburg (or Denver for that matter), we walked to the restaurant to be seated for our 6 o’clock reservation.  The entry to the Supper Club is through a lovely courtyard complete with a fireplace and fountain that we enjoyed after our five course meal.  The tasting menu included a variety of dishes that I wouldn’t have expected to go together and even included some items I probably wouldn’t have ever tried.  That being said, the fusion worked well, and the meal was spectacular…especially the pork belly ravioli topped with lobster and resting in an asian broth.  What a way to cap off a great day!

Our next day included another adventure to a cave, only this time an entirely different kind of cave.  We joined the masses at Enchanted Rock State Park as we waited in rather long traffic line just to get in the park.  Since neither of us enjoys crowds on the trail, instead of following everyone up the path to the top of Enchanted Rock, we chose to take Loop Trail to Echo Canyon Trail and then find our own way to the top of the rock.  Plus, walking around the weathered dome, which was thought to possess magical and spiritual powers by several Indian tribes due to its night-time creaking and groaning noises, added some distance.  I think we were able to get in a full 3 mile roundtrip.

This route was lovely.  We probably only ran into ten people as we meandered along the wildflower lined trail past Moss Lake and the climbing areas to a place on enormous pink pluton batholith that looked scalable.  For the most part, we could scramble up with relative ease and didn’t need our hands to help.  Therefore, make-shift route turned out much easier than I expected.  There was no way avoid the crowd  on the top of the rock, though fortunately it is quite large, so we settled for an area slightly protected from the wind if that exists.  The last time I was on top of this rock my hair was blowing sideways.

February 2011
February 2011

On the west side of the rock, we found the sign that pointed to the “cave” entrance.  It wasn’t hard to spot as the ranger said, “Just follow the 10,000 people going up to the top and then follow the 5,000 that go to the left!”  The cave was more like a giant crack in the rock which required some flexibility.  We entered after a group of four who weren’t prepared. The area was pitch black, and a headlamp is highly desirable.  Worst case, the flashlight on the cell phone comes in handy, but maneuvering through the cave definitely requires both hands at times.

Not everyone in the group ahead of us had lights and one person had significant problems laying on her back and sliding through holes not much bigger than David.  We waited so long, I felt like we’d get trapped in between groups.  With a slight tendency toward claustrophobia, I found myself uneasy at times while wishing they would speed up!  Fortunately, no one caught up to us until the very end so we got play around with photos and even enjoy an apple in the middle of the narrow cave.  A little wet and dirty with a few bumps on our heads, we eventually exited cave near our make-shift path.

Instead of turning down, we returned to the top of the rock along our previous trail and finished our lunch before following the masses to the parking lot.  It was awesome, and we finished in time to enjoy some wine and the view of Fredericksburg’s bustling main street from our balcony.

For dinner, we tried the “second best” restaurant in Fredericksburg, Cabernet Grill, on Saturday.  Its outdoor atmosphere with a water wheel and fish pond was neat.  The cuisine was tasty, though the difference between the #1 restaurant and #2 restaurant on TripAdvisor is substantial!  Regardless it was a fun day and lovely atmosphere.

We had to wave good-bye to Fredericksburg on Sunday, but not before we enjoyed a fantastic lunch at the Vaudeville Bistro.  I had the lump crab quiche while David devoured buttermilk fried chicken.  Both were excellent, especially David’s jalapeno cornbread.  I ate most of it off his plate.

20150405_104748 quiche

Before we reached San Antonio, we stopped at Guadalupe River State Park, a place where David sometimes rafts and kayaks.  With the drought, the water has been relatively low, so he hasn’t gotten to do too many river sports of late.  The water level didn’t affect us today, however, as we just hiked along the river banks on Bald Cypress Trail.  The river was lined with enormous trees whose roots and trunks were smoothed by the river’s flow during rainier times.  In jeans and a sweater, we weren’t dressed for a big hike, so we weren’t at the park long.  We were really just planning to take a look at the river because for some strange reason I wanted to check it out.  Of course, I always find it peaceful to walk by water, I can’t say I have too many fond memories of actually swimming in the Guadalupe while at camp.  The lovely spring, aqua color turns mossy green by summer and it is home to snapping turtles and water moccasins!  I took free swim at camp just for a free period, not to actually swim.  Being near the water, however, did give us the idea to go to Texas Coast on Monday though.

I was surprised to find out Corpus Christi and its beaches are only two hours away from San Antonio.  After a leisurely morning, we packed up David’s paddle board and headed to the coast.  We stopped for lunch at Snoopy’s and chowed down on some tasty fried seafood platter before we set up our chairs on the beach just ten minutes away.

I enjoyed a book and a walk on the beach while David surfed the waves.  I would have walked farther, but the beach was peppered with Portuguese Man-O-Wars.  Anyone who has grown up going to the Gulf in Texas knows to stay away from those guys as they deliver a super painful sting while alive or dead!  Though its appearance resembles a jellyfish, it is a siphonophore and its stings leave welts on human skin for three days.  Discovery on man-o-wars washed up on the beach can lead to a beach closure!  I suppose we were lucky as I passed at least 100 of them and was careful not to step on their long, venomous tentacles.

David could have paddled boarded for hours (and probably much longer than I could have sat on the beach), but we needed to get back home for dinner with the girls.  Delicious sushi and Rice Krispie Treat Eggs (that we made Easter night) called our names.  What a great weekend in the surrounding areas of San Antonio, especially given how bad the weather was supposed to be (we hardly saw a sprinkle)!  ETB


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photographic note card, lichen
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