Sunday, February 22, 2015

Wrapping Up a Week in San Antonio

While most of our time in San Antonio, TX has been spent exploring various sections of the San Antonio River Walk, we did manage to check out a few of the local natural areas. San Antonio lies at the Southern edge of the Texas Hill Country and the Northern edge of the plains region so there are a couple of different ecosystems to explore.

One day we drove to the North end of the city hoping to hike in Government Canyon State Natural Area...unfortunately I missed the fact that they are closed Tuesday through Thursday so that didn't work out for us. But, just a few miles East are Crownridge Canyon Natural Area and Friedrich Wilderness Park.

Both of these parks are in Hill Country, and the landscape consists of rolling brush covered hills atop a bed of limestone, Texas Live Oaks provide welcome shade. Both parks have a few miles of paved trails and a few miles of natural trails. Friedrich Wilderness Park had one especially challenging trail, the Vista Loop, which traversed rough, exposed limestone shelves that provided a great workout.

The brush was so thick on these trails that photos were pretty much impossible!
Here,the trail is the limestone shelf upon the hillside.

Another day we headed South of town to the Medina River Natural Area. Again, there were several miles of paved trail and a few miles of natural trail. The vegetation was very thick (though still winter brown) and river view points were very few.

Typical view along the Medina River Trail, this would be a great place to ride your bike.

In my last post I described several days worth of exploring we did on the San Antonio River Walk, but we weren't done yet! Only a couple of miles from our RV park (Travelers World) is the lovely King William Historic District. Several blocks of elaborate homes built in the late 1800's are a treat for the eyes and interesting shops and restaurants are nearby on South Alamo Street and just across the river in the Blue Star Arts District.

Historic buildings along River Walk.

These beautiful old homes back up to the river.

Many of the old homes were built using local limestone like the one on the left.

A few fun eateries and art shops are in this complex.

The King William District was so convenient to our RV park and so inviting to stroll we returned there late one day to walk in the cool of the evening and enjoy the waning light of the day.

In search of a public restroom we continued our walk into downtown...the busy part of River Walk.
Saturday evening crowds were out in full force, every restaurant was packed and we were thankful we'd already eaten!

We enjoyed several meals with Travel Bug Susan and Bob, and had a great time getting to know them and their adopted city. On our dark and dreary last full day in town we went to Random Beer Garden, a unique venue in Boerne, TX with 80 craft beers on tap, several food trucks on any day you visit, indoor and outdoor seating, an in-ground jumpy thing for the kiddos, games (like corn hole) for the adults, live music on Friday and Saturday nights...a really neat place to hang out.

Getting goofy with Susan and Bob.

We've had a terrific time in San Antonio and found the weather to be very interesting! The city sits on the Southern edge of the Northern (cold) jet stream and the Northern edge of the tropical (warm) jet daytime temperatures went from quite cold to very warm more than once during our stay. So while Saturday was 80 degrees and humid, our travel day Monday is forecast to be in the 40's and rainy.

We're off to Austin tomorrow where we'll meet up once again with some RVing friends and some longtime friends of Hans.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The San Antonio River Walk

We've settled in to Travelers World RV Resort in San Antonio, TX for a week. We've got a spacious pull through site and the added benefit of a fellow blogger who lives here at the park: Travel Bug Susan. I've enjoyed reading Susan's stories of things to do around San Antonio for years so it's great to be able to spend some time with her in her "backyard".

One of the key activities here for both tourists and locals is to get out and explore the San Antonio River Walk. This 15 mile long path system has a lot to offer including a vibrant downtown scene with many shopping, eating and drinking opportunities, access to museums and art, gardens and the zoo, quiet sections of river walking for birding and exercise, plus access to several historical missions. In the four days we've been here every day has been spent exploring a different section of the River Walk.

The San Antonio River has been manipulated and abused for decades. In 1929 developers first began to consider cleaning it up and making it a park-like oasis through the city. The latest beautification efforts commenced in 1998 and continue today. San Antonio can be proud of its river now. Even though it will never flow as nature intended, it now provides a beautiful ribbon of park through the center of town and a man-made nature preserve through the edges of town.

The day we arrived, Sunday of Presidents Weekend, we braved the downtown crowds so we could go to the visitor center...which happened to be across the street from The Alamo and close to the bustling downtown portion of the River Walk.

It was impossible to get a shot of the Alamo without lots of people in it!

I didn't even bother to take a photo of the busy part of the River Walk...we hustled right through it because it was so crowded!
As soon as we walked North of the downtown hub, the River Walk turned into a calm oasis in the middle of the city.

This charming area has seating tiers on one side of the river and a stage on the other side.
What a neat venue for music!

On our second day in San Antonio we walked a portion of the River Walk right from our campground to the Mission Concepcion, about five miles round trip.

You can see a couple of RV's from our park on the left, backing up to the River Walk.

We spotted new-to-us birds,including this Egyptian Goose.
It's a non native bird that does not compete with native birds.

Turtles enjoy random rays of sunlight on a cold day.

Mission Concepcion was built in the early 1700's and is still used for church services.

Though the river no longer flows a natural course due to man's decades of intervention, the most recent rejuvenation projects include riffles and weirs and other efforts to bring back a natural environment for wildlife...and it's working!

On another very cold morning we joined Travel Bug Susan and her friend Susan on the River Walk from Mission San Jose to Mission San Juan and back.

At Mission San Juan there is a section of the San Antonio River that has never been manipulated by man
(it's so small in its natural state!) you can see it behind Susan, Hans and Travel Bug Susan.

Mission San Juan

Ibis and Egret along the river.

Mission San Jose was beautifully preserved.

The Indian converts were housed in small rooms built in to the Mission compound walls. 

Mission San Jose chapel.

Another day we strolled through Brackenridge Park at the North end of the River Walk and when the connecting trail to the Pearl District turned out to be under construction, we drove to Pearl and resumed our walk along the Museum Reach section of River Walk.

Brackenridge Park is a huge multipurpose park that includes picnic areas, sports fields, the San Antonio Zoo, museums, a Japanese Tea Garden, and an outdoor theater.

Trail art.

Sun bathers.

Bridge art.

The Japanese Tea Garden was a hidden gem!
In 1917 this former rock quarry was turned into a park and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

Here is a close up of the pagoda.

Moving on to the Pearl and Museum Reach portions of the River Walk we enjoyed some art along the trail. The Pearl District is currently in the midst of several massive construction projects. It was easy to see that this neighborhood was well on its way to being the hip, happening spot for urban living. We enjoyed a tasty, healthy lunch at Green Vegetarian Cuisine.

Love the fish hanging under the bridge! They light up at night!

You can find tiny art pieces all along the trail...this is only a few inches tall.

We've been fortunate to land in San Antonio at the same time as Eric and Brittany of RV Wanderlust...though for them it's a repair stop for their beloved motorhome, Meriwether. We met up with these two over Maars Pizza, including pizza with brisket (we are in Texas, you know!). It was great fun getting to know them and we just might meet up again as we both head to Austin.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Campground Review: Pecan Valley RV Park, Junction, TX

Pecan Valley RV Park, just outside of Junction, TX, was a one night stop for us. This small park with only 12 full hookup sites sits at the back of a pecan orchard with several very large old pecan trees scattered among the sites. The North Llano River runs along the other side of the RV sites. A quarter mile beyond the river is Interstate 10, which you can see and hear just a little.

This is a beautiful, peaceful park. Dozens of deer come to feed from dusk to dawn. During our visit in mid February there were still a few pecans falling from the old trees among the sites free for harvesting off the ground. The only negative for us was a complete lack of Verizon signal...but it was easy to live without that for one night! We were told there is AT&T signal but cannot verify that. All sites are $25 per night.

The RV sites are clustered at the end of a large meadow.
The river runs behind the big oak tree on the left.
That's our 5th wheel in  a pull through site in the center.

To enter the park you drive down this long driveway past the pecan orchard.

Check out the size of this tree!

There are two deer feeding stations on the property, ensuring evening entertainment.

The North Llano River.

Pecans I picked off the ground near our site.

Just a few of the deer hanging around in the evening.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Campground Review: Balmorhea State Park, Toyahvale, TX

Balmorhea State Park was a pretty reasonable 239 miles from our last stop in Las Cruces, NM and turned out to be a perfect place to refresh ourselves between back-to-back driving days.

The focal point of this small state park is San Solomon Spring and the enormous pool of its crystal clear waters. The park was built in the 1930's by the amazing Civilian Conservation Corps and you can swim, scuba dive, picnic, camp or rent a motel room here.

The pool holds 3.5 million gallons of water, more than 15 million gallons flow through it each day, the water remains between 72 and 76 degrees year round, it ranges from 3 feet to 25 feet deep and covers 1.75 acres. Oh, and there are two types of small, endangered desert fish that clean your toes while you swim!

This photo shows maybe a third of the pool.
Hans is hanging out at the edge of the drop off...the deep blue water behind him is 20 feet deep!

Nice looking Spanish-style buildings dot the property.
There's a scuba lesson taking place left center.

Fish pedicure!

A motel building behind Hans, and one of several small canals that carry the spring water into the desert.

Texas Spiny Soft Shelled Turtle.

A snake in the canal.

Green heron.

The park has 28 water/electric sites and six water only sites, all with decent separation. We had site 27, a pull out site which had a more private sitting area than most of the sites. We had full 4G Verizon signal using our booster. There is a little bit of road noise from the minor highway outside the park, but it's really quiet at night.

Water/Electric sites are only $14/night but Texas also charges $7 PER PERSON/PER DAY to enter this state park. Since we're spending the next couple of months in this state we purchased a state parks pass.

Site 27 sitting area.

Here's a nice looking pull out site (#26) with a ramada.

Looking across the open area behind the back in sites.
Most sites have ramadas.

Balmorhea turned out to be a wonderful place to overnight, just what the doctor ordered after having to drive through El Paso!