EDIT: I published the initial essay with pictures that were too big … they took forever to load. Three months away from the blog, I forgot that I have to resize them first. Hopefully the pictures will now load quickly.
The past few days have been kind of odd. We spent 3-1/2 months at Travelers World in San Antonio, which is 6 weeks longer than we stayed last year. Last winter, all park events were cancelled due to Covid, except for a couple of outdoor dances thanks to the resident DJ, Skip. It was difficult to get to know people under those circumstances. Things loosened up a bit more this year, and we were able to play darts, Pickleball and cards with other Winter Texans here. This is quite a friendly community, and we felt fully welcomed into the fold.
Preparing to depart was bittersweet. We have a huge itinerary of places to see over the next 8-1/2 months (a milestone … the longest we’ll have traveled in the motorhome without settling down), and fingers are crossed that we don’t suffer any big glitches along the way. If all goes according to plan, we’ll visit all the western and northwestern states on this trip, from the red rock and cactus of the southwest the to mountains and redwoods of the Pacific Northwest. We’re going to miss our San Antonio friends and look forward to reuniting in November, 2022.
First stop … getting back to basics.
We’ve been spoiled since mid-November with great restaurants nearby, three grocery stores within a three-mile radius, cable TV and internet strong enough to stream movies. Today, we are in Lost Maples State Natural Area in Vanderpool, Texas. Here, we have no cell signal, nothing within a ten-mile radius and we’ll entertain ourselves with multiple games of Parchisi and lots of reading. Bob just said, “I miss the simple things in life, like knowing what the temperature is outside.” (We have no access to our weather apps.) There’s no time like the present to get used to not having services, as we’ll be heading into some pretty remote areas over the next few months. At least we still have electricity and water at our campsite!
Lost Maples is named for the stands of Sawtooth Maple trees that grow along the banks of the Sabinal River, protected from the elements of excessive heat and drought by the surrounding canyon. This is the only place in Texas where you will find maple trees growing wild as they need too much moisture to survive here.
The park is locally famous for it’s challenging hiking trails, and, oh my, the trail we hiked was a challenge! Our friends Doyle and Dawn had warned us that this trail was very rocky, and they weren’t kidding. We took their advice and did a counter-clockwise loop hike. Doyle didn’t say that it was easier, he sort of called it the lesser of the two evils. Hiking counter-clockwise meant we had to climb 8/10 of a mile up a very steep, rocky hill (boulders serving as steps, almost), while coming down we had to navigate 4/10 mile of steep loose scree. Even on a good day, going down is harder than going up a hill, but putting loose stones into the scenario makes for a very difficult descent … it took about twice as long to descend than to climb. Thank goodness for adjustable hiking poles!
After 6-1/2 miles of hiking, Bob, Tessa and I were all worn out. Tessa found a sunbeam to lay in and didn’t move for at least an hour. And, boy, that cold Commissar beer by Texas’ own Real Ale Brewing went down soooo easy! We were in bed by 8:00 that night and slept a full twelve hours.
While in this area, we had to check out the closest town. Utopia, Texas, boasts one general store (with reportedly the best bacon you’ll ever eat), one feed store, a post office, and the Lost Maple Cafe where one can find the best pies. We were up for some small town cafe fare. The cafe is cute as can be with mismatched Formica-top tables and Naugahyde-covered chairs from the 1960’s. The waitress greeted us with a big smile, took our order and promptly relayed it verbally to the cook. I thought it was sweet that the cook (a very big dude with a bald head and long beard) sent out a small salad for me, since I turned down the beans that should have been served with my enchilada. Bob’s lamb sliders were produced by a local ranch, and he proclaimed them delicious. The best part of dinner was watching the locals come and go. In a tiny town like Utopia, everybody knows everyone. It’s fun to see all the folks on a first-name basis in such a tight-knit community. Of course we left with pie. I’d never heard of Buttermilk pie before, but now I know that it’s pretty much a baked mixture of sugar and buttermilk and, wow, is it sweet!
Fun fact about Utopia, Texas … a movie was filmed there in 2011. “Seven Days in Utopia” starring Robert Duvall, Lucas Black and Melissa Leo. The film got mixed reviews, but in my humble opinion there is no such thing as a bad Robert Duvall movie. The cafe walls were covered with photos of the cast and crew. Of course we’ll be looking for the movie … when we get internet service again!
All in all, the trip is off to a good start! We’re enjoying the absolute quiet of the forest, fresh air, exercise and sunshine.
Now all I need is some internet service to post this!!!