Austin Adventures, pt 2

Hamilton Pool Nature Preserve – the pool

First location of the day: The Hamilton Pool Nature Preserve. I’d been wanting to check this place out since fall of last year. The pictures I’d seen online presented a jade colored pool covered by a flat cave mouth that extends out and over a portion of the pond. I didn’t expect to see much in the way of greenery, being that it’s the middle of winter, but still wanted to go check it out while I was here. I’m so happy I did! It was worth every minute of the trip to get there.

Hamilton Pool Nature Preserve – the pool

I’m planning on going back out in spring or fall to get follow up pics. I passed through the town of Bee Cave to get there, which was a cute little town that had me wondering if there was actually a cave full of mutant bees that the citizens of Bee Cave (pop. under 2000) would send out in buzzing clouds to destroy their enemies. I then had flash fantasies of apocalyptic bee attacks that this small band of economically able individuals would wreak on the surrounding areas and almost had to pull over to the side of the road to contain my glee.

Hamilton Pool Nature Preserve – the pool

The entrance fee for the park is $10, and they only accept cash. I was grateful that the park dude had change for a $20, but honestly would have given him the full $20 if he didn’t. There was no way I was driving out to this place TWICE and NOT seeing it. He was very friendly and helpful as well, which was a bonus. There have been catastrophic drought conditions in Texas over the last year so I didn’t expect to see much water, but there was a fair bit of it dripping from some of the stones. When there’s been heavier rainfall, a 50 foot waterfall splashes down into the pool and on the stones.

Hamilton Pool Nature Preserve – the trail

While it was about 70 or so when I arrived at the pool itself, I didn’t bother swimming. Getting changed into swimgear, then drying off, then getting dressed in dry clothes – it would’ve taken too much time. I’ll definitely dip in next time I visit, though. When I arrived at the pool, a very nice lady was there with her two kids on the little beach and they played quietly and respectfully.

coming up on a tight fit through the rocks

There’s a path through the cave itself that you can walk through that presents gorgeous vantage points of view. At one the rocks are very close together, so it’s kind of squeezy to get through. I also really liked all the ‘fuzzy trees’. There are small tufts of what look like balls of spanish moss throughout the branches. The guy at the main station explained that they were some kind of vermiliad. I took a pile of pictures and a couple of videos that you can find here.

Hamilton Pool Nature Preserve – on the trail

As I made it to the other side of the pool, a group of people in full, high quality looking Renaissance garb showed up and started walking around the beach. At first, I wondered if a LARP group was arriving, but it turned out to be the cast for a local movie that was filming. I think it was a student movie – there wasn’t a huge crew, but they were definitely setting up and I could hear the director talking about the shots he wanted to get.

I left them to do their thing – I didn’t want to get in the way, and started making my way over to the river, parts of which look almost like a bayou. I again encountered the woman and her kids, and had a friendly conversation in which she welcomed me to Texas and we talked a bit about the park. She told me that in the warmer months, it looks tropical with all the green ferns (that were currently sleeping and looked greyish). I decided to head back up to the van – it was getting to be 11am, and I wanted to get on the road to my next destination.

Natural Bridge Caverns – the bridge itself

Second location of the day: Natural Bridge Caverns – I took the Discovery Tour. It was our tour guide’s very first run as a tour guide, and he did very well. It was a really small group – there were six other people on the tour, so we got to go at our own pace, nice and slow. There was only one kid with the group, and he was very quiet and well behaved.

inside Natural Bridge Caverns

I made friends with one of the women that was getting her picture taken every four steps. She was very exciteable and her husband was very quiet, just nodding and taking pictures of everything. The caverns themselves are gorgeous, and at two spots on the tour, there was dripping water that I’d stand under, grinning. Took tons of pictures of this trip as well and you can see them here.

inside Natural Bridge Caverns

For some inexplicable reason, my flash wouldn’t work in the caves. Every time I tried to use it, the entire image just came out bright pink. Topside, however, flash worked fine. Funky.

Third location of the day: I’d always wanted to check one of those ‘Mystery Spots’ where ‘the laws of gravity don’t apply and water runs uphill’ and all that nonsense. RoadsideAmerica.com, my new best friend iPhone app, notified me of a Anti-Gravity house at a place called Wonder World in San Marcos, TX.

Wonder World – San Marcos, TX

I headed out there (the only reason I was able to do several hours of walking throughout the day was because I’d spend at least an hour in the car traveling between locations) Being that it was off-season, it was pretty much a ghost town. It was $20 for the tour, which included their cave – which was really kinda like a children’s attraction at a small theme park compared to the caverns I’d visited already, a trip from the cave in a small, rickety elevator up to their tower – THEN to the Anti-Gravity house, which was just a house canted at an extreme angle.

the cave at Wonder World

There really wasn’t much else to it. No furniture, no wierd crap inside – just…tilted. Oh, and nauseating. The people at Wonder World were really friendly and laid back (the chick that did the tour was awesome and super cute), and I did get their albino peacock to fluff his tailfeathers out for me. He was a preeny, gorgeous showoff. There was this little train ride at the end that I opted out of because I was running low on time, and when the train would go by, the peacock would start calling out. It was fairly surreal. Not worth $20 IMHO, though. Pics here.

the peacock at Wonder World  being very showy

I finally started heading back home, only to realize after an hour of driving that I also could’ve hit the cemetary featured in the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Ah, well – a destination for next time. 🙂 Somewhere on rt75 driving to McKinney, there was a small road fire. Just about the time I was wondering if somebody had called 911, a set of fire trucks were barrelling down the service road towards it. I figured that they were either on their way to handle it – and if not, they were close enough to see it and pull over to put it out. There were REALLY high winds last night, and things could have gotten out of control quickly, but it looked like the Texas Firefighters were on the job. Well done!

All in all – FANTASTIC weekend.

As an aside – to anybody out there that thinks that Texas is filled with inconsiderate idiot racist yokels that shoot everything, you’re SO off the mark. Since I’ve gotten here, people have been nothing but completely nice and utterly polite and accomodating. And it isn’t due to fear – I know the difference. 🙂 People have asked genuine (and not spiteful) questions about my hair, and I’ve gotten more honest compliments out here in Texas on my appearance than I ever did back in DC/VA/MD. I do miss mountains, however – and green grass. Apparently in winter, all the grass becomes this almost bone color. With the drought conditions, the grass has been bone colored for quite some time. Here’s hoping that there’s rain in the near future that doesn’t turn into flash flooding!

I’m here in Texas for another two weeks, then it’s off to Clewiston, Florida where I’ll be staying at an RV park for a month while I check out Key West and Miami. I’ll be posting details about that excursion once I get to Florida.

Advertisements

Up and packing – ready for a morning excursion out to Hamilton Pool Nature Preserve 🙂 Then depending on what time I swing back through Austin after that, I’ll decide whether I have the time to track down the Museum of the Wierd or to hike up Mount Bonnel in 80 degree heat. Definitely going to hit Natural Bridge Caverns and Stonehenge II on my way back north though 🙂

Austin Adventures, pt 1

A lot has transpired since my last post, and I haven’t really gotten my thoughts together about all of it. I’ve been staying with my brother and his family out in Texas since the end of November, and it’s been… really, intensely cool to spend the last month and a half or so with my niece and nephews. I had been delinquent in actually spending any time with my brother and his family, so I feel a great deal better at having had the time to do so. It’s been very healing and awesome.

So, this weekend, I decided to check out some of the offbeat things Texas had to offer on my way down to Austin.

First location of the day: the Munster Mansion in Waxahatchie, TX. It’s not actually AT 1313 Mockingbird Lane, which made actually finding it fairly difficult. Because it’s the private residence of Sandra and Charles McKee, I’ll simply refer you to their site for the house: http://www.munstermansion.com. I really need to go and check the place out when they open it up for Halloween. Unfortunately, because it was still early in the morning and I could only get shots from the road, the sun positioning presented an irritation to getting an actually decent looking shot of the place. There are bunches online, however.

Inner Space Caverns – the way down

Second location of the day: Inner Space Caverns – all the advertising states that this is the one of the best preserved caves in Texas. Our tour guide showed us the holes that the Texas Highway Department core drilling team made into the caverns in the spring of 1963. The cave system itself is gorgeous, and the company offers a ‘wild cave’ experience, where you can actually crawl through some of the parts of the cave that they’ve left as nature preserved them.

inside Inner Space Caverns

I don’t know what it is about caverns/caves, but I get a very mellow, happy vibe whenever I go through them. They fascinate me and make me HUGELY happy. I’ve always loved dark, creepy low lit places – that’s very likly it. 🙂 I was VERY thankful that the kids on the tour weren’t yelling or complaining loudly. Some of the other groups going through were kinda loud. I took as many pictures as I could and put them up on my Flicker account here.

inside Inner Space Caverns

I then headed out to the Hamilton Pool Nature Reserve, but had gotten there too late to spend any appreciable time there – so I’m going to head back out there tomorrow morning. The surrounding hills on the way out there are just spectacular, white dirt and wild cactus growing everywhere. Having been thwarted on my first visit, I headed back towards Austin to try to find the Museum of the Wierd, but ended up on the wrong end of 6th st where all the live music is. At this point, I was famished and a little shaky. A single hotdog does not a lunch make. After hooking up with a friend for dinner at a Chinese buffet and a strange outing to a local Family Dollar, I meandered to the hotel and am now holing up for the night.

We will see what tomorrow will bring.