On Valentine’s Day, I was sore with my husband. No, not sore AT him. We were sore together from hiking. Hiking was probably the last thing I expected to do on our day together, but we did and it was fabulous. Mark planned our Sunday together. We had already decided that just a little road trip around the area would be fun, no matter where it took us, but he planned it a lot further.
We started the day at Hamilton Pool, west of Austin toward Llano and the Hill Country. In our 10 years of being in Austin and hearing about it from the start, we had never been there before. I don’t have any pictures to post just yet, but after looking at some online, I don’t know that pictures can ever do it justice and show how large it is.
Hamilton Pool was formed when an underground river created a large cavern underground and then the surface caved in, leaving a big box canyon with a 50-foot waterfall. Mark had read online that it was a quarter-mile hike down to the pool so we wore appropriate shoes.
A quarter-mile sounds like a pretty easy little trek, even if it was described as a “hike.” But, man, hike it was! The first part of it is like descending a natural staircase with each step varying from 6 to 18 inches. There was a little bit of finding footing on rocks, too. Then, the trail gets more complicated. Slippery, muddy, wet rocks, steps, boulders continue on down to the pool. Then, a true staircase is built into the canyon wall, but even its metal steps were extra deep, not normal step length, and they, too, were wet, muddy, and slippery. We’ve also left the sun’s beams after we dropped below the canyon wall and it has gotten much chillier than the close-to-70 degree temperatures on the flatland above.
The pool is in sight now and it is a deep, mysterious green. I just read on line that it is 28 feet deep. And it isn’t all that wide so it is very dangerous. I know there have been drownings there since we’ve lived here. The creek is so high that the normal route from our hiking path to the “beach” by the pool is closed and we have to hike completely around the pool, under the overhang, to access the beach.
This part of the hike reminded me of Carlsbad Caverns because of the carved out overhang and theÂ stalactitesÂ that were forming even today. Looking up to the ceiling, water was dripping through the rock and creating icicles of stone. We circled the dome/pool and I was so surprised to see where the path got VERY narrow at the back. The collapsed rocks formed the left side of the trail and the wall of the cavern formed the right. To get through the tightest part, we had to turn sideways, lean over (hands on the collapsed rocks), and scooch our way through the gap. On the way back, we estimated that it was less than 18 inches. And there are no “you must be THIS skinny” signs at the beginning of the hike. Fortunately, we wedged our girth through it and were able to go on around to the beach and enjoy the sunshine again.
As we circled this cavern and squeezed through the gap, we were behind the amazing 50-foot waterfall. Spray was going everywhere and making everything wet and chilly. We pondered that that probably feels wonderful in the heat of the summer, but also expect that in the heat of the summer, that waterfall hardly exists.
Mark took more pictures from the beach and we did some people watching. There were about 35 people down there so it was very pleasant. Little children were throwing rocks into the pool. A very young couple were laying out a fabulous picnic for themselves. A bigger family sat around rocks and drank beer and laughed.
We turned back and again climbed rocks up to the trail around the cave, stuffed ourselves through the tiniest of gaps under the waterfall, climbed the slippery metal steps and headed up the trail. I was huffing and puffing well before we got to the tall natural steps that eventually took us up to the parking lot. We could feel our muscles protesting about the whole experience.
Oddly, I feel fine today and am not sore. Yes, we need to do that about every other day in order to not huff and puff so.
With muddy shoes and pant legs and hands, we moved on to the second part of our day. We were driving through some beautiful hill country, totally off the usual paths, and cutting through amazing ranch land where the road is narrow, windy, and cows slowed the process as they wandered across the road. At one point we saw a HUGE longhorn bull with a black and white coat. He was a beauty and was trotting straight toward us. There was fence there so we had no worries. And he was probably not trotting toward us as much as he was trotting away from some people that were in his pasture near a house.
When we left Austin it was bright and sunny and I had mentioned that the forecast called for some clouds. With the temperatures in the high 60s, Â it was a great “spring” day in February to be outside. As we crossed this ranch land, the skies were now full of clouds and Mark thought it might even rain on us. It had that feeling. I began to notice the trees whipping and the flags in front of majestic ranch houses standing at full attention.
Our next destination was a big old house that is a gift shop and cactus store. We stopped there last summer on our way home from the Cunningham reunion and bought some beautiful things. Some of those beautiful things were destroyed by the freeze last month, so I was back for more. We got out of the car and realized just how cold it had gotten. The thermometer showed it had dropped over 20 degrees since we had been at Hamilton Pool. It was COLD.
We shopped the gift shop and braved the cold again to get out to the greenhouse and found another plant like I bought last summer. I had posted a picture of it then. It was a plant my grandmother used to grow. The one I had in the summer was full and lush. This one looks like it had its share of cold weather, too, but wasn’t frozen solid, at least. I’m sure it will get lush and full when spring really is here (if I keep it off the porch until spring really is here).
Mark’s well laid out plan had us going to Opie’s BBQ next on the trip. I talked him into going to R.O. Outpost. I had heard they had amazing chicken fried steaks. My error was that Mark is conscientious and had made his plan with great attention to detail. My plan was “hey, let’s do this!” We got to R.O.’s and it was closed. Opie’s was now far behind us. So we forged on, back toward Austin, and considered going home and eating a sandwich. As we got back into “city” at 620 and 71, I saw the Springhill Catfish Restaurant. Mark had never eaten at it and I had never eaten at this one, so we stopped and stuffed ourselves on catfish, oysters, shrimp, and hushpuppies. It was delicious.
Stuffed, happy, and COLD, we rushed on home, turned up the heater and had a good Sunday nap. We both agreed it was probably the best Valentine’s Day we had ever had. Of course, it’s hard to have a perfect Valentine’s Day without the perfect Valentine, and I am especially grateful that somehow Mark managed to find me in this big world.