As a child my family lived in several places, so I called such distinctive locales as Phoenix, Arizona, St. Paul, Minnesota and Atlanta, Georgia home. Lucky for me my geographic and metaphoric constant resided in my mother’s hometown of Kerrville, Texas. I spent many a Christmas and summer vacation at my grandparents’ home in the Hill Country.
Last weekend I somewhat reluctantly returned to the Hill Country. Honestly, after my last trip there in January for my step-father’s funeral, I was hesitant about the visit. It had been so dry, frigid and bleak, worsened by the shocking confirmation of the rumors that I had heard about Live Oak wilt. The spectacular live oaks
gracing the countryside were dying due to a fungus.
The dead and dying trees distressed me so much I couldn’t photograph them. (I pulled the above off the internet).
Happily I can report that the Hill Country has rebounded, and I am proud to show off what makes it a beloved destination.
Where is the Hill Country?
The Hill Country is a geographic square, with Austin at the northeast corner, San Antonio at the southeast, Bandera at the southwest, and Harper at the northwest corner. Kerrville is north of Bandera, and Fredericksburg is east of Harper.
Its rolling hills, broad vistas, laid back ranch culture and agreeable weather (for Texas) make it popular and is featured regularly in Southern Living and Garden and Gun as a result. Perhaps you remember Waylon Jennings’ song Luckenbach, Texas? It’s in the Hill Country. Enid Collins bags? They originated in Fredericksburg. Camp Longhorn? Burnet. James Avery jewelry? Headquartered in Kerrville. I can’t help but believe the natural beauty of the region inspires creativity.
So why visit the Hill Country?
Hills, Live Oaks and Wildflowers
The rolling hills,
Live Oak trees
and wildflowers in the spring
distinguish the Hill Country from the rest of Texas (it’s the pretty part!).
Truly I cannot get enough of it. This year the endless and destructive rains in Texas yielded the greenest terrain I’ve seen in these parts.
The Hill Country was settled by German immigrants in the mid-1800’s. From proper names
to restaurant cuisine
to numerous beer gardens,
you feel the Teutonic influence.
Situated on the banks of the Guadalupe River, Kerrville is the county seat of Kerr County. Compared to Fredericksburg (where the above photos were taken), Kerrville is an authentic (non-touristy) hamlet.
The Guadalupe is its chief asset. The Louis Hays Park is a lovely and accessible (not to mention free admission) way to experience the river.
The Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library downtown is situated on the north bank of the river
and boasts enviable views of the river from its upper floors. This library was my godsend as a child when I got bored at grandma’s house; I spent hours whiling away the tedium searching for my next good read.
James Avery Jewelry
James Avery Jewelry was founded in Kerrville in 1954. As a child I would save up my precious pennies for a trip to the factory to buy a charm or earrings. Today that small outpost has grown to a full-on destination with a visitor center
and picnic shelter
The Schreiner Influence
Charles Schriener, a wealthy rancher, merchant and banker in the late 1800’s, left his mark on Kerrville, forming the Schreiner Institute (now Schreiner College), establishing a bank and opening a department store in downtown Kerrville. He and his family built stunning mansions, including this one I have long admired which now serves as the club house for the Riverhill Country Club.
Up the river from Kerrville on route 39 is Hunt.
A general store with a cafe serves the surrounding residents. Mostly one comes to Hunt to shuttle kiddos to the numerous summer camps dotting the Guadalupe,
to enjoy one of the most scenic drives in the land
or to wade in the gentle waters of the river.
Growing up we made the 27-mile drive from Kerrville to Fredericksburg for three reasons: cheap gasoline, fresh peaches and Enid Collins bags. Today, the main drag of Fredericksburg is a festive street of shops, restaurants, beer gardens and galleries. I make a point to pop into Whistle Pik Galleries
to scout the latest in Hill Country landscape art. Whistle Pik represents the best artists and sculptors who depict the natural beauty of Texas. Although Enid Collins is defunct and cheap gas is plentiful, peaches are still the best crop in Fredericksburg!
Bluebonnets and Boots
For all the years I’ve journeyed to Kerrville, this is the first time I’ve seen the renowned bluebonnets. May is the tail-end of the season, but I saw enough to satiate.
Yes, Western boots are ubiquitous. Whether in San Antonio,
40-foot tall boots at North Star Mall
the cowboy boot symbolizes the Hill Country heritage.
Have I tempted you to plan a trip? If you’ve traveled out there, and I know a number of posse pals who have, what’s your favorite part of the Hill Country?
May 12, 2016