Four years ago, Christian and I met in Madrid, Spain. We were both working for Putney Student Travel at that time. At first glance, sparks flew and birds chirped, and that was the end of our single lives. When we parted ways in the Madrid airport in August 2007, we had already made plans for my visit to Austin — then his hometown, and soon to be mine.
Upon arriving in Austin, the first thing that Christian did was whisk me away to historic Mt. Bonnell. We “climbed” to the top — it’s only 780 feet above sea level — and shared a picnic as we admired the gorgeous view of the Austin skyline on a warm October afternoon.
It seems fitting then that four years and one wedding later, Christian and I visited Mt. Bonnell on our last day in Austin. (As I type, we are driving to Richmond, VA, where we will teach Spanish at St. Christopher’s and St. Catherine’s schools.) This time we made the climb on a hot July afternoon without a picnic in tow. But the view was still as spectacular as ever. Farewell Austin, we will miss you.
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Yesterday we hiked the Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve – a natural preserve East of Hwy 360, South of Westlake Dr, and North of Bee Caves Rd. To put it mildly, the preserve was spectacular! The trails, though short, were well maintained, and the grounds were well mapped and marked. The overlooks provided gorgeous views of the surrounding Westlake area, with only minimal interruptions from neighboring McMansions.
There was even a “waterfall” and some very challenging uphill climbs. Sarah was reminded of the “Notch” hike in Western Massachusetts that she and her Amherst classmates used to climb on sunny days and starry nights. According to the Wild Basin website, the preserve was established thanks to the efforts of seven “little old ladies in tennis shoes.” Thank you L.O.L.’s!
A man who's about to mess up some brisket
And how better to follow up a morning hike than with a gut-bomb BBQ lunch? Initially, we tried to eat at JR’s Texas-style BBQ on Rosewood and Chicon, but the sign listed “sold out” at noon. Either their BBQ was THAT good, or “sold out” was simply a euphemism for “We didn’t feel like working today.” So, we moseyed on down the road to Franklin BBQ at East 11th St. It must have been the hand of God that steered us in the right direction that day, because both of us agreed that Franklin BBQ was hands down the BEST barbecue we’ve ever tasted. And this is coming from a die hard brisket critic (Christian) and a not-so-big-of-a-fan-of-Texas-BBQ (Sarah). We split the brisket and sausage plates.
Sausage = 8.1 out of 10 (not too salty, good texture, nice “pop” feel when we bit into it, good smokey, spicy flavor). Brisket = 10 out of 10 (MEAT. CANDY.). That’s right folks…you read that correctly, MEAT. CANDY. The best darn crust on a brisket we’ve ever tasted. No sauce necessary. Tender and super moist. Delish. As one customer standing in line behind us put it… “I’ve never seen white boys make barbecue like this before. What planet are y’all from?”
Another satisfied customer!
Yesterday afternoon we set out to hike the Bull Creek Preserve (map) – part of the greater Balcones Canyonlands Preserve (map). Upon arriving at the trail head, we noticed that a sign had been posted that the preserve could be accessed only by permit from March 1st through July 31st. Puzzled, Sarah picked up her cell phone and called the number on the sign. Amanda Ross, the Conservation Program Coordinator, informed her that the City of Austin now issues just 80 permits a year (the application process begins in January) to hikers wanting access to the preserve. Among the various reasons that the City limits access to the precious tract of land is because it’s home to nesting Golden-Cheeked Warblers and Black-Capped Vireos – two migratory tropical songbirds, both of which are on the Endangered Species list. In order to obtain a permit, we must enroll in a brief course with a biologist who would instruct us how to avoid disturbing the nesting birds and their fragile habitat.
Golden-Cheeked Warbler - Photo by John Ingram
Black-Capped Vireo - Photo by John Ingram
Thankfully, the beautiful sunny day was not wasted. Even though we weren’t able to enter, we skirted around the preserve, following the Bull Creek Greenbelt which borders the protected canyonlands. Below are some of the photos we took along the way…
Filed under Austin, Hiking