TWO Ultimate Fall Color Road Trips

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It’s fall and you’ve been seeing pictures of wondrous places all around the country with fiery orange and candy-apple red leaves blanketing the tops of the trees. You’re probably feeling discouraged as you look at the green leaves or bare trees around you — thinking that your dear ol’ Lone Star State doesn’t have colorful fall foliage. You may even be planning a trip to New England for a little fall beauty.

However, Texas does, in fact, have some of the most picturesque fall foliage in the country if you know where to look. So here’s TWO Ultimate Fall Color Road Trips (one in the Hill Country and one in East Texas) to give you all the brightly colored leaves and fall foliage fun your heart desires!

Here’s a little tip before you get started: Fall is a fickle creature. In Texas, fall foliage usually hits peak around the middle of November to the beginning of December, but even so, when fall color starts showing and how much there is depends on the yearly rainfall, as well as other factors. So to make sure you’ll get peak red and orange beauty, call ahead to the parks you’re interested in or check their website to see what the color is like.

Hill Country Trip

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Autumn beauty along the Frio River in Concan, TX. (Hill Country River Region/ visituvalde.com)

hill-country-route Route: Vanderpool, TX to Concan, TX 

Destinations: On this trip, you’ll be trippin’ through some of the tallest peaks of the Hill Country.  Your trip starts in the Lost Maples State Natural Area, one of the most beautiful spots to see fall color in the entire state. For the best view of the fall foliage, take the Maple Trail. Surrounded by fiery red and bright orange Uvalde bigtooth maples, you’ll feel like you’re in New England. Next, you’ll drive into Utopia to dine at Lost Maples Cafe, which was featured in the movie “Seven Days in Utopia,” and serves each plate of breakfast with a mason jar of fresh salsa. Be sure to take a slice of freshly baked pie to go.

You’ll take Ranch Road 1050 out of town for a scenic drive over the serene Sabinal River and through the fall-colored trees covering the surrounding hills, until you reach Garner State Park. At the park, you’ll see beautiful red Bald cypress trees tower over the crystal waters of the Frio River. For a peek at Old Baldy without paying to enter the park, head to Magers River Crossing (one of the best kept Hill Country secrets) where the Frio trickles over County Road 350, a canopy of colorful trees provides shade and the majestic mountain is in full view in the distance. Find the full map here and the Lost Maples Foliage Report here.

And here’s a trip tip: If the fall beauty is too breathtaking to enjoy for just a day, make reservations to stay the night at the River Rim Resort in Concan. Just miles away from Garner State Park and Magers River Crossing, this resort provides amazing cabins, cottages and lodges with access to the stunning Frio River.

East Texas Trip

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Fall Color along the trails in Tyler State Park.

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Route: Daingerfield, TX to Jacksonville, TX

Destinations: Take a journey through East Texas for fall color mixed with the deep green towering pines in this area. Starting at Daingerfield State Park, hike the Rustling Leaves Nature Trail to see the oak, maple and sweetgum trees reflecting in Lake Daingerfield like a gold and red watercolor painting. Next, you’re on to Lake Bob Sandlin State Park, which is also an East Texas trove of fall foliage as patches of red and orange pop up in the greenery around the lake.

Take Highway 37 for a scenic drive through part of the Autumn Trails of Winnsboro, TX, where they’ve been hosting a fall foliage festival since 1958. Next you’re on to see trails surrounded by reds, golds and oranges in Tyler State Park and the famous Tyler roses at the Tyler Rose Garden Center.  If your stomach’s growling, stop by Coyote Sam’s Bar and Grille in Tyler for a Kobe burger so mouthwatering, it made Texas Monthly’s Top 50 Burgers List. Your last stop is at Love’s Lookout in Jacksonville, which — though small — provides a stunning bird’s eye view of the East Texas countryside. Find the full map here

Here’s another tip: If you’re yearning to see even more fall beauty, continue on through Rusk, TX and then to Mission Tejas State Park in Grapeland, for just a bit more foliage combined with Texas history.

For more road trips, CLICK HERE.

Explore Texas: 13 Stunning Nature Parks

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From giant canyons and towering mountains to majestic sand dunes and intriguing caves, Texas is home to a wide range of natural wonders and you never have to travel far to find them. To celebrate the beauty of this great state and help you discover the awe-inspiring landscapes of Texas, here is a list of 13 State and National Parks. Now go explore!

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

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About 60 miles north of Van Horn, TX, you’ll find the tallest peak in Texas! Atop Guadalupe Peak, which sits 8,749 ft. in the sky, you’ll get the best view of Texas for miles and miles around. The trek to the top of the peak covers a grueling 8 miles and can take 6-8 hours to complete, but it’s worth it once you reach the top (watch our trek here). For those who can’t make this hike, there are tons of other things to do at this national park including birding, hiking (they’ve got over 80 miles of trails – including handicap-accessible trails) and backpacking!

Lost Maples State Natural Area

When the nights get longer and the leaves start turning in October and November, the place you need to be is at Lost Maples State Natural Area in Vanderpool, TX. At Lost Maples, you can hike along the limestone of the Edwards Plateau and bubbling Sabinal River surrounded by the breathtaking bright orange and red fall foliage in the maples around the trails. Be sure to check the Fall Foliage Report before you arrive.

Caprock Canyons State Park

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Texas is not flat (which you already know if you’ve watched our Turkey, TX episode), and at the Caprock Canyons State Park, you can roam massive, rocky, red-orange canyons. The Caprock Canyons, as well as Palo Duro Canyon in Amarillo, are a part of the Llano Estacado where the flat Texas land dips into gorgeous canyons. As you explore this rugged terrain, you might just spot the Official Texas State Bison Herd, direct descendants of the preservation herd Charles Goodnight started in 1878. It’s also a great place to horseback ride, mountain bike, fish and, of course, feel like you’re a cowboy in an old Western film! 

Blanco State Park

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In Blanco State Park exists one of the most underrated swimming holes in Texas, The Blanco River. The calming blue waters flow right through the middle of this park and cascade into dozens of waterfalls over the dam, making it the perfect spot to cool off on a hot summer day or fish for trout or bass when the weather is too cold for a swim. There are also great nature trails for hiking along the river. View our time at this park here.

Big Bend National Park

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Big Bend National Park sits on the northern end of the Chihuahuan Desert right next to the border of Mexico and near Terlingua,TX, It includes the Chisos Mountains with the tallest point, Emory Peak reaching up to 8,000 ft. There are so many stunning sights to see in this park like the famous Balanced Rock, a giant boulder balancing atop two stones, or the Santa Elena Canyon, a 1,500 ft. limestone canyon towering majestically over the gently rolling Rio Grande. Big Bend National Park is the perfect place for hiking, mountain biking and backpacking as it is the largest expanse of roadless land in Texas, but they also have scenic drives ranging from smooth, paved roads to primitive, dirt roads for those that prefer to drive. Check out this view from atop the South Rim.

Monahans Sandhills State Park

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The Monahans Sandhills State Park looks more like it belongs in the Middle East rather than the middle of West Texas in Monahans, TX. You can explore the miles of ever-changing sand dunes on foot or by renting a sled at the park office for “sand surfing.” At the visitor’s center, there are also hands-on activities for children and windows overlooking a waterhole for observing wildlife. Check out our time at the park here.

Palo Duro Canyon State Park

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Palo Duro Canyon in Canyon, TX is the second largest canyon in the United States (the Grand Canyon being the largest) and a must-see spot for every Texan. As a part of the Llano Estacado, Palo Duro contains rocky ridges that plunge down 800 ft. into  beautiful canyons and rivers. (Check out our time at the canyon here!) The park has over 30 trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding through the colorful canyon and contains a variety of wildlife that only call Palo Duro Canyon home like the Palo Duro Mouse and part of the Official State Longhorn Herd. And don’t miss the famous Lighthouse rock formation! While you’re near Amarillo, check out the Historic Route 66!

Mustang Island State Park

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There’s nothing better than a State Park that you can make a splash in! And at Mustang Island State Park in Port Aransas, TX, there are miles and miles of open beach where you can swim, float or even build a sandcastle! If you’d rather explore than splash, paddle the Mustang Island Paddling Trail - the 20 miles of trails pass through waters that are great for birding and fishing. Either way, enjoy some good ol’ fun in the sun!

Davis Mountains State Park

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For an amazing view of Fort Davis, TX and the surrounding town, visit Davis Mountains State Park where you can hike or bike this West Texas mountain range that was formed by volcanic activity over 25 million years ago (you can see our time at the park here). Check out the epic sights like Frazier Canyon and The Sleeping Lion formation. Also in this mountain range is Baldy Peak, the fourth tallest peak in Texas at 8,379 ft. And if mountain climbing isn’t your thing, you can also stargaze at the McDonald Observatory or explore the Indian Lodge which was built in the 1930s and is still serving guests as a hotel.

Caddo Lake State Park

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Caddo Lake, in Jefferson, TX, is one of the most eerily beautiful sights in Texas. Don’t come expecting wide expanses of blue sky and open lake waters because Caddo Lake is actually more of a swamp that sits along the Cypress Bayou where you’ll find watery lanes slowly twisting and turning through thickets of tall Bald Cypress Trees and marshy backlands. The whole sight is awe-inspiring. Caddo Lake is a great place for fishing (the 26,000-acre lake contains over 70 species of fish), paddling and just admiring the East Texas wildlife.

Old Tunnel State Park

This State Park in Fredericksburg is one of the strangest in Texas. The park, which is the smallest State Park in Texas, features a cave that was built by Fredericksburg residents in 1913 to provide a faster trade route to San Antonio and ran until the 1940s. In 2012, Texas Parks and Wildlife discovered the abandoned railroad tunnel housed a colony of over 3 million Mexican free-tailed bats, and bought the land to preserve the colony. The park is open nightly May – October so visitors can watch the bats fly out of the cave in search of food. There is also a half-mile nature trail where you can view the various wildlife that call this habitat home.

Brazos Bend State Park

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At this State Park that is called “The Home of the American Alligator,” you can get up close and personal with gators. Brazos Bend contains 5,000 acres of diverse ecosystems like forests, wetlands, swamps and coastal prairies. Throughout the park, you’ll find animals like Armadillos and American Alligators living in their natural habitat. Activities provided by the park include self-guided and guided nature tours, hands-on exhibits about wildlife at the Nature Center and fishing.

Longhorn Caverns State Park

The cavern was formed by an underground river meaning it has smooth, carved stone instead of stalactites and stalagmites. One room is full of colorful crystals! Yet, the Longhorn Caverns State Park’s human history is just as amazing as it’s natural features. The largest rooms have been Indian tribal council rooms, a speakeasy, a church and more! Legend holds that famous outlaw Sam Bass buried treasure in these caves and  LBJ had an emergency bomb shelter. Spend the day exploring the caverns and uncovering history on one of their many guided tours

The ULTIMATE Swimmin’ Holes Road Trip!!

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Texas is HOT no matter the season, but especially in the summer. It’s a fact that every Texan must come to accept. Thankfully, God had the great foresight to give us the perfect remedy for scorching heat: the swimmin’ hole. That’s right, when the sun gets to sweltering, us Texans get to swimmin’. So to make sure you get your fill of cool, natural waters this summer, we’ve created the ULTIMATE Texas Swimmin’ Holes Road Trip. Grab your swimsuits, pack your sack lunch and get to splashing in these Hill Country hot spots!

HERE’S THE MAP

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1. Barton Springs Pool – Austin, TX

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Now, your first stop will be in Austin, TX and though there’s alot you could do in this town to “Keep Austin Weird,” we’re really only concerned with keeping you cooled off. Right in the middle of this city is an urban oasis at Barton Springs Pool with refreshingly cold waters of 68 degrees year round. And while you’re here, be sure to say “hello” to the endangered Barton Springs Salamander swimming around your ankles. Click here to see our video about Barton Springs.

2. Blue Hole – Wimberley, TX

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When you’ve had your fill of city fun, head southwest to Blue Hole in Wimberley, TX, a quaint swimmin’ hole that’s part of Cypress Creek. This swimmin’ hole is surrounded by towering trees which make for some awesome rope swinging. You could definitely spend the rest of your day just hanging around Blue Hole, but when you’re ready for more Texas-style summer fun, pack up and head to one of the most picturesque swimmin’ holes in Texas. Click here for our video at Blue Hole.

3. Hamilton Pool – Dripping Springs, TX

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At this point, you may be a little weary of the sun beating down on you, which is why the next stop is Hamilton Pool in Dripping Springs, TX. This pool is partially covered by a massive limestone grotto making it a great place to float in the shade and get drenched by the waterfalls cascading off the cliffs –  all while taking tons of pictures to make all your non-roadtrippin’ friends jealous. Sit back with your sack lunch and enjoy a picnic on the shores of Hamilton Pool because this awesome road trip is only halfway through. To see our video of Hamilton Pool, click here.

4. Krause Springs – Spicewood, TX

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The fourth stop on your road trip is Krause Springs in Spicewood, TX, which is Texas beauty at it’s best. Underneath a canopy of luscious green trees, you’ll find a refreshing pool fed by 32 natural springs keeping the waters cold and you happily soaked. And you can take your pick between man-made, spring-fed pool or natural swimmin’ hole. There are even caves and waterfalls for exploring along the banks and an awesome rope swing to keep you entertained. Click here to see our video at Krause Springs.

5. Devil’s Waterhole – Burnet, TX

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After you’ve floated all you can float, head to Inks Lake State Park in Burnet, TX for a more adventurous swimmin’ hole, the Devil’s Waterhole. It’s easy to see that the spot’s nickname came from the pink granite cliffs that tower over the lake, inviting those who are brave enough to take the plunge into the cold waters 40 feet below. And if jumping from daring heights ain’t your thing, no worries — there’s still plenty of fresh water for floating and relaxing down below. Click here to see our video at the Devil’s Waterhole.

6. Blue Hole – Georgetown, TX

A photo posted by Chet Garner (@chettripper) on

The last swimming spot on your road trip is the Blue Hole in Georgetown, TX. While the swimming hole is still inside city limits, this town’s got a laid back pace, making it the perfect way to end your day. Take a dip in the San Gabriel River or just layout on the grassy banks and watch as the sun sets above you, letting your summer day slowly come to an end.  And if you start getting hungry again, we suggest that you travel on up the hill to the Monument Cafe for a warm home-cooked meal and a slice of pie that will definitely hit the spot after a day of fun.

Congratulations, you’ve officially swam, splashed and sun-bathed your way through the ULTIMATE Swimmin’ Holes Road Trip…now wake up and repeat for an epic summer!

The ULTIMATE Bluebonnet Road Trip

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It’s the time of year when wildflowers are popping up all over the countryside painting Texas in shades of red, blue, yellow and white. Here at “The Daytripper” we respect the beauty of all wildflowers, but because we’re Texan, we must say the bluebonnet is the best (it is our state wildflower after all). So, to make sure you get your fill of bluebonnet beauty, we’ve planned the Ultimate Bluebonnet Road Trip through the heart of the Hill Country.

Here’s the map…

Wildflower Road Route

First, you’re going to start in Burnet, TX as Burnet County is the “Official Bluebonnet Co-Capital of Texas.”  Here you’ll drive through rolling hills with bluebonnets bursting along the highways. While you’re in town, don’t miss the photo op with this awesome giant bluebonnet sculpture.  bluebonnet

Next, take Highway 29 west into your second stop - Llano, TX, the heart of Llano County which is the other “Official Bluebonnet Co-Capital of Texas.” You’ll see more beautiful hill country granite and more beautiful shades of blue.

Your third destination is a detour through the Willow City Loop which is a 13-mile scenic drive that will take you through creeks and hills all sprinkled with bluebonnets and wildflowers. The land surrounding the road is private so just enjoy the scenery from your car. To get there from Llano, head south on State Highway 16 and turn left onto Willow City Loop.  Follow this road through twists and turns until you hit Farm Road 1323, then take a right toward Willow City, TX. This road will take you back to State Highway 16.

By this time, you’ll probably be starving for lunch. Just down State Highway 16 is the Knot in the Loop Saloon where you can dine on burgers and sip a cold one while the jukebox plays old tunes.

IMG_0380After lunch, jump back on Highway 16 south into Fredericksburg, TX, where you’re sure to see tons of beautiful flowers and plenty of fun distractions. In Fredericksburg, hop onto US Highway 290 East and ride it through the 290 wine trail all the way to Johnson City, TX.  After that, follow US Highway 281 North to Marble Falls, TX and you’ll be just in time for Pie Happy Hour at The Blue Bonnet Cafe where you can get a slice of historic pie and your drink of choice for $4.  This will be the happiest happy hour ever.

Finish the trip by traveling up 281 back to Burnet, TX.  And you my friends have just taken the ULTIMATE BLUEBONNET ROAD TRIP through the Hill Country.

 

DogTrippers on South Congress

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002Howdy Daytrippers.  We’re Mason and Lexi, the latest addition to The Daytripper Blog.  Just call us the Dogtrippers.  Chet asked us to travel the state, looking for the best destinations for “Man’s Best Friend.”  For our first travel installment, we wanna show you how to explore our hometown of Austin, but on 4 legs instead of 2.

For a place that’s happy to kennel both dogs and their humans, check in to the Hotel San Jose on South Congress.

The rooms all face outdoors (no early morning elevator rides to attend to “business”), and there are plenty of places to explore and relax outside the rooms.  They charge a very reasonable dog fee of $10/night.

Staying here, we were right in the heart of the South Congress District.  Many of the shops are dog-friendly and some even keep a treat jar hidden behind the counter.  Just make sure to look extra cute.  There’s a reason you’ve got a puppy dog face – use it.  Also, most of the restaurants have outdoor seating and are happy to bring out a bowl of water for well-behaved pups.

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Of course, after a busy morning and lunch, we decided to head back to the hotel for some much deserved napping.

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Now no dog-trip (or any trip for that matter) to Austin would be complete without heading to Zilker Park and Lady Bird Lake.

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Zilker’s “Great Lawn” offers plenty of room for off-leash exploring. The nearby Hike and Bike Trail is another great way to explore the city with your owner.

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And if you’re tired of just admiring the lake from the land, head over to Zilker Park Boat Rentals for some on-the-water adventure.

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None of the life jackets fit us, but oh well.  Luckily our owners were decent paddlers and we never had to swim.  Although we were tempted to jump out and start chasing some ducks.

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There is plenty of wildlife to check out as you paddle down Barton Creek and onto Lady Bird Lake.

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Finally, our owners were hungry for dinner and there are tons of places in town that practically encourage doggy dining.  In East Austin, Silo or Takoba are both great for pets.  And for one of the most family-friendly and dog-friendly places in Texas, head to Freddie’s Place on South First.  But for a great outdoor biergarten with its very own fenced-off dog run, we headed to Banger’s Sausage House in the Rainey Street District.  Our humans were so busy enjoying house-made sausages and their expansive beer selection, they never noticed their phone was missing.

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As you see, there are tons of places in Austin that both pups and people can enjoy.   After all, doggies love day trips too.  Until next time, we’ll see you on the road!  Vaya con Perros.

Guest Post by: Will Garner, Mason and Lexi

A Much Needed Lakeway Getaway

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Every so often I get the urge to stay somewhere longer than a day (hard to believe, right?).  So with the Season 2 in the books and a brief window before Season 3 hit with hurricane-force winds, my wife and I snuck away to the Lakeway Resort and Spa on Lake Travis.

I’d always heard tale of the resort, but it’s secluded location kept it far from my travels.  It’s one of those place you’d never pass by unless you were intentionally passing by.  Which, I think, is the definition of a getaway.

Somewhere between the incredible views of Lake Travis, complimentary lemonade all over the place, multiple swimming pools, massage, and Dr. Pepper-fried quail, I was able to cram what felt like a week’s worth of relaxation into a single overnight trip.  We had an excellent time.  I mean truly, truly relaxing.

Our kids would have eaten this place up too, but sometimes you just gotta leave them at home.

So if you’re looking for more of a Weekend-tripper type of location, romantic getaway, or launchpad for seeing Austin and the Texas Hill Country, Lakeway Resort and Spa is highly recommended.

http://www.lakewayresortandspa.com/ 

Here are some other pictures…Lakeway ResortLakeway Resort

This sandwich was AWESOME.  It was turkey with brie cheese, cucumbers, and sprouts.  I’m surprised I’d never had the combination before.  I know, I know, you don’t expect The Daytripper to recommend something with brie and cucumbers on it, but Trust Me on this one.Lakeway Sandwich

And here is the Dr. Pepper-fried quail.  That is a honey-butter drizzle all over it and a blue cheese potato salad underneath it.Dr. Pepper QuailLakeway RoomLakeway ViewLakeway Wine

Daytripper Disclaimer:  Sometimes I receive free stuff and sometimes I pay for stuff.  Either way, it NEVER influences what I say, what I put on the TV show, and what I put on this website.  NEVER EVER EVER.

Barton Springs vs. Barton Creek

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So, you may have seen our recent South Austin episode featuring the iconic Barton Springs pool. Well, it looks like the episode has inspired some folks to get out and dive into the spring’s icy waters….

If you didn’t already know, there’s a great blog here in Austin called “Free Fun in Austin.”  It is an excellent source of information for families about all the great stuff there is to do in and around Austin.  I’m a fan, but more importantly as the social coordinator for my family, my wife is a fan.

Well, it looks like after the South Austin episode, blogger Heidi’s arm got twisted to finally take a trip to Barton Springs as opposed to heading toward the free Barton Creek.  So, which is better for families?  CLICK HERE to read more and find out.Free Fun in Austin

Central Texas Lightning Storm

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This past Saturday night, April 23, 2011, an incredible lightning storm rolled across Central Texas.  I had the camera rolling…

I’ve seen a lot of lightning storms, but never one quite like this.  It was a continuous fireworks show.  I had my camera close by, so I starting recording.  Here is a short video, but as you can imagine, things like this just don’t really translate to film. Still, it’s pretty impressive.

The Waterfalls of Texas

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A couple weeks back I took a trip to Lake Buchanan, one of Texas’s beautiful Highland Lakes.  Here are some of the photos we snagged.  ALSO – I’ve recently received the privilege of blogging for JanSport.  You can read more about my trip to Lake Buchanan on their BE OUTDOORS BLOG.  Enjoy the pics.

Also – special thanks to Buchanan Adventure Tours for hooking us up with the kayak.Chet kayakingChet kayakingChet kayaking under waterfallChet kayaking under waterfall