Tranquil times in Texas Hill Country on the heels of time in crowded Austin. After shedding some unwanted new friends, I enjoyed a tranquil place to sleep, great yoga, a pristine river, a few rides with locals, and even a gourmet food delivery in a glass jar.
The delightful experiences with food and entertainment I had in Austin had finished on a flat note with a walk among its grim morning traffic. Grateful for the comforts of a bus (even if it was a bit late), I was quickly whisked down Interstate 35 and dropped into a pleasingly quiet San Marcos.
I had tried too late to book with Greyhound in Austin (only 2 bus runs per day, more of a city bus type trip really being only 35-40min. away), so instead I was on a Tornado Bus. Mostly Spanish speaking clientele, so the bus stopped in the parking lot of a Mexican restaurant in San Marcos to give easy access for a food break for those riding on much farther down I-35:
Just as I would do in a forest with no definitive trail to follow, I found the nearest water course and trusted it to lead me to civilization:
The bus stop was just off the highway (per usual convenient for the bus but not the passenger) so I had a bit of a wander to get into San Marcos proper. Turns out if I had booked sooner before the Greyhound run sold out I would have had a more central drop off:
My march into town was slowed by an anxiously inquisitve homeless man. He saw me taking pictures from across the street....and then ran over with little regard for traffic to quickly approach me from behind. He peppered me with suspicious toned questions…while I just kept walking. I didn’t feel safe, so I went into the first public place I saw, the Greyhound station, so as not to be alone with him.
I took a seat in the waiting area. He sat down directly across. After he was sitting for a few minutes and rehashing some of the same questions about me he had, he finally lost interest and stepped outside to make a phone call. I bolted out the other door and sped into downtown as fast as my legs could carry me without running.
A few nervous glances behind me for my homeless stalker came up empty and soon I was in the historic, wholesome town square. I felt safe finally.
I slowed down to take in the local businesses. I was ultimately on the hunt for food stuffs. My next 2 nights were booked at an Airbnb RV in the quiet hills outside town, so I needed to stock up.
I gave a local health food store a long look, but ultimately I had to settle for a big box store to meet my needs. I always get a little lost in sprawling supermarkets with their eclectic layouts. Things were no different at the H-E-B:
So the stuff I really needed that the smaller health store lacked were bread, affordable cheese and some friggin' Nutella. I got'em all and didn't even leave the store before tearing into my stash. I sat alone in one of those sad, empty sit down areas; under a flatscreen showing daytime talk shows. I also got some yogurt and some peanut butter, laid it all out buffet style while being careful to not spray breadcrumbs too far around.
Satiated and aware of the 6 mile walk ahead of me to get to my RV, I headed back out into the late day sun. I had to run across a few traffic nightmare roads swollen with what must have been end of work traffic. Took longer and smelled worse than I expected to get out to the northeast corner of town. The instantly charming, lightly trafficked two lane Lime Kiln Road stretched out narrowly but alluringly into the distance.
I soon found I wasn't the only person recreating on this lovely stretch of road. There was some serious fitness training going down that put me and my hike with a now 25 pound backpack to shame:
The pastoral and uniquely Texas Hill Country scenery started to unfold.
There was a small amount of traffic on the road dying down by the mile. Eventually just a few school buses, few pickups:
It was very quiet and still as I turned off the main road onto residential lanes. The low winter sun was setting behind me:
Another unsolicited walking companion came up from behind me suddenly! What was with this town?! This time it was an elderly man buzzing up alongside me on a motorized scooter. Figuring that he was concerned with me camping illegally, I assured him I was staying indoors at a residence just down the road. I never broke stride and carried on marching to my air bnb.
The nosy neighbor gave way to the welcoming, adorable pet in the next yard:
The sun had set and it was getting eerily quiet. A hint of moisture crept into the crisp air. The road stretched on and I was beginning to wonder when I would finally find my spot for the night. It had to be close, but there just wasn't much left on this road.
What was around on this stretch of road was strange. There was a group of silver toned older cars parked together and not much else:
Finally a mail box and a sign. I had found my spot. Tucked a short walk back into some trees was a well appointed RV:
Too cold for sitting out on the deck, so I cozied up to the tv and dug into my groceries. LOTS of religious channels on offer. I settled on the Escape Network, however, cuz Forensic Files was on!
I had stumbled upon a real corker of an episode. Poisoning Daddy, the story of a deranged teenage girl from Fort Worth, Texas:
I fell asleep to the History Channel in a cushy bed. I woke up refreshed and ready to get to some yoga:
New place called Shine On Yoga was in the middle of town. There was a cool sounding class called The Yoga You Need on their schedule. I was a smidge early, getting a ride partway into town from a friendly locksmith. Walking around the area, I saw that San Marcos wasn't immune to the expensive student apartment fad. Big college presence in town Texas State University:
The legit luxury in town was inside Shine On Yoga. The lobby and lounge space had some amazing wood:
The 9am class was perfect for morning time. Lots of repetitive and varied movements to get all the joints warmed up. Even more magical were the people. Easy going instructor Teo was extremely welcoming and I stayed chatting with him for nearly 2 hours afterwards.
A few visitors dropped in while I was there to sign up for the studio's unique group membership package. Up to 5 people for $222 month, unlimited amount of classes:
Moments later came the real jaw dropper; gourmet food delivered by bike messenger:
It was 2 full servings of delicious rice and chicken in that glass jar, but my hiker hunger was raging so that jar got cleaned out completely. I left kind Teo and wandered outside to take in more on the streets:
Getting near to the train tracks south of downtown, I came across a hulking historic mill:
Lots of cars and car repair shops were just down the road. The artful graffiti on the side of one shop caught my eye. And then, once again, I suddenly had a solitary man approach me. This time a guy excitedly skipped over to tell me how Snoop Dogg had been in town taking pics of the same wall. Evidently the artist was famous for his work on the west coast:
I was soon at the main attraction in town. The river:
The pristine San Marcos River, originating from the Edwards Aquifer, flows clear as it zigzags out from Texas hill country. I circled a section of man-made rapids in the river before heading back north thru town.
I craved a new route back to my Airbnb and also wanted to avoid the fuming cluster of car traffic in the middle of town. That led me up a hill and into a neighborhood of the largest homes I had seen yet in the area. I felt real real out of place suddenly walking with my large, dusty backpack on thru the sterile landscape. A slow moving police car added to my unease; this was some serious neighborhood watch territory.
I had an angle on a park to cut thru though and to my relief there was direct access at the end of a tidy cul-de-sac. A soft packed dirt path soon led me among spiky bushes, prickly pear cactuses and groves of juniper trees:
A repeat of my serene sunset walk from the evening before ensued as the trail spilled me out onto Lime Kiln Road. Back to RV for one last night:
I crashed out hard. In the morning I made sure to allow extra time to find my donkey friend to say goodbye. I walked on towards town headed to the Greyhound station:
More animal friends 2 miles on:
Signs of winter beyond the muted colors of the landscape:
A misty rain began to fall and a car pulled onto the shoulder across the road. A friendly voice called over to me offering a lift into town. I decided to take them up on the offer. Already on track to easily achieve my goal of 100 miles of walking in Texas, it was nice to move along so fast (40mph feels like being in a plane taking off compared to walking). Real cheerful company from a realtor showing a client around town. We went our separate ways after grabbing breakfast burritos and a photo together:
And then it was a short sit listening to hypnotic electric humming from vending machines and/or a giant greyhound on the wall while waiting on the bus south to San Antonio:
I had been thoroughly charmed by the quiet life in the Texas hills. San Marcos had hit me with many characters, a few of the unexpected variety, but all were very exciting nonetheless to this solo traveler. I appreciate a place that draws people of unique character. A place where you can still get offered a ride into town. Texas Hill Country has many powers of attraction with its tranquil landscapes and friendly locals.