Although most of the wintering eagles that give this place its name have migrated north, the bluebonnets are starting to pop and the Texas Hill Country is about the prettiest place you can find to celebrate spring.
So pretty that Jennifer and I turned our planned overnight into a four day stay, filled with awesome hikes under picture perfect Texas blue skies during the day and jaw dropping looks at the non light-polluted sky each night. The stars at night indeed do shine big and bright here in the heart of Texas.
Those stars are so awesome, in fact, that the place we are staying – the RV park at the Canyon of the Eagles Nature Park – has an observatory tucked away down a gravel road staffed most nights by Jim, an astronomer who will show you spectacular views of the bright planets, nebulas and distant galaxies through two telescopes: a computerized a 25-inch aperture Truss-Dobsonian reflector and a 12.5-inch Newtonian reflector.
The Canyon of the Eagles park is privately owned resort offering pet friendly lodge style cabins, a full service high end restaurant and lots of amenities. There are two primitive campgrounds ($25 a night), a group camping area and a full service RV park )$45 a night). It’s located about 16 miles from Burnet, the nearest town, a friendly little place which proudly proclaims itself to be the Bluebonnet Capital of Texas. We arrived about 10 days before the peak bluebonnet time but they are blooming fast and even during our short stay we found them popping up all along the winding road that leads to the park and, indeed, even on our campsite. Bluebonnets are the official state flower of Texas.
They are so named because of the shape of the pedals on the flower, which resembled the bonnets worn by pioneer women to shield them to the sun. Texas historian Jack MacGuire says the bluebonnet is to Texas what the shamrock is to Ireland or the tulip is to Holland.
They are worth a springtime visit as they blanket the countryside around here. The south central Texas hill country is where they grow the best. Thanks to the highway beautification efforts of former first lady Lady Bird Johnson who encouraged the planting of native plants along Texas highways after she left the White House, they can be found statewide.
The two predominant species of the bluebonnet only grow naturally in Texas and nowhere else in the world.
We planned to just pay a quick visit to this region and then move on.
But then we were struck by the silence. And the beauty. The 25-site campground where we are staying was all but deserted. Just us, Jim the astronomer, and a couple of other RVers. For $45 you get full hookups and – from many of the sites – great views of Lake Buchanan, a 40-mile long lake formed by the construction of Buchanan Dam by the Lower Colorado River Authority.
It is very quiet here. The 900 acre park is so far from civilization that there is no highway noise. Normally, they tell me, the campground is totally filled. It has been for the past two weeks because of spring break. And it will soon be again as Easter break approaches. But the week we visited was splendidly quiet.
We took a night hike down the main road. My headband light showed six pair of eyes shining back at us from a mesquite forest as a small herd of deer tracked our progress and had Bo’s nose twitching. Ten minutes later, we were startled by a loud grunt. It was a family of feral hogs. They call a group of hogs a sounder, not a herd. Maybe that’s because of the grunting. Anyway, they quickly scurried off into the brush.
Back at the camp and tucked into our RV, Bo was repeatedly awakened by all sorts of noises all night long. That means he barked or growled. That means we awoke, too. Hogs, deer, a skunk and armadillos all made their way past our Roadtrek each night. They say there’s a healthy local population of bobcats, too. No matter. We loved being in a place so wild that any noises we heard came from wildlife and not humans.
During the day, we saw lots of desert birds, including roadrunners. There are 17 miles of great hiking and birding trails here for exploring. But know that this is Texas. That means there are creepy, crawly things like scorpions and snakes. This area has four venomous snakes to watch out for: Rattlesnakes, copperheads, water moccasins and coral snakes. Fortunately, we didn’t run into any of those dangerous critters.
Dogs, as long as they are on a leash, are welcomed throughout the park, including the patio deck of the first rate restaurant that overlooks the lake. We ate there each night, watching the sun sink over the the western hills lining Lake Buchanan.. The waitstaff fussed over Bo and made him feel very welcome, even bringing him his own bowl of water.
Bo, however, would have me tell you that if you bring a dog, watch out for stickers, these tiny burr-like pickers that are on the edge if the trails. Walk your dog in the center of the trails to avoid them. That’s also good advice anytime you are in snake country.
We throughly enjoyed our time here.
Texas is a great state and we have lots more to see. Stay tuned as we’ll have several more reports and videos to share about other places we’re visiting in the Lone Star State.