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Off the beaten path at a botanical garden in Texas

| Updated Jun 16, 2023

We were meandering in the Hill Country of Texas and did what we often do, pulled off in the next small town and went into the library. We found a quiet and comfortable place to sit, a nice big table to work on, power for the laptop, clean bathrooms, and free Wi-Fi.

This was the Jennie Trent Dew Library in Goldthwaite, Texas, on route 16 between Llano and Comanche. Chatting up the librarian, we discovered that the three don't miss sights in town were the botanical garden, the Mercantile, and, the local pecan processing plant. She began to tell us about the botanical garden, then said, “Wait, wait, I’ll let Susan tell you about it when she comes in. She’ll be here in a few minutes.”

Soon Susan arrived and pulled up a chair at our table. Having seen several botanical gardens, and an awful lot of desert plants on the trip already, including the absolutely amazing Sonoran desert museum in Tucson, we politely told her that we didn’t think we would visit the gardens. At that, she waxed so enthusiastic that we just couldn’t say no. After completing our research, we walked the block down the street to the visitor center, where Savannah gave us an illustrated guide to the plants and a key to the garden enclosure.

Boy, were we ever surprised. Taking up less than half a square city block, the garden was exquisite. Rocks had been laid to simulate small cliffs and grottoes. Water flowed through it, both in streams and down short waterfalls. It is landscaped with local native plants, and the signs describe how those plants had been used by native peoples for thousands of years. There were benches to sit in the shade, and along one side a large pavilion with a concrete floor. The walkways and many of the trees were lined with tiny Christmas lights.

Back at the visitor center where we returned the key, Savannah told us that the pavilion and lights were set up for high school prom, which would be happening tomorrow. On the day, each couple walks down the steps of the courthouse while everyone in town watches from their chairs on the lawn. Then every fancy car for miles around is pressed into service to drive the couples the three blocks to the pavilion. Having shepherded my own three girls through the prom experience, I noted with approval that not only was the venue lovely, but it was surrounded by a large fence which would contain the kids. No sneaking in or out.

We debated staying to watch the show, but settled on the chance of a weekend rodeo in Oklahoma. Before leaving town, we stopped at and sampled more varieties of pecan goodies than you could list on a page. Next time you’re traveling, look up the local library as a place to get some elbow room, rest and research, and find out exactly what’s going on in town. It's never let us down, so we'll keep an eye open for you among the stacks in some dusty little town, out there off the beaten path.


Mike Wendland

Published on 2018-09-10

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

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