The Texas Road Runners !!!!!
Road Trip Adventures, Roadside Attractions, Crazy DIY Projects, Texas Fishing, Rock Hounding and more......
The Grottos of the Texas Hill Country 2004
The grottos include : The Falls at San Gabriel Trail, the Westcave Preserve and the Hamilton Pool Preserve.
Forward : (As always, click on the picture for for a larger image and click on the links for photos surprises.)
Ok, this story starts out as another rock show, the Williamson County Rock Show. Don, from Don's Rock Shop in the Buchanan Dam area, handed me out a flyer to this event when me and "The Chad" went down to the Texas Hill Country for the last "Labor Day Holiday" weekend.
The dates on the flyer were for the 14th and 15th of Feb. and it was being held at the Community Center in Georgetown at San Gabriel Park. I had also heard of some places to hike in the area from some folks at my previous employment and from researching the Internet for them.
Unfortunately, by the time I found the Community Center, there on the door was a flyer just like mine with the dates of February 21st and the 22nd. Yes, I know, I should have checked the Southwest Rock Show Schedule before I left. However, it gave me an opportunity to hike the Falls of San Gabriel Trail.
This trail was just too cool. The trail wound along a small little creek inside a canyon which was fed by a small spring next to a nearby grotto with living rock formations. Eventually, the trail led to the North San Gabriel River. From my research, this area at one time was inhabited by Indians and artifacts could be found around the grotto's pool. I would have to come back to it again when I hit the rock show the next weekend and perhaps I could persuade Buddy Bill to come along!
Star Date : 02/22/2003 : The Falls of San Gabriel.
I had just finished loading up the truck when Buddy Bill pulled up. We finally headed on out around 8:00 AM and took I-35 from the Dallas area all the way south to Georgetown. We then took the William' Drive exit (Also known as RR 2238) and traveled southeast towards the downtown area. San Gabriel Park was just to our east by the North and South San Gabriel Rivers and we made it to the rock show just a little after it started.
The only comments I'll make on the rock show were that it was mostly jewelry as opposed to rocks, minerals and fossils. It was small, however, the vender prices were just right! As usual, there was always a few ladies who mistook the show for a rock-n-roll concert and there were a few kids who got busted from stealing from some of the venders again. I did however, get my rock that Don sold me identified as a form of granite and Don, the cabochon's polished up real nice.
After the show, we had lunch in the park and checked out some of the trails around the river. Ok, boring, so we hit the downtown area and it seems Georgetown is the county seat of Williamson County. If you are one of those who like to shop around old town squares, be sure to check it out while you are in the area. I know, I know, onto the Grotto!
Finding the Falls of San Gabriel Trail was easy. We simply double our way back to I-35 and traveled west over the interstate and continued on Williams Drive several blocks and took a left on Booty's Crossing Road. As you travel on Booty's Crossing, look for a subdivision to your left call "Falls of San Gabriel" and turn left onto Hardwood Groves Blvd. Then, take an immediate right onto Springwood Lane and look for the trailhead on the left just after crossing a very small bridge. It starts out between lots 28 and 29. Oh, for you Geocachers, there is a cache out there! Just be careful where you park.
Someone, probably the developer of this subdivision, put a lot of work in building the trail. Cedar logs line the way with the trail covered in cedar mulch. An easy hike for anyone. As you hike along, you will soon come across an old stone wall to your right. It must have been built by the early settlers of the area. Keep your eyes and ears open for signs of wild critters. We saw plenty of deer and several owls flying about.
Then about the mid-way up the small creek, you will finally come to the grotto. To the left of the grotto are stairs leading down to it and a small spring and falls. We began to poke around inside and Bill found a drip-rim cave formation and some worked flint. Well, there must have been Indians here at one time and we may have found some more evidence by teenager erectus, not! I was also surprised to learn that cave formations can be formed outside of caves in a canyon/grotto environment.
We continued along the trail and found more interesting formations on the canyon's walls. At the end of the canyon, we took a metal staircase on out to the banks of the North San Gabriel River. From here, we also spied a stone staircase on up to a street court above. End-of-trail!
Maybe that was the end-of-trail, but it certainly was not the end-of-road trip! Bill had confessed he had never been in the area so I was going to show him a few things. We doubled back onto Williams Drive and headed west till it tuned into Hwy 29. We drove through Liberty Hill, Bertram and finally made it to Burnett. Then headed south on Hwy 281, then west on Park Road 4 for that little tour. The weather held out and allowed us to check out Longhorn Caverns and it's Observation Tower. The clouds did not allow for good viewing and the hiking trail was too muddy to use. So we moved on to Inks Lake, hit a trail and moved on to Buchanan Dam. Unfortunately, due to the rain, they had the gate locked up preventing us from walking over it. So from there, we hit Burnet for lunch and then back home by taking a more scenic route north on Hwy 281, east on Hwy 84, then Hwy 6 to Waco and back north again on I-35.
Star Date : 03/07/2004 : The Westcave Preserve and Hamilton Pool.
Hum, how do I begin this next one? A week earlier, I hooked up with the DFW Outdoors Group for hike at the Cedar Ridge Preserve. Unfortunately, they had new new hikes scheduled on their calendar. So I quickly hit the their sister club, Hill Country Outdoors Group website, based in Austin and took a look at their calendar. Westcave preserve? I checked it out on the web. Cool another grotto! And.... its right next to the Hamilton Pool Preserve, also another grotto! A quick phone call to Mr. Bill and made the reservations! We could kill two birds with one stone with this day trip. Who knows? maybe, more?
That Sunday morning came and Mr. Bill arrive early and over coffee I showed him a few fossils I found around the Lake Whitney and the surrounding area the day before. It was the usual sea snails, clams and other bivalves, sea urchins and pieces of ammonites. But, before we took off, we had to get my truck down.
We finally headed out and took the usual route south on I-35 and then in Round Rock, we took 620 southwest and drove through the community of Round Rock and then the community of Lakeway. The cops were out thick in this area. So be careful speeding. It is here in Lakeway where one finds Hippie Hollow on Lake Travis. Hum, isn't this where the party folks and the nudist hang out? Well, We weren't going to shell out $10.00 for a brief visit to see some freaks, so we moved on. Mansfield Dam was up next. Unfortunately, their gates were closed for visitation. So, we crossed the lake and continued on till we eventually came to the community of Bee Cave. In Bee Cave, we took Hwy 71 north and took a left on Hamilton Pool Road also known as RR 3238. From there, we simply followed the signs. After about 12 miles, we passed the entrance to Hamilton Pool to the left and crossed a little bridge. After the bridge and heading up a very steeply graded hill, we came to the entrance to Westcave.
We hit the visitor center at Westcave and met up with the good folks from the Hill Country Outdoors club. The tour was only $ 5.00 and no mountain bike riding! Then it was time to hit the trail which led to the bottom of the canyon. Then we walked along a little creek till we reach the end to the Westcave Grotto and the Westcave cave to it's right. We then ventured into the grotto for a view looking out. From this vantage point, we could more closely see one of the main grotto's formations and the grotto's pool below.
After checking out the inside of the grotto, we next hit the cave next door and checked out the formations (Westcave cave Formation 1, Formation 2 and Formation 3). We also found some graffiti chiseled out in the late 1880's. Then we headed back out again.
We hiked back out of the canyon and broke for lunch and had a chance to use the facilities. The next stop was the Hamilton Pool just down the road. Although it is advertised to get in at $ 5.00, once we arrived at the park station, the entrance fee had gone up to $ 8.00 to park. We hike a short trail down to the pool. Please, do not feed the critters. We noticed some stairs which allowed you inside. Once inside, you found yourself behind the falls, surrounded by a wall and ceiling of fossils and the interesting grotto formations. Hamilton pool also had a very nice beach area and the kids who were swimming said the water was great! No wonder this area was rated in the top 10 swimming holes of the Texas region. After the brief tour of the Hamilton Pool Grotto, we hit the trail again west and followed the Hamilton Creek, went through the natural rock tunnel and all the way to the point where it empties into the Pedernales River . After all that hiking, it was time for a drink.
Well, it was getting late and so it was time to head for home. I had a few chores to catch up on before hitting the sack.
So, until next time, take care and I'll See you... on the road, or in the workshop, (which is really just my garage) !!!!
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