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Written by Texas Highways

With cooler temps, crisp air and beautiful colors, autumn is a great time to visit Big Bend Ranch State Park. It’s also a great time to watch for wildlife. More than 48 mammal species and more than 300 bird species have been spotted in the park. While some species migrate to the park during the autumn season, others are there year-round. Here, Park Superintendent Nathanael Gold gives us some insider tips on what to watch for in the park, along with some safety tips in case you run into a slightly feistier species.

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While Houston’s sprawl may be knocking on Conroe’s door, don’t make the mistake of lumping this town in with the masses. Its distinctive blend of Piney Woods beauty, lakeside fun, and rich history make it well worth the highway exit.

 7502007Granbury is the kind of place where everyone knows everyone’s business—and if the locals don’t know you yet, they’ll find out soon enough. But as the sun goes down, a shroud of mystery sets over this affable North Texas town.

ghahremani mcallen finalfinalFor many fellow Texans from “up north,” the Rio Grande Valley might be synonymous with birds, beaches, and grapefruit groves. To be sure, the Valley remains a bird-lover’s paradise, the beach still beckons, and the citrus is the sweetest anywhere. But with the region’s rapid growth and a nascent cultural boom, that list should also properly include art galleries, fine dining, and world-class performances.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park (Photo by Laurence Parent)

I first witnessed Lost Maples State Natural Area in its full fall glory some 30 years ago. A childhood on the Texas coast and early adulthood in the Hill Country left me well acquainted with the natural beauty of Texas—wide vistas in winter, riots of spring wildflowers, summer’s golden beaches. Yet, this surprised me. Seems my home state really does have it all, including autumn color, providing you know where to look.

DSP Jefferson TX 2017 291With its riverboat heritage and antebellum architecture, Jefferson is a town where history and culture converge like two prongs of a bayou, weaving together through the thick forests of the Texas-Louisiana borderlands. Beginning in the 1840s, Jefferson enjoyed a 30-year golden era as Texas’ chief inland river port. Due to its location on the Big Cypress Bayou, the city reaped the benefits of a natural logjam known as the Great Raft, which caused the Red River to swell near Shreveport, flooding the bayous and basins. Prosperity lapped onto the riverbanks of Jefferson, where residents profited from riverboat trade, constructed sumptuous homes, and built a cosmopolitan downtown.

Tokyo platesWorking as a dining critic and food writer for most of my career, I’ve been asked hundreds of times to name my favorite restaurant—an impossible task. But I can tell you where I go most often when I’m not working, the places that feel like home. High on the list of such restaurants in Fort Worth is a little place called Tokyo Cafe.

cheese 1017In a stainless steel vat in the back of a cheese shop in Lipan, I use a large paddle to swirl enzymes into 30 gallons of fresh milk from a local dairy. The milk’s destiny is to become a wheel of rich, creamy cheese, and I’m here at Eagle Mountain Farmhouse Cheese Co. with owner Dave Eagle, who’s giving me a condensed version of the three-day classes he offers every spring and fall.

bag of beans 1017On a recent jaunt to the Davis Mountains and Big Bend area, I enjoyed drinking coffee from Big Bend Coffee Roasters in a half-dozen restaurants, coffee shops, and lodges. Finally, I decided to go straight to the source in Marfa. I passed the nondescript white building on US 90 a couple of times before owner Joe Williams came to the door to wave me down.

clay 1017Randy Brodnax gingerly lifts a pot from the glowing kiln interior and places it on a small turntable, rotating it slowly while misting it with water from a spray bottle. Nearby spectators can hear the glaze crackle as the outer, water-cooled layer of clay crazes and tiny fissures open up over the surface of the piece. Then Brodnax takes a few strands of hair given by an audience member and drapes them over the pot. The hair smokes and brands the piece, becoming part of it.

LostTrail Hike 1017The sun crested over the tops of the tall pines, taking the chill out of the winter air as my partner and I set out from our campsite at Double Lake Recreation Area in East Texas’ Sam Houston National Forest. Our goal was to explore an 8-mile segment of the Lone Star Hiking Trail.

pumpkinpatch wvo 1017As a young city slicker, I eagerly anticipated summer visits with my grandmother and other kinfolk in their tiny, two-gas-station town southwest of Fort Worth. The local ranchers knew me and let me tag along as they rounded up cattle or sheared sheep. To them it was work; to me it was fun, and I learned a lot about how to grow things.

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