See related: Chalk Mountain Area • Highland Lakes Area • Blooming Grove Area
Ranch-to-Market Road 337 from Leakey to Vanderpool navigates 17 scenic and hilly miles. This area boasts abundant Texas mountain laurel, along with goldenball leadtree, mealy blue sage, rock penstemon, and, on cliffs along the roadside, small white flowers of mountain mahogany, which typically call the Davis Mountains home. Look for white wild Mexican plum flowers, pink-and-cream devil’s shoestring, bright red cedar sage, Texas redbud, larkspur, lace cactus, Texas star, and featherleaf desert peony.
In Vanderpool, take a short detour north to Lost Maples State Natural Area to savor an abundance of blooms such as cardinal flowers, Mexican hats and other coneflowers, false day flowers, phlox, prairie verbena, sages, and more Texas mountain laurel, which fills the air with a scent that reminds some people of grape Kool-Aid.
From here, the road winds south with the Sabinal River to Utopia, home to a couple of restaurants and the Sabinal Canyon Museum (check out wooden and tin bathtubs). Soak up the peace and quiet and the flowers—bluebonnets, brown-eyed Susans, pincushion daisies, and Mexican prickly poppies—by spending a night. Clear Springs Lodging’s Hummingbird Cabin overlooks a deep swim-ming hole beneath stately cypress. Two miles south, The Laurel Tree Guest Table, a stone mansion surrounded by fields of poppies, serves Saturday lunch and dinner, with a menu that changes according to the whims of chef Laurel Waters and her gardens. A recent supper featured mixed fresh greens, fish with fresh-picked thyme, and caramelized apples with vanilla-bean ice cream and mint.
Continue south, crossing the river multiple times, then take RM 187 into Sabinal. Brown’s Deli and Gift Shop whips up sandwiches, panini, and wraps. Backtrack on RM 187 to Texas 127, then US 83 north to Leakey, past a plethora of cabins and river services along the Frio River and the entrance to Garner State Park. Stop to see the CCC-built pavilion and cabins, play a round of miniature golf, or picnic by the water. Mount up at nearby Elm Creek Stables for an hour-long trail ride through wildflower-bedighted hills on a veritable rainbow of ponies—paints, bays, palominos, and whites.
Back in Leakey, stop at Mill Creek Café for burgers, salads, Mexican food, and chicken-fried steak. If the shopping bug bites, you can search for treasures in The General Store & Cowgirl Chic, Ella Pearl’s Trading Post, or Josh’s Frio River Outfitter, which caters to the outdoor crowd with bait, inner tubes, and fishing supplies.
For information on Leakey, call 830/232-5222; Sabinal, 830/988-2215; Clear Springs Lodging, 830/966-2164; Lost Maples State Natural Area, 830/966-3413; Garner State Park, 830/232-6132; Elm Creek Stables, 830/232-5365.
From the March 2013 issue.
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