The return of plant life to Bastrop State Park underscores the resilience that is characteristic of this year’s True, Texas, “community of the imagination.”
Even in a community of the imagination, there’s no question that the heat and drought of Summer 2011 added a dramatic dimension for day-to-day life and even added a note of apocalyptic foreboding to the year’s history. Every story and report seemed more dire than the previous. Fire. Loss of life. Wildlife suffering. Thousands displaced. An unknown future.
The thread of optimism ignited its own flame of tireless effort to rebuild and recover. For Bastrop State Park, almost entirely burned, the miracle of rain appeared at the perfect time. And by the spring of 2012, a few wildflowers appeared. It seemed like life could resume again.
Perhaps this resilience is born in the human spirit, but we have proof it’s true of Texas.
Here are this year's True, Texas picks. Read the full stories and see more photos in the September 2012 issue.
True Swimming Hole
San Solomon Springs At Balmorhea State Park, Toyahvale
There are Texas swimming holes and then there is Balmorhea, the mother of all natural swimming places. Nowhere else will you find a large, walled-in pool, 1.75 acres big, 25 feet deep in places, and built to last by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, brimming with such cool, clear freshwater, in this case bubbling up from San Solomon Springs. The water’s Caribbean-like clarity attracts scuba divers from across Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and beyond.
— Joe Nick Patoski
True Skyline Transformation
Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, Dallas
The next time you drive to Dallas, you might do a double-take as the skyline pops into view. What’s that elegant, gleaming, white arch spanning the Trinity River? It’s the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, the city’s stylish, new welcome mat that extends Woodall Rodgers Freeway west from downtown over Singleton Boulevard into West Dallas. The first U.S. vehicular bridge designed by elite Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, the steel cable-stayed bridge honors the late Dallas civic leader Margaret Hunt Hill, conveying both strength and charm.
True Music Scene
ACL Live at the Moody Theater, Austin
If music is the cultural lifeblood of Austin, then its beating heart may well reside downtown at 310 Willie Nelson Boulevard (otherwise known as Second Street), the home of ACL Live at The Moody Theater. Unveiled in February 2011 with a performance by Nelson and band, the glittering new venue instantly took its place as one of the city’s top-shelf performance spaces. Besides hosting regular performances—everyone from Aretha Franklin to Tony Bennett to Bruce Springsteen—ACL Live is also the new home of PBS’s beloved 38-year-old television series Austin City Limits. (The Austin City Limits Music Festival, which is also a spinoff from the show, is held every fall in Zilker Park.)
—John T. Davis
Hiking the Guadalupe Mountains, Pine Springs
Guadalupe Mountains National Park, the state’s highest destination, offers signature autumn color and cool, outdoor adventures, especially now that summer is coming to an end. With average elevations above 4,000 feet, this desert-mountain location ushers in plenty of comfortable days and chilly nights alongside the arrival of fall. The park’s robust network of short hiking trails and overnight backpacking routes lets you choose among a range of challenges.
—E. Dan Klepper
Port Isabel Lighthouse, Port Isabel
The 72-foot, gleaming white Port Isabel Lighthouse on the shore of the Laguna Madre has overlooked a lot of Texas history. Built in 1852 to guide ships plying the narrow opening between Padre and Brazos islands, the original lighthouse had 15 lamps and 21 reflectors. During the Civil War, it fell briefly into the hands of Confederates, who set off a charge in it when a Union ship entered the harbor in May, 1863. Repaired and reactivated in 1866, the lighthouse was built up about three feet in the 1880s to accommodate a state-of-the-art Fresnel lens, illuminated by a single lamp.
New Zion Missionary Baptist Church Barbecue, Huntsville
The barbecue arm of New Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Huntsville took off decades ago when congregation members gathered to repair and repaint the wood-frame church building and inadvertently kicked off a barbecue side-business.
Reverend Clinton Edison, today’s pitmaster/preacher, explains: “Deacon Ward’s wife, Annie Mae, said that when she and the other wives began to prepare their husbands’ dinner, cooking barbecue on a makeshift grill, they couldn’t hardly cook for all the people stopping by who wanted to buy it.” So many motorists wanted to buy barbecue that the congregation voted to start a proper business, and pretty soon it became a regular thing every Wednesday through Saturday.
Becker Vineyards, Fredericksburg
When San Antonio residents Dr. Richard Becker and his wife, Bunny, went looking in the 1980s for a log cabin to refurbish as a second home in the Hill Country, they couldn’t have guessed they would end up with one of the most successful wineries in the region. Established in 1992 between Stonewall and Fredericksburg, Becker Vineyards was a pioneer in the Hill Country appellation, producing award-winning wines beginning in 1995. Thanks to its resounding success, Becker now boasts 46 acres planted with 14 different grape varietals, including Syrah, Petite Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, Malbec, Petite Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot.
Route 66, Texas Panhandle
In spite of the development of an interstate highway system, which removed traffic from America’s ribbons of bucolic roadways, Route 66 remains the most famous highway in national history. Texas claims just 178 miles of The Mother Road (so christened by John Steinbeck in The Grapes of Wrath), which once stretched 2,448 miles from Chicago to Los Angeles. But oh—what adventures can still be found on the old road while crossing the top of the Panhandle prairie from the Oklahoma border to the New Mexico state line.