The reasons I love Texas are endless: the state's great outdoors, history, Tex-Mex, sunsets, swimming holes ... the list keeps going. And when I hear of a place where I can experience most of my favorites in a single day, I hit the road––this time to the Hill Country's scenic Canyon Lake.
9:00 a.m. What’s the difference between a gorge, a gulch, and a gully? I found out on a tour of the Canyon Lake Gorge, one of Texas’ newest natural landmarks, dating to 2002, when the region received a year’s worth of rainfall in a single weekend. The lake overflowed, sending torrents of water over a spillway and rip-ping an ex--pan-sive gorge through a small valley. The water exposed mil-lions of years of geological evidence, including fossils, aquifers, and dinosaur tracks. The only way to experience the gorge is on a guided tour with folks from the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority and the Gorge Preservation Society. It took everything I had not to dive into the beautiful turquoise pools filled by cascading waterfalls. Turns out the difference be-tween the terms above is a matter of size, and after see-ing the Canyon Lake Gorge, it’s obvious that “gulch” and “gully” wouldn’t do it justice.
12:15 p.m. For lunch, I drove to Frank’s Bait & Taco, a strange conglomeration of a business selling everything from fishing bait, antiques, and carports to some of the tastiest Tex-Mex in Texas. The interior is so cluttered with knickknacks it looks like the owners have hung an entire yard sale from the ceiling. The only thing miss-ing at Frank’s is an em--ployee named Frank. When the current owner, Eddie Fonseca, moved into the building, he decided to keep the name because everyone in town already knew where “Frank’s” was. The chaotic decor gave me plenty to look at while the kitchen prepared my order. (As Eddie puts it, “Here, you are on lake time.”) Luckily, my combo plate with two homemade enchiladas and two crunchy tacos was well worth the wait. And no, “bait” tacos are not on the menu.
1:30 p.m. I took a mountain-bike ride along the Madrone Trail, an 8.2-mile trail weaving through Canyon Park on the north side of the lake. The challenging ups
and downs along the dirt-and-limestone path revealed sweeping Hill Country views and lakefront panoramas. I then cooled down at The Heritage Museum of the Texas Hill Country on the south side of the lake, and learned about the history of the region, from dinosaurs to Native Americans to settlers.
4:30 p.m. The clear lake water beckoned me like a siren
of the sea, so I surrendered to its call at Overlook Park. The park offers the best views of the Canyon Lake dam and is my favorite place to take a dip. I spent my time basking in the sunshine and swimming along the park’s rocky shore. If you have kids or don’t want to navigate a steep hike to the shoreline, head to Comal Park to play along its pebble beach.
6:30 p.m. The cool evening air proved perfect for dinner outside. I drove back to Canyon Park to eat
at Lucky Sailor Oyster Bar, the only waterfront restaurant on Canyon Lake. After much consideration, I decided to pass on the “Lucky” burger, an enormous two-pound cheeseburger that is free if you can polish it off in 24 minutes. I opted instead for a pan-seared tilapia sandwich on a toasted torpedo roll.
With a torpedo in one hand and a bottle of Shiner Bock in the other, I toasted the setting sun and savored the near-perfect conclusion to a near-perfect Texas day-trip. So, whether you follow my footsteps or forge your own path, I hope to see you on the road.