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Written by Texas Highways

Klepper Camp Wood cairns at the quince

The Nueces River valley plummets from the Edwards Plateau with the abruptness of a summer squall. The topography plunges from dry to drenched when you cruise south from Rocksprings on State Highway 55, blank skies giving way to blue-green canopies of oaks and pecans as the road abandons the grassless flats for glimpses of resplendent waters that seem to chase canyon twilight into the brightness of day. Here, the Nueces River finds its voice: a convergence of forks, prongs, creeks, and springs that begin their last odyssey to the Gulf of Mexico as one.

Young women in festive wear.

A popular social media project to document the diversity and culture of Texas’ third-largest city is now a photography book.

Humans of San Antonio features images of people from all walks of life—including street dancers, homeless men and women, and artists—and includes quotes that tell deeply personal stories. Michael Cirlos, the photographer behind the project as well as the book’s author, writes in the introduction that he always started the conversation with a simple question: “What is one memory you never want to forget?”

Aerial view of the Sabine River cutting through the forest

There’s something about a river that evokes feelings of nostalgia. Perhaps it’s the tie to something ancient—the current that ripples over our feet carries the same water that sustained native tribes and beckoned early settlers to its shore. Maybe it’s that rivers remind us of the carefree way we played outdoors as children, before responsibilities and schedules stole the freedom and sense of wonder that marked our summer days. Beloved author John Graves considered time spent on a Texas river as an opportunity to reconnect with nature and ourselves. His journey down the Brazos, documented in 1960’s Goodbye to a River, continues to inspire many adventures, including one chronicled in this issue.

A treehouse on the Sabinal river

Your childhood dreams are coming true: an adults-only treehouse resort is now open in the Hill Country. Appropriately named Treehouse Utopia, the resort sprouted naturally: Owner Laurel Waters also owns and operates The Laurel Tree, a gourmet restaurant just down the road in Utopia, a community of 200 people about 80 miles west of San Antonio.

A restored gas station in Shamrock, Texas.

Members of the National Trust for Historic Preservation are hitting the road in hopes of saving one of the nation’s most iconic byways—Route 66.

The team will travel the route’s Texas stretch through Panhandle cities like Shamrock, McLean, and Amarillo from July 17-19. They’ll host meetups at various locations for anyone interested in the history of Route 66 and its iconic buildings.

The Katherine Anne Porter house in 2009

A little more than two decades ago, the novelist and professor Tom Grimes paid a visit to the childhood home of Katherine Anne Porter, one of Texas’ great writers.

Porter had died in 1980 at the age of 90. Long before she found literary fortune and fame in New York, winning a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award for her collected short stories in 1966, she spent her formative years in her grandmother's three-bedroom house in the dusty rail town of Kyle—now a fast-growing suburb between Austin and San Marcos with a population approaching 40,000. 

Swing into Summer

 When Mother Nature doles up a summer afternoon so hot you need oven mitts to handle the steering wheel of your car, smart Texans head to the nearest swimming hole.

There, beneath the lacy umbrella of a towering cypress or oak, you kick off your shoes, scramble up a tree trunk, reach for a rope as thick as your arm, and launch yourself high over a spring-fed lake or river. For a second or two you hover in mid-air, anticipating a moment you’ve been craving since the sun rose that morning. And then you feel it—the shock of hot to cold and dry to wet. Click the image above to continue reading.

A Return to the River

For three days, the blue heron leads us downriver. In the mornings we push off in canoes through the olive green water of the lower Guadalupe, made murkier by Hurricane Harvey’s visit just over a month before. We’d forget about the heron while focusing on more urgent matters: sunscreen, keeping the boat upright, alligators, spicy peanuts, cold beer. But then, with an audible swoosh, its blue wings unfurl, and the bird glides downstream to yet another cypress branch, showing off his mighty wingspan, his graceful flight. Hurricane Harvey’s landfall in late August caused the Guadalupe to flow over its banks in Victoria and Cuero. And while many trees are down and furniture hangs high in the branches of others during our October trip, the flood certainly hasn’t washed away everything beautiful. Click the image above to continue reading.

Falling for the Pedernales

Rising from crystalline springs west of Fredericksburg, the Pedernales River meanders just 106 miles through the Hill Country before emptying into Lake Travis. Yet within its short course, the river crosses a multitude of landscapes, from rolling ranchland to steep limestone canyons. Each topography in turn has its own story to tell, from 10,000-year-old artifacts to hardscrabble German settlements and the birthplace of the nation’s 36th president.
“Here is where I would always return, to the Pedernales River, the course of my childhood,” reminisced Lyndon B. Johnson in a quote inscribed at his namesake state park and historic site. Another LBJ quote on a nearby plaque reinforces the Pedernales’ influence, not just on the former president, but on its inhabitants throughout time: “It is impossible to live on this land without being a part of it, and without being shaped by its qualities.” Click the image above to continue reading.

Chet Garner in front of the Welcome to Victoria sign

Sitting in the middle of the Coastal Bend is a town that’s been around since before Texas was Texas. Visitors to Victoria, established in 1824, can explore the rich history of the town’s past mixed with new experiences that make it well worth the trip.

Illustration of enjamin Alire Saenz

Don’t be surprised if you fall in love with the characters in Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s fiction. Be it with two high school friends taking on the world in his celebrated young-adult novels, or with people stumbling through loss in his short stories, or with the shining voice of his poetry, the El Paso-based writer expands your perspective and opens your heart.

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