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As Time Goes By in Blanco

Playing it again in Blanco: Swimmers at Blanco State Park keep their cool in the Blanco River.

Blanco, an unassuming small town in the Texas Hill Country, takes its name from the local river, which begins its journey in higher elevations west of town. From there, the Blanco meanders in an easterly direction past thriving lavender farms before pooling in town at Blanco State Park, courtesy of several modest dams built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.

At the park, swimmers, canoeists, and anglers enjoy the river’s spring-fed waters. Pecan, common bald cypress, sycamore, cottonwood, box-elder maple, and other trees growing along the river’s edge and in campgrounds provide shade and a comforting presence for families who rest, play, barbecue, hike, and camp within the park’s compact 105 acres.

The Town Creek Nature Trail, a landscaped, quarter-mile walking path lined with native plants and large live-oak trees, connects the state park to Blanco’s downtown square. The Old Blanco County Courthouse, a striking Second Empire-style structure built in 1885, is the square’s most prominent building and anchors a historic district (listed in the National Register of Historic Places) that includes 46 properties. Many of the old buildings house restaurants, cafés, antique shops, outlets for locally-produced arts and crafts, and other enterprises.

As a longtime fan of Blanco (and a one-time resident in the early 1990s), I think of the town as an old friend. Among my favorite downtown indulgences: a frozen, organic, lavender-blueberry limeade at Real Foods, a natural-foods store and café; mouth-watering barbecue meats, original sauces, and owner Bob Riley’s famous pinto beans at Riley’s Bar-B-Q; and a tour of the Real Ale Brewing Company facilities that includes a tasting of various ales brewed using British techniques. And if the day gets a bit warm while you’re visiting Blanco’s downtown attractions, it’s a comfort to know that the state park and the river’s refreshing waters are just a short walk or drive away.

Following is information on sites mentioned in the story (plus a couple of other notable places). For further information on attractions, lodging, restaurants, and events, write to the Blanco Chamber of Commerce, Box 626, Blanco 78606; 830/833-5101. The area code is 830.

Attractions/Lodging

The Arnosky Family Farm (and Texas Specialty Cut Flowers) is at the intersection of FM 2325 and RR 165, about 8 miles east of Blanco. Every Sat-Sun, they operate a farm stand at that intersection. Visitors can purchase fresh-cut flowers by the stem and bouquet, farm-fresh eggs, a variety of seasonal vegetables, and garden plants, herbs, shrubs, and trees that favor the Central Texas climate and soils. Also for sale are artisan cheeses–goat cheeses from Pure Luck Dairy in Dripping Springs and cow-milk cheeses from Full Quiver Farm in Kemp. Visitors can tour the flower fields, and hike through the woods on the 100-acre farm. The Arnoskys have planted a peach orchard, table grapes, and blackberries for future fruit offerings. Call 833-5428; www.texascolor.com.

The Blanco Settlement Country Cabins, RV Park and Gift Shop are about 1 mile east of downtown Blanco off RR 165. Nine private cabins with riverfront views fully decorated with vintage and antique furniture; 20 pull-through RV sites with riverfront views. Lodging reservations required. Gift shop carries a variety of items, including home accents, candles, quilts, lamps, jewelry, bath and body products, lavender products, and a large assortment of baby gifts. Call 833-5115; www.blancosettlement.com.

Blanco State Park is about one-half mile south of Blanco's downtown square, just off US 281. Overnight facilities include full-hookup RV spaces, tent campsites, and screened shelters. Visitors can hike on the Town Creek Nature Trail or the Caswell Nature Trail, swim, fish, picnic, bike, and enjoy well-equipped playgrounds. At the Blanco State Park Store, look for historic photographs of Civilian Conservation Corps workers building the park. Call 833-4333 (main number); 512/389-8900 (camping reservations); www.tpwd.state.tx.us.

The Brieger Pottery craft shop is at 408 4th St. (in the 1937 Crist Building) on the courthouse square. High-fired stoneware by Jon and Jan Brieger, porcelain and stoneware pottery by Gaye Lynn and Michael Hodgson, woodcarvings by Roger Felps, and an assortment of jewelry and wood, metal, and stone items made by more than 30 other local and regional artisans. Ask about special spring and fall kiln opening and sale events at the Brieger pottery studio (the next one is May 13-14). Call 833-2860; www.briegerpottery.com.

Green Gables Guesthouses and Bed & Breakfast are some 7 miles south of Blanco and 3 miles east of US 281 via RR 473. The 14-acre private estate with frontage on the Little Blanco River offers 2 private cottages (with fireplaces, kitchens, hot tubs). Call 833-5931 or 888/833-5931; www.greengables-tx.com.

The entrance to Selah, Bamberger Ranch Preserve is about 7 miles north of Blanco and about 4 miles west of the US 281/US 290 intersection by way of CR 203 and Blue Ridge Dr. Note: Visitation is by reservation only. Overnight accommodations include Hes' Country Store (sleeps 4 bunk-bed style) and the Recycle Cabin (sleeps 10 bunk-bed style). Call 868-2630; www.bambergerranch.org. (Look for a book about Selah, Bamberger Ranch Preserve, by Jeffrey Greene, with illustrations by Margaret Bamberger, to be published by Texas A&M Univ. Press in 2007.)

Twin Sisters Dance Hall is 6 miles south of Blanco, east of US 281; 833-5773.

Events

CasaBlanco will be held Apr. 29, 2006; call 833-2211. The 18th annual Blanco Classic Car Show will take place May 20, 2006; call Dobie Benson at 833-5348; e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Market Day is held every third Sat. Apr.-Dec. (May 20, 2006); call 833-2211. (Area lavender farms and the 2nd annual Blanco Lavender Festival–to be held June 10-11, 2006; www.blancolavenderfestival.com–will be featured next month.)

Food

The Deutsch Apple is about a mile southeast of Blanco's courthouse square at the intersection of Loop 163 and RR 165. Items baked fresh daily include apple pie, pecan pie, apple-pecan cake, and apple-pecan muffins. Seasonal items include peach pie, peach cobbler, and black–berry cobbler. First-time visitors receive a complimentary apple-pecan muffin. Call 833-2882; www.homemadepies.com (2nd location near Wimberley; call 512/847-1277).

Real Foods Market & Cafe is at 410 4th St.; 833-2483; www.real-foods.net.

Real Ale Brewing Company is at 405 3rd St. (soon to move to 231 San Saba Ct.); 833-2534; www.realalebrewing.com.

Riley's Bar-B-Q is at 318 4th St.; 833-4166; www.rileysbarbq.com.

Last month's story on US 281 included the Blanco Bowling Club and Cafe (310 4th St.; 833-4416), where you can enjoy an old-fashioned burger and a game of ninepin bowling.

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