Beset by the usual woes of modern urban life–bumper-to-bumper traffic, stressful workplaces, suburban sprawl, endangered water-ways, and, as country singer Marty Stuart says, "Too much month at the end of the money"–parts of Central Texas share much of metropolitan America's hustle-and-bustle and car-pool constraints. But take heart, because Central Texas also has a precious, random scattering of azure, turquoise, jade-green, and sapphire-blue life-giving, soul-restoring pools of water.
From Austin, take Texas 71 west about 34 miles, crossing the Pedernales River. Seven miles past the river, turn right at the sign for Spicewood (look for the Exxon station) onto Spur 191. Turn right onto Co. Rd. 404, cross the low-water crossing, and look for the entrance to Krause Springs immediately on the left.
Daily 9 a.m.-dusk; the gate is locked at 9 p.m. Admission: $4 ($3.50 for ages 4-11). Camping per day: $8 ($5 for ages 4-11), with an additional charge for tent or RV hookups. No pets. Call 830/693-4181.
Opie's Barbecue, 125 Spur 191, next to the Spicewood Post Office, open daily; 830/693-8660.
Poodie's Hilltop Bar & Grill, 22308 Texas 71 West, Spicewood, 512/264-0318.
Spicewood Grill/Sam's Kitchen & Bar, 9917 Texas 71 East, 830/693-4964.
BackStage Steakhouse & Garden Bar, 21814 Texas 71 West, Spicewood, 512/264-2223.
Swimming holes such as Hamilton Pool near Bee Cave, with its dramatic waterfall, the "Llano Slab" on a low-water crossing of the Llano River, the Comal River in New Braunfels, Wimberley's venerable Blue Hole, and, of course, Austin's famous Barton Springs–the glittering, living heart of the Capital City–aren't automatic cures for all the travails of the 21st Century, but they do offer a proven, time-honored respite from everyday cares and the unrelenting Texas summer heat.
Krause Springs, a small paradise 34 miles west of Austin, off of Texas 71, has been managed by the same family since it first opened to the public in the 1950s. Elton and Jane Krause took what was once a hog farm on the banks of Cypress Creek and, through decades of unstinting labor and love, transformed it into a manicured jewel centered around one of the most beguiling Edens in the state.
Exit off Texas 71, splash through a low-water crossing, turn onto the Krause property, and you are immediately immersed in a postcard-gorgeous setting of the Texas Hill Country–rolling fields of native grasses and wildflowers, oaks set dramatically against an uncluttered horizon, and a blue sky that seems to roll on forever. (The site itself was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, owing to unexcavated Indian middens and burial sites on the premises.)