Instead of pigeon-holing Bastrop as a place to stop for a piece of pie and a poke around the shops, my husband and I arrive for a weekend visit to take a fresh look at Bastrop as a place for enjoying art and other handcrafted beauty. Hearing from friends that roughly a dozen art galleries now populate Bastrop’s historic downtown, we’re curious to find out whether this means one of our favorite Central Texas escapes deserves the designation of art destination. As soon as we walk inside the Lost Pines Art Bazaar, we think we’ve found an affirmative answer.
On March 2, 1836, 59 delegates gathered at Washington-on-the-Brazos to sign the Texas Declaration of Independence, setting in motion a series of battles that would lead to Texas’ independence from Mexico. Cities and towns throughout Texas will celebrate the occasion on March 2 (see “Events” at texashighways.com for a lengthy list), but two caught our eyes for their unusual nature.
The same natural beauty and fertility that first attracted Native Americans and some of Texas’ earliest settlers to the pine forests on the Colorado River still make Bastrop a welcoming escape today. Bastrop capitalizes on its rich heritage with historic neighborhoods and a downtown full of restored buildings that house charming shops and cafés.
Last fall, we asked Texas Highways readers to share their favorite places in the state for our Texas Top-40 Travel Destinations. And share you did—by phone, email, Facebook, and through many amazingly detailed letters. Thousands of TH readers helped to shape the final list, which we will divulge throughout 2014, Texas Highways’ 40th-anniversary year.
Bastrop has always been one of my favorite day trips, and it’s one of the few places in Central Texas that reminds me of my Piney Woods hometown. I was quite nervous the first time I returned after the devastating fires of 2011, but what I found was a town offering more hope and opportunity than ever.
Somewhere on the first mile of our hike through Bastrop State Park, I quit gawking at the canopy of foliage above and realized our trail had transformed into a fine, beach-like sand. I stopped and scooped up a handful, recalling the park guidebook in my pocket discussing this sandy earth; how it retains moisture from the clay-based soils below; how it’s the reason a dense pine forest is able to grow in the heart of Central Texas. As we lingered among these towering trees, I told my girlfriend, Duvall, that the setting reminded me of the Deep South—perhaps southern Alabama or Georgia, or my home state of Mississippi, for that matter.