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Written by Texas Highways

Davis Mountains at sunset

My clearest memories of travel from my childhood tend to recall the simple moments. The start of vacation was always the same—my dad carrying me out to my grandparents’ motor home before dawn and settling me into the bed above the cab. When I woke up, we’d be well on our way, and I’d relish watching the road unfold in front of me from my new vantage point. Other highlights come back to me in blurs: collecting pine cones with my brother, playing cards with my mom, and listening to my dad’s scary stories before we drifted off to sleep each night.

Floating on Barton Creek

My personal slice of Texas paradise lies 14 miles southwest of Austin, tucked into the idyllic canyon that cradles an immaculate stretch of Barton Creek. The Paisano Ranch is a 245-acre retreat owned by the University of Texas at Austin, and it has been awarding fellowships to a few select writers every year since 1967. My lucky number came up in 2010 when I spent three blissful summer months nestled in this sanctuary. I’m returning because, well, who wouldn’t want to return to paradise? Given the chance, I’m certain that Eve would have been rethinking the whole apple thing if it meant more time in Eden. But I have another reason for wanting to go back, besides my deep desire to plunge once again into a swimming hole so soul-rejuvenating that my husband and I call it liquid Xanax. I still have an obligation to fulfill: When I lived on the ranch eight years ago, I made a promise to a ghost I encountered there, and I need to tell her that I have kept it.

A signal mirror reflects the sun’s rays on top of Mount Livermore

The Davis Mountains have long attracted people seeking respite from the surrounding deserts of West Texas. Delivered as magma from volcanic activity some 35 million years ago, the mountains harbor patches of “sky island” known for relatively moist forested hillsides, cooler temperatures, and spartan beauty. To explore the Davis range’s cultural past and natural marvels, head to the highest town in Texas—Fort Davis, at 5,050 feet—and hit the trail. Or better yet, hit three trails.

Monarch migration illustration

Early one morning on Trinity Bay, the autumn sky began to glisten. Myriad monarchs unfurled in clouds from the shoreline, fluttering overhead, some landing on our boat, on our fishing rods, and even on me and my husband. We watched, enchanted, as they danced ever-southward, propelled by a light north wind and their biological imperative.

Bush AaronSacco 01

On a warm summer morning, former First Lady Laura Bush walked among the butterflies in the garden behind her dogtrot-style vacation house on Prairie Chapel Ranch in Crawford. The likes of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and U2 singer Bono have ventured on these grounds before, but on this July day viceroys and queens were the VIPs. They flitted about as Bush interpreted the landscape. There’s antelope horns milkweed, she said. There’s gaillardia. There’s basket-flower, and there’s a gourd. “This one’s called purple mist, or blue mist,” she said. “If you want butterflies, then plant this.”

Chet Garner at the Bellville Meat Market

There’s something special about small towns and the folks who live there. You can do things in the country that aren’t possible in the big city, like build castles, throw fireballs, and hang out in jail (on purpose). All of these things and more lured me to Bellville for a day trip unlike any other.

Thin line fest 2019 video contest ad

No one knows Texas like you do. Your perspective is as unique as you are, and we want to see the Lone Star State through your eyes. We’ll reward you, too.

That’s why you should enter the True Texas Travel Experience category, sponsored by Texas Highways magazine, as part of the 12th Annual Thin Line Fest. Thin Line, Texas’ international documentary film festival, is held in Denton from April 10-14, 2019.

So grab your camera (a cell phone will do) and produce a Texas travel-themed video (up to 5 minutes). Keep your eye on the True Texas prize. The winning entry, as well as a selection of finalists, will be screened at Thin Line, and also will be featured here on

When F1 first announced it was coming to Austin, many were surprised. Since its first run in 2012, the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas has swiftly become one of the drivers' favorite tracks on the calendar because the U.S. Grand Prix tests their technical driving abilities throughout, and it provides more opportunities to overtake—or pass—other cars than most other races throughout the world. This also makes Austin's race one of the more entertaining races on the tour because—much like the Texas weather on display for the 2018 USGP—if you don't like it, stick around and it'll change.

Calliope Musicals performs on the Cypress Stage at Utopiafest in 2015.

Utopiafest is leaving behind the land of perfection for what it hopes are greener pastures. For its 10th iteration, taking place Nov. 2-4, the family-friendly, camping music festival is moving from a private ranch in Utopia, in the vicinity of Uvalde, to an outdoor event space in Burnet, near lakes Buchanan and Inks. This comes with several advantages organizers believe are integral to the long-term preservation of the festival, chief among them it will cut down the drive time by two-thirds for fest-goers from Austin, where 75 percent of past attendees have hailed.

Texas Highways magazine’s November issue, available on newsstands now, features its first redesign in four years. The second annual “Unplugged” issue debuts three new sections along with a refreshed look that highlights the magazine’s strong photography and adds more visual diversity. 

Not far from the banks of the Canadian River, tucked among the River Valley Pioneer Museum’s artifacts of Panhandle ranching and railroad history, black-and-white portraits gaze from the gallery wall as if they’ve been waiting patiently for a century to look you in the eye.

Click the image below to read what's special about this refuge on the Great Plains.

Curiously Canadian

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