To locals, the town of Dripping Springs is known only as “Drippin’.” But you don’t have to be a local to see the beauty that this proclaimed “Gateway to the Hill Country” offers.
8:30 a.m. I rolled into Rolling in Thyme and Dough, a Belgian-inspired bakery occupying a renovat-ed 1920s home that specializes in delicious scratchmade pastries and other breakfast (and lunch) fare. Locals arrive early, knowing the breads, cakes, and other goodies in the bakery case sell out fast. I started with an amazing sausage-and-egg croissant filled with pesto and cheese. After topping off the meal with a sticky bun,
I was ready to kick this day trip into high gear.
9:30 a.m. As the name implies, this town was founded (in the mid-1800s) beside the waters of a natural spring offering a consistent drip. As Texas travel expanded, Dripping Springs was a stop along the old Austin-Fredericksburg road. With permission from the Homestead at the Dripping Springs bed and breakfast, I took a short hike to the Historic Springs behind the property. And with the recent drought conditions, I’d say “dripping” was the appropriate description.
10:30 a.m. There are other springs hidden in the hills around town that offer much more consistent drips. Some in particular flow enough to fill up one of Texas’ most dramatic swimming holes at Hamilton Pool Nature Preserve. I arrived early enough to slip into the park without a wait. And after a quarter-mile hike along Hamilton Creek, I reached the massive limestone grotto to find a pool of refreshing water fed by a 50-foot cascading waterfall. In record time, I was down to my swimsuit and splashing around under the Texas sunshine.
1:00 p.m. While Hamilton Pool is amazing, it’s easy to see the impact humans have had on the land-
scape. To see a similar natural grotto in pristine form, I headed down the road to Westcave Preserve for a guided tour. Surrounded by green ferns and lush mosses, the Westcave waterfall, grotto, and cave feel transported from a foreign rainforest and plopped into the Hill Country. Everything within me longed to dive into the clear, flowing water, but I held back for the sake of nature conservation.
3:00 p.m. Needing something to run, jump, and climb on, I headed to Milton Reimers Ranch. This Travis County park along the Pedernales River (pictured) offers rock-climbing, hiking, swimming, fishing, mountain biking, and about anything else you can do on some 800 acres of outdoor playground. Fortunately, I had my rock-climbing gear in tow and spent the afternoon navigating some of Reimers’ towering limestone walls and its hundreds of climbing routes. I left with my fair share of accomplishments and probably more than my share of scrapes and bruises, but it was well worth it.
6:00 p.m. Though I could have jumped into the river to cool off, I opted for a different kind of liquid refreshment back in town at the Barber Shop. This historic establishment no longer offers haircuts, but it does serve some of Texas’ finest craft beers, including the owner’s own handcrafted brews. With a pint of Live Oak HefeWeizen in hand, I shot some darts and munched on snacks.
7:00 p.m. After a day bumming around the Hill Country, I decided to step it up for dinner at the upscale Creek Road Café. The dinner menu is full of delectable dishes named for local personalities and destinations and covering surf, turf, and sky.
I started with a “Westcave Wedge Salad,” proceeded to an amazing “Pedernales Pork Chop,” and finished up with a slice of coconut and chocolate “Polo Club Pie.”
Those who zip through Dripping Springs on US 290 will miss the town’s charm. Slow down and enjoy every drop of this Hill Country hideaway. So, whether you follow my footsteps or forge your own path, I hope to see you on the road.
Contact the Dripping Springs Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau at 512/858-4740.
Chet Garner is the host of The Daytripper™ travel show on PBS.
From the July 2013 issue.