Travel & Adventure: Finding Wildlife in the Texas Hill Country

by Kacey Barton

On my drive to Fredericksburg, Texas, I overheard someone on the radio say that this year more Americans than ever were travelling for the Fourth of July holiday. They said it had to do with lower gas prices. Living in Alpine, Texas, I can’t say much about lower gas prices, but I did find myself driving past green fields and small towns, marking myself as one of those in that record breaking number.  

Texas bluebonnet wildflower spring field at sunrise

After a six-hour drive and a pit stop to pick up a friend, we found ourselves in the charming little town with German roots, bustling with tourists. Instead of weaving our way through the crowds the entire week, we sought the wildlife and scenery that the Texas Hill Country is known for.

Our first stop was Wildseed Farms, a gorgeous 200-acre wildflower farm. It is a popular springtime destination for tourists, as the farm is alive with iconic Texas bluebonnets and a rainbow of various other wildflowers. During our summertime visit, we were taken aback by how many flowers there actually were; various hues of red, purple, blue, pink, yellow, orange and white dotted the fields, while multitudes of hummingbirds, honeybees and dragonflies danced around the flowers. Overall, the farm was relaxing, there was no rush to get through the sights, and the staff and visitors there were friendly.

Next on the list was the Willow City Loop. Although the loop is best known for its wildflowers lining the roads and fields early in the year, it did not disappoint with the views and local animal life. Under the expanse of blue that is the Texas sky, we saw deer, livestock, birds, and incredible views from high atop hills and low in the valleys. Time seemed to disappear and nostalgia took hold as I was greeted with endless miles of ranch land, reminding me of much simpler times in childhood, exploring the land that my grandparents owned. We saw only one truck and a motorcycle the entire drive, a stark contrast from the packed Main Street of Fredericksburg.

With the excitement of Fourth of July festivities-to-come buzzing along Main Street, we caught the bug to go out and do something, which led to a drive to Boerne, Texas, 45-minutes away from Fredericksburg, and a 15-minute drive from San Antonio.

Once in Boerne, we struck out to find the trail riding service we had booked just the day before that allowed us to take a guided ride into the mountains on horseback. We found Stricker Trail Rides nestled away from Wild Turkey Boulevard, near Tapatio Springs Hill Country Resort. The experience of riding underneath the hot Texas sun, feeling the cool breeze coming off the mountain and gazing out into the valleys around you, is unparalleled.

The last destination of the trip was something a little more unusual and took us nearly 140 feet underground. Located 3 miles from Boerne, Texas, Cascade Caverns has been open as a commercial cave, one of seven in Texas, since 1932. What makes this cave so unique is the waterfalls that used to cascade down in the Cathedral Room – hence the name Cascade Caverns.

Within the cave I was lucky enough to encounter several different animals, including a tadpole, a Cascade Caverns salamander, and Tri-Color bats. The cave itself was mysterious; stalagmites and stalactites reached from floor to ceiling, the Diamond Ceiling glistened with water droplets, and the standing water within the cave mirrored anything close to the surface, while completely transparent in most areas. At one point in the tour, our guide shut off all the lights, making for quite the experience. No light could be seen in the pitch black, only the sounds of water dripping into pools of water.  

At the end of the day, it’s memories like these that keep us alive. The continuous quest for adventure and new experiences that break the monotony of every day life, and shatter our comfort zones for good. When nothing in this life is ever certain, it’s best to take advantage of the time we have and go do something -make memories, have new experiences, meet new people and see new places. That is what makes one’s life worth living. For me, my trip to the Hill Country of Texas was a welcome one – the more I explored, the more I wanted to explore.