Day Trips

Indian blanket
Indian blanket (Photo By Gerald E. McLeod)

Wildflower season moves like a wave of a paintbrush across Texas beginning in early March in the Big Bend and moving toward Texarkana. It seems like almost overnight the fields of brown winter weeds turn a vibrant green with spots of color and then into fields of flowers which mimic the blue sky.

To find a great patch of bluebonnets or Indian paintbrushes about all you have to do is drive down any highway in Texas. The Department of Transportation spreads more than 33,000 pounds of wildflower seed along the rights-of-way to ensure a good crop. The department even operates a toll-free phone line (800/452-9292) to tell you where the flowers are blooming.

With the mixture of wet and cool weather this past winter, this should be an extra special year for wildflowers around the state. To quote my old friend Ira Kennedy in the February/March issue of his webzine (www.tourintexas.com): "The bluebonnet crop this year is likely to make an indelible impression on everyone, even the old-timers. ... And if you've never seen Texas wildflowers in full bloom before, you're in for an experience."

Kennedy is the first to tell you that predicting what plants will do is almost as risky as predicting the weather in Texas. We both agree that you can't go wrong in the northern Hill Country by traveling FM 1431 on the north side of the Highland Lakes, TX 29 between Georgetown and Llano, almost anywhere on U.S. 281 from Alice to Joy, and U.S. 71 joining El Campo and Brady.

Getting off the main roads can offer the reward of photographing rolling fields of bluebonnets, blooming prickly pear cactus, and grazing cattle without the streaks of telephone wires across your pictures. A great one is Willow City Loop, a 13-mile trek north between Fredericksburg and Llano that offers scenic views indicative of the Hill Country. The farm-to-market road winds through the wilderness between FM 1323 and TX 16 rising to the tops of rocky hills and dropping to creek beds shaded by tall trees.

Deer, armadillos, wild turkeys, and other creatures stalk the edges of fields of wildflowers along the route. This is a scenic place any time of the year, but in the spring the roadside colors can elicit the oohs and aahs of a fireworks display. The only problem is that traffic can get backed up on weekends, especially Sundays.

Taking to the open road with the wind (or air conditioner) blowing in your face, the sun to your back, and a palette of colors lining the highway might be more your cup of iced tea. When they're weren't racing a turkey named Ruby Begonia against a turkey from Worthington, Minn., for bragging rights, the folks in Cuero secured DeWitt County the title of Wildflower Capital of Texas.

The title isn't all brag, with the country roads lined with an array of wildflowers all spring. Cuero has put together a visitors center at 312 E. Broadway (U.S. 87 S.) with flower exhibits, tours, maps, and other activities. For more information, call 361/275-9942 or go to www.dewittwildflowers.org.

The Brenham visitors bureau reported that "the bluebonnets, azaleas, redbuds, Indian paintbrushes, and fields of yellow flowers are blooming" throughout Washington County. The county has the only road in Texas that has been designated a Scenic Highway and a Historical Highway. FM 390 winds past scenic farms and through Burton, where the cafe still has homemade meringue pies, and old Independence, with the Antique Rose Emporium that carries a wide selection of plants for your home garden. For more information, contact the bureau at 888/273-6426 or www.brenhamtx.org.

When the Spanish blazed a trail across god's country from Mexico to East Texas they called it el Camino Real, the King's Highway. Today, TX 21 roughly follows the path taken by early explorers, and the road is as beautiful as it must have been 200 years ago. One of my favorite stretches of the Old San Antonio Road is between Nacogdoches and San Augustine where the flowers crowd the sides of the narrow road and the woods are so dense that you almost feel like you're traveling in a tunnel. Spring fever is coming early to Texas this year.

616th in a series. Day Trips, Vol. 2, a book of Day Trips 101-200, is available for $8.95, plus $3.05 for shipping, handling, and tax. Mail to: Day Trips, PO Box 33284, South Austin, TX 78704.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

wildflower season, bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush, Texas Department of Transportation, Ira Kennedy, tourintexas.com, Hill Country, Willow City Loop

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