Sunday was my last day in the Hill Country, so I wanted to savor it. Losing myself on the back roads, hikes, great meals and honky-tonks was just what I needed to sort of restore myself. So, if you ever need to get away from everything…and I mean really getting away from it all…the Hill Country is certainly one place that will do that for you.
I finally did have the presence of mind to take a few snapshots of our last Double U Barr Ranch breakfast, courtesy of our generous hosts, Brett and Gil. This morning, “Sticky French Toast”, Alsatian sausage and a potato-cheese dish were on the menu, along with eggs and fruit, if I recall. The Sticky French Toast, in particular, was out of this world. Here are a few pics:
Before breakfast, I had bumped into Gil on her front porch, and had the opportunity to chat for a while about how she and Brett found, purchased and began to renovate the Double U Barr Ranch. I won’t go into details, but it’s a pretty amazing story.
Then, we got talking about all of the pecan trees…a grove of them, really…in their front yard, where the deer are always hanging out. Gil explained the process of harvesting them, which is labor-intensive and which leaves the tips of your thumb and index finger nearly-permanently stained brown. Gil and Brett harvest the pecans themselves, and this fall is the first time that they are going to begin selling fresh shelled pecans by the pound.
Later, over breakfast, Gil showed us her very first pound of bagged and labeled pecans that she had shelled. I immediately jumped at the chance, and asked if I could buy them. Gil said, “Sure!” So, I am the proud owner of the first pecans produced for sale from the Double U Barr Ranch. Cool?
Sadly, then it was time to say my goodbyes, because I had a date with a horseback trail ride at the Dixie Dude Ranch, on the other side of Bandera, and could not be late.
Again, I really lucked out in my pre-trip research by happening upon the Dixie Dude Ranch. It is the oldest, continuously operating dude ranch in the Hill Country, and is a working ranch, as well.
The Dixie Dude Ranch has remained focused on keeping things very rustic, which is really what you want, if as a tourist, you are in search of fulfilling your “inner cowboy/cowgirl”, and which is a major ingredient in this ranch’s formula for continued success.
Here are a few pics of the exterior:
And yours-truly on his trusty ride, Sheriff:
I was in a small group of five or six other riders with one cowboy leading, and one guiding from the rear. Sheriff was positioned at the end of the group, so I took the opportunity to chat-up the thirty-something cowboy at the back. It turned out that he is a real cowboy, seventh-generation Texan, and used to ride the rodeo circuit, until recent fatherhood demanded that he stay closer to home.
So, I got a great education in the Dixie Dude Ranch, the rodeo circuit and the Hill Country landscape, etc. over the course of the ride. The ride, itself, despite being entirely at a walking pace, was rugged and rocky. There were short, but suddenly steep dips and inclines, always brushing against low branches of the cedar and juniper trees, winding our way up to a scenic ridge and back down again. It was everything I could have wanted from a Hill Country trail ride.
As we approached the main parking area, I could overhear the riders in front of me laughing about a trail of cat-prints on one of the cars. As I caught up to the same area, I could see that, in fact, this turned out to be my car:
I had forgotten that I had woken up to a downpour with lightning that morning, which had passed as suddenly as it started. That left muddy clay puddles around that one of the Dixie Dude Ranch cats must have found before exploring my car, while we were all out on the trail. The perfect ending to the perfect trail ride.