At some point in the past few weeks I was smart enough to crowd source a list of things to see in places I planned to stop. Hamilton Pool Preserve, a collapsed grotto and canyon, was a hands down favorite, so I made it a priority during my first visit to Austin. After doing a little research I wondered if I was even going to able to get into the parking lot. It turns out that the place is so popular that reservations are required through the summer and early autumn. If you show up without a reservation you can wait in line, but only if there's room on the road, otherwise you're turned away. I decided to visit on a Friday and took off early to make sure I got there in time.
I got there about 15 minutes before the gates opened, so I headed for Reimers Ranch Park next door to kill time. As I turned in a deer bounded off into the brush, so I took that as the good sign it always seems to be. I bought a ticket and drove into the park a little bit, following the dips and turns to the beginning of a series of parking lots. It was time to head to Hamilton Pool, but this place definitely piqued my interest.
As it turned out, I was the first person at Hamilton Pool and then had the place to myself for 30 minutes, until a guy from Oregon came wandering by and asked me to take his photo in front of the waterfall. It was completely quiet, ferns waving from the roof of the cave behind the waterfall, water dripping through moss into the pool, and the sounds of birds busily going about their day.
The water in the pool is shockingly blue green. I thought that photos I'd seen had been heavily edited, but it's completely real. The creek that flows out from the pool is so clear and green that you can see straight to the bottom and count small fish swimming lazily downstream.
I wandered around behind the waterfall and sat in the cool breeze coming off the water for a while.
I hiked about 1/2 a mile down to the Pedernales River. A sudden cold front came through as I was clambering over rocks, bringing much needed relief from the muggy heat. I found multiple animal tracks along the bank of the river and evidence of fossils along the trail.
After scarfing down a snack in my car, I headed for Reimers Ranch. Despite a school bus and a bunch of cars, I didn't encounter anyone on the trail I followed down to the river. There were several trees that were completely scorched, presumably by lightning strikes. Cacti were everywhere and air plants coated the trees. A cardinal chirped and fluttered, evading my camera repeatedly, but following me as I wandered along the wide, grassy paths.
I was starting to get hungry, but clambered back up to the parking lot and took another trail around the top of the canyon.
Lunch become a sudden priority, so I beat it back down the road to Stubb's BBQ, where I discovered the Mean Margarita, which has just enough habanero pepper to give it a solid kick and is now my new favorite. The street tacos I chose hit the spot too. Then it was off to east Austin for a solid nap.