Texas is a huge state, and we need to drive through the entire width of it to travel from New Orleans to Arizona, where we plan to wait out the worst of winter. I have been nervous about this trek since I realized our trajectory. I knew very little about Texas prior to entering the state, except that it has a lot of state pride and independence, and that I would not fit into the prevalent culture. We decided to drive straight from our last stop in Louisiana to Austin, where we planned to meet up with a friend of John’s. A long drive, but to make it across the huge state we need to have some long driving days!
Arriving in the Austin area a day earlier than anticipated, we stopped at a state park just outside the city in Bastrop, TX. Bastrop sits next to the Colorado River, which I thought to be an exciting landmark signifying our progress to the west…until I learned that the Colorado River running through Austin and Bastrop is not the same Colorado River that runs through the Grand Canyon.
Bastrop State Park and its sister Buescher State Park are reserves of what are known as the “Lost Pines”. The eastern region of the state is comprised of swampy areas and pine forests, but this far west the land is more arid and transitioning into desert. A small forest of pines around Bastrop are considered “lost”, because they are growing over 80 miles from their brethren. Bastrop State Park suffered a forest fire a couple years ago, and the land is covered in charred pine trees. I bicycled the 12 mile park road connection to Buescher State Park, and saw the pine forest as it used to be, Buescher having not been burned. We choose Bastrop because it was larger, though it turned out Buescher would have been a better choice – the burned trees do not block the highway or provide as much privacy as the intact forest does, and the bath houses at Bastrop were closed for renovation; from our site we had to walk over a mile to a portable building to take a shower! We had fun during our dark evening walk to the shower room trying to catch a glimpse the nocturnal creatures in the bushes along side the road (mostly they were small mammals, likely mice), but the walk was so long and the park so different in the dark that at times we worried we were lost.