Swamps, Rivers, Caves, and More

It’s hard to believe it’s only been a week since my last post because this week was full of so many adventures. This week started in a swamp, included stops in rivers and a cave, and ended along the Riverwalk.

This week started at Palmetto State Park. It is the furthest west location of a lot of plants and animals generally found in the Southeastern US. There were beautiful Palmettos and lots of swamp area. I had planned on doing some long hikes and spending the full day at Palmetto, but it had rained the night before and the trails were still very wet and slick so I had to cut my hikes short. The parts of the park that I did get to see were so different from everywhere else I’ve been so far, and it was really cool getting to learn about all of the unique plants and animals that call Palmetto home.

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Since I didn’t end up spending the whole day at Palmetto, I suddenly had an afternoon to fill that I hadn’t planned for. I ended up going to Mckinney Falls in Austin. The river and waterfalls were beautiful. There was also a tree called “Old Baldy” in the park that claimed the 2012 title for Austin’s Tree of the Year. There was some construction in the park, so one of the trails I had looked at wasn’t open. The park was definitely a popular spot and was pretty crowded with people swimming and enjoying the river.

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After going to Mckinney Falls, I took advantage of being in Austin and decided to try and watch the bat emergence. The largest urban bat colony lives under the South Congress bridge, and from roughly mid-March through November a million or more of them emerge for their nightly hunts. Weather, noise, and a bunch of other factors play into the time and size of the emergence, but generally emergence happens a little before sunset. It was a little bit chilly waiting for the bats, and the sun set with no bats to be seen. I could hear the bats starting to stir before sunset, but it was probably closer to an hour after sunset when the bats finally emerged. This made for really poor lighting for trying to take pictures of the emergence, but it also meant that a lot of people left pretty quickly after the bats emerged (the gray-ish spots in the photos are bats). It was really neat getting to see so many bats all in one place at once, and it was really different to see such an amazing natural occurrence happening in the middle of an urban area.

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A few weeks ago, when I went to Colorado Bend State Park, the cave guide suggested a few other caves in the area to explore, and this week I started by visiting Sonora Caverns. Sonora Caverns is a show cave known for its amazing formations and for being a very active and living cave. I took the guided tour through the cavern, and it is a fully paved tour that lasts about 2 hours and explores a lot of the caves formations. The formations were breathtaking, and they just seemed to get more beautiful and more elaborate throughout the cave.

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On the way back from Sonora Caverns I stopped at South Llano River State Park and did some hiking. I did a hike up to an overlook, which was nice and the view from the top was beautiful. Along the hike I also go to see armadillos, lizards, deer, and several types of birds. It was really cool getting to see so many different animals along a short hike. After the hike I stopped at the river. I was surprised at how cold the water in the river was even though it was still very hot outside.

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This week I also visited the McNay museum. I took advantage of free admission on Thursday nights, and I’m glad that I did. The museum is currently under construction and half the exhibits are closed, so it probably wouldn’t have been worth the admission price for what was left. There was a really neat exhibit on the Nightmare Before Christmas which I really enjoyed. The McNay building and grounds were also beautiful and just seeing the building was nice. There is also a decent research library at the McNay, and I did spend some time exploring in the library. There were books on art, storytelling, culture, textiles, and all kinds of history. It was really neat seeing how many different fields are affected by all kinds of art and design.

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My last adventures of the week were in downtown San Antonio. I finally went to the Alamo, and I have to say it might be incredibly overrated. The church was nice, but not necessarily unique when it comes to Spanish missions. The military celebration also felt a little strange because even as a battle the Alamo wasn’t really unique. The large grounds of the Alamo don’t sit on the historic Alamo grounds, and while there was some information on the history of the Alamo, there wasn’t really much by way of artifacts tied to that history like can be found at many other historic sites. Overall, it just wasn’t impressive to me. Finding parking to visit the Alamo was difficult, and I ended up paying $10 to park ¾ of a mile away. I decided to do a little more exploring in the area to make the parking fee worth it. I explored a little bit along the Riverwalk, and explored an area called La Villita. La Villita is the historic village of the Alamo, and now is filled with artisanal shops and booths. Since Day of the Dead celebration were this week, there were also some beautiful skulls and art in the area which was really cool to see.

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This week brought a lot of adventures, and I’m hoping to be able to keep seeing so many of the wonderful and unique places around San Antonio.

Sarah

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