I have often wondered what it would be like to be a landscape or nature photographer. To travel the world's beautiful places with nothing but a camera slung over my shoulder and a backpack full of gear, a vagabond of nature taking pictures of the secret corners of the earth sounds like a life I would love to live. So when my friend Toro, the same friend I followed to Cambodia last year, asked me if I wanted to escape the trappings of San Angelo and go on a hunt for fall colors in the Texas Hill Country I immediately said yes. For the last few years I have made it one of my resolutions to take more photos for myself. Because I make a living with a camera, it's hard for me to pick one up on my time off. I figured this outing would be a good opportunity for me to make good on that goal. And, yes, I realize it's already November, but better late than never.
The plan was to meet up early for coffee and donuts and then head south on US Highway 87 to Brady where we would make our first stop in Richards Park. The local park sits next to a small river and is also home to the World Championship BBQ Goat Cook-Off. My only memory of the park is when I get the nod the to cover the cook-off and grills and smokers stretch as far as the eye can see. So it was quite surprising to see the park almost completely empty when we arrived. I parked the car, grabbed my camera, took three steps toward the river and instantly felt like an idiot as I fumbled around looking for something that would make a nice nature photo. My brain just doesn't know how to look for photos out in the wild.
After an hour or so at the park, Toro and I decided to head on down the road to Mason, the next town on US Highway 87 and my favorite town in the Standard-Times coverage area. Mason is a beautiful town set just on the edge of the Hill Country and in close proximity to Fredericksburg and Austin. If I could live in any other town in our coverage area it would be Mason.
We drove around Mason for a little while and stopped near a river crossing south of town. I thought for sure we would find some good fall color there, but to no avail. There was, however, some very nice butterfly specimens floating about. It was getting close to the lunch hour so we loaded back into the car and headed south once more to Fredericksburg where we stopped at the Fredericksburg Brewing Company. They make the best porter in the area. And from there we headed to Enchanted Rock State Natural Area for some hiking.
Enchanted Rock is about 17 miles north of Fredericksburg and essentially is a giant, pink granite dome that sticks up out of the ground 425 feet. It's a nice little area for hiking, camping, rock climbing and taking pictures. By this time I had given up on my dream of being a nature photographer and settled in on taking more photos of Toro than anything else. I came back with more than 10,000 photos of him in Cambodia, why not a few more?
I learned two things while trudging up and down Enchanted Rock:
1. I need to lose weight.
2. I need to go camping.
I have visited Enchanted Rock a few times before and have always enjoyed my stay. This time was no different. Once you make it to the top of the rock you're greeted with a 360-degree view of the surrounding countryside. Even though you may be doubled over and gasping for air, the experience is worth while. I decided to sit for a while and rest on the far side of the dome loving the cool breeze of the late afternoon. And then I remembered that I'm supposed to be taking pictures.
Toro and I decided to walk down the backside of the dome for a different view of the park taking photos as we went. By the time we got back to the car the sun was dipping close to the horizon and the temperature had dropped at least 10 degrees. It was time to make the drive home and end our day of searching for the elusive Texas fall color. It was a fun, relaxing day and I see more of these in the near future.