Austin, Texas is the type of place that leaves a mark on you. A few years ago I visited the city and discovered a smorgasbord of eateries and bars like I’d never seen before. Each section of the city feels like a small town, with its own unique intricacies and no shortage of inhabitants who proudly celebrate the city’s ‘weirdness’. Basically, it’s nothing like you’d imagine the capital of Texas would be.
Aside from having a top notch arts and music scene, the city has a wonderful selection of vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants. Oh, and food trucks. They are everywhere.
When we started planning the trip, we put Austin on the must-visit cities list. Progressive, vegan-friendly, and unique, with tons of outdoor activities and a mild winter that didn’t suck the life right out of you…well, it sounded like a place we might like to call home after this trip is completed. We found a campground quite close to the city that still boasted hiking and a remote feel: McKinney Falls State Park.
The park opened in 1976 and is named after Thomas F. McKinney, a businessman, race horse breeder and rancher, who owned and lived on the land in the mid-to-late 19th century. He played roles in financing the Texas Revolution, developing major Texas cities, and trading in cotton during the Civil War. We hiked a trail that led to his old homestead, built by slaves in 1850. We didn’t see any ghosts, but that place definitely seemed haunted.
Of more interest (to me, at least) is the history of the American Indians who once resided in the area. There is evidence that hunter–gatherers occupied the land at least five thousand years ago, maybe more. The tribes found water in the creek and protection among the rock shelters.
It was truly awesome knowing that ancient peoples in this region took shelter under these same overhangs. In fact, Smith Rock Shelter pictured above, is believed to have been used by Native Americans from 500 BCE until the 18th century CE.
Another spot we really enjoyed was the Barton Creek Greenbelt. I had heard about the spot from an old friend and planned the day around hiking there and visiting the Science and Nature Center afterward. It was so great how this area has been set aside to preserve nature and allow Austinites to experience it while still being close to the city.
We stayed at McKinney Falls through Christmas Day and Santa made sure to stop by. 🙂
Of course we didn’t want to attempt getting a whole Christmas Tree in the camper!
All in all, it was a low-key holiday season for us. When normally we would have been stressed trying to get to loads of holiday parties, we felt relaxed in each others company. We missed our families and friends, of course. But this was certainly a Christmas to remember. This was a year to celebrate–the year we branched out, took chances, and embraced simplicity and the true joy of experiences over things.