SPRING RITUAL

Where to find the Hill Country's best bluebonnets and wildflowers

Bluebonnet season is just around the bend. Photo by Kelly Keelan

This article originally appeared on CultureMap and was written by Melissa Gaskill.

It happens each year as if by magic. A few patches of wildflowers pop up followed by whole fields. Soon enough, Texas is alive with color. If you want to make the most of the short season, it's good to have a plan.

While bluebonnets enjoy the most fame, and the title of official state flower, Texas Hill Country landscapes offer a number of other abundant blooms, including Indian paintbrush, Indian blanket, pink evening primrose, Mexican hat, winecups, black-eyed Susan, coreopsis, and more. South Texas also enjoys plenty of spring blooms, including the usual bluebonnets. More unique flowers seen in the area include hairy tube-tongue, scarlet or tropical sage, blue shrub sage, red prickly poppy, and Mexican prickly poppy.

Andrea DeLong-Amaya, director of horticulture at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, predicts bluebonnets peaking this year in late March or early April, depending on temperatures. "It's a prediction, I don't have a crystal ball," she cautions. The month of April, she adds, is spectacular in general. "Even once the bluebonnets finish up, there are so many other things coming on. There is life after bluebonnets!"

Know before you go

Remember that while it isn't illegal to pick the blooms, it is bad form. Leave them for others to enjoy and so the flowers can go to seed and make more for next year. By the same token, minimize trampling of the plants. DeLong-Amaya says that crushing the plants repeatedly (by, say, sitting on them) can destroy the flowers. Be aware that fields can also contain fire ants and the occasional snake. Be careful if walking through grass where it's not possible to see where you're stepping.

Finally, be respectful of private property — no climbing fences, going through gates, or driving up driveways to get that photo. You might get a less-than-warm welcome. Places like the Wildflower Center and parks provide ready public access to wildflowers.

Central Texas spots

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

For some of the most reliable and accessible wildflowers, head to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, roughly 12 miles southwest of downtown. Open daily 9 am to 5 pm, it's free for members, $12 adults, $6 children ages 5 to 17, plus discounts for students and seniors. The center has native gardens, wild meadows, and experts who can tell you what you're looking at.

LBJ State Park and Historic Site

Get up close, without worrying about a shotgun-toting landowner or highway traffic, at LBJ State Park and Historic Site near Johnson City. It should come as no surprise that the park enjoys fame for its wildflowers, as Lady Bird Johnson deserves much credit for appreciation of them in Texas. Meadows surround the visitor center, and a nature trail wanders from there to the adjacent Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm. Fredericksburg Trolley offers wildflower tours of the area in its vintage vehicles.

Pedernales River Nature Park

This 222-acre LCRA park off U.S. Highway 281 in Johnson City has lake and river frontage as well as hiking and mountain biking trails. It also has spectacular displays of the usual Texas Hill Country wildflowers (bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush, pink evening primroses, winecups, and the like) easily and safely accessible for those obligatory photographs.

Burnet

The town of Burnet north of Austin claims the title of Bluebonnet Capital of Texas. The town holds a Bluebonnet Festival the second weekend of April that includes live music, a carnival, food, races, birding and, of course, looking at flowers. Blooms line the highways in this area; some of the best are State Highway 29 from Burnet to Llano and Ranch Road 2341 from State Highway 29 to Canyon of the Eagles Nature Park, where some of its many miles of trails wind among wildflowers.

Georgetown

One of the few locations in the U.S. where red poppies grow naturally, Georgetown celebrates with the 20th Annual Red Poppy Festival April 26-28. The free, three-day festival includes parades, a car show, live music, cooking contest, art, food, and family-friendly activities. Henry Purl Compton, a soldier in Europe during World War I, sent poppy seeds to his mother, who planted them at her home in Georgetown. The flowers spread and today bloom abundantly in the area around the town square.

Willow City Loop

Wildflower drives are a long-standing Texas tradition, and one of the best in Central Texas is the 13-mile, two-lane Willow City Loop. Roadside property along this route is private, so no wandering into the fields. Or out into traffic.

South Texas spots

Bandera

Driving Texas State Highway 16 from Bandera to Ranch Road 337 and then heading west toward Vanderpool and Leakey offers plenty of scenery any time, including glimpses of the Medina River, but in spring, wildflowers sweeten the route. Farm-to-Market Road 470 west from Bandera to Tarpley is another option, as are the roads around Utopia. The 5,000 acres of Hill Country State Natural Area have miles of trails through a variety of landscapes with abundant bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush, primroses, firewheels, wild petunias, and more.

Blanco State Park

The Blanco River flows through this small park just an hour from San Antonio, where bluebonnet, Engelmann daisy, Texas paintbrush, firewheel, greenthread, and four-nerve daisy wildflowers bloom in spring. Enjoy picnic areas, camping, screened shelters, fishing, and kayak and tube rentals.

Continue reading on CultureMap to learn about more places to find the best bluebonnets.

Jovan Abernathy is an international marathoner and owner of Houston Tourism Gym. To claim your free tour, contact her at info@tourismgymhtx.com

The intro says that I am an international marathoner. Guess what I used to do before that. I have probably served you a meal at one of the restaurants where I've waited tables in Houston. I know your next question….How does a waitress afford traveling to places like China, Africa, and Iceland? Sometimes more than once a year. I have three words for you….Frequent Flyer Miles! They are your best friend and if you are not a rich, but you want to travel, they should be a priority in your life. Few people know this method, so I'm going to do better than tell you. I'm going to show you.

All major airlines have a rewards program. I fly United Airlines because I like all of the airlines they partner with in Star Alliance. Their rewards program is called Mileage Plus. It is free to join. The big question is: How do you earn enough miles to afford an international trip?

To come up with this answer, we need to ask ourselves three questions:

  1. If I could go anywhere in the world, where would it be? (Sky is the limit, literally).
  2. Who am I as a person? Describe my lifestyle.
  3. What do I spend my money on every single day?

We are about to turn the answers to these questions into miles into the dollars we will save off of our trip. I'm going to use myself as an example. I've always wanted to see Machu Picchu. There is a marathon this year on the Inca Trail. What's the first thing I do? I go the United.com to look up how much the flight to Lima, Peru would be. Lima is the closest international airport to Machu Picchu. After looking the cost of a round trip in October, I find that the price is $2275. Do I want to pay this? No way.

Let's redo the details of this trip, but using a reward miles search instead ofdollars. Now we know that this trip will now cost 40,000 miles and $73.36 in taxes and fees. Wow, from $2275 to $74. Can this be true? Yes, it can. Next Question.

Who am I as a person?

We are all different. I do not spend money like you and nor do you like me. I am a woman who does not like to shop for expensive clothes. I don't like trying them on in the store. I rent, but I do use services like electricity under my name. I spend money on maintaining my older car, light makeup and hair products, but I love going out to eat at restaurants (restaurants are in my blood). I also own my own business, so I have business expenses like marketing materials. We will stop there. I think that is enough information. Next question.

What do I spend money on every day?

With this in mind, go to the earn rewards section of your rewards program. Start researching on how you can earn as many miles as possible. We are looking for miles only. Here are a few things that jump out at me that I can begin implementing in my life.

United GoBank Card:

Without even taking out a new line of credit, you can use this card to purchase everyday items, like gas, groceries, and whatever. You earn 1 mile per $2 spent up to 2500 miles (15,000 miles for six months)

Change your energy provider to Reliant using the Milage Plus promo code:

This action gets you 27,000 miles. There a couple of conditions: You will only get 21,000 by October and you have to sign a two year contract with Reliant at .15/kwhr. It's kinda high, but you decide how bad you want to go to Machu Picchu.


Milage Plus Shopping:

You can earn points by shopping online at the places that you shop all of the time. I'm looking at the stores. I need contacts, business cards and posters, running shoes and clothes, hair products, tires for my car, and a brake job.

1800 Contacts $4/mile

Saucony Running Shoes $3/mile

Auto Zone $1/mile

Kerastase shampoo $2/mile

Vista Print $2/miles

Discount Tires $2 mile (just as long as don't send tires to my apartment.

If you add everything together, these items could mean 3,850 miles. You can bump that up by making all these purchases with the GoBank card and increase your miles to 5,775.


Gift Cards

You can purchase gift cards through the rewards programs to your favorite places. This could also help you budget your spending better or could be gifts that you were going to buy anyway. These are the places that I use:

Buffalo Wild Wings $4/mile

McCormick and Schmicks $5/mile

Hello Fresh $4/mile

Saltgrass Steakhouse $5/mile

Charming Charlie's $3/mile

After doing some figuring, I could easily earn 4,004 more miles by the gift card method.

Downloaded Apps

If you download certain apps to your mobile devices from the United Plus website, anything you order from them have automatic miles attached to them. Groupon jumped out at me. I'm always looking for a deal on oil changes, massages, and other stuff. You can earn $11/mile. So, the eye exam I needed that could cost $120 or more, will cost $60 and I'll earn 660 miles and so forth. Looks like I'm going to be on that Groupon app often. Let's say, I'll spend $400 on Groupon. That's 4400 miles.

Grand Total

So let's add it up and see what we have miles we will have by October I'm so excited!

GoBank 15,000 miles

Reliant Switch 21,000 miles

Shopping 5,775 miles

Gift Cards 4,004 miles

Downloaded Apps 4,400 miles

Total: 50,179 miles

Guess What? I'm going to Machu Picchu with some miles left over. You can also use miles to make hotel reservations, too. There you have it. Now you can be a world traveler too.

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