Fuck the rock
After S.A., I was going to go to Enchanted Rock State Park, which is located in Texas' "Hill" Country north of Fredericksburg. The greatest elevation hike there is 400' to the top of the rock, and that appears to be the most difficult hike within hours of Austin, Dallas, or San Antonio. Just for comparison, the tourist trail that goes from the Griffith Park Observatory to Mount Hollywood has a gain of about 500', and that's one of the easiest hikes in Los Angeles unless you walk along the seashore.
I drove into Fredericksburg just as it was getting dark. I decided against driving up to the park to find a camping spot, because this is its busy time of year, no one answered their phone, and it was a 40 mile round trip.
Fredericksburg is a bit like the dumpy, Texas equivalent of Solvang, but with a German theme instead of Dutch. The local supermarket looked a bit more upper scale than usual, and it had a few well-dressed members of the hilled gentry doing their shopping. A few people there, including those at the local Subway, and a dumpy local gas station looked at me even more strangely than usual; perhaps they aren't used to hiker-types or something. The Subway had a sign "Restrooms for customers only." I was considering being a customer when I walked in and used the restroom; when I exited the facilities and got a strange look from the guy behind the counter, I decided not to be a customer. Nevertheless, I let him put on his plastic gloves and looked at the menu a but while I conducted one of my usual interrogations. Then, after noticing that their prices were about 10% higher than Subways elsewhere I excused myself. But before I left I milked a few questions out of him. I learned to my amused bemusement that Fredericksburg has its own racetrack. Strangely enough, there was a Nascar store in Wilmington, Delaware, but I hadn't seen too much Nascar stuff since I got into Texas. Had I finally found the Nascar culture in Texas? No, it was horse racing, with parimutual betting even.
Unfortunately, the Fredericksburg KOA was about to close, their tenting area was under renovation, and they didn't want after-hours tent campers. So, I looked for something else. Unfortunately, the Lady Bird Johnson City Park's tenting area was just a big bare field across an access road from a small group of RVs. It didn't look too safe or appetizing. I then drove to the Kerrville KOA, but it wasn't much better: the only camping area was separated from a small highway by a wooden fence. That KOA is basically just for RVs.
So, saying "fuck the rock," I kept driving and pulled into the Junction KOA 50 miles down the freeway. Their tenting area sounded good in KOA's brochure: tent sites right next to the Llano river. However, there was no night registration for those sites, and signs directed me to set up my tent in a field next to a basketball court to avoid disturbing those who had the foresight to register earlier. In the morning there was a layer of frost on the tent; I was lucky enough to experience that area's first frost of the season. The owner there seemed to be a bit sharper than other KOA owners, and suggested I check out the Caverns of Sonora, which will be covered in the next installment.
Somewhere before Junction I left the greenery of the past two-plus months behind, and entered the southwestern desert environment. I didn't notice it at night, but in the morning it was a bit of a shock. Since leaving Colorado in early September, I had been in areas with more or less abundant rainfall, and it was quite a change to be in the dry, high, wide-open desert of the Southwest. It wasn't an entirely unwelcome change. Even though it's nice to be surrounded with greenery, I felt a bit more at home here.