Take a step back to a time when things were much simpler, much slower, much more friendly. Step into Blanco, Texas, just 70 miles from La Vernia.
In 1721, members of a Spanish expedition led by the Marqués de San Miguel de Aguayo came upon a river and named it Blanco for the white limestone visible on the banks and in the riverbed. Up until the mid-1800s, the banks of this river were inhabited by the Comanche and Apache tribes, followed by American westward expansion.
The Blanco River rises from springs in Kendall County and flows over 80 miles in an east-southeasterly direction through the town of Blanco and the Narrows, along the Devil’s Backbone, through Wimberley, and finally emptying into the San Marcos River. Not only did the Blanco River help to establish several towns along its banks, but it also spawned recreational opportunities for fishing, camping, and water sports.
The town of Blanco, with a population of only 2,000, has become an important Hill Country destination. There are more than 35 buildings surrounding the Old Blanco Courthouse, the centerpiece of the town square, listed in the National Register of Historic Places and mostly occupied now by artists and art galleries, antique stores, boutiques, and small restaurants. I highly recommend the Redbud Café; they make a killer Reuben sandwich.
What a sight
Blanco State Park is located within the city limits of Blanco. This 110-acre park offers camping, trailer sites, screened shelters for accommodations, and fishing, swimming, and a children’s play area for fun and entertainment. Special programs are presented throughout the year, such as nature walks and the very popular Stars in the Park. A nominal park entrance fee is charged for day use; campsite fees are on the website.
Lavender fields have had hard times during the past several years of drought, but they are surviving; May through July is the blooming season. Lavender is used in soap, shampoo, oils, and lotions, and for flavored teas and lemonades. Blanco celebrates this fragrant plant each year in late spring with the Blanco County Lavender Festival. With more than 20 lavender farms in Blanco County, the towns of Blanco, Johnson City, and the surrounding countryside are alive with brightly colored flowers. Lavender merchandise is abundant throughout the year.
The Devil’s Backbone Scenic Drive is a 54-mile loop starting 2 miles south of Blanco. Turn in an easterly direction toward San Marcos on C.R. 32 from U.S. 281 and you will be following a scenic ridge called the Devil’s Backbone that runs between Blanco and Wimberley. In the spring and early summer, the wildflowers decorate the landscape. Watch for whitetail deer anytime of the year. Continue to Farm Road 12 and turn left toward the town of Wimberley. From Wimberley, turn left onto Farm Road 2325 to its end, then left again onto Farm Road 165 back to Blanco. The scenic loop is popular with motorcyclists.
Stay with us
The Blanco County Inn at 902 Main Street is one of the steps back in time -- at least at first glance. Owners Ralph and Deborah de León purchased this roadside motel in 2003 and completely remodeled and modernized the facility. The rooms are bright and beautifully decorated, and as Ralph says, “It feels like you’re visiting Grandma’s house.” Each has a refrigerator, microwave, coffee maker, and free Internet.
The cozy atmosphere extends to the large raised deck in the front filled with flowering plants and comfortable furniture, all under the shade of magnificent oaks. The very first thing we noticed while sitting on the deck was the beautiful sound of the chirping birds. Rates range from $53 to $93. In addition to the Blanco County Inn, the de Leóns also manage several small cabins on the boundary of the Blanco State Park facing the river.
The Blanco Settlement is 3 miles east of Blanco on Ranch Road 165. There are nine individual cabins, along with an area for RV parking, in a beautiful Texas landscape with the Blanco River bed in the background, the white limestone mostly exposed. Rates range from $125 to $145 with a 2-night minimum.
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Other things to do:
•See dinosaur tracks in million-year-old mud beds, now turned to stone, at The Heritage Museum of the Hill Country, located off S.H. 309 and F.M. 2773 toward Canyon Lake, (a great side trip while on the Devil’s Backbone Scenic Drive).
•Visit the Real Ale Brewing Co., located at 231 San Saba in Blanco and sample some handcrafted ales.
•Blanco Classic Car Show, a one-day free event held on the third Saturday in May for the last 23 years at the Blanco State Park draws more than 200 classic cars to the banks of the river. Cars, food, music, and fun for the entire family. What a nice way to spend the day.
Blanco -- the place where you can do everything or do absolutely nothing.
Harry and Linda Kaye Perez are freelance writers from just down the road from Floresville. Together they share a passion for traveling and writing, and discovering the very best in all corners of the world. Email them at Harry-Linda411@att.net.
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