A mile or two into my hike to the top of Mount Livermore in the Davis Mountains, I stepped to the side of the trail as two speedsters overtook me on the uphill slope. “I guess that’s where we’re headed,” I said, nodding to a rocky outcrop on the horizon far above. “Nope,” one of them responded. “Baldy Peak is beyond that—you can’t see it yet.”
An up-close visit with a Longhorn or bison can be humbling. The animals’ large chestnut-brown eyes reveal a complex blend of wild animal and domesticated stock. It’s hard to know whether they’re plotting an aggressive charge or happily anticipating a bucket of feed.
Early one morning on Trinity Bay, the autumn sky began to glisten. Myriad monarchs unfurled in clouds from the shoreline, fluttering overhead, some landing on our boat, on our fishing rods, and even on me and my husband. We watched, enchanted, as they danced ever-southward, propelled by a light north wind and their biological imperative.
I was lured to Kimble County by my fly fisher husband—his heart set on hooking the fabled Guadalupe bass and learning a trick or two at the annual Oktoberfisch fly-fishing festival. For three days every October, the Fredericksburg Fly Fishers invite first-timers and avid anglers to their event along the Llano River in Junction. The town—known as The Land of Living Waters, a nod to the county’s abundance of flowing waterways—sits where the North and South Llano rivers meet, so it’s a prime locale for such a fest.
Not far from the banks of the Canadian River, tucked among the River Valley Pioneer Museum’s artifacts of Panhandle ranching and railroad history, black-and-white portraits gaze from the gallery wall as if they’ve been waiting patiently for a century to look you in the eye.
There’s something about a river that evokes feelings of nostalgia. Perhaps it’s the tie to something ancient—the current that ripples over our feet carries the same water that sustained native tribes and beckoned early settlers to its shore.
Framed by a dramatic mountain backdrop, not far from the Texas-New Mexico line, is a building made of stone, steel, and stucco—an early modernist piece of architecture that seems to have gotten lost on a desert trail on its way to a more urban setting elsewhere.
For three days, the blue heron leads us downriver. In the mornings we push off in canoes through the olive green water of the lower Guadalupe, made murkier by Hurricane Harvey’s visit just over a month before.
For nearly a week, an unspooling ribbon of greenish-blue will carry you down frothy rapids, alongside towering escarpments, and into deep, fish-filled pools. You’ll tangle with tall reeds that line the banks, drag boats through a section of bony limestone channels called The Flutes, and camp on rocky riverbanks.
You find two kinds of paddlers on the Devils River: those who come out here whenever possible and those who will never do it again. Or so the saying goes.
I was pondering this thought one morning on the river as I clambered out of my kayak to perch on a boulder and peer 100 yards downstream at a serene pool flanked by sloping slabs of limestone. In between lay Dandridge Falls, a series of cascading rapids that coursed and swirled through chutes, over small ledges, and around protruding boulders and brush.
The Devils River grows more popular every year as word spreads about its crystal-clear water and spectacular setting. With the increase of paddlers embarking on overnight river trips comes increased tensions with the landowners who own the river’s banks.