Walter and Sara On the road to who knows where
On Monday February 8th, it was sunny and in the low 60’s. As proof that we were back in wandering mode, we took the Mossy Cap Trail that starts in the campground in Palmetto State Park, out towards the San Marcos River Trail (which was closed because of flood damage incurred last fall) and on to the Mesquite Trail.

Spring is just starting here in the hill country. I spied this interesting plant that was just starting to unfurl it’s leaves and put out a some sort of flower spike.

Unknown shrub Palmetto SP

There were Canadian Onions (Allium canadensis) just starting to bloom.

Canadian Onions (Allium canadensis)

A little further along the trail the flowers had actually started to open.

Canadian Onions (Allium canadensis)

The little yellow flower (which I suspect is a weed) was in bloom in the grass in the campground and here and there along the trail.

Yellow weed Palmetto SP

Once we circled around and hit the Mesquite Trail, we began to see many more American Elms than Mesquite. And here and there in wet spots there were palmettos.

Mesquite Trail Palmetto SP

These are much larger than the palmettos we saw down at Brazos Bend or up at Huntsville. But they are still considered dwarf palmettos.

Palmettos at Palmetto SP

Here and there I saw several little patches of Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule)--a non-native member of the mint family.

Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule)

We only encountered one bench on the trail and Walter decided it could really use another foot in height.

Walter Cooke on bench Palmetto SP

As we came out of the deeper section of the forest, we began to see trees with the oddest bark I’ve ever seen. From a distance it looked a bit like Toothache Tree but up close we found no thorns. Just weird ridges.

Sugarberry tree bark

This turns out to be Sugarberry Tree. And boy does it built interesting little towers and ridges on it’s sides.       

Sugarberry tree bark

We trooped through a section of Honey Mesquite trees and then stumbled across this HUGE weed. The rosettes were over 3 feet across and the variegation on the leaves made it look kind of like lizard skin.

unknown week Palmetto SP

We found a big mound of the stuff and in the middle of it was a good sized (say 12” across) critter hole! No critter came out while I was taking this photo and for that I am very thankful.

Critter hole in weed mound

Eventually the Mesquite Trail joins the Palmetto Nature Trail and all of a sudden the flora changes to swamp!   

Palmetto grove

There are little sloughs and ponds and everywhere there are palmettos.


This is a loop trail that takes you out to the main park road. There I saw a lone palm tree—we haven’t seen any since we left the coast.

Palm Tree Palmetto SP

I walked along the road and picked up the other portion of the trail so I could get a photo of this nifty old water tower that was built by the CCC in 1933-34.

Water tower Palmetto SP

It’s filled by one of the few ram-jet pumps still operating (according to the sign). It is powered by an artesian spring that provides the pressure to pump water up into the water tower—no electricity required. Originally the tower provided water to a nearby group picnic area. Now it is used to maintain the water levels in the swamp thus keeping the eco system for the palmettos going.

There was a young black vulture sunning himself on the roof.   

Black vulture Palmetto SP

This park marks the southwestern extent of the range for the palmetto and the rattan vine and both are flourishing here.

Rattan vine Palmetto SP

On the way back to the campground, I stopped to visit the Refectory, a building constructed by the CCC in 1935 as the Concession Stand.  

Refectory Palmetto SP

Originally it had a roof of thatched palmetto fronds. They were gathered from all over the area, all the way to Huntsville up north of Houston.

Now it is used as a Group Picnic shelter that you have to have a reservation to use. But inside you can still see how it must have been laid out for the Concession Stand.

Refectory Palmetto SP

From the front of the building you get a semi-obscured view of the San Marcos River.

Across the river, I could see a group of 50 plus big black birds on the bank. Initially I thought it was a very large murder of crows. But upon careful examination of the photo I realized that instead we had over 55 black vultures.

55 black vultures Palmetto SP

The view of the river was better from the road on the way to the campground.

San Marcos River Palmetto SP

All the debris piled up on the left I think came from the floods last fall. The trail that goes along the river is closed because of flood damage. I can imagine that between debris and erosion that it’s probably a big mess down around the bend to the right.

On Tuesday February 9th we headed further west to Hidden Valley RV Park just south of San Antonio. The plan had been to do laundry once we arrived but we discovered that this park only had one washer and one dryer and they were both in use. So we headed back to the rig, looked up laundry on the internet and found a place only 6 miles away. It was a little strange (instead of prices on the machines they said things like 11 and 15—for how many quarters you needed to put in). But we got it done which is all that is important.

On Wednesday February 10th, we headed into San Antonio for a little city adventure. We managed to find the suggested parking lot at 4th Street and Avenue E where we parked for just $5 for the whole day. This is in the heart of San Antonio and still parking was super reasonable.

We hiked west a couple of blocks, past the lovely San Antonio Express News building. The green panels were some sort of green granite or marble—very nice.  

San Antonio Express News building

And the entry door was even better. This paper has been in publication since 1865 and celebrated it’s 150th anniversary last year.

San Antonio Express News building

Just past this lovely building is a HUGE Post Office and Courthouse that is from this same Art Deco period. The detail work was lovely.

Post Office and Courthouse San Antonio

The Alamo is across the street from the Post Office. The grounds are dominated by a huge white memorial to the people who died in the siege here at the beginning of the Texas War of Independence from Mexico. The two larger than life folks on this side are Bonham and Howe.

Alamo Memorial

On the street side we have Travis and Crocket.

Alamo Memorial

The Alamo itself is a Spanish Mission that wasn’t completed before the missionaries moved on in the late 1700’s. It was used as a garrison after the missionaries moved on and it never had a roof. They’ve enclosed the top now to help preserve it.

The Alamo

To the left of the main Alamo structure is the original barracks building—the only other portion of the original Alamo that is still standing.

Alamo barracks building

We took the time to go through the small museum in the barracks building and then made our way towards the San Antonio Riverwalk.

On the way we passed a couple of horse drawn carriages.     

Horse drawn carriage San Antonio

The Riverwalk originally was a flood control project—which tamed the San Antonio River. It’s a full story below the main streets of the city and has become a whole other world in itself. We took the entry across the Alamo Plaza. We were greeted by a whole series of fountains as we made our way down the stairs.

Riverwalk fountain

At each landing there was more water cascading down.

Riverwalk fountain

This lovely mosaic adorned the walls of a tunnel.

San Antonio Riverwalk mosaic

Then we went through a hotel (I don’t remember which one) that had water flowing through the lobby.

Fountains in riverwalk hotel

And when we came out their main doors we were greeted by the Riverwalk. Overhead there was walkways and streets. But down here we have a placid river and manicured walkways past (and through) restaurants and hotels.

San Antonio Riverwalk

There were mallards in the waterway and one pair had some sweet little ducklings.

Ducks and ducklings Riverwalk

They paddled toward us and then back away.

Ducklings Riverwalk

We started to walk along the walkway.

San Antonio Riverwalk

And then one of the tour boats came by. This place really reminds me of Disneyland—well manicured, very civilized and slightly contrived.

San Antonio Riverwalk tourboat

There are restaurants with sidewalk seating on both sides of the river. In fact, you walk right through the seating in some of them.

San Antonio Riverwalk

There were lots of nice stairways leading up towards shops and cafes.

Riverwalk stairs

There were large beds of cyclamen all perfectly groomed.

Cyclamen Riverwalk

And here and there were nice little arched bridges taking you from one side of the river to the other.

Riverwalk bridge

Futher along we came to a larger bridge (further up) where the traffic overhead crossed. St. Mary’s Street is a major street.

St Marys St. bridge Riverwalk

The little sweet bridges ended and we came to a place where we wanted to get to the other side of the river so we took a stairway up to street level. The railings were hung with pots of pansies.

Pansies Riverwalk

And coming back down there were these lovely purple flowers—and I have no idea what they were. Much of the landscaping used what I think of as houseplants. But there were also huge old trees that have clearly grown here for hundreds of years. There was a cypress that was over 300 years old growing at river level and reaching up 3 or 4 stories.

unknown purple flowers Riverwalk

We followed the walkways up and down and around weaving our way through the heart of the city. There was yet another cool Art Deco building with lots of nifty decoration around the windows.

Ornate building San Antonio Riverwalk

There were large beds of stocks in front of the Westin Hotel.

Stocks Riverwalk

The Daughters of the Texas Trail Drivers installed this lovely mural in memory of the last known place where horses drank and forded the river (right near the Westin).                  

Daughters of the Texas Trail Drivers Mural

There’s also a large statue of a trail driver and some Texas long horns.

Texas Long horns statue Riverwalk

In this same area there were more fountains.

Riverwalk fountain

There’s water flowing in and out of the hotels so that it looks like you could take a boat in—there are water taxis so maybe you can. And in return there are more fountains.

Riverwalk fountain

We came around the bend and were greeted by the El Rio restaurant and it’s lovely colored umbrellas. It’s been in this location since 1946 which tells you that the Riverwalk isn’t new.

El Rio Riverwalk

It wasn’t quite lunchtime for us so we decided to walk on down one last inlet and come back later.

One of the things I found very amusing was that the gardeners (and the trash men) drove little barges to tend the landscaping along the Riverwalk. Everything else was shiny and perfect, and then these guys would put put by in their very basic wooden barges—a touch of reality in an otherwise controlled environment.     

Landscapers on barge Riverwalk

We headed down the way and I spied some Mardi Gras beads hanging in the trees. Fat Tuesday had been the night before and clearly, they had had a great time along the Riverwalk.

Mardi Gras beads Riverwalk

This section didn’t seem to be as old and the buildings along it weren’t as old either.

San Antonio Riverwalk

We were hearing a trumpeter practicing along through here. We looked up and realized he was way up on a balcony—6 floors from the top of the Hilton.

Hilton at Riverwalk

Once he was done with his scales he played a tune or two and then went back to practicing technique including screeches.

We came back towards the El Rio again and I got this fun shot of the colored umbrellas through one of the arched bridges.    

El Rio Riverwalk

Now to just figure out how to get over to the restaurant! We had to climb the stairs to the street level, cross over the river and then go back down the stairs and into the restaurant. Here, the walkway doesn’t go in between the tables which is nice. We got a waterside table with a nice view of the river.

View from El Rio Restaurant San Antonio

We ordered and Walter was ready for lunch.

Walter Cooke El Rio restaurant San Antonio

There were wandering mariachis and we paid our $10 for a romantic song since it was so close to Valentine’s Day. Then the folks behind us did it too so we got 2 songs for the price of one and I got a chance to photograph them too. There was a trumpeter too but he was directly behind me.

Mariachis El Rio Riverwalk

Walter had a bottle of Alamo Golden Ale. He said it was nothing special—not as good as Dos XX. But it was fun.

Alamo Golden Ale

After lunch we wandered our way back towards the Alamo and came above ground a block or so from where we’d started—not bad when we really didn’t know what we were doing. We wandered on back through the Alamo and I noticed yet another cool Art Deco building which turned out to be the Emily Morgan Hotel.

Emily Morgan Hotel

It’s one of those wedge-shaped buildings which makes it even more fun. We walked right by it on our way back to the truck so I got a nice shot of the detail work.

Emily Morgan Hotel

We really enjoyed our day in San Antonio and highly recommend taking the time to spend some time doing the Riverwalk. There is 15 miles of it now reaching north and south of the heart of the city. You can ride your bike or hike the entire length though the one bike we encountered in the heart of the city was having to walk because there were just too many pedestrians.