Saturday, July 12, 2014


Johnson City, TX

Entrance to the park with Texas Bluebonnets in full bloom.

I have to admit, the name Pedernales "Falls" may have fooled me a bit.  Of course, in my mind I conjured images of a powerful force of water plummeting hundreds of feet over the edge of a dangerous cliff as rainbows danced in its mist.

But, these falls were more like...lazy, trickling cascades that daintily slow danced from one pool to another.  So maybe it didn't quite match up to the scene that played out in my mind, but what lay before my eyes certainly did not disappoint.

Pedernales Falls State Park is located guessed it...the Pedernales River on 5,211 acres in Blanco County east of Johnson City (somewhere between Austin and Fredricksburg to give you a better idea).  And even though the falls may be the main attraction, this park offers numerous opportunities for recreation and relaxation.  Check 'em out!

Pedernales Falls in the fall (on a previous trip)

Hiking Pedernales Falls offers such a unique twist on "hiking".  There's a whole lot of climbing, heaving, scootering and jumping, along with some traditional hiking and it's all fabulous.  Our hike began at an overlook, high above the falls.  

My mom and I overlooking Pedernales Falls.

We then followed a rustic, stone stairway down to the falls.  The real fun began here because there is no actual designated path for hiking and no signs demanding that you stay on the path at all times.  The adventure is in making it up as you go; finding a destination in the distance and then manuevering yourself over and around pools of water and rock formations to get there.  

Blazing a new trail!

My stepdad and the kids exploring.

My sweethearts taking a break and enjoying the view.

Although it appears that these pools of water would be perfect for swimming and beating the Texas heat, unfortunately it is not allowed.  What is fortunate is that down the river a perfect section of river awaits for jumping in and cooling off.  Since we hit a cool spell during our trip in April we didn't get to dip our toes in the water, but we certainly hiked on down to took a look.

It's definitely a small trek getting to the designated swimming area.

Following the trail to the river.

Swimming section of the Pedernales River.

It's a beautiful view!  And it's also a great area for toddlers to wade in or grown-ups to park a lounge chair and veg for as long as needed.  Down the river the water becomes a little deeper for actual swimming.  Although the kids were a little disappointed it wasn't warm enough to take a dip, we still enjoyed skipping stones, balancing on rocks across the river, and spotting fish swimming by.

A few other highlights of our trip:

-an easy, shaded hike to the Twin Falls overlook.  The falls weren't much to speak of, but the hike was wonderful.

-spacious, shaded, close-to-the-restrooms-with-plenty-of-hot-water-in-the-shower, camping site

-Junior Explorer Pack we received upon request for the duration of our visit.  It included such items as: binoculars, compass, several wildlife guides, drawing pad, journal, and crayons.

-bird blind.  There's been a hidden bird-watcher in me all these years and I had no idea.  My 8 year old loved it too; my 5 year old...not so much.

-only a 30-minute drive to Hamilton Pool Nature Preserve

-picture-taking and climbing over the roots of these beautiful Bald Cypress trees

Just one of many Bald Cypress trees lining the river.

Pedernales Falls has absolutely found a spot on our "will return to" list.  Considering we were unable to fully experience the river, we know that a return trip during warming weather is a must in the future.  Any place that offers so many opportunities to explore, hike, and educate, is somewhere I want to be and Pedernales Falls State Park is definitely one of those places.

Thursday, December 5, 2013


Dripping Springs, TX (30 miles West of Austin)

Having grown up in Northern California, where a walk on a beautiful breezy beach or a slalom down a powdery ski slope are both accessible in the same day, I kinda feel like I've turned into an "outdoor snob".  You know, it's like nothing can compare to the outdoor scenery or opportunities that CA has to offer.  And now that I reside in Texas, where the landscape is void of all beauty (I know that's not completely true, but I over-exaggerate for emphasis), I've pretty much given up on finding any outdoor location that can compare to my childhood memories.


….we discovered Hamilton Pool!

When we drove up to the entrance and listened to the park ranger describe the awesome beauty that lie within the park before us, I seriously wanted to roll my eyes and wondered if she had gotten outa town lately to see any real beauty.  Even though I had read all the good reviews about Hamilton Pool, I still wasn't expecting much.  Heck, maybe at least it would be good under Texas' standards.

To my surprise, Hamilton Pool was everything and more to this nature lover!

How 'bout a few pictures to prove it!

A well maintained and somewhat challenging trail leading to our destination.

 Cool rock formation along the way.

And THIS is Hamilton Pool, my friends! Isn't she gorgeous?

The trail leads all the way around the pool...

…and under this 50 foot waterfall.

We spent a good 45 minutes just strolling along the path around the pool, stopping frequently to snap a picture here and there, and to simply take in that brilliant turquoise water.  And the whole time I kept wondering how in the world my husband, who has been a Texan for 35+ years, has never been here!  

After we made our way around the pool, we decided to head back up the trail to the place where it forked.  Instead of heading back to the car, we continued our hike along the stream which led to a river.  Unfortunately, since we were short on time, we didn't make it to the river (even though it was only .34 miles down the trail), but from what we did see during the short distance we traveled, we could tell that the view wouldn't disappoint.

View from the trail following the stream.

The next time you're in the Austin area and needing a little one-on-one with Mother Nature, be sure to head on out to Hamilton Pool.  Listen real close…can't you just hear the trail calling your name?  


-Swimming is allowed in the pool, but it is often closed after a heavy rain due to high bacteria levels so be sure to check the website before visiting.  
-During the busy season (which is summer) the pool is often filled to capacity not soon after opening for the day, so be prepared to get there early.
-The trail to the pool is only .25 miles but it involves several rocky steps and a slight descent to the pool which means there will be an ascent (which feels more than "slight") on your way out.
-There are no concessions.
-A rustic bathroom is located in the parking lot and everyone's favorite, a port-a-jon, is located down the trail a ways close to the pool.


Saturday, November 23, 2013

SINYA on LONE MAN CREEK - the ultimate "camping" experience

Wimberley, TX

Are you ready for a truly unique experience tucked away in the beautiful surroundings of the Texas Hill Country?  How about combining the quaint and quirky town of Wimberley, TX with accommodations in a contemporary African safari tent that sits atop a hill overlooking a flowing creek?

Before you get too caught up in wondering what in the world an African safari tent is doing in the middle of the Texas hill country, let me give you a bit of advice…. Just Go With It!  Scroll on down and check out what we've all been missing and then start wondering why in the world you haven't heard about Sinya long before now.

Often times the word "tent" conjures up visuals in my mind of sleeping under a flimsy canopy barely able to withstand even minimal forces from mother nature or…. dare I say….bugs.  *shudder*  But, since Sinya far exceeds the basic idea of tent camping, it actually falls within a select group of camping accommodations that require a whole new term for their camping experience.  Have you ever heard of Glamping?  Well, once you've set your eyes upon the beauty that lies within Sinya, you'll understand why it is referred to as glamorous camping.

Come along and take a step inside with me as I dreamily reminisce with you about one of our most relaxing (and definitely most unique) get-aways to date.

A wonderfully comfy King bed with a down comforter 
that would have kept us warm even if we were "really camping".  

Opposite the bed, the hubby and I relaxed here with a good read in the afternoon 
and fixed ourselves a quick breakfast each morning.

100+ year old claw foot tub with shower attachment.

A view from the spacious bathroom into the bedroom.

Sinya far exceeded our every expectation when diving into our very first glamping experience. The owner, Lynn, has a wonderful eye for design, comfort, and romance.  Throughout the tent, remote-controlled flameless candles illuminated our space to create just the right mood.  Heating and cooling options (also remote-controlled) allowed us to regulate just the right temps to stay nice and cozy since the walls are not insulated.  And so much more was provided, like: extra warm bathrobes, a portable bluetooth speaker, environmentally friendly toiletries, all kitchen necessities, coffee fixin's, smores fixin's, and I'm sure there is more that I have already forgotten.

With all of this elegance and all these amenities on the inside, we couldn't have asked for more.  BUT, stepping outside onto the Sinya deck, more is exactly what we got.

The outdoor space here is just as top-notch as the inside and offers a bit of uniqueness of its own.  

From the front porch we took in panoramic views of the hill country 
(but unfortunately missed out on taking it all in from the comforts of the hammock provided).

We definitely didn't miss out on this view of Lone Man Creek - absolutely gorgeous!

And we even took a little hike down to the dam for a quick pic 
(not my best look, but I had to add this one in to at least prove we were actually there).

If you're not feeling adventurous enough to walk along the dam wall, 
simply enjoy the view from this quaint spot.

 Back up the hill, just behind the tent sits this
 perfect spot for grilling or roasting a gooey smore.

And now for the really good stuff that I've been saving for last….

Private outdoor shower.

Japanese soaking tub perfect for 2!

Without giving away too much information, let me just say we spent a fair amount of time each night soaking in the tub, with some good tunes playing, under a beautiful star-lit sky.

The only thing wrong with our stay at Sinya was simply that it wasn't long enough.  Those too-short two nights have turned us into campers…. or shall I say "glamorous campers".  So ladies, next time your husband asks if you're ready to go camping, tell him "Sure honey!  I'll get right to work on making those reservations!" 

Have you ever heard of, or better yet, been glamping?
Tell us all about it!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

GUATEMALA - Foreign Mission Trip

Guatemala City, Guatemala

Having just arrived home two days ago from this trip, my mind is whirling with memories and emotions.  There is so much I want to remember; so much I want to share, and it's hard to even know where to begin.  So, I've decided to start with something I wrote in my journal on our flight home.  

Before I start, here is what inspired that journal entry... On our last day in Guatemala, our children's pastor asked four us, all of whom were on our first foreign mission trip, to give our response on video to this question, "What are you taking home from this trip?"  At the time, I was somewhat of a mess as we were preparing to say goodbye to the many children who had touched our hearts on this trip.  I wasn't sure I'd even be able to speak.  But somehow, with two of my new, sweet friends clinging to my side, I stood before the camera and gave the most honest answer I could at the time (along with a total sob-fest).

Two sweet faces that seldom left my side.

Several hours later, when I was able to clearly think through what my expectations were from this trip and then what I was taking home, I wrote the following journal entry.


In preparation for this trip, I had many concerns and fears.  Some of them were legitimate and some were just kind of silly.  But they were things like; What if I get sick? What will I wear and how will I pack a weeks worth of clothes only in a carry-on?  What will our accommodations be like and will I have the privacy I desire?  Do I really have anything to offer?  And, Can God use me?

I tried not to focus too much on all of my concerns and half-trusted that God would take care of it all.

Now that the week is over I realize that God truly did take care of it all.  None of us were sick.  Nobody cared what clothes I wore (not even me).  Our accommodations were fantastic.  And God used me and changed me in more ways than I ever thought possible.

Here is just one of the many lessons that God taught me that I will never forget.

Most of our time in Guatemala was spent at a church, high in the mountains, in the village of San Mateo.  This church is a safe place where children come after school to be fed a healthy meal, receive help with homework, and hear and experience the love of Christ.  While we were there, we added to the after-school program by providing a mini-VBS (vacation bible school) with a time of bible story, crafts, and recreation, which is where I participated. 

Our rec time got rained out this day 
so we played a low-energy game in the basement kitchen.

Before the program began each day, children arrived early.  And after the program ended each day, children lingered around.  We often took advantage of this opportunity to simply play with the kids.  We used some games and toys that a few of us had brought along to share with kids and there was nothing more special than to see their beautiful faces beaming with delight as we laughed and played together.  We played things like; jump rope, limbo, monkey-in-the-middle, tickle fights, war with playing cards, and quite possibly their favorite…52-card pick-up.

Even though I loved every minute of sharing in laughter with them, whether it was over winning a game together or us mangling their language in attempts to communicate, I still questioned God as to how I was making a difference for Christ.

Well, over the course of a few hours, He answered by reminding me of what we had seen during our time in the village.  You see, life is rough for the women of these children.  If they do not work for a wage during the day, their time is spent working for their families.  They wash clothes by hand on the side of the road at the community wash pool where they scrub and rinse, scrub and rinse, one article or two at a time.  Then they carry the wet clothes, in a basket on their heads, sometimes barefoot, back to their homes and hang them all to dry.

These pools are also used for bathing.

Cooking also, is not an easy task.  There are no 5-min microwave meals.  Not even a 30-min Rachel Ray meal.  These women walk to town to buy their food, most often it’s only the essentials they can afford, like vegetables, beans, and rice.  Although the distance to walk may not seem far, the altitude is high and the road is steep.  It’s so steep that they often walk in a switch-back pattern up the road in order to minimize the steep ascent.  These women cook for their families which number anywhere between 4-10 people.  And most of the women we spoke with were taking care of their families without the help of a husband, as men often leave the family or are too consumed by their alcohol addiction.

Vegetables on her head and a baby on her back.

Life is tough.

As the Lord brought these images to my mind and I recalled the rigors of daily life for these women, He began to show me how beneficial an hour or two of play and laughter can be for a child.  He revealed that by simply being willing to serve in whatever way necessary, whether it was praying over a hurting family, making tortillas for 3 hours to feed 100 kids, or simply playing a game with a child in need of laughter and a hug, I was bringing glory and honor to the name of my great God.

Big smiles from my new friends after we spun around in circles.
I pray I never forget these faces.

1 Timothy 1:12 
"I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service."

Saturday, August 31, 2013


Bastrop, TX

The Lost Pines Resort & Spa is full of exciting outdoor adventures and activities taking place all throughout the day.  From golf to archery; hiking to canoeing; and much more; Lost Pines has it all.  And then when it's time to unwind a bit, they offer a beautiful spa retreat where you can leave your cares behind and indulge yourself in an oasis of relaxation.  The possibilities are endless.

During the summer months, the resort caters to families with children and offers a wide variety of free activities sure to keep the young ones entertained all throughout the day.

Our family, along with two other families, visited in mid-July and took advantage of many of the free activities.  When we checked-in we were provided with a full list of diverse activities in order to choose from.  We loved the fact that they offered such variety and always had a plan B in case of stormy weather.  During our 4-day stay it rained every day (probably the only rain that area has seen all summer), but we didn't complain as it allowed for cooler temps, making outdoor activities actually quite enjoyable.

Here's a look at a few of the organized activities we enjoyed during our stay:

Ceramic Painting - FREE!

Leather Art - $5 charge
(A fingernail may or not have been damaged in the making of this art.)

Meet the "Mini" Mascots - FREE!

Creating with Oil Pastels - FREE!

The rain let up this morning and the art activity was able to be held outdoors in it's regular location under a large canopy of shady pecan trees.  

Glow-In-The-Dark Tennis

I'm not sure if this was regularly held outdoors, but regardless of location, my friend and I had a blast!  Playing tennis with our kids, on the other hand, was quite a challenge, but it was still good for a few laughs.

Horse Drawn Wagon Rides w/ tour of the property

S'mores Makin'
*a Hyatt Lost Pines signature event every evening*

And just in case you're wondering if the S'mores are for kids only, check out this mom devouring a delicious treat...

With one in each hand, I'd say she likes it.

Another signature activity of the Hyatt Lost Pines is their evening outdoor movie.  It is located at the amphitheater which features inclined seating on a grassy slope with a great view of the Colorado river.  Unfortunately we were rained out every night, but got to enjoy the movies indoors with free popcorn.  One evening, after the kids were settled in watching Shark Tail, all the adults sat just outside the door and played cards till the kids couldn't keep their eyes open any longer.  It was a win-win for everyone!

Here's a quick list of a few of the things we would have liked to have taken part in, but just didn't have time:  Paper Airplane Competition, Cardio Tennis, Sponge Art, Meet the Longhorns, Glow Painting, Sac Races, Beginner Tennis, Freeze Dance, Wind Chime Art, and Tug-of-War.  And that's just to name a few.  The list goes on!

Of course organized events and activities are fun and take the work of planning off us parents, but every once in a while, what we all need is just some good old fashion family time.  Lost Pines has an extended list of paid activities that are sure to bring the family together so check out their website (link at the top of the page).  

Or just take advantage of the freedom to explore with the ones you love.  Here's how we did it:

Hiking trails begin right out the back door.

Bikes can be checked out for free for the first hour. 

The lazy river awaits all those wishing to float the day away.

 Tennis courts and equipment are provided free of charge.  
(What I did pay for was the beating she put on me since I haven't played in several years.) 

Whether you're in need of a refreshing spa getaway, a time of family bonding, or an exciting adventure, you'll find it all at the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort & Spa.

One happy family ready to book a stay for next summer!

*to read my post all about the grounds and property at Lost Pines, click here