We awoke surrounded by art and said goodbye to our beloved new friends, Echo and Sam, before making our way to McKinney Falls Park. In Texas right now, in order to better observe social distancing guidelines, you must book a park reservation online ahead of time.
Though this was an extra hoop to jump through, I’m so glad we did. We practically had the park to ourselves on this nice day, which was a very rare occurrence at the state park in my hometown.
McKinney Falls State Park
We walked along the path, dodging the various lizard sprinting for his life here and there until finally arriving at the main attraction: McKinney Falls. This was a shorter waterfall than what we’d been seeing, but that didn’t compromise its beauty one bit. To make it even better, two birds had perched right at the foot of the falls, taking breaks between catching fish to pose for me. It took a lot of convincing to prove to people that this exotic scene was truly out in the wild rather than staged for us at the zoo.
The Oasis Restaurant
At this point, were getting a bit hungry for lunch and found the perfect little oasis to rest at. The Oasis Restaurant was a short drive from McKinney Falls, and had THE best views I have ever witnessed from a restaurant. We could see the shimmering turquoise water of Lake Travis right from our table outside on the cliff’s edge and cheers’d our margaritas to that.
All along the fence line were locks, promising those who’d visited to remain a part of The Oasis forever. Taking the rest of the Mexican food to go, we moved on to Colorado Bend State Park.
Colorado Bend State Park
Needing a reservation for this area as well, we were delighted to have more of the trail to ourselves. The main attraction of Colorado Bend State Park was Gorman Falls, so we set out our hike in that direction. As you can see, that was definitely a great decision on our part. Walking down the path to the falls, I felt as if I had slid down a tube in Mario World and popped up in Costa Rica. The waterfall(s) were INSANE.
They’d practically surrounded us and every step I took gave me a new, breathtaking perspective. My Nikon was working overtime until we heard it: The low boom of thunder in the distance.
Finding Some Lone Survivors
“Uh-oh. We’d better get back to the car before we get caught in the storm.”
Rounding the corner, someone shouted, “Oh good! People! Do you know where Gorman Falls is?”
“Oh, yeah! It’s about a two minute walk up that way,” I pointed.
“You’re kidding me,” she exclaimed, out of breath, “We just walked about two hours that way trying to find it.” She pointed to the rocky cliffs below her as beads of sweat trickled down her forehead.
“Ha, maybe that’s why the trails are so empty,” I thought to myself.
As a slow sprinkle began, we started to pick up the pace. It’s always so surprising finding out how far we’d actually come on the trail, as our exertion gets masked by our excitement on the way down. Another crackle of thunder echoed across the trail and the light show began. On our way to the park today, we’d heard on the radio that if you’re close enough to hear thunder, then you’re close enough to get struck by lightning.
Racing The Storm
That was a super reassuring thought since my entire backpack was essentially filled with a lightning strike starter pack as we marched through open fields atop a cliff. I remembered that the car windows were also left open, as the heat was stifling when we’d arrived. At this point, I was in a full-on sprint beelined to the car. Arriving safely, but drenched, we turned on the car and without further ado, our next challenge squared up at the plate.
We were out in the boonies, with no service and a gas light eyeing us up as if we were deer caught in the headlights. Doing our best to roll down the hills and be conservative with our tank, we took a risk following whatever turns we came across, praying for a Shell Station Sign to be sent from the heavens.
A Hidden Gem
And, sure enough, around the next bend came a Shell Gas Station. Raven: 1, Nature: 0. However, I might just have to bring that score up to Raven 2, Nature: 0, as this wasn’t just a gas station, it was also a drive-thru beer cave.
Pulling in, we examined the selections around us as a man strolled over to help. Turns out, this beer cave was a one-stop shop. Deciding on two bottles from Fiesta Winery, a local hotspot, we figured why not grab some dinner to go with it. Five minutes later, he came back to the car with the best homemade fries I’ve had in my entire life–and I mean best. My mouth is still watering just thinking about them. You may be living in 2020, but this gas station was living in 2030, and I thanked them endlessly for that.
Thirty minutes down the road, we arrived at the ranch. I typed the digits in the keypad and the gate swung open before us. Tonight, we were sleeping with a herd of alpacas.
Meeting the Alpacas and Llamas
Our host came out and welcomed us to her humble abode, gifting some treats to win the hungry alpacas over with. At this time, she also introduced us to the newest additions to the farm: A family of llamas. She’d rescued these guys from the wild not two weeks before we’d arrived and one of them had already given birth, making it a family of seven.
It was an incredibly cute sight to see the baby llama running around the pen and nursing from his mother, however, since they were new, they were still quite skittish, so we let them be.
The alpacas, on the other hand, were our best friends. As we entered their penthouse of a pasture, everyone came running up, ready for a snack. Humming and clicking, they graciously took the treats from our hands with their gentle lips, letting us pet their crazy afros in the process. Wherever we’d go, our friends would follow. They were basically like dogs, but with longer necks; I was in love. After dishing out a fair share of treats, we snuck back to our room to crack open the coconut and white cranberry wine over Netflix, our favorite way to end the day.
We fell into a deep slumber that night with the windows open, listening to the crickets singing across the farm and peeping out every once in a while to watch the baby llama explore his new world in the pasture right behind our headboards.
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