Photos: Me, in a bright yellow Gabrielle Union dress ready to attend an outdoor Hill Country wedding, Other three shots are taken around the grounds of the incredible Messina Inn in Wimberley. (www.messinainntx.com. Incidentally, James and I have stayed there multiple times and it's where I started writing It Happened In The Hill Country)
If you've never been to The Texas Hill Country then I encourage you to put visit on your bucket list. And, while you're there, I strongly recommend that you check out what's been referred to as "The Most Haunted Stretch of Texas Highway" —The Devil's Backbone.
Having been born and raised in San Antonio, I'm no stranger to this incredible part of Texas. In fact, in high school, our basketball and track teams would make the trek to hill country towns like Dripping Springs, Boerne, and Bandera to compete against other small schools like ours. Even then I appreciated the beauty of the rolling hills and sweeping vistas I saw from the windows of our bus. It would be light when we'd arrive at the rural schools and incredibly dark on the country roads during the hour and a half trip back to San Antonio. It was on one of our return trips from Dripping Springs that one of my teammates told us a story about The Devil's Backbone.
Now, I've shared before that as kids, my sister Brenda and I would watch Night Gallery and The Twilight Zone. There's just something thrilling about being a "wee bit" scared. (I suppose it's like eating hot peppers, it gives you some kind of high) Anyway, we're traveling on the bus and it's pitch black outside and this gal starts telling everyone about how her uncle and his wife got run off the road by an Indian spirit on a horse while they were driving along The Devil's Backbone. She told us that when the couple got out of their car, they heard the Native American's wild shrieking and the shrill neigh of his horse. They watched in terror as the apparition galloped away across the hillside.
I remember being both skeptical and frightened. I mean, here we were out in the middle of nowhere and it's crazy dark outside! It didn't help that after The Devil's Backbone story was shared, all the other girls had their own ghost stories to contribute. Suffice it to say, it was a long ride home and it's likely I slept with the light on that night!
It Happened In The Hill Country—Why I Used This Spectacular Setting For My First Romance Novel
I plan to write more about The Texas Hill Country and other unique destinations around The Lone Star State in later blogs and will also share them on my Smile You're In Texas Facebook page. But the reason I used it as the setting for my first romance novel is that The Hill Country has all the elements—nature, beauty, intrigue, history, and when you throw in The Devil's Backbone, a bit of mystique! (isn't that a great word?)
The Devil's Backbone is actually part of a scenic fifty-one-mile loop through the Texas Hill Country's eroding Edwards Plateau. The drive offers not only outstanding views of the 400-mile-long Balcones Fault, but also expansive rolling hills and breathtaking vistas. The actual ridge is peppered with ghost stories and apparitions of Spanish monks, Native Americans, Confederate soldiers, and others.
If you're still brave enough to journey to the Devil's Backbone, be on the lookout when you're on Farm Road 32 so you don't miss the signs to make a stop at the Devil's Backbone Overlook on the north side of the road. The hills and sweeping vistas, dotted with oak, juniper, and cactus make for a perfect picnic spot!
The history of the Devil's Backbone, like many areas of the West, has seen its share of violence for Native Americans and white settlers alike. Sadly, in more recent years, the twisty stretch of highway has been the scene of many fatal car accidents as well. Folks say that many ghosts seem to have lingered, such as this one account of a super-natural encounter shared by a foreman from an area ranch. He tells about waking to the sound of horses galloping near his cabin. When he went outside to check it out, he saw at least twenty men on horseback riding near the homestead. He claims they appeared to be ghosts of Confederate soldiers. According to his account, the thunder of their horses' hooves was loud enough to shake the walls of his cabin.
There are also tales of the ghost of a Native American named Drago who has been seen herding cattle along the Backbone, according to some ranchers. They also tell of a widow and child of a miner who was killed, who have been seen wandering the area, supposedly seeking a proper Christian burial for their husband and father.
Then there's the aptly named Purguatory Road where an apparition is said to materialize on the hoods of cars as they drive along. It was near this same piece of road where John Villareal was hiking with two of his friends in an area known as "Haunted Valley". While walking, John told them he'd seen a vision of a wolf. When the three got back into John's truck, his friends noticed that John was very cold and they were taken aback as he began to speak in an enraged voice about Indian massacres. Once they'd returned home, John's buddies were still trying to calm him down when out of nowhere, a strong wind tore through the kitchen, throwing the back door wide open. At that point, John returned to his normal self.
Pretty eerie stuff, eh?
Jumping Into The Blue Hole
Not too far from the quaint town of Wimberley, Texas you'll find a naturally-occurring swimming spot called The Blue Hole which is fed by Cypress Creek. Above are a couple of photos of James and me taken last fall after we'd jumped into the sparkling, blue-green water. (it was pretty chilly!) There are some cool trails along Cypress Creek and one that takes you up to Wimberley where you'll find unique shops and restaurants.
To the left is a shot of James I took when I dropped him off at Ino'z Daddy Day Care Center so I could poke around in all the nifty shops. This clever little pit-stop is the perfect place to let the guys (or gals) enjoy an adult beverage while those of us who like to shop can do their thing!
(Hey, it's important to support the local artisans!)
Closet ClotheSure Challenge 2020: Week 36
I can't believe I've completed thirty-six weeks of work attire without repeating an outfit! Here's the recap for the week–all four dresses are from White House Black Market. I mentioned on social media earlier this past Monday that two of the four dresses would be donated. Check to see if you guessed which ones went bye-bye and why!
I purchased this lavender number for a spring wedding a few years back. At the time it fit perfectly, but honestly, I haven't worn it in years because it somehow got too small! (I blame the dry cleaners! LOL)
Full disclosure on this one - although I set my own rules for Closet ClotheSure and normally wear whatever is in my closet to the office (as my punishment for hanging onto things for too long), I barely got this thing zipped when James took the photo of few days ago. As I told a friend, sneezing is not an option in this dress! I love the color, but—it's gone!
Also purchased for a wedding in 2014, here's another one for this week's loser board! Again—too tight on me. Not blaming the dry cleaners for this one. It was kind of snug when I bought it but yours truly had hopes of dropping a couple of pounds and making it work. Other than this last time around, I can't recall when I wore it last!
This green, black and gray dress is a personal fav since I don't have to wear a bra with it! (shhh!)
The fabric has a little stretch to it and it hugs nicely in all the right places! A keeper for sure!
Stop! This dress had me at pockets!!!! This black and white smart shift dress is super comfortable to wear and looks great with a black blazer. Another one that's staying in my closet for the foreseeable future!
In case you're keeping score, at the end of September, I've worn a total of 134 different outfits to the office on Monday-Thursday. My rule is that I must get rid of anything that doesn't make me feel like a ten. To date 50 pieces have been donated to charity or given to friends. And the fun just keeps coming! Stay tuned for next week's selections and some exciting accessories!
From The Garden -
I normally post something cool from our yard here, but last Saturday something awesome happened when James and I went for an impromtu walk. On our outings near the lake, it's not uncommon for us to see deer, armadillos, raccoons, possums and the occasional snake. (yikes) We've also encountered turtles, water fowl and owls. But, on this particular outing we were blessed with something pretty special. That's why I'll give this last section its own title:
A Walk To Remember
I'd woken up early last Saturday morning and was planning on going for a long hike first thing but ended up getting sidetracked by other things and before I knew it, it was five o'clock. James came in and noticed I was grumpy. "What's wrong?" he asked.
"I never got my walk in this morning and I guess I'm feeling sorry for myself because I got stuck inside on this beautiful day," I replied.
My sweet husband (who'd been working in the yard), grinned and told me to go put on my tennis shoes. "It is beautiful out there. It's not too late. We can still get a good walk in," he said.
So off we went to hit the trails around Grapevine Lake (one of our favorite things to do together). We'd barely made it down the path before James grabbed my arm, insisting that I stop. "Be very still," he said, pointing to a nearby creek bed.
I looked over and saw two young bucks grazing. One looked up and stared at us for a couple of minutes before he nonchalantly sprung off, his buddy not far behind him.
"That was incredible!" I exclaimed watching as two white tails bobbed gracefully out of sight.
James was already looking up the trail where a bike was lying in the grass. "I hope no one's hurt!" he said, looking around for its owner.
We continued a few more steps around the corner and saw one of our neighbors standing off the trail. He greeted us in a hushed tone. "There's four wild turkeys in the woods right here!"
I heard the large birds loudly clucking and cackling before I actually saw them. There was one turkey in a tree and the other three were on the ground. "I've never seen turkeys on the trails before," I said. "This is so awesome!"
We watched the foursome for a few minutes and were about to head on when suddenly, out of nowhere, motion erupted from the far side of the thicket as a bobcat rushed the turkeys. The turkeys went wild as they zipped up to the safety of the trees. I was surprised the bobcat didn't pursue one of them but likely because of our presence, he retreated and vanished into the woods.
James and I visited with our neighbor for a bit, waiting for the bobcat to return, all of us stunned at what we'd just seen play out in front of us. After a few moments, we started back on our way again. We hadn't gotten very far when James told me to stop and look. Thinking he was joking with me, I started to laugh but did look in the direction he was nodding to. There, across the other side of the trail was a large coyote, likely attracted by the racket of the wild turkeys. The coyote stood as still as a statue, regardeding us for a couple of beats, then vanished like a puff of smoke into the thicket.
"Did we really just see a coyote?" I asked in amazement.
James, who was as tickled as I was, threw back his head and laughed. "No, we really just saw two deer, four wild turkeys, one bobcat and a coyote!"
Later that night as I reflected on our exciting encounter with some of God's more elusive creatures, I felt very blessed. I guess there was a reason I waited until the evening to get my walk in, I thought. Thank you, God for putting James and I in the right place at the right time!
Reminds me of a Bible verse from James 1:17:
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
This experience was definitely a gift from God. I'm counting my blessings daily and asking Him to keep me focused in the days to come. Take care and remember, my friends that God is in control and hope is on the move!
Praying blessings over you and yours -