Austin’s Zilker Park…..

On May 21, 2012, in Travel, by admin


For those of you not in Texas….a quick run down about this post.  The state of Texas is large encompassing much land and different personalities.  The landscape varies from flat, to deep woods, to mountains (not the rockies, OK) to green prairies.  Its personality varies as well, but overall, this is a conservative state with people who spend much of their lives living in a box.  Enter Austin.  Full of lakes, parks, and the Texas Hill Country, the cities personality varies from every other Texas city.  Here the hippies roam with republicans, the street people tend to be young, pierced no futures on skateboards…the music scene is self pretentious on Austin and alive…….so here we go in with a brief on one of the crown jewels of Austin, Zilker Park


Recently, we had the idea to get a couple of our “Austin Bucket List” items marked off that list.  You know, those “one of these days, we need to…” moments.  Last Saturday was one those incredibly beautiful days I call a “Chamber of Commerce” day.  You know the kind of day the Chamber would love to bottle to advertise for the touristas to come and visit.  The morning was cool, upper 60’s-low 70’s, bright sunshine, clear robin’s egg blue sky, a little windy perhaps.  We drove to Austin’s Zilker Park, paid for entry (they now charge $5 to park on weekends and for special events).


Anyway, by 9:30 am the parking lot was already mostly full.  We then strolled past the incredibly cool children’s playscape,  past the children’s locomotive train loading up for the day’s first run, down the worn limestone steps and over to the boat rental shack.  The man in charge was a real Austin character.  Looking about 65, sounding like he was about 85 (ah, another Austin hippie with more miles on him than years), with a cheerful grin and some quick jokes about getting wet, he took my ID, directed us to the paddles, life vests, and a string of kayaks.  We debated on canoes, but my better, smarter half decided on a 2-person kayak.  She knew canoes can be easily tipped over by the novices that we were.  Plus, we had some experience with 2-person kayaks in Grand Cayman, and I had no experience in canoes.    We quickly dragged the bright banana-yellow heavy plastic kayak to the launching spot and off we went.  For those unfamiliar with Zilker Park and its environs, the park is home to Barton Springs, a large volume, clear, very cold (a constant 68 degrees year ‘round) springs that fills the Barton Springs Pool, then flows into Barton Creek and then into the Colorado River.  (For you non-Texans, our Colorado River is not The Colorado River that goes through the Grand Canyon, etc.  This is OUR Colorado River.  We are Texans, we can name our rivers anything we want but it’s kind of a long story.  But I digress….)The water was brisk, and for those of you with kayak experience, you know your butt and legs get wet.  But we were not uncomfortable.  Barton creek is probably 50 yards wide from the Pool to the river, extremely wide for a Texas creek.  There has been archeological evidence of people visiting the Barton Springs area for over 8,000 years.  (I wonder if they called it Barton’s Springs?  It is an old Texas name…hmmm…)


The current was very gentle, the tree lined banks sheltering us from the wind,  as we paddled lazily downstream, pointing out numerous turtles, fish (several quite large) ducks and other birds.  There were only a few other boats on the water but the famous Hike and Bike Trail ran along one side packed with people out enjoying the day.   After we reached the mouth of the creek/river, we headed across to the far shore.  The Colorado River is maintained by a dam so it flows gently and is really more of a lake than a river.  On the river, we saw several scullers,  solo, tandem, and teams racing by great speed, athleticism and energy.  We made sure we stayed out of their way as we meandered upstream a ways and then turned back towards the creek.  While on the river the wind picked up but outside of making me put my hat on my lap, it didn’t affect either the stability of the kayak or our ability to paddle.  Heading back up the creek, we passed by about a dozen 2-person kayaks, all filled with attractive coeds in bikinis.  Obviously a UT Sorority House.  As I said, a beautiful day.   As we brought the kayak up on the bank, paid the $12 for the hour we were afloat, we headed out noticing the deep green grass hillside across the creek had rapidly filled with sun-worshippers.  Austin, ya gotta love it….


We were not done, however.  We decided to grab a bite to eat at the Tex-Mex place called “Juan in a Million”.  This east of I-35 eatery had been featured on The Travel Channel’s “Man Vs Food” show and I had wanted to try their famous breakfast tacos for years.  However, by the time we got there (before noon) there was a large line already out the door.  Having little patience to wait, we drove over to the UT campus and The Drag (Guadalupe street).  From there we pulled into Dirty Martin’s, a famous UT hangout since 1926 still on the original location and another place on my “to-do” list.   Luckily, there were plenty of tables, so we downed some excellent cheeseburgers, great Onion Rings, and lightly fried pickle slices.  The waitress was friendly, helpful, and prompt.


Overall, a great Saturday, and two more items checked off the “Austin Bucket List”!

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