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  • Candace Ahlfinger

Glamping at Its Finest

Updated: Feb 12, 2021

Blisswood Bed and Breakfast

Another opportunity for a short, socially distanced road trip filled with new adventures...this time to the Central Texas area of Cat Springs. (I had to get out the map to find this picturesque town that really is not located near any large town!)

On our way to Cat Spring, we stopped at Bastrop State Park, in Bastrop, Texas, for a picnic and hiking. (There are 14 cabins as well as camping available.) Bastrop State Park still bears scars from the devastating wildfires that ripped through the area in 2011. Blackened trees testify to the destruction while green undergrowth shows the resiliency of nature. This Lost Pine area features loblolly pines that have been in the area for over 18,000 years and have managed to survive in spite of the massive wildfire that affected 96% of the park and the ensuing flood in 2015 when the dam broke. We explored the historic refectory (dining hall) and the scenic outlooks built by the CCC. (My appreciation for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the Civilian Conservation Corps grows with every park we visit!) For water lovers, the ½ acre Lake Mina provides fishing opportunities, and the large swimming pool is operated by the YMCA.

Bastrop State Park

We cut our hike short because we wanted to arrive at Blisswood Bed and Breakfast before dark. We had reserved the Grand Safari Tent for our very first glamping experience. What a great decision! We were greeted at the entrance and led through multiple gates, along dirt roads, and by several cute cottages to the very last spot—our tent.

The word “tent” does not give you the right picture. The wide porch with comfortable chairs greeted us as we stepped up to unzip the tent. Our mouths stood agape as we entered the efficiency tent with a rustic jungle theme. The king-size bed, appointed with leopard print bedding, was draped with mosquito netting over its head. (The netting is for looks. We did not need it.) To our left was a loveseat in front of a woodburning stove while, to our right, was an efficiency kitchen with everything we needed to thrive. Then, for the next important part we rounded the corner and found a large claw-footed soaking tub, a shower, a toilet, and a wardrobe. There was nothing lacking in this well-thought-out safari tent. (Blisswood has 14 other choices including cabins and an RV, but we were so excited that the Grand Safari Tent had an opening!)

Blisswood Bed and Breakfast

Out the front of our tent, just past the firepit and gas grill, was an extremely large enclosure housing bison, exotic deer, and an ostrich. We were able to walk the fence each evening and see what animals were in sight.

Blisswood allows guests to choose what meals they want provided—from breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner—but we opted to bring our own and use the grill. Blisswood also offers horseback riding, archery, and fishing, but we chose to skip these options in order to hike nearby state parks.

It was hard to leave this charming place, but we headed to Schulenburg the next morning to see three of the painted churches for which the area is known. The beautifully decorated churches were built by German, Austrian, and Czech immigrants in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Paint, then as now, was an affordable way to decorate. The walls and ceilings of the churches are adorned with intricate angels, heavenly scenes, flowers, and vines. The “Queen of the Painted Churches,” St. Mary’s Catholic Church in High Hill, Texas, features beautiful stained-glass windows that allow their deep colors to light up the paintings. The church, with its original paintings, was much larger than we expected from all we had read, and definitely provides a reverent place to worship. After successfully traveling a few miles down country roads and over a “weak” bridge, our next stop was in Dubina to see Saints Cyril and Methodius Catholic Church. This church was updated in the 1950s which, unfortunately, meant whitewashing over the original artwork. Thankfully, the paintings were restored in the 1980s using pictures of the original artwork as guides.

Painted Churches of Schulenburg

The final church that we viewed on this trip was in Praha which means “Prague” in Czech. St. Mary’s Church here was completed in 1895. This, the oldest of the three buildings we visited, was lovingly renovated in 2015 to preserve the many beautiful aspects of the church. Besides the church itself, there are several interesting niches around it. One of these was dedicated to the 9 boys from Praha who were killed in WWII. According to the marker, “The Praha community suffered the highest percentage casualty rate of any community in the U.S.A,” and serves as a somber reminder of the many lives that were sacrificed for our freedom.

After the churches we headed for our next stop, Palmetto State Park in Gonzales. This park held many surprises for us, especially the number and tameness of the deer and the diversity of scenery. (Several deer just watched us calmly as we walked past.) Many of the wide and well-marked trails had dwarf palmettos growing gracefully on either side. The swampy areas of the park reminded us of Louisiana swamplands and seemed strangely out of place in this Central Texas park, but they offered a welcome change from the normal cacti. (There were some areas of the park with cacti, so we did not miss it too much!) We ate at a picnic area near the CCC refectory. The shade under the giant oak trees with Spanish moss draped over their branches was welcome given the heat of the day. The trail down to the San Marcos River had the greatest elevation change and led to a cooling view of the water.

Palmetto State Park

Palmetto-lined Trails at Palmetto State Park

After our hikes we were tempted to drive to Lockhart to get barbecue, but we knew we had a grill and steaks waiting for us at the tent, so we left the “Cradle of Texas History,” as Gonzalez is known, and headed back to Blisswood.

After another night nestled with our books in front of the warm, wood-burning stove, we left for home…with a detour to McKinney Falls State Park in Austin. The McKinney homestead site was formerly on the outskirts of Austin but has now been engulfed with Bergstrom Airport on one side and the city on the other. McKinney Falls is still an oasis in the hustle and bustle of a large city. The walk down to the Lower Falls, located on Onion Creek, was fun as we stepped carefully on limestone rocks that were once at the floor of a sea. (We did not get to the Upper Falls because of time.) Socially distanced groups of people of all ages were sitting around the falls enjoying the beautiful day. The peaceful setting was a great start for our hikes that covered almost 7 miles and took us by the ruins of the McKinney’s gristmill and homestead, to scenic overlooks over Williamson Creek, and by the Camino Real de los Tejas.

Lower Falls at McKinney Falls State Park

Of the three hikes, my favorite was Palmetto State Park, simply because the landscape was so different from the other parks we have been hiking, but all three parks were interesting and great opportunities to get away and still be safe while ensuring the safety of others.

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