Mission Reach

River Fun Down the Mission Reach

by Celia Hayes

It is one of those grand civic plans to extend the Riverwalk from downtown towards the north and south – especially to the south to connect up all the ancient missions once established on the banks of the San Antonio River. The original section of the Riverwalk, which together with the Alamo itself is San Antonio’s primary claim to touristic fame, was just the very beginning. After all, San Antonio was established where it was because of the river… and for a long while in the last century, the river itself – aside from the landscaped stretch in downtown – was little better than a storm drain, running through industrial areas or at the back of commercial establishments.

But the Riverwalk extension to the north – the Museum Reach has now gone almost as far as Breckenridge Park. Some time ago we walked it from the Pearl Brewery well into downtown – and this last weekend we hiked a length of the new Mission Reach, between the Riverside Golf Course and Padre Park. It had just opened with some ceremony and celebration the day before, but Saturday was hot and presumably crowded, and Sunday was not. We went venturing, armed with a map of the new reach and were most pleasantly surprised. The Riverside Golf Course is most astonishingly upscale, green and manicured. All the new park pavilions along the way were newer than brand spanking new, the finished trail was wide and beautifully finished, every turn of the trail with a pleasing aspect was furnished with an assortment of benches and picnic tables positioned for best effect. There are not so many trees shading the path, though – although there are some groves of tall pecan trees off on either side. The pecan trees along the river provided sustenance to the Indians from the earliest days; I wish there were more of them, but as one of the ladies whom we talked to said – it’s still a work in progress.

It is all very new, though – and although there were enough people venturing on it – by foot, bicycle and kayak, there were not as many as we thought would have been there if the Mission Reach was more well-known, and if the various establishments on either side were more orientated towards it. If this was Europe, my daughter ventured – there would have been families picnicking at every table, and children playing on the various greenswards. Men would have been trying their luck at fishing in the river – and contra the warning signs here and there, there would have been people swimming and wading in it. There would have been ice cream vendors on bicycles towing little coolers after them, selling cold drinks and ice cream cones to all. Commercial establishments with an eye towards the view would have had outdoor dining areas looking toward the riverbanks – and those people sufficiently fortunate to have houses with back yards overlooking it would be building their gardens with an eye towards the view. A couple of mobile home parks that we spotted would also have made their Riverwalk-Mission Reach location a major feature of their appeal. Very likely the rejuvenation of the old Hot Wells Resort will play into this. The old tourist cabins on the ground – overgrown in thickets of small trees – are as ruinous as ever, but looking through the fence at the edge of the main property, we could see that work is being done. There is even a new roof on part of the old bathhouse building.

We walked more than four miles today – and consequently are pleasantly exhausted and somewhat sunburned. That was my weekend – yours?

Urban Critters

Critters in the City

by Celia Hayes

A good few years ago I had a project for a college class in ecology, a topic that I already knew a good bit about, thanks to Dad. Yea, my bretheren and sisteren, at that time, the whole concept of ecology was a brand new and shiny one, with that nice fresh concept smell to it. Dad, being the working research biologist, had introduced us it ages before – when we were in grade school, as a matter of fact. My class project involved finding out about nominally wild animals living in the city. In that pre-internet and search-engine day this involved a daisy chain of phone calls, beginning with the city animal control office, until I wound up talking to (IIRC) a gentlemen at the Bureau of Land Management, who kept saying that really, he didn’t know all that much about it, but talked for nearly an hour telling me of all kinds of examples and incidents involving wild animals settling down rather happily in suburbia, and even deep in city high-rises.

At the time, we lived in the hills, on the far fringes of a suburb nestled against a national forest; miles and miles of chaparral-covered hills and semi-dry creeks, so that we were already acquainted with coyotes and foxes, and once we had even found the tracks of a mountain lion, deep in the canyon on the muddy bank of a creek. I thought that I had left that kind of untrammeled wild-life far behind upon moving into a fairly built-up suburb in San Antonio, but no… there is plenty of wildlife, happily roaming in or flying over the neighborhoods.

There are enough fingers of woodland along the creeks and parks connecting them to support quantities of deer. In Hollywood Park the resident deer herd is seen as sort of community pet and the main campus of USAA also supports their own herd. The only surprising thing is that there are no apex predators preying on the deer save automobiles … yet, anyway. A couple of years ago one of my neighbors nailed a deer with his car, on Nacogdoches between Judson and O’Connor. The deer was killed – so was his radiator. I presume that there are coyotes and foxes prowling some of the denser thickets, although I have not seen or heard any – and believe me, although coyotes may be shy, they are not quiet.

The suburban critters that I have seen – and sometimes up close and personal are possums and raccoons. Just this very week I have had a young raccoon removed from where it had been making a messy nest under the eaves of the back porch. One morning when I came out to get the newspaper, I surprised some skunk kittens on my front porch. A neighbor had just demolished the deck at the back of her house, evicting them. I had a family of opossum kittens living in my garden for a while; four of them, who seemed to like the cat food that I put out for the timid semi-feral cat that I was trying to tame. I was eventually successful with the cat, but not the opossums.

Birds now – egrets in the creek bottomlands, rails and ducks in plenty, and wherever squirrels are in plenty, there will be hawks. There are several nesting pairs in my neighborhood alone, performing the office of chlorine in the squirrel gene pool – in two instances, sitting in the mulberry tree in the back yard, chowing down a nice bit of tender squirrel al la plein air. The wild kingdom is all around us, even in the middle of the city.

Texas Barbeque…The Food of the Gods

Texas BBQ

It’s just one of those things – Texas should be so large a state as to have not one, but several different regional variants in barbeque stylings. Yes, in less-blessed climes, barbeque is done by just throwing your choice of animal flesh on the grill on the back porch and allowing it to char slowly over the coals or (byte ones tongue) propane flame. I have even run across *shudder* recipes for marinated and grilled slabs of tofu.

Sorry – barbeque here means mainly beef, although pork, turkey, chicken, sausages, and even cabrito – or goat and mutton – makes an appearance in the borderland Hispanic variant of barbecoa. There is the east Texas variant; marinated beef cooked slowly over hickory wood until the meat falls from the bone and served with a thick, tomato-based sauce, the central Texas option; beef or other meats rubbed with spices and cooked slowly over pecan or oak wood, and the south Texas style which features cooking over mesquite – an acquired taste. South Texas style preference is for a thick sauce and moist meat. A great many of the old established independent barbeque places began as meat markets, where the butcher – in the days before deep-freeze refrigeration – thriftily began to smoke and slow-cook all those leftover or unsellable bits at the end of the day, providing them as ready-to-eat morsels the next day. Waste not, want not, as the saying goes.

Frankly, to me, it’s all good, no matter what variant and the selection of commercial sauces available at the local HEB will prove that we love it here, either D-I-Y or from the local maestro of the pit. In the main, people here have high standards when it comes to making barbeque themselves, and adamant concerning the virtues of all those places which provide it; from chains like Bill Miller with outlets everywhere, through enormous single-standing locations like the Kreus Market in Lockhart, and then there are tiny and often locally famous places – like the Riverside Meat Market in Boerne (cunningly disguised as a meat market in the back of a corner Shell gas station) – and even the peripatetic Smoke Shack, a food truck which is usually, but not always to be found just inside the 410 Loop at Nacogdoches, parked in what used to be a gas station. Aficionados will drive any number of miles to sample the glories of an independent barbeque outlet … and many other aficionados will also pay interestingly substantial amounts for grills and smokers of every description, although I will note that to the hard-core, propane is frowned upon. It’s all in the wood and cooking it long and slow, in the flavored smoke. For a while, I had one of those inexpensive barrel-shaped cylindrical smoker-griller things, which did an amazing job for the price – save that I had to cook a huge lot at a time, which was only cost-effective if I was expecting to feed a small army on hickory-smoked chicken.

These days, I have to cheat, with my daughter’s propane grill from Lowe’s – which does the job – and I suspect that if I tinkered with it a bit, and figured out a way to put in a pan of soggy wood-chips and keep the heat really, really low – I might have some decently-flavored barbeque.

A couple of years ago, we had a celebration supper at our place, using a recipe for chicken, from the Barefoot Contessa cookbook. The sauce is sublime and hereby passed on.

Sauté until translucent in ½ cup oil: 1 ½ cups chopped onions and 1 Tbsp minced garlic. Add: 1 cup tomato paste, 1 cup cider vinegar, 1 cup honey, ½ cup Worcestershire sauce, 1 cup Dijon mustard, ½ cup soy sauce, 1 cup Hoisin sauce, 2 Tbsp chili powder, 1 Tbsp ground cumin, and ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes. Simmer uncovered, over low heat for half an hour.

Cut up 2 2½ -3 lb chickens, and marinate them overnight in 2/3rds of the sauce. Roast them over low heat for about 45 minutes, basting them with marinade. Serve with the reserved sauce on the side.

Texas Transportation Museum

The Steel Rails of Yore

by Celia Hayes

I have to admit that I have been driving past the Texas Transportation Museum ever since I moved to this city (ulp) nearly twenty years ago and discovered that Wetmore Road was an especially speedy means of getting from my home in the north-east quadrant to the area around the airport. I was just not sufficiently motivated to stop in and check it out – which since it is only open on Friday and weekends, and I was usually driving past during the week … well, I had no particular reason to visit until this weekend. I am currently scribbling the first draft of another historical novel set in Texas, this one in 1876-78, and with a large portion of it set in San Antonio. Those years were significant, for a couple of different reasons.

The United States celebrated the Centennial in 1876 – a whole hundred years as a nation, which at times had seemed like being a pretty close-run thing. The long and brutal Indian wars with the Comanche, the Kiowa, and the Apache had been briskly wrapped up, making large tracts of western land safe for settlement, the Civil War was eleven years in the past, although it would not be forgotten – and most importantly for San Antonio; it was finally connected to a railroad – the last large city of any size, east or west, to do so.

This led to a local boom in business and in transport, much of which is documented on the Transportation Museum website. In the bare space of those years, a bustling new neighborhood grew up around San Antonio’s first rail terminal, somewhat to the north of then-downtown. It was known as the Levee, for the way in which the tracks had to be laid on a strip of artificially built-up ground – just about where IH-35 cuts through Milam and Sherman Streets. The original terminal building is so long-gone that only a couple of pictures exist of it, as it was. But the railroad depot was also the impetus for a mule-drawn streetcar system, and very soon those streetcar lines formed a network … and the sleepy adobe-built frontier village was subsumed.

There are two birds-eye city maps of San Antonio, the first from the early 1870s, in which San Antonio is mostly green space and wide tan avenues surrounding a thicker cluster of buildings around Commerce, the twin plazas and Soledad, all tangled about with the blue-green ribbon of the river. In the second, from the 1880s, the railroad has arrived; the network of streets, all tightly packed with businesses and houses has spread and spread again, reaching nearly to the parade ground and the Quadrangle at Fort Sam. And it was the railroad arriving, which made all that difference.

The Transportation Museum documents much of that on their website – almost more thoroughly than in their current displays. The museum is entirely run by unpaid volunteers, and I would guess on a shoe-string budget. There are some neat old rail cars on display in the open air – gosh, that was the way to travel, back in the day, in a Pullman car, with nice little beds that pulled out, or down for the night, and with a restroom-lounge where one could change…There is also a large barn with more historical cars and carriages on display, as well as a huge model railway set-up. It’s all very much a work in progress, and candidly not a threat to the California Railway Museum in Sacramento … but then, California has other problems of its’ own. Still, it’s a great place for an hour or so, especially for kids, who would never have seen rail travel, save for in the movies.

Big Time Texas Hunts

Big Time Texas Hunts

by Texas Parks and Wildlife

The hunting season is almost here and there’s a way hunters can win the chance of a lifetime all while helping wildlife conservation and public hunting programs. Texas Parks and Wildlife has the story of one lucky winner from San Antonio.

Big Time Texas Hunts offers seven premium hunt packages on some of the finest private ranches and prime wildlife management areas in the state.

All proceeds from Big Time Texas Hunts go to support wildlife conservation, habitat management, and hunting on both public and private lands. If you win, you will enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime hunt. If your name is not drawn, you’ll still know that your support helps the important work of wildlife conservation in Texas.

For more information on Big Time Texas Hunts, check the Texas Parks and Wildlife website at Texas Parks and Wildlife or call 1-800TX-LIC4U (1-800-895-4248/ Entries can be bought for $10 each wherever hunting licenses are sold or by phone. On-line entries are only $9. Enter by October 15, 2012 in order to be eligible to win.

San Antonio PGA Golf Event History

Short History of the Valero Texas Open

by Randy Watson

The Valero Texas Open is an official tournament on the PGA Tour and this year (2012) is the 90th anniversary. This year’s Valero Open begins with Round 1 on April 19, 2012 at the JW Marriot Golf Resort and Spa on the ATT Oaks Course, in the affluent Cibolo Canyons community. The 2012 90th Anniversary Valero Texas Open Schedule.

The Valero Open started in 1922 and was first called the Texas Open. With the exception of 2 years 1927-28, The Texas Open was played until 1940 at the Old Brack (Brackenridge Park Golf Course.) During 1927-28 and beginning in 1941 until 1949, the Texas Open was played at the Willow Springs Golf Course. When in 1950 and 1951, it was played at both the Brackenridge Park Golf Course and Ft. Sam Houston Golf Course. In 1952 thru 1959, it was again played at the Brackenridge Park Golf Club, except 1956 and 1960 when it was played at the Ft. Sam Houston Golf Course.

Oak Hills Country Club hosted the event from 1961 till 1966 and again from 1977 thru 1994. It was played at the Pecan Valley Golf Club from 1967-1970. From 1972-1976 it was played at Woodlake Golf Course. The Resort Course at La Cantera Golf Club hosted the event from 1995 to 2009. In 2010, the Valero Open began being played at TPC San Antonio. TPC San Antonio, with 36 holes of golf is located next to JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa. The AT&T Canyons Course by Pete Dye and AT&T Oaks Course by Greg Norman. The Valero Texas Open is played at the Oaks Course.

The first Texas Open was won by Robert MacDonald and his winnings were $1500 in 1922. In 1931 the $1500 winnings went to Abe Espinosa, whom is best known as the first Hispanic golfer to win significant golf championships. In 1932, in the midst of the Great Depression, the winner took home $600. Many greats and golf legends have played and won, Ben Hogan in 1946 won $1500, Sam Snead in 1950 winning $2000, Arnold Palmer’s first win in 1960 won $2800, Chi-Chi Rodriguez in 1967 won $20k, Lee Trevino in 1980 won $45k, just to name a few. The winner has continued to claim higher and higher rewards with the 2011 winner, Brendan Steele taking home a whopping $1,116,000.

Over the years the name has changed as well. Beginning as the Texas Open, it has gone thru some name changes most notably to recognize major sponsorships. It has been named the Vantage Championship, Westin Texas Open, HEB Texas Open, La Cantera Texas Open and currently the Valero Texas Open.

Nine players have won this tournament more than once.

3 wins
Arnold Palmer: 1960, 1961, 1962
Justin Leonard: 2000, 2001, 2007
2 wins
Bill Mehlhorn: 1928, 1929
Sam Snead: 1948, 1950
E.J. “Dutch” Harrison: 1939, 1951
Ben Crenshaw: 1973, 1986
Jay Haas: 1982, 1993
Duffy Waldorf: 1995, 1999
Zach Johnson: 2008, 2009

Texans Vacation in Park City Utah

What Park City, Utah Has to Offer to the Texas Vacationer

by Ben Fisher

There is nothing more that Texans love than stepping out of their hometown for a vacation that is filled with the highest levels of luxury and comfort, and that is exactly what a vacation to Park City, Utah offers. Park City, Utah is a mountain community that features three world class resorts that is an oasis of beauty and a hub of outdoor activities. Park City offers the Texan a truly memorable vacation, whether it during the summer months or winter, and for the ski enthusiast, there is not a greater place on earth to vacation than Park City. Whether from Austin to El Paso, Houston to San Antonio, Paris to Dallas, Pampa to Midland and all parts in between, Texans love vacationing in Park City, Utah.

Deer Valley Resort is one of Park City’s resorts and is a premier alpine ski resort that has been ranked #1 in North America. The resort is a prestigious ski resort that features perfectly groomed slopes and outstanding services with many of them award winning such as their professional ski school and their exceptional dining. The resort also offers outstanding award winning services such as a ski valet and one of the most luxurious and comfortable lodges in North America. Park City is a mountain community, and aside from the three world class resorts, there are many rental properties throughout the resort community that feature ski -in and ski-out properties and much more. While

Park City is the premier destination for ski vacations, some resorts such as Deer Valley prohibit snowboarding. Winter months in the area are filled with fine dining, warm fires, exceptional skiing, snowmobiling, shopping and hiking. The area also offers exquisite nightlife with many restaurants, clubs, and entertainment venues that give the Texan plenty of options for evening activities.

Park City is home to over 100 restaurants that provide every type setting and atmosphere. The pubs and clubs and wine bars line historic Main Street and provide the after-hours nightlife that many Texans enjoy. Live theatre is another of the highlights of Park City and those visiting the area will enjoy the historic Egyptian Theatre on Main Street.

During the summer months, Texans will enjoy exceptional outdoor activities that include swimming, biking, hiking, shopping, cuisine, nightlife, big name band concerts, arts festivals, and the Alpine Slide Park. In fact, the Alpine Slide at Park City Mountain Resort features a 3,000 foot of track slide, which qualifies it as one of the world’s longest slides, and one that the park has become quite famous for.

The ZipRider is another highlight of Alpine Slide and is a ride that takes you over the tops of trees 100 feet in the air at speeds up to 45 miles per hour. Park City, Utah, is something for everyone, and Texans will find pure luxury and enjoyment whether it staying at one of their world class resorts, the Deer Valley Resort, the Park City Mountain Resort, or The Canyons Resort, or a private rental within the mountain community. A vacation to Park City, Utah sets that standard in what a vacation should be and will offer the Texan the fine luxuries that we so much enjoy.

Call Ben Fisher for Park City Real Estate or Deer Valley Real Estate at 435-962-0192.


A Day on the Beach At Canyon Lake

Canyon Lake

by Julia Hayden

Upon moving to San Antonio fifteen years ago, I had always wondered – in a perfunctory and mildly curious way – why there would be so many boats and wave-runners around. Such watercraft would be parked on a trailer in the street, or in a driveway, or moving purposefully down the road behind a pick-up truck – and I would be wondering where they were going, actually. We are too far from the coast, and as charming as the various local rivers are, unless they are in 100-year flood, there’s no scope for floating anything larger than an inner-tube on them. And slightly later, I realized that – that damming of various upstream and down from San Antonio had produced lakes sufficient for recreational boating purposes – and that’s were all these people with boats and wave-runners were headed, every holiday and three-day weekend. They were going to Medina Lake, Calvaras Lake, Braunig Lake, to Canyon Lake, and Lake McQueeney, and if they were really ambitious, all the way past Austin to Lake Travis.

So, my darling daughter decided that she wanted to celebrate this last 4th of July in the water, or close to the water’s edge, and being that the price of gas and a hotel room had pretty well removed an excursion to the Gulf Coast from the equation. She decided on Canyon Lake, to spend the day there at the day-beach at Canyon Park – and that we would take the dog. Alas, once we got there, we discovered that the day beach was absolutely closed-verboten-no-exceptions-whatsoever to dogs. So, we had to drive around to the campgrounds, and take a campsite for the day, at a slightly higher price, where leashed dogs were permitted. The only disadvantage to that location was that it was really not a comfortable beach – just an agglomeration of rock – and that there was absolutely no shade. The entire stretch of shoreline had no shade, other than metal canopies over the picnic tables at the various sites. There hadn’t been any shade at the beach, either, or so we had observed – most picnickers had brought their own beach umbrellas or pop-up canopies. They were most desperately needed, in any case, for there wasn’t a cloud in the sky – although there was an occasional light breeze, being on a height elevated somewhat above the water.

We thought the party next to us – a large group of friends and family also spending the whole day there, rather than camping – had the most clever idea of putting up one of their pop-up canopies in the shallow water, and parking a couple of lawn chairs underneath: in the water, which was barely cool, and in the shade, while they played around with inflatable floats, and a pair of wave-runners. We were rebels to the point of letting the dog swim, off her leash, although I am not sure she enjoyed it all that much, and was reluctant to go into the water at all, unless both of us were already in. And I turned my ankle, negotiating the rocks – so I wasn’t so much keen on risking breaking anything else. But we had folding chairs and a bit of shade, cool water and plenty of sun-screen, so in all – much more pleasant a day than at the beach, and having to drive home afterwards with sand in your bathing suit.

Next hot weekend though? I think we’ll tube the river; the shade is more substantial, and I will remember to bring my Crocs . . .


South Texas on a Tank of Gas Calaveras and Braunig Lake Parks

Created Thursday, 22 May 2008 22:24

South Texas on a Tank of Gas Calaveras and Braunig Lake Parks

With rising gas prices and a weak economy, many people are looking for vacations that are cheaper, closer to home, and yet still provide an exciting outing full of cultural experiences and fun.  Luckily for residents of the San Antonio, there are numerous opportunities for all kinds of exciting getaways within a couple hours drive.  Over the coming weeks, this satxblog will be taking a look at some of Central South Texas’ best bets for a weekend adventure in many of the best small towns, parks, campgrounds, outdoor sites, and even beaches, that can be reached in roughly two hours’ driving.  Just because the economy is a bust these days, doesn’t mean that your summer has to be!

South Texas is loaded with opportunities to get away from the stress of the city life, and two parks that are just on San Antonio’s doorstep are Calaveras Lake Park and Braunig Lake Park.  Located just 15 miles southeast of the city, these two parks combine to offer visitors the picturesque beauty of the Hill Country with the excitement of the Texas outdoors.  For a minimal charge of just a few dollars, visitors can have access to both parks and all of the great activities that the parks provide.

Between the two parks, visitors have access to fishing, camping, hiking or biking on the nature trails, boating, picnicking, and more.  In the area surrounding the park, Texas’ wildlife is on full display with a wide variety of birds, wildflowers, fish, and plenty of furry friends.  The main draw for these two lakes, however, are the watersports opportunities that both present visitors.  Boats are allowed on both lakes, and boats are available for rental also.  Fishermen are well-cared for as well, as both parks feature lighted piers, cleaning areas, tackle shops, and acres of water full of hungry catfish, bass, muskie, and red drum.  Braunig Lake and Calveras Lake

Both parks are pet-friendly (with leashes), and offer terrific picnic areas, playgrounds, and plenty of other areas for the whole family to enjoy.  Both parks can be reached by taking Highway 37 south.

Braunig Lake is located 15 miles southeast of downtown San Antonio off Interstate Highway 37 south; take Exit 130 (Donop Road) and follow the signs. The park entrance is located at 17500 Donop Road.

Calaveras Lake is located 15 miles southeast of San Antonio. From Loop 410, proceed southeast on U.S. Highway 181 south, then turn left on Loop 1604 and proceed for two miles; turn left on Stuart Road and proceed for 1/2 mile to the park entrance. The park is located at 12991 Bernhardt Road.

The parks are open every day of the year.  The American economy may be limping along, and a gallon of gas may soon cost more than a gallon of Dom Perignon, but there’s still no reason not to hop in the car, load up the family, and spend a day or two visiting some of south Texas’ beautiful offerings.