BURNET, Texas — In Texas Hill Country, spring is heralded by the blooming of brilliantly-hued bluebonnets, wildflowers that flank country roads and pop up in backyards.
In the Upper Highland Lakes Region, the flowers stretch all the way to the horizon, the sun playing on the blooms and blurring the colors like an impressionist painting. If Monet had lived in Texas instead of Paris, surely he would have found these delicate periwinkle clusters worthy of his canvas.
The official state flower thrives in central Texas — an unexpectedly verdant land of rolling, wooded hills.
Urban dwellers struck by spring fever often flee the confines of the city for the solitude and tranquility of Canyon of the Eagles Resort, a 940-acre nature park on the shores of Lake Buchanan.
Fourteen miles of hiking trails offer opportunities to admire bluebonnets and other wildflowers, such as like Indian paintbrush with its deep scarlet bloom.
Hikers may encounter quietly grazing white-tailed deer, raccoons and even armadillos, depending on the time of day. Bird-watchers who are very quiet — and lucky — sometimes spot rare species, such as the golden-cheeked warbler or the endangered black-capped vireo.
Explore on your own, or join naturalist Sharon Hehr for a guided hike. Hehr calls Canyon of the Eagles a “classroom for the planet” and is almost reverential when she talks about its natural beauty and diversity of life.
She says the hikes are a way guests can bond with nature and each other.
“When people are giggling over an ant lion cone, trying to catch an insect with a tiny piece of grass, friends are made,” Hehr says. “We go slowly and engage in dialogues about what we see, hear and smell.”
For Hehr, the highest compliment is when guests tell her they have hiked the trail before but overlooked much of the flora and fauna because there was nobody to point it out.
Longhorn Cavern State Park
One of the Hill Country's natural wonders lies beneath the bluebonnets. At Longhorn Cavern State Park, a guide tells visitors about one of the cave's most fascinating rock formations, the Queen's Watch Dog. The smooth dolomite limestone looks more like a canine statue than a naturally occurring rock formation — so much so that experts refused to let sleeping dogs lie. They examined it for tool marks, but none were found.