You should never have high expectations for a hike in a town that’s just a few hundred feet above sea level. That’s especially true when you’re from the highest elevated state in the country. In altitude, not medicinal herbal products.
The trail took us all of us five minutes to descend, and maybe a minute more to ascend back, to take us to the stairs that brought us up there in the first place.
But the view begged appreciation, and RAS and I were more than willing to give it its due. The hike we were searching for would simply have to wait for our next stop later in the day.
Mt. Bonnell is the highest point in Austin proper and worth a visit if you have rental car to take you there. Either named for a former newspaper editor or a captain in the Texas army (both named…yep Bonnell), the park covers a hilltop high above the Colorado River, just northwest of downtown. Roughly 200 uneven stone stairs lead visitors to the summit, where you’ll encounter a large monument overlooking a deep gorge.
Yet another not-lake called Lake Austin wends its way below, with gorgeous multi-million dollar homes on each riverbank. We figured that the city’s most famous – or infamous, depending on who’s offering their opinion – native Lance Armstrong parked his bikes and illegitimate Tour de France yellow jerseys in one of these mansions.
The staircases provide the most challenging workout in the park. Going up and down the one trail in the park, we hardly broke a sweat. Once we were back at the top, we negotiated a steep dirt path and discovered a sweeping view of the city in the distance.
Here’s another hidden gem for visitors to Austin, again if you have a car to take you there. Roughly 20 minutes southeast of downtown, the park’s land one belonged to Thomas McKinney, an original Texas settler who built a homestead and gristmill on Onion Creek. Eventually, floods destroyed the mill, and McKinney sold the land. Only ruins of both structures now remain. Volunteers built trails around the park, which ring the property and around the creek.
We visited at time when the icy water flowed through the creek. Several people braved it enough to swim. RAS and I agreed that this must be jammed packed in summertime, when people needed a cooling off from the relentless Texas heat. The waterfalls are probably spectacular after a storm as well.
Getting to the main trail proved to be a bit of a challenge. We had to cross the narrowest part of the creek, which was numbingly cold and rocky in bare feet. Then we scaled up some boulders that appeared deceptively easy to climb. A young East Indian man and his older relative assisted us in getting onto the top. But once on the other side, we were treated to a leisurely hour-long stroll that gradually took us up to the top of a bluff, then looped back down to the creek.
After our dual hike day, we headed back to the rental and noshed on pizza for dinner Wondering what to do that night, we then took a movie at the Alamo Drafthouse, where you can order full meals and alcoholic drinks. Based in Austin, there are five in the metro area and more around the state and a few out of Texas. We headed to the Lamar Boulevard theater, and since we stuffed ourselves with pizza already, only shared a milkshake – chocoalte with Kahlua, which was fantastic.
Since we saw the eventual Best Picture Oscar winner “Birdman,” the preshow consisted of hilarious clips of humans flying (like birds) and the movie’s star Michael Keaton’s movie trailers. The theater company definitely has a sense of whimsy and fun for its audience. At some point, we will have to go see a movie at the one near us in Littleton.
The next day was the start of the Web Intensive, and RAS returning home. But we made one last stop at the Texas State Capitol…a most impressive structure, inside and out.