Exploring the Texas Independence Trail Region – Day 1

Last summer, I had the crazy idea to drive the perimeter of the entire state of Texas over eight nights and nine days. Click here to read about the trip starting from the beginning.

Last fall after many months of going nowhere, I made the decision to explore the 10 Texas Historical Commission’s Heritage Trail Regions. Since that time, I’ve virtually explored the Texas Lakes Trail and took a two-day drive around the Texas Forts Trail, a region I live in that includes San Angelo, where we reside.

Because this is the month of March and also marks the time to recognize Texas independence, it seemed appropriate that my next region should be the Texas Independence Trail.

Map layout of our stops along the Texas Independence Trail Region using the TrackMyTour app.

I foolishly thought I would write one blog post about our trip before I left, but, once on the road, I realized it would be one of the longest blogs ever written, based on the incredible amount of information I wanted to share. Instead, I’ve decided to write a four-part series and I’ll also throw in additional places to see along the trail that we didn’t get a chance to experience this time around.

This trip, my daughter-in-law, Debbie, joined me on my four-day trek. She and I both love to shoot photography so we made a lot of unscheduled stops to shoot nature, history, art, and more. It may take months to edit all the photos we took.

Debbie and I heading out on our great adventure.

We left our husbands at home in San Angelo and traveled southeast through Fredericksburg and Luckenbach. These communities are part of the Texas Hill Country Trail Region, so I’ll give them an appropriate shout-out when I travel that region at a later date.

We arrived in Luling a little after noon, so we stopped for lunch. We saw a sign by a downtown pavilion that read Watermelon Thump. We learned this event has been around since 1954. I need to admit something here. I worked on my uncle and dad’s farm when I was in high school and college and I have to tell you, my least favorite time of harvest came when the watermelons ripened. While I was in the best shape ever back in the day, lifting those heavy fruits and loading them in a truck was not my idea of fun. Still, I loved the idea of a community celebrating the melon with an event using the word “Thump” in it. I hope to make it and see it for myself in the future. In case you’re interested, too, the Watermelon Thump happens the last full weekend in June.

From Luling, we traveled to La Grange, a town I’ve visited many times when I lived near Austin. Since we were on a somewhat tight schedule, we had to pick and choose so we decided to visit the beautiful courthouse square.

One of the many attractions downtown is the Texas Quilt Museum, but it was closed when we arrived so we were only able to look in the windows. They celebrate their 10th anniversary in November of 2021. While they do showcase the quilts we remember from our grandmother and great grandmother’s time, other quilts are serve as a totally different art form and are far from the traditional styles you might be used to seeing. Grandmother’s Flower Garden, adjacent to the museum, is managed by the quilt museum and the plants in the garden existed during the same time period as the building, which was built in the 1890’s. Sadly, the recent ice and snow storms in Texas had done some damage to the plants, but they are coming back and will be gorgeous once again.

Bonus Stop: Muster Oak in Downtown La Grange – Learn the story of this important tree to the community.

For years, I’d heard the phrase “Come and Take It.” I never really understood it until the first time I visited Gonzales years ago. I visited the Gonzales Memorial Museum, saw the white flag with black letters and the cannon, and read the story. The cannon fired the first shots for Texas Independence on October 2, 1835. And while the cannon is pretty small, it deserves a big place in Texas history.

At the gift shop located in the Old Jail Museum, you can purchase a Come and Take it flag among other items. In a normal year, Gonzales serves as host to the Come and Take it Celebration. Unfortunately, it was cancelled last year due to the Covid pandemic, but you can still purchase a t-shirt commemorating the cancelled event and have a good laugh at the same time. Take the time to walk around the historic Texas Heroes Square and maybe pop into one of the many stores and restaurants in the vicinity. We particularly loved the play on words some of the businesses used in their signage including the restaurant Come and Crepe It.

Approximately eight miles outside of Gonzales, you’ll find the Braches House and the Sam Houston Oak. Watch this video and learn the history of this home and tree. Definitely a proud stop for any Texan.

Bonus Stop: Bastrop

From a lovely downtown to beautiful Bastrop State Park, this city southeast of Austin is definitely a place to visit when you’re in the area. It’s grown a lot since this picture was taken a few years ago but still has kept its welcoming feel when you enter the town. Oh, and let’s not forget about the large Buc-cee’s with its clean bathrooms and great snacks offered when you’re traveling and looking for a place to stop to fill your tank and address your snack attack.

Bonus Stop: Smithville

Located in Bastrop County, Smithville is a quaint little town with at least one claim to fame I love to share. The Texas Legislature named the county the Film Hospitality Capital of Texas. As a big fan of Sandra Bullock and Harry Connick, Jr., it’s fun to visit the community that served as the location for the duo’s romantic comedy, Hope Floats.

Bonus Stop: Shiner

While we didn’t get to stop in Shiner on this trip, I would be remiss not to share a little about this great little town. Though I’m not a beer drinker, my husband has been a fan of Shiner beer since he first tasted it in Fort Worth more than a decade ago. We visited the K. Spoetzl Brewery years ago on a Sunday afternoon. The brewery was closed, but when we stopped in at a local antique store, they served Shiner on tap. So there you have it.

Now that you’ve read about day one, I hope you’ll return to read about the rest of our Texas Independence Trail Region trip. A few places we’ll cover include Galveston, Goliad, La Porte, West Columbia, and many more. Safe travels!

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