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4/8/2017 6:01 PM

Mason and Gillespie Counties – A Few Gems of Beauty

4/7/2017 RR-783 South of Hilda

Trip Date: 4/7/2017
Routes: I-10, RR-479, US 290, Old Harper RD, Maner RD, RR-783, Salt Branch Loop RD, Jackrabbit RD, James River RD, RR-385, RR-1851, US 87, Art-Hedwigs Hill RD, Simonsville RD, Loeffler Lane; Unnamed Road (working ranch road not releasing the name at this time).
Towns: Harper, Doss, Hilda, Mason

Short Story: Overall, Southern Mason County is far below average and even below last year when it comes to large areas covered with a variety of wildflowers.  There were only a few routes I did not cover, but the ones I did were generally disappointing. However, there are a few gems here and there.  See the starred routes below for best wildflower spots.  Other routes had some nice scenic spots, but few wildflowers. 

Full Story: I was finally able to take a trip out to Mason County area.  Oak and mold pollen has hit me harder this year, so I have had to limit my trips.  Saturday, 4/7/2017, the oak and mold pollen counts were down and I was up for a trip! Now, those of you who have followed this website know that many of us have been doing these scouting reports for over 10 years. I have been doing them either here or on other websites since 2001.  So, I have traveled the same routes over and over and over again, my friend!  This trip, I wanted to take some roads I had not traveled and ones that I do not remember anyone reporting about in the past. No reports on a road for 10 or more years, pretty much means it is not a favorite road for wildflowers. But for me it was the adventure and the excitement of perhaps finding something new.  This journey to take the roads not travel did not result in finding new wildflower hot spots, but I was treated to several really awesome scenic views. I crossed many streams and a couple rivers that had idyllic views with the sweet smells and sounds of peaceful serenity. Most of these crossings so far have been kept free of the encroaching blight of urban development. They are pristine spots that probably have not change much in hundreds of years if not more. To me that experience ranks right up there with standing before a solid field of bluebonnets.  Below I have listed some of the better ones under Scenic Routes.

Starred Routes

I-10:  North of Comfort to RR-479 there were stretches of verbena and the beginnings of mealy sage.

  • Before Doss there is a large field of Texas groundsel and white prickly pear poppies. 
  • Just north of Doss on the left side is a large field of prairie verbena. 
  • South of the small community of Hilda there is a large field of bluebonnets on the west side of 783. Also nice long stretches of bluebonnets along the roadside. These are in full bloom, but should still be nice for another week given more rain. 

4/7/2017 Doss - Prairie Verbena

US 87 and Art-Hedwigs Hill RD: Large bluebonnet field along the fence. Field is not 100% solid, but still looks nice.
US 87: Large field of white prickly pear poppies on northside of 87 just west of the Llano River crossing.
RR-1871: Compared to last year this route so far is very disappointing. But there are some long stretches of fire wheels/Indian Blankets before and after the Llano River crossing.

Scenic Views

Maner RD: Wow! This is a very scenic road with hills, valleys and stream crossings. But it is goat and sheep country, so mostly no wildflowers.
Jackrabbit RD: Another road with scenic views. There is one spot that opens up with a huge view of the valley below. A few bluebonnets here and there line the road at times, but not enough to make it a starred road.

4/7/2017 Jackrabbit RD

Langes Mill RD:  Stream crossing with old stone mill building. No water wheel seen with building. A few spots of bluebonnets but not enough to warrant a star.
James River RD: South of the James River crossings. I was able to cross the first low water crossing Eckert James River Bat Cave, but the second larger crossing was just too deep for my SUV.  I entered the water and open my driver’s door. The water was just an inch or two below the door – time to turn around and not drown.  This forced turned around resulted in me losing valuable time to further explore. By the time, I made it to where I could get to James River Rd from the north, I had run out of time. Based on what I saw on the southern end of James River Road, I do not think it is a great year for bluebonnets along it. Still there are some nice scenic views even along the southern end. One stream crossing was really nice and even had a few bluebonnets.  The first river crossing from the south is really scenic and fairly easy to walk along it – saw a dad and son doing just that.

4/7/2017 Creek Crossing along James River Road

RR-385: West of Mill Creek RD and before RR-1871 there is an awesome scenic view along this route. When you come through Cedar Gap there is a lush green valley with oak trees and a bluff running along the edge of the valley. 



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