When you hear the word “Texas” images of horses, cowboys and vast open lands come to mind. Rarely would one associate Texas with the great outdoors; however growing up in the Lone Star State, I spent as much time outside as possible camping, hiking, fishing, building campfires, stargazing and catching “critters” such as spiders, scorpions and lizards. As I got older my interests turned more towards mountain biking and long distance backpacking. My then boyfriend (now husband) is from Vermont in the northeast of the United States and shares my passion for outdoor adventures.
After college and a wedding in Jamaica we embarked on hiking the entire Appalachian Trail - 3500km from the state of Georgia in the south, passing through 14 states and ending in Maine in the north. We figured if our first year of marriage could endure 6 months of hiking, carrying heavy packs, sleeping in a tent every night with only one shower every 7-10 days then we could endure anything! Fast forward 20 years later when we landed in Innsbruck, Austria, which is how I met the fabulous ladies of Outdoor Chicks! Due to unforeseen circumstances, family matters and job opportunities, my time in Innsbruck was less than 2 years and I find myself back in Texas after 20 years of traveling the globe and living in some of the best cities in the world.
So what’s an Outdoor Chick to do in Texas? Contrary to popular belief, Texas actually does have mountains. They are just far away! National parks such as Big Bend and Guadalupe Peak in the far west of the state make for stellar backpacking, camping, rafting and surreal desert landscapes. The problem is these mountains are 6-7 hours away by car so daily life does not include them. Gone are the days of walking out the door of my downtown Innsbruck apartment and being on the Nordkette within 20 minutes! What is close to where I live in San Antonio, Texas is called the “Hill Country”. While it’s no Austrian Alps, the area happens to have been settled by Germans and offers miles and miles of rolling hills, rocky canyons, pristine clear rivers and countless swimming holes and with 300 days of sunshine per year there’s plenty of time to tackle the hundreds of miles of hiking trails, open roads for cycling and rock climbing.
An interesting aspect of hiking in Texas is the amount of knowledge and preparation one must be armed with. While in the Alps, it’s certainly necessary to have backcountry skills for off piste and the looming danger of avalanches, Texas offers its own set of risks mostly involving wildlife.
I’ve seen my fair share of rattlesnakes up close and personal and was recently advised of mountain lions when we went on a day hike just 30 minutes outside of the city. While I have never seen a mountain lion in the wild, I have heard them “screaming” from my tent at night. The sound of a female mountain lion in heat, calling for her mate is enough to give you chills.
It can be described as bone chilling and frightening since it literally sounds like a woman in danger. Just be thankful she’s not screaming at you!
Hiking in the summer in Texas also has its perils. With temperatures up to 45 degrees there’s no skimping on the water! Unlike the Alps with mountain huts and abundant flowing water sources, fresh water can be scarce so you either can’t be out for a long period of time or, depending on where you are, must carry 4 liters of water per day - that’s about 4 kilos of water to carry if you’re hiking in the desert!
In the last month of being back in Texas I’ve already managed to get out into the Hill Country a few times for some great day hikes. I was quickly reminded that no matter where you are a certain level of precaution and safety is required. I guess that’s what being an Outdoor Chick is all about - taking your own personal adventurous spirit with you wherever you go. Living in a particular environment doesn’t define you. You define the circumstances, keeping it Wild at Heart.