When we left Blanco SP we went north to Johnson City and went to the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park. To be honest we really didn’t know that much about the 36th President of the United States but we learned a very large amount in the exhibit hall and by watching 3 separate videos, 1 general one about him, 1 about his life, and 1 about his wife Lady Bird Johnson. Here is a summary of the key facts:
- He was the first child of Rebekah Baines Johnson and Sam Ealy Johnson Jr. born on August 27, 1908.
- He grew up on a farm near Stonewall in the small town of Johnson City – named after his ancestors.
- He went to Southwest Texas State Teachers College in San Marcos and got his teaching degree in 1930.
- In 1931 he left teaching and became the admin assistant for Congressman Richard Kleberg in Washington.
- After a whirlwind courtship with Claudia Taylor (nicknamed Lady Bird by her nanny) married her in November 1934.
- He became a congressman in the House of Representatives in 1937 (which he held until 1949) and fulfilled his promise to bring electric power to the Hill Country of Texas.
- In 1941 he became a Lieutenant Commander in the navy and served in California and the Southwest Pacific.
- They had 2 children, Lynda Bird born in 1944, and Lucy Baines born in 1947.
- Johnson became a senator in 1949 and gained power within the Democratic party, becoming majority whip in 1951 and the Democratic senate minority leader in 1953, followed by the majority leader in 1955.
- He worked with President Dwight D. Eisenhower to get the Civil Rights Bill passed in 1957. Some historians consider him the greatest majority leader in American history.
- In 1960 he declared he would run for President, but John F. Kennedy won the nomination so Lyndon agreed to be his vice presidential running mate, which they won, so he became Vice President in January 1961.
- In November 1963 John F. Kennedy was assassinated and the Johnson’s were in the motorcade but unharmed. He was then sworn in as the 36th President of the United States and pledged to continue Kennedy’s policies and programs.
- In 1964 Lyndon ran for President and won over Republican Barry Goldwater in a landslide with 61% of the vote and he won 44 of the states.
- Lyndon B. Johnson had a vision of a “Great Society”, so he worked to eradicate racial inequality and poverty, and he addressed education, health care, consumer protection, transportation, and environmental issues. During his time as President he signed into law more than 1,000 pieces of legislation.
- The Vietnam War was not going well in early 1968 so in order to attempt to gain a negotiated peace he addressed the nation to say they would limit any bombing and that he would not seek the nomination to run for another term as President. In January 1969 Richard M. Nixon became the 37th President of the United States. After 30 years of public life LBJ became a private citizen and returned to the LBJ ranch.
This information came from the exhibits and after that we proceeded to do a walking tour to see his boyhood home, and the Johnson Settlement where they had the information about LBJ’s parents and grandparents, the Dog-Trot cabin, the Bruckner Barn, James Polk Johnson Barn, the Windmill, Water Tank and Cooler House, and some longhorn steers.
Once we finished at the historical park, we had a short drive to Pedernales Falls SP. We arrived at 5 pm and checked in but when we went to our site it had a 3.8-degree slope and even if we used all of our levelling blocks, we wouldn’t be able to get into an acceptable range so we went back to the office and luckily the ranger swapped us into another site that was available for 4 nights. This park turned out to be another one of our favourites for this trip due to the hiking, Mountain Biking, and geological features. On the first day we decided to do a hike so we crossed the Pedernales River at Trammell’s Crossing (you could step on stones so your feet didn’t get too wet) and then had a steep climb until we got to the junction to do the 5.5-Mile Loop Spur and then on to the actual 5.5 Mile Loop trail, eventually ending up both the river and hill country overlooks. At the one overlook we met a Texan who was doing some warmup hikes for an upcoming trip to Scotland, so we talked about what we had done on our 2 trips to Scotland. On the way back to the campground we did the Twin Falls Nature trail which reminded us of areas in the Bruce Peninsula but of course with different vegetation (12.5 km total).
The next day it was raining in the morning but cleared in the afternoon so we drove the RV over to Pedernales Falls and did about 6 kms of wandering around the falls area and the Hackenburg loop. The falls were more of a trickle but the rock formations and how the water carved out the limestone was cool to see. Some people call it a horizontal falls because the water is flowing across and down this carved limestone. There are lots of warnings about flash floods but it’s these floods that help shape the landscape of the park. They say 6 inches of fast-moving water can knock a person off their feet! The minute you see brown water go to higher ground. They also have a monitoring system they use to warn people. Similar to our rocks at home, this used to be an ocean floor so there are lots of fossils in the rocks. The greenish hue of the ponds was a nice contrast with the rock colours and the blue sky. When we got back to the campground, we met Kris and Susan and their dog Basil as they were asking us about the Komo bike carrier. They had also ridden part of the Juniper Ridge MTB Trail so they gave me some pointers for what I had planned the next day. Sharon decided it wasn’t a trail for her.
The next day I rode from the campground to the Juniper Ridge East trailhead. This MTB trail is listed as challenging and it soon proved that label. It didn’t have a lot of elevation gain but it made up for that with lots of rocks and roots and many of the rocks were loose. I did the full Juniper Ridge East trail and then cut over to the Wolf Mountain loop to return for a total of 22 kms. This was definitely the most challenging MTB ride I had ever done but that’s what made it fun. There were sections where I had to walk the bike when it was too difficult but in general I was able to ride most of it. I have a couple of slides to show what the trail was like and the last slide shows my latest beer selection and my favourite was the Russian Imperial Stout (9.8%) which was my prize at the end of the MTB ride😉 Sharon had a relaxing “spa day”, as much as you can in the RV. She took time to read her book. Luckily several campgrounds have book exchanges so you can always pick up a new book. That evening we had a picky food dinner with our wood buffalo cheese and salami from the Oro Bianco Italian Creamery and one of our wines from Graveyard Vineyards.
The following day we left Pedernales Falls SP heading for Guadalupe River SP but we took a side detour to LBJ’s ranch. The ranch is still a working ranch and was LBJ’s favourite place to be. The house on the grounds was nicknamed the Texas White House as LBJ would bring a lot of dignitaries there to conduct political business. We started off in the exhibit area and then walked the nature trail to the Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm. They have volunteers dressed in period costume working the farm as the original settlers would have but when we arrived, they were having their lunch, it smelled very good😉
The LBJ ranch was 2000 acres, 600 was donated to be the historic park, the family still maintains the remaining acreage. They had an app you could download to your phone to get a driving audio tour of the ranch. Some of the sites included:
- Junction School, the school LBJ attended at age 4 and the location where, as president he signed one of his major education bills. His administration passed over 30 education bills, prior to that, only 6 education bills were passed.
- The house LBJ built in 1964 to replicate his original birthplace. It was used as a guest house.
- Private family cemetery.
- Show Barn that was built for the care and training of cattle. They used to show the longhorn steers in competitions and the Herefords were raised for breeding. In the barn we met a ranch hand and he explained how LBJ had them use weights on the Herefords horns to get them to grow in a downwards direction as he felt they showed better.
- Lockheed Jetstar – Air force One was too large to land at the ranch, so he used the Jetstar called “Air Force One-Half”.
- The Hangar was built in 1959 to house private planes but has since been used to store hay, used as a movie theatre and to host press conferences. Today it’s a visitor centre/exhibit hall.
- The Johnson’s purchased the home and some acreage from LBJ’s Aunt in 1951. They nicknamed it the Texas White House. Outside there are small living quarters that the secret service used until Lady Bird’s death in 2007.
- Whenever they had guests come to the ranch they would have them sign their names in friendship stones.
After several hours touring LBJ Ranch we headed south to Guadalupe River SP with a quick stop for groceries. The office was closed so we just proceeded to our site. The only problem, we had to drive back 2.5 kms in the morning to check-in since it was raining. Once the weather cleared, we took the Turkey Sink trail to the Bald Cypress trail by the river. The roots of the Cypress trees are very interesting to see how they twist and turn and hold onto the river bank. At the Swallow Cliffs we talked to a local about fishing in the area. Then we went to the discovery center to see the displays and to talk with the rangers. Lastly we finished off with the Cedar Sage, River Overlook, Barred Owl, and Live Oak trails (for a total just over 9 kms). Our boots were getting caked with mud from the trails due to the rain we had that morning. As we got close to the campground, we saw a couple of young Armadillo’s after seeing several others on the trails.
The following day we had booked a volunteer led tour of Honey Creek State Natural area that started at 9 am. This area is not open to the public except for the Saturday morning led tours. The volunteers told us that Honey Creek actually was more acres than Guadalupe River SP. It was lightly raining on Saturday morning and basically rained for most of the 3 hour tour so it was good we had our rain gear with us and we were glad they hadn’t cancelled the tour. We met at the Rust House and read about the history of the Rust family. They had 2 volunteers leading the group and a volunteer in training. They mainly spoke about the various plants we saw and also about the geology. We actually thought they would give more history about the settlers in the area like the Rust German family. For example we learned that the male Ash Juniper trees have the small cones and the female trees had berries that the animals and birds like. We also saw a bird blind where they try to catch an invasive bird species (we can’t remember the name). Then we came to an overlook for Honey Creek and it’s impossible for the photos to do justice to the green/aqua colour of the creek since we had such a grey day. Then we went down beside the creek and were totally blown away by the beauty of the area. When we left the creek, we climbed back up the escarpment and saw a large Live Oak and amazingly there was a Prickly Pear Cactus living on one of it’s branches. Honey Creek was such a beautiful unique area and we were glad we were able to come on a weekend and get slots on the guided tour.
On our last day in the park, we wanted to do the Painted Bunting Trail and the Oak Savannah Loop but unfortunately they had closed them due to the rain we had received. Apparently with the drought conditions and then the rain the trail can deteriorate too much so they close them. So instead, we went to the Bird Blind by the Discovery Centre to watch the Cardinals having a bath and then walked along the Bald Cypress trail one more time.
This concludes this blog and in the next blog we’ll talk about how we avoided the major winter event that hit central Texas.
Thanks again, Joel and Sharon, for taking us along on this journey and for including yourselves in the pictures 💕💕 Such great info. Learning along with you! I looked up invasive birds in that area and found they presently have 4 … BIRDS (4)
rock dove, pigeon; monk parakeet; common sparrow; European starling.
Continued adventures and safe travels. Warm hugs 💕💕
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Thanks for your comments and your research. We think he mentioned the European Starling as the problem bird they were trying to catch. The boy scouts built the bird cage trap.👍