Western Trips

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Battle of Gonzales / The Start of the Texas Revolution

The Battle of Gonzales at today's Gonzales Texas represented the first confrontation of the historic Texas War of Independence. This was the place where the first shots of the Texas Revolution were fired and it involved a cannon in possession of the Texans. This early Battle at Gonzales, which over the course of the next three months drove all the Mexican troops out of the province, brought forth the motto "Come and Take It". It was also the inspiration for the creation of a Come and Take It flag.

battle of gonzalesThe Texas Revolution  was the war which began in Gonzales Texas in October 1835...saw the Alamo in San Antonio de Bexar fall to Santa Anna's army on March 6, 1836 and then finally ended with the defeat of the Mexicans at the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836.

The Texas victory and the defeat of Santa Anna and the Mexican Army marked the beginning of the Republic of Texas..

Visit Gonzales Texas

You'll find plenty of attractions in Gonzales, Texas which is about a 65 mile drive south of Austin and about a 74 mile drive east of San Antonio.

Visitors to Gonzales each October have the opportunity to attend a reenactment of the Battle of Gonzales. The historic reenactment is part of the Come and Take It Celebration held the first weekend of October. This is a large event with art and craft booths, a flying chicken contest, a big parade, a classic car show and of course the reenactment of the Battle of Gonzales.

Observing the battle reenactment is both fun and educational. Mexican uniforms and weaponry worn by the actors are period correct as are the dress and weaponry of the Texans. The battle shows advancements and retreats of the front lines and even a parley between the two commanders during a lull in the fighting.

The start of the Texas Revolution is reenacted the first Saturday in October at Gonzales Pioneer Village Living History Center just north of town.

texas revolution reenactments
Texas Volunteers at the reenactment
The Battle of Gonzales / Seeking a Cannon

Tensions had been building between the Mexican government led by Santa Anna and the Texans. Everything came to a head when the Mexican dictator Santa Anna sent a Mexican commander by the name of Francisco De Casteneda to retrieve a cannon from the residents of Gonzales. The cannon had been in Gonzales primarily as a defense against Comanche Indian attack. The commander was directed to avoid warfare if possible.

After leaving for Gonzales on September 27th Casteneda and his dragoons reached the west bank of the Guadalupe River opposite Gonzales on September 29th. He couldn't proceed further because of high water and Texan militiamen on the east bank. Casteneda announced that he had a dispatch regarding the cannon for the alcalde of Gonzales but was told he was away from town. The Mexicans then made camp several hundred yards back from the river. While they made camp the Texans rallied forces from the Guadeloupe, the Colorado and the Brazos for added strength. In the meantime the Mexican commander was informed by an Indian that the Texans were assembling a force of about 140 men.

war for texas independence
Mexican soldiers at reenactment
Commander Castaneda decided to try to cross the river at a place not so well defended. As a result he made a new camp about seven miles upriver. Regarding the disputed cannon, the Texans at Gonzales then sent word to the Mexican commander to "Come and Take It."

Time For A Confrontation

On October 2, 1835, the Battle of Gonzales began slowly. With the Mexican camping about seven miles upriver and the Texan volunteers tired of waiting for the Mexicans to make their move, the Texans themselves went upriver toward the Mexican encampment.

See the Western Trips articles on the links below...

A Walking Tour of Historic Gonzales Texas

Visit the Missions in San Antonio Texas

Lockhart Texas / History and the Barbeque Capital  

Visit the Inner Space Caverns / Georgetown, TX

Historic House on Gonzales Walking Tour
You'll find plenty of information regarding the Texas Revolution in excellent books such as...Tejanos in the 1935 Texas Revolution by author L. MacDonald..... Texas Revolutionary Experience: A Political and Social History , 1835-1836, by author Paul D. Lack.....Encyclopedia of the Alamo and the Texas Revolution by author Thom Hatch.

The Texans didn't wish to wait for the possible arrival of Mexican reinforcements which probably wouldn't have come anyways since the Mexican's orders were to secure the settlement's cannon and not specifically engage with a large Texan force.

About 50 Texans along with the cannon set out to approach the Mexican encampment upstream in dense fog. Their presence nearby was announced when a dog started barking and the Mexican sentries started to fire wounding one Texan slightly. When the Texans eventually returned fire with their cannon loaded with scrap metal and a charge, the Texas Revolution was officially underway.

come and take it gonzales texas
A parley between the two sides during the reenactment
A Mexican soldier was wounded and Commander Castaneda opted to return to San Antonio rather than continue the engagement. This is not so surprising since Castaneda's orders were to simply retrieve the small cannon and not particularly engage in battle. Prior to that engagement there was not a state of war between the Texas colonists and the Mexican government.

This confrontation in Gonzales led to the muster of the first Texian Republican Army with Stephen F. Austin as Commander.

Attractions in Gonzales Texas

Visiting Gonzales, Texas is a fun and educational side trip to any Texas vacation or weekend trip. In addition to the annual Come and Get It Celebration and the battle reenactment you'll have the opportunity to view several historic buildings and take an enjoyable walking tour of some of the historic Victorian houses built during the town's growing years of the late 1800's.

Also, you may want to check out some of the fine B & B's in Gonzales, Texas. These include the Belle Oaks Inn at http://www.belleoaksinn.com/ ...the St. James Inn at http://www.stjamesinn.com/...and the Boothe House B & B at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Boothe-House-Bed-Breakfast/192514074156808
(Article and photos copyright Western Trips)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Texas Hill Country Wine Tour

The Texas Hill Country is found across the undulating Edwards Plateau. Austin is to the east and San Antonio to the south. You'll find plenty of attractions in the Texas Hill Country region and we are featuring in this article one of those popular attractions.

The Hill Country might very well be the most popular part of the large state of Texas and some will tell you like nowhere else in the world. Limestone hills, winding creeks and rivers carve out this unique part of Texas. Oak trees and mesquite offer welcomed shade in the spring and summer. Beautiful bluebonnets, poppies and other wildflowers cover this hilly countryside

bell springs winery
Bell Springs Winery tasting room
These days wineries are almost as numerous in the Hill Country as ranch windmills. The Texas Hill Country is the third-largest American Viticultural Area. It's said larger than any in California.

Bell Springs Winery

Our tour of the Texas Hill Country wineries takes us to the Bell Springs Winery located just west of the town of  Dripping Springs. The winery is only about a 28 mile drive west of downtown Austin.

To reach Bell Springs Winery from Austin, take Highway 290 West towards Dripping Springs/Fredericksburg.  Take a right turn at Bell Springs Road (just past middle school on your left).  Bell Springs Winery will be 3 miles up on Bell Springs Road on your left hand side.

texas hill country wineries
Tables among the trees at Bell Springs Winery
Bell Springs Winery is owned and operated by a husband and wife team. The wine offered is excellent and the staff is friendly and knowledgeable.

The winery and tasting room sits on the lower part of the property, with great views of the hundreds of  oak and cedar trees.  Visitors can stroll around the grounds or relax the afternoon away on Bell Spring's covered deck or concrete patio. Bell Springs Winery also offers a calendar of live music performances on generally a once a week basis.

Visitors are encouraged to bring along a lunch and relax and enjoy the outdoor patio area. Bell Springs Winery also offers a fine selection of olive oil. You'll also be able to find locally made candles and soaps, books about the Austin area and several great wine lover gifts.

Texas Hills Vineyard

Located near Johnson City, Texas in the Pedernales River Valley, the Texas Hills Vineyard utilizes sustainable organic methods to grow their vineyard. The tasting room itself was built employing environmentally friendly methods. It is very worth going a bit out of your way to visit this absolutely gorgeous vineyard and winery outside Johnson City. The outdoor patio is nicely shaded for hot summer days, and the grounds are beautifully kept. The enclosed patio seats up to 65 people with picturesque views overlooking the Vineyard.

Texas Hills Vineyard
Texas Hills Vineyard produces a full range of award winning wine. They planted their vineyard in 1995 and the winery opened in 1999. Texas Hills Vineyard utilizes only Texas sourced grapes for their wines. Texas Hills features 100% Texas grapes.

There was one  wine offered that was a collaboration with another Texas winemaker.  Grapes grown in their vineyard include Pinot Grigio, Sangiovese, Orange Muscat, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, and Syrah.

The tasting room consists of a medium sized circular bar surrounded by a gift shop and a section with some refrigerated snacks. Texas Hills Vineyard also has a full calendar of events open to the public. Locally made artisan cheeses and crackers are available in the tasting room.

You may also enjoy the Western Trips articles on the links below... 

Dripping Springs and a Pioneer Texas Settlement

Visit Historic Llano Texas 

See the Bluebonnets of Burnet Texas 

Visit San Angelo / A West Texas Adventure

There are several good books on the market regarding Texas Hill Country wine. Some of these include...The Texas Hill Country: A Food and Wine Lover's Paradise, 2nd edition, by author Terry Thompson-Amderson. Another is...The Wine Roads of Texas: An Essential Guide to Texas Wines and Wineries, by author Wes Marshall.

 texas wineries
Grounds overlooking vineyard
The Texas Hill Country features many unique wineries that make excellent weekend trips or parts of longer vacations.Bell Springs Winery and Texas Hills Vineyard are but two. A good resource for maps of Texas wine tours including those in and outside of the Hill Country is website...http://www.texaswineandtrail.com/driving-maps/

The Texas Hills Vineyard is located about a 25 mile drive west of Bell Springs Winery in Dripping Springs and about a 53 mile drive west of Austin. Their address is 878 Ranch Road 2766, Johnson City, TX. 

From Austin you would drive west on Hwy 290 through Dripping Springs and west to Johnson City. Turn right off of Hwy 290 to Hwy 281. Drive north on Hwy 281 to Robinson Rd (FM 2766). The entrance to the winery is just about one-half mile down Robinson Rd. on the right hand side. 

(Article and photos copyright 2014 Western Trips)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Visit the World Famous Desert Botanical Garden / Phoenix Arizona

Attractions in Arizona are plentiful and on your next visit to the Phoenix/Scottsdale area you'll want to add the following venue to your trip planner. The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix Arizona is the world's largest displaying plants and trees from many of the world's desert regions. This is truly a living museum with over 50,00 plants on display. About one-third of the plants are from the local area. A visit to the 140 acre Desert Botanical Garden is a must if you're anywhere near the Phoenix area.

desert botanical garden
Desert Botanical Garden
An Amazing Collection

Located in the Sonoran Desert of southern Arizona, the Desert Botanical Garden displays over 4,000 different species of desert plants with an emphasis on the Sonoran Desert. Also included is are 400 rare and endangered plant species.

The Garden's cacti collection is one of the largest in the world. Many people of course don't reside in a desert region and a visit to this amazing living museum is a fun and educational experience. It's a great place to come and learn about, and view, desert plants as they thrive in a natural environment and in an absolutely beautiful setting. The upkeep of the Garden is impeccable.

The Garden offers five thematic trails/paths for you to stroll along and most of the plants have information and name signs. The trails include The Desert Discovery Trail (the Garden's main trail)  The Plants and People of the Sonoran Desert Trail, The Sonoran Desert Nature Trail, The Center fro desert Living Trail and The Harriet K. Maxwell Desert Wildflower Trail. There is also a gift shop and restaurant (Gertrude's) to visit after your walking tour. There are also docent led Garden tours that are part of your general admission to the park.

The Desert Botanical Garden is located around the buttes of Papago Park. The address is 1201 N. Galvin Parkway, Phoenix, AZ. A general information phone number is 480-481-8188.

desert plants arizonaThe Beginning

The Desert Botanical Garden was established in 1939 by a group of local citizens, including environmentalist Gertrude Divine Webster, intent on protecting and conserving the desert environment. They had formed the Arizona Cactus and Native Flora Society several years prior to the Garden's opening.. When the Garden began with a limited budget, volunteers were much needed and they helped create and  make the garden what it is today. Volunteers are still an important part of the Garden's operations.

The Desert Botanical Garden has stated...The Garden’s commitment to the community is to advance excellence in education, research, exhibition and conservation of desert plants of the world with emphasis on the Southwestern United States.

Research is another important undertaking at the Garden. Ongoing research includes evolutionary biology, ecology, plant systematics and conservation biology. Educational opportunities at the Garden include workshops, field trips and classes for every skill level.

The Butterfly Pavilion

If you've ever wanted to know more about butterflies while having them flutter all around you, then the Butterfly Pavilion at the Desert Botanical Garden is not to be missed.

The Marshall Butterfly Pavilion features hundreds of butterflies housed in an enclosed lush garden setting.

The Butterfly Exhibit is in progress every spring and fall. From March and into May marks the spring exhibits and late September through late November mark the fall dates. During the fall only Monarch butterflies are seen.

attractions in phoenix museums
Special Events and Exhibits

The Desert Botanical Garden schedules seasonal events, special exhibits, activities for the entire family and concerts

One seasonal event is called Las Noches de las Luminarias. This year 2014 will be the 37th year of this very sixteen night popular event. More than 8,000 hand lit luminarias will cast a beautiful glow to the Garden. The event will also have ten groups of entertainers. Dates for 2014 are December 5th through the 23rd.

You may also enjoy the Western Trips articles on the links below...

A Visit to Old Town Scottsdale Arizona

A Visit to Old Town Tucson

Another special event at the Desert Botanical Garden is called Dogs' Day in the Garden where the whole family can stroll through the park and even bring along the family dog. Included are presentations about dog safety in the desert environment and healthy dog treats. Your dog will also be able to sample dog food and dog treats from vendors.

botanical gardensAnother typical event held at the Garden is Accounting For Nature: Past, Present and Future. This particular event features an expert discussing the irreplaceable benefits people gain from nature such as clean water, productive soils, an equable climate, aesthetics and health.

One of the Best Destinations in Phoenix

A visit to the beautiful grounds of the Desert Botanical Garden is a must while in the Phoenix area. Each person visiting will want to spend at least two hours at the Garden and chances are you'll want to stay longer since there's plenty to see of cactus, trees, desert flowers.Each area of the garden was creatively set up, easy to learn from with the signage and the trails are big enough for people to walk through with little crowding.

It's always a good thing to bring a hat, sunscreen, comfortable walking shoes and liquids to drink to keep hydrated. Water stations are located in many areas of the Garden.

Visit the Garden and enjoy specialized tours, special events, seasonal exhibits, concerts, family activities, Gertrude's restaurant, Patio CafĂ© and the Garden's gift and plant shop. 

(Article and photos copyright 2014 Western Trips)