Texas Hill Country Trail Region

Participant in the Texas Historical Commission's
Texas Heritage Trails Program

German History, Wildflowers and Peaches

Gillespie County PeachesWith a long weekend coming up, my husband, Karl, and I decided to take the kids on a family trip. We announced our plans over Sunday dinner.

"Fredericksburg? Isn’t that where Aunt Laura goes on wine tours?" said Vanessa, our 14-year-old.

"Well, yes," Karl replied, grabbing a dinner roll. "But it has other things to do, too."

"We talked about Fredericksburg in Texas history class," 11-year-old Geoffrey replied, stabbing a hunk of roasted potato with his fork. "It's an old town and named for a German prince!"

"Will there be princesses?" Fran, our first-grader, nearly shouted with wide eyes.

While the kids kept talking, Karl flashed me a smile. When planning trips, we seek out places that will give everyone something to enjoy while allowing us to connect.

Fredericksburg seemed perfect.

Friday night bats

“Look, peaches!” Geoffrey yelled from the backseat, pointing at a roadside produce stand. We were just a few miles outside of Fredericksburg.

“Let’s stop and get some,” Karl replied. “It’ll be a great way to start our trip.”

We pulled over and bought a small basket of peaches. They were warm from the sun, and juice dribbled down our chins as we bit into them. A little messy? Sure! But Karl was right—they were a great way to start our time in Fredericksburg.

After we checked into our hotel, we walked to Main Street for an early supper at The Auslånder Restaurant and Biergarten. Karl, named for his Bavarian great-grandfather, was especially taken with the classic German cabbage rolls.

“Mrs. Griffiths, from fourth grade? She grew up here,” Geoffrey announced, cutting into a smoked pork chop. “Her grandparents spoke German.”

“Yes! Language experts call it ‘Texas German,’” Karl replied. “It’s mostly older Fredericksburg natives who speak it now, but linguists are working to preserve it.”

After dinner, we drove out to The Old Tunnel State Park. It's open year round, but from May to October visitors can see the park’s large Mexican freetail bat population leave their home in the evening. Watching them rise together in a giant spiral—spinning and churning in the twilight with their tiny wings flapping—Fran clapped gleefully. Nearby, Vanessa filmed the scene on her iPhone. Sure enough, the video popped up on her Facebook page later with two words: "Just wow."

Frontier family life

The next morning, we loaded everyone into the car for the five-minute drive to The Live Oak Nature Trail inside Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park. The scenic path was rugged, winding down a Creekside trail covered with native trees. Karl and Vanessa power-walked ahead of us, talking sports. The younger kids and I took things more slowly, inspecting the butterfly garden and bird-watching blind.

“Mrs. Griffiths told us that the earliest German settlers signed a treaty with the Comanches that was never broken,” Geoffrey said, opening up a bag of trail mix to share with his little sister. We’d made it to a rocky outcrop studded with cacti and wildflowers above a gently flowing, sun-dappled creek.

Fran and I listened as Geoffrey taught us more about the area. Fran listened attentively to her smart older brother, while I was happy to know that he certainly paid attention in school. 

For lunch we headed to the Clear River Pecan Company. We loved their freshly made deli sandwiches, but the cool, creamy ice cream here was the real star. We each chose a different flavor—peach, Mexican vanilla, cake batter, cotton candy and lemon custard—and passed them around to share.

“Delicious!” Fran proclaimed, licking her lips.

Past meets present

The history lesson continued at our afternoon destination: the Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm at the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park & Historic Site. Thanks to the volunteers dressed in period attire, we learned about farm life in the late 1800s and early 1900s. We saw several farm animals, and we contemplated canning homegrown vegetables in summer’s heat.

"And I thought our chores were tough," Vanessa said, snapping photos of old-fashioned washtubs, scrubbing boards, and homemade lye soap. It was wonderful to see the kids learning so much and having a great time together.

A window on history

On Sunday, we returned to downtown Fredericksburg to visit the National Museum of the Pacific War, a six-acre mix of historic Texas architecture, gleaming modern buildings and outdoor spaces that recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. It’s filled with exhibits, memorials and displays dedicated to documenting WWII’s legendary Pacific Theatre.

Geoffrey was beside himself with excitement at seeing a plump yellow atomic bomb casing. Fran was taken with the serene Japanese Garden of Peace, a gift from the Japanese people honoring U.S. Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz, a Fredericksburg native.

A few blocks east from the main campus is a newly renovated two-acre indoor/outdoor exhibition space, the Pacific Combat Zone, with more exhibits and live reenactments.

It was especially touching when Vanessa emailed a couple of photos to her granddad and her great uncles, all veterans. I loved seeing her make the connection between the museum and our family history.

Bloom to grow

Our time in Fredericksburg was winding down, but we had one final place on our itinerary.

"Look at all the flowers!" Fran exclaimed, overlooking a sea of multi-colored blooms at Wildseed Farms. The working farm harvests wildflower seeds to sell online, via catalog and at the onsite gift shop. Naturally, we picked up a packet of Texas bluebonnet seeds. The flowers they produced would look beautiful on our dining table when they bloomed; a colorful reminder of the fun we’d had.

Before we left the fields, Vanessa asked if I could take a couple of photos of her with her siblings, using the vibrant flowers as their backdrop.

"What a great group of kids, right?" Karl said, watching their silly faces together in the golden afternoon sunlight.

"Yes," I replied. "And what a weekend to remember."

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