Wild Turkeys And Juniper Berries – South Llano, TX
The change happened somewhere around Frederiksberg, TX. We were in the midst of a lovely drive through the Hill Country admiring the lush, green nature and the cute Germanic-inspired towns awash with restaurants and tourists feasting on sausage and sauerkraut. It was a perfect day and the towns reflected a spirit of festivity and early Spring. In the very middle of this European day-dream the desert spoke to us. As if on command the humidity dropped, the temperature hit 95˚F and a dust cloud blew across a tuft of withered grass. This was it folks. On an imaginary line in the middle of West Texas we had left the East and finally entered into the West!
Located only ~150 miles West of Austin, the area of Junction and the South Llano River is a completely different ecosystem from the rest of Texas. Here the rolling hills are covered with cactus, blueberry junipers, agrita, condalia, yucca and Texas persimmon mixed in with wild grasses and dusty ground. It’s a forbidding place where daytime temperatures can soar to above 100˚F and nighttime can plummet to the 50˚F’s. Yet the place is teeming with wildlife. The wooded land of South Llano is one of the few roosting areas for the shy and sensitive Rio Grande Wild Turkey and is a protected habitat for them, boasting an enormous population of ~800 birds during roosting season. It’s also has the feel of a Western desert hosting deer, rabbits, rattlesnakes, coyotes, and mountain lions.
During the day the sun beats down mercilessly on this hot oven and all is eerily still, but in-between there’s life and activity. In the early morning, before the sun-roast, a soft, cool breeze blows thought the bushes accompanied by an orchestra of birds. In the late afternoon, right before the sun sets, the ground releases it’s abundance of heat in a wild, warm wind that invites the stars and the predators of the night. Normally this time of year would see this place abloom with wildflowers, but an unusually dry winter and hotter spring has left it barren. Despite all this it’s still a stunning spot and the kind of place that draws you in.
The taste of the desert always fills me with a sense of adventure and wild solitude. Being as I am rather off-the-beaten track myself, I have to admit the West has a particular attraction for me and I’m very happy to be back. Here you can let your hair grow long, merge with the wilderness and delve into the depths of your primal soul. Bring it on Wild West, I’m home to greet you with open arms!
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