This post is sponsored by Ozarka Water. All opinions and love for Texas Hill Country are my own.
When we looked into places we’d like to move for my PhD, we considered Colorado (my home state), Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan (as my wife is from the Midwest) and our far-fetched choice of Montana. Texas wasn’t even on my list.
I held a lot of common misconceptions on the State of Texas, thanks mostly to the proud Texans I met during college, things like: “oh, it’s all dessert except along the Gulf Coast where it’s a billion degrees AND humid”; or “oh, Texas is full of cowboys, hicks, and rednecks and they all have the worst accents”; or “oh, Texans are just as bad as Californians!”
I never thought I would apply to a school in Texas (let alone live there), until I humbled myself a little, asked for heavenly guidance, and came to the realization that Texas should be a place that we considered.
I begrudgingly looked at Texas schools and found one I decided to apply to, even though I still didn’t like the idea of moving to Texas. To make a long story short, I was accepted to almost all of the schools I applied to, including the school in Texas. Again, in the process of seeking guidance, I realized that, though there were many great places to move to, and schools to attend, Texas was the one that would be best for our family. Why that was, I wasn’t sure, as I had never lived south of I-70, nor has my wife, Katelyn, but we moved forward with faith in our decision.
We packed up our home and three kids and moved 1100-miles away to an unknown land that we assumed was either tumbleweed and cactus desert or hot, humid, and muggy misery.
When we pulled into our new home in Texas Hill Country in what is considered Central Texas, on a late July day, we found a setting that was unlike anything we could have imagined. Though the temperature was certainly hot, the humidity was actually low and there were green trees, rolling hills, and even fresh, clear rivers cutting through the landscape.
It’s been nearly two years since we moved. And now we know why it was best for our family. We’ve fallen in love with Texas, greatly enjoying our free time and summers in these trees, hills and rivers, as well as the tasty local cuisine of great barbecue and Tex-Mex.
What Texas Hill Country is Really Like
We have gone camping a couple of times since moving here, including an especially memorable camping trip last summer with close family friends. We staked our tents under a trio of large trees near a river where we swam, tubed, cooked, and played for three days. (Unfortunately, these large trees are no longer there thanks to the Memorial Day flood last year.) We love how green it is here and love the fact that the shade from large trees make for a cool retreat from the hot summer sun.
In my leaner years I enjoyed biking quite a bit, unfortunately, the hills in Central Texas are a bit much for Katelyn or I to handle on bike. This hasn’t stopped us, however, from hiking through the rolling hills and “mountains” from time to time. One of our favorite short hikes is Mount Baldy (Prayer Mountain) in Wimberley, TX. It’s a quick ten-to-fifteen-minute climb to the peak of the tallest “mountain” in the area. Once you reach the summit, the view is beautiful as you overlook the surrounding rolling hills in all their green glory.
Texas Hill Country Rivers
One of our favorite past times in Texas involves the many sources of water in the area. San Marcos has many rivers and springs, including the San Marcos River, a spring fed river that flows through the center of town. The water is clean and pure and stays at a constant temperature year round. It attracts visitors from all around the state, all year long, because in Texas you don’t really have a winter – the temperature is often in the 60’s and 70’s most of the winter months.
The best thing to do in the water here is to gather a group of friends and tubes and float down the river. It’s like a giant lazy river that takes you slowly past beautiful views, mixed with some thrills as there are a few small patches of rapids and waterfalls at various parts along the river.
Texas Hill Country Food
After moving to Texas we haven’t so much as have been introduced to new foods, just better versions of them.
Barbecue is something found all around the US, but it just so happens that it’s better in Texas. One version of BBQ we’ve been introduced to, that I never thought I would like, is Rudy’s BBQ turkey.
I love me some Thanksgiving turkey, but so often turkey is hard to get right as it dries out quickly. For this reason, I don’t seek turkey out the other 364 days of the year. It is a testament then to Rudy’s turkey, as it is excellent. Pair it with some creamed corn, their loaves of white bread and sauce, and, of course, a cool Dr. Pepper (one of our 10 favorite Texan foods) and you have an excellent Texas barbecue meal.
Beyond BBQ, one of my all-time favorite eat out foods is Mexican or Tex-Mex cuisine. It usually takes a while to find that one specific Mexican restaurant that we like to eat at; or tolerate in Katelyn’s case. In Texas I must admit I thought that it would be a little easier than it was, but in the end we have found a Tex-Mex joint that the whole family loves.
I first ate at Mamacita’s Restaurant with a friend during a temperate “winter” day. The typical fair of chips and salsa were brought to the table accompanied by a bowl of radioactive green goop. As it turned out the goop was the most addictive blend of cilantro, sour cream and food coloring one has ever tasted. After later taking the family to try the green goop after a day of shooting clay pigeons we have been hooked. It helps that the Mamacita’s renditions on the typical Tex-Mex variety are tasty and come with complimentary freshly made flour tortillas.
Ozarka’ #FromHereForHere Challenge
Just like the river flowing through our town, Ozarka Brand Natural Spring Water comes from 3 Texas springs and has a uniquely Texan fresh taste, and they want to celebrate everything Texan. Ozarka Water sent us a fun box full of local Texas made products that are #FromHereForHere.
Paqui Tortilla Chips – An Aztec word that means “to be happy” Paqui sells tortillas and tortilla chips with unbleached, untreated flour, or by stone grinding corn. One of my favorite things to eat, ever, are some good tortilla chips with salsa.
Snow’s BBQ Sauce – Recently named the best in Texas from Texas Monthly, Snow’s Original BBQ Sauce is excellent on any cut of beef, chicken, or pork, or so they say.
Yellowbird Habanero Sauces are natural, spicy pepper condiments, made just to the north of us in the capital of Texas – Austin. Yellowbird sauce goes on everything – tacos, burgers, wings, sushi, pasta, steak, fish, eggs, pizza, soup… It’s supposed to be the most delicious, most versatile, most satisfying condiment that will ever hit your lips.
The Jelly Queens’ Black Garlic Rosemary BBQ Sauce – Based in Dallas and Austin, this artisan food company makes gourmet jams, jellies, sauces, and more from small batches using (whenever possible) organic locally grown Texas ingredients.
Taste Elevated’s Sweet & Spicy Mustard Seeds – Perfect for on top of BBQ sandwiches or hotdog, or really any place you’d use mustard, these little flavor-packed pearls are supposedly very addicting!
Ozarka challenged us to share why we love where we live, sharing our local food favorites, in addition to these new tasty items they sent us, because they know that Texas, especially central Texas, the Hill Country, is amazing. Ozarka understands that food and drink, the Texas trees, hills, and rivers, bring people together in Texas, as it has for us, over and over again.
What do you love about where you live? What do you think are the best Texas products? Anything to recommend we try next?