Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! ~ From The Koziols
It has been an exciting year full of new adventures! To start, I was accepted into Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center’s Master of Physician Assistant Program. I had to quickly move to Midland, TX and begin my studies as a PA-S (PA student). This past year has been a real blessing for travel, which included a medical mission to Jinotega, Nicaragua, exploration of the caverns of Carlsbad, New Mexico, a hike to the highest point in Texas in the Guadalupe Mountains, a wine-tour through Texas Hill Country, and the chance to explore the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles, California.
My husband and I decided to spend this Christmas in Austin, TX. Our immediate families were away on holiday and we decided to drive to see Alan’s extended family in Austin. It has been a wonderful day – participating in the festivities of Texas Hill Country and exploring the bustling, energetic city that is Austin.
We started our day in Johnson City (about an hour away from central Austin) at Pedernales Falls State Park, hiking the Falls Overlook Trail with our dogs, Sadie and Chloe. It was a perfect day for hiking – it was warm, there was light cloud cover, and the Falls felt refreshingly crisp. This is a very family friendly activity, as you can go tubing and swim in certain areas of the river. However, there are particular areas of the Falls that you cannot swim in as the current is much too strong. I recommend you pack a lunch (and a lot of water) and make a day of it.
Helpful tips for Pedernales Falls State Park:
- It’s $6/adult. Children 12 and under are free.
- Visitors can purchase a Texas State Parks Pass for $70 to gain unlimited access/visits to any Texas State Park for the year.
- This park is dog-friendly, but dogs are required to stay on leashes. Bring your pup, and watch them play in the sand and prance around the rocks.
- If this is your first time to the park, make sure you go to the Pedernales Falls Overlook first. There are a lot of trails to keep you entertained for the day, but the Falls are not to be missed.
- Wear comfortable shoes (preferably tennis or water shoes). There are a lot of rocks, boulders, and sand.
- Pedernales Falls Trail Map
Trail Etiquette from Pedernales Falls State Park:
- Trash your trash. Keep the park natural. Pack out all of your trash and leave no trace.
- Leave feeding to nature. Feeding wild animals will make them sick and more likely to cause harm to people.
- Take only memories and pictures. Please don’t disturb or remove any of the park’s plants, animals, or artifacts.
- Don’t pocket the past. Help preserve Texas heritage. Leave artifacts where you find them and report their location to a ranger.
- No horsing around. Horseback riders must stay on trails marked for horses. Everyone yields to horses following proper trail etiquette.
- Keep pets on leashes to keep them safe while protecting wildlife.
Hiking Tips from Pedernales Falls State Park: Staying Safe
- Know your limits. Prepare for sun and heat. Wear sunscreen, insect repellent, and appropriate clothing/hiking shoes.
- Drink plenty of water. Your body quickly loses fluids when you’re on the trail. Bring a quart of water/hour of activity.
- Tell others where you’ll be. If possible, avoid exploring alone (this always brings to mind, the Danny Boyle Story AKA “127 Hours”). Tell someone where you are going and when you plan to return.
- Wear a helmet. When mountain biking check with park HQ to match the trail to your skill level. Wear a helmet to protect yourself in case of a crash.
- You may not be able to connect. It’s a good idea to take along a cellphone with a GPS unit, but don’t count on them.
- Weather changes quickly. Check forecasts before you leave and prepare for unexpected changes in the weather. Be aware of changes in the river – if you see the water rising or turning muddy, seek higher ground immediately.
At dusk we jumped in our car and drove around Johnson City to view the Christmas Lights. Johnson City was rated #4 in Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Holiday Light Displays, with over 2 million lights wrapped around trees and buildings around the city. It was quite the scene and helped inspire us into feeling spirited and festive this Christmas.
We finished our Christmas Eve with one of the most flavorful meals that we have ever had in Austin at Saffron (Indian Fusion). Everything from the food to the service to the ambiance was impeccable. We started with the Bombay Brussels and Chicken Choila, both beautifully cooked with zesty spices. We ordered the Saffron Mixed Grill (a Tandoori specialty), which consisted of a lamb chop and kabob, chicken kabob, cottage cheese, shrimp, and mixed vegetables all cooked/smoked in a traditional clay oven. We also shared the Chicken Tikka Masala, which was tender and smoky in flavor, served with a creamy, zesty tomato sauce, and the Green Tea Créme Brûlée, which was elegant, and much lighter than the custard base of a typical créme brûlée. The staff was extremely welcoming, attentive, and helpful, and even offered further information about traditional Nepalese street food and specialties. All around, it was a real treat and we will be back! Happy Reading!
NOTE: All blog posts, articles, and photographs are the intellectual and creative property of Melissa J. Koziol. Thank you for reading!