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TO LOST MAPLES AND UTOPIA:  If you love the Hill Country don't head out this way cause you may never leave. 
Around here the hills are bunched up high and tight.  This is where the Sabinal River begins.
( Photos in sequence: 1. Just outside Medina.  2. Roadside Maples.  3. Lost Maples SNA  4. On the Headwaters of the Sabinal   5. Garden of Eat'n in Utopia   6. Dam on the Sabinal River )                               

Story & Photos by IRA KENNEDY

If you love the Hill Country don't head out this way 'cause you may never leave.  Around here the countryside is all bunched up high and tight.  And be prepared for a little ear popping along the way. 

I thought, when passing through western Bandera County, that when it came time to describe this stretch of road words would come easy.  After all, I'm an unrepentant talkoholic and an incorrigible wordsmith.  Well, shut my mouth.  

J.jpg (6833 bytes)ust outside Media Nigel the Land Rover was hauling us up a steep grade when Ms. Intrepid commented that her ears were popping from the change in altitude.  Well, I was experiencing the same thing but strange things go on inside my head all the time.  Then we noticed the Maples along the roadside which didn't look the least bit lost.
       Remember me mentioning that the Rand McNally Texas State Map has Lost Maples State Park on the wrong side of the road?  Not to worry if that's all you're stuck with.  The sign is big enough to get your attention.
       If you're there for an hour or a day it doesn't matter.  You'll pay $4 per person either way.  Naturally we were there in the wrong time of the year and the maples were green just like all the other foliage.   Perhaps, by the time you read this and get out that way things will be different.   The best time of year is late October through Thanksgiving.
       Accessibility for the disabled to limited to restrooms and picnic tables and approximately 1 mile on park roads.  Ok, been there, done that.  Looked at the t-shirts; now on to Utopia.  I just had to see for myself what Utopia really looked like.
       Back in 1873 I would have been looking for "Montana" instead of Utopia and most likely it wouldn't have shown up on any map. If it did show up it might not have been in the right place 'cause there was already another Montana, Texas; but don't look for it now cause it's disappeared or lost.   Learning that the name had already been snapped up, they settled on "Utopia" because of the ideal weather in the area. 
       In 1880 you could take the weekly stage ride to Utopia where 150 men, women and children had two gristmills, three churches and one store to choose from.  By 1960 the population was whittled down to 60 folks.  If them maples hadn't gotten lost nobody would have found Utopia.  Fortunately the trees conveniently showed up in Lost Maples State Natural Area in 1979 and the population is over 300 today.  Which means there are newcomers aplenty or a few mighty large families.

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       Utopia may not be all hustle and bustle like Bandera which is probably just fine for the locals.  We were there during the afternoon rush hour when I stood in the middle of the road and took the photo above.  They do have a Utopia Emporium & Garden of Eat'n and a Lost Maples Restaurant and after that you can take a tour of their museum, library or water treatment plant.
      But what Utopia hasn't done is lay claim to being the Something-or-Other Capital of Texas.  Now, I'm not recommending they start having a Mud Festival or a -- yikes! I just found out there is already a Fire Ant Festival in Marshall, Texas and a Chigger Festival in Cooper, Texas, a Mosquito Festival in Clute, Texas, a Cockroach Festival in Santa Fe, Texas; AND a Miller Lite Mud Festival in San Antonio. 
       I reckon there's no idea so lame it can't show a profit... but, as usual, I've taken leave of my story...
        Thanks to a rather unique feature on our Roads of Texas Map (I'll spare you the details) we got lost again once we left Utopia and ended up on Highway 90 retracing our route we took back in December of last year. 
       As we arrived in D'Hanis on U.S. Highway 90  I was relieved to shed my responsibilities as a navigator.  Like I said to Ms. Intrepid, "I'm so sick of looking at this map I could throw up."  And you can rest assured I'm going to find a really big magnifying glass for our future trips. And, with any luck, we'll get lost again.

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Texas Hill Country Wine: Torrie de Pietra Vineyards and Winery near Fredericksburg Texas