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First, Ian and I started with a delicious fruit and veggie smoothie. Then, we went with Steve and Lena to the Greenbelt, a stretch of trails and river that runs from the edge of town and under highways through the gorges around the hill country. Like many of the trails around Austin, you can quickly disappear into what feels like a pristine secret wilderness only feet away from civilization, in this case, a major highway.

To get to the Greenbelt we parked on a wide shoulder and followed Steve into the brush, down a trail that we would never have found without him (on our return we found the clearly marked main trail a little farther down the road). After about a mile of winding trails and co-hikers, runners and bikers we came to a wide, shallow part of the river. It was as if MTV were throwing a secret river party. People sat on rock formations while small waterfalls flowed below them. Others waded and floated through the water, keeping their beer can high. There was music and laughter and I almost expected to hear the latest bands on an imaginary stage nearby.

Although this was nice we decided to continue down the trail another two miles to another spot. We climbed over some steep rocks and the trail carried us away from the revelers. Soon we came to this spot and crossed the shallow river to the other side.

Here you can see where we entered, by that small white tree, and you can see how the river forms a natural outcrop of a “porch” where people can sit and relax without getting wet, if they want. Right where that girl is stretched out the rocks drop off. The water past her is about four feet below.

Past that it stays shallow for about twenty feet and then drops off again, so that you’re swimming. It’s pretty clear and you can see down for awhile, so it’s not obvious but it’s at least eight feet deep. The guy standing there is on the ledge and his dog is swimming in the deeper part. That dog didn’t stop going after the tennis ball you see in mid air all afternoon, except for one time when he offered it to a little french bulldog cowering on the carved out ledge right below the outcropping. Apparently he was afraid of the water and his owner tossed him in to get him used to it. The swimming dog tried to help by getting him interested in the fascinating game of fetch. The french bulldog liked the rocky beach much better because on the beach he could stand winningly in front of the nearby guy who had potato chips. He was very polite and didn’t beg, only grinned.

We missed Penny so much on this trip that I actually felt guilty for enjoying it because she would have gone berserk with excitement about the whole thing. Dogs to chase, water to swim in, trails to run; it would have been heaven and we can’t wait to bring her back when she is better. When we got home I told her of this paradise I had discovered and that we would go there soon.

Because Ian and I didn’t know what to expect we just wore regular clothes. I brought a change of shorts for Ian but not for me, so I just got my feet wet while Ian took a dip. The great thing about the place was that everyone was so friendly and welcoming but relaxed. In addition to bathing suits we now wish we’d brought cans of beer. All we had were a few sips of tequila that Steve brought. If I’d brought a bathing suit I’d have been swinging on this rope swing for most of the day.

 

After Greenbelt we went to Rudy’s, a BBQ spot up the road. It was one of the first places Ian and I went in Austin, and even more delicious than the Rudy’s near our house. Or maybe it was the river and hike that made us so ravenous but it was the perfect compliment to a summer day on the river. The guy taking our order actually recognized us from the Greenbelt and we commiserated with him about being called into work on such a gorgeous day.

While chowing down on St. Louis BBQ ribs we decided to join Steve and Lena for a movie. Cabin in the Woods. Horror movie. Argh. I sat with my arm wrapped around Ian’s the whole time. It was actually a good movie, and sort of subverted the ideas of horror movies, but still.

Come on, you know you want to spend a sunny afternoon here, sipping on beer chilled under a waterfall.

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