We were in the ?hill country? of Texas, the spring of 2004, traveling west on our way to Arizona for an extended vacation.
It was after 4 p.m. and my husband Bob urged me to look for a campground for the night. We were on the I-10, just west of San Antonio. I discovered a state park: South Llano River, a few miles further. Following the signs that directed us off the highway and through a small tired town called Junction, a winding dirt road took us through an open field. Crossing a small bridge over a narrow creek, my eye caught the word ?South Llano River? on a wooden sign. A few more twists and turns through this picturesque valley brought us to a graveled parking lot and a small wooden farmhouse with a long front verandah perched on a hill. Bob disappeared inside to register while I perused the map for the next day?s journey.
A few minutes later, he was back with some papers and a twinkle in his eye. ?Wait till you see what?s here,? he commented mentioning a walk after dinner. I just sighed, thinking that was the furthest thing on my mind. It had been a long day traveling and I felt too tired for any exercise.
We drove into the campground, patterned like the spokes of a wheel with the campsites reaching out on both sides like black asphalt fingers into the pretty countryside. The sites were flat, paved back-ins with electric and water. The bath houses and recreation hall were perched on a small hill in the centre of the wheel. Our site was on the far side, with manicured lawns behind us for about fifty feet then tall grasses and small bush trees. The lovely hills ringed us completely around this breathtaking valley with the live oak trees just starting to break their buds. We parked and had a quick supper. Bob insisted I accompany him for an evening walk back to the registration office.
As we stepped outside our fifth wheel, a movement beside me caught my eyes and held me in suspense. Half a dozen deer were eating along the fringes of the tall grass; one adult had a small fawn following closely behind her. As we walked slowly along the road, the deer walked parallel to us, stopping to graze occasionally, and watching us warily. All around us the activity in the campground continued but it didn?t seem to faze the deer. A camper came out of his unit and threw something towards the herd. A curious male ventured tentatively towards the offering, sniffed it and then bolted back into the grass. Obviously, he didn?t appreciate human food. I was relieved, as I believe wild animals should be left to fend for themselves.
We followed the road back to the entrance and parking lot. A pathway to our right meandered down to the Llano River.
The sounds of wild turkey gobbling in the underbrush reached our ears. Then, suddenly, one large male darted out in front of us and disappeared down the trail to the water. We took the pathway up the hill to the farmhouse. I soon discovered why Bob had wanted me to go for this walk.
As we approached the verandah, loud buzzing reached our ears. Dozens of tiny hummingbirds hovered and flitted in the air around several feeders hanging from the eaves of the front porch.
Their tiny almost invisible wings beat the air and the sound was like a hive of busy bees. They scattered as we approached. We sat on a bench facing the feeders and silently waited. Minutes later we were rewarded with several appearing, stretching their long beaks to suck the sweet nectar. Bob started taking pictures with our digital camera. The click of the shutter would momentarily startle and scatter them. Within seconds though, they would be back and fluttering with their colourful bodies. We watched enchanted for over an hour. Bob patiently stood by the feeder clicking away; the air was thick with the humming of these tiny creatures. Some were waiting in the nearby bushes for their turn to zoom in for a dip and a sip. Bob even got a couple of snapshots of me standing close by, watching while some hovered at the feeders.
Reluctantly we finally decided to return to our trailer. The sun was sinking slowly into the surrounding hills. Along the way, we stopped to talk to the host and hostess of the campground as they sat outside their camper. They also had several feeders in tree branches on their site. While we talked, hummingbirds almost dive-bombed me to get some sustenance. The hostess laughed, telling me to watch as it got darker. As the light faded, the buzzing suddenly ceased. The hummingbirds disappeared. They must have settled for the night in the surrounding bushes and tree branches.
We said our goodbyes then, the euphoria evaporated and my weariness returned. We needed to settle for the night too.
However, there was anticipation of tomorrow and future exciting places to explore ? and the memory of an enchanted evening.