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I Wonder What’s Up There

Cliffs over The Colorado River, Austin Texas
Cliffs over The Colorado River, Austin Texas

Every time we drove by those cliffs overlooking the Colorado, Daddy would say “I’d like to climb those someday. I wonder what’s up there.” The cliffs towered above the river, a couple of hundred feet at least, disappearing downstream at a bend in the river.

I was always ambivalent. I was very scared of snakes growing up and the thought of tromping through brush and trees in the Texas Hill country filled me with trepidation. I kept up a steady stream of excuses for a decade.

Alone, I parked the car at the bootleg trail head at the base of the cliffs, shouldered my pack, and started climbing the eroded sandstone. Although it had rained heavily, the ground was still cracked dry like a desert. I soon came to the vista overlooking the bridge and the river below.  A trail snaked off from the viewpoint following the curve of the cliffs.

I passed a trail runner and another walker which quelled my fear of snakes. Dragonflies darted around my ankles and wildflowers bloomed in the wild grass besides the trail. I saw three different kinds of butterflies. I passed through a hole in the fence and a private property sign and kept going past rusty barbed wire wrapped around an old tree. Looks like we’re at the river bend now Dad. Can’t see any buildings from here, just the river, and the trees along the banks.  It feels like old Texas.

Trees in Texas Hill Country
Trees in Texas Hill Country

This would have been a good vestibular workout Dad, trying to stay balanced on a steep slope. Blow downs litter the trail…no one has been on this section for a while. Can’t hear the traffic noise anymore. Look there’s the river. Wow, that cliff must be a straight drop down. Let’s take this side trail down to the wash.

That was a pretty nice walk Dad. It really felt like we walked back in time. We should have come up here sooner.

In loving memory of my Dad

Gerhard Werner, 1921-2012


  1. :)

    Lately i have been thinking that I would like to do more walks and outdoor activeties with my father, and my mother. But would be nice to have only one of them at the time also.

    Going out to do stuff, like we did when I was a kid.
    They are still quite young, but one never knows, and time flies by.
    I live far from home, and only go home for holidays or round numbered birthdays and so on, so I dont see them that much either.

    There are theese small walks or questions, just like yours, that pops up in mind.
    What is hinding behind the hills, or behind the turn in the narrow road that takes off from our normal way to the summerhouse.

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. What a wonderful way to honor your Dad by doing something he would have liked and wanted to do.

  3. I too am an AT section hiker. I have taken many trips of a week or so and started alone. By day 3 my Dad’s memory came to walk with me too. I found it strange, but was glad to again be in his presence. Memories and love, they are both forever. Gene “Trekker” Curp

  4. Very nice way to remember your Dad.

  5. My family is from the same area. I haven’t lived in Austin since I was a child, but the rest of my family lives in the Greater Austin area now so I travel there frequently since my father is 82. I do enjoy that area of the state.

    This is a great story. Thank you for sharing such a personal moment. I am new to your blog and to backpacking, and have learned a lot from reading through the posts.

    And I am also uncomfortable with snakes!

  6. Philip,
    I like the way you wrote, “A trail snaked off from the viewpoint following the curve of the cliffs.” This was a nice psychologic counterbalance to your childhood fear of snakes.
    A touching movement forward of a childhood memory, full of emotions and renewed purpose.

  7. The Texas Hill Country is a really nice place. My father took us there often, as well as Big Bend in West Texas. He’s 89 and in good health for that age and still takes daily walks, sometimes a couple miles, although it’s been about four years since his last strenuous mountain day hike.

    I had many pet snakes as a child and my parents fielded more than one concerned (probably more accurately, irate) phone call from other neighborhood parents as my brother and I kindly provided their children with cuddly, legless companions.

    A year ago, I was hiking with the grandchildren and caught a rattlesnake. My four year old granddaughter wanted to know if she could pet it. Permission was denied.

    • Catch and release, I hope. :-)

      • Yeah, it was catch, photo, and release. Ironically, “Great White Snakehunter” didn’t see the snake and stepped right over it, almost stepping directly on it. My seven year old grandson yelled “Snake!” and I turned around and saw that beautiful young rattler.

  8. Thanks for sharing your heart with us – beautiful!

  9. Thanks. Makes me want to get out with my kids.

  10. Sorry to hear that your dad finally passed, I lost mine last January just before I went to Afghanistan again. He had a long bout with cancer and it finally one. Even if dad was the car camping type, I will always cherish our weekends in the mountains in utah when I was a kid.

    I make time at least once a year to go on a weekend hike with my daughter even if she is off at college now.


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