Getting the flavor of...
Bat-watching in Texas Hill Country
Every evening from May to October, diners at the Alamo Springs Cafe outside Fredericksburg, Texas, get treated to one of nature’s finest displays, said Bob Phillips in Texas Monthly. Just before sunset, millions of Mexican free-tailed bats emerge from an abandoned railroad tunnel across the café’s parking lot. It’s quite a sight: “a spinning monolith of critters” that can reach as high as 10,000 feet and may roam 60 miles and back before the bats finish their nightly bug hunt. Old Tunnel State Park has viewing areas, but I recommend sitting at the Alamo Springs and ordering a green chile cheeseburger. “Burgers and bats: It’s like going to a fancy restaurant and a Broadway show—only better.” Texas Hill Country has many bat colonies, and the state’s Parks & Wildlife Department offers a handy guide to bat-watching sites, said Robert C. Deming in TexasHillCountry.com. After catching the show at Old Tunnel, “you might decide to visit all of them.”
Nevada’s newest national monument
I expected Nevada’s Gold Butte National Monument to be beautiful, but not breathtaking, said James Card in The New York Times. “I was wrong.” Designated a national monument by President Obama during his last days in office, this 300,000-acre stretch of the Mojave doesn’t have the attention-grabbing spectacles you find at more famous American West destinations, like the Grand Canyon or Devils Tower. But Gold Butte has its own, subtler treasures—like its wildlife. “Every time I hiked through the scrub, road runners, fence lizards, kangaroo rats, and blacktail jackrabbits skittered under the creosote bushes.” The highlight of my trip was a grouping of sandstone formations covered in petroglyphs left by the Native Americans who once roamed the desert. One boulder, Newspaper Rock, is like “an ancient storyboard,” with etchings of goats, bulls’ eyes, and human footprints. “I sat in front of it and pondered the images until thirst set in.” ■