It's my first time in Austin and second time in Texas aside from a Houston wedding when I was a tween. I had always heard good things about Austin, " it's nothing like the rest of Texas" people would say, knowing that the typical Texas town and its people greatly diverged from my lifestyle. I came to Austin to help teach some rock climbing clinics and show the film I recently completed, Uncharted Lines. My only travel companion- my ex fiancé. To say this is weird would be an understatement, but our relationship has always been mildly unconventional and we have known each other for over a decade, severing the ties felt like saying goodbye to a family member and a third of our lives and neither of us could do it. Paul and I had been friends for years before dating and maybe should have stayed friends, given the extreme ups and downs in our relationships and the differences in our personalities. Throughout the years we had broken any chance of being more than friends but our ability to stay friends never disappeared- we just got each other like best friends do. Despite this desire to stay close, in all actuality it's not probable so soon after a break up when both parties are trying to move on and we both recognized this trip as our final 24-hr-a-day adventure, something we had become so used to over the years. Our first stop was the famous Torchy's tacos where we feasted on queso, a seared ahi tuna taco and a fried avocado taco. Next we were told to go to Barton Springs, a 3 mile walk along sidewalks and river paths. The sun was high and the air was hot. We weren't used to the temperature having recently come in from Colorado. Up ahead the looming skyline of the small city beckoned us forward and we continued the walk towards the river. The next part of the walk was a little over a mile along the river path where we observed dozens of runners, kayakers, SUPers and dogs, as well as hundreds of box turtles and various birds.
Arriving at the springs, we learned that it was closed, but there was an area just outside the springs were we could rest in the shade and tip our toes in the water. Austin got rid of Uber and Lyft when they refused to comply with a stricter background check (something that seems like a positive rule) so they have their own services like Ride Austin and Fasten. Our Fasten car picked us up at the springs and took us to back to our house, where we changed, rested for a bit, and made the short walk over to Crux Climbing gym to begin our evening of clinics. For the next few hours we taught a kids clinic and an adult beginner clinic, with a quick Indian meal in between. We were exhausted but the climbers were enthusiastic and appreciative and we enjoyed sharing our knowledge and passion with the newer crops of climbers.
The next morning began with a trip to a local coffee shop and a few hours of climbing at the gym, before leaving Austin in a Fasten car on route to Hamilton Pool. I had done my research, as I always do before visiting a new place, and this spot looked beautiful. The area had collapsed many years ago to reveal an underground river that is now a popular tourist destination for those visiting Austin.
After attempting to find various short term car rental options, we forked over the $40 to the app that could take us to this beautiful location. The weather was a scorcher, 90 degrees with no breeze or clouds, and we couldn't wait to swim. Pulling up the gate at last, we were both charged an additional $8 plus informed that there was E. coli in the water and swimming should be avoided. Extremely disappointed, we decided to continue walking towards the direction of the pool and at least take as many photos as we could. The pool was just as beautiful as we had imagined and the rule of no swimming made it actually the perfect opportunity to take lots of photos. We didn't have a ton of time so we walked down another path to explore a beautiful river area before heading back towards the parking lot. On the way to the pool we had been told a 15 minute wait would be necessary on the return end, but that even Uber worked where we were. (Uber pulled out of Austin after Austin decided to require finger prints and a stricter background check) Sadly, the man had been mistaken and no shared ride companies appeared to service within 10 miles of the location. Knowing we needed to still get dinner, shower and make it to the gym early for another clinic, we felt panicked. Realizing the only option was to hitch a ride, we began approaching friendly looking couples, asking if they were headed back to Austin. After 4 attempts we finally located a nice young couple from Louisiana and after a little convincing we sat in their back seat as we sped towards the city. Making a pit stop at the original Whole Foods before returning home (it's amazing for prepared food) we were relieved to have made it and actually saved $40 by hitch hiking! That night we taught a final clinic- adult intermediate and advanced, and showed our film. The room was packed and everyone really seemed to enjoy the show! I am so grateful to have been able to explore a new city, meet some great new people, and experience some southern hospitality! Thanks to Crux Climbing Center for hosting us. It was a bittersweet final adventure that will surely provide lifelong memories.