Trail Roots’ founder Erik Stanley shares his favorite trail running destinations
by Krista Hager
The first act in my love story of the gritty pitter patter transpired from a meet cute between my trail shoes and the Colorado red clay gravel crunching beneath textured grip. Each step wild, adventurous and free. Before I knew it, my precipitous trail jog awoke a thirst quenched only by the rugged outback. However, once back in Texas, I was clueless how to immerse myself into trail running again. Where were the spots beyond the iconic Lady Bird Lake?
Erik Stanley, founder of Trail Roots and avid trail runner.
Erik Stanley, University of Texas All-American and Adidas Rogue Athletic Club professional runner, noticed a gap in the Austin running community: trail running resources. Founding Trail Roots in 2014, Stanley sought to create a local tribe of trail runners to demystify entry into this unhinged terrain through professional coaching and guided runs. Stanley explains, “With Trail Roots, we’ve created a trail community of over 100 runners. No matter your pace, we will find someone for you to run with. Each week we send out the route and details for all of our marked runs, hitting a different trail each Saturday.”
Stanley’s passion for trail running started in Colorado as well, where trails are as prevalent as Starbucks Coffee shops ‑ one on every corner. Here in Austin, you may need to swell your search muscles, but there are actually a surprising number of hidden treasures awaiting your next adventure run. Here are Stanley’s top picks…try all six and report back!
At the top of Stanley’s list for your ultimate city trail run. Open the front door of your downtown apartment or hotel to a lush playground of green, limestone and dirt, as you thump along this seven mile out and back trail system for a city-meets-trail excursion.
Skill Level: Intermediate Distance: 7.5 miles, out and back Amenities: Restrooms and swimming at Barton Springs Address: 2131 William Barton Dr. Access Points: Spyglass, 360, Gaines Creek and Hill of Life
Check out Slaughter Creek for your optimal beginner excursion. My greatest obstacle in attempting new trails is finding my way – more literally than figuratively. With only one route split, friendly terrain and wide open spaces, this comfortable and scenic trail is a great place to break in fresh trailers.
Skill Level: Easy Distance: 3.5 and 5 mile routes Amenities: Port-a-John, approximately 20 parking spots and street parking options Address: 9901 Farm-to-Market 1826
Run Commons Ford Ranch Metropolitan Park trail to unearth a route as accommodating as it is charming. Stay on the flat and wide trail for a nice beginner run, or escape into the woods to add technical and open cross country components to your routine. Diversity of texture and terrain is on hand thanks to the Colorado River, pecan trees and even a waterfall.
Difficulty: Beginner Distance: 4 mile mixed loops Amenities: Street and small parking lot Address: 614 N. Commons Ford Rd.
Take it to the next level at River Place Nature trail with hill training aplenty. With nearly 900 feet of vertical gain in three miles, Texas runners might begin to think they are in Colorado. While the terrain is friendly, the elevation gain will challenge anyone from beginner to expert. For extra mileage, add on the Panther trail, which has idyllic swimming holes.
Difficulty: Challenging Distance: 5.5 mile out and back Amenities: Street parking available Address: 8820 Big View Dr. Fees: $10 per person (and per dog) on weekends 8 AM to 4 PM. Weekdays are free.
Deception trail near Brushy Creek offers a quintessentially Texas terrain perfect for the intermediate trail runner. According to Stanley, “This trail is called ‘Deception’ because you feel like you’ve run the same spot multiple times, when in reality you haven’t.” Ease of entry from multiple access points and lined with lush bluebonnets in springtime, this trail is an impeccable fit for routine training or adding distance.
Difficulty: Intermediate Distance: 6-7 mile loop or 12+ mile out and back Amenities: Street parking, restrooms and a water fountain Address: 2310 Brushy Creek Rd.
If you live in Steiner Ranch, with private access to the gorgeous and challenging Steiner Ranch trail, consider yourself lucky. Canopied with breathtaking views of Lake Austin and Travis, best to find your next BFF within its coveted boundaries so you can experience this sweaty bliss.
Difficulty: Challenging Distance: 3.5-7 mile loop Amenities: Private trail, park at Cups and Cones Address: 2900 N. Quinlan Park Rd.
Leah’s tips for how to score vintage finds from the comfort of your air conditioned home
by Leah Ashley
It’s July and it’s HOT. As much as I love a flea market or a garage sale pull over, the only outdoor activity that I feel like doing nowadays is finding the nearest body of water and plunging in. Luckily, for everyone living in the 21st century, access to the internet has opened up a plethora of new avenues for online treasure hunting. So whether you live somewhere without any good second hand shopping options, or you are trying to beat the heat, I’ve got tips for how to score big on vintage finds from the comfort of your air conditioned home.
There are many platforms available for different needs and budgets, like 1stDibs which specializes in higher end antiques.
Know Your Platform
Just like you know what your favorite stores sell in real life, get to know which platforms specialize in what. Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace have more of a “yard sale” feel since you can find an array of items at affordable prices. Chairish and Etsy are a nice middle ground, with something for every style and every budget. When perusing Ebay and EBTH you can find just about anything and they let the consumer drive the price. On the upper end of the spectrum, 1stDibs and One Kings Lane have wonderful and quality antiques, with prices to match.
Keywords Are Key
When I’m looking for a specific piece, I make sure to hone in on my search with keywords. For example, if I’m looking for a pair of vintage art deco mirrors, I would search using “pair of vintage art deco mirrors.” If I’m in the mood to just browse, I might type in “vintage mirror” and see what comes up. Another insider tip is to spell your keywords incorrectly. Many sellers don’t really know what they have and you will be one of the lucky few to stumble upon a misrepresented listing!
Do Your Research
Have a certain piece, designer or style in mind? Let your fingers do the walking and educate yourself as much a possible. The more you know, the more you, the consumer, are protected. Educating yourself on a piece, a designer or even a particular style can save you from over paying or unknowingly buying a knock off.
It is very rare to find a vintage piece in “like new condition.” Typically you can count on your new find having some dings, scrapes or even some serious wear and tear. Make sure that you really examine the available photos in the listing. If there is some questionable damage, don’t be afraid to ask the seller for a more detailed photo. The more information you have about a piece, the easier it is to decide if the asking price if worth the cost of repairs.
Once you have come across an item you are interested in, make sure to browse for that same item on different platforms. Often sellers have to pay a commission depending on the site the seller is using. Since the commission can be as high as 20 percent of the listing price, often you’ll find one seller listing the same item, on multiple platforms, at different price points, to make up for what they have to pay, or don’t have to pay, in commissions. In the past I’ve found a dining room table listed on 1stDibs at one price and then the same seller listing the same table at a reduced price on a site that doesn’t require them to pay a commission. Keep browsing.
Measure. And Then Measure Again
Most of the time, buying online is a commitment. A lot of these second hand sites don’t offer returns. For that reason, it is incredibly important to measure your space accurately so you know the piece will fit when it arrives. And while you’re at it just go ahead and measure a second, and maybe third, time.
Just because a listing has a set price doesn’t mean you can’t make an offer. Take into consideration the research you have done, the condition of the piece and then email the seller with a different offer. My motto is “If you don’t ask, it’s always a NO.”
Some items can be picked up locally, like this 1960s Vintage Howard Parlor Faux Fur Sofa found on Chairish.
Consider The Shipping
Shipping can make or break a deal, sometimes putting that once reasonable find now completely out of budget. Before I fall in love with something online, I always enter my zip code to see if shipping is worth the extra cash. One option to try is a third party shipper, like UShip. A lot of the time an outside company can and will offer more competitive rates. But despite all that, my favorite way to buy online is still local pickup, when items are a short(ish) drive away and you can pick them at your convenience.
Have a good experience? Stay in touch with that dealer. There are seller’s out there with storage units full of items that may not be listed yet. If I love a merchant’s style, I often ask what else they have that isn’t online. Looking for something specific? Let them know that as well. They might not have it currently, but they may come across what you are looking for on their next treasure hunt.
Patience Is Part of The Process
Just like second hand shopping in real life, online vintage shopping takes time and patience. Some days you score big. Some days you walk away with nothing. But it pays to visit sites often and to spend a few minutes a day browsing your favorite platforms.
Luck Cinema’s Red Headed Stranger
with Willie Nelson
July 6, 2019
Photographs by Heather Leah Kennedy
Alamo Drafthouse’s Rolling Roadshow and Luck Productions joined forces with an unforgettable kickoff event: a starlit screening of the “Red Headed Stranger” held on the original film set, Willie Nelson’s Luck, TX ranch. Following the film, Willie Nelson spoke to journalist and broadcaster Andy Langer about the history of the film, his experience on set, and the town of Luck, TX. Guests were also treated to the first-ever digital presentation of the recently resurfaced classic western, showcased on Rolling Roadshow’s projector screen situated in the middle of the Luck, TX property. Prior to the screening, Austin Food & Wine Alliance hosted an intimate, 50-person dinner prepared by award-winning chef Jesse Griffiths of Austin’s celebrated Dai Due restaurant.
Held at the Headliners Club on June 25, Give Back Jack! is one of I Live Here I Give Here’s signature annual programs, designed to inspire and educate a diverse group of young professional men about how to get involved in their community and make philanthropy a key component of their lives. This year, approximately 100 participants enjoyed a night of networking and dinner at The Headliners Club featuring a keynote address from Austin-based Musician with a Message and 2017 Austinite of the Year, SaulPaul, followed by roundtable discussions with mentors who shared insights on the benefits and rewards of personal philanthropy.
We’re bringing you the top farmers markets to shop this summer
by Ivy Moore
Photographs by Cameron Davis and Becca Montjoy, Sustainable Food Center
I’ve never been a health nut. But whenever I’m at a farmers market something comes over me and all of a sudden I’m buying every piece of produce in sight, brainstorming my kale-covered meals for the next month and plotting to make my own almond milk at home. Living in Austin has afforded me the ability to choose when I want to turn into a health guru, unlike Los Angeles where you are silently shamed for even looking at a donut. Lucky for me, Austin welcomes food cravings of any shape or size. Whether you’re looking for locally-grown produce, poultry, honey or homemade goods, the Austin farmers market scene has what you’re searching for. Without further adieu, I present the top six markets you need in your life this summer.
Situated in the back parking lot of Barton Creek Mall, this market is easily accessible for those who live near South Austin, West Lake, Rollingwood, or Bee Cave. Farms like Johnson’s Backyard Garden, a local Austin vegetable garden, and Richardson Farms, who provide pastured poultry, beef and pork, rotate from market to market so you can expect to find them at other markets around town, too. Meeting the people who grow the food you’re buying and eating feels empowering and is something I recommend trying. Go ahead and pick up some fun-flavored olive oil, vegan bakery items or a fresh loaf of bread made by a friendly face.
The Sustainable Food Center offers two markets every week. The Sunset Valley Market has hundreds of loyal customers, farmers and artisans coming in every Saturday to shop and sell. Aside from produce and meats, you can expect to find jewelry, ceramics, coffee, paintings and body products here. Johnson’s Backyard Garden, Richardson Farms and Austin Honey Company are here weekly.
SFC Farmers Market Downtown
Saturday 9am – 1pm
The second SFC market has been located in the middle of Downtown Austin since 2003. Republic Square Park is home to weekly yoga events, casual workday breaks, and serves as a perfect spot to picnic and listen to live music before or after you shop. Come for the fresh produce and stay for the music and community. SFC was founded in 1993 to provide the community with healthy choices and sustainable products. They even offer interactive cooking classes and nutritional education as a way to get community members more engaged and educated on the food we’re putting into our bodies.
The Mueller farmers market has been a local favorite for a long time, so much so that they’ve added a Wednesday evening market to the mix! This is the perfect spot to pick up some fresh food to power through the rest of the work week. The market offers almost everything under the sun. From Indian food to soy candles, hard cider to honey wine, it’s like a candy store for adults.
Writer Ivy Moore debating the merits of shishito peppers versus cherry tomatoes at the HOPE Farmer’s Market.
At the HOPE Farmers Market you can expect free yoga, live music, prepared foods, ethical Texas eggs and meats, non-profit groups, and a chance to connect with other community members. This Eastside market has been supporting local farmers, businesses and artists since its founding in 2009. Every month one local designer is chosen to create a poster to advertise the market. HOPE Farmers Market’s entire collection of posters is up for the public to view at their market each week.
Located on Austin’s most well-known street, South Congress Avenue, SoCo Select Farmers & Makers isn’t your average farmers market. There are over 40 vendors who sell their products every Saturday. Mostly hand-made items such as jewelry, art, leather goods, henna and natural beauty products are what make up the bulk of this market. Steps away from seemingly endless restaurants, vintage stores and coffee shops it’s easy to make a day out of visiting this market.
AIA award-winning architect Chris Sanders updated his family’s hunting cabin to a modern hideout in the Piney Woods
by Hannah J. Phillips
Photographs by Ryann Ford
Hidden in the heart of the Piney Woods of East Texas, scattered cypress trees and loblolly pines surround a family hunting camp affectionately named Little Boggy. The site has served as a gathering spot since the 1940s and was recently updated and expanded by Chris Sanders, of Sanders Architecture, which won an AIA Design Award in 2016 for Juniper restaurant.
For the cabin redesign, Sanders worked with his mother and father-in-law, Ellen and Buddy Temple, to honor the bones of the original home and preserve family history while creating a modern compound to accommodate the growing clan.
“Buddy passed away during the design process,” Sanders says, “so it was nice that we were able to have that time together before he passed, working to satisfy his vision for the cabin as a family gathering space for years to come.”
The building started as a three-room hunting camp, expanding over the decades to include a kitchen, a dining room and additional structures outside. The main intent of the redesign was to add an entertainment room and more sleeping quarters for the Temples’ many children and grandchildren.
“We really wanted to respect the old building,” says Sanders. “There’s a lot of family attachment to it, so the proportions and the form and the materiality of the additions were very sensitive to that 80-year-old structure.”
One particular highlight of the new additions is the two-story, three-bedroom guest house with an upstairs screened-in sleeping porch. Oriented on the southeast corner of the building, the porch is intentionally positioned toward southeastern summer breezes and sweeping views across Black Cat Lake.
“All the windows really embrace that lake view,” says Sanders, describing how the arrangement of the new buildings creates a sort of central outdoor court for things like the family Thanksgiving football game. “The family comes here to hunt and fish, so it’s all about enjoying the outdoors.”
Sanders worked with longtime collaborator, Killy Scheer, "We preserved the paneled walls and ceiling in the original living room and made it more of a quiet space for conversation," explains the interior designer.
There are outbuildings throughout the property to accommodate the growing family. The new two-story guesthouse (shown above) provides additional sleeping quarters and includes a screened-in sleeping porch.
For the kitchen in the main lodge Sanders took down a wall in order to create space and add height. The original kitchen included a small pegboard for cast iron pans, and that idea was expanded upon and carried through in the update.
A nod to the family's heritage in the forest products industry, Sanders used southern yellow pine as a primary material throughout the project.
"The rooms in the guest house are meant to be bright, spacious and contemporary but with elements from the main house to make the whole compound consistent," explains Scheer. Custom built-ins, textural art and pops of color create a playful kid's space.
During the renovation, Sanders and his team preserved brick and boards from the exterior of the original building. Shown alongside "African American Man" by Joan Farrar.
Explore Ranches offers outdoor enthusiasts an in-depth new way to experience the wild lands of Texas
by Laurel Miller
Photographs by Jonathan Vail
Several of us are gingerly plucking ripe berries from a spiny agarita shrub, while chef Jesse Griffiths — owner of the acclaimed Austin butcher shop and restaurant Dai Due — forages nearby. He’ll use the fruit in a glaze for grilled, bacon-wrapped dove this evening, but right now, lunch is his priority. He hands us tongs to harvest tender young nopales paddles, which he’ll char and slice before tossing them with chile pequin, lime, white onion and goat queso fresco.
Two hours later, we’re enjoying the nopales salad, which is accompanied by coffee-rubbed axis deer backstrap cooked in the coals; for dessert there’s a decadent mesquite flour pound cake (“More like a two-pound cake,” jokes Griffiths, referring to the ungodly amounts of butter it contains). It’s an earthy, rustic meal, perfectly suited to the alfresco setting: a 4,649-acre ranch outside Junction, on the western perimeter of the Hill Country.
There are nine of us attending Explore Ranches’ inaugural culinary retreat at Llano Springs Ranch; with us are landowners Tom and Sonja Vandivier, their daughter Jessica, and Tom’s sister, Ann Brodnax. The weekend is a laid-back affair that includes lodging and a cooking class, with all meals prepared by Griffiths and featuring ranch-sourced wild game; there’s also fishing, wildlife viewing, swimming, canoeing and a property tour. The retreat is part of a progressive new tourism concept, the brainchild of native Texans Jay Kleberg, Jesse Womack and Allison Ryan (see sidebar below, “A Home on the Range”).
The three founders grew up on ranches; among them, they have more than 40 years of experience as conservationists and outdoor enthusiasts. Explore Ranches was established in 2018 and is based on a simple premise: Guests can book private stays at historic, scenic ranches that offer exclusive access to “the nation’s least explored lands.” The overarching goal, says Womack, “is to enable landowners to keep properties in the family and provide income in the form of non-consumptive activities such as hiking, birding, stargazing, paddling, horseback riding, biking, fishing or wildlife photography.”
Adds Kleberg, who is also the director of conservation initiatives for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation (TPWF), “Many of our partner ranches harvest wild game as part of their land and wildlife management practices. While Explore Ranches is primarily focused on non-consumptive recreation on private lands, we offer these culinary retreats to demonstrate the benefits of managing native habitat for wild and sustainable sources of protein.” Depending on the property, guests might cook for themselves or have the option of an onsite chef, but, says Womack, “Adding a culinary component like this was part of our big picture, since people are becoming more concerned about where their food comes from.”
Tostadas with wild boar chorizo and refried beans are characteristic of Griffiths’ rustic, earthy food.
For Griffiths, an avid hunter and fisherman and the 2019 ambassador for TPWF’s “We Will Not Be Tamed” campaign, which advocates exploration of the state’s wild places, the opportunity to work with Explore Ranches aligned perfectly with his ethos of sourcing local ingredients. All of Dai Due’s fresh product comes from Texas. If it’s not in season or grown here, you won’t see it on the menu: Roasted mesquite beans replace chocolate, and all of the wines are made with Texas-grown grapes.
Griffiths’ side venture, the New School of Traditional Cookery “promotes responsible use of our wild resources. The aim is to educate, train and empower people within our community to utilize local foods to their fullest,” via immersive hunting and fishing weekends and workshops devoted to whole animal butchery. Although conservation is the school’s core value, Griffiths says that for him, hunting is also meditative. “It’s about being quiet, spending time in nature. I hunt close to home, identify some trees, pick some mushrooms on the way. But it’s also about frugality and feeding families.”
Paella with Carolina Gold rice, wild duck and turkey meatballs, crawfish and spring peas gets cooked over an open fire.
The Explore Ranches founders felt Griffiths would be the right fit for their culinary component, which can also include pasta or cheese-making and food preservation. “Jesse is the ideal ambassador,” Kleberg says. “His generosity and awareness of all the great things Texas has to offer — and his doing them in combination with wild game, fishing and other outdoor pursuits — encourages people to enjoy recreation in a responsible way.”
Of the collaboration — the culinary component can be added to any host property — Griffiths says, “My hope is that students come away with more confidence, especially when it comes to foraging. Most wild foods fall on the ground and rot, but in Austin alone, we have loquats, dewberries, mulberries, nopales.”
For their part, the Vandiviers were the first family to sign on as an Explore Ranches host. Tom, a retired attorney from Dripping Springs (where he and Sonja still reside part time), purchased the property with Ann and their late father in 1994. At the time, it was a former cattle ranch overrun with cedar and other invasive plant species. “We wanted to come in and start from scratch and turn it into something,” he says. “It was about molding it, making wildlife and water conservation and ecotourism our primary focus, but we also wanted to share it with folks. We’ve hosted hunters, university biology classes, birding groups, school kids. Explore Ranches’ concept is unique and very much in line with our business model.”
Nopales ripe for the picking.
Tom; Sonja, a former music teacher who grew up on a South Texas rice farm; their two daughters, Laura and Jessica; and Ann spent 16 years clearing the property of cedar; today, the high plateau landscape is dotted with live and shin oaks and carpeted with wildflowers. Plantings of Texas snowbell — a tree that’s nearly extinct — are emblematic of how even long-neglected soil can be restored to fertile habitat. Says Ann, “We’re so thankful for this slice of the Hill Country. There’s a deep joy that comes from being the stewards of the land, water and wildlife here.”
While the exact date the ranch was established is unknown, the main house was built in the 1940s. The Vandiviers have found numerous 19th-century military artifacts and wagon ruts on the property, as well as hundreds of surface arrowheads (the oldest dating back 8,000 years), which are now on display in one of the simple homes constructed for guests.
The extended Vandivier clan.
In recent years, Llano Springs Ranch has received accolades for its land and wildlife stewardship, including the prestigious Leopold Conservation Award. Since 1994, the Vandiviers have offered lodging and guided hunts, operating under a Managed Lands Deer Permit for the species found on the ranch: white-tail, axis and fallow deer, and blackbuck. There are also feral hogs, wild turkeys, doves and various duck species, as well as rare birds like the golden-cheeked warbler and the blackcapped vireo and the occasional bald eagle.
One of the most distinctive features of the property is its namesake springs, which flow into the nearby South Llano River. (“This ranch and its free-flowing waters are kind of a hidden jewel,” says Kleberg. “You need to know someone to access it.”) Those same springs feed a sizable emerald body of water called the Blue Hole, which provides a quiet place to cast a line (the Vandiviers practice catch and release; an exception was made for the retreat for culinary purposes), paddle a canoe or swim.
Our final afternoon, Griffiths leads a casual demonstration cooking class while he preps dinner (fish soup with aioli, wild turkey-stuffed ravioli made with Rouge de Bordeaux heritage grain flour from Barton Springs Mill in Dripping Springs, and pecan custard). As an instructor, he’s gregarious and easy to follow and his in-depth knowledge of ingredients fascinating, but the vibe is akin to watching a friend prepare dinner.
Sunfish are used to make the base for a soup.
After the class, Tom takes us on a property tour in his Kawasaki Mule; at one point we startle a herd of axis deer, including two bucks with magnificent racks. We watch, awestruck, as the animals race up the hillside and over a ridge.
Upon our return at dusk, the other family members greet us with Palomas made with Desert Door Texas Sotol, and the 13 of us sit on the porch, watching the resident wildlife drink from the springs. Binoculars are passed, and the conversation is lively, despite most of us being relative strangers. Says guest Owen Temple, an Austin-based musician and songwriter interested in conservation, “It’s great to see all of these creative people co-create an experience like this, especially in this setting. It just brings out the best in everyone, but this has still exceeded expectations in every regard.” Adds Austinite Erin Buckingham (who’s visiting with her husband, Andy), “This offers all of the things we’re into: great food, ecology, land restoration. It shows you what 20 years’ worth of hard work looks like.”
Meals take place on the porch overlooking the springs.
After dinner, Owen borrows a guitar and sings, while Sonja entertains us with anecdotes about ranch life. We look for shooting stars and sip William Chris Wines, from Hye. Before they retire for the night, the Vandiviers thank us for being part of this new venture, which has made a profound impact on them. I glance around and see I’m not the only person whose eyes are welling up.
Later, as I crawl into bed, I think about something Erin said to me at dinner. “I love how much this family loves this piece of land. It’s infectious.”
It is, indeed.
A Home on the Range
Chef Jesse Griffiths
Explore Ranches was born of a desire to “get more people to experience the wilds of Texas, to open gates to private land,” says Kleberg. He grew up on a ranch in South Texas where “nature tourism has been a part of our business model for decades.” Womack manages his family’s cattle ranch in Victoria County, while Ryan, a personal trainer based in Austin, grew up visiting her family’s ranch, the Withers, in the Davis Mountains (the property is now one of Explore Ranches’ listings).
Currently, Explore Ranches has nine ranches listed, from a remote and sprawling Big Bend property that sleeps 20 to a “canyon oasis” on the confluence of Independence Creek and the Pecos River. There’s also Middle Creek Ranch, just outside Steamboat Springs, Colorado, and Tejon Ranch, the largest contiguous expanse of private land in California. Ultimately, the brand aims to offer exclusive experiences on the world’s most majestic — and exclusive — lands. Accommodations range from luxury retreats to rustic cabins with meals; hosts and custom itineraries are available on all properties.
Four Austin residents who make it their business to spend time outside
by Pam LeBlanc
Photographs by Matt Conant
You can keep your air-conditioned office cubicle, thank you very much.
Here in Austin, we love the outdoor lifestyle and everything that comes with it, even if it means mosquito-bitten ankles, perpetually wet hair and sunburned ears. It’s why we live in a city with easy access to rugged hiking trails, lakes and rivers where we can take a cooling splash, and parks that invite us to hang a hammock or pitch a tent. We can pedal bicycles into the hills, practice yoga outdoors and dine alfresco beneath big Texas skies when it’s time to refuel.
We caught up with four Austin residents who have plunged into the outdoors full time, making it not just a way to spend leisurely weekends, but a lifestyle and career choice.
Guadarrama during an early-morning (and friendly) match at Zilker Park.
Sonny Guadarrama started kicking a soccer ball around when he was just 2 years old. His father gifted him with a love of the game and later coached him and his two brothers on a youth league in Leander. The skills stuck. Guadarrama played for Cedar Park High School, landed a full scholarship at Campbell University in North Carolina, then left school after his freshman year to play professional soccer in Mexico. He’ll never forget suiting up on November 6, 2006, in Torreón, Mexico, with Santos Laguna, a team that he and his father had grown up watching.
“The journey took me to the same team and the same stadium, and my parents were there watching me play that very first game,” he says.
Now the accomplished midfielder is fulfilling another dream: playing on Austin’s first pro soccer team, Austin Bold FC, whose inaugural season launched in March with home games at Circuit of the Americas. “I think it’s the world’s game,” he says of soccer. “There’s not another game like it, and you don’t need much to play. I fell in love with it at an early age and am still in love with it now.”
He says hours of training, not natural athletic ability, made him a good player. He wants to pass along what he’s learned. When he’s not sprinting down a field after a soccer ball himself, he coaches youth at the Lonestar Soccer Club’s Junior Academy. “I don’t know what I’d be doing if I wasn’t playing soccer. I wouldn’t be as happy as I am now if I was sitting inside all day,” he says. “I wouldn’t change this job for any other job in the world.”
Galván on the still waters of Lady Bird Lake atop a Rowing Dock ATX board.
Between the sixth and 12th grades, Rodolfo Galván spent a lot of time outdoors, learning to rock climb, canoe, hike and bike through Explore Austin, a nonprofit organization that uses outdoor recreation as a way to empower and teach leadership skills to low-income youth. These days, he serves on the board of directors. “It’s difficult to say how my life would have been without it,” says Galván, 21, who was born in Mexico but grew up in East Austin, under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy.
“Every year we’d take a trip to Colorado and do a solo night, where we slept one night far away from everybody else. It’s on those solo nights, just being in nature and being by yourself, that you step out of this whole hectic city life. It ended up changing the way I thought. A lot of our problems seem very big in this big, chaotic, always moving life. For a moment you feel like you can take a breath and step out of that.”
Now he’s working on a business degree and has created his own nonprofit organization, Código Austin, which encourages minorities to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics. And thanks to Explore Austin, he says, he still likes the occasional paddle session on Lady Bird Lake. A lot of Latinos in Austin don’t climb, run trails or standup paddleboard because it’s something they just assumed they couldn’t do, he says. “It’s not part of the culture. Sometimes they’re too scared, it looks too expensive or it’s seen as a luxury,” he says. “Explore Austin takes that away and says, ‘You can do this.’”
Canales likes to decompress, and test out new gear, at Barton Springs.
Rob Canales swam competitively at Stanford University, then moved to Austin to attend law school. That’s when he decided to enter a half-Ironman and quickly discovered that racing wetsuits weren’t built with swimmers in mind. He and Kurt Spenser, a Stanford teammate, dreamed up a better one, designed to fit a body positioned with arms extended instead of hanging at the side. The suit revolutionized triathlon wetsuit design and spurred the swimmers to develop other products, from goggles with tilted lenses that make it easier to spot buoys or objects on the horizon during open-water swimming to neoprene jammer-style swimsuits that encourage better body position in the water.
Now, through their company, ROKA, they’re focusing on performance sunglasses that are lightweight, grippy and don’t, as Canales puts it, “look like a spaceship landed on your face.” The work includes a good helping of in-the-field testing, and Canales enjoys a dip in Barton Springs Pool to test his creations. “We have to prototype our ideas in the real world, sometimes a ridiculous number of times, until we get it right. That can’t happen behind a desk,” he says. Canales enjoys solving design problems in novel and elegant ways. “When you build something from scratch out of your garage with one of your best friends, then nurture and grow it over several years with a dedicated team and a supportive and patient group of investors, that experience, for me, transcends the common understanding of a ‘job,’” Canales says. It requires research, working with design teams and testing solutions. “To help make all of that happen, I can’t just sit behind a computer or grind numbers,” he says.
Parker is happiest behind a ski boat on Lake Austin.
Kathleen Parker spent nearly every summer weekend as a kid at the family vacation house on Lake LBJ, learning to water ski when she was 5 and driving the boat while her dad skied behind it at 9. She studied business at the University of Texas and worked as a recruiter but ditched the more traditional career 12 years ago for a life encouraging women to do stuff they didn’t believe they could do.
As a coach and fitness instructor at iGnite Your Life, she teaches cardio strength classes outdoors and at area parks, and on Wednesdays she grabs the boat keys and picks up students for a “lake escape” — three hours of water skiing and wake surfing on Lake Austin.
“Some of the women haven’t skied in 20 years, and they’re out there slalom skiing now,” Parker says. “We’re bringing joy to these women who thought they couldn’t do it anymore.”
She prefers a shady tree to a rumbling air-conditioning unit and says she’d rather be in the water than just about anywhere. “The water to me is just warm-fuzzy — it’s where I grew up,” she says. “My mission is to empower women to get out there and not be afraid of the water. So many people are afraid to get behind the boat, and it’s not a scary place.” Don’t even try to take her away from those green-blue waters. “I just love it, and I plan on doing it until I’m 100,” she says.
Childhood reflections on the 50th anniversary of famed Isamu Taniguchi Japanese Garden
by Cari Clark
Color photographs by Kevin Greenblat
Growing up in what now feels like the small town of Austin in the 1960s, I met a lot of colorful locals as a little girl. There was “the princess,” a woman who rode an old bicycle all over town, dressed completely in black. Try as I might, she wouldn’t talk to me, but I was fascinated by her comings and goings all the same. At Barton Springs Pool, there were always regulars having fun and carrying on intellectual debates while I perfected my front flips off the diving board.
My dad, Harley Clark, was a young attorney, and every Saturday I’d go downtown with him to the Piccadilly Cafeteria, where he’d meet a group of fellow lawyers and judges for breakfast. After we ate, he would go to his law office and I had the run of Congress Avenue. My first stop was usually an office building where I’d watch Cliff, the man in charge of the parking garage, move between floors on what looked like a giant motorized trapeze with footholds. He was always kind to me but (wisely) never gave in to my pleading to try it myself.
Image courtesy of Austin American-Statesman, Austin History Center.
And then there was Isamu Taniguchi. My dad, who was in the Men’s Garden Club of Austin for years, respectfully referred to him as “Old Man Taniguchi,” I guess to distinguish him from his son Alan, who was the dean of the School of Architecture at UT. Although I knew that the younger Mr. Taniguchi was famous, he didn’t occupy a large space in my heart or imagination, but the older Mr. Taniguchi certainly did.
Old Man Taniguchi was the most interesting person in my 10-year-old world. I remember the first time I met him and how curious I was at his seeming otherworldliness. I had never met someone from Asia before, and he looked completely different from anyone I ’d ever known: small and sinewy, with soft leather-like skin and the most exceptional twinkle in his eyes and an easy smile.
The fact that he was from Japan, had a thick accent and, as my father explained, had been rounded up by the Americans in 1941 and put into a detention center in South Texas made him infinitely fascinating. And most important to me, he built what we now know as the Isamu Taniguchi Japanese Garden in Zilker Park, but back then, I knew it simply as “my” beloved garden, a spellbinding place where I felt at home.
While my father attended his garden club meetings, I had hours of unstructured time to daydream and explore. I often had Mr. Taniguchi’s garden to myself, and no one seemed to notice when I’d lie down in the streambed, letting the water flow over me as I’d gaze up at the trees. I explored every path, amazed by all the plants; it truly was my secret garden. Only later did I realize that most everyone who strolls through it, especially children, feels that way. I always knew it was magical, but as a child, I had no idea it was intentionally Zen.
Isamu Taniguchi was born in Japan in 1897 and immigrated with his parents and brother to California at the age of 17. He became a very successful tenant farmer, started a co-op and developed a breed of tomato that could be shipped to the East Coast. Not long after the attack on Pearl Harbor, widespread anti-Japanese hysteria took hold, and more than 120,000 citizens were incarcerated, including the Taniguchi family.
Taniguchi in August 1970. Image courtesy of Austin American-Statesman, Austin History Center.
While Isamu, his wife and sons were eating lunch at their home one day, there was a knock on the door, and two officials entered and arrested him as an “enemy alien.” He was interned in one detention camp after another, finally being sent to a camp in Crystal City, Texas, where he was reunited with his wife. He not only lost years of his life behind a fenced camp in dry South Texas, but also lost his livelihood; when he left California, his farm and equipment were pillaged. While the Taniguchis were interned as a threat to the United States, their college-age sons were recruited to serve in the U.S. Army. (More than 4,000 served the very country holding their fathers captive.)
When World War II ended, Isamu and his wife were released from the internment camp, and eventually, he retired to Austin, where his sons were living. Exceptionally industrious, he had a lot of energy for a man nearing 70. He had been schooled in the “art and Zen” of horticulture and wanted to create a Japanese garden for his new hometown and as a gift to Austin for educating his two sons at the University of Texas.
In the mid-’60s his son Alan was busy as an architect working with Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department to design the trails around Town Lake (now Lady Bird Lake). Through Alan’s connections, the city turned over a hilly, rocky section of parkland to his father. Deeply affected by the war and his internment, Isamu Taniguchi wished to restore balance and give Ausintites a place of reflection and peace after so many years of racial discord and conflict.
Clark pictured in the space that holds rich childhood memories.
Mr. Taniguchi created his garden — mostly by himself, in an astonishing 18 months — using one little sketch. The ponds would spell out “Austin,” and he would incorporate themes of the Orient that symbolize peace. At the age of 67, he worked daily and created — by hand — the paths, the ponds, the waterfall, the streambeds and the arched bridge, which is a “Togetsukyo,” or “bridge to walk over the moon.” In 1969, his garden was opened to the public.
It is true that Mr. Taniguchi created the garden by himself, but he wasn’t completely alone in his work. As my father recounted to me, Mr. Taniguchi felt a kinship with the tallest tree on the hillside, which he called Mother Tree. Working daylight to dusk, he came to depend on the tree not only for shade but also for companionship and encouragement; he used to say she spoke to him, urging him on as he broke and placed rocks for the paths and ponds. When the garden was finished, the ponds filled with water, the bridge and teahouse built, he waited for her to talk to him again but she never did. Her work was done. His beloved Mother Tree had died and given her spirit to the garden.
Days gone by. A snapshot taken in the garden, March 1970. Image courtesy of Austin American-Statesman, Austin History Center.
You have to hunt for it, but Mother Tree’s remains are there, her beauty and strength striking. Mr. Taniguchi tended the garden for many years before he passed away, in 1992, at the age of 95. His spirit is still there, too, one reason why, after 50 years, the garden remains one of Austin’s most magical places.
In 2015, good folks, including former Mayor Frank Cooksey and Evan Taniguchi, an Austin architect and Isamu Taniguchi’s grandson, created the Zilker Botanical Garden Conservancy to ensure that the gardens continue as one of the city’s crown jewels. I am incredibly grateful to have known Mr. Taniguchi and Mother Tree. Every time I’m in the garden, I can feel both of them there.