Kicker 10 awe-inspiring Texas sites to help beat the dog days of summer
For many of us, the dog days of summer come with a sense of malaise. We’re hot. We’re lazy. We’re envious when we see our friends’ Facebook photos of far-off lands as we toil away in a cubicle or broil on a jobsite. Overall, we’re a little uninspired.
Maybe we need a little awe in our lives.
According to a recent Religion News Service article, feeling a sense of awe takes us out of ourselves and fosters positive social relationships, lowers stress and cultivates overall well-being. It arises, said Daniel Stancato, a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, when we perceive something “so strikingly vast that it transcends one’s current frame of reference.”
Lucky us, “vast” is practically Texas’ middle name. But people do perceive things differently. So we polled a handful of Chronicle staffers and came up with 10 awe-inspiring Texas sites we could all agree on.
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Adoringly called the Grand Canyon of Texas, Palo Duro Canyon, southeast of Amarillo, is the second-largest canyon system in the U.S., reaching 800 feet deep. It’s 120 miles long and 20 miles wide, which is big enough to pretty much guarantee awe.
The most majestic sight in Big Bend National Park, the cliffs of Santa Elena Canyon soar some 1,500 feet high as the canyon runs along the legendary Rio Grande River. After crossing Terlingua Creek, a short trail leads into the canyon up to a breathtaking vista.
The mystical pink granite dome near Fredericksburg rises more than 425 feet above ground in the Hill Country. The Tonkawa Indians believed Enchanted Rock, which creaks and groans as it contracts on cool nights, was inhabited by spirits.
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TOP OF TEXAS
The trail to summit Guadalupe Peak — the highest natural point in the state at nearly 8,800 feet above sea level — is about 8.5 miles round trip through mountainous Guadalupe National Park, 90 miles east of El Paso. But once you reach the steel pyramid marking the top, you’ll be rewarded with a jaw-dropping panorama.
SPLASH AND DIP
A 50-foot waterfall cascades from a steep, limestone canyon into the collapsed grotto of Hamilton Pool, about 30 miles west of Austin. The blue swimming hole is popular for a reason; reservations are required.
THE STARS AT NIGHT…
… Are big and bright, especially near the Davis Mountains in West Texas. Pull over your car, pitch a tent and look up. Planetarium central. Also recommended: watching a full moon rise somewhere in the middle of nowhere on the Llano Estacado in the High Plains, such as Caprock Canyons State Park southeast of Amarillo.
Lost Maples State Natural Area, about 90 miles northwest of San Antonio, puts on what could be the state’s most magnificent display of fall color — bigtooth maple trees, in shades of amber and gold, reflecting on clear water against a cliff backdrop.
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MEZMERIZED ON MATAGORDA
Boat over to uninhabited Matagorda Island on a moonless night to watch the surf break on the beach when the water is alive with phosphorescence that shatters into a million glittering electric-green sparkles with each breaking wave. Return in the morning and listen as a mated pair of whooping cranes standing in the salt marsh call to each other.
DEVIL MAY CARE
In Texas it doesn’t get any wilder than the Devils River, considered by many as the state’s most pristine and remote waterway. The clear spring-fed tributary of the Rio Grande in southwestern Texas cuts through unforgiving desert, scenic canyons and wondrous Dolan Falls.
Caddo Lake, contrary to myth, was not at one point the only natural lake in Texas, but it might be the most magical, with its hauntingly mesmerizing stands of cypress trees draped in Spanish moss. Canoe this East Texas gem and you’ll see a variety of wildlife, from great egrets to eagles to alligators.
Shannon Tompkins contributed to this report.