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The best gifts often come in small packages. The small Hill Country town of Stonewall, about 14 miles east of Fredericksburg and a little more than an hour’s drive west from Austin, is such a package.
Perched near the Pedernales River, Stonewall is best known for its peaches, the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site that sits just east of town off U.S. Highway 290, and the adjacent LBJ Ranch. The state park, named for our nation’s 36th president, rests on the south side of the Pedernales and serves as a gateway to the LBJ Ranch on the river’s north side. Touring the working ranch, where the Hereford cattle so loved by Johnson still graze, is a simple matter of obtaining a free driving tour permit at the state park visitor center.
But guests who don’t wander across the river to the ranch will find plenty to see and do in the state park: gorgeous fields of wildflowers in the spring, bison and longhorns, and a variety of amenities available for public use, including picnic areas, nature trails, a tennis court, a baseball diamond and a seasonal Olympic-sized swimming pool. You can even cast a line for free in the Pedernales—in Texas, no license is required to fish in state parks.
Don’t bypass the visitor center where you can watch the film “LBJ: The Hill Country” and view memorabilia and interactive displays about Johnson’s life.
Elsewhere in the state park, the past comes alive at the Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm, which portrays farm life during the 1900s. Seasonal activities add even more to the park. In the spring, there’s kite day, an Easter celebration at the farm and guided nature walks. In the summer, you can join in on the annual fishing day, the German Heritage Day celebration and LBJ’s birthday celebration on August 27. During the fall, the focus is on planting wildflower seeds at the Annual Park Seed Stomp, decorating holiday cookies and participating in German holiday traditions. The year ends with the annual LBJ tree lighting just in time for Christmas.
The ranch, meanwhile, which falls under the umbrella of the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park that’s headquartered in nearby Johnson City, gives visitors great insight into the lives of one of Texas’ most famous families. View the exterior of the Junction School where a young LBJ learned to read. Check out the reconstructed birthplace of the former president and explore the exhibits in the hangar visitor station where the Johnsons entertained guests with movies. Visitors also may take guided tours through the Texas White House, a home away from Washington, D.C., for the Johnsons, who retreated there before, during and after LBJ’s presidency.
Before you leave, pay your respects at the Johnson Family Cemetery, where LBJ and his beloved wife, Lady Bird, are buried.
Back in town, more historical roots run deep at the Stonewall Heritage Center, which is housed inside the Lindig Homestead. The log dogtrot house, built in 1873, was moved into town more than a decade ago and rebuilt with its original logs and rocks. Admission is free and by appointment only.
And don’t forget about the peaches: Orchards dot the area, and in season, you don’t have to look hard to find a good produce stand that offers mouth-watering samples. For the peachiest time of all, mark your calendar for June 16-18 when the Peach JAMboree and Rodeo celebrates its 50th anniversary.
Stonewall also is at the heart of the Texas wine road—a stretch of U.S. Highway 290 that links Johnson City, Stonewall and Fredericksburg and features about 10 wineries. For a sampling, try Becker Vineyards, just west of Stonewall, which is packed with wall-to-wall charm. Styled after a 19th-century German stone barn, there are two tasting rooms, and an original 1880s log cabin adjacent to the winery offers bed-and-breakfast accommodations.
Grab some lunch at the Stonewall One Stop, a convenience store with a diner in the back. Or peruse Weinheimer & Son, a general merchandise store that can sell you some groceries, a shirt and a little hardware, too.
After all that activity, I want a place to relax and enjoy the setting sun, and Rose Hill Manor, which sits atop a hill overlooking the Pedernales River Valley, fills that bill and more. Designed in the style of an old Southern plantation, Rose Hill satisfies the senses in all ways, offering gourmet breakfasts to overnight guests and dinner five nights a week to guests and the general public. “We want our guests rested and well fed,” says assistant innkeeper Diane Smith. “We shoot for perfection.”
Jan Adamson is a freelance writer based in Grand Saline.