Burning firewood, barbecues, and roasted marshmallows placed precisely in the center of a graham cracker with chocolate, create tantalizing scents to allow childhood memories to emerge from our hearts, bring twinkles to our eyes and smiles to share. Children squeal with uncontrollable delight, while parents reflect and unwind. People spend quality time together with friends, laughing and reminiscing about days gone by, the moment and times to come. This phenomenon occurs, faithfully for some, every year from April to September along the banks of the picturesque Frio River, the life force of the Frio Canyon.
My family moved to the Frio Canyon in 1980, uprooting us from the only life we'd known to the tiny town of Leakey. I had always loved to visit, but actually treading in the unknown territory of residing in a small town was among my worst fears at the age of twelve. Twenty-four years later I still inhabit this sacred area, educating our youth and raising my daughters in a serene and tranquil portrait with the daily realization of the therapeutic benefits of the Frio and its people. When visiting, you can almost hear the river calling you, needing you, and you realizing how much you need it. Upon every arrival to this place, which I reluctantly depart, I know I am home.
I vividly recall, after our move, the moment that the Frio River became a part of me. A family expedition led us to a camp just north of Leakey, where thousands of youth, from all walks of life, create memories that last through lifetimes. After leaving the highway, we continued our trek on to a dirt road, which came to a sudden end and replaced itself with a natural highway of water. We drove through the water on a solid rock river bottom, further north to the place where the east prong of the Frio River begins. My brothers and I escaped the confinement of the pickup and scrambled to the steep rock cliff, which was seeping with pure mountain spring water. We filled our empty soda cans with the sparkling liquid and excitedly drank with enthusiasm. It was unfiltered, in its purest form that only God could create, a never-ending faucet dripping with the anticipation of memories soon to be made.
The east and west prongs of the Frio come together to begin their unyielding journey just north of Leakey. The rough and rocky terrain of the Frio Canyon provides a natural filtering system, creating an environmental beauty for the soul to behold.
My entire childhood consumed itself with anticipation of spring and summer and visits to the Frio Canyon. Rope swings, tubing, camping, and swimming were considered better than a theme park on any given day. Always returning home with a flip-flop tan, and bruises and cuts being the battle scars of my fun-filled skirmishes in the country. Spending days in and along the Frio from Leakey to Concan has become a tradition for many.
Family, friends, and ice chests all afloat for the relaxing excursion to their final destination. Tens to hundreds to thousands of people enjoy the crystal clear, cool waters and amazing scenery lining the river's edge. Enormous cypress and ancient oaks keep stories untold and treasured secrets safe along the banks while wildlife abounds around every bend.
This peaceful atmosphere provides a refuge from the hustle and bustle of daily life returning visitors to, and keeping natives in, simpler times in which family was the foundation and everything revolved around it.
From Leakey to Rio Frio to Concan, there is a multitude of exciting activities, culinary delights, campgrounds, cabins, and breathtaking scenery each precisely positioned for the ultimate experience in classic vacation style. The past revisits the present during the twilight hours at Garner State Park. Teenagers from near and far are the definite majority as they congregate at the pavilion. Musical treasures from not so long ago combine with modern day tunes echoing joyously through the darkness two-stepping to the sounds of new friendships and blossoming relationships.
The ever so quaint community of Leakey provides a variety of eateries and charismatic shops that offer tube rentals and expertly selected souvenirs to satisfy anyone's desires. Adventurous explorers can engage in hunting dove and whitetail in the fall, hiking, climbing, biking, horseback riding, birdwatching, and even arrowhead hunting. Envision yourself riding through the lush green valleys changed only by time; hallowed ground virtually untouched by modern man. Ghosts of long ago will mentally transport you to an era where Native Americans desperately fought for survival, leaving behind hidden clues of their existence.
Nestled in the 'outback' of the Texas Hill Country, in Concan, you will encounter an enchanting social destination, the House Pasture Cattle Company. Most Friday and Saturday evenings, from Memorial to Labor Day, House Pasture provides a music lover's delight. Warm summer nights invite the perfect setting, with live music flowing through the hills with the sounds of true-blue Texas Country.
As a person departs from this little piece of heaven they will leave behind a part of themselves, taking with them peace of mind, knowing a renewing voyage of peacefulness and tranquility lies in the hills, which patiently await their return. Fortunately, not a summer has gone by, in my recollection, in which I have not enjoyed the Frio River, the Canyon, and it's fabulous sights and adventures. I have yet to encounter a stranger, but new friends are abundant and these memories will forever be engrained in my soul.