This past weekend I made my first trip to what’s known as the Hill Country of Texas. My husband booked a weekend getaway for us and some friends at a bed and breakfast in the small town of Utopia. Small as in it only has a population of 227 according to the last cencus. And no stop lights. The nearest grocery store is 45 minutes away, so it’s definitely in the middle of nowhere.
The winding roads and rock faces that sometimes reminded me of childhood roadtrips to Arkansas made we want to know more about the history of this region of the Hill Country, and I resolved to search for historical photos of Utopia once I got home. Sadly, ye olde Internet was unable to find any. This photo of the building that presently houses the Lost Maples Cafe was the only one I found:
The cafe is named for the nearby Lost Maples State Natural Area. We spent Saturday morning of our trip hiking through one of the beautiful trails. It’s known for its namesake maple trees whose leaves change colors during this time of year. That’s something we don’t experience in Houston and, even though it was early in the season, it was lovely to see all of the red and orange leaves.
Despite having its very own music festival, UtopiaFest, and being featured in a couple of films, it seems that the town of Utopia is still keeping its secrets close to its vest. It does rather seem like a place that one would retreat to in pursuit of anonymity. The book, Welcome to Utopia by Karen Valby, was published in 2010 and details the lives of four residents during the year Valby spent living in Utopia. To the best of my librarian knowledge it’s the most extensive book written specifically about the town. If you come across another, especially if it’s historical, please let me know.
On the way into town I noticed a green sign by the road that appeared to be pointing towards the library, but it was so dark that we couldn’t see the building. “Um, is that Library sign just pointing to the woods??” I said as we drove past. Thankfully, the light of day on our way out of town revealed the lovely Utopia Memorial Library. I was impressed by the size of the library and the number of books on the shelves that I could see from peering in the windows.
In this photo I’m holding some books that I picked up from a bookcart stationed outside on the library’s porch. The sign above the cart read “Free books. Please do not return!” It was mostly stocked with dusty old Reader’s Digest compendiums. No, thanks! But I did take two vintage cookbooks and a novel while my husband made off with a Russian dictionary. Yes, there will be posts featuring the cookbooks soon. They’re from the 1970s and contain some gems of period food photography.
I highly recommend taking a trip to the Hill Country and letting yourself feel like you’re taking the road less travelled, even if it’s only for a day or two.