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The Fredericksburg Herb Farm

An all-inclusive garden retreat

The historic German community of Fredericksburg has long been considered one of the Texas Hill Country's premier destinations replete with exceptional restaurants, colorful shops and boutiques, quaint inns and lots of Old World atmosphere – ample reasons indeed to pay a visit and stay a while. Remarkably, thanks largely to the considerable efforts of area entrepreneurs Rosemary and Dick Estenson, located within the very heart of the township there now exists an inclusive refuge amazingly featuring all of the above (and more) in one welcoming location. Pleasingly situated on four verdant acres just a few blocks off Main Street is the Estenson's Fredericksburg Herb Farm, a destination in itself, where visitors quickly discover (and ultimately enjoy) a nurturing garden retreat offering exquisite accommodations, exceptional, regional cuisine, rejuvenating spa treatments and shops overflowing with a "home-grown" bounty – truly a little bit of everything that has come to define Fredericksburg's charm and allure, all on one incredible site!

Remarkably, what is today's Fredericksburg Herb Farm has always been a farm. The property was originally owned and developed by the pioneering Lehne family. Henry Lehne's limestone house (historically recognized as the Lehne-Itz house) was constructed in 1882 and served as his family's home and farming/ranching headquarters. Surrounding acreage (then and now) was put to agriculture uses. This property remained in the Lehne family for 109 productive years before being sold in 1991. The "house" is now home to the Fredericksburg Herb Farm's acclaimed eatery, the Farm Haus Bistro. Another original edifice, a canning shed, is used to produce many of the items sold at the herb farm's gift shop. All in all, when taking to account the lush plantings and original buildings coupled with the complementary structural improvements the Estenson's have added, Henry Lehne would still feel "right at home" on the old grounds.

As was stated earlier, besides the rustic appeal, what makes the Fredericksburg Herb Farm "so cool" are its diverse offerings. While day visitors are always welcomed, many chose to make the farm their "base of operations" for extended stays. To accommodate, the property is home to 14 cozy and rentable Sunday Haus Cottages, each reflecting a bygone era when many rural folks owned small townhouses for use on weekend visits. While reminiscent of earlier times with their relaxing porch swings, cooling ceiling fans and comfy rocking chairs, all overlooking seemingly endless gardens, these well appointed guest houses also boast flat screen TVs, high-speed Internet connections and king beds among other enhancing modern-day amenities.

An always popular attraction at the farm is its famed Farm Haus Bistro. The Lehne-Itz House has been subtly transformed into a world-class restaurant featuring the finest in Hill Country fare all prepared under the direction of Chef Asa Thornton. Diners relax and enjoy exceptional cuisine incorporating a tasty selection of locally raised meats complimented by fresh, on-site harvested vegetables, fruits and herbs, all in an atmosphere made even more exciting by the colorful, floral views available throughout.

For those seeking personal renewal, the farm's inviting Nature's Spa is the place to be. By combining a highly-trained and passionate staff with the latest in technology melded with the healing powers of natural herbs and organic oils, guests discover the joys and pleasures of (spiritual and physical) restoration. All therapy is specifically tailored to each individual's needs and requirements.

And, what would a vacation be without a little shopping? With that in mind, the Estensons invite guests to visit the Poet's Haus Gift Shop. Within this unique establishment, visitors are tempted by an exciting array of purchasable offerings (most produced at the farm) including glycerin soaps, aroma candles, essential oils, skin products, scrubs and shampoos, colognes, books, garden and home decor items and more. Edible wonderments can also be bought in the actual, functioning garden areas.

The (everything in one beautiful location) Fredericksburg Herb Farm is located four blocks off Main Street at 405 Whitney in Fredericksburg, TX 78624.

For additional information on lodging, dining, shopping and the spa, call (830) 997-8615 or visit the Web site at: fredericksburgherbfarm.com.

The restaurant is open Monday through Saturday for breakfast and lunch from 8:30 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. and for dinner Thursday through Saturday from 6:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. Sunday brunch/lunch is served continuously from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. The spa is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Reservations are recommended for both the restaurant and spa. The gift shop is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.

Lost Maples

Brilliant Hidden Hill Country Color

Lost Maples State Natural Area was once one of the best kept secrets in Texas. In the first place, not too many people believed it could even exist. Colorful fall foliage in Texas? From maple trees? Yeah, right, and I've got ocean-front property in Lubbock for sale.

But today, most Texans know about Lost Maples, the 2,175-acre preserve along the Sabinal River in the far west end of the Hill Country. And they rush to check out the colors in November. So many, in fact, that the park has to turn away visitors on the weekends when it gets too crowded—250 cars is the maximum allowed at any one time. So during that peek peeper time, visit on weekdays or come real early.

It's worth it.

When Mother Nature has cooperated, the bigtooth maples hidden away deep in the canyons where they're relatively protected from the fierce Texas summers turn as brilliantly gold, red, and orange as on any mountain in Vermont. And if the weather's been real good, the red oaks and black cherry trees will also blaze their own colors.

The bigtooth maples here are "lost" because they are hundreds of miles south of their usual habitat. Back in the last ice age, the area was once cooler and wetter and a hardy stand of maples clung to these hills on the banks of the Sabinal River.

You'd be wrong to think of Lost Maples as a place to go just if the colors are spectacular. It's great at any time because you can camp, backpack, hike, watch birds, have a picnic, swim, study nature, and take great photographs. You can choose from 11 miles of hiking trails, cool off in a natural pool, or just grab a picnic table by the river and relax in the shade, listening to the water and the wind.

A bird blind at the parking area to the West Trail will provide you with plenty of opportunities to see the wide variety of birds—black-capped vireo, golden-cheeked warbler, green kingfisher, various hawks and hummingbirds—about 200 species that call Lost Maples home all or part of the year.

Those hiking trails are special. They'll take you through the canyons and over the hills, up well over 2,000 feet, for some majestic views. You'll even find primitive camping areas at the tops of the trails. And if you look carefully, you'll see the distinctive Monkey Rock.

The Maple Trail is about a third of a mile, is easy, nearly fully shaded, and takes you by a large stand of bigtooth maples.

The East and West trails are about four miles each, depending on the route you take, and have very steep hills with some portions fully exposed to the sun. Make sure you carry plenty of water, have good hiking shoes, and a hat to keep your head shaded.

One of the larger campsites, where the West and East trails converge, is on the banks of Can Creek offering a large pool for swimming and fishing.

For More Information:

• Lost Maples State Natural Area is located five miles north of Vanderpool on Ranch Road 187. Fall colors usually occur from mid-October through mid-November.

• To get information on the vibrancy of the colors, visit the web site at tpwd.state.tx.us/state-parks/lost-maples or call 830-966-3413