The Westcave Preserve is west of Austin, near a town called Round Mountain. It is in the Hill Country of Texas, which Austin is also. The Hill Country is sort of a dry, scrubby area with hills, and it's kind of pretty, especially when the flowers are blooming in the spring.
Anyway, Mom got on a bus with some other people, and after about 45 minutes, they arrived at the Preserve. Here's a picture of the building where they have classes and stuff like that. It's a pretty new building, and all the plants around it are native to Texas.
These are coneflowers, which are also called Echinacea. They have lots of Vitamin C in them.
The first part of the trail went along some flat land where there were bushes and trees and prickly pears.
There was an overlook where you were supposed to be able to see the Pedernales River, but you couldn't see it because there were too many trees in the way.
This is a pretty little flower that is called Netted Milkvine. The scientific name if Matelea reticulata. It was growing by the trail and also near the visitors' center building.
After a while, the trail went down into a small canyon. There was a cable to use like a handrail, which was good because some of the rocks were wet and slippery. The farther you went down the trail, the more you saw plants such as ferns that like to live in wet places. There were lots of maidenhair ferns, which Mom has grown in a pot in our back yard, but in this canyon, they were just growing wild.
Other types of ferns were growing there, too, plus bald cypress trees. Here's a picture of some funny-looking mushrooms that Mom saw.
At the end of the canyon, there is a big rock overhang, with a little waterfall that comes from way up above, where there is a spring.
The water from the spring makes a big pool, and then the water from the pool makes a stream that probably runs into the Pedernales River. In the pool, there are some koi, which are not native to Texas at all. No one is sure how they got there, but maybe when there was a flood sometime, they got out of somebody's backyard pool and ended up here. There are also some bass in the pool, and they are much more native than the koi.
If you look out from the rock overhang, you see this view.
And right in the middle, there is a column sort of thing where a stalactite met up with a stalagmite. It takes thousands of years for this kind of thing to happen.
Besides this overhang, there is also a real, live cave, and here's what it looked like inside.
Some archeologists dug up part of the floor of the cave a few years back, but they did not find anything to show that people ever lived in the cave. I was surprised to learn this because usually caves got lived in by ancient people. Or at least I thought they did. But even though nobody lived in the cave, somebody left some graffiti there about 200 years ago.
When Mom and some of the people were starting to go back up the trail, they saw a water moccasin! The guide had said there were a bunch of water moccasins around there, but usually they hide when a lot of people are around making noise. The one that Mom saw was swimming in the little stream. It went under a footbridge, and then it swam on up to the big pool.
Anyway, after all that adventure and excitement, Mom and the other people ate some box lunches from Panera's, and then they got on the bus and went back to Austin. And that was the end of the field trip.