Monday, January 10, 2011


Cat Helping With Research
Most writers have a substantial home research library on their areas of interest. Each of us has learned how to surf the web for additional information. Sometimes, though, it helps to go in person and experience a setting first hand. Since most of my books are set in Texas and I live in Texas, this usually doesn’t present a problem for me. Hmm, maybe I should write foreign settings so I could really travel. <G>

Available Now From
The Wild Rose Press, Amazon,
and other online stores
When I was writing my western historical, THE TEXAN’S IRISH BRIDE, I needed to see the setting once again to refresh my memory and fill in missing details. I already knew I loved the Central Texas area around Bandera. Years before our family had stayed at the well-known Mayan Dude Ranch near Bandera. My husband was not captivated, but our daughters and I loved the place.
A while back, my youngest daughter and I attended a conference hosted by the San Antonio RWA chapter. (They have a great conference, by the way.) Afterward, my daughter and I took a detour by Bandera and Medina. We love road trips and are famous in our family for our "detours" that seem logical only to us. To us, everything is "on the way." <G>

Lost Maples
This time, I needed to visit Lost Maples State Natural Area in Bandera and Real Counties, five miles north of Vanderpool, Texas on Ranch Road 187. The setting for this particular book was a fictional ranch near Bandera in 1885, but Lost Maples plays an important part in the book's plot when the hero and his family chase rustlers there.

Lost Maples State Natural Area covers 2174.2 scenic acres on the Sabinal River. Long before the area was a park, sightseers crowded the narrow gravel road winding its way along the Sabinal River Canyon to see the fall colors. Acquired by purchase from private owners in 1973 -1974, the site was opened to the public on September 1, 1979. The annual visitation is approximately 200,000 visitors.

In pre-history, dinosaurs roamed here and left their prints in the limestone mud. Footprints were discovered by Roland Byrd in the 1930’s on what he labeled the Mayan Ranch Trackway. When the ranch owner wouldn’t allow excavation, Byrd moved on to Glen Rose and excavated on the Paluxy River. Those tracks are in the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

Archealogical evidence shows that prehistoric peoples used this area at various times. In historic times, which began with Spanish exploration and colonization efforts in the late 17th century, the Apache, Lipan Apache, and Comanche Indians ranged over the land and posed a threat to settlement well into the 19th century. In the late nineteenth century, Texas was still a pretty wild place in some areas. By 1875, the time of Indian raids on settlers had passed, but that doesn’t mean that life was safe or easy. That's why I thought this an ideal spot for rustlers in my story.

Fall View of Lost Maples
 Lost Maples is one of the loveliest areas in that part of the state, but it was used as a route for rustlers, renegade Comanche, and the evil Comancheros who victimized everyone. They traveled through Lost Maples on their rides between Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) and Mexico. Abundant water, high canyon walls, and tiny side canyons and creeks offered protection for criminals. The well known Indian trail along the Sabinal River was marked on early Spanish maps as Comanche Trail.

Golden Cheeked Warbler
The park is an outstanding example of Edwards Plateau flora and fauna. It is a combination of steep, rugged limestone canyons, springs, plateau grasslands, wooded slopes, and clear streams. Rare species of birds such as the Green Kingfisher live there year round. The endangered Black-Capped Vireo and Golden-Cheeked Warbler nest and feed in the spring and early summer.

Uvalde Big Tooth Maples
Lost Maples features a large, isolated stand of uncommon Uvalde Bigtooth Maple, whose fall foliage can be spectacular. Generally, the foliage changes the last two weeks of October through the first two weeks of November. To northerners these maples might appear ordinary, but this is the only place in Texas that these trees are native, so Texans value and protect their existence.

Tranquil, reverent scene
The first thing my daughter and I noticed is that the area offers tranquility—almost a reverent, religious experience. In fact, the Sabinal River was originally called Arroyo de la Soledad, Spanish for "stream of solitude." The river rises in fissure springs that flow from great slabs of limestone southwest to the Balcones Escarpment. The river is sixty miles long. In several places it sinks underground to rise again downstream. It is fed by Hale, Hollow and Can Creeks within the park and by Mill, Little, and Onion Creeks south of the park. Canyon Creek in Uvalde County is called the West Prong of the Sabinal.

No article can convey the beauty of this park. Seeing this impressive canyon and the huge Bigtooth Maple trees left an unforgettable image in my mind that helped me as I wrote my story. Sometimes, research in person pays off not only in information gathered, but in a pleasant experience! I hope I conveyed that mystical experience in THE TEXAN'S IRISH BRIDE. If you want to find out, you can buy my book at and at Amazon, Digi-Books, and other online stores.

Thanks, Caroline


  1. Caroline--some day I'm going to Lost Maples. We've been there more than once--there had been a severe drought and there were no leaves, another time a Blue Norther was blowing through....well, you get the picture. Next time I'll choose a better day.
    So your photograph tour along with narration was superb--I felt I waa there. And what a fantastic setting for a novel! Think of all the possibilities. Thanks for this lovely visual tour--you always do such a wonderful job--Celia

  2. Hey.
    ideas. Found this here on [url=]RV[/url]

  3. I love doing my research in person. That's when I learn the little tidbits that go beyond the usual history research and give the story a real feel. Meeting people who live in the area and know the juicy gossip or funny story. I also like feeling the atmosphere around a place that I've used in a story.

    Fun post.

  4. Oh, what gorgeous pictures! Thanks so much, Caroline! That was very inspiring on this dreary cold gray morning! Very interesting blog.

  5. Can't be any sweethearts without men. Ya'll need some men around these here parts.

  6. Thanks, ladies and Kevin, for your comments. I would love to go back to the park again when I have more time. Paty's correct: there's nothing like getting the feel of a place in person to enrich your writing.

  7. Hi Caroline:

    This did it! I was waiting to read a few more books from my TBR pile before ordering the “Texan’s Irish Bride” but I can’t wait any longer. I just downloaded the book for my Kindle.

    Of course, it is best to research in person – if you can! Louis L’Amour was famous for doing this. He’d go to the desert location on horseback, camp by a fire and sleep over night on the site. He’d listen to the sounds and the wind. He’d note the odors he could smell. He’d even listen to hear if he could detect any animals near the site and how far away they might be. He’d look up at the stars. In a way, you were there with him.

    BTW: from a marketing POV, I like to use locations where millions of visitors have been. Like the Palo Duro canyon. Just think of all those people who could be prospects for your book -- if the cover art has a picture of the location! I’ve bought Nevada Barr’s books just for this reason.


    P.S. The Henry VIII photo is just for today!

  8. Great post, Caroline, and beautiful pictures.

    I prefer to do my research in person too. I can read about a place and get the "proper" names for things but nothing matches what you can see when you actually go there.

    My husband and I take our ATV out on the trails where we are allowed and see all of the off the beaten path things. Sometimes parking the ATV and hiking around the area.

  9. Caroline, how lucky you have been to have this absolutely gorgeous landscape to visit and take such beautiful photos. Definitely a lot of history packed into that property. I recognize the Comanche Trail name from various movies. Thanks for pointing out this special part of Texas to us.

  10. Beautiful Pictures, Caroline! Maybe the next time I visit my family in San Antonio I can suggest a trip to the park.

  11. Wonderful post.

    Thanks so much.

    Lily Harlem

  12. Thanks to everyone who posted! I love sharing research.

  13. Carolyn: Thanks for posting such great information about Bandera and Lost Maples. I love the photos, and it definitely would be perfect for "Michael". Thanks for the suggestion. :))) I cannot wait to visit there.


Thank you for visiting Sweethearts of the West!