We just returned from our annual bicycle trek through the Texas Hill Country. I hope to have a more detailed report complete with photos later this week.
I was reminded of just how beautiful this country can be when blessed with a decent amount of rainfall. The 300 miles between Midland and Fredericksburg (we take a slightly longer route than most folks) is defined this year by one color – green – and it’s a sight for sore eyes after so many dry years. More on that later. The Pecos and Llano Rivers were flowing assertively; we arrived in Fredericksburg just a few days after the Pedernales had jumped its banks and created quite a stir.
Something else struck me more than ever before and that’s the sparseness of population in this part of the state. I did some quick computations using the Texas Almanac and a couple of government websites, and came up with these stats:
- Our 300 mile drive took us through only 8 towns (I’m leaving Midland out of all of these figures). That includes Sheffield, which you can’t even see from the interstate.
- We passed through only six counties en route. The combined area of those counties is 12,581 square miles, an area which is greater than that of nine states and the District of Columbia.
- The total population of those six counties, according to the 2000 US Census, is 53,741 (the nine towns we passed contain a total of 21,770 souls).
- This gives those counties a combined population density of 4.3 people/square mile. (I’m sorry; I have no clever punch line to characterize the third of a statistical person.)
- By way of contrast, the population density of Texas in total is 64.9. For New York, it’s 381.0; California is 190.8; and Rhode Island’s population density is a whopping 960.3. (Population densities are from the 1990 US Census.)
I realize that many people look at the west Texas landscape and the only adjective that comes to their minds is “desolate.” Nine years out of ten, that may be technically true (even if it’s always debatable from an aesthetic perspective). But, this year…well, it takes a real cynic to miss the beauty of a green Texas. (And I haven’t even started on the wildflowers!)