The other “wild” side of Texas

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MONTCLARION: April 12, 2012

Spring is in the air — get a big whiff. It’s the heady aroma of hot dogs and beer, the perfume of cherry blossoms and eucalyptus in the breeze. It’s wildflowers springing from the meadows and foothills and forest floors.

I’ve just come back from Texas with wildflower envy. You should see the blankets of color outside Austin — with bluebonnets and Indian blanket flowers and fields of fiery Texas paintbrush. There are more than four-dozen varieties of wildflowers in the hill country, and folks come from all over the West to see them bloom. Like most things in Texas, the wildflowers spread out as far as the eye can see in every direction.

Texas hill country is wine country, too — and Texas wine is a bit of a secret in California, yet the soil yields award-winning wines and even a red made for barbecue. We found Ed’s Smooth Red (Fall Creek Vineyards) to be the perfect pairing with the sweet/spicy barbecue that falls off the bone in Texas.

I even ran into an old acquaintance in hill country. Cindy Bower used to run Yosemite National Park, and I first met her at the Ahwahnee Hotel back in 1998. She has her own hill country resort now called Canyon of the Eagles on 45 wildflower-laced acres along Lake Buchanan and the Colorado River. It’s a place where even a California CEO could set down roots and be happy.

Helping Haiti: Back to the Oakland hills and our own brand of hospitality. Montclair’s VivaVoce Restaurant hosted a dinner for Haitian relief, the other night, with some notable guests. Michele Mitchell was there, discussing her film “Haiti: Where Did the Money Go?” And a soulful musician named Rosemond Joseliant sang songs from his homeland where he won Haiti’s equivalent to American Idol. Hats off to Montclair mom Lisa McFadin (Helping Hands for a Sustainable Haiti) for organizing the event.

Trail talk: It’s not often we get excited about storm drains, but they’re a reason to party next week. That’s when the Friends of the Montclair Railroad Trail celebrate the list of improvements to our little trail to the Village. New guardrails, new paving and plantings — even better storm drains — are making the Railroad Trail a beautiful path along Shepherd Canyon Road. Free food and fun and “a minimum of speeches” will mark the April 21 celebration from 3:30 to 5 p.m. at Montclair Rec Center.

Book it: Congratulations to Oakmore author Gary Sproul for the success of his new suspense thriller, “The Length of the Leash.” The novel is set in Oakland and around the Bay Area and you can hear a podcast interview with Sproul on the John Austin Book Club page at


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