Spring has just sprung in the Northern Hemisphere, and that means an annual natural spectacular is just a couple of weeks away, deep in the heart of Texas.
There are no other natural wonders in the rugged Texas Hill Country. No awe-inspiring canyons, no snow-covered peaks or rain forests or raging mountain streams. Most of the time, the appeal of this tapestry of cedar and oak trees, lazy streams, and low limestone cliffs is more modest.
But there?s nothing modest about a Hill Country spring. In 1991, George Oxford Miller published a book of photographs of the region. In the text, the environmental photojournalist wrote that "excitement comes in small packages." He found what he described as "air unadulterated with human additives, stars undimmed by city lights, the uninterrupted sounds of nature, and fields of flowers unblemished by footprints."
Four hundred species of flowers, including Indian paintbrushes, prickly poppies, flowering herbs, and the most compelling blossom of all - the bluebonnet, the Texas state flower.
"Everybody that I know of, and probably 90 percent of all Texans, have got a picture of either their dog or their child or somebody in the bluebonnet fields," John Thomas told us. He founded Wildseed Farms, the largest flower-seed-producing operation in the nation in the Hill Country town of Fredericksburg.
The area is also known as Tex-Deutsch country. Fredericksburg was founded by German settlers when the area was still open prairie.
You?ll still find German architecture, oom-pah bands, German dresses and lederhosen - even Mexican-style tacos stuffed with sausage and sauerkraut.
But the big spectacle is reserved for spring, when thousands of tourists, 80 per cent of them Texans, come to see the hillsides ablaze in wildflowers - especially the bluebonnet.