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Park Pick : Show-deo Time

Cowgirls show their stuff at Hill Country State Natural Area.

By Sheryl Smith-Rodgers

They've herded cattle on Texas spreads, led trail rides in the heat of summer, and barrel raced in rodeos galore. The work may be tough, but cowgirls like Stephanie Husky don't mind.

"I was raised on a ranch," she says simply. "It's just something I've done all my life."

On the first Saturday of this month, mosey over to Hill Country State Natural Area near Bandera and get acquainted with the cowgirl way of life. The Cowgirl Round-Up and Show-deo aims to do just that - spotlight the wrangling talents of local horsewomen. The half-day event kicks off at noon with a panoramic photo taken of the Bandera County Cowgirls on horseback, reminiscent of vintage rodeo shots of the early 1900s.

After that, nonstop action takes over the park's arena. Horse trainers, rodeo stars, storytellers, trick ropers, singers, historians and farriers will be among the many cowgirls sharing and demonstrating their know-how throughout the afternoon. For instance, Husky will show how an organized cowgirl can go from office attire into rodeo getup and have her horse ready to turn barrels in the blink of an eye.

As trail ranger, the petite cowgirl often rides the 47 miles of multi-use trails that lure equestrians, hikers and mountain bikers to the 5,370-acre secluded retreat, formerly the Merrick Bar-O-Ranch. "They range from easy to difficult," she says. "One of the prettiest is the Twin Peaks Trail, which leads up to Lookout Point."

Long to be a cowgirl (or cowboy), but don't have a horse? Neighboring dude ranches host trail rides - long and short - through the scenic natural area. For more info, contact the Bandera Texas Convention and Visitors Bureau (800-364-3833, www.banderacowboycapital.com).

Horse-friendly accommodations at the natural area include a group camp complete with a nine-stall barn and water troughs as well as developed equestrian sites with water for horses. No RV sites available. Tip: This park's primitive so bring drinking water and anything else you may need.

The Cowgirl Round-Up and Show-deo runs from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday, January 3. Grub and drink concessions on site. Free entry for Texas State Parks Pass members; $6 non-members; children 12 and under free. To get to Hill Country State Natural Area, go south from Bandera via Texas 173, cross the Medina River, then turn right on Road 1077. Keep going until the pavement ends; follow the caliche road to park headquarters. For more information, call 830-796-4413 or visit www.tpwd.state.tx.us/hillcountry.

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