During my time at UT, I had a group of sun worshiping buddies that would purposefully arrange their spring classes to fall on Tuesdays and Thursdays, just so they could spend MWF baking at the lake.
It was all about the tan back then, and it is a wonder none of us died from skin cancer. Slathering Hawaiian Tropic “SPF Zero” or worse yet, baby oil mixed with iodine was standard procedure to achieve a dark golden bronze that would make even John Boehner envious. It was a ritual to pack the ice chest with tequila, pineapple juice, and ice, as my five buddies and I would take turns driving the car pool to Lake Travis.
There are very few free access points around Lake Travis, especially those that are “fee free.” Most of the surrounding property is either privately owned, or maintained by the Lower Colorado River Authority. But Hippie Hollow was one place that offered free access, free parking, and…well… free thinking. For those of you who do not know, Hippie Hollow was made famous because of its “clothing optional” policy. I didn’t go for the nudity – (I swear, Mom!) I always took great pride in my tan lines. But it was the most idyllic spot, with nice shade when you needed it, beautiful giant, flat rocks for lying like salamanders, and easy egress into the cold, deep, dark lake, so clear I could see all the way down to my florescent pink toenails, perfectly accessorized to match my neon pink bikini. (This was 40 years and 40 pounds ago. Haha!)
As I headed out to drive around the lake last weekend, I grabbed my swimsuit and towel on the oft chance that I would brave the 62 degree water, just to be able to dive off those giant rocks once more. But back in the late 70’s Hippie Hollow was a well kept secret. You had to know the way. Would I be able to remember the back roads that led to the well hidden parking lot?
To retrace my former route, I would need to head up Mt Bonnell Road, just up 35th Street, which offers a gorgeous look-out over the Colorado River. This was and still is a favorite perch to watch the sun go down and the lights come up over Austin.
As I neared the intersection of FM2222 and Hwy 620, what was once cattle pasture is now a massive HEB and Target. But that did not come as near the shock as what I saw before me….a brown directional highway sign marking the way to “Hippie Hollow, straight ahead, 2 miles!” So much for our well kept secret!
But nothing could have shocked me more than what I would see as I crested the hill and caught a glimpse of what had once been my lush green wooded shoreline around a vast, deep, blue lake. I let out an audible gasp as I saw what was the lake below….a body of water filled with islands, and a shoreline now receded so far that it was unrecognizable.
Between the recent drought since 2009 and the over-development of resorts, golf courses and condos, there is just not much left to go around. One really has to wonder how diminishing water sources cannot be a consideration when developments like those around Lake Travis are planned.
Hippie Hollow is no longer a hidden hollow…there is now an LCRA booth at the entrance, collecting a whopping twelve dollar entrance fee! And the shoreline is no longer the giant nature-made lounge chairs of giant boulders by the water’s edge, but rather a low grade pebbly shore. I can’t imagine what would be the draw to warrant a twelve dollar entrance fee. Sadly, given the state of the swimming area, I can only guess it is the lure of the nudity, which played such a minor role in the cool, clean oasis back when.
Hopefully the drought will end soon. Otherwise, the only oasis left will be the man made “Oasis,” what was once a beautifully terraced patio overlooking the lake, now an overdeveloped eyesore all of its own…