Callie Rocha, 23, wanted to hit the rocks early.
Rocha, of Austin, woke up near dawn, packed up her climbing gear, and headed out to McKinney Falls State Park in southeast Austin to be the first one to climb the boulders after the parks reopened on Monday.
Did she do it for the bragging rights? To be No. 1? Not especially.
"Nobody's been touching them," the out-of-work restaurant employee said. "I thought I'd be the first one to touch those rocks without any germs on them."
She doubts she'll return until the threat of COVID-19 has passed because she figures more germy hands may land on them in short order.
She may be right. Visitors flocked on Monday to McKinney Falls, among the first of Texas' 89 state parks to reopen, per the governor's Friday order, after they were shut down mid-March due to concerns about the coronavirus.
Just over a dozen are still closed but could open later in the summer, parks officials said.
In Central Texas, parks that are reopening include Pedernales Falls, Possum Kingdom, Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site, Longhorn Cavern, Lockhart State Park, Lake Whitney, Mineral Wells, Inks Lake, Garner, Blanco and Bastrop state parks.
Some limitations apply: Visitors are required to wear face masks, avoid large groups, and maintain six feet of distance between themselves and others. No overnight camping is being allowed yet—day use only.
At McKinney the swings were removed from the swing set to discourage use of the playground, which was off-limits. Roads to campsites were closed. Visitors were required to pre-register and then pick up their car permits stuck onto a kiosk just inside the grounds.
A park official greeted visitors and waved them through, eyes twinkling above a homemade decorative mask.
"Great to have y'all back!" she said cheerfully.
By lunchtime, there was a short line of cars waiting to get inside, the parking lots were half full, and visitors—nearly all of them wearing masks—dotted the falls, the picnic areas, the fishing pools and the swimming holes in sunny 80-degree weather.
"It was busier (than a normal Monday) due to people wanting to be outside," said Stephanie Salinas Garcia, public information officer for Texas Parks and Wildlife.
On Friday, Gov. Greg Abbott announced a multi-phased plan to reopen the Texas economy after weeks of social-distancing measures—and the parks were the first to come back online.
"We've been stir-crazy," said Tom Web, who traveled from New Braunfels with his wife, Beth, to hike the park. "Just cooped up in our house. We like to hike and get outdoors."
Austin veterinarian Frank Schuman, his wife Natalie, their three children ages 2-15, and aunt Marina Villarreal, headed to the falls to swim and get away from homeschooling doldrums.
One drawback: Masks in the heat.
"I'm hoping I don't break out," Natalie Schuman said.
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Despite a 2-0 deficit, there was a pot of gold for Austin FC after all as it celebrated its annual Pride Night with rainbows and a 2-2 comeback draw to FC Dallas Saturday night.
After three FC Dallas losses last season, the Dallas derby draw marks the first time Austin FC has tied against its Copa Texas rival. Austin continues to edge over FC Dallas as it sits at 3rd in the MLS West.
Here are the biggest takeaways from the match:
A somber start
Decked out in colorful hues for LBGTQ+ Pride, Verde fans started the match on a somber note as they held up banners to take a stand against gun violence before the match.
As the national anthem began, fans held up banners with the names of each child that was killed in the Uvalde school shooting and a plea to "end gun violence."
The supporters' section was also dotted with Pride flags and a "Bans off Our Bodies" banner in protest of the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
FC Dallas earns a 2-0 lead
That sober tone continued onto the pitch. With midfielder Daniel Pereira's absence due to a red card, the Verde and Black lost two goals to FC Dallas by the 70th minute of play.
FC Dallas played it sneaky for the first half of the match, giving Austin FC plenty of room to hold possession as it waited to strike on a Verde error. That mentality proved dangerous for Austin as Dallas' Paul Arriola took advantage of Brad Stuver's deflection to score the first goal of the night in the 57th minute of play.
Dallas struck once more as Brandon Servant pushed past the Verde line to score the second goal of the match.
Austin FC strikes back
But energy quickly returned to Austin's favor thanks to Designated Player Sebastian Driussi, who scooted past several FC Dallas defenders alongside Moussa Djitte to snag an unlikely first goal for Austin.
A full Verde comeback
Austin's subs proved deadly as momentum returned to the home team toward the end of the match. A well-placed cross from Nick Lima—and a diving header from a fresh-legged Danny Hoesen—helped the team secure the draw with a second Verde goal in the 84th minute of play.
Hoesen, who was Austin's first starting striker last season, has now scored two goals with the team after a yearlong injury stuck him on the bench.
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Hours following the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that guaranteed a constitutional right to an abortion, on Friday, about 1,000 people gathered in Republic Square with signs calling for change.
The rally, organized by the group Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights Texas, started at the federal courthouse on Republic Square on Friday at 5 p.m. before the crowd marched to the Texas Capitol. More protests are expected to ensue over the weekend.
People showed up with all types of signs like Mindy Moffa holding up, "Keep your filthy laws off my silky drawers."
Austin joined cities across the country that saw protests for a women's right to an abortion after the ruling.
According to a recent UT poll, 78% of Texas voters support abortion access in most cases.
Sabrina Talghade and Sofia Pellegrini held up signs directed at Texas laws. A Texas trigger law will ban all abortions from the moment of fertilization, starting 30 days after the ruling. When state legislators passed the trigger law last summer, it also passed laws for more protection of firearms, including the right to open carry without a permit.
Lili Enthal of Austin yells as around 1,000 Texans marched to the Texas Capitol.
From the Texas Capitol, Zoe Webb lets her voice be heard against the Supreme Court ruling.
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