I am not ashamed to say that after reading the first draft of this month’s cover story on the Texas coast, by the intrepid and thoughtful Dan Oko, I experienced a fleeting hesitation about publishing it at all. Perhaps we could call a last-minute audible and put Lance Armstrong on the cover again? (That joke is for you, Twitter!) My reluctance arose not because I had any concerns about Dan’s research or prose. My predicament was that, as someone who is constantly on the hunt for secluded spots along the Texas coast, I might do better to simply pay Dan a generous kill fee and keep the damn list for myself. After all, it’s a guide to hidden spots, but how long can they stay that way once we’ve shared them with our 2.5 million readers?
It’s a familiar dilemma. I confess I still feel a small pang of regret when someone tells me he tried to go to Snow’s BBQ—the previously unknown joint in Lexington that we declared the state’s best back in 2008—only to find that all the meat was sold out by ten in the morning. Or when I hear that the Alamo Springs Café, outside Fredericksburg—home of the delicious and photogenic cheeseburger featured on the cover of our best burgers issue in 2009—is no longer quite as undiscovered as it once was. Our job (one of our jobs, at least) is to find and share the best in Texas. But sometimes, when part of the selling proposition of a place—be it a taco shack, small-town cafe, swimming hole, or state park—is that it’s a diamond in the rough, we can’t help but equivocate, if only for a second. What if, by telling the world about some secret spot, we end up ruining it?
Thankfully, the opposite outcome is more common. We want great places to succeed—to attract more visitors, to make more money, to get the credit and glory they deserve. And appearing in Texas Monthly generally helps this happen (just ask Kerry Bexley, the owner of Snow’s, whose business has doubled since 2008). The same, hopefully, will be true for the beaches, bayous, and bays on Dan’s list. They’re not businesses, looking to grow sales and expand the franchise, but in a sense, good publicity is even more critical for them than it is for a barbecue joint. Our coast—battered by the 2010 BP oil spill; denied crucial inflows by freshwater diversions upstream; fighting, as usual, to remain as pristine as possible in the face of ever-increasing development—needs all the advocates it can get. Too many people, especially those of us who live in big cities, think of it as a lost cause, at least from a wilderness perspective. But as this guide will show you, there are still many miles of lovely, untrammeled shoreline in Texas. The more of us that know and visit these precious spots, the better chance they have of surviving. We only work to protect the things we love.