Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Visiting the Second Largest Canyon in North America

Just a few miles down the road from our campground in Clovis, New Mexico, we crossed another state border into Texas. Just like the welcoming sign, we are driving friendly--the Texas way. We were also crossing into the central time zone. We lost an hour moving time zones, but gained an hour with the daylight savings time change. So we didn't even have to change our clocks!

It seems that as soon as we crossed the Texas state line, the dairy farms turned to feed yards. As we drove through towns with names like "Bovina" and "Hereford," we would agree with the sign that proclaims this as the beef capitol of the world.

As we drove across the flat high plains, it's hard to imagine that the country's second largest canyon is right in front of us. We have arrived at Palo Duro State Park!

We stopped at the ranger station to pay for four nights of camping, then headed down into the canyon. The warning sign lets visitors know they are going down at a 10% grade.

It is a narrow, winding, steep road, but is definitely do-able for RVs. We were glad that we didn't meet anyone coming out of the canyon on the switch-backs.

There are four different campgrounds at Palo Duro Canyon. We chose Mesquite--the furthest from the entry and perhaps the prettiest. Our first assigned site wasn't level enough for a motor home, but we really liked our second site. The only thing we don't like about Texas State Parks is that they assign the sites when you enter. Changing it meant a drive all the way up to the entrance at the top of the canyon wall.

While we made that drive, we also took one of the hikes close to the entrance. You can do this hike from the top or the bottom of that 600-foot-tall canyon wall. Because we like mountain climbing over canyoning, we drove to the bottom and then hiked up. Then it felt like we were mountain climbing! This gave us a birds-eye view of the amphitheater, seen in the bottom left corner in the picture below.

In the summer, a talented cast brings to life the play "Texas" in this amphitheater. We saw it 28 years ago. We know the year because our oldest son was just a year old at the time. Mark's delightful cousin, Matt, lives in Canyon. He offered to baby-sit not only our son, but our nephew as well. We still laugh at the picture of him holding a howling one-year-old in each arm while we were enjoying the play. We got to visit Matt, reminiscing about that trip. He hasn't had a baby-sitting experience quite like that one in the last 28 years.

The hike took us to Goodnight Peak, for some of the best views of Palo Duro Canyon. Most people would be content with this view at the summit of the hike. But not Mark--he was looking longingly at that unobtainable peak over his right shoulder.

Yes, he would find a way to climb down off the steep ledge to get closer.

Yes, he would climb across the ridge. So he is standing next to the sheer wall that should prevent him from getting to the top of that next level.

Yes, he would make it all the way to the end of that tricky scramble. You can barely see him proudly standing on the edge of that "unobtainable peak."

Since he took a camera with him, he could take a picture back towards where the sane people stop hiking. That's Denisa standing on the peak where everyone else would be happy to stop.

The only thing harder than scrambling up to that peak, is finding a way to get back down. While Mark was working on that feat, Denisa took pictures of the "Spanish skirt" rock formations at the bottom of the canyon.

We continued our hike on the CCC Trail, named for the work done in the 1930's by the young men of the Civilian Conservation Corps. They built many of the trails and cabins still used here at Palo Duro Canyon.

We hiked all the way to the top of the canyon and the end of the trail, then looked through the museum housed in another CCC building. We had to hurry back down to the bottom of the canyon, as the sun was getting low in the sky. Darn this time change and these short days. We barely made it back to the car before we caught our first Palo Duro Canyon sunset. I think we're going to like it here!

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