Palo Duro Canyon State Park, TX

Author:

Daniel Shyles

Entering into the latter part of the evening, with the rain not letting up, camping was not going to happen. Instead we decided to book it to Amarillo, TX through the night. Rachel pulled up to Palo Duro Canyon State Park around 3AM with me snuggled up in the passenger seat. The rain had let up by this time, but the wind was roaring, still. Little did we know that the strong winter-spring desert winds would be our close frenemy over the next two days. We finished out the night sardined in the little red car, Rachel unfurled in the front seats, and me shelved on top of our gear stacked in the back seat. Surprisingly comfortable.

Sunday, March 16th, 2014 

Until the morning, we had no real way of knowing the beauty of our surroundings. When I first got out of the car to have a look, everything was completely new. What may look like a barren wasteland to some, to me was awesome (in the true sense of the word). We made our way into the park, paid a camping fee of $12 and an entrance fee of $10, and began down the slope into the canyon. The first glimpse of the canyon gorge was at an overlook just past the park entrance. It was here we understood the real magnitude of the place. Out here you really feel that you're in the west.


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Good morning from windy Palo Duro

After locating our campsite the main objective became to start hiking immediately, if not sooner. We decided to tackle the Lighthouse trail, as it's the one, and we'd only be there a day. Riddled with warnings about the dangers of dehydration and overheating, the trail sounded a bit more threatening than it truly was. Obviously the warnings are implied for summer weather. For us, our only natural hindrance remained the intense wind. So we began our trek through the wide open canyon


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Not a bad first look



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Looking for the lighthouse... not here yet



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Milky white gypsum veins run throughout the sandstone.


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Ahh, it never ends.


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Climbing up, we're getting close


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Herro


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There it is! Now let's go climb it


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The windswept lighthouse tower


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A view from the top of the other tower


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Can't get much higher


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View from the back of the rear tower looking toward the main (You can see Rachel slipping her way down on the left)

When we got back from the 6 mile hike we were feeling pretty beat, windblown, and in need of a bath so we drove over to a nearby campsite that had shower facilities and took our first shower since starting the trip. When we got back to the campsite we snacked on homemade rye bread with almond butter and honey while Rachel made spicy ramen with mushrooms and coffee. We had to use our Esbit stove because wood fires were not permitted in the park at the time. The Esbit stove is basically a highly portable metal box in which you place and light fuel cubes. A great concept in principle and in normal conditions it might work great, but in the continuing strong winds it took about 11 fuel cubes to just boil a couple cups of water (the package said, “One fuel cube boils water in 8 minutes!”). We have to test it again during quieter weather.

Around sunset we found a stream and a field full of yellow grasses and cacti behind the campsite which called us to explore it. It was beautiful and the birds were fluttering in the warmth of the sunset. As we were approaching a big red wall of sandstone we heard a rustling in the grass. We saw some shapes moving about and thought they were a group of quail or rabbits, but as we got closer we saw two adult boar bolt out of the brush on the other side of a stream, and quickly concluded that this must be their litter of piglets. Our assumption confirmed with the recognition of furry pig butts and squiggly pig tails, we quickly turned and left the pig family alone. No one wants to get between an adult boar and its babies, let alone two...

Palo Duro Canyon is the second largest canyon in the US following the Grand Canyon. The canyon and surrounding areas have been home to humans as far back as 15,000 years ago, more recently the Apache, Comanche and Kiowa natives, followed by European explorers. It largely made up the expansive JA Ranch started by Charles Goodnight in 1876, but has since become a state park and a popular tourist attraction.

On to New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment. But first, some quick auto repairs!


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