October 18 , 2010 – Palo Duro Canyon Drove into the Texas Panhandle on Sunday and decided to camp at Palo Duro Canyon State Park outside of Amarillo. According to the Texans, this is the second largest canyon in the US but you know how those Texans tend to exaggerate. Bob has adopted that mantra and claims he is bigger here too but I’m not sure what he means by that. There are two developed campgrounds in this park. We stayed at Sagebrush and though the sites were nice, we had difficulty getting level. Next time, we will choose the Mesquite site.
The canyon itself was pretty impressive although it was difficult to get a real picture of the breadth and depth. There were high cliffs around us and the road had several flash flood areas marked with gates and sluices. What was most impressive about the canyon, though, was its dramatic appearance. One minute we were travelling through vast tracts of to the horizon grasslands, then all of a sudden, we crossed the Canadian River, and voila! There was the canyon at least a thousand feet below us and quite wide. I would describe the Canadian River as a creek in size but it was running and had obviously had a long-time effect on the surrounding area. We had to drive down a switchback road with a 10% grade to get to the campground two miles down the road; and I do mean DOWN. We unhooked before driving to the campground and with my aversion to death drop-offs, I was uncomfortable driving the truck til we got to the bottom. I simply kept my eyes averted from the edge of the road although I would have liked to stop at the various look-outs to take some pictures.
A word about the thorns….throughout New Mexico and Texas, we encountered this plant with vicious thorns. Here was no different. You could not walk on the grass without getting thorns, not just burrs, stuck to the bottom of your shoes, your pants, and Dixie’s fur and paws and boy do they ever hurt. Just trying to remove them is a “sticky” process so walking off paved surfaces is a thorny issue.
Dixie and I took an aborted hike up the side of the canyon. The weather had been cloudy most of the day but we have seen clouds before, called Verga clouds, that appear to have a sheeting band of rain extending downward. The rain, however, evaporates before it hits the ground; a common site in the southwest. I was not too concerned about the appearance of the clouds and we had been on the trail for about 30 minutes before I heard thunder. I looked up to see dark, ominous clouds and big, fat drops of rain began to fall. All of the hiking information you get from the parks system tell you to get off the trail or get down to a lower elevation in a thunder storm. Well, I was hiking up switchbacks on the side of the mountain and was the highest spot among the cactus so obviously, heeding the warning to get down, Dixie and I began to carefully run back down. I say carefully because the climb was steep over loose rocks so going back down required even more care to keep from sliding. Meanwhile, the rain was sporadic as was the thunder but unsettling nonetheless.
Just as we were heading around the corner of one of the switchbacks perched on the edge of the cliff, I saw a road-runner; the first for the trip. Notwithstanding the impending storm, I stopped and got a few pictures before the rumbling of the thunder reminded me that we had to get down.
We got back to the camper before the real storm began although it wasn’t much of a storm. The good news, besides the road-runner sighting, was that the sunset was beautiful behind the dark clouds. Definitely would be a good place to re-visit for a longer period of time.