Palo Duro Canyon

Nights: 4
Hikes: 2
Bug Bites: 0
Flies: millions!

Billed as the second largest canyon in the US, Palo Duro Canyon sounded like a must see kind of place, but for us it just didn’t impress. Maybe it was the skylight snafu or maybe it was the continued fight with the flies (apparently it’s fly season here in Texas), or maybe it’s just that we’ve seen so many spectacular places that this place paled in comparison.

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It was our first Texas State Park and from what we could tell, they’re not too keen on people driving up without a reservation. Luckily we made one online because when we pulled up and said we had a reservation the ranger replied “Those are the magic words.” We also had to buy our $70 Texas State Park Pass, otherwise you pay $4 per person per day in addition to your camping fees. Since we know we’ll be in a few more Texas State Parks, we bit the bullet and bought the pass.

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Wild turkeys in the campground.

Unlike other states we’ve visited, in Texas you make a reservation for a park but not a particular campground or campsite. They assign you a spot when you arrive. At Palo Duro we were put in Sagebrush which seemed like the lesser campground. While there were some pretty views in other parts of the park, you couldn’t see them here and because of the swarms of flies you couldn’t sit outside. We may have liked Palo Duro more if we had been in the campground at the end of the 8 mile park road. It was a little further into the canyon so had better views and the bugs didn’t seem as bad when we hiked the shaded Sunflower and Rojo trails near there.

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Cool sedimentary rocks along the Rojo Trail.

This is another park developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps. This time they gave their stone buildings a bit of southwest flair with v shaped rooflines. In the small visitor’s center near the rim of the canyon they have a small display about CCC life. Through the big windows you can see into the canyon, but because you are at the far north end you don’t see much of it’s 120 mile length. The park road only goes about 8 miles into the canyon. I left feeling like we hadn’t really seen the whole deal.

If it wasn’t for the hike we did on the last day, I would have totally written this place off the list. Our hike, the most popular in the park, took us to a formation call The Lighthouse (6 miles). Because it was going to be a hot day we set out in the morning and I was glad we did as there was very little shade on the trail. We also spotted barbary sheep, out for a morning jaunt (they’re in the top left pic below). They look similar to big horn sheep, but are related more closely to goats. They are from Northern Africa, but were introduced into the area in the early 1940s. We spent a while watching the herd of about 15 chase each other about on the rocky hillside putting our new binoculars to good use.

One night we noticed an older Airstream in the campground and chatted with the owners. It was a 1960s model that they had fixed up. Turns out the owner is an artist who paints their Airstream in the places they visit and we had seen some of her work on the cover of Airstream Life Magazine. She was on her way to an Airstream rally to market her work and we were able to score one of her calendars. They let us peek inside their little gem and we returned the favor when they stopped by after dinner. After they left we realized that we needed to add a new lesson to our list.

Lesson #6 Turn out the lights before opening the door at night.

Yes, our handy Dyson stick vac was again put into heavy use sucking up a multitude of bugs.

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