Monday, September 09, 2013
Palo Duro Canyon TX Hike - Sat, 9/7/2013 - 2nd Largest Canyon in USA
Distance: 6 miles Rating: 5.5/5
Difficulty: Moderate due to heat
Conditions: H O T !!! Analog thermometers located throughout trailheads in the canyon bottom read from 108 to 112 DegF... Yikes. Hydration was a major concern throughout our explorations in this canyon. Trails were in good shape. This park is more heavily used than Caprock and we encountered a few other hikers/bikers during our adventures.
Our adventures started with a guided Jeep tour of the canyon rim along the Elkin's Ranch property. Nicole, our trail guide, was very knowledgeable on ecology, geology, and history of the canyon and provided an informative and enjoyable tour. Some of the sites were quite simply astounding. Palo Duro is not the Grand Canyon but it is certainly "grand".
After our 1.5 hour Jeep tour we entered Palo Duro Canyon State Park and began our driving descent to the canyon floor. (Of course we had to stop at the Trading Post for their "world famous" cheeseburger. They were quite good. Note to self: a hamburger might not be the best meal to eat before a long and hot hike!)
Palo Duro is a wondrous place. The red, brown, yellow, and grey of the canyon rims, buttes, hoodoos, and pyramids are a constant treat to the eyes. Early Spanish explorers called the pyramids "Spanish skirts" because of their beautiful colorful stripes.
We were surprised by a flock of wild turkeys and later a small turkey chick along the Paseo del Rio Trail. A small reconstructed Cowboy Dugout structure can be seen along a short turnoff from this same trail. Prickly Pear cactus is more than abundant throughout most of the park and especially so on this trail. The red "pears" are edible (they taste just a little sweet and have a green-bean flavor). The Mesquite is taller here and some actual trees live along the river bed -- this is the Prairie Dog Fork of the Red River. During our hike the river level was an astounding 4 inches! (Hey, this is summer in Texas!) Given adequate rain though and this river would be raging through the canyon bottom.
The Lighthouse Trail was well maintained and provided great vistas of the canyon cliffs and buttes. Santana's Face was a prominent feature as we hiked in and back out along this well-used trail. Bright blue lizards made special appearances along the trail-side. Many would even "pose" for their photos.
Palo Duro is one of those "magical" spots in life -- being able to share it with Diane & Rob made it even more special. I hope to be back again for more adventure.
Thank YOU, LORD, for the beautiful work YOU have done here.