We have just stayed at one of the most beautiful state parks we have had the fortune to stay in. Palo Duro Canyon State Park in Canyon, TX is called the Grand Canyon of Texas. As you drive from New Mexico into Texas there is nothing. Flat plains, no towns, no trees, but there are cows and of course that wind. We had scheduled to stop for three nights at Palo Duro SP but never anticipated what we were in for.
As you pass through the gates and the flat countryside you start a descent of about 800 ft to the floor of the canyon. The grade of the road is 10% which means it is very steep and there are several switchback turns that took me to watch to make sure no car was coming before Joe continue through it. Of course, Joe was nervous and I was watching the beautiful scenery in front of us. There were three campgrounds for RVers and several more for tents. The park is 120 miles long but only about 10 miles of roads. We stayed in Sagebrush campground the first CG as you drive into the park. We saw deer as we drove in and were greeted by wild turkeys at our site.
After we got set-up we took a drive through the rest of the park. Everywhere you looked was spectacular. They had so many hiking trails from easy to difficult, from .49 miles to miles and miles. You could start at the bottom and work your way up to the top in one canyon or start at another canyon on the top and work your way down. So we studying the trails the first night and made our decision of which trail we would go on the next day.
Lighthouse trail was a 6 mile round trip hike with the lighthouse at mile marker 2.72. It was rated moderate so we thought we could handle it. The Lighthouse was a rock formation that if you climbed to the base you could see a vast distance. Off we went with our water, camera, hats, sunscreen, and eagerness to see the beauty. We weren’t disappointed. We walked through several washes that were spectacular. We were surrounded by red rock formations and each time we made a turn into another canyon it was more spectacular. At mile marker 1.5 we could start seeing the lighthouse rock. Right before we got to the bottom of the lighthouse we talked to a young man on a bike. We asked him about climbing up to the base of the lighthouse. We had heard it was quite a challenge. He said we had to go up because the view was breathtaking. He said crawl on all fours like a bear. WHAT!
When we got to the bottom of the formation we understood what he was saying. In all of our hiking we have never seen a trail like this. We had agreed before we got to this point that we were going up no matter what. We didn’t stop to hesitate although about half way up we wondered what two people our age were doing. We did use all fours at times and dear Joe had to help me more than once but we finally made it and before we looked at the view I started worrying about the down trip. I’ll tell you now the up trip was nothing compared to the down trip.
We still had more climbing to do if we wanted to get to the true base of the lighthouse. We decided we had pushed our luck as far as we wanted. The view from where we stood was breathtaking. We didn’t have to climb any farther. Everywhere you looked was fabulous. Joe was snapping pictures in every direction and I just stood and thank the lord for allowing us this view.
It was time to head down this treacherous trail. Joe went first (my hero) to stop me from falling or give me a hand when I needed help. We tried just walking down slowing forward but because of the loose sand that didn’t work. So we tried going down backwards on all fours. That worked until a group of kids came and we moved over to the side while they passed us. After watching them go down we didn’t feel so bad. They went down on their butts and that looked like a smart idea. So Joe slides on his butt while I held onto his shoulders and went behind him. It wasn’t a pretty picture but it worked until we got to the rocks. That was a little easier to maneuver. We were so thankful to get to the bottom and now we just had the 3 mile hike back to the truck.
We had a very enjoyable hike back until we hit about 1 mile out. We were hot and tired and the last mile was uphill. It always makes Joe and I feel so good when we prove to ourselves that we aren’t too old for a hike like this but we decided that we weren’t going to take anymore long hikes the next couple of days just a few short ones.
While we were out on a hike we came across a woman hiking by herself. She told us that every day she takes a different trail. She said she had visited the Grand Canyon in Arizona once and didn’t care for it. She felt that Palo Duro Canyon was so much more intimate because you could get down in the canyons and be a part of it. What she said made me understand why I didn’t care for the Grand Canyon. You could walk along the rim and look down but unless you walked the 11 miles down into the canyon you just couldn’t be a part of the real beauty. We will definitely return to Palo Duro Canyon State Park.
So let me tell you about the wind. It took us about three and a half hours to take our lighthouse hike. About an hour after we got back the wind picked up. We had a nice breeze as we walked so we didn’t think much of it. We were getting ready to make a little dinner and looking out the window we could no longer see across the campground. The wind was gusting at around 50 miles an hour and we were in a dust storm. Fortunately for us we were protected by trees and shrubs and the wind was coming at us from the back through the trees so we didn’t move too much. When we went to bed that night the winds were still blowing dust. At the far end of the campground was a young couple in a tent. They weren’t there in the morning. We have no idea how they could have taken their tent down in that wind. We talked to a ranger the next day and he said it had been the couple’s first experience camping. We really felt bad for them.
We ended up staying a fourth night at the park and probably would have stayed longer but it was filling up with week-enders and it was time for us to move on. So into the wind we did travel. From Texas into Oklahoma the winds were terrible. At times we felt the 5th wheel was going to be blown over. So from this point we will try to watch the weather and travel on the days when the wind is less (if there is one of those days). We are told that this is the season for the winds.
The weather is changing for us. It’s a little colder and of course the wind. We can tell we are heading north – closer to family.