Wednesday, March 5, 2014

US50 Phase 1: Palo Duro Canyon

Oct 29 Palo Duro

The trip is starting to wind down and I'm feeling it.  Quite a bit of disappointment that the trip will soon be over but also enough anticipation of getting back home again that I'm not tempted to turn around and keep going.
Today was all about Palo Duro Canyon. The land south of Amarillo is basically flat, but if you are traveling SR217 east out of the town of Canyon the ground suddenly it drops away into the 120 mile long, 800' deep Palo Duro Canyon. The upper end of the canyon is state park with a road hacked out of the walls that gets you down into the bottom of the canyon.
Partway down this road, pretty much hanging over the edge, is a visitor center which is part information kiosk, part museum/interpretive center and part gift store. After stopping there, picking up some trail maps, enjoying the interpretive center, and resisting the gift store, I continued on down to the bottom of the canyon.
I spent pretty much all day hiking around down there in the canyon. There's hike and bike and horse trails all over the place down there. The longest single hike I took was on the lighthouse trail which wraps around the backside of a ridge to go up the side  canyon behind it to a couple of adjacent hoodoos, one of which is called Lighthouse. The last three tenths of a mile of the trail climb very steeply, as in some significant rock scrambling, to get up to the base of the hoodoos and I wasn’t comfortable attempting that while hiking on my own so satisfied myself with seeing them from a distance.
If you take your time to pay attention to the details there is a lot of diversity and beauty down here in the stark canyon, but it seemed like I was the only one taking the time today. Not that the park was crowded, but I ran into a half dozen or so hikers today, and most of them twice. Once as they overtook me heading out the trail and again as they hot-footed it past me going back the other way.

I have to admit, I used to have that bag-the-trail mentality too. In the boy scouts we got some of our merit badges based on the length of our hikes and it might have taken hold then, but now I've outgrown that and have an experience-the-trail approach. Where I used to knock off a 5 mile trail in two hours or less, today I can easily spend those two hours ambling a one mile loop.

A fellow hiker on the trail


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