Monday, July 12, 2021

What a Conundrum - Lightning or Flash Flood !


If you only have time to do one trail here at Caprock Canyons State Park I would recommend the Eagle Point Trail.

If you don't have a shuttle-vehicle it's an out-and-back round trip of 4 miles spanning the full gamete terrain from the canyon rim to the canyon bottom.

That's Eagle Point over there, and the trail itself starts on the other side, the east side of the point.

What looks like a trail there to the left of the sign is just people wandering off into an aimless maze of pathways here on the west side of Eagle Point

But to make things slightly confusing, trailhead parking at the lower end is on this side, the west side of the point,

and there's no official pathway connecting the parking with the trail so you have to walk the road for a short bit to get from one to the other.

Just to make things interesting there's a blind-curve in either direction and a narrow bridge with guard-rails right up against the pavement on both sides that must be crossed along the way.

Gets your heart pumping when you're halfway across and you hear tires on the road!

And it's not much better at the other end of the trail up there near Lake Theo.

Even though there is a road right there in front of the trailhead, there's no parking adjacent to it. The parking is over in front of the amphitheater.

From there you walk a quarter mile west along the rim of the canyon and around the corner of the fence-line to get to the trail.

So why then, given these challenges, do I recommend this trail?

Because, not only does it traverse the entire range of terrain here in the park, it's the only one in the park with info-plaques along the way that will teach you something about this place.

Although I am reserving judgement on that "Prairie Pals" statement made here since I'm not sure just how much "pal" can actually be found in this bull.

And keeping a minimum of 50 yards distance? Apparently Bison don't read these signs - - - or maybe they just play a different kind of football - - -

Since I was here last several of these have been added along the trail too, which is pretty cool when you think about it!

Though, given the iffy weather, I'm not sure how much beauty there was in my "beauty" shots.

That iffy weather, including unpredictable pop-up thunderstorms, is why I chose this modest little hike for this morning.

Of course it would have been a lot more modest if I was smart enough to use The Van to get myself to the trailhead in the first place instead of covering the distance on foot - - - but apparently I'm not - - -smart enough that is - - -

In fact, by the time I got to the trailhead I had already covered exactly the one-way distance of the trail itself, turning this four mile out-and-back into an eight mile hike.

But let's be honest, if I really minded the extra boot wear

I would have gotten the keys out in the first place.

If you have really good eyes, when you look out across there

you would be able to see this. (I shot this from the same spot as the previous photo but this time using all 200X of my max zoom - handheld! I really like my little camera.)

These little circular enclosures are called exclusion zones and are a tool used by the range managers. By comparing the state of the vegetation inside to that outside they can gauge just how much effect the Bison are having on the surrounding landscape and from that, when it's time to encourage them to move on by adjusting the water supply. 

Speaking of Bison - So pretty!

But this is the spot where, on a previous hike a few years ago, three Bison ghosted up over that rise up there and ambled their way down the trail right at me, forcing me to quickly scramble into the scrub off to the right to get out of their way.

So I wasn't really in the mood to linger here today, even though today's hike had been Bison free - so far.

Nope! Those steel cutouts fooled me once, the first time I approached the amphitheater, but not this time.

By the way, see all those black dots in the sky over on the left? That's not dust on the lens.

These are the missing Cliff Swallows!

Thousands of them!

And very fast too.

They used to nest up in the rafters of the pavilion here, making it pretty much uninhabitable for us humans for part of the year. Obviously that practice has now been discouraged with some ladders and scraping tools, but not to worry. There's plenty of cliff-faces just down there below the rim the amphitheater sits on for them to build nests under.

Just outside the pavilion I picked the best seat in the house for the show,

but it looks like I might have a long wait, and as a result of the day-time heating I can hear thunder grumbling all around me. - Yep, Just like that! (As I was writing this while standing near the open door of the barn thunder was rumbling in from the west and heading this way.)

The meteorologist we listen to in the morning back home is fond of pointing out that lightning can reach out as much as 15 miles, so if you can hear thunder you are within striking distance.

When choosing between potential lightning strikes up here on the canyon rim or flash-flooding down below, I'll pick flash-flooding every time!

So instead of wandering over to Theo Lake as I had originally planned while I was up here today, I decided it would be smarter to get myself off this exposed, and lightning-strike-prone, canyon rim and deal with potential flash floods down below instead.


So the grumbling in the sky tells me it's time to go - now!

Oh crap! That one in the distance is not a steel silhouette cutout!

And, of course, some - OK, Had to edit that. Now I'll be nice and just call them 'some individual' -  just got out of that car and is holding a yappy little dog in one arm while trying to record the "cut little cow" with a tablet one-handed just out of frame to the right. Well at least if the dog gets loose it will be a distraction as I slip on by

and head back down into the canyon.

That's Eagle Point out there left of center, two miles away.

OK, If anyone knows why I took this photo of my boots please let me know, because I don't - - -

I do know why I took this photo where the trail dips down through one of the many small water-sheds.

Can you see it up there?

How 'bout now?

I've had more Bison encounters in the first couple days of this trip than all my previous trips combined, and apparently it's not letting up yet!

What did I do wrong?!

Is this some kind of karmic hell? Or maybe it's some sort of twisted karmic reward?

Whatever it is, as long as he stays put as I slip through between him and this watering-hole I'll take it.

OK, I've made it back to the trailhead - still mostly dry-booted and completely un-shocked - and now I have a choice between two miles of relatively easy road back to The Van

or one more mile of - let's call it more rugged - trail before having to resort to the road.

Was there every any question which I would choose?

Well, yeah, there was. Or at least should have been because, while the road so neatly avoids it by crossing on a nice terrain-leveling bridge, the trail drops sharply to get across the river. And, of course, where there's a sharp drop there's often an equally sharp climb on the other side.

So when I hit the river after nearly seven miles of hiking and was looking up at the climb ahead and thinking about that nice gentle road-bridge I was seriously questioning my ability to make smart choices. - But too late now!


We're climbing.

           And we're climbing.

                      Sure it's hard but we're scratching-the-groove.*

                                 Just don't look up! 

* Excerpt from a previous post explaining 'the groove': "We are all born with a shallow groove which is where the toughness, fortitude, and resolve we need for dealing with physical and mental challenges lives, and every time we face one of these challenges it scratches that groove just a little bit deeper, giving us a little bit more of that toughness, fortitude, and resolve to work with next time."


You looked up!

Apparently my groove isn't as deep as I thought it was, so stormy threat or not, I think this calls for a break before we finish up those last couple miles back to camp.


  1. What kind of camera you using?? Those are some great high zoom photos.

    1. It's a Cannon SX50. I'm not sure they still make it. I've had mine a long time and it's proven to be portable and durable, and the 200X optical zoom is just the thing for outdoors.

  2. I also appreciate informational signs on trails. It can turn good exercise into an educational exoerience.

    1. If I was the volunteering type (I'm not because it requires too much personal interaction.) I think I'd like to focus on trail signage for historical and geographical stuff. But unfortunately, even if I was, there's often little budget for that sort of thing.