Palo Duro Canyon State Park

Palo Duro Canyon
Palo Duro Canyon

When you wake up and it is 19 degrees you know it’s going to be a slow start to the day because it’s a bit cold for outdoor activities and that was our plan for the day. Finally a bit after 11:00 we took off for Palo Duro Canyon State Park. I had heard so much about it and everything I heard was right on target. It is a beautiful park. Unfortunately, like other state parks in Texas in January they close part of the park for hunting. We were unable to go to the very bottom of the canyon due to that.

We first stopped at the El Coronado Lodge Visitor’s Center where they have a very nice museum and a gift shop. One of the rooms in the museum was dedicated to the men of the Civilian Conservation Corps who helped with the construction of the center. In early August 1933 several hundred men began the task of constructing a one and a half mile road from the canyon rim to the floor. While some difficult areas were blasted, the vast majority of the construction was accomplished with hand tools such as picks, shovels, and wheelbarrows. The astonishing thing is that it took less than six months to give the first vehicle access to the canyon floor. The road is still in use today. After the tour of the museum and buying the ubiquitous magnet we drove through the canyon as far as we could go. Both Jerry and I remarked that the color and formation of the canyon walls reminded us of the Pictured Rocks in Michigan.

It was cold and windy!
It was cold and windy!
A sign in the museum had informed us that it was 40 degrees at the top of the canyon but felt like 34 and 43 at the bottom of the canyon but felt like 36. In fact, we saw ice in the puddles – that’s cold! We were somewhere in between. We found a picnic area and just sat in the car and ate our lunch since it was so cold. As we were approaching the area we saw several mule deer in the woods. There are a lot of deer around and they don’t seem to be very afraid of people. They don’t spook and flee like our deer at home.

After our lunch we decided to go on a hike so off we went to the Lighthouse. It’s nearly 3 miles to the “End of the Trail” (2.7) but of course we scrambled up to the base of the Lighthouse. That was the most difficult and arduous part of the hike. There is no definite trail, just one that apparently people have made through the years. It was pretty dangerous too! A young couple made the hike with us although they reached the top before we did. Once we got to the top the view was incredible and well worth the climb.

We made it to the top!
We made it to the top!
I was a bit worried though about the descent because it was so very treacherous. We slowly made our way back to the “End of the Trail” and then had nearly 3 more miles to go. While we were sitting on a bench at the end suddenly the most beautiful blue bird flew up and then just hopped around on the path and then through the trees. How beautiful is God’s creation?

A steep, treacherous trail
A steep, treacherous trail

I had heard about the beautiful sunset in Palo Duro but we weren’t able to see it because of the canyon walls but the reflection on the walls was beautiful. As we walked back we periodically stopped just to take a look around. So often when we hike we have to look at where we’re walking and we fail to see the beauty all around us so on this trip we have made a conscious effort to be aware of our surroundings.

We drug our tired bodies back to the car and headed “for the house” realizing along the way that we’d have to put the car on the dolly in the dark. Fortunately there was enough light in the park so that Jerry didn’t have any problem. While he did that I went in and got dinner started, Cowboy Casserole leftovers. Boy did that hit the spot. It was warm and filling and Jerry for sure needed that after coming in from putting the car on. He just stood at the sink and ran hot water over his cold hands. Don’t know what the temperature was by then but well below freezing, maybe somewhere around 27. Mighty cold to have to lie on a cold ground.

We ate dinner, washed a load of clothes as we knew we’d be unable to use the washer for the next few days and that was it for the night!


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