Into Palo Duro Canyon

Palo Duro Canyon, Texas

Flew out to Lubbock, landing about seven on Friday evening, the 15th.  Jack picked me up and we motored to dinner at the Cap Rock Café in his neighborhood.  Lights out (for me at least) at 10, because we were up Saturday with the roosters and on the road at 6:30.  We headed north on Interstate 27, stopped for a caloric breakfast at the IHOP in Plainview, Texas, and by 8:50 were in one of Texas’ most remarkable landscapes, the Palo Duro Canyon.

Approaching from the west, you have no clue that the pancake-flat high plains are about to fall away into spectacularly incised valleys, and that’s a big part of what makes it so spectacular.  The only other place I’ve visited where the land changes so quickly is New Zealand.  Palo Duro is part of the Cap Rock Escarpment, formed through ages of erosion (there are other interesting parts of the escarpment, but this is the most dramatic).  After a long queue to pay the ranger, we motored east, dropping several hundred feet off the escarpment to the valley floor.  We found a perfect hike, six miles roundtrip to the base of a spectacular formation called the Lighthouse.

Two miles west of Palo Duro: there’s no clue that the land is about to change, big time

We tightened our boots and shoes and set off.  When Jack was young, he was pokey on trails, but as an exceedingly fit adult – he recently ran his first marathon – we set a pace above 4 mph.  That didn’t mean we didn’t stop; we paused to admire insects, arroyos, wildflowers, and to allow mountain bikers to zoom past.   Thanks to good spring rains, the canyon was green and lovely, and the overcast skies kept the temperatures down.

We got to the Lighthouse quickly, drank some water, snapped some pics, and headed back.  It was a great hike, and I checked Palo Duro off my list of things to see in Texas.  It was awesome.

Jack handed me the keys and I drove back.  We stopped for lunch at the Dairy Queen in Abernathy, and were back home by 1:15.  Jack zipped back to the airport to pick up Linda, and they peeled off to the store.   Had a great dinner and all three of us got caught up.

Abandoned farmstead near Canyon, Texas; this one’s solid, and not likely to fall for awhile

Fresh paint for the stores on Main Street, Abernathy, Texas; sadly, the new coat is not likely to revive retail

Sunday was Fathers’ Day, and we had a nice morning, with a big breakfast, then back to the airport and home.  A great weekend.

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