The drive through the park was great! The buffalo were everywhere. They were right next to the road with a large group off a bit further.
Further back in the park we had a great view of the canyon.
This big guy was at the primitive camping area.
Our day for wildlife. A pack of coyotes were yipping and howling in the canyon. Later we found these two doe's were standing just off the road.
Today we decided to take a short (ha!) hike. Two miles out and two back. The trail is listed as moderate. What it does not list is that it can be muddy and the clay will stick to your feet until it is 1/2 inch thick before falling off. The extra weight definitely added to the workout.
The hike is known for the natural bridge the trail passes over.
We come upon buffalo at 5 min, 14 min, and 18 min. The rest of the hike was challenging but fun and of course it rained along the way.
Hiking and Buffalo....
It has been raining all night and most of the morning so we waited until 11 am to start our first hike here at Caprock Canyon state park. It was supposed to be a short (OK a 2 mile) hike. Instead we felt really good at that point and decided to keep going on the next trail.
We hiked the Canyon Rim trail, the Wild Horse trail, and then back up the road from the Equestrian camping area. We ended up with a 5 hour 6.5 miles hike. Really good time considering the terrain. The elevation from highest to lowest was 350 feet. Of course there was a lot of up and down in the hike but the bottom of the valley is that much lower than the start of our hike.
We started by walking along the canyon rim then down to the valley below. Really pretty.
At some point we got diverted onto a Buffalo trail. Later in the hike we learned the signs and could tell which direction they were moving, about how many, and how long since they had passed. It does not seem that so much could be learned so fast but the Buffalo are not really shy and we were very concerned about walking up on them without warning. Eventually we rejoined the regular hiking trail and continued. The buffalo frequently use the hiking trails and their own for moving around the park. It was obvious from the tracks where they enter and leave the trail.
We crossed the "Little Red River" 6 times. There are no bridges or improved crossings. AT ALL! At most crossings the trail had eroded several feet down through the center. The river flow was small but we could see where in the past there had been flash flooding as much as 10 feet up from the current level. We passed places where large sections of cliffs had collapsed leaving boulders that were almost as tall as we are in the water. Most of the time crossing required hopping from stone to stone. Several times we had to either move up or downstream to find a better place to cross or look for the buffalo crossed. That usually worked for us because they do not want to step in soft mud. If they could cross without sinking, we knew we would not have a problem.
On our 2nd river crossing we looked to our right and noticed a buffalo standing in the tall grass about 150 feet away. Officially by state law we are never to get closer to 150 feet so that is how far away it was. No matter what the photo seems to represent.
We then noticed there were several others near the first. We could only see their backs and head as they ate grass. They were not even interested in us. They were focused on eating. After a few seconds, two more topped the rise behind the first. That was our first 6 bison spotted. We decided to continue down the trail to give them more room to eat.
After our last river crossing we noticed that behind and above us on the cliff were 3 more. They had been watching us cross the river away from them. We had walk directly below them and never saw them. When they started down the cliff, we decided a hasty retreat up the trail was in order. As we reached the rise we noticed they had cross the river but taken off the other direction. That was close because we had almost nowhere to go if they had followed us.
A half a mile or so later, the trail ended at the road back to the campground. The overlook is along the road and we stopped to rest for a few minutes. Just as we got to the overlook, we noticed that a huge buffalo was standing directly in front of us about (insert throat clearing here) 150 feet away just standing in the light rain.
Our little hike turned out to be an EPIC hike. One of our best ever despite the long trails that were poorly maintained. There was a drizzle of light rain most of the way and a lot of muddy places to traverse. The river that was just too wide to jump without using stones or a running jump. With all of that we had vistas, canyons, fields of buffalo grass, and of course wild buffalo. I wonder what the next few days will bring.
Sunflowers and Prairie dogs.
We have arrived at Caprock Canyon State park. The park is great. The campground is up on the canyon ridge. Unlike Palo Duro, we are up instead of down in the canyon valley. We have sunflowers around our camp site.
The bathroom/shower building is almost surrounded by a prairie dog town.
Walking around the campground.
As much fun as we did have at Palo Duro it looks like this park is going to be at least as fun if not more. We have not seen them yet but they have a herd of 100 head of buffalo. A prairie dog town. Lots of hiking trails. It should be fun.
We rested today. After yesterday's hike it was needed. Besides we are retired and everyday is not a vacation.
The Lighthouse trail hike.
This will be our most difficult hike at Palo Duro Canyon State Park. When we arrive we walk on the flat area between the two massive pinnacles.
The last part of the trail to the base of the Lighthouse is not officially part of the trail and is not on the map. Up to the Lighthouse we had to climb nearly vertically at times with hand and footholds.
The view from the base of the Lighthouse was incredible.
From the top we recorded a video on our hike back down the canyon wall.
As we headed out to take our next hike we came upon turkeys. They were more concerned about the truck than our looking out the windows at them.
Obviously they know that they are safe in the park.
Visiting Palo Duro Canyon...
We are now in Palo Duro Canyon State Park (Texas). The park is great! The campgrounds are in the bottom of the canyon. The sun does not rise above the canyon walls until about 8:30 am and sun will set below the west wall early. We will be here for 5 days. Hiking and relaxing will be the primary activity.
Warning: Cell signal is VERY limited. We get one bar at best so even turning your head can drop a call. Because of this, communications are going to be limited this week.
The drive was a bit harrowing. There is a 10% grade and there are numerous tight switchbacks.
We do have really pretty views from our site.
From the canyon ridge the view was amazing. I was able to find our rig.
For those who visit here the largest predators are coyotes. There are no bears or mountain lions. Snakes are actually the bigger concern when hiking. Bug spray is a must. The flies are numerous and bite along with mosquitoes at this time of year.
We have had several roadrunners in the campground. This one let me get within 5 feet of him.
To end the day we went a "Star Party" presented by one of the park rangers. We all sat in a field as the ranger pointed out the constellations and planets. The milky way stretched across the sky and was impossible not to notice.
We are a couple who have started on a new adventure...