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Cactus and Canyons in West Texas

March 05, 2006

Hello again. These last few days have been all about the natural beauty of Texas. On Thursday, we left Thousand Trails after receiving the mail and headed north. We drove approximately six hours to get to the San Angelo State Park. The plan was to stay just one night there. After quickly setting up camp, we rode our bikes to the playground. While Cricket and the boys were playing on the swings and slides, I went to check out some of the bike trails. The first one was easy, short and actually went back toward the RV. It was a narrow winding trail which you had to be real careful on. One wide turn or mistake and you're off into the cactus!

I started down another trail that was a little more challenging and fun. However, I didn't ride the whole trail because time was running out. I turned back and headed toward the playground. After the boys were finished playing we all headed back to the RV through the cactus on the bike trail.

The next morning we got started early. By 7:40 am, we were on the road again. Driving north through the Texas plains area, everything was flat. We drove for miles and miles past ranch after ranch. And there wasn't a hill in sight. Then, all of a sudden, we rounded one corner and the ground just dropped away. Literally! We had entered the Texas canyon country. Wow, what a beautiful view. We immediately pulled off to the side of the road to get some pictures.

While looking around, Cricket noticed this old rusty car down at the bottom of the hill. I've had a thing for taking photos of old rusty cars lately so she called me over to see it. The car looked like an old 1940's or early 1950's model laying on its side. It actually looked like it could have rolled off the highway a long time ago. As the highway went down into the canyon, it got closer to the car. So I walked down the street a little and then down the hill to get a closer look. It had been completely stripped down to a shell and I couldn't figure out what kid of car it was. A few more close-up photos and I was on my way again.

We continued down the highway toward the state park driving through these canyons. For this Florida boy, the views were really captivating. Seeing photos on TV or in print of the Grand Canyon doesn't even come close to this. I'm sure the Grand Canyon will be even more spectacular.

Before too long, we pulled into the Caprock Canyon State Park in Quitaque, Texas. After setting up camp, we decided to go for a bike ride before dinner. The park ranger told me about a nearby rails-to-trails route that went through a tunnel so we went to check it out. So we drove back through town a few miles to the Monk's Crossing Trailhead. After unloading the bicycles, we started down the trail. We had gone about 3 miles and still no tunnel in sight even though the information sign at the trailhead had said it was 3 miles down.

Well Lucas wasn't interested in continuing and was acting tired. Cricket and I really wanted to see this tunnel, so I rode ahead to see how far it was and if it was worth going that far. About a mile and a half later I reached it. After taking a few photos, I rode back to tell Cricket and the boys. We all rode down just a little further until we reached a clearing where I could point out just how far they needed to go. Then Cricket and Adam continued another mile or so to the train tunnel, while Lucas and I slowly made our way back to the Blazer. And as slowly as we were going, Cricket and Adam had caught up and we all finished at the same time.

Now it was time for food and we had built up an appetite! So we drove back into town looking for a restaurant. It was about 6:00 on a Friday night, could be crowded right? We arrived in downtown Quitaque, population 432, and it was deserted! Not even a grocery store to buy food! Ok, so the next town over was called Turkey (population 495) and it was about 9 miles down the road. With a name like Turkey they got to have food, right? NOT! Well actually there was one small Mexican restaurant open, but they did not take credit cards and we only had $4 in cash left. There wasn't even an ATM in the whole town. So not having seen a true grocery store in a couple of days, we went back to the RV and tried to piece together some things to make a meal.

On Saturday morning I went into town again to the convenience store, hoping they would be open AND accepting credit cards. Luckily they did and I was able to buy some food and drinks for the day.

After breakfast we got ready to go on a hike. One of the park rangers were leading a guided 2 hour hike through the canyon. We were the only ones who showed up so it was kind of nice having your own special tour guide. Along the way she told us about all the different kinds of plants that grow in the canyon. She even pointed out the different berries on the Juniper trees and the flowers on some of the cactus that can be eaten in the fall. The boys asked a lot of questions and we all learned a lot on that hike. She even went an extra hour for us until we made it all the way up to the rim of the canyon.

After lunch and a short break, we went for a bike ride. The bike trail was 3 miles one way. The first mile and a half was fairly easy and flat along the rim of the canyon starting near the campground. The second half was steep! Two sections were about a 15% - 20% grade. I thought it was a lot of fun going down even though you had to ride the brakes down the steep parts.

Well now we were at the bottom and end of the trail. It ended at the middle of another trail. The bad thing was that the only sign there was showing the 3 mile trip back UPHILL the way we came! It did not say where we would end up if we went right or left. So uphill it was. And I had to carry both Lucas' and my bike on the uphill sections.

After that we were pooped!

Today we left Caprock Canyon and headed north still just a couple of hours to Palo Duro Canyon State Park which is located in Canyon, TX. And still we did not pass a Wal-Mart or large grocery store. We also haven't had cell phone or internet service for a few days now either. However, I did stop at a bank that had an ATM to get some cash.

Anyhow, Palo Duro Canyon is the second largest canyon in the United States. It is 120 miles long and 800 feet deep. I don't think it is as pretty as Caprock Canyon though. Caprock had more red in it. You can easily see the size difference. And here at Palo Duro we are camping down inside the canyon, where Caprock was up at the rim.

After we setup camp though, our first order of business was to leave the park! We're still low on food and it was already lunch time. So we drove into the town of Canyon to find a restaurant, but there wasn't anything there that we could all agree on. We were in the mood for Chinese, but the only place in town only had one car in the parking lot. It didn't look promising.

Now Amarillo, TX was a bigger city and just 20 miles up the road. We were sure that we could find something there and possibly have internet service also to finally check our emails! So we started driving while Cricket checked the Microsoft Streets & Maps software for directions. It showed 6 Chinese restaurants in Amarillo. Finally, we found one and it turned out to be a really good buffet. The food was excellent.

But we STILL did not have internet service there either. Our Verizon aircard just wasn't picking up any signal. I guess we're going to have to break down and purchase the DirectWay satellite internet.

We also found a Wal-Mart along the way and stopped there to do some grocery shopping. I also had the oil changed on the Blazer while we were there.

There wasn't much time left when we returned to go on any of the trails, so we just drove down to the end of the park to see where the trails were. We did find one rock overhang that looked like a cave near the road, so we climbed around in it for a few minutes. Now its dark and we're all relaxing getting ready for a lot of hiking and biking tomorrow.

I hope you'll be able to come back soon.


Our campsite and sunsets at San Angelo State Park:

Windmill Farm:

The Monk's Crossing Trail near Caprock Canyon:

Caprock Canyon:

This is our campsite at Palo Duro. See the 3 tiny white specs in the lower right corner? The one in the middle is our motorhome!