Tagged: West Texas

Palo Duro, the Grand Canyon of Texas

West Texas is flat. Really flat. And treeless. It’s easy to imagine thousands of buffalo roaming the plain, or tornadoes barreling across the horizon. Amidst all this flat emptiness, it’s tough to believe there’s a canyon anywhere close by.

West Texas Windmill

But there is a canyon, and it’s the second largest canyon in the country.

Palo Duro Canyon

This past weekend some friends and I camped in Palo Duro Canyon in preparation for our trail race there in October.

Camping in Palo Duro Canyon

Jay loved camping in his new tent. Because of it’s McMansion dimensions compared to the other two tents, it was quickly dubbed “The McTent.”

New Tent

Some places in the country have snow drifts. In West Texas, we have mud. Flash flood warning signs are everywhere in the park. It’s obvious Palo Duro had a significant rain event in the canyon sometime before we got there.

Palo Duro Water Crossing

But it wasn’t as significant as the rain and flooding they had there in 1978.

1978 Flood Sign in Palo Duro Canyon

Though not deadly, spiders as big as your hand are nevertheless scary. There are tarantulas in the park. Supposedly they jump.

Tarantula in Palo Duro Canyon

Looking for evidence of other animals in the canyon is easy in the soft sand. Other than these raccoon tracks, we saw other evidence of deer, hogs, coyotes, and lizards.

Animal Tracks in Palo Duro Canyon

It was extremely hot during the day in the canyon. 114 degrees was the highest we saw. We had been hoping to have cooler temps, but at least it was cool in the mornings and evenings.

Thermometer in Palo Duro Canyon

Even Shasta felt the heat.

Hot Dog in Palo Duro Canyon

To avoid the intense sun, we stayed under our shade shelter and played Uno, Monopoly, read, snacked, and played with the dogs.

Playing Uno in Palo Duro Canyon

Hari is like the overindulgent grandparent when it comes to Shasta.

Hari and Shasta

Kurt braved the elements and went for a ride.

Cycling in Palo Duro Canyon

One morning we got up before the sun and went for an eleven mile trail run on the Givens, Spicer & Lowry Running Trail. It was the best trail run I’ve ever been on. It was exhilarating to run through such amazing scenery.

Early Morning Trail Run in Palo Duro

Our trail took us to the Lighthouse formation, which is an iconic Texas landmark.

Lighthouse Formation in Palo Duro Canyon

Hari and I took a break at the top of the Lighthouse. Kurt took photos.

On Top of the Lighthouse Formation in Palo Duro Canyon

The trail winds through the canyon. We had it to ourselves for hours.

Lighthouse Trail in Palo Duro Canyon

We took the Little Fox Canyon Trail loop for a few extra miles. It was starting to get warm, but it was nothing like the humidity we’re used to running in.

Little Fox Canyon Trail in Palo Duro Canyon

Tired, dusty, trail legs after a run are never pretty. Even Jay was impressed enough to take a photo.

Dusty trail legs in Palo Duro Canyon

Our last morning, Kurt and I got up once again before the sun and took a short 3.5 mile hike on the Rojo Grande and Juniper Trails. I love the desert light in the early mornings.

Juniper Trail in Palo Duro Canyon

West Texas is a dangerous place. On the way back to Dallas, even stopping at a rest area (which also doubles as a tornado shelter) can be treacherous.

Rattlesnake Rest Stop in West Texas

It was a great trip. From the coyotes howling in the middle of the night, to the full moon rising over the ridge, to the turquoise blue collared lizard I thought was a bird, and the Milky Way and Big Dipper stretching across the night sky, Palo Duro Canyon is beautiful. And of course, everything is more fun with good friends. I can’t wait to go back in October for the trail race.

Lighthouse trail run photos courtesy of Kurt Cimino.

No Words Needed

Sometimes a picture really is worth more than a thousand words.

I have always been a lover of words. As a child, I loved nursery rhymes and limericks, fairy tales and songs, and I lost myself in books. I learned early the power of words, how they could make you feel invincible, or hurt you worse than any other weapon. As I grew older, I loved writing and manipulating words, expressing sorrows, joys, and petty jealousies in long-lost diaries and journals. I went to college and analyzed and argued the classics, and became a teacher to convince children of the power of words.

It’s the unspoken words, however, that are the most powerful and sometimes tell the best stories.

And nothing tells a story better than a great photograph.

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My dog, Shasta, is very high energy. Her looks tell all. After Christmas dinner, while everyone else is hooked up to their gadgets and distractions, and all she wants is a little attention.

Bored Dog

In the summer, we don’t get much rain, but when it does rain it can be dramatic. Even if it spoils your Saturday afternoon plans of sitting on a restaurant patio, tossing back a few cold ones with your buddies, an unexpected rain storm can be a joyous occasion.

Rainy Day in Dallas

On the flip side, nothing says West Texas like a windmill and cattle next to empty railroad tracks on the Llano Estacado. If you follow 287 into Amarillo, this is pretty much what you’ll see, for miles and miles and miles.

West Texas Railroad and Windmill

Remember when you were a kid and you thought if you hid behind something, no matter how small, as long as you couldn’t see the other person they couldn’t see you either? And remember looking at the world through a balloon, and how the world suddenly became wrapped in yellow and you almost stopped breathing because it was so familiarly strange?

Child hiding behind a big balloon

You don’t have to run a marathon to know they’re not easy. In most races the last mile is always the hardest, and at mile 25, with the end in sight, you sometimes need a little help. All you have to do is look at her face to know how many miles she held on, waiting for that hand to give her the strength to finish.

Fatigue at Mile 26 of a Marathon

Photos capture things from the past. We remember the events, but we forget what it felt like to be there. Was it really that beautiful? Did I feel as small and insignificant that day as I look in the photograph? Did I gasp at the grandeur of the vista, or was I too tired to notice? Did I feel joy? Did I appreciate it then as much as I do now looking back at the photograph?

Alkaline Ridge, Wyoming

Words are important, whether spoken or unspoken. Words can paint a scene or an emotion, or they can twist and corrupt with their silence. Be careful what you say–or where you point your camera.

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Here is a great website started by National Geographic photographers who tell stories without words.