Palo Duro Canyon, May 2002

The Lighthouse at Palo Duro Canyon, Texas
The Lighthouse at Palo Duro Canyon, Texas
Self portrait on the Lighthouse trail.
Self portrait on the Lighthouse trail.

For years I have heard about Palo Duro Canyon, and on every trip out west since the first ski trips in the early 1980s I have seen the big brown signs along the interstate around Amarillo pointing the way. It only takes about six hours to drive from my home in Ada to Palo Duro, so it’s close enough to make a long weekend out of it. With a perfect blue sky above, I set out with uncharacteristic spontineity.

“Palo Duro” means hard wood.

Cave and branch, south end of Palo Duro Canyon road
Cave and branch, south end of Palo Duro Canyon road
The Famous Leaning Tower near Groom, Texas
The Famous Leaning Tower near Groom, Texas

I stopped to shoot the famous (at least along I-40) Leaning Tower of Britten. By early afternoon, I found an excellent campsite in the Hackberry Campground, with cliffs and trees all around.

I made a driving tour of the park, with excellent results. Nearly cloudless sky. Golden sunset. Cool and dry. Little black flies and wild turkeys share this campground with a moderate number of good-tempered campers who are mostly in vehicles.

At dark, as I was preparing to make a star trace photo, a number of deer pass close to my campsite.

Hour-long star trace photo made by laying my camera on its back on a cooking grill
Hour-long star trace photo made by laying my camera on its back on a cooking grill
Wild turkey, Hackberry campground
Wild turkey, Hackberry campground

As I slept, more wild turkeys in the campsite. Coyotes woke me up on two occasions

In the morning, I hiked the Lighthouse Trail. I was told it would take two hours – I did it in an hour and ten minutes. I was the first there. Excellent images on the trail and at the formation. Images on the internet failed to capture either beauty or scale of the scene.

I experienced lots of flies, turkeys, deer, and lizards. After lunch, I took the Paseo del Rio Trail. I also hiked a short distance up a bike trail; passable images but great fun exploring.

Hiking the Lighthouse Trail, Morning, Palo Duro Canyon
Hiking the Lighthouse Trail, Morning, Palo Duro Canyon

This is the quietest, most peaceful trip I have taken to date, due in no small measure to the excellent solitude.

Additional images:

Sunset at Palo Duro
Sunset at Palo Duro
Another view of the Palo Duro sunset
Another view of the Palo Duro sunset
Cliffs in afternoon light at Palo Duro.
Cliffs in afternoon light at Palo Duro
Cactus Flat, Palo Duro
Cactus Flat, Palo Duro
These cliffs are above and behind the Lighthouse formation.
These cliffs are above and behind the Lighthouse formation.
Overhanging Cliff and Pine Tree
Overhanging Cliff and Pine Tree
Bicyclists atop the mesa next to The Lighthouse
Bicyclists atop the mesa next to The Lighthouse
Dry wash, Lighthouse Trail, Palo Duro.
Dry wash, Lighthouse Trail, Palo Duro.
Fifteen Minute Star Trace from Hackberry Campground, Palo Duro Canyon
Fifteen Minute Star Trace from Hackberry Campground, Palo Duro Canyon
Dry wash and peak, Lighthouse Trail.
Dry wash and peak, Lighthouse Trail.
When I first made camp at the Hackberry Campground, I walked around a bit. A cold front had just passed, leaving a breezy, cool, clear day in its wake.
When I first made camp at the Hackberry Campground, I walked around a bit. A cold front had just passed, leaving a breezy, cool, clear day in its wake.
Dead tree and "Spanish Skirts" erosion.
Dead tree and Spanish Skirts
Overview, Palo Duro Canyon
Overview, Palo Duro Canyon
Tree and peaks, Lighthouse Trail, Palo Duro.
Tree and peaks, Lighthouse Trail, Palo Duro.
This is a replica of the one-room dugout built by Charles Goodnight in Palo Duro Canyon in the fall of 1876.
This is a replica of the one-room dugout built by Charles Goodnight in Palo Duro Canyon in the fall of 1876.
Trail, Morning, Palo Duro Canyon
Trail, Morning, Palo Duro Canyon
Trees, sky and peaks, afternoon, Palo Duro Canyon.
Trees, Sky and Peaks, Afternoon, Palo Duro Canyon
I made this image on the Paseo del Rio trail.
I made this image on the Paseo del Rio trail.
Dead Tree and Spanish Skirts, Lighthouse Trail
Dead Tree and Spanish Skirts, Lighthouse Trail
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