Day Trip to Caprock Canyons


Caprock Canyons State Park, at the southern end of Palo Duro Canyon, requires about 1 1/2 hours to drive from my house.  Yesterday, we met the Panhandle Native Plant Society there to investigate flowers and grasses.

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When we first arrived, it seemed blue might break through the cloud cover, but it did not.

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The park ranger took us to several different sites to identify different flower and grass species.  The above is an area which in the early 90s was a cotton field and has been restored with native vegetation.

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We drove to another area which remained “wild”–never cultivated.

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Then we drove to a picnic area overlooking the lake.  Close to there we found the poppy below.

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After lunch, we parted with the rest of the group and drove to the end of the road.  Martina had hoped to see bison–the state bison herd roams there.  At this point we had seen none. As I drove along, a bison bull was strolling down the road.  Martina took this photo from the side window.  He was only a couple of meters from the car.

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We stopped and took a few more photos where the road ends. I have hiked from this point in the past, but not yesterday.

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After leaving the park, we headed to Silverton, Texas, to visit a coffee shop there which was recently featured in a Texas magazine as the place to go.

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I loved the murals and sculptures.  The owner is a sculptor and also a raptor trainer. The shop features coffee, desserts, unique clothing, and art.

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On the way back we stopped at the Palo Duro Canyon overlook/picnic area on highway 207.

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If you are in the Amarillo or Canyon, Texas, area, I highly recommend this day trip.

 

 

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Cutting Yucca


Yucca will take over if you let it.

 

Every summer after the blooms dry, I tackle them with long,

red-handled clippers and cut off  long stalks.

Not bothering to put on boots, I set out in black and grey Chacos,

cutting stalks in places unreachable by tractor.

 

I climb down to a rough area, open these long, red-handled clippers,

chop off the dead blossoms, then look down.

She lies there, her body slightly bigger than the size of my upper arm,

fat, not long.

A snake stretched out, only 1/8 inch from the front of my Chacos.

 

I look again.  Crap.  She’s a rattlesnake, one of those short,

stout prairie rattlers, perfectly blending with the grey and brown

rocks and soil.

 

Slowly, I inch backward, taking care not to fall on the steep slope.

When several feet away, I run to the barn, grab two shovels off their hooks,

run back.  She’s gone.  I search everywhere around.

 

I never find her.

 

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Day 127


Tan grass stretches miles and miles as far as eyes can see.

The water in the indigo bird bath evaporates in one day.

Playa lakes, full last summer, surrounded then in emerald grass, lay waterless.

Thirty-five miles an hour winds create fog-like clouds of dust across the horizon.

Grit, wind hurled, buffets cars and trucks driving down the long, straight highways.

Dust-fed sunrises and sunsets clad skies in orange, hot pink, vermillion, violet, mauve.

Day 127 with no measurable precipitation.

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Note:  I wrote this ten days ago.  That evening it rained .01 inches.  None since then.  We are approaching four months with just that .01 inches, nothing more.  Every time it warms and the winds come, the weather forecast mentions high fire danger.  All counties and state parks near here have burn bans.  March is a windy month.

Walking Among the Flowers


After feeding the horses, completing chores, a late afternoon walk to look for the last of the wild flowers took my fancy.  Here in the canyon country of the Panhandle of Texas, the majority of wildflowers are three colors:  yellow, white, purple.

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Butterflies feeding in the gay feather.

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At first I thought this might be bitterweed but now, not sure.

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Although this one and the last one may resemble each other, they are different.

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Looked up, the sun decided to shine–at my place four inches of rain in the last week and more than seven inches ahead of normal.

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Black foot daisies and prairie zinnias bloom from early spring almost until frost.

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Athena among the flowers.

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Prickly pear can grow almost anywhere.

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I almost missed this one hidden among the grass.

Volunteering at Palo Duro Canyon


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In front of the Visitor’s Center with Eduardo and Gaston, exchange students who lived with me several years ago.

 

Occasionally, I volunteer in the gift shop at Palo Duro Canyon, the second largest canyon in the United States.  If  individuals drove through Amarillo on I-40 through the endless flat prairie land and never ventured far, they would not even be able to dream up this canyon only twenty miles away.  To get there, you have to drive through more flat land, covered in wheat pasture, corn, milo, and the few remaining pastures of native grass.  You can see for miles; you can even see the taller buildings in Amarillo which are not all that tall.  Then, unexpectedly the land opens up, cliffs appear.  The first time you see it, you feel astonishment.  Nothing you see on the way there prepares you.  Years ago Battelle Memorial Institute sent me on a business trip to Amarillo.  People told me I should go see the big canyon.  I laughed to myself, thinking they must be just talking about a large arroyo.  When I finally did drive down, my mouth gaped in shock.  How could this be?

Palo Duro Canyon is still being created by water erosion.  The Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River (no I did not make this name up) runs through it.  Barely a running stream now with the drought, when a big summer thunderstorm blasts it fury, this river can rise ten feet almost immediately.  When it does this, campers remain stranded inside the park until the river calms down because to get into the park, depending how far in you go,  you have to literally cross the river repeatedly.  Because of this, they have decided to build bridges across the five water crossings.  Some of us who love driving through the water find this innovation unacceptable.

Today, I volunteered from 1-5.  People came in from Indiana, Minnesota, Ecuador, south Florida–on a trip to Californian and back, Ohio, Germany–a young woman working as a nanny here.  Usually, I meet even more people from other countries, especially European countries.  When I ask the Germans in particular how they know about this place, they tell me Palo Duro Canyon and its history is featured on the Internet there.  Here come all these people from far away and I have students who live a mere 25 miles away and have never seen it.  The family from Indiana came because their daughter wants to attend West Texas A & M University in Canyon, Texas–named after the canyon of course.  She told me she wants to bring her horse and WT is one of the few universities in the country where you can major in agriculture and participate in an extensive horse program.  She exuded excitement and enthusiasm.

In the midst of chatting with all these visitors, I noticed the unusual behavior of one woman in particular.  She had medium grey hair pulled back in a ponytail with hair a lighter shade of grey framing her face. All her clothes were dark grey.  She walked to the book area–we sell a lot of books, and started flipping slowly through several of them.  She picked them up as if they were delicate flowers or fragile glass.  She held them as if she thought they might break if she held them tight.  When she put one up to look at another, it appeared as if she barely touched them.   She never smiled, just looked and looked and looked.  She did not buy a book.