Aug 142010

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

I woke with the sun rising and found myself mostly in the shade. I did indeed have a good camping spot. Sadly, I packed up the tent and realized that this was my last morning to wake up to 60 degree weather. I will miss Colorado. Camping in this state has been quite perfect.

I got an early start on my drive and headed straight for Amarillo, TX and Palo Duro Canyon. I only made some stops along the way for free wifi and to stretch out, but for the most part I wanted to have some time in the canyon to hike and take photos. One of these days I’ll actually have to stop and do something in New Mexico rather than just driving through it.

I had reserved a spot in the park and of course when I showed up it didn’t matter since only about 3 other people were camping in the park. After my previous experiences, I figured it was better to reserve ahead. “The Grand Canyon of Texas” as it is known was very impressive. I’ve never been here before and what I thought would be a small canyon turned out to be 120 miles long, as much as 20 miles wide, and with a maximum depth of more than 800 feet. The elevation at the rim is 3,500 feet above sea level.

The park was formed by water erosion and therefore the road had several water crossings. I found it amusing that instead of mile markers to find yourself on the park map, the low water crossings were all numbered and served as landmarks.
As I drove over a few of the low water crossings, I saw some kids playing in the water. There had been rains the day before, so there was water. Some rain was expected today, but I hoped not overnight as I had no intention of putting the rain-fly on the tent as I’d overheat during the night.

I stopped at one trail and found that they put temperature gauges at the beginnings of the trail to let you know what you are getting in to. This one read 120 degrees. My car was only reading around 104, but I’m sure the 120 was closer to what it would feel like standing in the sun. I decided not to go hiking today. Instead I took photos from the road.

It was a dry heat, and certainly didn’t feel quite as miserable as the humidity I’m used to. I didn’t see any wildlife other than some far away birds and lots of bugs. The horse flies were enormous as were the ants.

I found my campsite and was happy to see the picnic bench was covered. I scouted out the area finding the ant piles and located where my tent would be. The ground was packed too hard for tent stakes, so I decided to just set up the tent before I went to bed and use my weight to keep it down rather than stakes. Plus I could see the rain clouds approaching and I didn’t want to get all my equipment all wet.

While the rains pounded heavily on the roof to the picnic bench, I had lunch and decided what to do the rest of the day. I noticed that before the rain was heavy, the light rain almost evaporated before it hit the ground. I could hear rain, but the ground never seemed to get wet.

The rains cooled off the temperature to around 90 and I drove around looking for photo opportunities and waiting for the golden hour before sunset. I bought tickets to the evening Texas Show in the canyon and then took interval sunset photos as the shadows elongated in the canyon.

The Texas Show was….well it was very Texas proud. The darkness did bring cooler weather to about 80 and the backdrop of the canyon wall created an impressive scene. Before the show began a deer wandered on stage and looked around at the audience. Everyone exclaimed and took out their cameras. I was amused. I enjoyed the clear, starry sky and the lighting on the canyon wall. However, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this show to anyone else. I was glad I went though because all the fireworks at the end and loud bangs through the show would have surely woken me up if I had been asleep in my tent.

I didn’t get back to my campsite until about 11:00pm and was slightly annoyed to see that someone else had grabbed my campsite. We are given campsite numbers when we check in, so no one should have been in the same spot as me, but I’m sure they saw the empty campground and just decided to pick one at random not thinking anyone else would turn up.

I set my camera up to take star photos while I scouted for a somewhat decent tent site. The sky was incredibly clear and starry with no light pollution at all. The stars even twinkled at me, and not just the flying satellites and planes. I saw several meteors, but not frequent enough for photos. I probably should have stayed up later to get a longer star trail, but I knew I was driving the next day, so I put away the camera and went to sleep.

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