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Llano Estacado and canyons

Jun 7, 2006
Exit. Stage West.

In the still of the night, the only sounds are the tent fly flapping in the plains wind, raindrops pattering above your head and your own breathing. In and out, the warmth of your breath brushes up past your nose, escapes out the lips of the warm down cocoon and into the darkness.

A night on the canyon floor is like having stepped through the Looking Glass, leaving the modern world on the caprock hundreds of feet above you, surrounded by a labyrinth of walls on fire and of rock that can speak, and immersed in world that takes you back fifty, hundreds, millions of years ago.

Coyotes yip and bark in the distance, or so you think; the wind tosses the sound like fallen leaves. They sound simultaneously close and far. Large wings swoosh in the darkness followed by four hoots as their signature. Naked mesquite and hackberry branches dance in the wind, their scratching broken only by the individual pattering of scattered raindrops.

You are grateful for the cozy dry warmth of your sleeping bag and the fabric of your tent, the only separation between you and the wet blackness. The slight edge of unfamiliarity feeds a sense of adventure inside making you feel alive, while the solitude of the night soothes you into a restful slumber.

You’re in a different world. One that has experienced changes that we can’t even imagine. Changes at times tumultuous or imperceptibly slow. You are laying on tiny pieces of an old mountain range over a thousand miles away, carried by water and wind to be deposited as mud and broken rock in an inland sea. Another upthrust from colliding continental plates changed the course of rivers, which, with the wind, gouged through millions of years of hardened mud, sand and clay to lay bare the history book in which you lay.

“Long ago, it is said,” as the Comanches would begin a story……. “long ago, the land was a sea of grasses bounded by a line of mountains. A great bird used his claws to reach the top of the mountains, but the earth gave way, falling to the base and carried away by water and wind. The angry earth rose and stood; more earth fell, reaching far and wide. The eagle tried to cling to the mountains, but as the earth began to tilt his claws dug deep and gouged the land. The mountains cried and their tears became the rivers that flowed down these gouges, making them deeper and wider. Here, they still bleed red. And the eagle flew away leaving the wind under its wings to stay.

But out of the depth of the mountains came the great beasts, the buffalo, and it is their thunder that we followed out of the North to this sea of grass and red gouges flowing with water.”

You are laying on scored and shattered rock from the old Rocky Mountains, eroded by water and wind, carried thousands of miles away to be deposited in basins. This is the foundation of the Southern Great Plains, the red earth that still travels east and south in three rivers. It is the same as the more well-known canyons in Utah and Colorado. But here in Texas, this island of slanting plateau, this irregular pancake on a plate, is known as the Panhandle, the Llano Estacado, the Horizontal Yellow, and its eastern edge, the Caprock Escarpment. Here, the earth is exposed to tell stories over the past 250 million years.

Geologists say that rocks can speak. Here in these canyons is a textbook with its pages laid wide open. It begs you to listen to its stories. Here is a window into Deep Time: geologic history, incidental history of life, and our perceptions of real and absolute time. More than that, these canyons, and plateau that they ring, can tell us about life as it was before the Shoshonean tribes left the deserts of Utah on horses to follow the buffalo, before the Europeans imposed their fear against all things wild, before the plows, poison and barbed wire extinguished the grasses and other native life, and thousands of cattle replaced the buffalo. Because, to understand the land and people as they are now, you have to know about their past. And the life that passed before them.

The first time I rode into one of the canyons of the Eastern Escarpment, I was awestruck. The bands of colors –red, yellow, lavendar, green- underneath a blue dome was like nothing else I’ve ever seen. Recently returning from Utah and New Mexico for two weeks, this was icing on the cake. The Great Daddy of Canyons in Arizona may be deeper, but this one captured me with its vibrant colors and sensuous shapes. The canyon floor made me feel like a hobbit in another world and I explored every nook and cranny I could for three days.

I didn’t want to leave; I was not satiated yet. I wanted to learn more stories and hike into the very depths and secret places the entire forty-mile length. I satisfied myself with hiking one day on the canyon floor and then on top of the rim and out to a tabletop that overlooked down the big gash in the earth. I felt like an eagle then and wished I could fly. There is energy there, as in all canyons, that is intoxicating.

This time I returned with the smaller bike, combining hiking and riding the back roads on the caprock, hopefully riding down into the canyon further east of the park. The weather was not entirely cooperative in reaching that goal, but my time there was enjoyable just the same (except for riding in chilling wet wind and damp gear).

This time I learned more about the caprock; the land, ecology, people and places. It added another dimension to my cumulative experiences there. In some ways it was disheartening, in other ways stirred admiration. Above all, the four days in the region increased my understanding of both the land and the people, the natural and human history, and made it all more real than the myths that are perpetuated in and outside of Texas.

Most people complain that the Llano Estacado is flat, boring and empty. It is anything but. The region boasts a unique natural history and ecology that can teach us many lessons. It can also teach us about ourselves. Even Charles Goodnight, the entrepreneurial cattlebaron that decimated hundreds of native wildlife off the high prairie, was eventually captivated by the canyons and devoted himself in his later years to restoring and conserving the land and the beasts that roamed it before his cows.

Like the region in Big Bend, the wildness on the Great Plains and in its canyons tended to unsettle people; they feared anything wild. People still do fear it. They are unable to see the beauty of it, even amidst the harshness and danger. But that’s part of being alive. We don’t have to conquer everything to prove we are alive. We adapt in co-existence.

Dan Flores, a historian of the West and a native of West Texas (although he wasn’t born there), eloquently comments about differences in perception “…the plains hunters somehow recognized what we have such difficulty with: our search is not really for the meaning of the universe but, rather, for the euphoria of knowing that we are alive and a part of it.

Like Dan, there are those of us that cannot let it go. I’m one of them, too.

My travelogue will be abridged to save everyone the pain of reading a long narrative. But when I ride, on either the blue endurance steed or the little wild green pony, I travel to immerse myself in the country I travel through. So my stories and photographs are what I see through my mind’s eye.

Jun 7, 2006
Exit. Stage West.
All in a Name

"On the road again...."


You can get there from here. Now. Less then one hundred years ago, getting lost on the Llano and in the canyons was easy and common.

Lacking the most basic form of orientation and association, landmarks, the long flat horizon of the plateau seemed to our mock human deficiencies in sense of direction. Nowadays we rely too much on modern technology to guide us places; through the mazes of city streets, on crisscrossing highways, and dirt tracks and trails. Back then, all they had as guides were landforms and the stellar bodies, the sun, moon and stars.

The open and vast expanse of the Llano has a psychological effect on people. Spaniards crossing it from the pueblo villages in New Mexico used Indian guides. Like the natives in Maine who will tell you “You can’t get theyah from heyah” and smirk after you turn away, many Indian guides would purposely lead their ‘sheep’ astray, sometimes in circles. The most famous case is the Indian that guided Coronado’s bunch astray for his own purpose of returning back to his people from which he was captured. Upon discovering his ruse, Coronado had him executed.

Natives of the lands bordering the Llano figured out the simplest way to ‘get there from here’ was to use the sun’s path across the sky and follow the trails of their four-footed friends. All the animals, large and small, knew were water and food was. Since the Indians needed water, too, and the animals were their food, they followed their trails across the expanse of waist-high grass.

For some reason –European-imprinted lack of instinct? Cultural denial? Stupidity?- the Spaniards and most of the Euroamericans couldn’t figure out the same method of navigation. Oddly enough, the French were the most adept at traveling and living in the wilds of the New America. They also had fewer cultural taboos in fraternizing and even integrating themselves with the native population. They were by far the best scouts, guides and trappers. (But they also disliked other Europeans)

Because of their distrust of the natives (with good reason), the Spaniards and those that followed adopted several strategies of finding their way across the Llano. Regardless, many still went insane or died. (reports exist from early journals and diaries where Spanish soldiers went insane from the empty expanse of the plains and the sudden contrast of the canyons)

Myths are born of facts that get diluted and altered along the course of time and human exchange. Thus history has two faces: what actually occurred and accounts that are passed along from person to person, generation to generation over time and distance. Several anecdotes are recorded of how travelers found their way across the plains. Of course, no one really knows if they are true or not. To add salt and sugar to this, these stories became the explanation offered for how the Southern High Plains was known as the Llano Estacado.

No one really knows how the great pancake of grass was named. Or by whom. A perfect example of a social meme (Richard Dawkin’s term for a contagious idea exponentially passed from person to person, like a virus, eventually passing through the cultural and social sphere to become the norm, or, regardless of the truth).

Llano is Spanish for ‘flat’ or ‘level’. It is also the word for an expanse of level grassy land, the plains (derived from French). That’s as descriptive as one can get. Now the fun starts. Estacado is Spanish for a ‘stake’, or ‘stay immobile’ (estacar). The combination of the Staked Plains, or Llano Estacado, is often offered as the origin. The question is: Where did that come from?

The myths are many, most theoretically originate with the New Mexicans and Spaniards. Captain R. B. Marcy reported, "I was told in New Mexico that many years since the Mexicans marked out a route with stakes across this Plain where they found water; and hence the name by which it is known throughout Mexico of El Llano Estacado or Staked Plains." (Marcy's Explorations of Red River)

H.P. Thrall, in his 1876 book, History of Texas, wrote: “It is conjectured that in 1734, when the fathers from Santa Fe visited San Saba to establish a fort and mission they set up stakes with buffalo heads on them, so that others might follow Estacado to the plateau crossed." (Neither of these explanations jive with dates/facts)

In Coronado's journal of his trip in 1541, he writes of crossing a great plain "where there were a great many oxen with bent backs, and small animals living in burrows in the ground, and that the Indians killed many of these oxen and made tents of their skins." He further writes that "there were no trees by which to make their way, and in order that they might be able to find their way back, they built great heaps of ox dung to mark their way. " This may have given rise to the prevailing name in New Mexico that on an expedition to the Indian country they carried stakes and drove them in the ground.

One account published in the Dallas paper:
"The Indians crossing into New—then a part of Old -Mexico in any kind of weather used neither guide nor compass, but the Mexicans attempting the same in buffalo hunting and trading expeditions would invariably get lost and frequently perish. To avoid this they drove down a stake estaca-at the edge of the plain, another further on, from which the first could be plainly seen, and so on, ad infinitum, so that they could retrace their path in case they found no water… Of course after the trails by the principal water holes became distinctly worn the stake system was discontinued, but the name survived. I was told this by an old Mexican living at Puerto de Luna (Doorof the Moon) and who had crossed the Plains long ere Stephen F. Austin ever set foot on Texas soil."

One alternative and valid explantation: “Yet another theory is that it was so named from the fact that there are high escarpments on three sides of it, which at a distance have the appearance of huge fortifications.

It is suggested that the word from which our Staked Plains is derived is not the one that was originally used. That instead of Llano Estacado it ought to be Llano Estacada. Estacado is the perfect participle of estacar, which means staked plains. Estacada in the Spanish language means a palisade, and it is supposed that the term was used in reference to the Staked Plains in the accommodated sense in which we use the term palisade in the English language.

It is supposed that the two words became confounded and changed at some later period, and that some one in attempting to explain the origin of the then used term estacado invented the theory of putting stakes across the Plains as guides.”
(Report on the Geography, Topography, and Geology of the Llano Estacado or Staked Plains with Notes on the Geology of the Country West of the Plains. W. F. Cummins.)

Finally, the Navajos used a name associated more with the bioregion than human activity: the Horizontal Yellow, a landscape characterized by tall yellow grass stretching out in all four directions and beyond the horizons.

Because of my penchant for learning the origins, etymology and psychology of names, especially those applied to places and landmarks, you will see comments about them throughout most of my travelogues. Or maybe it is because of my inherent inability to remember names (what I refer to as Name Amnesia) and that they reveal much about a culture and people. If you read enough of my writing you’ll learn why.

Now, in a cage of metal, powered by an engine fed by dead dinosaurs and plants, our bikes safely secured on our ‘wagon’, we rode on manicured trails long since covered with hard surfaces unlike those used by deer, wolves, bison and native peoples. But our penchant for stakes –street signs, telephone posts, billboards, you’ve seen them all- remain. Over a hundred years later, they do the same things; they just look different.

Life goes by quickly at seventy miles an hour. It sometimes assumes an abstract or surreal effect. Like you are watching a movie and not really experiencing what you see. Our goal that afternoon and evening was to get to the park as fast as possible. We knew we would be setting up camp in the dark. So, like a little kid, my face was often gawking out the front or side windows. Finally I couldn’t restrain myself and grabbed the camera, rolled the window down to the windy cold and shot life as it rolled by.


Sometimes the land seems separate from the sky when you are speeding down the highway. Clouds and stellar bodies stay still while the land rolls along underneath it.


For a period in Texas, actually most of the South, the land was carpeted by white fields of cotton. Reminded of snow, it's an oxymoron for my Yankee brain that responds to white landscapes with a chilling shiver. In north Texas, cotton still carpets vast stretches.


Remnants of our frontier still remain: the railroads. Transporting anything long distances on iron wheels and rails, it still seems the most logical and efficient use of resources. Other countries make extensive use of their railroad system for transporting public (people) and commodities. Perhaps we should re-evaluate our reliance on tractor trailers and the highways, using them only for connecting the dots where the RRs can't. A common landmark, if you will, of north Texas: the railroads and cars full of more dead dinosaurs and plants: coal.


I love going through and stopping in Small Town America. You see the most amazing things and meet such wonderful people. The real people of this country. One of the many things I look closely at is the local architecture. I caught this one out the window at over 40 mph. The two people I think most of when I examine these buildings are Chuck and Teeds. Although Chuck's interest is primarily courthouses, I think he shares the same curiosity I do, and I know Tony is an architect involved with preservation. So I have a few shots just for you two.


No road trip -on a bike or in a cage- can go without the obligatory bug-spattered viewpoint.

Aug 11, 2008
DFW, Texas
One observation in those great trip shots: One thing the early peoples didn't see, was that shadow of a truck and trailer.;-)

My travels also take me to the older style buildings. Besides my historical interest in "Main Street USA", my fireguy interest is in the education about killer buildings.:eek2: Neat report.
Jun 7, 2006
Exit. Stage West.
Trails Through Time

“Geology loves a canyon the way all the world loves a lover.” –Dan Flores


All my classmates were tripping over long black gowns, balancing funny square hats on their heads and sweating several hours sitting in chairs listening to long speeches and shaking hands. I was hiking and camping that weekend in one of the few canyons the state of New York can claim: Zoar Valley Gorge. This was repeated twice during subsequent higher-education graduations, albeit in other canyons. (Much to the dismay of my mother. After the second time, she gave up.)

Zoar Valley gorge:

Letchworth State Park (Genesee River gorge where I spent many summers)

‘Canyon’, derived from the Spanish ‘canon,’ -a long narrow valley formed by a river- is commonly a regional word of the south and west for deep gashes in the earth; in the east they are known as ‘gorges’. (Some of them quite gorgeous, I might add.) The Genesee River and Zoar Valley gorges are the largest in the New York. A section of the former, in Letchworth State Park, is referred to as the “Grand Canyon of the East”. I guess every state –or nearly every state- has to have a ‘Grand Canyon.’ Oregon, with its old and large rivers and mountain ranges, claims several ‘Grand Canyons.’ Texas has one –Palo Duro Canyon- that is second only to the Great Granddaddy of American Canyons, The Grand Canyon of Arizona.

I spent many days as a child and young adult hiking, exploring and camping in New York canyons. I don’t know why, nor do I even attempt to explain, but I have an innate and addictive penchant for canyons. They’re all Grand Canyons to me. They draw me like a thirsty wolf to water. So it was with anticipation that I returned to that giant gash in the earth wearing ribbons of color.

Hundreds of canyons and breaks comprise the three serrated edges of Llano Estacado Escarpments –the Mescalero, Canadian and Caprock escarpments. The extreme contrast –the endless flat relief of the uplifted plateau and the almost chaotic deep serrations along the eastern escarpment, where the land drops hundreds of feet below- unsettles many people while tantalizing others. All of the landforms along the plateau’s edges were formed by water: canyons, buttes, mesas, arroyos, pinnacles, columns, and ravines. Water, gravity and wind are the sculptors; erosion, their brushes. Their paint: millions of years of rock formation.

Without delving into a long boring description of the geology of the Llano Estacado, I may point out only a few prominent features as we walk along the canyon bottom and up various landforms.

Arriving and setting up camp in the darkness, I was eager to see the 'old familiar faces' outside when I woke and crawled out of the tent. Fortress Cliff, right out the tent door.


Our campsite wasn't too bad, considering being set up by headlamps.



This was my favorite spot: somewhat isolated from the rest of the campsites, the farthest from the road, next to a trail but separated by shrubs and cactus, and nearly butting a cliffside. The older gentlemen with a trailing long white beard in the ranger station nodded and smiled when I asked for, without hesitation, the camp site number. I explained it was my favorite spot, where I camped during my first stay and subsequent overnight trips are like pilgrimages to me. "It's available and it is yours!" he said.

I immediately noted the multiple gopher mounds, even a new hole, and that the ground had eroded since the two years I was here last. Then I remembered the stream near-by; this is bottom land and the water can reclaim it any time it wants.

Next: hiking the canyon.
Jun 7, 2006
Exit. Stage West.
Palo Duro Canyon

"It's absurb how much I love this country." - Georgia O'Keeffe

"Now that we’d confirmed Palo Duro’s existence, we found ourselves wanting to keep it a secret." -Jim Atkinson, New York Times


There's two perspective of canyons: in the bottoms and on the upper rims. On the rim and looking down, you feel as though you are looking into a big diorama built by a giant. Scales and distances seem so uncomprehending that they're abstract and distorted. "Are those little green dots down there trees?"

In the bottoms of canyons, you are a little hobbit in a land of giants. Trees, grasses, flowers, and burbling streams soften the starkness of the hard walls towering over you. Craning your neck up, searching for the vast forever horizon you know is up there. Somewhere. It's like another world.

Palo Duro was the ancestral camping grounds for the Comanches, many times joined by the Kiowas (but never the Apaches). Thousands of bison and thousands of Indian ponies grazed the canyon floor. Here was where the arid and wind-swept high prairie relented to trees, shrubs, and other plants watered by streams and rivers, and where all life was sheltered from north and western winds. In many ways, it was a sanctuary.

I decided that today it was going to be my sanctuary, too.

After camp coffee, we had a lazy breakfast and prepared for a day-long trek through the canyon floor. It was fun to share this place with someone who had never visited it before.

Just a few feet from the campsite was a shortcut to the Rio Grande Trail which winds along a cliff side, along one of the many streams that feeds the river that sculpted the canyon. Here were my old friends, prickly pear cactus (keep in mind to watch where you squat in the dark ;-) ), mesquite trees, christmas cholla, lovely cottonwoods and tall grasses.


The path offers an intimate exposure with the typical cliff geology, the red Mars-like clay that is the basic foundation and oldest soils of the Great Plains.


You can see thin white bands running the length of the cliffs. This is gypsum, hard compacted calcium. In places the bands of gypsum are wide enough that in the distance it seems as though a giant scratched a fat white chalk line as he walked next to the cliffs. Where the trail has eroded sections of these layers, you can pick up a piece and see closely how they are white brittle vertical layers.


Landmarks (or signs) of coyotes were everywhere. A tasty treat for many of the wildlife in the canyon are the fruit of the christmas cholla, a cactus that looks like unchecked growth of green pencils with thorns. Although I didn't test them to confirm, the red fruits are supposed to be tasty. Even the Indians used to eat them. Plants evolved to disseminate their seed and thus propagate by making the seed indigestible. The trails and roads were spotted with regurgitated blobs of red seed deposited by coyotes and what ever else ate them. Even the bird poop contained red seeds. Several of the coyotes 'offerings' were still wet, indicating the distressed stomach that threw the mess up had passed on the same trail just before we did.

I remember during my first hike in the canyon the other offerings by coyotes. You can't hike more than a few hundred feet and not see coyote scat in the middle of the path. In fact, I wondered if they played a game on us humans by trying to tease us or make us scared of their presence. Maybe they just don't like squatting down in the prickly stuff just as much as we don't. It didn't scare me, and I found myself giggling once imagining the coyotes as the mischievous creatures of Indian myths laying down 'tracks' to turn us from their territory.

If you look closely, you can see what nearly all the deposits indicate: rabbit for the last meal.


The day was mostly overcast, threatening rain, except for an occasional peek of the sun through parting clouds. Not a good day for photographing the contrasting colors, but all the same, still lovely. I really enjoy the tall grasses as the foreground for the colorful and majestic canyon walls.


There's always something to fixate on. The colored layers, bands of limestone, the caprock, slickrock, it's all fantastic.


We ran into a few small groups of people that stopped to chat. Including two parents from Michigan with their son, an entomologist in graduate school and his girlfriend, an ornithologist. Nice to chat with fellow biologists. We also met (twice) a couple from Holland, now living in Houston, and their charming companion, Ginger. She carried her own pack and delighted in it. She was a real sweetie.


Several mountain bikers where tacking the trail. All the time we kept thinking how nice and fun it would be to take the little 250cc's on this trail. It was hard not to think about.

Next: Man, am I out of shape......
Jun 7, 2006
Exit. Stage West.
Everybody loves a hoodoo. A what?

The famous landmark of Palo Duro State Park and the canyon itself, is the Lighthouse, a tall hoodoo on a shelf. Standing naked like a beacon, it attracts visitors to the park, motivating them to get out of their cars/RVs/trucks and walk in the canyon.

Hoodoos are tall vertical spires of rock. The base is usually a soft sedimentary rock which is topped by a slab or mound of harder rock. Water and wind erode the perimeter of the column's softer rock while the hard rock on top offers protection from the elements. Imagine an upright finger balancing a match book on its tip. Both made of rock. That's a hoodoo, and the Lighthouse is a big one.

Having seen hundreds of unbelievable hoodoos in Utah, Palo Duro's shining red glory doesn't do it for me. But other landforms nearby do.

Nearly four miles passed by under our feet when we approached the hardest section of the hike: a steep slope up a cliffside. I recall the climb barely challenging the last time I was there. This time, I was out of breath halfway up and I was painfully reminded that my right ankle/foot/leg has not fully recovered. But I bit the bullet (wincing) and climbed up anyway; nothing was going to stop me short of a bolt of lightening.


The steep and sandy trail is in the foreground. Yes, it's there. Now look closely and you can see the trail from the middle to the right background in the photo. That's on the canyon floor.

The trail led to the left and the base of the Lighthouse. That's where everyone goes. But me. I followed a deer path to the right and below, alongside the canyon rim and behind the tall hoodoo. The views below from the canyon rim are awesome. You can see the ancient river that sculpted this canyon: the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River.

The canyon floor along the river was inviting and I wanted to fly down like an eagle and explore or climb down. I had to be content then with gazing down and imagining the herds of bison and hundreds of Indian lodges and tepees. 'Some day,' I told myself, 'some day I want to hike down in there.'



Behind the lighthouse, hidden in a shallow draw is what I call 'Little Moab.' It's like a ghost town of little hoodoos, all sizes and shapes. This area was more enticing to me than the park's celebrity.


A hoodoo on the right in the photo:

Close up and personal with the sedimentary rock of hoodoo columns:

The sky was threatening rain, cold rain. Time to head back.
Now for the descent; it was worse than the climb up.


Scenes like this just grab me and make me want to stay. Up in the blue sky was a flock of geese, their honking like music in the canyon bottoms.


On the way back, we were nearly the only humans on the trail. Despite the cold temps and brief shower, it was all good.


In all, we hiked close to (if not slightly more than) ten miles round trip. My foot and ankle were swollen inside my hiking boot; a camp chair and blanket were my rewards at home base. (plus four Advil)

I slept like a rock that night. Even through the rain. Sort of......

Next: Am I really riding in this stuff??
Jun 7, 2006
Exit. Stage West.
Fortress Cliff and Claude

The sky had threatened rain several times during our hike. Luckily it waited until we were warm and snug in our mummy bags. I think all the quirks with the new 15 degree down bag are known by now. This was my third time camping with it. The only complaint I have is no collar inside. My neck was chilled the first night, which meant the rest of me was chilled, except for my feet. I used my fleece neck warmer in place of a collar. It helped but it still isn't as good. I am contemplating making one and adding it to the inside of the bag.

It started with a pitter-patter on the tent, and then it increased in frequency and volume. Then density. I hoped that the tent was well waterproofed and, unlike my little tent, had a high water-repellent tub floor. The plastic tarp underneath helped keep it dry and the big shipping blanket on the floor inside added insulation.

I woke several times in the night with the wind gusting and the rain pelting the tent. With the cords drawn tight around my face, I was almost literally cocooned inside. Exhausted from the hike and lack of sleep, the sun beat me to the outdoors. Admittedly, I didn't want to leave my cozy warm cocoon.

After pulling on several layers of clothes, I sought the deer path off to the side and into the mesquites. I noted that patches of ground were chaotically disturbed. It reminded me of javalina digs where they grub for roots and eat cactus. I shook my head; there aren't any javalinas here. Are there?

After breakfast we debated the plan for the day. It was windy, cold and dreary. The damp air hung like a thin translucent curtain everywhere. I knew that the canyon floor is sheltered from some of the weather on top, but not how much. We decided to test the tabletop above and see how the weather is. So the bikes were readied and we got ourselves ready in anticipation of who-knows-what.

I wore lots of layers. Over long johns, I added another pair of wool long john bottoms and thick wool socks. On top of long john shirt, a long sleeved shirt, a T-shirt, a thick fleece sweater with windstopper fabric, a waffled textile Fox race shirt and the Shift enduro jacket. I could hardly move.

I added a balaclava, fleece neck warmer and silk gloves inside my winter gloves. It was only until everything was ready except for my outer Shift jacket when I discovered it was wet; it was rained on during the night. Starting out badly, I was not hopeful, but willing to give it my best.

So the kid in the red and black two-piece cold suit somehow got her leg over the bike seat and steered it out onto the park road. Already I was cold from the dampness. We rode up the park road and the moment we began the ascent on the wiggly twisty road, everything fell away to enjoying the ride.

Up on top, we discovered that the weather was like the bottom; except ten-fold. I'm not sure how I withstood the blasting cold and wind riding on FM 1154 at 60 mph, cutting through the damp air in autopilot. What seemed like an hour later, we turned south on Goatherd Rd, a dirt county road.

Most of the county roads up there are dirt, not gravel. The red dirt roads seem straight as arrows, crisscrossed by another straight red dirt road. Most riders would find it monotonous and boring, but something about those roads I liked. What, I'm not sure.


Old worn fences, some dilapidated, line the dirt roads. The scene is in two planes split by a line of horizon: more fences, more grass, more cows, a windmill here and there, and sky. Endless sky. If you stop and turn around 360 degrees, its much the same. But not the same.

Maybe it's the dirt roads. I grew up riding my bicycle on dirt, later an old 150cc on dirt roads littered with leaves: logging roads. I like dirt around my feet more than I do concrete. And I liked the color. On a good day, I could have ridden for miles and not been bored.


Goatherd Road degraded into a two-track. The short grazed fields became tall yellow grasses interspersed with a freshly plowed fields. A windmill speared the sky here and there. Then a curve and gravel surface. And a gate.


I wasn't expecting what appeared: Fortress Cliff Ranch. Here was the entry to the new addition to Palo Duro State Park. Nearly 3,000 acres of tabletop bordering the north boundary of the park overlooks one of the most magnificent and majestic cliffs in the Southwest: Fortress Cliff. From below daybreak shines smiling on the top of the cliff, light moving down and peeling darkness away to reveal bands of gleaming colors. Nothing man-made can excel over this natural light show.

Fortress Cliff Ranch, also known as Palo Duro Canyon Ranch, contains six miles of cliff rim overlooking the canyon and the park. Previous owners, the Gaynors, invested substantial time and finances in clearing invasive brush species on the prairieland to encourage restoration of natural prairie grasses. Coupled with less intensive cattle grazing management, a diversity of wildlife has returned to the acreage: blue quail, bobwhite quail, Rio Grande turkey, bobcat, mule deer, white-tailed deer, coyote, roadrunners, skunks, rabbits and songbirds. A three-acre lake stocked with bass also provides water for other wildlife. Tub Springs drains down to the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River in the Park.

Wiley wanted to stay:

Concern rose that housing development would spoil the fragile ecology and views when the ranch property was put on the market. The Trust for Public Land (TPL) bought the ranch and deeded it to the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife to be included into the neighboring park. However, a TDPW spokesperson announced in September that the department plans to sell all but 8oo acres of the ranch. Along with the sale would be the large stone, timber and stucco home and lodge. A conservation easement added would supposedly prohibit further development. "We would sell it to someone who would be a steward," the spokesperson said. "We just don't have the resources to take care of all of it."


Eventually the six-miles of rim frontage will be accessible to the public via hiking and equestrian trails. The TDPW has yet to develop a management plan, but intends to utilize existing park resources for accessing the new acreage. I have not found any further news of their initial intents to sell portions of the ranch. I am hoping other organizations will step up and help preserve it to remain in the park system or in a conservation and preservation program with public access.


Unable to pass the gate, we turned around and retraced our route to pavement. We decided to find warmth and hot liquids considering how cold and damp we were. My upper body muscles were aching from shivering and my nose was running like a faucet. So we headed east to Hwy 207 and the short distance north into Claude.


Turning onto Hwy 287 we pulled into the square, a common component of many small Texas towns. Courthouses are not required for town squares, but Claude did; it was the Armstrong County seat.



I photographed this one for Chuck, thinking he may not have this in his catalog. Just as we were pulling our stiff legs off the bike, a soft-spoken older man came to us to invite us inside the closed courthouse to warm up. Overwhelmed by his hospitality, I apologetically declined explaining we were searching for hot coffee. We were directed to two places in town that might be open, one I recalled seeing as we passed by.

People are curious where we are from, and what we are doing riding small bikes in the cold damp weather, so I explained we were visiting the park and exploring the area. I asked him how far the town of Goodnight was west of here. He agreed that would be a good place to visit for historical value and it was only 15 miles to the east.

After thanking him again and photographing the courthouse, I noticed Claude’s stakes in history. Along the north side of the square and the courthouse is a parade of Texas Historical Markers.


I rolled my eyes; again, here was a drive-by-but-don’t-experience-it historical opportunity for the public. You can read about it from your car window, but you aren’t ‘there’. Like a ‘you can’t get there from here’ history non-experience. I’d rather find and visit the places noted in history, not just read about it. The trend for counties and county seats to lump all their historical markers in one place is indicative of our ‘one-stop shop’ society. The Walmarts of history. Few people actually visit the places anymore and immerse themselves in the history of then and now. Not me; I like to find them and live them. Exploring them on a motorcycle is a bonus.

Now here is a good one. From what I've read and heard, this continues to be a topic of amusement locally and far.


Finding the local hangout, a café tucked into a small building, we had hot liquids (they didn’t serve coffee! What’s up with that?!), warmth and food. A local old timer came in and it was if we were locals, too, chatting, laughing, exchanging stories.

When I mentioned trying to find Goodnight’s first ranch house, called the Old Home Place, he shook his head and (déjà vu); “You can’t get there.” I almost filled in the last part aloud “…from here.” He explained that it is on private property, out in the middle of hard country that even a horse has trouble getting to. He related how his father helped put the historical marker in the ground many decades ago. He was a boy then and begged his father to let him go, too. But his Pa said “No!” and that was the end of that. As a young man, he ‘punched cows’ on horseback for the rancher that owns the property. I could see the nostalgic glimmers in his eyes and hear it in his voice.

Loving these old stories, I urged him on, but he changed the subject by asking what I do. When I told him I am a molecular biologist, he said, “A mol…..nuculer….whatever biologist? I can’t even say that! You are probably the only mol…..what, how do you say that? biologist in this town and I’ve ever met!” We all had a good laugh at that, he laughing the hardest.

We chatted more about local history and changes over the years. His family has been in that area since the 1880’s; “Some things have changed, some things haven’t.” He also mentioned visiting the town of Goodnight; Charles claims a big handle on history in this area and in north Texas. That town, too, has undergone changes. Some I would see for myself in a bit.

Exchanging handshakes and bidding farewells, he and his son-in-law departed and we finished our lunch. Refreshed, we were ready to tackle the elements and road again.

Next: Goodnight, Mr. Goodnight.
Feb 13, 2008
Love these kind of reports. Roaming about in the canyons of Texas, Arizona, Wyoming and Colorado really made me feel so nothing in the time zone of geology. Not even a spark from the weakest flint. ;-(. A very humbling experience.
Thanks for sharing your journey and insites with us.
Jun 7, 2006
Exit. Stage West.
Goodnight, Mr. Goodnight


Goodnight, Mr. Goodnight.

Goodnight, Texas. A ghost town on the Texas High Plains.
A place of many ghosts from the days before state parks, before paved highways and fast food joints serving hamburgers, before steel wheels and whistling coal engines, before the wolf, elk and bison dissipated into time, and even before the Comanche rode down into the canyons on their ponies.

Once a community of ranchers, farmers, pioneers, even college students; cowboys, railroad hands, the post masters, ministers and shop keepers. Today, cars, trucks and tractor-trailers speed through the middle on a straight paved ribbon; trains still transport coal and cotton on old rails. Few drivers see the two-foot long, 5-inch high green sign on the road, “Goodnight.” Fewer see anything here at all but another glimpse of emptiness outside their windows as they listen to the stereo, talk or try to stay awake, wondering ‘How far is it to the next city?’

But if you know what to look for, if you’ve read any of the Panhandle history, if you stand on the land they were born, worked and died on….. if you stop and listen, you can sense what it was like one, maybe even two hundred years ago.

The town is not noted for much beyond the legend for whom it was named, Charles Goodnight. He was the driving force behind the community. After selling his share of the JA Ranch and dabbling in a few other ventures, he built a house a mile or so from the edge of the Llano for he and his wife to live in their late years. Here on his new ranch the couple made notable contributions to the local community, the ranching world and our country.


Charles is a legend. But he wasn’t one to regal in it. In fact, he avoided publicity and he was known for his cantankerous nature. He didn’t suffer fools and, though he didn’t like violence, he was not hesitant to use it when necessary.

He possessed an uncanny sense of direction for which he relied upon as a scout for the rangers and during the Civil War.

“It was the scout’s business to guide the company under all conditions. Thus, above all things, the scout and plainsman had to have a sense – an instinct – for direction. He had to have the faculty of never needing a compass. With the point of destination fixed in his mind, a thorough plainsman could go to it as directly in darkness as in daylight, on a calm, cloudy day as well as in bright sunshine with the wind blowing steadily from one quarter. ….. I never had a compass in my life. I was never lost.”

But it takes more than just being born with a compass in your head:
“The first requirement is that by merely looking at the country the scout should be able to judge accurately in what direction water lies and the approximate distance to it. He should be familiar with every grass and shrub that indicates water. He should be able to tell by watching the animals, if animals there be, whether they are going to or from water.

The scout and plainsman should know the significance of the vegetation as well as the animal life of the country he ranges. By both, but mainly by observing the plant life, he usually estimates his elevation, and certainly his approximate latitude and longitude.”
(recollections and interviews with J. Evetts Haley)

Through observation and patience, Charles became intimate with the country and range he traveled upon and lived on. He had a respect for it and all that lived on it, four- and two-legged. He learned and strove to work with it, not against it.

Known by many names –Old Man Goodnight, Colonel Goodnight, and Leopard Coat (name given by the Kiowas) – Charles was a man of integrity. “What is important today about Charles Goodnight is the man’s unshakable belief in right and wrong. He lived by a code, which most people on the frontier did. And that’s almost unheard of today,” said actor Barry Corbin.

Corbin has performed a one-man play, Charles Goodnight’s Last Night, since 1996. "It's a story about a man who is a symbol of what we need to be reminded about where we came from. This is a man of absolute loyalty and a man of absolute conviction about right and wrong, north and south."

And you can see that still in the descendants of the animals that he preserved from extirpation – the bison and the Longhorn breed, now living in Texas parks. He echoes in our time with his name on honors and awards to outstanding family ranches, roads and trails, and stories and legends about his deeds and quotes. He left his imprint on a large area of Texas, as well as Colorado and New Mexico.

The closest to his heart was his wife of 56 years, Mary Ann Dyer Goodnight. Often called “The Mother of the Panhandle,” she was the only woman on those wild plains for many years. She bottle-fed orphaned bison calves, helped restore turkeys to the plains, tended to injured and sick ranch hands, and shot a dose of civilization into Charles, the two of them building and supporting the Goodnight college and the community church.

On the south side of Hwy 287 in the town-that-was Goodnight stands a historical marker. You can pull up and read it out the window of your car. Or you can get out and look further south at the house he had built for he and his wife, Mary.

At this spot in the early 1900’s was a busy working ranch with Charles doing as much work as his aging body would let him. He and his hands built stout fences and corrals for his herd of 200 (sometimes more) bison, his Longhorns, some elk, the crosses he tried with cows and bison, the turkey flock and flowering trees and shrubs.


“His interests were still those of fine cattle, buffalo, cattalo, and native game – the life of the soil……And here was an old man, this extremely sensitive nature, contemptuous of sham, hypocrisy, and littleness, settled himself behind the mask of a brusk exterior to watch the race go by.” (J. Evetts Haley, Charles Goodnight: Cowman and Plainsman)

To immerse yourself a bit further, turn south down the gravel county road and pull along the shoulder about a quarter of a mile. Behind a long wrought iron fence is his house. Donated to the Armstrong County Museum in 2005, the house along with 30 acres is being restored in part with a $100,000 donation from the Texas Historical Foundation.




The bison seen here is reminiscent of Goodnight’s contribution to saving the species. He was very active in the American Bison Society.


Now all that is left of the ranch are run down fences and a broken paved road that turns to gravel within a few hundred feet.


Near the end of the public county road are two ranches: one on the east side, Goodnight Springs Ranch, and the other lays between us and the road going south down into the canyon. Private and gated road.


Wiley likes Mr. Goodnight, but, like most ranch and cattlemen, I'm not too sure Mr. Goodnight would have liked the likes of Wiley the Coyote.


Admitting defeat, we turned around and headed north of Hwy 287 to find the Goodnight cemetery. Again, down a county road and long gravel road up a hill, we found a part of history that made it all more real.



Mary died in 1926 and was buried in the community church. Charles was laid to rest beside her in 1929, with her brothers and other family flanking each side of the Goodnight couple. The Goodnight’s had no children, but in essence, they bore a legend and code that would be known throughout the West. Even to this day, many stop to pay their respects and give honors. For a few moments, I stood and gave my own; “Goodnight, Mr. Goodnight. I hope that you can be proud of what you left behind and know that a portion of the land you loved is in good caring hands.”


Other markers also leave their imprint upon the place.



The hilltop proffered a view of the tabletop, as far as the eye could see. There is a serenity on that hilltop that is almost tangible. It was a very wise choice for a cemetery, and appropriate for the Goodnights' final resting place.


One final farewell and it was time to make the long cold ride back to camp.


Dec 4, 2006
Toro, LA
WOW !!

TexasShadow, you have elevated the quality of adventure posts up to Advrider standards. I expect to see links to this thread on Advrider. Thanks for taking the time to share!!!
Jun 7, 2006
Exit. Stage West.
Campfires in the Canyon

(A post was typed yesterday on a PC at work during lunch. Windows had a major cyberfart and crashed; I lost it all. Losing steam -aka on autopilot lately due to work/etc stress- not all of it is duplicated here, I'm sure to everyone's relief. This is an abridged version.) p.s. Windows sucks; macs rooool.


It was time to head back to camp. With one last look around the town that time had forgotten, we headed back to the highway. As my wheels touched the highway pavement, I transcended through a hundred years of the past to that moment. For several minutes riding on Hwy 287 my mind had to catch up with my body in motion and leave Goodnight -and the era- behind.


As I rode back in the chilling air, thoughts tumbled through my helmet (as they usually do). Many times I'm still back in time -decades, hundreds, even perhaps a thousand years- and I'm caught in between being there and being here. Like I had just visited some Eight Dimension and seen what had been, what was to come, and what will be, all at once. Many times I'm still stuck or tormented with events and emotions of being there and being here. Then I step back in my own mind and intellectually resolve the history, now and the future.

You can read all the text books, academic papers, popular non-fiction and fiction, historical markers, and listen to countless stories. But to understand, comprehend, develop empathy and 'know' to our limits, you have to stand on the land or in the water. You have to 'be there' - surrounded by the same sky, soil, vegetation, smells, sounds, animals, as much as you can immerse yourself in. It is physical as much as it is mental or intellectual to experience history. It is sensory, sometimes even sensual.

History is the process of learning about ourselves and our humanity, how much we all have in common. Hopefully, it can prepare us for the future. Maybe.

"Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it." - George Santayana

We barely beat dusk back to our campsite. A campfire was very welcomed; it's warmth, glow and heat to bake cornbread and sausages on sticks.


Wiley enjoyed it, too.


With several other isolated campfires down from us, I entertained myself with an image of this is how it might have been with the Plains Indians camped for the winters in the shelters of the canyons. Their lodges and campfires nearby, their ponies grazing the lush grasses in the canyon bottoms. I'll never know, but I can imagine it.
Jun 7, 2006
Exit. Stage West.
After eight years, Wiley and I have returned home to these canyons. Much has changed in these eight years, but not here in these canyons. They are still the silent timeless sentinels. We share much, these canyons walls and us, sharing stories of earthen movements and climatic drama, especially after visiting many other canyons around this country.

These geological, geomorpholigical, geographical, natural features and lives are to me the most loyal companions. They bare their souls to us. They have and will continue to outlive us. We will all pass by in our little whirlwinds of drama like so many thousands of tiny dust devils. Pooft!...and we are gone. But these sentinels of time will remain.

Wiley and I know that we will still call these canyons Home. And they will remain a place for us when we have turned to dust on the wind.


Nov 28, 2006
North of Weird
Has human intervention been the largest change to 'Home' you have noticed and if so, to what effect? Great pics/writing as usual.... And thx for bringing up an eight year old thread!


Forum Supporter
Oct 27, 2011
Cushing suburbs
^^ + a Bazillion! ^^
I never seem to find time to dig back through old posts looking for neat tales so it's wonderful when someone resurrects one. I'm in need of some shut-eye right now but I'm gonna leave this one "up" until I've read every word.



Forum Supporter
Jun 22, 2010
Summer Grove, LA
... when I ride ... I travel to immerse myself in the country I travel through....
Thank you for reminding me of why I enjoy traveling at a slower pace.

After eight years, Wiley and I have returned home to these canyons. Much has changed in these eight years, but not here in these canyons. They are still the silent timeless sentinels....
Welcome back. Looking fwd to more. . . . . .
Jun 7, 2006
Exit. Stage West.
Revisiting Llano Estacado and canyons


Standing on the rim of the canyons that were enveloped in a light fog, a sense of magic was everywhere. The air was crisp, moist and musty with the odor of rock. If you sit still long enough, you might believe yourself back in time when Charles Goodnight scouted for lost cattle looking for grass. Or when Colonel McKanzie ran hundreds of ponies over the cliffs to mollify the remaining Comanches and Kiowa. Or perhaps during the year that Captain Randolph Marcy explored and mapped these canyons.

Further back, you might hear the gathering of southern Plains tribal members gathering wild plums along the streams and sharing ceremonies. Maybe imagine how the men of Coronado's expedition thought they were hallucinating at the drop into the earth. Or perhaps you can feel and hear the thunder of bison hooves.


Even further back, you might sense these canyons forming under your very eyes. The Llano Estacado is part of the Great Plains. But what is different from it's northern compartment is erosion. As the Rocky Mountains eroded, vast deposits of debris spewed all over the Great Plains, and continues to erode. But this gigantic mesa, bordered by several rivers, has been protected from surface erosion by the calcareous caprock and the semi-arid climate.

Over time, the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River carved out the softer minerals and rock that had been deposited and then uplifted along with the Rocky Mountains. At the very bottom are remnants of a shallow marine environment, alternating with dry climate periods. Even today one can see ancient dry tidal flats, marked by ripple marks and gypsum deposits that stream like white ribbons in cliffs of red and orange.


Fish and other marine animal remains can still be found. At one time saber-toothed tigers, rhinoceros, and the ancestors of camels roamed these lands. Hard rock boulders teeter on sandstone pillars, and one day, even those will be gone. But not in our lifetime.

Now the muted banded layers of orange, red, brown, yellow, grey, maroon, and white rocks sleep as the fog blankets a land spanning more than 240 million years. And we are but a momentary blip in time.


That is why I love canyons. And to truly experience them, you have to explore the tops and bottoms. They can be vastly different and our little ant bodies with our short grasp of time challenges us to imagine and feel deep time, in their sense. We can see and imagine the past as they were formed, the present as we feel them under our hands and feet, and try to consider what the future will be like thousands or millions of years later.

And all our dramas seem so small and trivial. It's an exercise in zen and patience. And a lesson in humility.




Forum Supporter
Feb 5, 2004
Great RR-thanks. Back when I first started riding motorcycles in the mid 60s, I always bought season passes to Palo Duro Canyon SP. I was there dozens of times a year. Back then, all of the dirt 'roads' were open to my motorcycle. I traversed much of the park on powered two wheels. They shut those dirt passages in the early 70s. They are all back to prairie or at most 'paths' now. I treasure my memories.
Jun 7, 2006
Exit. Stage West.

Has human intervention been the largest change to 'Home' you have noticed and if so, to what effect?
Human impact is obvious even after only eight years. It's a good example of a park or place that is loved to death. Hopefully, it doesn't get to that point, but the impact is cumulative and, in some places severe.

The Lighthouse Trail is a perfect example, probably because it is the most popular trail. More so, because of the diversity and density of traffic. The nearly three mile trail is open to mountain bikes, horses, runners and hikers. It was insanely congested when I was on it. I felt like I was on a very busy street with no traffic control.


I have nothing against mountain bikes and horses, but the diversity of trail use is causing major erosion and degradation. When eight mountain bikers are hauling butt down the trail with hikers and their dogs on leashes, and runners yelling at everyone to move out of their way, then horses trotting up behind you, every mobile species disperses in all directions to avoid getting run over. And the degradation impact becomes wider and deeper.


In many sections, the trail bottom is 3 feet deep or more, and radiating all over the land surface. Smart management would be to dedicate trails specific to use: equestrian trails and hikers can be compatible, but not equestrian and mountain bike use. Dedicate trails to mountain bike use, some to equestrian and some to hikers only. The Lighthouse Trail could be dual use (hiker, equestrian), but bikes on a separate trail.

Another impact is that most of the scat (aka fecal matter) on the trail is dog and horse. Where I used to see almost exclusively coyote scat, the majority is now domestic animals. The fist rule of any utilization of trails by humans is to take plastic bags along with your TP and pack out your used TP in the plastic bags! There was TP scattered all over the place alongside the trails, sometimes blown into the trails.

I see that the park system has added two more large buildings at the north end. I hope the planning team is concentrating these developments in that area and not scattered all down the canyon. It would really detract from a more wild and natural experience by campers.

Another observation was a common and familiar impact on wildlife. I visited my favorite place to camp in previous years. Because of the bridge repair and construction on the north and south sides of that campground, there were few campers there. Birds were everywhere, active and flitting all around. I saw rabbit, racoon, deer and coyote tracks, indicating that the area is very active with wildlife. But near and along the Lighthouse trail, the only sign I saw was grubbing by feral hogs. No birds. No coyote tracks! Which saddened me, as they were everywhere eight years ago. It's more like a human habitat than a wildlife habitat.

Great pics/writing as usual.... And thx for bringing up an eight year old thread!
You are welcome!

I hiked 6 miles, then another 2 +/- miles. The entire Palo Duro park was packed with people, mountain bikes, vehicles, dogs, horses, and spandex. I was the only hiker with thick cotton trail/hike pants, long-sleeved shirt, and boots.

It made me feel like an alien, but I was quite content knowing that I was more protected against the crazy wind and flying sand. And I could sit down on the ground without getting butt rash. Nor care if I stepped in horse apples.

Another natural area loved too much, especially by unprepared urbanites. Even though the day started foggy and cool, it warmed up considerably. I noticed few people carried water despite the warnings of dehydration at the trail head. I understand a woman died there last year from dehydration. I easily drank my liter of water. I also used my neck Buffy as a filter over my nose and mouth to avoid eating sand.

Despite the congested trail, I found a high spot to sit and get away from the busyness, with a wonderful quiet view of the canyon floor and multi-colored cliffs. I still found some old canyon zen.


And Wiley had a good time revisiting his Home! ;-)


Jun 7, 2006
Exit. Stage West.
Great RR-thanks. Back when I first started riding motorcycles in the mid 60s, I always bought season passes to Palo Duro Canyon SP. I was there dozens of times a year. Back then, all of the dirt 'roads' were open to my motorcycle. I traversed much of the park on powered two wheels. They shut those dirt passages in the early 70s. They are all back to prairie or at most 'paths' now. I treasure my memories.
And I remember some of your suggestions on possible routes with a dirty bike. Seems that most of the roads even surrounding the park are now gated and closed.

That's one of the reasons I love New Mexico. :trust: :rider:
Jan 25, 2005
Cypress Tx
It's been a while since I spent any time in NM , maybe I need to spend a couple weeks in the high country this summer . Good to hear your still about . SEYA
Jun 7, 2006
Exit. Stage West.
It's been a while since I spent any time in NM , maybe I need to spend a couple weeks in the high country this summer. Good to hear your still about . SEYA
I'm in New Mexico half of the year. All over the country the rest of the year. I love being a nomad. But Northern NM has adopted me. ;) Haven't been back to Texas in a couple years; and just going through now.
Hope our paths cross again some time!
Jan 25, 2005
Cypress Tx
Northern NM is where I spend my time when I go , been camping in Cabristo Canyon several times . I have had the Sipapu area on my radar for a while now , I need to spend some time and find a new favorite spot . The atvs have done a lot of damage to Cabristo Canyon . SEYA

Yeeha! Stephen

Forum Supporter
Nov 22, 2003
Bedford Texas
"Because of the bridge repair and construction on the north and south sides of that campground, there were few campers there...."

They anywhere near finishing the bridges? I'm coming up with a group in May and was hoping they would be done soon.

Jun 7, 2006
Exit. Stage West.
"Because of the bridge repair and construction on the north and south sides of that campground, there were few campers there...."

They anywhere near finishing the bridges? I'm coming up with a group in May and was hoping they would be done soon.

Hello Stephan!!
The bridge near the Fortress Cliff campground is new and almost done. That's the main reason the road is closed there and detoured through the other side of the park. Not sure about the other bridges, though. I heard another one is also being renovated or rebuilt.

My suggestion is to call the park office and inquire closer to your scheduled visit. I would think that these construction improvements might be done by that time, but that might be just wishful thinking. ;)
Jun 7, 2006
Exit. Stage West.
:clap: :clap: Great to see you back, love the update and I've missed your poetic writing, keep it coming. :hail:
Thank you, that's very kind of you!
But I don't spend much time in Texas anymore, which means my travels have no relevance to Texas. I'm a nomad now, traveling all over the place. :)


Forum Supporter
Oct 7, 2005
The Woodlands & Woden, TX
Thank you, that's very kind of you!
But I don't spend much time in Texas anymore, which means my travels have no relevance to Texas. I'm a nomad now, traveling all over the place. :)
Some guy just joined up from Italy.... IMHO not being a Texas resident is no reason you can't show & tell your tales of your nomadic travels. :chug: