Saturday, January 7, 2017

Palo Duro Canyon (Texas), Cadillac Ranch, Ute Lake State Park (New Mexico): Winter Break 2016 Day 3

Sunrise in Palo Duro Canyon


Moosie and Camo hiking back to the car

Chimney Rock trail

Chimney Rock

Canyon view from Chimney Rock

The Cave

Texas Longhorn

Cadillac Ranch

I woke up early once again on day 3 of Winter break 2016. Moosie and Camo were still sleeping while I walked out of camp to get some more early morning photographs. I picked a picturesque boulder field to explore, which included fragile, bright orange dry mud closer to the canyon. This mud created several hoodoos, which are mushroom shaped mud structures with a giant boulders balanced on top. When I saw them, I was instantly reminded of a video I remember seeing a couple years ago of a scout leader and his troop pushing one over in the desert somewhere. Not a good idea.

I returned to camp around 8:00 and Moosie and Camo were packing up. Our plan was to spend a little more time in the canyon and then begin driving west towards New Mexico. After packing up and hiking back to the car, we chose to hike the Chimney Rock trail. It was about 2.7 miles to reach the rock structure, and 2.7 miles back. It was a pretty easy hike, temperatures were just right. The view of Chimney Rock was pretty spectacular, as well as the surrounding canyon. Several other hikers enjoyed the view with us. By the time we reached the car once again, Moosie suggested it would be best if we hit the road soon, since we did not know where we were going to camp that night. Before leaving the park however, we did a quick hike up to a giant cave, and then stopped by the Visitor's Center and read up on some of the history of the canyon.

A couple days before, Camo played a podcast about a hospital in New Orleans during the Katrina incident. The podcast noted how within three days, the hospital had gone from a normal, operating institution into an unfamiliar, wild place with decisions being made that had never been made before in regards to the life and death of the patients in the building, all due to the conditions of the city after the hurricane. I joked that the same is true on the trail, that on the third day, we begin to become feral once again. By the time we left Palo Duro, I was beginning to feel feral once again, and I liked it.

We decided to set our sights on Ute Lake State park in New Mexico to spend the night. While driving west on 40 near Amarillo Texas, We spotted Cadillac Ranch by chance. Of course we had to turn around and get a few pictures. There was a steady stream of tourists arriving and departing the 15 minutes or so we were there.

We reached New Mexico late in the afternoon, not long after Camo struck a giant piece of metal lying in the middle of the highway, denting and damaging the exhaust below the car. The landscape began to look more wild, the plains dotted with cactus and juniper, more canyons opening up in the land. I felt very happy to be back. Temperatures were dropping and a cold wind blew across the desert. After taking some incredible wide open back roads, we reached Ute Lake State Park around sunset. Other than a few RV's, the park was pretty much empty. The small town of Logan was a few minutes away, and Camo suggested we head into town for dinner and some beer. Moosie and I cheerfully accepted that idea, and before long, we were in a nice warm brewery, drinking and eating our fill, and sharing trail stories. The night would be a cold one, Moosie and I cowboy camped once again behind a brick wall designed as a wind break in our campsite, and the next day we would begin heading towards Bandelier National Monument a few hours away...


  1. Nice to see you hiking in the wide open Southwest, again!

  2. Yes sir, it felt great to be back!