Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Bison and Bulls: Caprock Canyons and Palo Duro Canyon State Parks, TX

Lucky Charm’s next two Texas State Parks came complete with their very own official mascots:  Bison at Caprock Canyons, and Longhorn Bulls at Palo Duro Canyon.



The bison are the remnants of the Great Southern Plains Bison, of which there were more than 8 million at one time.  When new railroads after the Civil War made the shipment of tanned bison hides profitable, they were slaughtered in massive numbers, and the “southern herd” was all but wiped out from 1871 to 1878. 


The Caprock Canyons herd comes from the last 32, who have multiplied and now number around 100.  They are considered the “Official Texas State Bison Herd.”



They look cute and certainly seemed tame, but the rangers made it extremely clear that appearances can be deceiving.  The largest bull bison can weigh 2,000 pounds, and they can sprint at more than 30 MPH.  Angered or agitated, their tail lifts and turns into an upside down curl, like a question mark, and that’s your cue to get outta dodge!  That’s where the term “high-tailin’” it originated!



We had known the bison would be in the park, but we had no idea that they freely roam around the campground!  It was incredible to be in the safety of a 12,000-pound metal box RV, but jusssst thisssss closssssse to those magnificent animals.




Of course, where’s there is bison, you know there is also THIS!  A LOT of this!  Everywhere!  Campsites, driveways, sidewalks, fields, roads, everywhere!


They even have their own labeled official scratching post! Talk about state park amenities!


Besides the bison, there is also a tremendous population of prairie dogs, squeaking and chiding from their burrows.  There are so many in one area that it is officially called Honey Flat Prairie Dog Town on the park map.


Also roaming the park like they owned it, wild coyotes.  A pack of what seemed like 15-20 were yipping and howling right outside our RV window one night.  They were looking for a snack like Sprinkles!


With the bison such a unique draw to this area, the State Park and neighboring town of Quitaque have bison art and bison references and (presumably) bison burgers galore.  Behold, just a few ….

  






The sign announcing the town of Quitaque has a unique feature … a pronunciation guide ... yasssss!  The Lucky Charm has approached a LOT of towns in the last 40,000 miles of travel, and this we’ve never seen!  Casa Grande AZ needs to adopt this …. “Cah-Suh Grand-ay”, or “Caaa-saaa Graaand”?



The Quitaque Country Club is a bar, not an actual C.C., because this town is exactly 1 block long with 411 residents. 


You can lie down in the middle of the street (like Ryan Gosling in The Notebook) because a car comes by only about twice an hour.


The area has a 64-mile multi-purpose trail built on the remains of the Fort Worth and Denver Railroad line, spanning three counties and with 46 fun trestles to cross.



A highlight of the ride was a herd of dozen wild boars, charging through the desert at full speed.  Needless to say, I wasn’t quick enough on the camera, but it was a memory we won't soon forget. 


We rode a portion of the trail to the “Clarity Tunnel,” built in 1927.


 It was dark and spooky and smelly, and therefore irresistible!



Bat populations roost here from April to September.  A sign showing what the Brazilian Free-Tailed Bat looks like made me glad to have missed them.  Flying rats, for sure, with their round ears and long tails!  Ewwwwww!  But they do eat up to 6 tons of insects daily from neighboring farms, so even if you’re ugly, you can have a purpose in the world.


Back at the Caprock Canyons State Park, the scenery is similar to Sedona AZ, with gorgeous red soil and towering cliffs.





Hold onto your hats!  It's windy at the top!


Down the road a mere 90 mega-windy miles, Palo Duro State Park is known as the "Grand Canyon of Texas," being the second largest canyon in the U.S. (behind the actual Grand Canyon, of course).



Standing at 800 feet deep, 120 miles long, and 20 miles wide, Georgia O'Keeffe once called this gorge a "seething cauldron, filled with dramatic color and light."




Unlike the (Arizona) grand canyon, a long and steep road leads you to the canyon floor.



It was a slow, winding, 10% grade during the 8 mile ride to the bottom!  


The most dramatic and recognizable feature (and therefore the park logo) is The Lighthouse, a 300-foot freestanding column of layered rock.  It looks small from the distance ....



... but a steep climb to the top ....



... revealed it to be huge, up-close!  



See how the park symbol on my shirt matches the formation?  




Where Caprock Canyon SP has Bison, Palo Duro Canyon has Bulls!  Texas' Official Longhorn Herd, to be exact!  Meet "T-Bone" (left) and "Brisket" (right)!  There are two other bulls, that we did not see, whose names are "Gravy" and "Omelette."  Love it!



Where there are roadrunners, there must be coyotes, and Palo Duro had both, in spades! In fact, a pair of them refused to leave our campsite ... surely their nest must have been nearby.



Palo Duro is a very busy park, being just 40 miles from Amarillo.  During the summer, they even have a musical theater show called (go figure) "TEXAS."  Though it was too early in the season for us to catch it, apparently it is about the struggles and triumphs of early settlers and has singing, dancing, fireworks and lots of Texas humor!  Next time, I guess!


Note the two tiny people at the top.  The romantic in me likes to think this is a marriage proposal!
But, we will never know for sure.


A friend asked about the "dark side of RV'ing," well of course not everything goes well all the time, but a well-stocked toolbox and an adorable, competent handyman solves 90% of our problems!


Sadly, we must leave this part of the country and head home soon. 
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, WE  ❤️ TEXAS STATE PARKS!