HARD WOOD

Hiking in Palo Duro Canyon State Park

Palo Duro Canyon is about 30 minutes south of Amarillo and is the second largest canyon in the United States. According to the brochure, “Palo Duro is Spanish for ‘hard wood’ in reference to the Rocky Mountain Juniper trees still seen in places in the canyon.” We hiked the CCC trail, which was listed as “difficult” and timed at an hour and a half; we’d rate it as easy to moderate, and completed it in far less time than anticipated. If you visit, bring sunscreen and lots of bug spray; along with the beautiful vistas, cactus, and wildlife is an abundance of biting flies.

Thistle

flower bugs

Palo Duro Canyon

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DESOLATE DRIVES

The Top Ten Things About the Drive to Amarillo

It is easy to look forward to the destination when traveling, but what about the road itself? These vast stretches of mindless highway can seem as daunting as traveling between two planets unless you know what to look for. The ten things below defined this stretch of highway for us.

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  1. IMPRESSIVE FARM IMPLEMENTS

I287 cuts through agricultural space. Lots of it. Along the way you’ll see a panoply of multi-colored, insect-like farm implements, some for sale, and some in action violating soil and seed with their spiny limbs.

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  1. ROAD CONSTRUCTION

What trip is complete without a lane closure to complain about? Road construction is a fact of life for highway denizens, even when it isn’t actually being worked on.

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  1. ABANDONED VEHICLES

In a six hour drive we counted nine boats, cars, or trucks simply parked at the side of the road with no humans present and no visible structure within miles. How did they get there? Where did the drivers go? Is it a Children of the Corn thing? Space alien abduction? Maybe they’re geocaching?  Attacked by Indians?  Perhaps, as in Dean Bakopouloos’ novel, they just went to the moon. . .

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  1. BEEF JERKY AND PECANS

Given the ubiquitous signs for pecans and jerky, I’d expect this to be a staple of the upper-northwest-Texan’s diet. Do these good folk really eat that many nuts and that much meat?

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  1. ALTERNATIVE ENERGY

Impressively ginormous windmills dot the flat landscape like thorns, generating energy and sending them through wires that drape across the fields like gigantic badminton nets.

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  1. COWS

Of course, our bovine friends dot the grassy landscape too, ruminating while they fatten up to become our 2% homogenized milk or our 72 ounce Big Texan steak while leaving a trail of ozone depleting methane.

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  1. PICNIC AREAS

These are like rest areas without the amenities. There are four of them between Wichita Falls and Amarillo, and who wouldn’t want to take the kids out on a Sunday afternoon to one of these? Complete with one, two, or three picnic tables, a rusted grill, wasps nests, and a tree in case nature calls.

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  1. CORN PORN

Rising up from the fields, it is not uncommon to see an XXX sign beckoning the lonely (or the horny) traveler or farmer to Sodom’s door (this one was a few miles East of Vernon). Zoning laws, perhaps, push them away from towns and into the corn, but all the better for us. After all, who hasn’t run out of porn on a long trip?

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  1. SPEED TRAP TOWNS

The speed limit on I287 is 75 miles per hour, but who doesn’t enjoy slowing down to 55, 40, or 35 when they’re making really good time? The highway patrol is always there to make sure you relax your speed and enjoy the beautiful sights of small town America. Chillicothe, Quanah, and Childress are three signs of the Apocalypse, undoubtedly. And would someone please explain to me what the sign in the picture above means?

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  1. COMING TO TERMS WITH FEELINGS OF ABANDONMENT

With mile after mile of empty buildings, chipping paint, caved roofs, shuttered windows, and vacated businesses, you can’t help but remember your own failed dreams, feelings of abandonment, the coming of old age, and ultimately our slow but inevitable death.