Sorry it has taken soo long for another update from us. We have been staying home just like everyone else and that didn’t seem so noteworthy to write about. BUT, when your home is currently in Palo Duro Canyon State Park, I guess it is something to write about. You see, this place has soo much beauty all around us and vastness that it is a great location to shelter in place.
Palo Duro Canyon is about 20 minutes south of Amarillo and is the second largest canyon in the U.S. But you never really hear of it outside of Texas. The Grand Canyon may be the largest and it is unbelievably beautiful and majestic in its own right, but Palo Duro Canyon is more of an immersive experience. You are able to drive down into the canyon on a switchback road, which is daunting with a big 42ft 5th wheel pushing you, but most of the activities take place on the canyon floor. There is an interpretive outdoor theater as well as Pioneer Ampitheater where a local production company performs a live Texas tribute show, complete with wagons, pyrotechnics and the like. There are four campgrounds with electric and 2 without. We have 4 rustic cabins down in the canyon and 3 additional ones up on the top that perch on the cliff with fantastic views of the canyon. There is also group and youth campgrounds and an equestrian campground and day use area where you can bring your own horse and ride some trails.
There is a concessionaire that has a horseback riding stable and a trading post with killer hamburgers. There are also 2 beautiful indoor/outdoor pavilions where you can have weddings, reunions and get togethers. Well not right now…
Which leads us to the current state here during these strange new times. When we arrived April 1st the park was open to a limited amount of day use visitors who had to purchase their pass online as all public building were closed, even the day use restrooms. The campgrounds were still open but only to existing reservations. No new reservation could be booked. So, it seemed a bit strange but there were still people in the canyon. Then came the day the park was closed to all visitors on April 7th. The last of the campers left and the gates were locked. Fortunately, as volunteers, we were allowed to stay, along with the 4 other host couples. Now that the park was closed, the other host began working on replacing some pergola shade coverings in the campgrounds and Rick helped on those as well, but our main focus as Interpretive Hosts was to help with social media content for folks to still be able to experience the canyon. We have taken a lot of pictures, time-lapse videos of sunrises, sunsets and clouds. Oh the clouds over this canyon…they are magical and mysterious. Sometimes there are big poufy clouds against a bight blue sky one minute and the next they are gone! We also are taping our hikes in hyper lapse so that folks online can hike along with us. We also have a segment with a stuffed coyote name Coy where we take him around the park and photograph him in various areas and have folks guess where he is. There is another host couple with an artistic background who does some painting and art type segments.
Then there are the animals…with people gone from the park, the animals are starting to reclaim the park. The turkeys and roadrunners live in the campground with us and are not afraid of us at all. In fact the turkeys come sit at the picnic table, waiting for lunch! The coyotes, deer and bunnies are all around as well. Even the elusive herd of cattle that roam the far reaches of the canyon where people cannot go have made their way into the area near our campground and in fact woke Rick up this morning with their mooing!
We also have resident longhorns. They are T Bone, Brisket and Omelette. They have several acres to roam on the rim of the canyon and sometimes they let us take pictures of them.
Our campground is one of the furthest from the entrance and it takes us almost a half hour to get up out of the canyon and out of the park. Canyon, a small, quaint town is about 10 minutes from the canyon and has a Walmart, local grocer and an Ace hardware along with some restaurants. One day when in town to pick up some groceries we noticed a very large cowboy standing above the buildings. Of course, we had to go find out more. Seems Tex Randall is a Texas icon and was built by a gentleman as a roadside attraction of sorts to bring visitors to his roadside shop in the 50’s and 60’s. He is concrete and rebar. Amarillo awning made his shirt and Levi Strauss made his pants. The clothing was actually stitched on in the back by sailboat thread. The city has done a good job of preserving Tex and has a little park area around him.
TX has now started to reopen and the park just started accepting limited day use visitors that purchase a pass online, are in a group of less than 5 and wear a face covering. Well as you can guess, folks are bucking the rules and it remains to be seen if the Park and Rec dept and/or the Governor will enforce those rules, shut the park down or continue to open other aspects. Right now camping is not allowed but we see RV’s coming in and setting up shop in parking areas, including slides out, to “camp” for the day.
Our job now is mostly to keep a day use restroom clean and sanitized twice a day and pick up trash in the day use area. We are to wear masks when in public view and also wear gloves when cleaning. So far it has been a pretty easy gig, but this weekend is sold out already for day passes so it should be a real test of social distancing rule following. We may even have to go up on the entrance line to help weed out the folks who didn’t bother to get an online daypass.
So that is our life here in the wilds of Texas panhandle. We will be here through May and will then make our way up to WI to volunteer at the boy scout camp for a second year. Unfortunately, Rick’s army reunion in Colorado Springs was cancelled so we will be exploring OK and some other Midwest areas on our way…hopefully. Or we’ll just do a drive by depending on the state of things.
We will leave you with some pictures of our new back yard…
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