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The Grandest Canyon in Texas

Breakfast at the English Field House, Amarillo, TX
Breakfast at the English Field House, Amarillo, TX

After arriving in Amarillo, Texas and stopping at the local visitor center in the morning of April 4th., I was on my way to a local restaurant to have breakfast. According to a smiley and welcoming lady at the visitor center who recommended the restaurant and gave me directions, it was a little “tricky and hard to find” the English Field House. I was about to turn around and look for something else when I spotted the blue roof. I was told to keep driving and make a left turn when seeing a “hard-to-miss blue roof”. For some reason, I just know it’s going to be hard to find when I hear that it is “hard-to-miss”. Persistence paid off! It turned out to be a little farther away from the visitor center than she had made me believe, but the food was just perfect for what I was looking for. I wanted a family-style local restaurant, and I got it! The service was on point, the food was simply delicious, and the serving was larger than the State of Texas! The restaurant is very simple and decorated with air force insignia and other mementos.

 

Buena Vista
Buena Vista viewing point

I had come to Amarillo to visit the Palo Duro Canyon; a recommendation made by my new friend in Little Rock, Arkansas. Just a few camping sites were available and I was able to secure a spot for a couple of nights, giving me almost three full days to hike some of the trails in the park. Located in the Texas Panhandle Plains, the second-largest canyon in America has a wide variety of wildlife, history, and trails. In a rough terrain, loose rocks, steep slopes, heat, and occasional sand storms, Palo Duro has hiking, biking and equestrian trails. As I was checking in, I was informed that strong winds and consequently a sand storm was expected later on in the evening with lingering wind blowing sand for the next day.

 

On my first day in the canyon I set up the tent and went on to my first hike. I was marveled by the rugged beauty of the formations around me. In a place where four bioregions intersect, erosion that began with the formation of the canyon less than a million years ago exposes a geologic story of approximately 250 million years. Some of the oldest layers in the canyon are from the Quartermaster Formation, located at the bottom of the canyon, they are bright red claystone and white gypsum. The yellow, gray and lavender mudstone is from the Tecovas Formation. Ascending further up in canyon the sandstone and coarse gravel that are seen belong to the Trujillo Formation. The layer of rocks with sand, silt, clay and limestone are from the Ogallala Formation. The 120 miles long and 800 feet deep canyon displays dramatic views with astounding colors, becoming even more spectacular at sunset contrasting with intense blue skies.

 

View from the Givens, Spicer & Lowry Running Trail. This trail is moderately difficult with steep climbs and a total round trip distance of 11 miles.
View from the Givens, Spicer & Lowry Running Trail. This trail is moderately difficult with steep climbs and a total round trip distance of 11 miles.

 

Covered in a thin layer of a goldish dust
Covered in a thin layer of a goldish dust

Not knowing what the weather was going to be the next day, I decided to do my longest hike in the park on my first day; the Givens, Spicer and Lowry eleven miles round trip trail. I completed my first day hike in the canyon in just under five hours. The sun was setting by time I finished hiking the GSL Trail and the wind was now a lot stronger than when I began hiking the trail five hours earlier. I was covered in a layer of red sand mixed with sweat and could bite the grains of sand in my mouth. All I could think of at that moment was a hot shower before heading to Amarillo to have coffee with a friend and download my pictures from the day. I was thrilled to have found the canyon and excited in anticipation of my second day at Palo Duro.

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