It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve last written, and I have a very good reason. The dog and I went on a 4-day camping trip the weekend of October 6. We re-visited Palo Duro Canyon State Park which is near Amarillo, Texas (very West Texas). We had camped at Palo Duro at the end of last May but the heat index was in the triple digits, so we didn’t get to hike the Lighthouse Trail. I wanted to hike that trail so much that I decided to return when the temps were much cooler.
Solo camping is hard. You are responsible for everything – planning, packing, setting up. I typically set aside the week before a camping trip to prepare and do things such as planning meals, buying groceries, packing for Rosie (food and treats), packing up the backpacks … yada, yada, yada. Fortunately, my little camper keeps 90% of the camping gear ready to go any time.
We headed out early Friday morning for the 7-hour drive to Palo Duro. It was a looooooong drive. I really like to drive only four to five hours at the most in one day. In fact, on our previous trip to Palo Duro, we stopped about 3.5 hours from home to spend the night at a hotel and split up the drive. So much easier on me. But since I had Friday off from work, I decided to drive the whole way. I will not do that again. From now on, weekend camping trips will be within four hours of my home, or I will take the time off to split up a longer drive. Lesson learned.
When we finally arrived at the park headquarters, I noticed several red paper signs posted around. It wasn’t until I pulled up to the gate to check-in that I could read the signs. Trail systems closed. Whaaaat? That was the primary reason we had gone to that park – to get in some good hiking in the canyon. Seriously, I thought hard about just turning around and going back home. But I talked myself out of it and decided that I was going to stick it out and make the best of the situation. As it turned out, the weekend was great. There were more little challenges along the way, but as I resolved to do, we made the best of the weekend and had a great time.
On Saturday the trails were still closed, so we headed off to Caprock Canyons State Park, about an hour and a half away. What a great park! I actually liked it better than Palo Duro – easier check-in, beautiful visitor center, smaller and a lot less crowded. A park ranger suggested that we hike the South Prong Trail since that trail has water for the dog. It was a beautiful 4-mile hike that winds along a river bed with a small running stream of cool, clear water. Rosie loved being able to walk in the water, drink whenever she wanted, and especially liked laying in the cool water when she got hot. She’s probably wishing all hikes were like that one.
After the hike, I stopped in a little diner and ordered a ham and cheese sandwich. While I waited for my sandwich, I munched on tortilla chips and homemade salsa. Yum. Chips and salsa is an entire food group for me. And the ham and cheese? I expected a cold sandwich which would have been totally acceptable because I was famished after the hike. But this sandwich was one of those grilled ham and cheese sandwiches with Texas toast and mayo. It definitely hit the spot! We had a nice drive back to our campsite at Palo Duro, and after a shower and some relaxing, I fixed chicken sausage and sweet potatoes in the electric skillet. Another great meal!
I woke up early Sunday morning and again wondered if we shouldn’t just cut our losses and head back home. I didn’t have to work Monday so I’d have the whole day to do things around the house. But I also needed to do some caulking on the camper and finish up the screen door I made for the door. I had been procrastinating getting those tasks done for months. So I decided that this was the best time and I could finally mark them off my to do list. I finished my screen door for the camper, so now I can leave the door open to enjoy the scenery while I read before going to sleep. I caulked around the door handle and several spots on the roof of the camper where I thought the water was leaking in between the walls of the camper. And like magic, just as I was finishing up about 9:30, the park ranger drove up to let me know that the trails were open. The trails are open!
I quickly packed up my and Rosie’s backpacks with LOTS of water as is strongly recommended. I included some turkey jerky and a granola bar for snacks. We hit the Lighthouse Trail at about 10 am. That’s a lot later than I typically like to start out on a hike, but the weather was absolutely gorgeous with a cool breeze. We ended up not needing near as much water as I packed, but I’m a strong believer in carrying much more water than you think you’ll need. Rosie did great with her backpack that carries her water and bowl. Everyone gets a kick out of seeing that big dog with her backpack along the trail. As I like to say to them, “Everyone carries their own water on my hikes.”
That evening we ate pizza in town in Canyon, Texas, at a place called LaBella’s. It had received really good reviews on Yelp and deservedly so. I had a healthy side salad (love to get my veggies in!), homemade bread sticks, and a cheese pizza with diced tomatoes. Not thin crust, not thick crust but in between. Really good! I ended up eating half the pizza Sunday night and then eating the rest for lunch the next day while driving home. I love pizza so much. And I loved that glass of wine which I so rarely indulge in.
So although there were many little “bumps in the road,” the weekend turned out to be a good one – awesome hiking, good food, beautiful weather. We even managed to sneak in a new state park to check off on our State Park Quest. It was on our way home on Monday that things took a particularly nasty turn, and I’ll save that for part 2.