Freeway Free in Texas: Cap Rock and Palo Duro Canyon
If you are going to visit these two Texas State Parks, it’s best to do Cap Rock first. It’s a thumbnail introduction to the geology underlying both parks, with a Visitor’s Center that explains everything clearly. (It’s called “Cap Rock” because the topmost layer of rock is more weather resistant than lower layers, so you have formations where the top layer sits like a cap on top of flimsier-looking lower remnants. If you’ve been to Bryce Canyon in Utah, you’ve seen this before.) The main road in Cap Rock State Park is an out-and-back drive, about one and a half hours with some stops for wildlife photos and other breaks. There are informative placards to alert you to the geology, so when you visit Palo Duro, you’ll be all set to appreciate it.
Here’s a winning trivia question for you: what is the SECOND deepest canyon in the United States? No, it’s not the Black Canyon of the Gunnison (though that Colorado park has the coolest name). It’s little-known Palo Duro Canyon.
Palo Duro Canyon has the same geology as Cap Rock but more spectacular. There are some great-looking back-country trails, but W was not able to hike, and I had neither sunscreen, broad-brimmed hat, walking stick, or inclination to hike by myself, so we drove the curvy loop road from the rim of the canyon to the bottom, stopping at viewpoints and picnicking on kippers and saltines and mandarins. There are two visitor’s centers, at convenient intervals for potty breaks, and the loop road gives some wonderful vistas.
We were told that there is a herd of Aoudad sheep which was originally imported from Africa to hybridize with US breeds in the hope of creating a hardy sheep which was adapted to the arid terrain. The hybridization scheme did not work, but the Aoudads have proliferated and in some parts of Texas are hunted, although they are protected in the state parks. None of the Aoudads were visible from the road, but here’s what they look like, if you are planning on taking advantage of the back-country trails on your visit.
But where does one stay on the Other Side of Nowhere? The answer may surprise you – it certainly did surprise me!
My debut novel, Fox Spirit, is appearing episode by episode on my sister blog, ajmccready.wordpress.com. New episodes arrive every Monday and Thursday. They’re short, so you’re not too late to check them out, and sign up for future happenings. Here’s a link to the first episode: http://ajmccready.wordpress.com/2023/02.