Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Head West Young Man!

Palo Duro Deadwood
Originally uploaded by Thorpeland
Actually North-West. This past weekend myself, Emily and friends Craig and Bex packed our bags and boarded a 1 hour Southwest Airlines flight for Amarillo Texas. The city itself wasn't our goal. Just south of Amarillo sits the Palo Duro Canyon! Which, by the way, is also a 26,000 acre National State Park. With miles of trails and endless vista's, this was a rugged wilderness Id been wanting to photograph for some time. My chance was finally here!

We arrived in Amarillo's airport at 8am, got our rental car and headed out. It was a chilly 46F and drizzling rain. Not optimal conditions for hiking and photography, but we forged on not letting it dampen our spirits. We decided to first make a stop at a local Walmart for some snacks and so I could buy a sweatshirt hoodie to stay warm. My long sleeve pull-over I brought with me wasn't enough! From there it was off to find a place to grab breakfast. We found a little mom & pop dinner in town, where we enjoyed pancakes and french toast. Which I am glad we ate a high carb breakfast considering what lay ahead.

By the time breakfast was finished, the rain had stopped and the skies looked a bit better. It had also warmed up a few degree's, so it was time to get to the Canyon. A short 20 minute drive and we were at the parks main entrance. The lady working the gate gave us a map of the park and off we drove. We found a nice overlook section to park and start getting some photos. There was a visitors center near by with some exhibits and literature, which was very interesting.

We took a "quick" 2 mile round trip hike along a trail that followed the canyon rim. This was a great opportunity for many landscape and general scenery shots. The photo included in this blog post is from this portion of the hike. What you'll see here is a nice view over the canyon, with a striped red dirt area in the upper right of the photo, famously known as the "Spanish Skirt" because of the way it fans out with bands of color. Very nice view.

From here we drove to our next trail head known as the Lighthouse Trail. This of course referred to the Lighthouse rock structure, one of Palo Duro's most famous landmarks. (And which can be seen in my flickr stream!) This was a bigger challenge than we originally thought it would be. Three miles each way, 6 miles round trip... through hilly terrain. Although the trail itself was rather smooth, not requiring a high skill level of hiking. After about an hour and a half we reached the Lighthouse Rock. It really felt like an accomplishment and yielded some great photos. The last climb actually up to the Lighthouse was the most challenging. A real leg muscle burner! But we made it up and spent a good 30 minutes at the top enjoying the view and the breeze. Then, gathered our stuff up and began the 1+ hour hike back. We actually made it back in quicker time and we were exhausted! But we did it.

We all headed back to the hotel to relax, shower up and get ready for dinner. So where does a visitor to Amarillo go when they're only in town for one night? The Big Texan of course!! This restaurant is made famous for its "Free 72oz Steak Dinner" offer. The catch being, you have to eat this nearly 4 pounds of beef, along with the appetizer, salad, dinner roll and large iced tea in 1 hours time. Or its NOT free. In fact, its $100. There is a board on the wall signed by all those who have beat the challenge, accompanied by humorous quotes such as "Best and worst day of my life", or "Whats for desert?" haha It was an entertaining dinner in this authentic Texas steak house and we're glad we got to experience it.

Our flight Sunday was at 2pm, but we had one more destination to hit while in this Texas Panhandle town. Just west of Amarillo on the old Route 66 the Cadillac Ranch can be found. This is like an automotive version of Stone Henge, complete with old Cadillacs sticking up from the ground. Front ends all buried in the dirt, tail lights pointed to the sky. Lined up across the bleak, flat West Texas landscape. Its definitely an "art exhibit" worth stopping by.

After that, we were pretty much done with Amarillo. To the airport and time to get on home.


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