Friday, September 29, 2017

Palo Duro Canyon and Charles Goodnight

Just south of Amarillo, in the town of Canyon, is Palo Duro Canyon State Park.  Greeting signs proclaim, "Welcome to the Grand Canyon of Texas"! Since this 27,000 acre State Park is located within the second largest canyon n North America, I guess the title is appropriate.

View from the visitors center

The land was deeded by private  owners in 1933, and the park was opened in 1934.  Seven companies of Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) were sent to Palo Duro Canyon from 1933 until 1937 to develop road access and to construct buildings, shelters, bridges and trails.  Much of the work continued even after the official opening.

The road into the canyon, while pulling the camper, was a bit daunting.  In fact the entire three days here we worried about the trip out.  Could our aging pick up do the job of pulling up those long, long, steep grades?

The campsites were placed in scenic spots throughout the canyon.  That is the tail-end of our camper on the left.

The location was beautiful, except it rained all three days we were there and the beautiful red clay washed down and around our camper, creating a muddy entry way,

These are the cabins built by the CCC in the 1930's.  They are still used today, with the addition of air conditioning.

Many spots were begging to be explored but because of the heavy rains over the past two weeks, all park trails were closed.

This looks like the side of the road but it is actually a 30 foot drop off.

The canyon is 120 miles long and 600 to 800 feet deep.  The Palo Duro Canyon State Park only includes a portion of this area.  These formations were outside Park boundaries, on a County road where you could get a close up view of amazing spires.

Looks like a castle wall.

Much of the literature about the park talks about Charles Goodnight.  In 1876 ,Goodnight, in partnership with John Adair, established a ranch within the canyon that incorporated over 1,325,000 acres with a herd of 100,000 head of cattle.  "Everything is bigger in Texas"

 Goodnight lived what sounds like a "larger than life" cowboy existence.  From scouting for the Texas Rangers, creating the Loving/Goodnight trail from Texas to Wyoming, partnership in the largest ranch in the Texas panhandle, to saving the original strain of western bison, he certainly stands out.  In fact, it is reported that Larry McMurtry's, Lonesome Dove, is based on Goodnight's adventures.

Today there is a small town he created, named Goodnight, that includes the restored residence he built for he and his wife Molly, in 1887.

An elaborate home for the era that even included electricity.  The historically accurate restoration includes several original pieces, as well as other period furnishings. 

Goodnight's wife, Mary Ann, affectionately called Molly, was know to invite an eclectic group of guests for dinners at the ranch that included cowhands, government representatives,  ranchers, and local Indians, such as Quanah Parker.

She taught school to ranch children and cowboys alike, in the ranch bunkhouse.  She is credited with being the person who saved a couple of new born bison calves that began the restoration of the herd that now exists and roams throughout Caprock State Park just south of Palo Duro. 

Adjacent to the Goodnight homestead is a small business called Herd Wear Store.  This business sells products made from bison, mostly Buffalo Gold fibers, which combine buffalo fir with silk and/or yak fibers to create soft, strong, and warm  gloves, socks, and hats. will give you a look at their products.

They also have custom made buffalo coats.

This one would run about 3,000 to 4,000 dollars.  A bit large, but you can order one made to individual measurements. 

This model was actually an old coat that the owner purchased on ebay.  The Miskin family began raising bison about 30 years ago, regrouping 15 years later with the creation of bison fiber products.  Cecil Miskin said he opened this retail shop as a retirement project.  Sounded like he is putting in about 12 to 14 hours a day.  Some retirement!

 It was a friendly, fun stop where we learned a great deal about marketing bison products.  About 55,000 of the existing 450,000 bison in the U.S., are processed for meat annually.  Producers work together to insure that the numbers of processed bison do not negatively affect the overall growth of bison herds nationally.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Amarillo, TX

Amarillo Texas is located in the far north of the Texas panhandle, only 60 or so miles from the New Mexico boarder.  Surrounded by hundreds of miles of flat, dry, (usually) prairie, you would not expect there to be much of interest there.  The main reason we wanted to spend a day or two here was to check out the "Cadillac Ranch".

Having seen pictures of this permanent public roadside sculpture many years ago, it has been on my wish list to see the real deal some day. The location, in itself, is half the fun.

Interstate 40 incorporates a frontage road, that parallels the highway, and allows access to side roads and businesses.  As you drive on this frontage road, you pass  an occasional RV park or side road, but mostly acres and acres of corn fields.

You need a sharp eye to pick out ten tall "things"  off  toward the back of a field where corn had been recently harvested.  We might have missed it if it weren't for the dozens of cars parked by a metal gate opening through a barbed wire fence.  As you can see, it is a distance back from the road, and today it was mud all the way..

Not usually surrounded by water, these ten Cadillac cars were first displayed, half buried in the dirt, back in 1974.  Three young men from an art group called the "Ant Farm"  came up with the idea, somewhat symbolizing the birth and death of the Cadillac tail fin, and  presented it to millionaire Stanley Marsh 3.

Marsh donated the land and became a long time  patron and supporter of the project.  The cars, vintage 1949 thru 1963 were found in junk yards, or as running used cars.

Long since having lost their original colors, and many parts, spray painting graffiti is not only tolerated, but encouraged.  There is a dumpster at the gate for empty cans, but those that are not quite empty after an art project are left for others to use up.  This young lady was totally prepared for the experience, complete with paint, stencil, tape, and mud boots!

Not only the young folks get into the spirit of this interactive art project, this gentleman of 70 years, was having a blast.

Father and daughter (I think), working together.

She painted, he carried her and the paint, so she didn't get wet and muddy

All I did was take pictures.  No spirit of adventure. (Mostly no boots)

The Cadillac Ranch mania has extended to local RV parks.  I thought this was the most clever.

Another RV park has what looks more like how the Cadillac's appeared when they were originally sunk in the mud.

Later that day we picked up a local brochure listing things to see in Amarillo.  One recommendation was the RV Museum.

Turned out to be an extensive collection of old restored camper trailers of all types. Currently the Jack Sisemore Traveland RV Sales and Service establishment is enormous, but according to the published story, he started out buying one RV to use for vacations and to rent out the rest of the year.
It was a 1974 Winnebago and Jack was the first Winnebago dealer in Texas.

The collection includes different styles and models from the 1940's through the 1970's

Each trailer has been restored to original condition or displayed as they were found. They all include a sign giving the details of where they were located, manufacturer, and how much restoration needed to be done.

A classic of the 70's

This 1942 Harley Davidson motorcycle was used in WWll

The museum had a very large collection of motorcycles.  This was my favorite.  Great way to spend an afternoon, and there is  no admission charge.

We rounded out the day with an early dinner at THE BIG TEXAN steak house. 

The famous Route 66 passes through Amarillo and although its hay day is long past, the highway still has a mystique, along with many GIANT signs that were popular when the road was the primary route between California and Chicago.

Big Tex and  this larger than life steer are two examples of the roadside attractions on the old Route 66.  Better than billboards, I'd say.

The Big Texan Steak Ranch is known, as the sign says, for the 72 ounce "free" steak

It is free if you can eat the entire steak, baked potato, roll, salad, and the shrimp appetizer, all within one hour's time.  If not it costs you $72.

Those who take the challenge sit at an elevated table with a countdown clock, clicking off the seconds, directly overhead  When we arrived there were two men at the table, with ten minutes left on their clock.  When the timer reached three minutes, they both got up and left, most likely to pay their $72 bill.

My sirloin was 8 ounces and it was all I could do to finish that much.

Another fun day of being a tourist in Amarillo, Texas

Sunday, September 24, 2017

More fishing, new friends, and Eleven Mile Canyon

While I was on a walk Monday morning I spied an interesting kayak rack at the back of someones trailer so I stopped to inquire.  Naturally this called for a detailed description of the construction.

After giving me the run down of how he combined odd pieces of bike rack, PVC pipe, rachet straps, and one secret ingredient, he mentioned that he was here for the fishing.  This opened the door to a speedy friendship with he and his wife.

Barbara and Glen Doran from Tallahassee, FL

Barbara and Glen are from Tallahassee Florida.  They are both retired and travel in a tow-behind camper that they affectionately call the Taj MyHaul.  Needless to say, since her background is journalism, they have fun playing with words.

After quickly establishing their mutual quest for the elusive fish, Glen and Marlin took off every morning at 8:00, lunch and pole in hand, to torment the innocent trout in several different locations.  Barb and I did some walking, but mostly talked about projects, our history, grand children, and life in general.  Lots in common, hope to keep in touch with this fun loving pair.

Several times, the second week we were at Eleven Mile, Glen and Marlin fished in Eleven Mile Canyon where Marlin and I had explored on  non fishing journeys  The catching here was almost as good as the fishing, but the beauty of this location was the best.

This canyon meanders from below the dam that creates Eleven Mile resevouir.  "Bottom water", named because it comes from the base of the dam, is a favorite of trout because of the cold temperature.

The reservoir itself is in an open basin with grassland topography, but the canyon is a lush,  forested, rocky pathway holding the dam outflow of the South Platte.

The narrow, eight mile, dirt road is actually the remains of the Colorado Midland rail line.  It was the first standard gauge railroad built over the continental divide and ran between Colorado Springs and Grand Junction.  It ceased operation in 1918 and the entire line was scrapped by 1920.  The dam was build at the head of the canyon in 1932.

As I walked along the road I noticed several places where large parts of it had washed down the hill.  You can see from the tire tracks that if you veered very close to the edge, you might end up in the canyon below.

The road now runs through three tunnels, blasted from the canyon rock walls for the track bed.  It is hard to believe that they are wide enough or high enough for a locomotive to pass through without scraping the sides and roof.   You can also see that this tunnel is in the middle of a curve.

Two tunnels in a row

Not a lot of wiggle room.

I saw many faces in the rock outcroppings.  What do you think?

Long nose, popped out eye.

The river makes a serene exit after tumbling over the rocky floor of  Eleven Mile Canyon.  A  must see if you are any where near Colorado Springs.