Road Miles: 361
Trail Miles: 3
Sites: Buffalo Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Fort Griffin State Historical Site
Travel Buddy: RaggedyCrow
Ugh. Another day, another gross sunrise… said NO ONE, ever, if those sunrises come over western plains. I was getting sicker by the day, but once again, the silver lining was catching my first Texas sunrise, and it was spectacular. Texas, so far, has been so much more beautiful than I expected. Especially West Texas, which features so prominently as the butt of many many regional jokes.
Shortly after being released from our beautiful prison (automatic gates lock campers into Buffalo Lake from 8p – 8a), we made our way to Palo Duro Canyon State Park which had been recommended as a must-see place by a couple of friends. As we neared the entrance, we got stuck in a traffic jam, only to realize that this was actually the line to get into the park! For as empty as Buffalo Lake was, just southwest of Amarillo, Palo Duro, which is just southeast of Amarillo, was packed.
After at least a half hour wait to get into the park, we explored a bit around the canyon rim, which offers amazing views of the multi-colored rock that makes up the canyon, accented nicely by the fresh green of new spring growth. It was pretty windy, though, and the blowing dust and sand were not helping my cold, so we weren’t able to do much in the way of hiking or stay as long as I would’ve liked to explore more. We made a pit stop at the main visitor center, which also has a gas station and a little store, before heading back up and out of the canyon. I’d definitely return to Palo Duro to spend more time, and hike some of the more than 25 miles of trail within the park boundaries.
From Palo Duro, we headed south via scenic TX-207 and TX-70, passing through tiny towns with names like Turkey, Matador, Spur, Old Glory. Texas has some awesome place names! One overlook we stopped at had views that were almost as incredible as the ones you have to pay to see at Palo Duro.
What Texas does not have, no doubt due in part to the fact that only 1.5% of the entire state is public land, is a significant number of places to camp. As it got closer and closer to sunset, we were frantically trying to find a reasonably close place to stop for the night. By now, my cold was full-blown: I’d already gone through an entire box of tissues and was deep into a second, and I felt absolutely miserable. And cranky.
We were getting close to Abilene, where RC had gone to college, and he proposed getting a room there, anything to end this day. I didn’t want to do that, feeling like it’d be a waste of money, and neither of us would sleep with me coughing all night, my symptoms further aggravated by breathing in noxious motel cleaning chemicals. Finally, we found Fort Griffin State Historic Site, a bit northeast of Abilene, and the atlas indicated there was camping available.
We arrived just after sunset, paid our $23, and parked at site 19, which seemed like the most secluded spot away from the few other people in the campground. I was coughing so loud, you could hear it from well outside the van. Hot, exhausted, and feeling as shitty as could be, I downed the last of my Ecuadorian cough syrup (which worked better than the NyQuil I’d picked up). As RC got to practice pitching in the dark for the first time, I climbed into bed to try to get some sleep before another long day of eastbound travel.