Caprock Canyons State Park, TX

Sunday, October 4

So much for that view. I’m surprised to see fog when I step out of the Casita this morning, this being a drier environment and all.

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The fog comes and goes as I continue south on I25, past Trididad, CO. Near the boarder with New Mexico, the interstate climbs into mountains. Low clouds obscure the tops and along the road are caution signs for bear and elk. The road ascends into the cloud line and visibility becomes very limited. A square yellow sign jumps out of this mist: Welcome to New Mexico. Along with it comes an elevation sign for the pass (7800 feet), and a warning about steep downhill grades ahead.

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Into the clouds

Again the grade is only 6% and not a problem on it’s own, but the thick fog does make it interesting. Eventually the road climbs out of the mountains and I can see again, but the clouds still hang sullen over the buttes. From the other direction comes a van pulling a Casita and we wave at each other as we pass, traffic is light.

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I experience a first for rest stops in New Mexico. Adjacent to the truck parking is a corral that it looks like is intended for use by travelers, a sign warns to watch for snakes. I guess they must get a lot of traffic with horsesΒ through here. Back on the road I get another new experience. The wind is gusting quite strong, but it’s foggy too and blowing across the road in snaking wisps.

Horse parking at a rest stop

Horse parking at a rest stop

Near the boarder with Texas, things get greener again, much greener. In Colorado the trees were still green as were farmer’s fields, but the grass was yellow. Here there aren’t many trees, but the grass is amazingly green for this time of year. When I pull over to get gas, I am overjoyed to see that it’s under $2 a gallon, nice!

Green Texas

Green Texas

I’m making good time, and at this pace would make it to my next stop too early.

Finding ways to keep myself entertained and pass time has never been a problem on the road. I pull up Google Maps on my phone and look for state parks near Amarillo and Lubbock. Caprock Canyons State Park is between the two and somewhat to the east, it’s gotten good reviews and has good hiking. I make a phone call at my lunch stop and they say they’ll have plenty of spots and I can just show up.

I aim to make it there before 5 pm when the office closes, and I make it by about 12 minutes, phew!

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This park is great. Level sites with a lot of privacy and big backyards with covered picnic table, far enough from major roads that most of the time even during the day you’ll never hear traffic. There aren’t many RV spots, but I didn’t really see a bad one among them, except perhaps sites 15 and 17 that don’t have as much underbrush and have a trail going to the bathroom between them so you’d get more people walking past.

My site, #18

My site, #18

Sites 1-25 are 30 amp and water and $15 a night, sites 26-35 are 50 amp and water and those cost $20. There is a daily use fee of $4 a person, which is cheaper than say Enchanted Rock where I volunteered last winter ($7). Now if you’d like to visit between November and February, you can pay a monthly rate of $300 for a 30 amp site which I think is pretty great, although the average low temperature in January is 19 degrees so be prepared for colder weather. There is a dump station near the entrance, dumpsters are near the bathroom.

The shower house and bathrooms are spacious, clean, and recently renovated, and are located right next to a prairie dog town which is pretty neat. There weren’t many visitors at least during my stay, and the park doesn’t appear to be suffering from overuse like so many others I’ve seen.

See the two prairie dogs?

See the two prairie dogs?

After getting settled in I take a walk around the campground and down to the outdoor amphitheater and am surprised by the canyon. I didn’t know Texas had anything like this, those red rocks could belong in Utah.

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I turn in early and am lulled asleep by a symphony of crickets and other nighttime insects. Two nights isn’t going to be enough here I can already tell.

Monday, October 5

It’s still overcast, and rains on and off in the morning but that actually works to my advantage. I discover this park has free WiFi and not only is the signal strong at my site but the speed isn’t bad either. I work on the blog and catch up on e-mails and comments to the soft patter of rain and occasional sparrow or wren in the dense shrugs and low trees surrounding my site.

Flowers in the park

Flowers in the park

Just after lunch I walk part of the 6 mile round trip Canyon Rim Trail, which starts right at the campground.

Most of the trails here are multi-use and you can take your bike on them, there are also horse trails and equestrian camping at another campground farther into the park. With the rain I half expected to have to traverse mud puddles but while the trail is packed dirt there aren’t any muddy spots along it.

To the right lies Holmes Creek Canyon, not as deep as the canyon by the amphitheater but still impressive.

The rain from this morning makes the wet ground even redder

The rain from this morning makes the wet ground even redder

Bison prints look jelly bean shaped to me

Bison prints look jelly bean shaped to me

To the left lies open prairie, and several types of flowers are still in bloom. Far out I spy several brown dots in the tall grass and weeds. I didn’t realize this until arriving, but Caprock Canyons hosts the official Texas bison herd. And here I thought I’d gotten away from bison for the year! There are hoof prints and manure piles dotting the trail, but they do not venture near while I’m hiking today.

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Between the layers of red rock lie what I can only describe as a flaky crystallized white layer. When it breaks, it turns into shards that look like wood shavings.

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After that hike, I walk down to Lake Theo. It’s not a big lake and still down from historic levels, but from the grass and brush flooded along the shore I can see that’s come up from the rains this year.

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Swimming and fishing are both allowed here. Three children with fishing gear approach from the tent camping area. One girl, maybe eight years old or so with blonde hair and freckles beams a smile at me as she says, “Beautiful day, isn’t it?” I return her smile and agree, “Yes, it is.” She shepherds her little brother out onto the dock to meet their father who already has a line cast in the water.

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I set up my chair behind the Casita and read for a couple hours in the evening as the sun finally breaks through the clouds. In bed that night, the insect symphony is joined by a chorus of coyote howls in the distance.

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Tuesday, October 6

Having broken through the clouds, the sun warms the air quickly this morning. Checkout time is 2 pm, so I’m in no rush; puttering around online, doing some more reading, taking another quick walk, and taking one last shower.

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The bison herd has taken over the prairie dog town by the bathroom. Like Yellowstone’s bison, they don’t seem overly concerned with my presence but I keep my distance. Unlike at Yellowstone, not a single person is here photographing them. This park feels more remote today than the roads of Yellowstone did the whole time I was working there this summer.

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When I come out from my shower, I do so carefully, poking my head out and peering around to make sure none of them are right at the door. They aren’t right at the door, but they are awfully darn close, heads lowered and munching on grass.

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By the time I pull out of my site just before 2, they’ve started moving into the campground. At least they’ve done me the courtesy of staying off the road so I can leave! You guys could teach the Yellowstone bison a thing or two.

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Becky

At IO I teach people how to ditch the status quo and travel full-time before retirement, and share stories of my adventures (and misadventures) to inspire future nomads and armchair travelers alike. Included at no additional charge: seizing your dreams, living boldly, and making a difference.

38 Comments

  1. Debbie in VA on October 24, 2015 at 11:23 pm

    Our next stop is near Amarillo, Palo Duro Canyon State Park. Love the red bedrock in your last picture, beautiful!
    Debbie in VA recently posted..Escaped Prisoners!My Profile



    • Becky on October 25, 2015 at 5:33 pm

      From what other readers say, Palo Duro is in the same canyon as this, just a different part of it. It’s a really need area, I hope you enjoy!



  2. Steve w. (sdw) on October 24, 2015 at 1:02 pm

    Up until a few years ago. There was a herd of Buffalo in Plano, TX
    Ross Perot brought them in along with a herd of longhorns, to graze on the extra land he bought when he built EDS. (Electronic Data Systems) Cap-rock Canyon st pk has lots of hiking trails and is usually not crowed because it’s pretty much in the middle of nowhere. FYI there’s a small town a few miles down the road called Turkey, TX., witch was the home of Bob Wills.
    Palo Duro Canyon is on the same canyon sys. as Cap-rock Canyons

    I’m a native Texan Sooooooooo! πŸ™‚



    • Becky on October 24, 2015 at 6:32 pm

      Good information Steve, thanks for sharing. I always like talking to locals to figure out what to see and do, they’ll know better than anyone else. πŸ™‚



  3. LenSatic on October 14, 2015 at 7:09 pm

    +2 on Palo Duro Canyon State Park. Also, unlike the Grand Canyon, you camp at the bottom.

    Pat



    • Becky on October 15, 2015 at 9:15 am

      Thanks for the info Len.



  4. TravelBug-Susan on October 12, 2015 at 6:26 pm

    Hi Becky,
    Caprock Canyons S.P. is very similar to where we were this past weekend: Palo Duro Canyon State Park near Amarillo. It is the second largest canyon after the Grand Canyon. Beautifully colored canyon walls show the history of the area.

    This coming weekend will be the balloon festival in Palo Duro Canyon S.P. After the Albuquerque Balloon Festival finishes, they are going to Amarillo and Palo Duro Canyon. One day next weekend the balloons will ascend from the canyon floor up over the rim. We missed it by one weekend!

    I enjoy your blog and photos. Lovely.
    Susan
    TravelBug-Susan recently posted..The Only Worry in the World … Is the Tide Going to Reach My Chair? – Thursday, October 8, 2015My Profile



    • Becky on October 12, 2015 at 8:04 pm

      Too far away for a day trip for me, but I bet that would be neat to see! Sorry that you missed it Susan.



  5. Sherry in MT on October 12, 2015 at 12:02 pm

    Looks like a great and restful spot. Your descriptions are absolutely lovely! I’d never have thought to see bison in TX! Who knew!
    Sherry in MT recently posted..Super SundayMy Profile



    • Becky on October 12, 2015 at 1:19 pm

      It was a nice spot Sherry. And I think there are other bison herds in Texas too. Supposedly there is a wildlife refuge somewhere around here with one…



  6. Theresa from Austin on October 11, 2015 at 9:10 am

    Becky,

    Thanks for the beautiful pictures and comments, I’m so glad your first nights in Texas were so pleasant. All your postings add to my list of places I want to visit in the near future. Good luck at your new job!



    • Becky on October 12, 2015 at 1:18 pm

      Thanks Theresa and I’m glad you enjoyed this post. πŸ™‚



  7. paul on October 10, 2015 at 5:12 pm

    Welcome back to Texas, really enjoy your writings and pics, good luck at amazon.



    • Becky on October 10, 2015 at 5:33 pm

      Thanks Paul!



  8. JimS on October 9, 2015 at 11:34 pm

    Congratulations on your experience at Yellowstone. But I must say I’m a bit disappointed. Not one word about Yogi, Boo-Boo, or stolen pic-a-nic baskets. Honestly, I don’t think you got out enough. πŸ™‚

    Glad you drove thru and caught Colorado in a rare season; an upslope flow. It’s rare that this part of the Front Range is cool and foggy, but that’s what it’s been like here lately.

    I’ve enjoyed following your travels, but I’m a bit anal about all things Colorado. So… though it should not detract from your scenic and ephemeral experience, Raton pass is not part of the Continental Divide. That far south it’s a wee bit west on Wolf Creek pass.

    Looking forward to hearing about your experience at Amazon.



    • Becky on October 10, 2015 at 5:40 pm

      I saw both black and grizzly bears in Yellowstone Jim, but from a good distance just as it should be. πŸ˜‰

      Upslope flow? I’ll need to look into that when I get to a place with a better signal along with the Raton Pass stuff, thanks.

      I’m curious to see how this Amazon will be different with the robots too!



  9. dennis smith on October 9, 2015 at 9:54 pm

    Hate to tell you this Raton pass is Not the continental divide. You crossed it up in Wy. All the water on both sides of Raton Pads flow into the gulf of Mexico



    • Becky on October 10, 2015 at 5:38 pm

      I’d swear the sign at the border said it was, but I can’t research it or change the post right now, internet signal isn’t good enough. I’ll look into it Dennis thanks.



  10. PJ on October 9, 2015 at 5:41 pm

    There are woods buffalo at the appropriately named Woods Buffalo State Park in Canada. We went there are saw them back in the 70’s. I think the differences must be very small as they looked the same to me.



    • Becky on October 10, 2015 at 5:30 pm

      Curious PJ, maybe I’ll have to visit them myself some day. Thanks for sharing.



  11. Ernesto Quintero on October 9, 2015 at 5:38 pm

    Wonderful post! Your story telling and accompanying images make my day. Kudos for your sense of wonderment. I applaud your effort many times over. Be safe.



    • Becky on October 10, 2015 at 5:28 pm

      Thanks Ernesto and I’m glad you enjoyed this post. πŸ™‚



  12. Dawn from Camano Island on October 9, 2015 at 4:48 pm

    Becky, thank you for this post–I had no idea there was this kind of beauty in Texas. The bison are cool too as are the red rocks & flowers. What a nice spot to spend a couple of days. Safe travels.



    • Becky on October 10, 2015 at 5:28 pm

      Neither did I Dawn! I love all the new things I learn while traveling.



  13. Jim Schmechel on October 9, 2015 at 12:49 pm

    I have never really wanted to visit Texas, but now I do! Thank you for sharing your experiences with us. I’m glad you made it there safely, and had a nice camping experience on your journey.



    • Becky on October 10, 2015 at 5:26 pm

      Texas has a surprising amount of variety for one state Jim, it’s worth a visit. πŸ™‚



  14. Kelvin on October 9, 2015 at 11:46 am

    Try to check out Palo Duro State Park just south of Amarillo on your travels. 2nd largest canyon in the US after the Grand Canyon. You drove very close to it on the way to Caprock.



    • Becky on October 10, 2015 at 5:25 pm

      Already past it now, but maybe on the way back west later this year Kelvin, thanks for the information.



  15. Sheila Hagadone on October 9, 2015 at 8:32 am

    Thanks again for the wonderful pictures! I really enjoy your blog!
    The Yellowstone buffalo are the ONLY TRUE WILD buffalo left.
    The others are mixed with cattle. Maybe that is why Yellowstone buffalo go where they want to go! You can follow Buffalo Field Campaign and learn more.



    • Becky on October 9, 2015 at 10:07 am

      I do know Yellowstone bison sometimes get shipped out to other places and have been breeding stock for other herds to strengthen or add variety to lines. Genetically Yellowstone’s herd is Plains bison, at one point there were two other varieties as well and I wonder if those are still around at all.



  16. Ken on October 9, 2015 at 8:16 am

    I’ve never ventured to that part of Texas, but I will have to check it out. Your post was very informative and makes me want to see what all the fuss is about. πŸ™‚
    Thanks for sharing your travels with us. I like that you were able to have a couple of mentions of your Casita in there as well.



    • Becky on October 9, 2015 at 10:05 am

      It is a little remote, Amarillo and Lubbock are the two nearest cities but neither are exactly close. Worth it if you can make it Ken. πŸ™‚



  17. Terri on October 9, 2015 at 6:04 am

    That is so cool that they come up that close!! When I was at the north rim of the grand canyon, they walked right across the road in front of the cars, and we all pulled over to just stare at them in awe and take lots of pics. (Ok, I definitely did. Most others did as well, but not all. What, they are used to seeing bison every day????)

    That’s the awesomeness of your mobile lifestyle, right? Being able to change your mind on a whim and stay longer, if you want to? (Or were you only scheduled to be there for two nights and are thinking of returning at a later date?)
    Terri recently posted..My Relationship with MoneyMy Profile



    • Becky on October 9, 2015 at 10:04 am

      I could have stayed one more day and probably still made it where I needed to be on the 8th but my intention is to come back later. πŸ™‚

      I didn’t know the North Rim had bison, didn’t see any the two times I visited there!



  18. FrugalRVGals on October 9, 2015 at 5:44 am

    Very nice! I haven’t made it to Caprock Canyon State park yet. I want to visit every state park in Texas and I have been to most in the West Texas area but haven’t been there yet. I see it in my very near future. I was unaware there were bison so close. As always great pictures.
    FrugalRVGals recently posted..Week One of Cleaning out the Freezer Month | What’s for dinner?My Profile



    • Becky on October 9, 2015 at 9:55 am

      Yeah Frugal if that’s a goal of yours you definitely don’t want to miss this park! One of the best state park experiences I’ve had.



  19. Ron on October 8, 2015 at 11:18 pm

    It ain’t Yellowstone but still beautiful, Love the last photo, great colors and texture. The kids must have been Texans, friendly like most Texans.



    • Becky on October 9, 2015 at 9:54 am

      Yeah that little area just off the trail was especially pretty Ron. I had a good time there.



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