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.
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.
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.
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 horses 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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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