Palo Duro Canyon

Next stop was Ute Lake State Park, New Mexico. After an uncomfortably windy drive an overnight in this park was perfect. It was on Hay 54 near Logan. Right on the border into Texas. We paid the Iron Ranger and pulled through a site. It stayed windy the whole time we were there. The lake was pretty, this time of year the campground was pretty empty and we were out of there in the morning.

This RV of ours has been giving us a hassle, the sensors in our grey water and black tanks don’t seem to work, also, the black tank flush flusher wand doesn’t spray. Why is this important? When we look at the indicator lights to see how full the tanks are, the reading is unreliable. Sometimes the black tank shows full just after it’s been emptied. We don’t hook up to sewer at every site and we sure don’t hook up and leave the tanks open! We let the tanks get pretty full before dumping them, see the problem? When are they pretty full? We’ve been guessing and trying to dump every four to five days depending on water use.

I’ve been working on clearing the sensors with a borax and laundry soap mixture dumped into the tank.. Sometimes it seemed to open up a few of them and then they would clog up again. Most of the time, I pushed Barb to keep our tanks pretty full so they would slosh the stuck-on-stuff off the sensors. At Ute Lake we availed ourselves of the dump station and re-armed the tanks with my ‘magic mixture’. Hope springs eternal, I guess.

From Ute Lake we headed across the Texas pan handle to skirt Amarillo and make our way down to the town of Canyon, Tx. Canyon is home to West Texas A & M University and at the U is an amazing museum. First, the museum is HUGE! Second, it has an oil derrick inside. Third, it tackles the history and technology of the Oil and Gas business that Texas has quite famously been a leader in since the 1800’s.

Parking didn’t work in the lot, so we went around the block and parked on the street to walk (through a chill wind) to the museum.

The museum comprises two packed floors that cover prehistory to pioneer times, geology to windmills and the advent of the automobile, and that’s just the first floor. The first floor, between exhibits, was filled with tables created by local schools, businesses and families to honor the Day of the Dead. Some were so sad, some were funny, there was one to honor Robin Williams and Suicide Prevention and numerous other tables highlighted other social issues. They were set up for the public to view and for that night’s Gala honoring Dia de Los Muertos.

Since we have museum-ed through geologic and human time, we high tailed it up to the second floor. Since we drove across Texas at the beginning of our trip we had been chewing on all of the oil and gas well heads and new drilling we saw. Not knowing how any of it worked was sure frustrating! The second floor answered our questions. Most of our time was spent in the Panhandle Petroleum Story exhibits. Full sized examples of antique and contemporary well drilling, capping, storage and transport of black gold, Texas tea and the gasses that often accompany oil. We watched a film about how the Panhandle changed with the oil boom and bust and another on Fracking.

Fracking, presented in a friendly colorful film with positive points about the practice and nothing said about the kerfuffle raised by people who live near giant fracking operations.
When we were walking away and finished with this great museum, my mind was puzzling out just how to make sense of how water and particulate matter pumped hard and fast into porous rock to break it up and release the oil manages to not leave behind a layer of very dangerously unsteady and unreliable rock. In fact, one little statement stuck on the side of a display did mention the greater occurrence of earthquakes in areas that had been fracked… This practice might be something folks want to take a close look at… the quantity of water used is disturbing as well, since water is estimated to be the next most valuable exploitable resource due to shrinking supplies.

From Canyon-town we went right down the road to Palo Duro Canyon. “Another canyon???!!” you say? Yup. But after Mesa Verde, Palo Duro is pale. The canyon is wide and not very deep. There are some notable formations to be hiked to and photographed. The campsites are very pretty, if a bit close together. Trails wander all over the canyon and bike trails dominated when we were there. An upcoming mountain bike event had the trails being pounded by cyclists trying to prepare. A little river runs through the canyon, the Canadian River, I believe, and it managed to put out an incredible quantity of mosquitos and little biting flies. I’m not much for being eaten by annoying bugs but (gamely) went on a few hikes with Barb (covered in repellant that did nothing but attract the bugs).

Palo Duro was a pretty spot to spend a few days and when it was time to leave, we made our way up the canyon, hooked up the car and headed over to Oklahoma. I always want to write that with a ! for some reason and often hear “Ooooo-kla-homa where the winds go sweeping down the plains…”

Nest stop, Red Rock Canyon State Park in Hinton, Ok. From the Registration building we had no idea at all where the canyon was, though we did see some tree tops where tree bottoms ought to have been. Down a thin twisty road (do not attempt this drive 40’ RVers) and into a shallow canyon with steep red and orange walls we went. Not many campers and a pull-through site was open, so our set up was easy.

Right away we took a walk to explore this fascinating little canyon. The walls are soft Permian Era stone into which folks have incised their names for many years. It is also a rock climbing and repelling canyon. Barb and I climbed up using some cut out toe and hand holds – it was pretty fun. The canyon has several branches and proved to be a great habitat for trees and birds with a pretty little stream running through it. The camp sported a swimming pool and fishing pond that we are sure were big hits in the summer heat of the Oklahoma plains. If you look at the center picture, you can see vertical cuts in the cliff where climbers have anchored their lines and worn through the rock

Next morning we popped out of the canyon, made our way up to the highway and barreled along toward our next stop.