People of the Pecos-Part 3- the People of Today, Del Rio, Val Verde County, Texas

On this trip we stayed in Del Rio Texas, a modern town of 36,000. It had most anything you needed and is a major international crossing from the United States to Mexico.

The area we travelled in on this trip is dominated by the Amistad International Reservoir. A joint American-Mexican project, Amistad Dam created this reservoir on the Rio Grande to bring much needed water to this arid region.

A national recreation area surrounds the reservoir, boating and fishing being the prime activities.

We visited a couple of the access areas of the lake, Governors Landing and Box Canyon.

Governors Landing Lake Amistad
Box Canyon
Lake Amistad near Box Canyon. The mountains in the distance are in Mexico

And of course security is tight in this part of the country as you pass through security checkpoints during your travels…… Del Rio is directly across the Rio Grande from Ciudad Acuna, Mexico. It is a major crossing point between the countries.

Border patrol checkpoint, Comstock Texas

This trip we got to see the evolution of the area, from prehistoric Indians and the art they left behind, to the wild west days of Judge Roy Bean, to the problems of water and immigration in today’s world. A very enjoyable trip.

The People of the Pecos-Part 2- The Old Settlers, Langtry, Val Verde County, Texas

Seminole Canyon got it’s name not from the Indian Tribe, they lived in Florida, but from soldiers. The Seminole Nation, while in Florida, welcomed runaway slaves into their tribe. When the Seminole people were forced west many of those who were black Seminole relocated to Mexico so they would not be captured and sold as slaves. The U.S. Army asked them to come north as scouts, promising them safety, land and opportunity. Stationed nearby at Fort Clark in Brackettville Texas, Black Seminole soldiers and scouts were instrumental in ending the Texas-Indian Wars. Known also as the “Buffalo Soldiers,” they were given that name by the Native Americans who said their hair was kinky like a bison. This is where Seminole Canyon got it’s name.

After the Indian Wars the Southern Pacific routed it’s tracks near the canyon.

Brick oven from the railroad workers

If you are into old movies, Paul Newman did a great one near here. Based on a true story.

As I was planning this trip I noticed that Langtry Texas was nearby Seminole Canyon.

What happened at Langtry? Have you ever seen the movie the Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean? Roy Bean did actually found and live in Langtry Texas in the late 19th and early 20th century. And Roy Bean, although just a notary, acted as judge and jury………. the only “Law West of the Pecos”.

Roy Bean was also a squatter. He set up his town on land owned by the railroad, although in his defense, they were looking for someone to bring law and order to the area.

On the way to Langtry we came across a rest area with a view. That view was of the US 90 bridge over the gorge of the Pecos River. This is considered one of the most photogenic places in Texas.

Pecos River Bridge
The Pecos River near it’s confluence with the Rio Grande

After spending some time here it was on to Langtry.

Roy Bean was a bit of a peculiar and pathetic character. Roy Bean had a lifetime infatuation with British actress Lilly Langtry, although he had never met her. It is believed he named his town Langtry to honor her. He named his saloon in Langtry “the Jersey Lilly” which was a moniker hung on Lilly Langtry as she was from the island of Jersey. Bean founded his town not as a land deed owner, but as a squatter on the railroad right of way.

The Jersey Lilly

The Jersey Lilly was not only a saloon it was also the law office of the Judge and the courthouse. Roy Bean was known as the “hanging judge”, but he only hanged one man. His usual punishment was a fine, labor- helping him maintain the town, and then getting drunk with him. All of this absolutely true and happened in this very building. Roy Bean’s juries consisted of his best saloon patrons who were expected to buy a drink during any court recesses of which there were many. One stranger got off the nearby train, came to the Jersey Lilly and ordered a drink. He gave Bean a $20 gold piece which Bean refused to change. When the stranger protested Bean fined him $19.95 for contempt of court! Many times the fines levied by Bean ironically totaled the exact amount of cash the defendant had in his pockets. He charged $5 for a wedding and $10 for a divorce, unless you were Mexican it was then $10 to marry and $40 to divorce! He used one book, the 1879 statutes of Texas, as his legal guide. Any newer books that were sent to him were used as kindling for the wood stove. Unbelievably he was officially appointed as a judge at the railroad’s request as there was no law in the area.

“I know the law…….I am it’s greatest transgressor.

Roy Bean

Roy Bean also built the Langtry Opera House. While not an opera house at all, it was his home. He just called it an opera house thinking that maybe Lilly Langtry would visit if the town actually had an opera house.

Remarkably, a few years after Roy Bean died, Lilly Langtry passed through Langtry Texas on her way to a performance.

” You wouldn’t believe how the town was named for me. I was met by the whole population, headed by the mayor.

Lilly Langtry

Langtry is the last stop on U.S. 90 before you hit the Big Bend Area and Marathon Texas.

Notice the gunshot holes in the chimney

To be continued…………………

The People of the Pecos-Part 1-The Ancient Indians-Seminole Canyon, Comstock, Val Verde County, Texas

Ah it’s my birthday…….again. I wish they would stop coming. They are starting to pile up. This one was number 65. I have been looking over maps of hiking spots in Texas since we moved here and Seminole Canyon had always been on the bucket list. Just close enough to wonder but still too far for a simple day trip. For some reason I was intrigued by the place. So I decided on my birthday weekend this was my destination. Originally I had planned to go and camp. But the campgrounds remain closed due to Covid-19. I found some sites at nearby Lake Amistad National Recreation Area. They were pretty primitive but that’s okay for me. As I researched the area and found out about the cave art and other nearby attractions I asked Momma if she wanted to go with me. She said yes, even to the plan that the first day was going to involve a seven and a half mile hike, in the Chihuahuan Desert, far more hiking then she had ever done in one day.

Entrance to Seminole Canyon as you can see we are in the desert.

The origin of the canyon’s name is a whole other story. It is not named for the Seminole Indians who never lived anywhere near the canyon. The Buffalo Soldiers were stationed at Fort Clark in nearby Brackettville. The Buffalo Soldiers were of Negro and Seminole descent. They interbred before the civil war as escaped slaves found refuge among the Indians. Many fled the United States into Northern Mexico to avoid capture and impressment into slavery. After the Civil War the United States government guaranteed their protection and rights if they would come to help in the wars against the Apache, Kiowa, and Comanches. The Buffalo Soldiers were excellent scouts, and the canyon was named to honor their service.

Our original plan was to get up early and drive down overnight. But a five-hour drive then a three-hour hike?…………was I asking too much of myself and Momma? We decided to take off work early on Friday and we would drive to Junction, Texas for the night. This left us a two-hour drive to the park and a much more manageable day.

“We’re only lucky enough to see the wonders of nature’s canyons because they’re gracious enough to show us the places they’ve been damaged.”

Curtis Tyrone Jones

I find Canyons fascinating and beautiful and this one is near the top of the list. Now don’t get me wrong our trip to Palo Duro late last year was great. Palo Duro is a gorgeous place, but it is so large that at times you didn’t even know you were in a canyon. Not so at Seminole. It is large enough at seven miles long to let you know you are looking at something unique but not so large that you lose the fact that it is a canyon.

Seminole Canyon

Day one we arrived at about ten. I wanted to be there a couple hours earlier because we are in the Chihuahuan Desert and it is expected to be in the nineties today. But we’ll do it anyway. We started out from the trailhead at the Roadrunner Flats Campground and headed for the Rim Trail. the hiking was not bad as it is pretty flat around here save for the big hole in the ground next to us.

it is only three miles to the Rio Grande but since we have to follow around several side canyons the distance becomes five miles

We come to the first historical site where the Wickiups once were as designated by a pile of rocks. It looked like a pile of rocks to me so I’ll trust the archeologists on this one. We continued on in the desert heat.

as you can see the canyon is quite large

As the morning wore on someone began to wear down. Being an avid, experienced hiker heat ,dry etc doesn’t bother me much but since I had this novice hiker with me the complaining begins. Hot ,tired, can’t do this…… But we are 3.5 miles in so to turn around would equal the distance if we just go forward. Finally the pack came off and I thought Momma was through. I carried that pack and mine as we went on looking for shade. I looked at the map as I remembered that there were shade shelters along the trail. We had about another mile. We arrived and I left Momma in the shade as I walked the other 1/4 mile to the Rio Grande and the Panther Shelter Overlook.

Presa Canyon a side canyon of Seminole Canyon
Seminole Canyon at Panther Cave. The boat dock is for kayakers who visit the cave
Seminole Canyon meets the Rio Grande

The sights at this end of the canyon made the hike well worth it. Panther Cave was a bit disappointing as there were trees around the entrance which severely hampered the view of the rock art. It was also fenced in as vandals had visited over the years to do their harm. But the canyon was beautiful.

who doesn’t like bird pictures?

Seminole Canyon is not a canyon with a stream. The Canyon has been formed over millions of years by wind rain and intermittent flooding. The water in the lower end comes from backup as it is upriver from the Amistad Dam and International Reservoir on the Rio Grande. In fact Panther Cave on the far bank actually lies within the boundaries of the National Recreation Area that surrounds the lake. (Subject of a later post).

Lower Seminole Canyon
Caves in the walls of Seminole Canyon

“The desire of water is scribed across the desert like graffiti, until all that is left of the desert is water…. In the scream of a flood, consummate carvings are left behind. Careful scallops are taken from the faces of canyons. This is not random work. It is artistry distilled from madness.”

Craig Childs_ The Secret Knowledge of Water
Beautiful!

It was an easy walk back on the Rio Grande River trail…only 2.25 miles on an old ranch road so the walking was easier and the shade shelters numerous…….none of which we missed stopping at!

On day two we did the guided hike which is the only way to get down into the canyon. This canyon is protected due to the valuable collection of ancient rock art on it’s walls. In the past vandals have added some not so ancient rock art so the floor of the canyon is off limits unless accompanied by a ranger.

Heading down into the canyon

The rock art is of the Pecos River culture. It is believed to be around 4000 years old. We are doing the Fate Bell Shelter Tour which is one of the best preserved of the rock art sites in the world.

Approaching the Fate Bell Shelter

The Fate Bell Shelter gets its name from Fayette Bell a previous property owner. It is so well preserved because of its depth. The sun is the worst enemy of rock art and inside the Fate Bell Shelter the sun never shines.

Now you will notice the water and think “he said there was no creek”. Well, there isn’t. The rangers told us that this was runoff from the February snowstorm that had settled in the canyon and was still drying up over a month later. The area had 11 inches of snow during the storm.

“Ancient art has a specific inner content. At one time, art possessed the same purpose that books do in our day, namely: to preserve and transmit knowledge. In olden days, people did not write books, they incorporated their knowledge into works of art. We would find a great many ideas in the works of ancient art passed down to us, if only we knew how to read them”.

G. I. Gurdjieff
Holes in the rock formed by ancient tribes grinding the camas root for flour.

What it all means no one knows. Where these artists went ..no one knows. No modern Tribe has come forth to say ….. “these were my people.”

Looking south from the Fate Bell Shelter
Looking north from the Fate Bell Shelter
Bill Worrell statue depicting the ancient rock art of Seminole Canyon

by the way there was no camping. Momma ain’t doin’ that shit! We stayed in a hotel in nearby Del Rio Texas. This trip to be continued…………………………….

Where the West Begins-South Llano River State Park, Junction, Kimble County, Texas

It’s a long way to Junction, Texas from Round Rock. At least three hours, maybe a tad more. But with the Texas reservation system and reduced capacity at parks due to Covid the weekend finally came that I could not get into a closer place. So, Junction Texas, here I come. And I was not disappointed.

Junction is on the far west slopes of the Hill Country. It’s where the west begins!

Now the people of Fort Worth Texas claim that the west starts there. Nope. West of Fort Worth is flat farmland that is only good for grazing cattle. At Junction you see the ending of the central Texas Hill Country and the beginning of the flat dry mesas of west Texas.

South Llano River State Park

First about the South Llano River…… I would call it a creek myself. Where we grew up in Ohio we had a creek behind the house that was about the same size. But a river it is. The South Llano is spring fed so it always runs in it’s slow moving fashion.

The South Llano River rises in Edwards County Texas and flows east for fifty-five miles to the town of Junction Texas. Here combined with the North Llano River it forms the Llano River, hence the name Junction, which then flows an additional one hundred miles east where it enters the Colorado River at Kingsland Texas as an arm of Lake Lyndon B Johnson. The day I was there the river was swarming with people swimming and kayaking so I didn’t get any pictures.

Now about South Llano River State Park. The park is an old ranch. The ranch was run by the Buck Family starting in 1910. When the father died Walter White Buck Jr. took over the running of the ranch. Problem was the Junior Buck wasn’t really into ranching. He reduced his herd to about one hundred head from the 1000 head of sheep, goats and cattle his father had. Buck loved the land and his Pecan Trees which he gingerly tended to, harvesting about 75,000 pounds of pecans in the better years. Buck was also a land conservationist. In 1977 he donated his whole ranch to the State of Texas. A 600-acre state park was formed, and a wildlife management area took the rest of the property. In 2011 the two units were combined to form South Llano State Park as it is today, 2600 acres.

The front country of the park is one of the largest turkey roosting areas in the country. But I am going to the back country where the people aren’t! I started out on the Fawn Trail.

View from the Fawn Trail

This trail is going to take me into the backcountry to the East Ridge Trail. From the East Ridge Trail I could see why they say this is where the southwest begins. Along with the usual hill country terrain, the land became more barren and the hills became to look more like mesas instead of hills.

The meeting of Central and West Texas, typical hill country in foreground with a West Texas mesa behind.

“Oh east is east and west is west and never the twain shall meet”

Rudyard Kipling

At Bucks Shortcut I took a right and headed into the Mid-Canyon.

Heading for the Mid- Canyon

In the Mid- Canyon is where the parks Primitive Camping is located.

Mid-Canyon

I left the Mid-Canyon Trail to take the West Canyon Loop. I was a bit disappointed as this trail stayed on the rim of a heavily treed canyon so it afforded no worthwhile views into the canyon. It had no shade and was a long hot slog. Finally after two and a half miles I began to descend into Mid Canyon and some shade!

West Canyon Trail
The long hot slog along the West canyon Rim
After what seemed like forever I am finally descending back into Mid-Canyon and the end of the loop
Mid Canyon

The trails here didn’t form a perfect loop so I spent the last mile of this hike on the road back to the parking area

Looking west from the East Ridge Trail.

For the most part I was pleasantly surprised by South Llano River especially the very wild and beautiful backcountry. It was a long drive and a long day but well worth it!

The CCC Parks Lockhart State Park, Lockhart, Caldwell County, Texas.

Tiny little Lockhart State Park. It is more a golf course then anything else. But it does have a couple of short hiking trails. I would never drive here just for this but since it was on the way home from Palmetto State Park I figured I try to get in although I didn’t pre book a pass. Well it wasn’t crowded so it was a go.

Check dam #1

This is another CCC built park, Company 3803 built it between 1935 and 1938 although it didn’t open to the public until 1948. The main features left are the Check dams along Clear Fork Creek. The area had been used by the residents of Lockhart for years as a recreation site. To take advantage of CCC funding the city got the CCC to come and construct a usable state park including a swimming pool. Later the WPA came in and constructed the nine-hole golf course. It once contained the highest tee box in the state of Texas. The check dams were constructed to tame Clear Fork Creek and provide a superb fishing stream. Today bass, catfish, and sunfish can be pulled from the stream.

Check Dam #1
Remains of the old CCC Pool sit across the creek.

The CCC constructed a stream fed pool at the park.

Past the pool the trail follows Clear Fork Creek for about a mile. It was a pretty little creek, and the dams gave it a lot of character.

Clear Fork Creek
Check Dam #2
Check dam #3

I looped around to Comanche Point. Supposedly used by the Comanches as a lookout point over the area, it did afford a huge view. As I descended from the point, I found myself near the golf course. I followed the caddie trail back to the park headquarters.

View from Comanche Point.

This very small park would never be a destination but since I was in the area I figured I’d check it out.

The CCC Parks- Palmetto State Park, Gonzales, Gonzales County, Texas.

Travelling to Palmetto State Park one passes through Luling Texas where there are oil wells pumping everywhere. Edgar Davis hit oil in 1922 and discovered the Luling field which still produces today. Why is there oil in this part of central Texas? Why only in this one small area? When you get to Palmetto State Park it doesn’t seem so odd.

Palmetto State Park.

Palmetto State Park is full of Dwarf Palmettos, the same ones you find near the ocean in warmer climes, the same ones that when decayed help create…….. you guessed it Oil! And this place is Loaded with them.

When I arrived at this park I found that it was another of those unique places developed by the CCC although this one wasn’t so extensive as Mother Neff or Bastrop. It was built by Company 873 and Company 886 of the Civilian Conservation Corps from 1934 to 1937.

The CCC Picnic Shelter
It was built as though it was rising from a pile of rocks

The trails here are coastal area flat. And my oh my the Palmetto!

The “Palmetto Swamp”

Although known as the Ottine Swamp, there was no water. The raised boardwalk, (The one I don’t have a picture of), did suggest that this is not always the case.

Also here, and which I didn’t find were extinct mud boils, which stopped boiling in the 1970’s! Mud Boils are volcanic in nature and can be 3 to 30 feet high.

San Marcos River.

The trail then skirted the San Marcos River where I found a lot of Spanish Moss.

Moss covered Trees

All of this made no sense to me being in central Texas. What’s this sea-side type vegetation doing here? And in such abundance? Why so much oil? The Luling field produced 5.5 million barrels of oil from 1924 through 1970 and still produces today. This is the best I could find. Texas was once under the Gulf of Mexico all the way to the Balcones Fault. Oil is produced by the decay of organic matter and the movement of tectonic plates which is what caused the uplift of the region from beneath the sea. Eons of deposits were covered over and over and underwater. One of the main ingredients of the oil and gas forming process in decaying organic material is the lack of oxygen. This material being consistently buried and underwater formed the oil as the oxygen supply was cut off. That’s a simple explanation although it is way more detailed and too much to write here.

I still don’t know why so many Palmettos and so much Spanish Moss grows in the area, but it looked like I was back at Goose Creek on the Pamlico Sound in North Carolina.

The CCC also constructed a low water crossing across the San Marcos River.

Low water Crossing on the San Marcos

After travelling over this small park’s 3.5 miles of trails I decided to cross on the low water crossing and pass through the campground to the Oxbow Lake trail. This added a mile and a half to my hike.

the Oxbow Lake

The Oxbow Lake was originally formed during flooding of the San Marcos but today is completely detached from the river and is spring fed.

I then went to see the last remaining picnic site built during the 30’s.

There is so much to find out about this area. Why is there oil here? How/why does this vegetation grow here. I have seen neither anywhere else in central Texas.

As for the oil…..

I looked up a map of Texas oil fields. Luling and Palmetto State Park lie just south of the Balcones Escarpment. On the Texas oilfield map, there are several oil fields perpendicular with the coast and the Escarpment. Now, knowing that the Escarpment is roughly where the coastline once was and that the uplifting of the area raised it from the sea it all makes sense. Oil can be found in many places southeast of the Escarpment.

I find nothing of why the coastal type of vegetation has been able to flourish here.

along the San Marcos River Trail.

The Mother Road- US 66- Shamrock, Wheeler County, Texas to Glen Rio, Deaf Smith County, Texas

After our first day in Palo Duro Canyon and dinner we decided to explore a section of the Mother Road U.S. Route 66. Ah! See how this trip turned out. Yes 66 also runs through this part of the Texas Panhandle so we did our original trip in miniature so to speak! We left Amarillo in the early evening heading for Shamrock. Well, that was a mistake kind of because it was well after dark when we got there. But we got to see the Shamrock Conoco and U Drop Inn at night which made it better! A little history is in order. The Conoco Tower Station and U drop Inn was built in 1936. It fell into disrepair when Route 66 was decommissioned with the opening of Interstate 40. The building, which is a prime example of Art Deco architecture was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and during the 90’s the site was purchased by the bank in Shamrock. The bank then gave it to the city of Shamrock and with the help of a federal grant it was restored to its original glory and now houses a museum and gift shop. The Conoco tower and U Drop Inn was one of the sites, all on U.S. 66, featured in the Pixar movie Cars. It was Ramone’s body shop. Of course, that was the downside of arriving so late we didn’t get to see the inside.
After our Humvee tour and lunch, the second day, we headed out on…. you guessed it U.S. Route 66 going west this time to the ghost town of Glen Rio. More history coming….. Glen Rio is different in that it lies in two states Texas and New Mexico. At the time of Route 66’s heyday the town was set up in this way. All the gas stations were in Texas as the prices of gas were cheaper. But… all the establishments that served alcohol were in New Mexico because Deaf Smith County Texas was still a dry county. Who is Deaf Smith that a county would be named after him. Erastus “Deaf” Smith was an original Texas Ranger and Sam Houston’s chief scout during the “Runaway Scrape”, this happened as Houston’s army and that of Santa Ana were converging on San Jacinto for the final battle of the Texas War of Independence. He had a childhood illness that left him hard of hearing, hence the nickname Deaf (Pronounced at the time “deef”) Deaf Smith joined the Texas Rangers after the war and died at the age of 50 after he returned very ill to his home in Fort Bend County. On the way to Glen Rio, we passed through Adrian Texas which is considered the halfway point from Chicago to Los Angeles. So here, there is the midway café.
Mid-point of “The Mother Road” Adrian Texas
We pressed on to Glen Rio. While not quite a ghost town as there were a couple residents, Glen Rio no doubt is falling apart. Although it is listed on the National Registry of Historic places not much upkeep is being done….. there is no official town Government. Glen Rio also brought us to the edge of the Llano Estacado. This geological formation is the largest tableland in the US and covers much of the Texas Panhandle. The Llano Estacado roughly translated, “staked plains” starts at about 3000 feet in elevation towards the southeast and tops out at 5000 feet near the New Mexico border as it gently rises. The Spanish explorers of the region actually called it the “palisaded plains” but the name “staked plains” is believed to come from the stakes or markers travelers placed to find their way across the featureless barren area.
The edge of the Llano Estacado.
old station in Glen Rio Texas
First and Last Motel, Glen Rio Texas
Once we passed through Glen Rio it was back to Interstate 40 for a trip into New Mexico since neither of us had every been there. We stopped at Endee, New Mexico not too far in and looked for souvenirs of the mother road at a large truck stop there. After the long drive back, we ate and returned to the hotel. Tomorrow it’s time to head home but we will see the canyon one more time as we travel the scenic Texas route 207.
Mid Point Cafe Adrian TX
Glen Rio Texas
Shamrock Texas, the Conoco Tower Station and the U Drop Inn. Look closely and you will see “Ramon” in the garage.

Finding Fall in Texas Second Year, Lost Maples State Park, Vanderpool, Bandera County, Texas

Momma and I grew up in Ohio, so we remember the glory of the changing leaves.

When we moved to North Carolina we would travel yearly to The Great Smokie Mountains in the fall for our yearly ritual of leaf peeping like almost all old people do. Now Texas….. everything in central Texas stays green. Most of our area is either treeless or covered with Ash Juniper (Cedar) or live oaks which just shed leaves and make a giant mess….but never change color except maybe to brown. The first year we loaded up the grandbabies and headed for Wimberley Texas and the Devil’s Backbone where we were told the leaves change. Not so. There were a few trees that changed but mostly the same green cedar and live oak.

The Devil’s Backbone, Wimberly Texas

Then I read about the lost maples near Vanderpool. I took a daytrip to the area to check it out and hike around the park to see if it was doable by my non hiking wife. It was a gorgeous place even on a hot summer day. I put together a trip in mid-November to take Momma leaf peeping! And it was a great trip.

” And all the lives we ever lived and all the lives to be are full of trees and changing leaves….

Virginia Woolf
Lost Maples did not disappoint, we found fall in Texas.

Lost Maples is a Texas State Natural Area in Bandera and Real Counties near the town of Vanderpool. Why is it called Lost Maples? The park is full of Uvalde Bigtooth Maples and no one knows why or how they came to be in the Canyon of the Sabinal River.

Sabinal River Canyon

As always, the hiking is the trip for me but for Momma it’s the other things that excite her. She likes General Stores so to start this trip we headed for Camp Verde and its general store and restaurant. Camp Verde was established in 1856 as the headquarters of the US Army Camel Corps. Yes, more history coming at you.

The US Army experimented with using camels as military animals in the deserts of the southwestern US. The problem was camels don’t get along well with horses and mules. the latter two animals detest them and bolt at first smell of them. Likewise, the troops also hated the odor of the camels. I don’t know what a camel smells like but it must not be a good thing!

Anyway we walked into the restaurant at 10:57 and we’re told we were too late for breakfast although they supposedly served breakfast until 11. I Dunno………

So we ate a great lunch and went to the General Store which has been there since 1856 or so. Today it is more modern… more of a gift shop and boutique then a general store. But interestingly enough the town post office is still there as in days of old.

The original post office boxes
todays much more modern post office.
Camp Verde today

Next stop…..Bandera and it’s general store.

Now there is a General Store!

We went into the Bandera General Store where it is obviously the place in Bandera to buy a pair of cowboy boots if you don’t mind wearing used ones. Yep used cowboy boots. There was also an old fashioned soda counter where we had planned to eat some ice cream. Unfortunately we are still in the Covid-19 pandemic. Oh! the counter was opened for business but no one in the store or in the town for that matter was wearing a mask or social distancing. We felt it safer to move on and try this at a later time.

Seven Canyons Ranch is where we booked a place to stay. Nice ranch, very nice, but man it is secluded! It was a long way to everywhere! And this area of Texas has very few restaurants. So, we headed back to Bandera to grocery shop since our cabin had a small kitchen in it.

our welcoming committee at Seven Canyons Ranch. How cool is this!
Inside our A Frame cabin rental at Seven Canyons Ranch

Next morning it is time to go find fall in Texas at Lost Maples. We did the Maple Trail and the East Trail loop.

Sabinal River Canyon
A happy hiker
Sunset near the Seven Canyons Ranch

After hiking in Lost Maples we went on to Garner State Park in Concan, Texas about 35 minutes away. This was a beautiful park with the Frio River running through it.

The Frio River and Old Baldy, Garner State Park Concan, Texas
Here we found a very large tree, Garner State Park, Concan, Texas

it looks like we found a place to go for our yearly leaf peeping tour. What an enjoyable trip.

Monkey Rock at Lost Maples
Frio River at Garner State Park

Palo Duro Canyon, Canyon, Randall County, Texas

Our oldest daughter moved to Phoenix in Early 2020. We had big vacation plans for the Grand Canyon and travelling some of the Mother Road U.S. Route 66. Then of course Covid-19 struck our nation so we decided interstate travel was probably not appropriate at the time. So since we couldn’t visit America’s largest canyon we settled for the second largest, Palo Duro, right here in Texas. Palo Duro is 120 miles long, has a width of 6 to 20 miles and a depth of 850 to 1000 feet. Certainly not a small hole in the earth.

the sun rises over Palo Duro Canyon

Palo Duro Canyon State Park-Day1-Momma not being an avid hiker, I had to find a relatively easy trail for her to see the canyon. Decided on the popular Lighthouse Trail a roughly 5 mile adventure. This trail takes you through the canyon to a large hoodoo known as Lighthouse Rock or just “The Lighthouse”.

The “lighthouse” is Palo Duro’s number one attraction so we decided to get an early start. We arrived at the canyon as you can see above at sunrise. What a beautiful start to the day. The temperature of the canyon floor can reach very high levels very quickly so the early start was good in that respect also. The temperature at the start of our hike was 48 degrees.

View from the Lighthouse Trail trailhead
Capital Peak

Palo Duro Canyon was carved 90 million years ago by the Prairie Dog Town Fork Red River. People have been visiting the canyon for 10000 years. Prehistoric arrow points from the big game hunters of the Wooly Mammoth have been found in the canyon. In 1541 it is believed that Coronado’s Expedition spent some time in the canyon. Later it was mostly occupied as a winter shelter by the Apaches and the Kiowa Indians. An expedition led by Colonel Ranald Mackenzie in 1874 finally drove the Indians from the canyon by burning their food stores and teepees and driving their horses into Tule Canyon and shooting about 1100 of the horses. Soon after Charles Goodnight and John Adair drove a herd of cattle into the canyon and began the first ranch operation in the Texas panhandle. They eventually had 100,000 head of cattle. In 1933 the State of Texas purchased 15000 acres in the canyon for a state park and the CCC constructed a road to the bottom of the canyon.

Magnificent red rocks

The hike went well as we took in the glorious sights of this amazing landscape….. until the last 1/2 mile. This was a steep sandy climb along the edge of the rim and momma is afraid of heights. She couldn’t go on so I said “okay let’s turn back.” “No”! she stated “we came here to see that so one of us has to go”. How unselfish knowing that she couldn’t do it she sent me on to get some pictures.

over momma’s shoulder you can see the lighthouse in the distance
one last climb to the lighthouse
The Lighthouse

Nothing left to do now but hike back in. When we arrived back at about 11am the temperature on the canyon floor was already above 90!

Next we went to the “Big Cave”. This was just off the road so the hike there and back was only about 1/4 mile.

The “Big Cave”
Trail into the big cave
The view from inside the cave. Our car is dwarfed by the hugeness of the terrain

View from the lighthouse
Visitor Center
on this spot there was once an artists community

Before we left, we ate excellent hamburgers at the “Trading Post” in the bottom of the canyon.

Palo Duro Creek Ranch-Day2- Across the road from the State Park is the Palo Duro Creek Ranch. This is a privately owned affair and they own the canyon just north of the state park. At Palo Duro Creek they give Jeep rides over the rim and through their part of the canyon.

I say Jeep tours but we were actually in the bed of a Humvee that the owners bought at Army surplus. We were told the Humvees were in Operation Desert Storm in the early 1990’s.

Yep we are travelling in a humvee

I don’t recall our tour guides name but boy could she handle that Humvee! we started on Ghost Rider Ridge with a view back into the state park.

Ghost Rider Ridge
The State Park

Next it was on to a dry waterfall with excellent views of the Palo Duro Creek Ranch.

The tour was advertised at 2 hours but we were gone almost three. Because of the rugged terrain I don’t think we ever exceeded 5 or 10 miles per hour. We got down to the canyon floor along the Prairie Dog Town Fork Red River which was a tiny stream. Hard to believe it carved this big hole.

Our last stop before leaving the canyon were the hoodoos.

This formation is known as a Mexican skirt

Whew we survived that ride!

Texas State Route 207-Day 3- I found a road home through the canyon so we can see it one more time. We drove east on Interstate 40 to the town of Claude. Here we found the Slug Bug Ranch. The Slug Bug Ranch was developed in 2002 when five VW Beetles were buried nose first in the ground.

Slug Bug Ranch

About everyone has heard of the Cadillac Ranch outside of Amarillo. We went by but it was crowded, politicized at the time and really didn’t interest me as far as painting on the cars. We saw it, good enough. The Slug Bug Ranch is similar, just VW bugs and smaller. It is located right off of I 40 between Panhandle and Claude Texas.

We headed for Claude on State Route 207. This road is going to take us through the southern end of Palo Duro Canyon, through Tule Canyon and along Caprock Canyon at Quitique (Kitty Kay).

heading towards Palo Duro Canyon on State route 207

Many panhandle locals say these are the best views of the canyon. The 48 mile scenic drive was beautiful!

We reached Tule Canyon and Lake Mackenzie which many say is the best part of this drive.

Lake Mackenzie
Tule Canyon
Tule Canyon

We exited the canyon and said goodbye to this beautiful place. Driving along through the small towns we just talked about how gorgeous Palo Duro was and then we got to Turkey Texas. And who knew this stuff was there! We came across a fully restored Phillips 66 station

Goldsby’s Phillips 66 est 1928

Goldsby’s was the first Phillips 66 station built in Texas.

And right next door was this………..

A fully restored tour bus of Bob Wills the co-founder of “Texas Swing”.

Although born in Kosse, Texas in 1905, the family moved here in 1913. Wills left home at 16 and tried his hand at several occupations, jumping freight trains to move from town to town. He finally attended barber school and moved to Fort Worth where he cut hair and began learning the fiddle.

He formed the Texas Playboys in 1934 in Waco but soon moved to Oklahoma City to get some live radio gigs. Wills “Texas swing” music became popular in the 40’s and 50’s. He died in 1975. Today artists such as Buck Owens and George Strait have continued the Texas swing style in many of their songs.

All this in a town of 420 people. WHO KNEW!

wind farm near Coleman Texas

This is why we like to take backroads when possible. It is amazing what you can find in these small towns.

Waco, McLennan County, Texas

Who hasn’t watched or heard of the TV show Fixer Upper, where Chip and Joanna Gaines take horrible houses and make them showplaces for their many clients. Well momma is a fan so for her birthday I got a hotel room in Waco and reservations at the Magnolia Table. Oh boy! Oh my! she died and went to heaven to be there. Also, on this trip we arranged a bus tour, of Waco?

Yep, and it made the visit complete.

Magnolia Table

We arrived way to early in the morning to keep our reservation time. I think we were the first ones in the door that day! The food was outstanding and everyone very friendly. I’ll tell you as an expert ( Yes I was a restaurant manager for 23 years) Chip and Joanna Gaines have put everything into making your visit enjoyable and unforgettable.

After this outstanding breakfast and some photo time we went for our bus tour.

inside logo

To kill the hour between breakfast and the tour we visited the old suspension bridge a famous Waco landmark. This was the first bridge built across the Brazos River on the Chisholm Trail. It cost five cents a head for cattle to cross and the bridge was quickly paid for.

The Waco suspension bridge was built in 1869. It is a single span 475-foot suspension bridge. The towers of the bridge contain over 3 million bricks. In 1869 it cost $141,000 to build. With the advent of the automobile the bridge was upgraded with heavier trusses and cables. Today it is just a pedestrian bridge. In 1970 it became a National Historic Place when it was placed on the registry. It is also a Texas Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, so designated by the American Society of Civil Engineers in 1971.

Waco Suspension Bridge

As a reminder of its past bronze statues of cowboys and cattle have been constructed at the bridge.

Waco’s cattle drive in Steel

Time for the Bus tour. Oh Boy! Surprisingly this was a good call by momma to arrange the tour. We saw many of the houses that the Gaines had restored as well as many of the businesses mentioned on the show.

The Common Ground Waco’s coffee shop

First stop Common Ground Waco’s coffee shop! Also next door is the ice cream shop. As part of the tour we received our choice of a cup of joe or Ice Cream! I took the cup of coffee….I’ll never turn down coffee for much of anything else. Nearby we stopped at Jimmy Don’s metal shop but he wasn’t around.

Next stop. Clint Harp’s woodshop. Although Clint’s home that the Gaines’ restored for him is there the shop has moved on to a bigger location. The old shop is now a gift shop where you can buy many items that Clint has made.

Harp Design

The Bus then took us to Cameron Park a beautiful park area in Waco. We stopped at Lover’s Leap in the park with an outstanding view of the Bosque River.

Bosque River, Waco, Texas

Cameron Park has miles of hiking trails and a Zoo. We got refreshments and a potty stop and away we go to the Little Shop on Bosque. This is the street now, not the river. It is the original home of Magnolia and again is just a gift shop today. We went past several of the Gaines’ past restoration projects (pictures not allowed at most {people do live in them}). We ended the bus trip at “The Silos” the new home of Magnolia.

The Magnolia Silos.

Whew that is over! Actually is was more enjoyable then I was expecting riding around in a van /bus full of cackling women. After the Bus trip we visited the Waco Mammoths National Monument. Here were discovered the ancient skeletons of wooly mammoths that once roamed America. The guided tour was $5 each and very interesting. Now don’t think you are going to save five bucks by touring yourself because you won’t see squat. The preserved bones are inside a climate controlled structure and the tour guide has the key. Also keep in mind this is a working archeological site!

This is Quincy which we found hysterical because………..
This is also Quincy our family dog!

That ended our first day in Waco but no day in Waco is complete without this landmark…….. The ALICO Building. Interesting story we heard on the bus. … The building was completed in 1911 and everyone feared what would happen if a tornado hit Waco with this 22 story building sticking up over several other downtown buildings of just a couple of stories. Well in 1953 Waco found out. As an F-5 tornado bore down on the business district most everyone fled the ALICO Building to shelter in the smaller structures. 114 Wacoans lost their lives that day many who had been in the ALICO and obviously it was the one building that withstood the storm and is still there today.

The Alico Building

Day two started with rain……So what do you do on a rainy day? The Texas Ranger Hall of Fame that’s what. Also located in Waco it is a true history of this famous law enforcement group. There was a movie outlining the history of the rangers and a small display for each prominent member over the years.

Statue of a Texas ranger
Many Texas Rangers were surveyors by trade

After touring this why not go back to Magnolia Table for lunch? So, we did. And what I said about them putting in everything to make an enjoyable visit, on this rainy day a hostess came to the car with an oversized umbrella to escort you in, so you stayed dry. Phenomenal service! Besides the Magnolia Enterprises, Waco is also home to Baylor University.