Photos in the December 2016 issue
The Year of state parks
Welcome to our 2016 series: The Year of State Parks. Each month’s cover and lead story will feature one of Texas’ iconic state parks. An accompanying State Parks List will focus on parks across the state that offer similar attractions and activities. This month, we feature Palo Duro Canyon State Park and a list of parks with great hiking.
This Month's Features
From the Lighthouse to the Spanish Skirts, the Panhandle park invites us to explore.
By Melissa Gaskill
From the scenic overlook on the canyon rim near Palo Duro Canyon State Park’s visitor center, the Lighthouse rises like a tiny finger of rock, tantalizing in the distance. About a mile and a half down the Lighthouse Trail, the first glimpse of the formation hints at something more impressive. But nothing compares to standing at the base of this stocky, reddish-orange hoodoo towering 310 feet from the canyon floor.
My hiking buddies Julie Peckham and Kathy Weiler and I came to Palo Duro Canyon State Park for a few days, and seeing this Texas icon up-close topped our list.
We head out across the undulating red ground and circle the rounded dome of Capitol Peak, sitting high atop lavender, amber and red rock formations called, for obvious reasons, Spanish Skirts. A bit farther on, we face a towering remnant of red rock that looks like an enormous fortress, some miniature, misplaced Masada.
Climbing the toughest peak in Texas state parks proves to be a Herculean challenge.
By Russell Roe
The ominous phone call came just a few days before we were scheduled to leave for El Paso on a trip to tackle the toughest peak in the state park system.
On the line were Franklin Mountains State Park Superintendent Cesar Mendez and ranger Adrianna Weickhardt. The timing and the speakerphone nature of the call alerted me that something was up.
“There’s been a problem,” they said.
A group of hikers had set out for the top of Anthony’s Nose, a remote, trail-less peak in the northern part of the park, and they ended up spending an unplanned night on the mountain. Tucked up in an arroyo, they endured a sleepless night with little food or water and no overnight gear.
I gulped — that was the same peak we were planning to climb.
‘Texas Midwest’ wetlands lure large numbers of overwintering waterfowl.
By Russell A. Graves
Right around sunrise, an unknown and unseen trigger compels thousands of geese to fly. All at once, the big birds rise from their overnight roost and churn in a great swirling tornado before they disperse to feed in nearby farm fields. The birds commingle in unfathomable densities for such a tight airspace, yet they never appear to collide.
In a grand cacophony, the birds honk and whistle at one another as they take off. If you are close enough to the blastoff, the sounds drown out anything else around.
This seeming chaos, however, is orchestrated by some unseen force that guides the geese to where they feed and then back again to rest and roost in the shallow closed basins they frequent each winter. Predictably, each spring the geese move on to their northern nesting grounds. When winter’s alabaster hues tug at their migratory urges, the geese (as well an amazing number of ducks) return to a patch of southern ground that is an unlikely hot spot for waterfowl.