Return to Palo Duro Canyon
Not long ago, I was able to take a quick trip to one of my favorite places in Texas, Palo Duro Canyon. This time, I did not explore any new places, but instead opted to shoot some familiar locations. I had two sunsets and a sunrise at my disposal (a second sunrise turned out cloudy, so I packed up and headed home).
When push comes to shove, my first option is always the Lighthouse. I’ve photographed this iconic hoodoo many times – some treks resulted in good photos, others were duds. On this evening, I did not see another person out there at sunset, and my efforts were rewarded with soft, pastel skies over the rugged hoodoo.
The walk out to the Lighthouse is just over 6 miles round-trip. And it’s just that – a walk. The only mildly challenging part is a short scramble to reach the plateau on which this hoodoo rests. I do have to admit I always get a bit creeped out when walking back in the dark by myself. Nothing looks the same, and sounds are amplified. Thank goodness for good flashlights!
The next morning, I hiked to a place I did not think I’d return because of the loose rock and sketchiness of the short scramble up to a ridge. Yet here I was, being pulled in once again. To start, I made the easy walk along the Capitol Peak Trail to the west side of Capitol Peak. From there, I left the trail and headed north up a steep, scree-filled slope to get a little height that would allow for a better perspective of Capitol Peak and its small hoodoo on its south ridge. The last time I made this scramble in the dark, I ended up with blood on my hands and legs. It was one two steps up, and a slide back down. It was brutal. This time, I knew what to expect and where to go, so the results were slightly better. The high clouds from the previous night were still lingering, and sunrise was a beautiful contrast between the pastel pink and blue skies and the glowing orange rock of this ancient canyon.
I spent the day trying to stay cool, then made the walk up to the rim of Fortress Cliff. Along the edge of the cliff, a beautiful arch takes in the orange of the sun during sunsets. Known as the Alter of Palo Duro, this arch draws me back each time because of the colors that linger only for a few minutes as the sun makes its decent beneath the horizon.
Again, the walk down isn’t particularly fun, but as always, I’m glad to have made the trip. And I look forward to returning in a few weeks!
In the meantime, Happy Travels, Texas! And be kind to others.
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