Trip update: sunshine breaks through in Texas

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A cairn of stones alongside the South Llano River

We took a southerly route in hopes of warmer travels, but the eastern cold seemed to follow us south, except for one day in Alabama.

Finally, in West Texas, the sun broke through. We had a warm day at South Llano (pronounced “lano” rather than the Spanish “Yano” by the locals) River State Park and enjoyed a walk along the river.

Prickly pear

Mistletoe in what we think were pecan trees

One of several armadillos we saw. He was shy, so I couldn’t get his head.

The park has a big roosting area for wild turkeys, but we never saw any. We did see several armadillos.

From here we headed to Big Bend National Park.

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Signs of Mardis Gras in a Louisiana campground

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We don’t decorate our campsites, but many people do. At Palmetto Island State Park in Louisiana, we were amused by some of the signs people put out. It happened to be Mardis Gras, which added to the charm. A few examples:

94BCFC7E-2555-4B75-8215-5153279A2FF8E7FACF02-72F4-4FFD-9336-4C3FE26C5302AF92D9E1-EFC4-4BB4-AC37-AB36384D4A28A5B8A0A0-5333-484F-8BFD-E29D59FFF56D

 

Westward ho, part one

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The Tensaw River, which borders Blakeley Park

After a one-night stopover at a nice state park in Georgia, we crossed into Alabama, where we spent two nights at Historic Blakeley State Park. (We passed through the area that was hit by tornados that killed 23 people, but we were long gone by then.)

Although it’s called a state park, Blakeley is financed and run separately from the Alabama park system. It is the site of an early 19th century settlement that briefly sought to rival Mobile as a port before it fell into decay and disappeared.

It is also the site of the largest Civil War battle fought in Alabama.  Since it took place just a few days before Appomattox, it is also said to be the last major battle of the war. Hiking trails run along some of the old fortifications, and cannon are placed here and there, though it’s unlikely they are from the battle.

Robin and Teddy with a historical marker along the old road between Blakeley and Pensacola, Fla.

In addition to the historical aspects, the park was quite pleasant, with lots of trees and other foliage. From here we headed for Louisiana.

Historical markers for the Civil War Battle of Fort Blakeley. The one on the left honors soldiers from Missouri who fought on both sides.

Part of a group of riders we encountered in the park. Some of them seemed to be from the local sheriffs office.

One of the many big old trees in the park

Our final camping spot: Petit Jean State Park in Arkansas

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One of the many streams that run through the park

One of the many streams that run through the park

We spent what turned out to be our final two nights of camping at Petit Jean State Park near Conway, Ark. Petit Jean is the oldest state park in Arkansas, having been built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the 1930’s. The CCC company was composed of World War I veterans.

This chimney is the remains of a Civilian Conservation Corps camp

This chimney is the remains of a Civilian Conservation Corps camp

This bridge, created by Mexican-born artist Dionicio Rodriguez, originally spanned a goldfish pond

Teddy on the trail

Teddy on the trail

Because we were there on a weekend, the park was hopping’. The campgrounds were full, and there was lots of traffic on the roads. Still it was a fun place to be. We went on a walk that took us to Cedar Falls and the CCC-built Mather Lodge.

Cedar Falls

Mather Lodge

Mather Lodge, built by the CCC

A CCC water tower

It rained our final night at Petit Jean, and the forecast called for continued rain for the rest of our trip, so we dropped our plans to camp in Tennessee, booked a motel, and chopped two days off the end of the trip, arriving in North Carolina on Monday instead of Wednesday.

Here are the final trip statistics:

  • Miles driven: 3,662
  • Average speed: 58 mph
  • Days on  the road: 18
  • Driving time: 62 hours, 39 minutes
  • States traversed: 11 (Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina)
  • License plates seen: 45 states (all except Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Wyoming, and, of course, Hawaii) and six provinces (British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec)

Texas’s answer to the Grand Canyon

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Palo Duro Canyon, about 20 miles south of Amarillo, is said to be the second largest canyon in the United States, which must be galling to those Texans who think their state is supposed have the biggest of everything. Still, it’s a beautiful spot.

We camped in Palo Duro (Spanish for hard wood) for two nights. It’s quite a different experience from visiting the Grand Canyon. The park and camgrounds are on the canyon floor. Palo Duro is not nearly as deep as the Grand Canyon. It’s kind of fun looking up at the canyon walls.

We did one easy hike, called the Paseo del Rio, the Rio in this case being the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River. Along the trail was a cowboy dugout, a hut built into a hillside from the days when much of the canyon was a cattle ranch.

The cowboy dugout

Robin and Teddy on the trail

We woke this morning to a thunderstorm, but we’re headed for Oklahoma anyway.

 

A day in Canyonlands National Park

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Canyonlands National Park is about 30 miles from Arches. It too has fascinating rock formations, but in some ways it’s a different experience. Part of the reason is that it’s more remote and so has fewer visitors.

The park has three sections that are not connected to each other: Island in the Sky, the Needles, and the Maze, which can be reached only by four-wheel drive or water.

We went to Island in the Sky, the most acccessible. Island in the Sky is essentially a giant triangular plateau formed by the Colorado and Green Rivers, which meet at the southern end.

Like Arches, the photos really tell the story of Canyonlands.

Upheaval Dome is a huge crater in the middle of Island in the Sky. Scientists disagree about how it was formed. Some think it was erosion; others, that it is a meteor crater.

This is the view from the Grand Point Overlook, looking south. A road follows the rim of the canyon. It’s 100 miles long, is accessible only by four-wheel drive, and takes a minimum of two days to drive.