Sunday, July 8, 2012

Go West XXV - The Old West

Twisted Deadwood, Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas
 © Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved

Becky and I found Palo Duro Canyon a fascinating setting. It is the second largest canyon in the U.S., after the Grand Canyon, and has a similar likeness in geology, some of the formations dating back 300 million years. Hiking along the trails through the canyon, we were struck by its rugged arid beauty, its starkly beautiful terrain of towering mesas, and oddly shaped hoodoos. The American landscape artist Georgia O'Keeffe, who once lived nearby in Amarillo, said of Palo Duro, "It is a burning, seething cauldron, filled with dramatic light and color."

Palo Duro was the home of prehistoric peoples who hunted giant bison and mammoth. The first Europeans are thought to have passed through on Coronado's expedition to find the "Seven Cities of Gold" in 1541. Palo Duro was also the homeland of pre-horse Apache. It was a major camping ground of Comanches, Kiowas, and Cheyennes, who were eventually driven out by the U.S. Calvary. In 1876 Charles Goodnight drove a herd of cattle in to begin the first commercial ranching operation in the Texas panhandle.

Not far from Lighthouse Rock Trail, I found the twisted remains of an old juniper tree lying on the desert floor. It made an interesting organic foreground for the pyramid-shaped rocks in the background. The scene seemed symbolic of this ancient land which is rich in the geology and history of the Old West. 

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