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Branch Out - Palo Duro part 2

First hike in the Palo Duro Canyon State Park

Branch Out
Dried branches at the top of the Palo Duro canyon

This is a part of Palo Duro series. Check out the previous post:

I was almost three Monster drinks in, and I could definitely feel it. The picturesque canyon lies before me, but I cannot set camp there yet. The check-in starts later in the day, and I'm doing my best to keep myself busy. Being so full of caffeine, I couldn't even rest properly 😖

Without much to do, I descended the canyon with the car and drove around, looking for my camp spot. We reserved a spot at the Mesquite campsite, looking straight into the canyon with nobody behind. That sounded perfect, and it was until some folks hiking reported a rattlesnake 10 meters from my tent 😮‍💨

I set up the tent with everything and started my first hike. The great thing about state or national parks in the US is that you can get a map 🗺 of the area and the trails at the visitor's center. Almost all parks have this. The only catch is to arrive when they're open and ask them kindly to recommend some trail for you.

Being all messed up from the trip, I forgot about all recommendations 😂 and set out for a difficult trail. The name was Rock Garden trail. The person who names these should be given a raise for sure. I couldn't resist it. By that time, I hadn't slept more than a day and a half, and it started to show. I walked along the light brown rocks and cacti, trying not to fall occasionally. I even thought I saw a couple of wild animals, but that was just my tired mind playing tricks 🪄🎩

Cacti blooming in the spring/summer

I ascended up the Rock Garden trail onto the canyon's rim, around 180 meters (600 feet) from the bottom. Getting up there was definitely the tricky part because the trail gets narrower at some points, and you're looking down most of the time, trying to admire the whole canyon. And if you fall, the only thing to soften your fall would be the cacti. They wouldn't like it either, I bet 😂

Look Down
Canyon from the top

Finally, when you get to the top, the scenery changes. No more of those dry rock formations and spiky plants. Up there, everything is a shortgrass prairie 🌿 Some trees that managed to grow at some point are no more. Their bare branches point to the blue sky with no clouds, hoping one day they'll get to bring leaves into this baren canyon below. That day, the warm wind was blowing straight into my face, which felt so damn good 😌

Green grass at the canyon's rim

Up there was magical ✨, but I couldn't say for long because it was getting dark. Plus, I had to make dinner with my humble camping utensils. On my way back, I crossed paths with a great older couple 👫. I talked to them all the way back to our camp, and they were amazed by my stories of the Rock Garden trail I had witnessed a few steps before. They wished they were a couple of years younger to attempt it. Unfortunately, the route was too steep for them.

Wind shaping the grassy edge of the canyon

The couple I met was camping beside my campsite but with a much more powerful setup than mine. Their campsite was filled with a full-fledged RV 🚐 (a literal house on wheels) and a set of bikes. Talu and I brought bikes on our last road trip in 2018, but it was too much to drag two bikes all the way through the west USA. If we really needed them, we'd rent them - that was the agreement. I parted ways with the old couple and started preparing some steak for dinner 🥩

Mesquite campsite and the small tent

I could eat a brick by that point, having been exposed to Texas heat and hiking for a few hours after a long ride. I'll show my cooking setup in the next post, which happens the following day. Now, it was time for me to finally sleep after a day and a half of being awake on energy drinks and excitement 😴

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