This is a part of Palo Duro series. Check out the previous posts:
Finally, I got some sleep. It wasn't perfect because a huge wind blew almost all night and kept waking me up. Our tent did a great job of not letting the wind through, but you don't really get much sound isolation. So I'd wake up and go take a night leak. Let me tell you, I was scared for sure. You have to unzip the tent, get into your shoes, and either walk with a flashlight all the way to the camp toilet or just risk it and go into the bushes around you.
And you don't even know what's even lurking out there 👀. Folks say most of the activity in the desert environment happens during the night. But one thing distracted me from being scared - the night sky 🌌 With almost no light pollution, you could see whatever you wanted up there. So I'd finish my business and go back to the tent to take a good rest before the hike coming up 🥱
At some point, the wind stopped and I slept until 8-9 AM. I knew I had to eat before I set out to hike. I planned out a big hike. It would keep me away from the supplies at least until the afternoon. Good luck I bought some cage-free eggs (I don't really trust that label 🤔). The thing with eating and camping feels so clumsy. You're used to your own kitchen and utensils, and now you get almost a free trial of that. But I wasn't complaining and got to business.
I had a stove that ran on alcohol fuel and a bunch of pots and pans that all fit into each other to save on space and weight while hiking/camping. Also, there's none of that "I'll do the dishes later" - you're either doing them right there while they're fresh or you scrubbing them later with wet wipes 😂 And what's amazing, any kind of wood fire is forbidden in this park. In any case, I packed up my things, shoved them in the back of the medium Jeep car, and I was on my way.
I planned out a serious route. It crossed a couple of trails - easy, medium, and difficult ones, a bit of everything. Some of their names had a nice sound to me - Cottonwood trail, Paseo del Rio trail, Lighthouse trail etc. The heat was rising slowly, but I wasn't worried, I had plenty of water (at least I thought so). The only thing that was bugging me was literal bugs. Some sort of flies or gnats were after me. As I mentioned, the wind stopped at some point during the night, and I guess that was their call to get out and eat 🍴
The gnats were my hiking pals 🪰 I could see a bunch of them in the shadow as I walked. They were biting my calves as I went on. Damn, they were hungry. I tried to get them off with my baseball hat, waving it around my legs every five seconds, but to no avail. Somewhere on the challenging trail, halfway through the day, I met some other folks who were biking through the trail. They were kind enough to give me a bit of their bug cream. I put it as fast as I could, but these little fuckers just wouldn't give up. They kept biting.
Luckily, other non-human residents weren't so hungry. I saw lizards everywhere, and they would get running as soon as they noticed I noticed them. But one stood still 🦎 It's like it got used to people or something. I took a picture of him and shortly admired his untouched tail. There was much ground to cover, so I couldn't spend more time admiring the chill lizard if I wanted to make time.
I met the old couple next to me, and by this time, it was odd for them and me how we managed to cross paths two days in a row. They were kind and offered me some snacks. We stopped in the shade and talked on various topics for about ten to fifteen minutes. They new about Serbia and the whole thing with Yugoslavia, the NATO bombings, etc. I told them things were fine where I lived now, and they seemed relieved and somewhat sorry for all the bad things that happened in my homeland. We parted ways after a delightful conversation and I continued my way to the Lighthouse 🕯
After a while, I got to it - the most iconic landmark in the park - the Lighthouse. It is a rock formation, standing tall from the rest and it resembles a true desert lighthouse. Like other rocks, it was layered with brown and white stone, making some sort of lines and patterns. It was like you could understand how it formed over time. Getting to it was no easy task. You had to climb a lot, and there were no safety ledges or nets, and the park noted so ⚠️
I faced my fear of heights (it took me a long time) and climbed up. Luckily, there were no other hikers to laugh at my slow climbing while constantly looking down, contemplating the horror that could occur to me. I eventually got to the lighthouse-looking rock and admired the landscape. I chilled there, making small talk with some group of hikers. They were confused by seeing me hike alone this far out in the canyon. I told them my friend is waiting for me, not sure why 😂 After some well-deserved rest, I had to get going again. It was past midday, and my water was running short 🔫
Somewhere before the I climbed up to the Lighthouse, the nasty gnats stopped bothering me. Not sure what happened, but nobody was biting my legs anymore 🙏 Being free of the flying little hungry monsters made me walk faster. But I was at that point of a hike where excitement dropped down. I was getting tired, and the heat was heavy. All I wanted was to sit down in the shade and drown myself in water. After five hours of hiking in the sun, I was at my campsite.
That old couple that was next to me arrived sometime after me. I had already had dinner when the husband invited me to go biking with him. I guess he felt bad I was all alone sitting in my patio. I instantly said yes, wanting to do more activity despite being drained. After some time, the park ranger came and informed us about the potential storm coming our way and said that the county had issued a tornado warning 🌪
The couple approached me and told me they would bunk up in their trailer and skip the biking. I understood nobody wants to get caught out in the storm. The husband was worried about me and my tent, especially in the storm and the tornado the following day. I relieved him and told him I'll leave early in the morning anyways. I didn't lie, my next day would be full of driving if I could only avoid the tornado 😂
After a quick shower, I went to bed as soon as it got dark, hoping to get as much sleep in case I needed to flee or evacuate quickly from the campsite. What happened next? Was I affected by the twister? I'll share in a next post, stay tuned 📹