Adventures in Palo Duro Canyon

On a pleasant, overcast day in January, I traveled to Palo Duro Canyon State Park for the first time. Having grown up in West Texas, many might find it surprising that I had never been to the canyon before. I find it funny that in particular cases, the people that live in a certain area rarely ever explore the major tourist attractions that are nearby. I suppose this would be my case. I took a memorable day trip with some great friends to hike throughout the canyon. As a novice photographer, I was able to test my skills at landscape photography.  Throughout this daylong hike, I was able to capture spectacular scenery and memorable moments. I was able to view the beautiful world around me through a lens.

On that brisk Saturday morning, my friends and I left Lubbock on a 2 hour trek toward the panhandle to have an adventure in Palo Duro Canyon. I accompanied my friends Tanner Morgan, Toby Oleru and Hunter Thomas. While on the drive, we passed by beautiful farmland, dodged a few tumbleweeds and stopped at a convenient store to buy bread for lunch.

Upon entering the state park, we were overwhelmed by the richly colored rocks cut deep into the earth. It was unlike anything I had ever seen before. The pale sky contrasted the lush color of the canyon. The canyon itself was a mix of deep red, brown and orange rock intricately entwined with the green brush of the landscape. As we made our way down into canyon, our ears popped due to the sudden change in pressure. When we reached the bottom, we traveled to a picnic area where we ate a typical college meal of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and pop tarts. After having a filling lunch in the heart of the canyon, we embarked on our journey to explore the trails.

Soon after we started off, we came across a rocky tunnel. I found the perspective of this tunnel to be quite striking. The light became darker until the light at the end of the tunnel could be seen. The canyon rocks themselves were magnificent. I was in awe at the layers of rock and the different colors each layer had within them. It was like looking into the past. I really loved being able to be in a place that had so much history and beauty behind it. The rock was carved in a ruggedly perfect way.

Rocky Tunnel Canyon Rock

Colorful Rock

My friend Tanner was probably the most daring of the four of us. As the day progressed, I was able to take some amazing shots of him at different locations in the canyon. During our hike, Tanner found a spot near the edge of the canyon that was wide enough to do a handstand on. Given the illusion that he was doing a handstand near the edge of a cliff, I decided to take multiple snapshots of him doing his one-handed skill on the brink of the canyon. The end result was picture that would bring a sense of danger, excitement and grace. I was also able to capture an impressive silhouette of Tanner at the top of a mountain. The bold clouds made a dramatic impression behind him as all the viewer can see is the frame of a person.

Hand Stand

Tanner Morgan does a one-handed handstand on what appears to be the edge of a cliff at Palo Duro Canyon. I bent down to take multiple snapshots of this quick action to get the final photograph. The end result was picture that would bring a sense of danger, excitement and grace.

Mountain Silhouette

As we continued on our journey, we saw a variety of plants that were indigenous to the canyon. I took a detailed snapshot of a cactus, and later came across cacti that were purple. Since I had never seen purple cacti before, I found it to be quite unique.  I learned that the cacti only turn purple in the winter time. There were also dry, golden plants I found that swayed in the wind at the bottom of the canyon. Its golden tone accented a photograph I took of a mountain with the richly yellow plants at its base. I also took a nice photo of golden grass surrounding a river at the bottom of the canyon.

Cactus Purple Cacti

Swaying in the Wind Mountain Landscape

Low Point View Canyon River

While traversing across the rocky landscape for a number of hours, we discovered a large cave tucked away in a crest of the canyon wall.  Pulled by our curiosity of what lied within, we climbed to the mouth of the cave.  When we walked in, the cave greeted us with a cold breath of air. Although it was dark, there was a hole at the top of the cave that let in rays of sunlight. This soft light made its dimensions visible to the eye. It was peaceful and solitary. The rock walls were a profound red and brown. Being inside gave me a sense of security as well. After some minutes of taking pictures, I heard Tanner call my name. Seeing that he was nowhere near, I finally looked up and saw him standing over the hole that let in sunlight. After asking him how he got up there, the whole group made its way to the top of the cave.

The Cave Looking Down

From the Cave

Although climbing to the top was a bit more a struggle, the view was completely worth it. Being at a high point of the canyon allowed me to see Palo Duro in a bigger perspective. I was able to view the contrasts between the low ground and high ground, the sky and rock and the shrubbery on the bottom and top of the canyon. The natural earthy colors of the canyon drew me into its fascinating beauty. We found a place at the top of the cave to see the bottom of the cave from a higher perspective. This is when I decided to sneak a shot of Tanner, who was sitting on the edge overlooking the base of the large cave.

High Perspective Looking into the Cave

We left the cave with enough time to hike back to our truck before the sun set. After a tiring hike back to our truck, we ate left overs of our lunch for dinner and then headed back to Lubbock just before the sun set. On the drive back, I looked out the window and saw the day slowly turn into dusk. As I watched the West Texas sky turn a bold pink and yellow beyond the fields, I reflected on the amazing day I had enjoying God’s beautiful creations. My day trip do Palo Duro Canyon is definitely a trip I will never forget. As simple as some people may say West Texas is, there are some places that can take your breath away.

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