It’s your favorite child travel adviser, Tyler the Boy on the Move, once again bringing you the best in last-minute vacations. Your road trip planner for the weekend getaway to the coolest and strangest places in America. How do I know about them all? My parents are contract workers in the software industry and keep moving the family every 6 months…
When my parents got a contract in Amarillo, I talked to my friend Sadie Hofmeester because I knew her grandma came from down there. And she told me all about Palo Duro Canyon in Canyon, Texas outside of Amarillo. She even sent me this neat photo of her grandma when she was around my age horseback riding, cowboy style, in the canyon!
After seeing that, I knew I needed to plan my own adventure! I talked it up to my parents, and they agreed to make a weekend out of it. For just under $25, we had our campsite in the middle of the canyon, the second biggest in the country!
If you look carefully, animals seem to be everywhere in and around the canyon! Driving into the canyon, we had to stop short to avoid a greater roadrunner crossing the road — I guess he isn’t as clever as he seems on TV (meep meep)! As we set up a quick base camp amongst the cactus and sagebrush, my mom and I found a Texas horned lizard sneaking around our newly erected tent hunting grasshoppers! A few minutes after that we heard a tap tap tapping and turned to see a golden-fronted woodpecker! It was really cool!
After our camp set-up, I set out to explore (and to see if I could find any more creatures). I’m pretty used to exploring tight spaces like urban tunnels and maybe an underground bunker or two, so the vastness of Palo Duro was striking. Even though you’re so far down from the top of the cliffside, almost everywhere you go within the canyon, you can see brilliant blue sky offset by flaming red stone.
Wandering on one of the innumerable trails, I found a plaque explaining Palo Duro’s history. The canyon has been home to Indigenous Peoples for over 10,000 years. About 12,000 years ago, the Clovis and Folsom People lived in the canyon, hunting herds of North American mammoth and giant bison. In more recent history, the mighty Apache, Arapaho, Comanche, and Kiowa Peoples lived in and used the canyon’s numerous resources. As settler-colonists moved into the area, violence erupted. Though some chiefs called for peace and signed treaties, U.S. troops repeatedly broke their promises and attacked to seize the land. From 1874 to 1875, U.S. American soldiers attacked the Native Peoples to gain the use of Palo Duro Canyon in the bloody Red River War. Perhaps this violence is what stained the soil red.
After I walked around for a while, I got pretty hot (the sun sure is strong in the panhandle!) and headed back to camp for a well-deserved dinner: some barbecued brisket. At sunset, we managed to see a ram on the top of the ridge which was pretty cool. My parents and I roasted marshmallows under the stars that night. Looking up, the stars seemed so brilliant…somehow both close and far away. It looked like a giant quilt of the night sky.
When I woke up the next day, I went exploring again. I wanted to see if I could find an artifact, maybe an arrowhead from the War, but all I found were a lot of yucca plants and red dust. Just as we were leaving, I saw a bunch of collared lizards scurrying off of the rocks, they were sunning themselves on. I bet if you keep your eyes peeled, you can spot some collared lizards too — and if you’re fast like me, you can even catch some of them.
I hope you go and have as much fun as I did!
To find out more about Tyler visit Salem House Press and buy Tyler’s latest book “Tyler Moves to Gibsonton Florida”. It is now available in paperback at most bookstores. Ask for it by name, and keep checking back for great cheap vacation ideas that might end up being the best vacation you ever had!