After perusing the array of leaflets we had collected about what to do in Amarillo, we decided that something other than driving all day was in order, so decided to go to Palo Duro Canyon, the second largest canyon in the US. After waffles shaped like Texas for breakfast (seriously!), a brief trip to The Big Texan Steak Ranch for daylight pictures and a trip to the post office, we drove the 25 or so miles to the canyon. Arriving, we joined a small queue of cars waiting at the entrance station and when we reached the front, we were directed to park the car and to go inside to sort out camping. The group in front of us took forever to sort out, but finally it was our turn, campsite booked and paid for, we asked about Texas the Musical that we had seen advertised, but were disappointed to find that it doesn’t start until June.

Palo Duro Canyon

The views from the car were stunning, even the small amount that I could see as I concentrated on driving down the narrow and windy road down into the canyon. On the way down to the campsite we passed the riding stables and decided that we would go back later to find out more. Arriving at the campsite we pitched the tent, in the slight breeze, making sure to anchor it well so that we didn’t lose it. That done we headed back up to the riding stables to find out whether they had any free spaces on rides for that day. Although it was a little on the expensive side, it was something that we would probably not have a chance to experience again, so we booked ourselves onto the 4pm ride to give ourselves time to explore the canyon beforehand. An ice-cream sandwich for lunch later, we set out on the 15 mile driving tour of the canyon, to give ourselves an idea of what there was to see, and which hiking trails we wanted to do. The scenery was stunning, and we pulled over several times to take photos, unfortunately, it was a little hazy, which didn’t make for the best pictures. With only a short time before horse riding, we chose the Sunflower Trail, an easy 2 mile round trip, which we could easily do in the 45 minutes that we had left. The Sunflower Trail was a study in contrasts. It started with a path running between high rocks and a river, then became more desert like as it curved away from the river, with the vegetation getting less green and more shrivelled the further we got from the river. After we had passed the 1.1 mile marker, we decided that it was best to turn back since we did not want to miss our horse riding time. The return to the car was a little rushed because of this, but we made it up to the stables in plenty of time. After changing into the recommended “long pants” (jeans!) we headed in and were directed down towards the stables. We were met by a large pen, with a line of bored looking horses tied to the fence. The safety briefing seemed to take forever, with the main point being, do as you are told, stay on your horse, don’t try to go faster than a walk.

Horse Riding

Eventually the two running the session started assigning people to horses, two tiny girls and their mother were first and then it was our turn. Liz was called over and mounted her horse, neither of us could keep a straight face when she was handed the reigns and told that she was riding Cowboy. I was next and my horse, Rascal did not have nearly such an entertaining name, but certainly lived up to his. Once everyone was ready, we followed the one of the leaders out onto the trail. This is definitely the best way to see the canyon, the route took us over a variety of terrain, and we got to see lots of amazing scenery at the same time. The horses, since they do the same route several times a day, had a specific order that they liked to be in, and knew to keep up with the horse in front, so there was really not much to do except sit back and enjoy. Rascal however, seemed to quite like the look of Charlie, the horse in front, and seemed determined to walk really really close behind him. Charlie, however was not too pleased with this and so I spent rather a lot of time trying to prevent this. The ride was very enjoyable and lasted just about the right amount of time, since I was starting to get pretty uncomfortable, the stirrups were weird and twisted my legs strangely. After dismounting and saying goodbye, we headed back to the car and the campsite for a break before going hiking again. Back at the campsite we both had something to eat, (weird meals are us at this stage, we need to go shopping!) and then read and played on the computer for a while. It became clear very quickly that we had both run out of steam and that we were going to do no more hiking tonight. However, we did drive up to the scenic overlook by the visitor centre to watch the sunset. It wasn’t too amazing, since it was behind us rather than over the canyon, but there was a very good view from the overlook anyway.

Sunset at Palo Duro Canyon

We also managed to book our accommodation for the next four nights while we were high enough to have phone signal. Back at the campsite, once it was dark there was little point being on the computer with all the bugs, and I had finished my book, so I quickly gave up and joined Lizzie in the tent to start watching a film. This lasted all of 40 minutes before we were both too tired and uncomfortable and stopped the film to go to sleep.