Thursday, August 19, 2010


One of our favorite places to unhitch our trailer is on this campsite in the Wood River valley, Idaho. It provides us with the perfect combination of hiking, fly fishing, wildflower and scenic photography and the music of the Sun Valley summer symphony. The days are warm and sunny and the nights are cool. Far away from city lights August is the perfect place to view the annual Perseid meteor shower. It is, however, quite a route march from central Texas.
There are no two ways about it, it takes two days to get out of Texas when pulling a trailer
When we set out on our summer trip up to Idaho we always take Hwy 71 towards Big Spring. The road is a pleasant drive through the rolling hills of the Texas Hill Country, mostly two lanes and with little traffic. We make a couple of stops along the way, the first being for a cup of coffee sometime around 11am. It is our habit at home to stop for 'elevenses' and old habits die hard. This time we stopped in Valley Spring at the site of an historical marker. We rarely make a stop at such markers unless for some other reason, but were interested to read about the settlement of Valley Spring as being the coming together of two communities, that of Whistleville and Bugscuffle. The names of Texas towns never cease to amaze us but then there are plenty of unusual village names in England too. Furthermore, Valley Spring was the birthplace of James Field Smathers in 1888. Smathers went on to invent the electric typewriter!

Our second stop was for lunch in Brady, where the courthouse square offers a convenient place to park car and trailer. The county seat of McCullough County boasts a fine Courthouse.

West Texas has seen a boom in windfarm development and it is not unusual to see the huge arms being transported along the highway. However, we were convinced that the large truck carrying such an arm would never be able to negotiate the 90 degree turn right there in the courthouse square. He managed it with no problem.

From San Angelo the scenery changes from mesquite and juniper until, after passing through the town of Big Spring, you reach the cotton capital of Texas. As far as the eye can see cotton fields with the occasional oil 'noddy' in the midst of the neat rows of cotton plants. Every so often along the roadside a cotton gin.

In the past we have always stopped the night in Big Spring but his time we decided to take advantage of the hospitality of the town of Lamesa, who offer free overnight camping in Forrest Park. With the added bonus of electricity and water. With temperatures in the 90s we were going to get a better night's sleep if we could use the air conditioner. It proved to be a very pleasant spot adjacent to the park. We were the only ones there and it was nowhere near the railroad track!


We woke to a perfect Texas morning. Clear skies 70 degrees. No one had joined us during the night. We would mark this as a great place to stop for the night. Setting off on the short, half days drive to Palo Duro Canyon we traversed the flat lands of west Texas. Cotton fields and the occasional field of sunflowers all with their faces turned towards the morning sun.

Two weeks ago the news had been full of the torrential rains in the Texas plains. These rains had caused tremendous flooding in the Rio Grands River. We saw evidence of that rainfall along the roadside. Many fields were still under water and the cotton crops destroyed. Others, which had now dried out left behind stunted black stalks of dead cotton plants.

Just a year ago when we had driven through this same area we saw fields of withered crops. This time it was a hail storm that had flattened and destroyed the crop. I certainly hope the farmers had their crop insurance.


Arriving in Canyon we parked the trailer under the shade of a large tree along the roadside, ate a quick lunch and visited the Panhandle Plains History Museum. Our neighbors, the Jones, had told us how much they had enjoyed visiting the museum and it seemed like a good way to spend a few hours on a hot afternoon. The museum covers a wide variety of subjects, all of which have had their impact on the development of the Panhandle of Texas. From the early geology, paleontology, early peoples and how they survived, discovery of oil, use of the wind. Displayed in such a way as to make the visit as interesting as possible. Well worth a visit.

This rendition of a chuckwagon brought back memories of Sunday nights, watching Wagon Train, when I was a child in the 50s. Those fortunate to have a television in those days sat glued to their small screens as stories, of the pioneers going west, unfolded before their eyes.


Palo Duro Canyon is just 10 miles east of Canyon City. I had made reservations to spend two nights on the campsite. After checking in we drove down the rather tight, twisting road to the canyon floor where all campsites are situated. We were located in the Hackberry camp area, site 18. Once unhitched, and the temperature being far too hot to go on a hike, we drove back up to the top of the canyon to the visitor center.

They have several interpretive displays there, one of wildflowers, which was of interest to me. It isn't surprising to find many of the flowers here the same as grow in Austin. Hopefully tomorrow I will be able to get some photographs of those I have not seen in the Austin area. We also dropped in the trading post, but saw little of interest.
In the evening we had reservations to go to see "Texas", a musical drama performed in the Pioneer Theater. The magnificent amphitheater has a backdrop of canyon walls. We could not have anticipated how wonderful this show about the history of panhandle Texas would be. The only disappointment came when they said no photography. The couple sitting next to us were from Brisbane, Australia. I had to ask them how they had managed to find Palo Duro Canyon. They said they were traveling Route 66 and were staying in Amarillo. Their original one night stay had become three when they learnt of the cattle auction on Monday and this show on Tuesday. The show had some pretty impressive stunts and the grand finale was firework show. A must for anyone visiting this part of Texas.

Wednesday we chose to do the 5.75 mile Lighthouse Trail which leads to a weather eroded, 310 feet high monument, designated a National Natural Landmark. If the recent panhandle rains had been damaging to the crops then they had been kind to the wildflowers. We also saw several lizards, tarantulas, tarantula killers and a coral snake.

There was a good breeze for most of the hike but no shade and it wasn't long before the temperature soared into the 90s. As we left the trail at noon we felt for those who were just starting out.

After lunch we took the drive along the canyon bottom stopping to climb up into a rain eroded cave on the hillside.

We stopped in at a tent camping area where we were told there were painted buntings. We were rewarded with a sighting of a male bird.


The scenery along the roadside did justice to what I think of as being the panhandle of Texas. Rather flat with little of interest. The only thing of note was to overtake about 10 solar powered vehicles taking part in a race between Dallas and Boulder. This is an annual competition for high school students to build a solar powered vehicle.

The only other spot of note along the roadside was a grouping of unusual boulders located by a rest area.

We decided to try to get as far as Denver and the Cherry Creek State Park, in Aurora, seemed like a good place to spend the night. We were incredibly lucky to be able to pick up a spot in the park due to a cancellation but they would only book us in for 2 nights. We would have to return to the office the following morning to extend our stay until Sunday.

Friday morning we visited the Denver Botanic Garden. This garden has been on my list of gardens to visit for sometime. This urban oasis is set on 23 acres in a very pleasant residential area not far from the Capitol. Composed of 45 separate gardens ranging from perennial walkways, sunken gardens, alpine terraces, Chinese and Japanese gardens, herb and kitchen gardens.
Something to delight every gardener. Two new gardens, the Mordecai Childrens' Garden and the Greenhouse complex are to be finished later in the summer.

Lunch on the shady terrace overlooking the kitchen potager.

Friday morning I was outside the campground office before it opened, first in line for an extension to our stay. We were fortunate to get another night on the same camp spot. We felt that it would be impossible to get into Rocky Mountain National Park until the Sunday, when campers would be leaving for home.

Maybe I shouldn't admit this but when we are traveling and find ourselves in a town on the weekend we like to go round the garage sales, or when we are in England the car boot sales. So, with this in mind we headed back into Denver. It wasn't until we were back in the area of the gardens that we saw any signs. Then we found one of the best sales we have ever seen- if you are looking for children's toys and books. I couldn't resist buying a wonderful wooden dolls house with furniture and people. I was thinking that with 3 grand daughters someone was going to get some enjoyment from this lovely house. Plus in a couple of weeks 5 year old Vivian would be joining us for 2 weeks of camping and there is no doubt she would enjoy the house and all the great books.

After a quick stop for coffee at a nearby coffee house, and it was good coffee, we drove to the Capitol building, which we were disappointed to find closed.

It made me wonder if our Texas Capitol is closed on Saturdays.

We then strolled down the pedestrian only mall nearby, where we spotted several pianos on the street. We had seen a segment on the news before we left home about traveling pianos. Pretty exhausted we took the complementary tram service back to the capitol and our truck. Had lunch at a Panera Bread Co. before heading back to the park. Early start in the morning.

Sunday morning we drove to Rocky Mountain National Park. No reservation, once again, and of course the sign at the entrance way showed all the campsites to be full. Undaunted by such signs, we pulled down into Moraine Park campground. Should I say we were in luck once again. Just one campsite which would accommodate all 28' of us. We managed to back in with just enough room not to have to unhitch. After a quick lunch and a couple of hours reading we set off on foot to take a nearby hike, returning around 5pm.

Checking out the shuttle bus times to the trail.

Pink milkweed along the roadside.
In the evening we were just about smoked out by the neighboring campfire which smoldered on into the night.
A neighbors vw conversion.
Next morning we had to follow the same procedure to try to get a campsite for next night. Show up at the ranger station at 7am and sign on the clipboard. Then come back around 8:30am to see if they had one for us. Lucky again, but we had to move to another area which was no great problem as we were still hitched. This time the site was along the edge of the road but the slope on the road meant we were going to have to sleep upside down in the bed! Even so, the site had much nicer views.

We unhitched because we planned to drive down to Bear lake and hike up to Emerald Lake. This is a very popular hike in the park and parking is limited. Somehow we never actually believe those signs which say,'car park full' 10 miles down the road and press on all the same. Of course someone was leaving and we once again found a spot.

David cooks up dinner on the barbecue.

New Zealand rack of lamb with fresh corn and beans.


  1. What a glorious, adventurous, seemingly carefree life you lead, Jenny! I am going to have to return again to take it all in as I only had time for a quick peek, now. Marvellously comprehensive posts such as these need to be fully appreciated! Thank you for sharing :)

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