Thursday, October 28, 2010

Caprock Canyon (Oct. 23-24th 2010)

Caprock Canyon:
Desert Canyon Hike

Me up top the mountain we climbed. Beautiful view

Departure Date: 12:00 PM October 23rd, 2010
Return Date: 12:00 AM October 24th, 2010
Place: Caprock Canyon, Quitaque, TX
Travel Mates: Jami (girlfriend)
Overall Fun Level: High

Adventure Level: High
Trail difficulty: Medium-High

Located in the panhandle of Texas is where this journey takes place, Caprock Canyon. A place filled with vast desert areas, forested mountains, and several types of wildlife. 
This place was just gorgeous. I wish I could have stayed longer, but for this particular weekend it was probably for the best that it was shorter, and I'll explain why later. 

If you have never been on any hikes before, I would advise to maybe start somewhere easier for, for instance, Redrock Canyon. Most of the trails out in this park are pretty intense and long, but there are perhaps some shorter ones. 

Preparing for the trip

During our Redrock canyon trip, I had planned just enough food to take down there with us, so I decided to overplan a bit this time. Because if there's one thing that sucks when you're camping is not having enough food to eat, espescially when you're a fat kid trapped in a skinny kids body like me. 

Jami and I actually spent quite a few dollars on this somewhat short trip, but we will get plenty of chances to use all the gear we bought. I won't go over everything we got, but a few things I will. I will post up another blog about the gear I have bought recently, and my review of them. 

First thing, was the portable propane space heater made by Mr. Heater. 
This thing is pretty nifty, and puts out a lot of heat for how big it is. Definitely would come in handy for cooler conditions, but it never got cold at night, so we never really got to use it, but I did fire it up once before we left. It's very easy to start, and can last all night on a single tank of propane. You can also get an adapter and hook a bigger propane tank up to it as well. Price: $79 at Bass Pro (on sale). We also thought about not getting it, since it really wasn't that cold the weekend before, but we got it just in case. Now we have the option of doing some cold-weather camping if we want to.
Second, is my new Camelbak M.U.L.E bag (not sure what mule stood for).My other one, which I have enjoyed greatly, is just not standing up to the elements. It's starting to come apart at the seems, literally. This was a great bag on the trail, and held more than my previous bag did. I give it a thumbs up!
Jami also got one as well. It's really a must when going on a long hike such as we did, or at least having a few water bottles, which take up more room in your pack though. 
I did liked how much you could adjust the pack. You can adjust several straps for keeping the pack tight to your body, and also for the pockets as we well, mainly the quick-access pocket. It also has a little holder for you spigot to sit in when you're not using it. 
I also got lots of other gear that I bought, such as a small camp Axe, and a plastic egg holder (which came in very handy), but again, look out for my blog post on my camping gear later. 
One thing I do recall needing was a table. I didn't look to see, but the campsite didn't have picnic tables, so we had to make do without them. Wasn't impossible, just a little difficult

Why we picked this canyon

We originally had several other places we had thrown around to travel to that weekend.

First: Beaver's Bend
Reason we didn't go: Raining! It would have rained on us all weekend. 

Second: Palo Duro Canyon
Reason we didn't go: All booked up. I had called ahead of time to ask the office a question about the park camping, and they stated there was a Pirates of the Canyon Balloon festival there, and all of the campsites were full. 

I still plan on going to both places though in the near future for sure. Hoping to do Beaver's Bend in November. 

The Journey To The Canyon

Here is a general idea of where it is located. If you Google it, it's pretty easy to find
Here is a map of the canyons. If you'd like to view it more close up, click the link to view the PDF. 

We wanted to leave Friday night, but Jami was roped into some last minute work, and had to work on Saturday. We were both pretty bummed at first, but we kept our spirits up and knew things would work out, as they normally do. 

I went ahead and got everything packed and ready to go Friday night and Saturday morning before we left, including firewood (since you can't collect it at the campsites), ice, gas, etc. In my time Saturday morning that I spent running around, I decided to stop into a pawn shop (for some weird, cosmic reason). Whilst I was in there, I saw some GPS devices for pretty cheap ($50), and I felt that I should get it. I've looked at them before, but none for that cheap. Little did I know how handy it would be on the trip (which I'll get into). *The GPS was a TomTom ONE by the way if you are interested. 

Once Jami got home at around noon, we hit the road for Texas. It was a pretty good drive; about 4+ hours. I won't go on too much about the drive since there wasn't much to talk about. The drive was pretty simple since most of it was highway. We stopped off to get some gas along the way, and Jami got some new sunglasses. We did start to get lost the closer we got. Mainly because, our cell phones lost signal once we got away from the highway out there. 

Remember when I told you about the GPS device? Had I not had it, I probably would have got a lot more lost since there's hardly anyone that lives out there, and we had no cell signal. In fact, I would have probably got completely lost without it. 

This was something funny to think about:

Had Jami not had to work Saturday, I wouldn't have had that extra time to burn that morning, and not went to get that GPS, and possibly got more lost than we did, and who knows what would have happened. 

Isn't that strange how things work out? Happens to me and Jami all the time though. Don't how it does, it just does. 
Although the GPS did get us there, it had a nasty habit of wanting to take us down these no-named, dirty roads that were obviously not the main entrance to the park. That was quite frustrating, and me me really want my google maps. 

Arriving at the Park

We stopped off at the entrance to take some pictures by the nice sign that had, then we went to the office to pay our entrance fees and camp fees ($3 a person to enter, and $10 for a nights stay to tent camp=$16). I almost bought a patch to put on my bag there, but I decided to get it before we left on Sunday. I wish I hadn't waited, because we ended up leaving after the park closes :(. Oh well, I'll be back again I'm sure.

*The lady that worked in the office wasn't too cheerful. She was helpful I'll have to say though, and told us about the key points of the park, and warned about taking plenty of water on the trails.

We got our maps and sticker for the car, and headed down into the canyons. We wanted to stop off so many times to take pictures, but I had to limit it since we were running short on daylight, and I wanted to get the tetn setup before dark. 

There were some times we had to stop though:

There were several great shots around the canyon that only the human eye can really enjoy fully. Several of thos "Ohh my goh! Wow! That is so amazing looking!" moments that we both shared.

This was one of those places where a  nice XLR camera would have been nice. I also took some video too, which I think I will make a nice movie out of and post on YouTube sometime soon, so stay tuned.

Here is a link to my channel if you want to be a follower:
They had several little bulletins around the canyon park explaining various facts about the canyon, it's wildlife, and history. We didn't have too much time, so I didn't get to read much of them, but the ones I did I found very entertaining. We also some some
Texas State Bison Herd (the largest herd of buffalo in the state park system) when we first drove in. That was pretty cool. And we repeatedly saw deer in our time there, and lots and lots of deer tracks of all sizes.
We also saw praying mantises everywhere there! I was pretty amazing by that. I rarely ever saw them at home, but they were like all over the place there. I mean, not like an infestation, just saw them more than I normally would. 

Once we got to the campsite area (South Prong Primitive Tent camping) we quickly unloaded gear, and got dinner going. The tent we have is pretty easy to throw up, so that only took about 10-15 minutes, with rainfly and everything.

The campsite area was pretty full though. We had our choice of two sites; one infested with ants, or one right next to the chemical toilet, where everyone walks back and forth. Being that 'ants at a picnic' are no fun, we decided to go with the road to Poop-Town. It had a fire ring, and a lantern pole (which was quite useful I must say, I might add that to my list of things to bring next time). As stated early, no table though, but it did have a wonderful view of the canyons from where we were at.

I had marinated some steaks all day in some Lawry's Hawaiian mariande, so I grilled those up on the fire, along with some corn on the cob that I buttered in the foil with, and seasoned with some Weber Sweet 'n Tangy seasoning. Was quite a tasty meal, espescially with the steaks grilled over the fire. (which by the way, they had a little remobeable grill cover for the fire pit (see pic on right). Even had enough for left overs that I stuck in a ziplock in the ice chest for later.

After we ate, we enjoyed our fire, had some rum, and enjoyed our evening. I decided to make a walking stick while I was drunk, which Jami thought was pretty funny (as did I). Ash she put it, "I'm a very productive drunk person."

Maybe my boss should let me start drinking at work? I don't know, your thoughts? Leave in the comments!

With the thermarest mattress, it definitely helped, but my hipbone still got sore sleeping out there. I maybe to seriously consider just getting an air mattress, even though I don't really like those much. 
It never really got that cold, which was great, but it did get quite windy. With that wind that came through, it was just a little noisy, but I slept through it for the most part. Jami however, got quite sick form all the pollen it stirred up, and started sneezing quite a bit. 

Sunday Morning 

We awoke groggily and a little hung-over to the sound of our neighbors in the next campsite (who were a little loud. Not noise loud, they just talked loud). Jami was still sick, and sneezing, and her stomach didn't feel all that great. I wasn't all that hungry, but once our neighbors started cooking, I got hungry real quick. So I fired up my little gas grill that I bought ($30 at Lowe's) and made some eggs and bacon, and enjoyed some orange juice. I found that the skillet wasn't too great for making bacon on a grill like that, but I made do with the foil. I think a nice little stove would come in handy, just a real little one that sits on top of a propane tank. We were out of firewood, so this was the only way to cook food that I had. 

After eating, we geared up and got ready for a daily hike. We already had our backpack ready to go, but we filled them up with some ice-cold water, and made some sandwiches for lunch, and drove to where were would start our journey. 

The Trail

I have drawn on the map the trail we took and some points of interests. The trail we took was 6.45 miles, and took about 5-6 hours with several breaks and some very steep grade. 

Right before we started, we took a look around at the little signs and things they had at the beginning of the trail. Jami yakked, and I was hesitant to even do the trail if she was going to be sick. She said she felt much better, and we had made it all this way to go, so I decided to push ahead and hit the trail. There was another group that left around the same time we did that would be our occasional trail mates, which was comforting. 

The first mile or so was a lot of desert area. I did take some pretty neat pictures though. There's a good one of Jami, all ready to go. Also got a pretty cool one the looks like the old west with the people coming up on some horses. Pretty good one of me there.

After we started out on the trail, we figured out that the beginning part of this trail was pretty boring. Just a lot of flat, dry desert. After a while, Jami was wanting to turn back, but only because she wasn't feeling good to her stomach. She yakked again when we were out on the trail.

While on the trail, I found that I need to "see a man about a horse" if you know what I mean. Luckily, I had came prepared for just such an occasion. I have to say, that saved me some grief while I was out and about.

We continued on and I tried to enjoy the trail as much as possible. It was kind of hard to since I was worried about Jami the whole time. Once we got to the mountain area, it was much cooler from the shade of the trees. The view of the canyon walls was excellent, and the coolness really helped.

We took a little break on the mountain and leaned up against a hillside that had some nice soft moss growing in the shade, and I ate my sandwich and enjoyed the silence of nature. It was so scary quite out there at times.

Once we had our break, we continued on. Our trailmates stopped and talked with us a bit, and I informed them that Jami wasn't feeling good. They were very sweet and helpful, and gave Jami some gatorade-type drink for her and some peanuts. Every time I've ever gone to Texas I've had nothing but kind and courteous from the people there. I will always remember how kind they were, and how they made us feel a little more comfortable having them on the trail with us.

We got to a point where we were about to hit the really steep, very rugged part of the mountain trail. Our trailmates suggested turning around and heading back, but that would have taken even longer since we were past the halfway mark, and we were running short on daylight. I had plenty of flashlights, but I still would have not been out in the trail at night. We could have either kept on the canyon loop trail, which was another 2.25 miles, or hit the other right that goes over the mountain, and heads directly to our campsite, instead of back to the parking lot, since it was a shorter distance, and Jami could rest there at the campsite, and I only had a short jaunt over to the car.

We continued on down the trail, enjoying the top of the mountain. It was quite a spectacular view, and I felt accomplished being up there:

I wish I would have had a nicer camera with a panaram lense, but still was a good shot. You can see how far out the canyon goes. And that's just in one direction. It was beautiful all around. 

Once we enjoyed the view, we continued down the mountain. My walkings stick that I made worked quite well going up and down the mountain trail. I do kind of want some of those extendable ones though that you can buy.

On the other side, there were several stream beds, but not much water. There was a little stream we did come across one that had enough water to cup into your hand and pour over your head. It was soooooo refreshing! Me and Jami enjoyed that cool, clean running water to cool off with quite a bit. I would have enjoyed having a filtered water bottle since I had just ran out of water. Surprising though is that my water was pretty cold the entire trip. I put ice and a small thin cold pack in my bladder bag, and it works nicely.

After about another mile and a half or so, we made it back to our campsite. We split ways here, I jogged up the road to get the car. When I got to the car, I practically downed an orange Crush, which was really freakin good at the time.

I got back to the campsite, packed up camp, and headed home. It was a long drive since we were both pretty tired, and it was about 12 AM when we got back, but we made it back safely.  

-Wonderful, but short trip. Would definitely go back.
-Don't hit the trails if one of your party isn't feeling good. 
-Bring plenty of water, and some snacks. 
Wide brimmed hats, sunglasses, sunscreen, toilet paper, bandanna, and some suggested items to bring with you on hot weather trails.
This is Bruce "The Goose"Johnson, signing off.

Coming up next: Beaver's Bend State park. Stay Tuned (click "Follow"to get updates!")

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