Skip to main content

The colours of the canyons

Red and green. Not the garish colours of plastic Christmas decorations. But the soft, weathered, burnt-sienna red of rock worn into peaks and troughs by countless years of rain and wind. And the contrasting clumps of ever-changing greens from bushes, trees, cacti and grass, each clinging to their own little foothold. This was Caprock Canyon. And we were right in the middle of it all.


It had taken four hours to drive here. Four hours of long straight roads across flat bare countryside, passing through half-forgotten towns with their ramshackle shop fronts. Now we pitched our tent in the tiny campsite and soaked in the silence. Caprock Canyon is a sudden sharp schism in the landscape, jolting you in just a few miles from the homely farmlands to jagged edges of tortured sandstone. It’s the edge of a great plateau stretching across the landscape, and the sudden storms and ever-blowing winds have had their way with the exposed rocks for thousands of years. But all that violence seems far away when you watch the full moon rising over the still scene, the singing of crickets the only noise in your ears.

As we walked the next day, we passed peaks and pillars, cliffs and caves. A viewpoint opened up vistas down the entire canyon, blue sky arcing over green shrubby floor. Fern Cave, reached by a steep scramble down a rocky path, was a cool retreat of lush green leaves hanging from the damp dripping rocks. Graham jumped a few feet backwards as he suddenly spotted a flat-headed snake alert at the side of the path. It wasn’t long but it looked mean, so we gave it a wide berth. Back down in the dry stream valley, we admired castle-like walls of crenellated rock and sweltered in the sun as the day grew hotter and our water supply grew lower.








Later that day, we traded the solitude of that empty landscape for a cheerfully expectant crowd in Pioneer Amphitheatre. TEXAS has been put on every summer for 44 years on this outdoor stage in Palo Duro Canyon, an hour or so up the road from Caprock. We sat in the warm evening and watched as the story of cattle ranchers, pioneer spirit, love and strength was played out – complete with galloping horses, a Beethoven’s Ninth thunderstorm and an awesome prairie fire scene.

Our final hike was to the Lighthouse, a huge smokestack of knobbly rock that is the most well-known formation in Palo Duro. En route, we met lizards posing on rocks and scurrying across the path. We were watched warily by a big-eyed, slender snake camouflaged amongst the leaves. And we viewed with gruesome fascination a team of ants dragging the body of a huge bee back to their nest. In such a harsh-seeming environment, there was life going about its business everywhere we looked.


And for millions of years, humans too have found a place here. The ancient Indians survived by running herds of bison over the cliffs. Then came shepherds raising sheep, and the great cattle barons of the West. Now we are just tourists, with none of the hardships of their lives, but we felt privileged to have walked in their footsteps and shared the harsh beauty of the canyons.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Twelve Steps of Humility and Pride: Spiritual Formation Book 13

"Love is a sweet and pleasurable food because it gives rest to the tired, strength to the weak, and joy to the sorrowful. Love makes the yoke of truth easy to bear and its burden light." Bernard of Clairvaux was born in 1090. At the age of 22 he became a Cistercian monk, and persuaded about thirty of his relatives and friends to join him on this path. He became the abbot of Clairvaux when he was 25 years old. During his lifetime he founded many other monastic communities. This edition includes two of St Bernard's books: The Twelve Steps of Humility and Pride and On Loving God . They are short books, with very short chapters, often only a page or so long. The first was written for his fellow monks; the second for "the illustrious Lord Aimeric, Cardinal-Deacon and Chancellor of the Roman Church", who had apparently been asking Bernard questions about the faith. What is the book about? Twelve Steps spends its first half describing what the goal of humility is, b

Melbourne Art Festival: A Surprisingly Good Afternoon Out

Maybe it was the warm autumn weather.  Maybe it was the fun of peeking into other people's back gardens.  Maybe it was the novelty of standing with other people, listening to real live musicians.  Or maybe it was just the giant pink ice creams. Whatever it was, Melbourne Festival had turned into a surprisingly satisfying afternoon.  I'd seen the posters for it and thought it might be a nice change from yet another walk on a Sunday afternoon, but that was about as high as my expectations had been. When we arrived, the male three-quarters of the family were immediately pleased to see the signs for classic cars at Melbourne Hall.  Shortly afterwards, I was pleased to discover that there were only about half a dozen of them, so that we could rapidly move on to less mechanical works of art. The festival was spread out around the village of Melbourne, in churches, halls, and private gardens.  Melbourne is one of those fascinating places anyway, with archways and alleyways and houses

Making a mess

My friend Ellie writes a blog which I now shamelessly crib ideas from, when I am stuck for something new to do with Toby.  Some time ago she wrote about a substance with the poetic moniker of cloud dough .  It sounded simple to make and fun to play with, so I tucked it away in the back of my mind. The recipe is childishly simple: 8 cups of plain flour, 1 cup of vegetable oil, and mix.  It comes out kind of sandy, although softer and more powdery. Now, Ellie has two gorgeous girls.  Her blog entries were full of photos of them adding pretty objects and creating cute little landscapes.  I, on the other hand, have a full-on hands-on get-stuck-in-as-far-as-possible boy.  This is what happens when you let him loose on a scatterable substance. We make it and it all starts well.  Notice I have prepared for mess with a large tarpaulin and lack of shorts. A few minutes in, and the mess is spreading up the T-shirt.  It's still mostly in the tray though.  From that point o