Saturday, May 13, 2017

On the Road: San Angelo to Amarillo

We're on the road again. Donna and I are celebrating 40 years of marriage. We wanted to do something different, so we are taking a week long trip. For the first leg of our journey, we are headed for Amarillo, Texas, and the Big Texan Steakhouse.

Now, the easy way to get to Amarillo from San Angelo would be to take US 87 to Lubbock, where US 87 becomes Interstate 27, then follow the interstate the rest of the way to Amarillo. That is a nice drive, 4 lanes all the way. But we've been that way before. We decided to take a more easterly route, one that cuts through the canyon country.

328 miles from San Angelo to Amarillo
We began our journey on Texas 208, which takes us up through Robert Lee and then Colorado City on Interstate 20. I've covered some of this country in previous blog entries, which I've listed below, so I'll not go into any detail this trip.
We stay on Texas 208 through Snyder, home of Western Texas College. We take a break at the local McDonald's, then hop back on 208 north through Clairemont.  Once, Clairemont was the county seat of Kent County, but the usual factors developed and the county seat eventually move to Jayton. There isn't much left of the old town today.

This is what is left of the old Kent County Courthouse. As we passed by, I thought this was an old school house, but I later learned that the upper floor -- or floors -- were destroyed by fire. In the background is the old jail.

Old Kent County jail.
Just south of Spur, we intersect with Texas 70, and stay on this highway north through Spur, Dickens, and Matador, home of the famous Matador Ranch. From Snyder to Amarillo, all the towns are, in fact, very small, with Spur and Claude being the largest two at just over 1,000 folks.

We continue north to Turkey, home of Bob Wills. We head west at Turkey on Highway 86, passing through Quitaque, where we detour for a quick run through Caprock Canyons, where Donna and I spent several days in August 2012. I posted several blog entries at that time covering this area:
I took several pictures of the park, but they look about the same as I posted 5 years ago, so I'll not post them here. However, Donna spotted some Martin nests at the office area, and I've posted those below.

These are just a few of the nests lined up near the restrooms.

Here's a closeup. Perhaps you can see the little beaks, or the entire baby in the nest on the left.
After our detour, we get back on the highway. This is rugged western country, on the eastern slopes of the Llano Estacado. We actually climb up from the canyon country to the table flat land between Quitaque and Silverton. Just west of Silverton, we turn north on Highway 207. Almost immediately, we descend into Tule Canyon with the MacKenzie Lake dam in view. This is a picturesque canyon, only about 2 miles wide, formed by Tule Creek. It merges with Palo Duro Canyon downstream, to the east. We continue north and finally reach Palo Duro Canyon about 15 miles later.

This is the High Plains, with flat, endless horizons. One moment, the world looks like a table.

The next moment, you come to an abyss. That is the downstream side of the dam which forms MacKenzie Lake in Tule Canyon.

Lake MacKenzie is very scenic.

This whole area was instrumental in the Red River War of 1874. Colonel Ranald MacKenzie and his troops (who had pushed north from their home base at Fort Concho in San Angelo) surprised a large Indian encampment in Palo Duro Canyon on September 28, 1874. Comanche, Kiowa, and Southern Cheyennes were camped along the Prairie Town Fork of the Red River, which carved the canyon. Although there were few casualties on either side, the attack resulted in almost complete destruction of the Indians' supplies needed to see them through the approaching winter. MacKenzie's troops also captured almost the entire Indian horse herd. To prevent the Indians from recapturing the horses, as they had done on previous occasions, MacKenzie ordered the about 1,000 of the captured 1,400 horses slaughtered. The slaughter took place in Tule Canyon.

We stopped at a rest area just below the southern lip of Palo Duro Canyon to snap most of the following pictures. This area, by the way, is downstream from Palo Duro State Park.

Starting down into Palo Duro Canyon

This picture gives a pretty good depth perspective of the canyon. We were about a third of the way below the rim of the canyon, and you can see that the road below is still heading down.

There's a lot of canyon down there.

My anniversary girl, with the canyon as a back drop.

Heading down into the canyon after our stop.

Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River, which carved the canyon. Amazing what a little water can do over time.
The drives through the canyon pass through very scenic country, much different than the surrounding table land dominated mostly by crops. North of Palo Duro Canyon, we arrive in Claude and take US 287 west the remaining few miles into Amarillo and our hotel on the east edge of town near the Big Texan Steakhouse.

Time for a good steak.

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