Caprock Canyon State Park

We're out in the middle of Nowhere, Texas, for the next couple of days. So far are we from anything that we didn't think we'd have a cell signal. Then...magically...we did! So here I am to blather on about the latest happenings here at the Traveling Three Cats Ranch RV.

Yesterday's drive took us through the flattest of country and the most remote of one-cow towns.

Actually, there's some ranching in this part of the world, and so there was more than just one cow in most towns we passed through. They were the kinds of towns where you had to look fast or you might miss them entirely. Blinking was discouraged. There is a lot of grain and cotton grown out here. We saw acre upon acre of harvested cotton fields and a number of co-operative cotton gins. We only knew about the grain because of the large number of co-operative mills we saw along the way. Possibly cotton has taken over as the crop of choice.

We drove a zig-zagging route over county and farm roads. Eventually, we came to another wind farm. We aren't very far north of our road into Lubbock, and so possibly, we are on the other side of the large wind farm we saw on our last driving day.

As we drew closer to the state park, the terrain began to change.

When we reached this town (prounounced "kitty quay," according to the sign), we were very nearly to the state park.

A few more miles, and there we were.

On the other side of the road was this sign:

The visitor center was closed for lunch when we arrived. We had reservations at the campground, but couldn't check in for about 20 minutes (when lunch was over). We decided to drive back into the campground and scope out a site we liked. Along the way...

Hm. Speaking of bison...Excuse me...um...pardon me...uh, could you just....we're trying to...could you...? Slowly, ever so slowly, we forged ahead without causing anybody to get into charging mode.

Here's what the park literature tells us about the bison:  In 1878, toward the end of the great slaughter of bison, a handful of individuals became concerned about the bison and took on the difficult task of saving them. They began caring for orphaned calves and started to increase the number of bison by forming their own herds. In particular, Mary Ann Goodnight urged husband Charles to capture some of the orphaned calves from the southern herd. They were raised up on the JA Ranch and formed the nucleus of what was to become the Goodnight Herd. Eventually, the herd grew to around 200 head. The descendants of those animals now constitute the Texas State Bison Herd. The Goodnight Herd, together with four other herds nurtured by other concerned citizens, provided the foundation stock for virtually all bison found in North America today.

As for the Texas State Bison Herd, it eventually faded from public awareness following the death of the Goodnights.  When wildlife conservationinst Wolfgang Frey learned about the remaining herd of 50 or so head on the JA Ranch in 1994, he contacted the state of Texas. Genetic testing by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department found a rare genetic marker within the herd, revealing it to be perhaps the last remaining group of southern plains bison. The JA Ranch donated the herd to Texas Parks and Wildlife. In 1997, they were moved here to Caprock Canyons State Park. Unique not only in its historical importance, but also in its rare genetic makeup, this herd has been designated the "Official Bison Herd of the state of Texas."  Texas, I salute you. What other state would have the cojones to have its own herd of bison?

So wanna see our campsite? There are other campers here in the park, but from where we sit, it appears we have the place to ourselves. Our site is spacious and private. That structure to the right is a sheltered picnic table.

Okay, now this brings me to a funny story...funny to me, at least. Now y'all know I'm fond of your accents around here, so please don't take offense at what I'm about to say. As we were checking in, the woman behind the counter observed, "I noticed you have 'bocks' on the back of your RV."

Hm, what? "Bocks?" I inquired.

"Yes, bocks."

"Bocks," I repeated again.

"You know...bah-cycles."

Yes, we do have bikes on the back of our rig. She wanted to tell us about all the hiking and biking trails. I just need to learn the Texas King's English if I'm going to communicate with the locals.

Smitty has figured out that these kinds of spots are good for walking, and he's become very adventurous...a far cry from his early days as a traveling cat. When we arrive at a new spot, he runs from window to window looking out to determine if this is a good walking place. As for this one...yes...and we got him outside right away. He wasn't able to get outside much at all in Lubbock. Too many cars, too many mans, and definitely too many woofies. Here, he took a good long whiff of this juniper, no doubt smelling bison who've passed this way.

In fact, the post that protects our water hook-up has been used as a bison scratching post.

While I was being dragged around on the leash, I noticed we were just a few hundred yards away from a prairie dog town. See that sign down there? There is a field of prairie dogs right there.

Well, don't you know I was itching to get out and take some pictures of these endearing little critters. They were none too happy to see me. This little guy was barking up a storm.

"Go away! Git out of here! Hey you! Git along there! We don't cotton to your kind around here!"

This one popped up from a hole right beside me. He looked at me...I looked at him. He was wary, but he held his ground. (Pardon me...squee!)

They are on both sides of the road. Looking across, I saw these two.

Just down the road, I could see the ever-present bison herd.

About that time, my camera ran out of batteries. I was using my Olympus DSLR with a telephoto lens. It was cranky at how I've been neglecting it in favor of the point and shoot. As of this morning, it's all charged up again, so get ready for thousands of prairie dog pictures. Really. Don't say I didn't warn you.

We went back to the RV and picked up my other camera, and then headed out for a hike. The Canyon Rim Trail heads off just down the road from where our campsite is located. You can see it in the background of the image below.

There are two spur trails off the main trail that took us alongside Holmes Creek Canyon. It reminds us of the terrain in the south unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park with its red rock and green juniper.

The landscape here has been created over millions of years, and shaped by wind and water. It's located along the Caprock Escarpment that forms a natural transition between the flat, high plains of the Llano Estacado to the west and the lower rolling plains to the east.

There's also an abundance of prickly pear cactus growing here.

Here's a panorama of the area. Remember that you can make the image larger by clicking on it.

Across the expanse of the valley, looking in the other direction, we could see this:

We walked a little over two miles. As we reached the end of the trail, we could see the bison off in the distance. You can see them just a little below where the sky meets the mountains in the image below.

We're expecting a high temperature of 81 degrees today. Can I get a "Hallelujah!" There's lots of hiking to be done in the park. If I can tear myself away from the prairie dogs, we'll do some walking.

14 comments from clever and witty friends:

Anne Kirby said...

The prairie dogs are definitely squee! I love their little tiny ears. Glad Smitty is enjoying the Texas winter prairie. It's very pretty in its own way. Enjoy the hot weather!

Lee said...

Cute prairie dogs! Are you planning on visiting Palo Duro Canyon? It's somewhat known as the Grand Canyon of Texas; I never knew it existed until my daughter said she was getting married there. We didn't get much time to explore, but it might be worth checking into. It's not a huge distance from Amarillo.


Yes--I want more photos of the cute cute prairie dogs--
What does Smitty think of them???
and don't let any of those bison's run you over--
enjoy, di

Quilting Babcia said...

Beautiful country, and as always your photos are outstanding!

gpc said...

Oh my gosh, what an amazing park; I would love being so close to both the prairie dogs and the bison. Just so cool. My RV fantasy has taken a hit these past few months since I am afraid to drive even a vehicle as big as a van, but I'm going to have to figure out how to modify it to fit prairie dogs in there somewhere! I saw them as a kid and I am thrilled to see that they have remained their sassy, gutsy little selves. I wouldn't mind a little more warmth, either, although we are having a heat wave, 40 degrees today.

Debbie said...

Great photos! Love seeing the Bison but watch out for those holes left by the prairie dogs. Amazing in the change in the land from flat to mountain and canyons. Looks like a great site and good hikes....enjoy.

Kate said...

What a very cool place. Love the prarie dog photos, they are such cuties. Caprock looks pretty similar to Palo Duro Canyon State Park which is just a bit north of where you are. We've been hiking in those canyons. The landscapes in that part of the state are pretty interesting.

WoolenSails said...

What a beautiful place to camp and love seeing the wildlife and canyons.
That is a big change in temperature, I think it would be too hot for me.


MartiDIY said...

That is my all time favorite state park! In fact, in December, I was probably standing in the exact same spot as you when you took pictures from the rim. Smitty is very brave to get out and walk around there.

piecefulwendy said...

Being a Dakota girl at heart, I've always loved prairie dogs. Their little barks and that kind of half jump they make just makes me smile. I can watch them for a long time. Of course, bison are amazing and fun to watch too, although I'm a little more wary around them. Enjoy your time there -- those hikes look beautiful!

Brown Family said...

I know no one will understand when I sey I like the flat ground! But the red rock gullies are beautiful.

quiltzyx said...

X marks the sky in Quitaque! Beautiful blues skies, aaaah.
Hmmm, those Bison definitely claimed their right of way, didn't they?
Squee!!! Indeed! Prairie dogs are so cute - great pics! Not quite as photogenic as Smitty, but close.

P.S. I forgot to mention at the ranch museum, I liked that I could see your hands in the reflections of some of the bandanna displays!

Donald Beard said...

Glad you had a good time here at Caprock Canyons! Today's current temp is: 40 degrees and dropping to an overnight low of 26 and a 50% chance of snow/sleet! You were here at the perfect time!

Donald Beard
Park Superintendent
Caprock Canyons State Park
(and another Texan with a funny accent!) ;)

SJSM said...

Looky there! You made friends with the Caprock Ranger. I wonder if he will follow your blog for the rest of your trip.

My dad had a unique Texan accent. (Did you know you can say accent with 3 syllables?). His was classified as a "southwest twang" and a very old dialect from a specific time and place in Texas. Can't was said kaint, French, friench which rhymed with shrimp (schreimp) and trench/ triench. Buttocks was said b-you--tocks Thing was thang, There were a million of different words. Outside his relatives and a few others in the Texas area, I haven’t heard that accent again. We are losing many of our regional dialects. The age of communication is having us all speak the same. Even my small breath of what accent I had has disappeared in my younger brothers and next generation.