Canyon – The panhandle part of our state has plenty of places to check off the list. The Cadillac Ranch, the world’s largest free barbecue, and let’s not forget about the 72 oz. steak at the Big Texan.
Despite all of these wonders, the crown jewel is Palo Duro canyon, complete with an outdoor play dedicated to our state and a lighthouse, the famous rock formation that is.
If touring the state park isn’t enough to satisfy your love of this Lone Star State treasure, you can always head to the ranch next door for a very moving experience.
“We go at a slow pace, but it’s still pretty thrilling as you drop the elevation,” Darrell Carey said.
Darrell grew up in Pampa, and this former judge and lawyer helps run the Palo Duro Creek Ranch.
“You know, a bad day on the ranch is better than a good day at the courthouse,” Darrell said.
This five square mile piece of property used to be a part of the famous JA Ranch that Charles Goodnight established in 1876.
“This was the birthplace of the cattle industry in Texas,” Darrell said. “It’s just so much Texas history, wildlife history. It’s just so many things that are unique to this area, but also important in Texas history.”
Robert Mitchell is the man behind the wheel of a massive vehicle that will take you straight up to some serene scenery.
“Well, these Hummers are the best vehicles to have in this terrain,” Robert said.
Getting a chance to take visitors on a very bumpy ride is much different than his day job.
“This is exciting,” Darrell said. “This is beautiful scenery. You’re kinda going off-road. What your best part is, you get to talk to me. It’s a tension release job. There’s no stress when you come out here.”
As you descend into the canyon on a dirt road, it doesn’t take long till your facing down a rock face.
“At some point, though, the steepness of the road usually gets their attention and they watch that,” Darrell said. “No, it’ll be entertaining. It’ll keep your attention.”
What’s hard to believe is these incredible views are just the beginning of the tour. As you descend into the canyon, the harsh landscape turns green and what will be the Red River down the line trickles like a spring stream.
“Close to nature as it was, probably 200 years ago when the Indians were here, whenever Goodnight was here, and Quanah Parker was here,” Darrell said. “Maybe, on occasion, almost being able to see ’em in the distance, as you imagine when they came through”
Turn the corner, and you’ll find yourself surrounded by hoodoos making the part of the state feel like another planet.
“You go down into the area that we call the Hoodoo Garden,” Darrell said. “Again, some special rock formations formed over millions of years that were sacred to the Indians, and they’re sacred to us. We like to keep them as they have been always. The Indians, for at least 17,000 years, were pretty much the only ones that were there.”
Taking a ride through the ranch is like taking a ride through time. A chance to see Texas in its most natural state in a method of transportation fit for a Texan is well worth a stop on the Texas Bucket List.
“Being able to share it with folks is also a pretty special part, and we enjoy that,” Darrell said. “It’s just worth being able to see firsthand, and touch, and walk on.”