Holy Jurassic Suburban Jungle Batman…

Okay so technically I should have referenced the Carboniferous Period, but somehow I can’t imagine Robin saying “Carboniferous Period”. Anyway, I’m back!

We had a lovely holiday. We were away for a week taking in some of the sites of the Texas panhandle (yes there are some) and the high desert mountains of New Mexico. I’m in love with New Mexico, I completely understand why they call it “The Land of Enchantment”, and I’m convinced that (as long as you stay away from the chains) you can’t get a bad meal there… but I’m skipping ahead of myself.

We began our trip by heading to Canyon, Texas to visit Palo Duro Canyon State Park. Palo Duro Canyon is the second largest canyon in the United States, with a fascinating history. According to the Handbook of Texas Online:

“The Spanish name Palo Duro means “hardwood” and refers to the hardwood shrubs and trees found in the canyon. Palo Duro Canyon was carved into the eastern Caprock escarpment of the High Plains … by the headwaters of the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River and by attendant weathering. The head of the canyon lies fifteen miles southeast of Amarillo in Randall County, and the canyon extends sixty miles southeast through Armstrong County and into Briscoe County. It reaches depths of 800 feet from rim to floor (approximately 3,500 feet to 2,400 feet above sea level) and average widths of more than six miles. The steep sides of Palo Duro Canyon consist of bright, banded layers of orange, red, brown, yellow, grey, maroon, and white rocks that represent four different geologic periods and a time span of more than 240 million years …  Adding to the canyon’s scenic grandeur are numerous pinnacles, buttes, and mesas, each protected by a cap of erosion-resistant sandstone or other rock. The natural vegetation of the canyon consists of a variety of grasses and other xerophytic vegetation such as prickly pear, yucca, mesquite, and juniper. Cottonwood, willow, and salt cedar grow along the banks of Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River.

Because of the availability of wood, water, game, edible wild plants, raw materials for weapons and tools, and shelter from harsh winter winds, Palo Duro Canyon was a favorite camp site for both prehistoric peoples and later Indian tribes. The first known inhabitants, who date from the period between 10,000 and 5,000 B.C. were big-game hunters of now-extinct giant bison and mammoths …

The first Europeans to see Palo Duro Canyon were probably the members of the Coronado expedition, who may have camped and rested there in the late spring of 1541 while searching for Quivira and the treasures it reputedly contained. The region was occupied at that time by bands of pre-horse-culture Apache Indians who depended heavily on buffalo for food, clothing, and shelter. In the eighteenth century, after the Plains Indians had acquired horses, the canyon became a major campground of the Comanches and Kiowas. Traders from New Mexico called Comancheros frequently came to Palo Duro to trade with the Indians. The first Anglo-Americans to explore Palo Duro Canyon were members of Capt. Randolph B. Marcy‘s 1852 expedition in search of the sources of the Red River … In 1876 a group of army engineers, teamsters, and civilian draftsman was in the area to explore the headwaters of the Red River and conduct a topographic and scientific survey … That same year, Charles Goodnight drove a herd of cattle into Palo Duro Canyon to begin the first commercial ranch in the Panhandle, the JA.

Although the canyon remained the domain of the cattlemen for the next half century, it also became a popular picnicking and camping place for residents in the surrounding area. In 1933 the state of Texas purchased land in the upper canyon to establish Palo Duro Canyon State Scenic Park. Initial improvements, including construction of a road to the floor of the canyon, were made by the Civilian Conservation Corps under the direction of the National Park Service.”

Palo Duro Canyon

Palo Duro Canyon

Pod People in Palo Duro Canyon

Unfortunately we didn’t get to experience as much of the park as we would have liked because the April Fool’s Day temps in the canyon were 90+o (F) and there was a bike race on that made walking the nice, shaded river trail we found a little too exciting (I just can’t move out of the way that fast!). None of that will dissuade us from another visit though, plus I got a great little ethnobotany book while I was there.

After our canyon visit we spent a couple of days soaking our weary selves in the snowy New Mexican mountains before heading off to Santa Fe.

Near Ojo Caliente Hot Springs (New Mexico)

I won’t bore you with gushing on about how much I loved Santa Fe. Suffice it to say it was exactly what we needed. Especially since it apparently rained a bit and then got warm and sunny while we were gone, and this is the garden (err, jungle) I came back to.

I swear there is a veggie garden in there somewhere

I think it’s fair to say “I’m in the weeds”. And I’m not even showing you my lower growing beds (primarily because I need to excavate from under building debris that has been “stored” on them before I can call them growing beds again). Oh well, no rest for the wicked and more fodder for the blog (pun intended but you’ll have to wait for the next post to see why). If you don’t hear from me in a couple of days please send out the search party.

2 responses to “Holy Jurassic Suburban Jungle Batman…

  1. Sounds like you had a fab time…now the work starts again. Good luck with it all!.

  2. Glad you had a great vacation! I’ve driven by Palo Duro canyon many times before, but have never stopped. Maybe one day. We went to Albuqueque last year and I was very impressed with New Mexico (never been to Santa Fe, but they’re close). New Mexico was not what I expected it all – it was quite beautiful, and the food was fabulous! Good luck with your weeding!