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Friday, May 17, 2019

Lighthouse Trail and Bar Z

The sun rose to reveal overcast skies in Palo Duro Canyon. This was okay with us, as it might help to moderate temperatures for a planned hike to the "Lighthouse" rock formation.
Driving to the trail head before breakfast allowed us to get a parking spot. Numerous warnings actually had us a bit concerned, but we packed plenty of water along with our cameras. Apparently this trail is responsible for the most heat related injuries and deaths in the park.
Red earth, compacted by people and horses, makes the path easy to follow.
Cacti and Yucca populate the dry valley.
Within a half-hour, our destination was visible.
The first 2.7 miles is flat, followed by a climb up to the lighthouse base in the last three tenths of a mile.
Beth was a good sport and made it close enough to pose for a silly selfie.
The "lighthouse" formation was fun to see up close. Wind and water are amazing sculptors.

Hiking poles were helpful on the way back down. These trails would not be fun in the rain.
Four different layers of rock give the mountains and canyon walls their fascinating bands of color. Four hours after setting out, we returned to a full parking lot at the trailhead.
During that time skies had cleared and temps popped up from 65 to 92.

Returning to our campsite we appreciated the campground showers before eating lunch.

This being Friday meant we had to vacate our site. The campground, like many other state parks, was fully booked for the weekend.

Reluctantly turning in our campsite permit at the main gate we did get to see some longhorn cattle savoring the local flora.

Just outside the park we pulled over after noticing a bison laying in a field next to the road.
 I was probably imaging it, but she seemed to sigh as she rose and struck a pose for the camera.

I wonder if she laid back down as soon as we were out of sight.
Beth found Buffalo Lake National Wildlife Refuge only twenty-seven miles down the road. Free camping is allowed under these trees for up to seven days. There was no competition for a campsite, even on a Friday night.
Driving a "scenic" loop revealed that the lake no longer exists except during periods of extreme rain.
After sighting just one species of bird, we decided to try a different option for tonight.
Leaving Buffalo Lake we waited for a BNSF train full of shipping containers heading east.
I can't resist shooting photos of locomotives.
Heading back towards Palo Duro, Bar Z Winery had room for us to relax and spend the night.
The owners gave us a short tour of their facility where they "gently herd Texas grapes into a bottle."
The air conditioned tasting room was a pleasant place to cool down from the prairie sun.
Two other couples were enjoying the hospitality of this Harvest Host, but there was plenty of room.
The winery sits on the edge of the same Canyon where we had hiked earlier in the day.
As the air cooled, we moved out to the covered porch to watch the sunset with other travelers.
After closing, the owners came out and joined us. They asked if we were okay with dogs before they "released the hounds." Their two big and friendly Irish Wolfhounds then galloped over from their home and patiently let everyone get some dog time.
Having trouble keeping our eyes open as the full moon rose, we soon retired to our little van.

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