While there were plenty of free Wal-Mart overnight parking opportunities between New Mexico and Illinois, and I did indeed stay at one on the last night of my trip, I decided to bypass the Interstates for much of my drive home so I could stay at two unique parks—Palo Duro Canyon in Texas, and the Wichita Mountains in Oklahoma. Both are true geological oddities amidst their more normal surroundings.
The Texas panhandle is, for the most part, F-L-A-T. Tumbleweeds, Windmills, and barren ranch land like this.
So, imagine a place just 5 miles from this barren windmill, that is entirely different! Palo Duro Canyon State Park is considered the “Grand Canyon of Texas” and indeed it is a welcome relief to descend away from the flatlands into an entirely different place.
Within 5 minutes of arriving to our campsite, Millie and I already started seeing wildlife all around us…a few deer in the woods behind our campsite, and a flock of wild turkeys spent the night roosting in a big oak tree near our site. Here’s a picture of one of them waltzing right through our site on the way to his evening roost--
But the funniest animal sighting of the evening was this pair of Cardinals that had come to inspect Millie’s dinner bowl.
Yep, that’s right! Cardinals like to eat dog food too! Millie was not amused.
The next day, we left the Texas panhandle and drove into west central Oklahoma. Again, more F-L-A-T and barren land, more tumbleweeds…you get the idea. So, I had to stop and see a place that would audaciously call itself the Wichita “Mountains”.
Sure enough, as I got close to the Wildlife Preserve’s entrance, there was a small range of sizeable rocky hills that appeared as “mountains” compared to their surroundings. This place also had longhorn cattle freely roaming the range and even a small lake that seemed more reminiscent of northern Ontario than western Oklahoma.
Millie didn’t care where we were—it was a lake, and that could mean just one thing….swimming!
The campground at the park was nestled in a very unusual, stubby, craggily looking forest along one side of the lake. With the leaves still off these trees, and a full moon, it made for a “spooky” but enjoyable final camping evening around the fire.