The Lone Star Desert
Hidden in North Central Texas stands a majestic series of canyons and solemn peaks littered with cacti, bison, prairie grass and geological features more suited to Utah than that of the Lone Star State. Caprock Canyons State Park is close to nowhere, yet upon our arrival, we noticed our neighboring license plates to be from Kansas - over 12 hours away; clearly it's reputation was known beyond it's jurisdiction.
Since we arrived under the cover of moonlight, we did not know until the first sliver of light hit the cliff's surrounding us that we had officially made it to the South West. As the dawn unfolded the warm golden light mixed with the red earth, blending Orange Crush right into it's surroundings. Strangely, we both awoke before the sun was out and with the kids still sleeping Sofi was able to capture it all while I prepared a pot of turmeric unfused oatmeal to sort us out for the hike ahead.
The trail map we found under the dark night before outlined a 7-8 mile loop known as the Upper Canyon Loop. With a couple thousand feet of elevation gain and loss, this was going to be our first full day hike as a family of four and after meeting another family who was packing a gallon of water per person for the trail, we knew we weren't in Maine anymore.
We reshuffled the van, pulling out our hiking kit and ensuring no comfort would be spared for what we could carry. We realized with two kids under five, we needed to be able to carry both at the same time, so we'd need to rely on our Thule Sapling Elite child carrier to pack layers, lunch, sunscreen, hats, gloves and all the water we could fit. We were also excited to try out our new Becco 8 Child carrier as it is rated for infants through to kids up to 45 pound giving us the flexibility to interchange the dudes from pack to pack to ensure everyone got enough variety to keep us going.
By quarter past ten we were off and after spending almost 2 months driving around the country it felt enlivening to re-connect with the west and be out on a proper hike. The trail criss-crossed the canyon drainage as we marched further into the valley. Finally the climbing started and we punched up 45 minutes worth of steep climbing to come out at top of the Capstones. We then realized why they had this name. While they appeared to be mountains, the capstones are more like drainages from the high to low prairie. On top it's flat for as far as the eye can see and likely as far as you could drive in a day.
We carried on dropping back into the canyon spitting us out on the other side of the largest eroding geological features of the park, giving us a mostly flat 4-hour march back to base camp. As the valley began to open more and more, the visuals of Arches National Park of Utah or even the Mountains of Seven Colors in Salta, Argentina flooded my brain momentarily confusing my place in space and time.
We completed our walk, thankful to have our home on wheels awaiting our sore bodies. I suffered a blister - a small price to pay after not taking a six hour stroll with a 60 pound pack for a couple years. As usual, we stood out in our giant orange van surrounded by tent campers but we felt more connected with our neighbors here than we had in many other places where RV's ruled the roost. Upon leaving the next day, the infamous bison turned up as another roadside attraction and we of course spent triple the amount of time with them as did any of the other passers-by.
We drove into the burning afternoon sun, back onto the lower prairie consumed by the unending flat earth surrounding us.