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Trip Planning, Texas, New Mexico, April/May

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Trip Planning, Texas, New Mexico, April/May

Postby jdzaharia » Tue Mar 13, 2012 6:32 pm

My wife and I are planning to visit Texas in late April or early May. I have never been to Texas, and my wife has only been there for a week, spending time in the western panhandle, around Dalhart, Amarillo, and Hereford. We plan to spend a few days around the Amarillo and Hereford areas. Beyond that, we would like to hike and sightsee. I am looking for some suggestions of areas to hike, mountains to climb, canyons to explore, or other generally interesting things to see. Any input is appreciated.
Last edited by jdzaharia on Mon Mar 19, 2012 9:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Trip Planning, Texas, April/May

Postby DK » Tue Mar 13, 2012 7:10 pm

Guadeloupe Mts NP and Big Bend NP in West Texas have some gorgeous hiking!
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Re: Trip Planning, Texas, April/May

Postby Castlereagh » Tue Mar 13, 2012 7:43 pm

the national parks are pretty far from Amarillo. This one, however, is just a few minutes away

http://www.summitpost.org/palo-duro-canyon/155140
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Re: Trip Planning, Texas, April/May

Postby DK » Tue Mar 13, 2012 8:20 pm

wow that's pretty spectacular.. going to add that to my list of things to see!
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Re: Trip Planning, Texas, April/May

Postby Bubba Suess » Wed Mar 14, 2012 1:43 am

If you plan to spend the bulk of your time around Hereford and Amarillo, then the Caprock is the place to go. This this covers where you want to go. Palo Duro has already been mentioned but Caprock Canyons SP is also great (personally, I like the Prong Canyon loop there better than most of the hikes in Palo Duro). The only point of interest omitted from the Caprock Canyonlands page is Alibates Flint Quarry, which is cool, but all the hikes must accompany a docent, which is a real drag. Lake Meredith NRA is adjacent, but not that exciting when it comes to trails.

Now, if you are able to branch out from Dalhart, two other areas that are within a reasonable distance are Black Mesa, the highest point in Oklahoma and Picture Canyon are certainly worth the time and effort. Neither are that far from Dalhart.
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Re: Trip Planning, Texas, April/May

Postby jdzaharia » Wed Mar 14, 2012 6:14 pm

Big Bend National Park has always been a place I have wanted to visit. Two reasons I am unsure I will get there this trip are:
Distance. It's a long drive down there.
Weather. Is the weather hospitable for hiking there in early May?

Guadalupe Mountains is a little less driving distance and looks like a neat place to visit. It was on my "possibilities" list. Guadalupe Peak would be neat, as would El Capitan. What else there?

My wife briefly visited Palo Duro Canyon while she was down there. We are planning to spend some time there.

I'd like to get to other areas of the caprock canyonlands. Mills Canyon and Caprock Canyons State Park look great. Are there any public roads going through Tule Creek Canyon?

Actually, a tour of Alibates Flint Quarries sounds interesting to me.

Thank you for mentioning Dalhart area, Bubba. We were planning on being in that area for a small amount of our trip. Maybe longer, now. Black Mesa did cross my mind, but it did not occur to me that Picture Canyon is also not far away. I have always wanted to visit Crack Cave, but we won't be there during the Equinox, obviously.

What is interesting in the Rita Blanca National Grasslands?

How is this name pronounced: Quitaque?
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Re: Trip Planning, Texas, April/May

Postby Bubba Suess » Wed Mar 14, 2012 6:43 pm

jdzaharia wrote:Guadalupe Mountains is a little less driving distance and looks like a neat place to visit. It was on my "possibilities" list. Guadalupe Peak would be neat, as would El Capitan. What else there?


Personally, I think the hike through McKittrick Canyon is prettier than the trip to the summit of Guadalupe. If you are going that far, you could also hit Carlsbad Caverns. However, depending on how much snow they have had this winter, a trip to Sierra Blanca would be closer by a couple of hours and far prettier (in my opinion).

Edit: If Sierra Blanca is too snowy, I think there is a good chance that the Capitan Mountains would be accessible. This, to me, is still a potentially more interesting option than the Guadalupes and closer too.

Edit: I started thinking and double checked. The Sangre de Cristo's, including the Wheeler Peak Wilderness and the Pecos Wilderness are even closer than Sierra Blanca. That is where I would be headed. 4.5 hours to the Pecos versus 7 hours to the Guadalupes? Snow aside, it is a no brainer.

I'd like to get to other areas of the caprock canyonlands. Mills Canyon and Caprock Canyons State Park look great. Are there any public roads going through Tule Creek Canyon?


Tule Canyon is on a private ranch. Highway 207 cuts across the very western end, when it is more of a draw than a canyon. You "can" bandit hike it but not recommended. The only way to see the canyon is to pay to hunt on the ranch (which I did, sort of).

What is interesting in the Rita Blanca National Grasslands?


Nada

How is this name pronounced: Quitaque?


Kih-taw-quay
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Re: Trip Planning, Texas, April/May

Postby Sunny Buns » Thu Mar 15, 2012 3:30 am

Mt. Scott is not very close or spectacular, but if you're in a pinch and happen to be in the vicinity of Lawton, OK you might try it:
http://www.summitpost.org/mount-scott/151359

If you can hike on the Military Reservation, I'd probably want to try Mt. McKinley, located on the west side of this topo almost 1/2 way down from the top. Just so I could say I climbed Mt. McKinley! http://www.archive.org/download/usgs_drg_ok_34098_f5/o34098f5.tif
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Re: Trip Planning, Texas, April/May

Postby Bubba Suess » Thu Mar 15, 2012 3:45 am

Sunny Buns wrote:Mt. Scott is not very close or spectacular

Give the Wichitas some credit! Considering where they are, I think they are awesome. I spent four years in Dallas while in gradschool and those mountains got me through my exile in the flatlands.
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Re: Trip Planning, Texas, April/May

Postby jdzaharia » Thu Mar 15, 2012 3:32 pm

McKinley--that'd be neat. I don't think I'll care to spend the time arranging a military base visit this trip.

I have no desire to stealth hike Tule Canyon. Not that big of a deal, being there's plenty of other places I haven't seen.

Sierra Blanca appears to be officially off-limits, too. Ultra-prominence or not, hiking under a ski lift to an area I'm not welcome gives me no thrill. Or, is there something I'm missing here?

It looks like a trip branching more west and north than south and east of our initial destinations would work nicely.

Amarillo, Palo Duro Canyon, Caprock Canyons State Park, Hereford, Mills Canyon, Santa Fe National Forest, Comanche National Grassland, Black Butte, Dalhart, Alibates National Monument.

We probably won't have time to do each of these areas justice, so I've got some narrowing-down to do.

Weill be day-trippng and staying in motels along our path, likely. Any suggestions of where, or where-not, to stay? How 'bout good eats? We'll probably treat ourselves to a few nice evening meals along the way, to supplement our pack lunches during the day.
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Re: Trip Planning, Texas, April/May

Postby jeffh25 » Thu Mar 15, 2012 4:09 pm

You could get a 72 oz. steak in Amarillo...
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Re: Trip Planning, Texas, April/May

Postby surgent » Thu Mar 15, 2012 4:21 pm

jdzaharia wrote:Sierra Blanca appears to be officially off-limits, too. Ultra-prominence or not, hiking under a ski lift to an area I'm not welcome gives me no thrill. Or, is there something I'm missing here?

[snip]

Weill be day-trippng and staying in motels along our path, likely. Any suggestions of where, or where-not, to stay? How 'bout good eats? We'll probably treat ourselves to a few nice evening meals along the way, to supplement our pack lunches during the day.


Sierra Blanca is a premier hike, and access is not really an issue. You can approach the ski area from the north through forest, then cross it along its crest. Be sure to tag Lookout Mountain to claim the highpoint for Lincoln County. The hike up Sierra Blanca is amid open country and some minorly-ecposed rocky sections. It's fantastic.

As for the North Texas area you'll be in ... ditto what the other said.

If you like lame county highpoints, there are many easy ones in North Texas. Some are kind of fun: the HP hike to the Oldham County highpoint takes you to the lip of the north-facing cliffs of the Llano Estacado. A few others are just easy scampers from local roads. See my harrowing epic stories here at http://www.surgent.net/highpoints/tx/tx_npan.html.

In New Mexico, the highpoint of Harding County is a nice hike across grasslands to the top of a remnant rocky volcanic plug. The area is very remote and the views are beautiful. It's worth it, and only about an hour's drive from Clayton TX. Also consider the other volcanic hills and plugs in northeast New Mexico.

I've driven in those areas more than I should have. The cities along I-40 have many hotels, especially Tucumcari. Once you get far from the interstate, your choices lessen. The main towns like Clovis and Portales will have something, and usually the county seats of the various Texas counties have some place to stay or eat, but some of these places can be tiny.
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Re: Trip Planning, Texas, April/May

Postby Bubba Suess » Fri Mar 16, 2012 6:23 am

jdzaharia wrote:How 'bout good eats? We'll probably treat ourselves to a few nice evening meals along the way, to supplement our pack lunches during the day.

Amarillo has some cool places to eat, especially if you are into old, eccentric, Route 66 type stuff. My two favorites are the Golden Light Cafe and Arnold's Burgers. The Golden Light is 70 years old or so and right on the old Route 66. Heading east, it is one of the first places you can get a Frito Pie, a route 66 classic. If you are lucky, James McMurtry (politics aside, he rocks!) might be playing next door. Arnold's has awesome burgers that they make in the shape of Texas...or other seasonal shapes. If you want BBQ, the best in town is Dyer's. It is really good, except when compared with the hardcore BBQ in central Texas. Considering that this is prime cow country, the BBQ scene is not as good as one might expect. If by some chance you do head into northern New Mexico, I can offer a bunch of suggestions there too.

jeffh25 wrote:You could get a 72 oz. steak in Amarillo...

I got sick eating here, and not from attempting the 72 oz steak. I think their kitchens are infected with Large Marge's coodies or something. (Yes, this is a Pee-wee Herman reference.)

surgent wrote:If you like lame county highpoints, there are many easy ones in North Texas. Some are kind of fun: the HP hike to the Oldham County highpoint takes you to the lip of the north-facing cliffs of the Llano Estacado. A few others are just easy scampers from local roads. See my harrowing epic stories here at http://www.surgent.net/highpoints/tx/tx_npan.html

I did not read your posts on this super thoroughly so I may have missed it but how do you deal with access on private land out here. Were the land owners pretty low key about it?
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Re: Trip Planning, Texas, April/May

Postby jdzaharia » Fri Mar 16, 2012 3:20 pm

jeffh25 wrote:You could get a 72 oz. steak in Amarillo...

My wife ate at the Big Texan when she was there. Looked corny, but fun. Hopefully, whatever Bubba ate has been thrown out by now. :)



surgent wrote:Sierra Blanca is a premier hike... It's fantastic.

It does look great.



surgent wrote:If you like lame county highpoints

...And I do.

I'm just not sure my wife will see that as the best use of our limited time down there. I will look for some that seem to have good bang for the buck. Thanks for the couple suggestions so far. Guaranteed public access is a criterion for this trip. I have browsed your website before--entertaining and informative. Thanks.



Bubba Suess wrote:by some chance you do head into northern New Mexico...

We probably will. Likely no further west than Santa Fe or Taos.



Is it a bit early for non-technical ascents of some of the higher peaks like Wheeler and others in the Sangre de Cristo Range? We don't have snow skills or gear.
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Re: Trip Planning, Texas, April/May

Postby surgent » Fri Mar 16, 2012 5:23 pm

Re: easy and "mostly" public county highpoints in northern Texas:

Some are alongside paved or dirt public-right-of-way roads (e.g. Carson County, Moore County, Hutchinson County). But these are not interesting, just places to stop, get out, tag, and move along. Your wife may not be up for such silly behavior (mine would not be). If the HP happens to be along a route to a destination, then you may want to stop to claim it.

Most of the rest of the county HPs up there fall into a murky gray area regarding access. A lot of the land up there is unfenced and not posted, but that does not mean it's public. In Texas, assume all lands are not public. But there are also no people, either. On two occasions I met a local and once I explained my reasons for being there, they were fine with that. Of the entire set of county highpoints in north Texas, the only one I would suggest is Oldham County, south of I-40. You approach it across flat plateau rangeland, but the HP is near the cliffs looking down into the I-40 corridor, and the views are actually very impressive. It's been 11+ years since I was there, but I recall that it was possible to hike it without hopping any fences, nor do I recall any posting notices.

In New Mexico, the rangelands tend to be checkerboard private, state and BLM. Like Texas, there are very few people out there and those you meet are generally very friendly.

I would not make these HPs your priority. I suggest them as something to do on the way to something more interesting.
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