Every Thanksgiving break, we take our amazing Youth Leaders out on a special camping trip just for them (usually to a place that we aren't able to go to on a normal weekend trip). This year, we went to Palo Duro Canyon State Park in Canyon, Texas! On a personal note, this trip was extra exciting for me because I had lived in Canyon for three years while going to school at West Texas A&M. I was looking forward to showing the group the place I call my second home. We had a great time and got to see lots of neat things. Here's a break down of our trip by day...
We met bright and early at South Park Middle School before we hit the road! It’s a long drive from the coast to the Texas Panhandle. We drove for about 10 hours, plus a few stops along to way to refuel our bodies and the van. By the time we got to the park it was dark and time for dinner. We set up camp as fast as we could (it was extremely cold and we were all worn out from the drive), and started boiling some water for our cup of noodle dinners. After we all had warm and fully bellies, we got ready for bed and huddled up in our tents for a good nights sleep!
Palo Duro is my favorite place to go camping. Hiking the Lighthouse trail the first day was great because it was thrilling to seeing the younger Youth Leaders reactions to the enormous rock figure.Youth Leader
We woke up to a very chilly Sunday. After warming up with a cup of hot chocolate we started on breakfast and packing lunches. After a small group discussion about what everyone wanted to accomplish over the next few days and elected our leader and navigator for the day, decided we would do the Lighthouse Trail. The Lighthouse Trial is the most popular trail in the park and home to the, oh so recognizable “lighthouse” rock formation. We hiked about eight-mile round trip. It was challenging at times but nothing we couldn’t handle and it was definitely worth the trek. We got some fabulous pictures! After our hike we headed back to base camp to rest, make dinner and reflect and talk about how we thought the day went (something we like to call “group”).
On Monday, we ventured outside the park to explore the Canyon/Amarillo area of the panhandle (after breakfast and packing lunches of course). First, we headed out to my old stomping grounds at West Texas A&M University. I showed the kids around campus a bit and we took a picture with the buffalo statue in the middle of campus. Once we had our photo opt, we headed west of Amarillo on I-40 to check out the midpoint of Route 66. Unfortunately, the café and gift shop at the midpoint were closed for the rest of the season but we did get a few great pictures on Route 66. Next stop was the infamous Cadillac Ranch. The kids were really excited about this one! We hopped out and explored the quirky roadside stop. After a through investigation, pictures on pictures on pictures AND a bit of climbing we decided to call it a day and head back to base camp. We relaxed and enjoyed each other’s company before dinner. We build an awesome campfire and had group. Then it was off to bed to rest up for our last full day in the Canyon.
On our last full day in Palo Duro Canyon, we did a shorter, less physically demanding hike. It was about a four-mile round trip. We got to see lots of interesting rock formations, animal tracks and beautiful scenery. Once we finished our hike we visited the gift shop for souvenirs. Then we went to check out the visitor’s center. The visitor’s center has a small museum attached. We learned a lot of things about the Civilian Conservation Corps, how a lot of the trails in the canyon were made when it first became a park and the native tribes who inhabited it long ago. The museum also had a lot of information about native flora and wildlife. Once everyone had finished looking at everything, we went to check out the TEXAS amphitheater. We hung out at the amphitheater and played werewolves for about an hour before we headed back to camp for dinner and group. We all reflected on our week, the great things we had seen and the laughs we had. It was a great week but we were all ready to get home and see our families for the holidays!
On our last day, we got up at five o'clock to pack up camp and hit the road! We were on the road all day napping, talking and singing karaoke. We made it back to Corpus around five o'clock in the evening and everyone was ready to get out, stretch their legs and see friends and family. It was a really fantastic few days in the Canyon and everyone had a blast seeing new sights (even though it was miserably cold at night) and enjoying each other’s company.