The Grand Canyon of Texas

Palo Duro CanyonSituated near Amarillo in the Texas Panhandle, Palo Duro Canyon is the second largest canyon in the U.S., roughly 60 miles in length with an average width of 6 miles. The canyon’s depth ranges from 800 to nearly 1,000 feet, displaying dramatic geologic features, multicolored layers of rock and steep mesa walls. It was the first destination of our Yosemite adventure, and a fitting primer for the driving challenges that lie ahead. Never having driven on steep grades (10 percent from canyon rim to floor), we were simultaneously terrified and transfixed. Add a 22-foot, 4,500-pound Airstream, sharp curves and switchbacks, as well as a long line of vehicles stacked up behind us, and you’ll understand why we were tense. Despite getting lost and having to find room to make a turn-around, we finally made our way to camp and got set up for the night. The spectacular scenery was awe-inspiring, the dry heat surprising, the wildlife amazing. We quickly made friends with a couple of wild turkeys and a graceful deer. But the thing that most surprised us was the wind. Initially calm, the atmosphere turned windy at sunset. The gusty winds distributed a fine, red grit that covered every surface. We even felt it on our teeth! But our brief visit to Palo Duro convinced us we needed to return for an extended stay. An added bonus: We finally opened the box containing our cellphone signal booster and set up the device. To our surprise and pleasure, it worked! Here we were in the deepest canyon in Texas, with no cellphone signal for hours. We turned on the booster and, suddenly, we were ¬†reconnected with our world!