Roadtrip Day 3: Cool Museum, Make-Believe Hikes

Local temperature was 34 degrees this morning, and the plain outside the hotel was loosely fogged. Our day started relatively late, due to this enormous multi-room suite and its black-out curtains. We headed out to the Panhandle-Plains Historical Society Museum to make it in before the crowds. We were successful.

This museum is large. It’s billed, in fact, as the largest history museum in Texas. It’s reminiscent of the randomness of the Witte Museum in San Antonio or the Texas Memorial Museum on the UT campus (in the latter case, its former randomness – it’s been rationalized in the recent past). The collections include paleontology, geology, Plains Indian anthropology, petroleum production, sea shells, stuffed birds, stuffed plains animals, Indian art, Western art, firearms, cars, old gas pumps, WWII memorabilia, “pioneer” living, local ranching history, and the Texas Revolution. If you’re ever in Canyon TX, it’d be ridiculous not to visit.

After a diffuse lunch period we headed back to the canyon. With our fresh new annual pass we breezed in and drove down to the canyon floor. We had no explicit goals. The day had cleared up and gotten sunny and warm.

The lower reaches of the canyon are walled and floored with orange-red Permian sediments, highlighted by white bands of gypsum. Above that are multi-colored Triassic sandstones and shales. The top is capped by relatively recent “caprock” limestone and caliche. The scrubby vegetation was in various stages of dormancy, but the stark twiggy look was dramatic and “classic.”

The dark twisty trees in this image:

reminded me of the witches from Macbeth. What would Shakespeare have thought of landscapes like this? The harsh light beaming down on our baby hikes over forty or fifty yards of wild terrain wouldn’t have done for those witches, but the terror thorns, the twisted, scraggling shrubs, and the abrasive polychromed crags would possibly have seemed too fantastic to believe. I have to wonder what it’s like on moonlit nights.

The Triassic strata include (in the Trujillo group) layers of “banded” sandstone. Up close it has a shiny gray look, but from a distance it looks dull gray to blue-gray to an almost malachite green. These rocks are pieces that have tumbled down from an original altitude a hundred feet or more up the slope.

The plan is that we’ll head back in the morning for a real hike. We’ll see how that goes.

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