Texas, Day 2: Panhandle to Prairie and Quanah’s Land

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I could have kept going a bit longer, on Friday night, but Comfort Inn’s cold-as-ice desk clerk (refugee from the Welfare Office, much) didn’t mess me up. I had a nice breakfast, got laundry done and the morning crew were great guys.

I got to Quanah by mid-morning.  The town is named for the Comanche chief, Quanah Parker, whose mother was actually a white woman captured as a child by the Comanche, and raised by them as one of their own.  It is said she was the inspiration for Kevin Costner’s character’s love interest in Dances with Wolves.

Quanah never saw his mother after he was nine years old.  This was part of the impetus for him to carry on a concerted conflict with white settlers and the U.S. Cavalry, which ended with the Army, under Col. McKenzie, slaughtering the Plains warriors’ horses, and Quanah giving up the fight.

He quickly adopted mainstream culture, becoming a successful farmer and merchant, and encouraging other Plains Indians to do the same.  Geronimo emulated Quanah, after he, too, felt the tide becoming overwhelming.

Quanah is also remembered as an advocate of the Vision Quest, which, he taught, should be   enhanced with ceremonial use of peyote,  a hallucinogen about which he learned from Mexican Native peoples.  He is seen by many as a founder of the Native American Church.

In any case,  I am somewhat fascinated with Chief Quanah’s life and legacy, so I spent an hour or so in the small museum.

 

This is the high school, also named in Quanah Parker’s honor.

Below is Quanah Routes Museum

The museum also commemorates area veterans, and astronaut Ed Givens, a native of Quanah, TX, who would have been the first man to walk on the moon, had he not died in a car accident in Houston, two years prior to the launch of Apollo I.

There are also collections of memorabilia from the early part of the twentieth century, on up to the fifties.

Meet Mr. Poison

Remember Howdy Doody?

A calculator, from before the days of “apps”.

There is much to be learned from the life of Quanah Parker, especially about resilience and adaptation.  There is also much to learned in small towns like Quanah, about preservation of both small items and large legacies.

  

After I left Quanah, I drove a few miles east, to Chillicothe, and found this little prairie gem:

Love’s Barbecue, for those who do.

I had a delectable two-meat combo (Brisket and German sausage, with fresh sauerkraut, cole slaw and meaty beans.  I did have UN sweetened tea, but that was balanced by the decadent sin of Pecan Cobbler.

Texas, Day 1: Palo Duro Canyon and Panhandle-Plains Museum (May 18, 2012)

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Yesterday, I went to America’s second longest canyon- Palo Duro, about nineteen miles south of Amarillo.  You can see photos of this marvelous place at http://www.palodurocanyon.com/.  They are copyrighted, so I can’t show them here.  I had a great time walking along Paseo Del Rio, which goes along the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River.  At a place called The Sha-la-ko (Rain Maker), I felt a very strong vibration, for about a minute or so.  This spot is a vortex, much like several places in Sedona, and a few in Prescott.  

I also hiked to the base of Lighthouse Peak, another striking landmark.  The heat kept me from going to the top, which is probably a sign of encroaching wisdom.    

 

After stopping at the Trading Post for a sports drink and some soft-serve ice cream, I picked up a silver wind chime for one of my generous hosts, and headed to the city of Canyon, and the humongous Panhandle Plains Historical Museum.

The security guard told  me that only 2 % of the museum’s collection is on display, at any given time.  I learned a great deal about the Battle of Palo Duro, where Col. McKenzie’s forces fought to a draw against a combined force of Kiowas, Comanches and Southern Cheyennes, led by Quanah Parker.  Chief Parker never surrendered, but made his peace with the whites, and led his people into a settled life of farming.   I will have more about him in my next post.

I caught up with @texastidbits around 6:30 PM, at  one of his frequent haunts.  I got to meet a few of his friends this time.  The girl he calls “Freckles” heard my story, surprised that I was out and about, after having been widowed.  Truth is, though, Penny and I lived much the same life, before her illness.  Around eight, I headed out of Amarillo and got as far as Childress, 106 miles southeast, before running out of steam.  For some reason, the motel people were on edge, and very wary of my being alone and casually dressed. I got a room anyway, and rested for the night, before moving on towards Fort Worth.

Enid, Oklahoma (May 17, 2012)

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Wednesday night began my second visit to Enid, OK.  As before, my purpose was to connect with @plantinthewindow.  It took me a while longer to get from Guymon, where I had dinner at Yesterday’s, a Fifties-style diner, to the new wildcat oil drilling capital of the Southwest.  I found one of the results of the wildcatting: Few rooms at the inn, any inn.

I found the last available room in Enid, at midnight, and gladly took it.

The next morning (Thursday) I met up with John, and went first to Enid’s landfill (below),

then to breakfast and on to the Gloss Mountains, so-named because of the glossy gypsum that used to cover the tops of the buttes.  It has mostly worn away, and now shards of gypsum are ubiquitous on top.  This was a first hike for John’s newly adopted dog, Cabella.

   

This area is close enough to both Enid and Woodward, yet we had few other fellow hikers on Thursday morning. I know- most people work.  That just gives me more incentive to stop and smell the flowers.

   

The “gloss” may be discerned, as well:

                             

Above right is a small cave.  There are many caves in an area just to the west of here.  

Another interesting enterprise in Enid is Johnson’s Jewelers. The business began in the 1940’s, and is now operated by its second set of owners. The establishment is focused not on fine jewelry, per se, but on what the earth has provided us directly.

Fossils, arrow points and geodes abound. A favorite is the barite rose, Oklahoma’s state rock, so called because of its reddish hue and flower-like ridges. We each picked up some items to give to deserving friends and family.  Here are some scenes from the store.

   

Before closing, I must tip my hat to downtown Enid.

Comanche National Grassland and Oklahoma’s Black Mesa (May 16, 2012)

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Mother Nature doesn’t think too much of state lines and such.  On Wednesday, I left Lamar, Co and headed south, through range and silo country.  One farmer outside Springfield has this arrangement of his silos.

Along the route to Black Mesa, Oklahoma, the Comanche National Grassland of southeast Colorado offers several bucolic scenes.

   

Some of these evoke days gone by, but there are some active cow herds grazing under lease.  I’d have photographed them, but the bulls were a bit too close to the road.

  

Once in the Oklahoma portion of Comanche National Grassland, I saw hints of the terrain to come, and spotted Black Mesa (above, right).

I spent about ten minutes driving around the nearly empty town of Kenton, before getting directions to Black Mesa from the Postmistress.  The Diner tells no tales; it’s closed.

Here are some shots of the eight-mile round trip up and down Black Mesa, Oklahoma’s highest peak.

    

Each mile is marked.  The first three markers are benches.

  

The view is terrific, once atop the switchbacks.

   

At the summit, there is an obelisk with info on how far it is to distant point, in each direction.  It was clear, so I could see New Mexico (a whopping 1,299 feet away) and Texas (18 miles due south)!

  

         

Every plain has its heights and every mountain its low points.

Mt. Sunflower, Kansas (May 15, 2012)

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I don’t want to overlook the little side trip that brought me 4,000 + feet up into the Kansas high country on Tuesday afternoon.  I wouldn’t recommend hiking up there, as it would be something of a nuisance to the working farmers and combine drivers who are the region’s mainstay.  There is something enticing about Mt. Sunflower, though.

So, my trusty Kia took me twelve miles up the dirt roads from Goodland and then back out, just west of Sharon Springs.  In the middle of it all, five hard working families toil, day in and day out, towards getting the rest of us at least some of our daily bread.

Here is what the area on and around Mt. Sunflower looks like.

These are actually a sign that one has gone too far west.  Back track 1/4 mile and go through the gate, when you see the pole off to the north.  Below is another indicator to turn around.

This is the spot you’re looking for.

                                            

                                            

Mountaineering in Kansas is fascinating.  Why, on a clear day, you can see Colorado!

Eastern Colorado (May 15, 2012)

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I will need to struggle with Windows tomorrow, over who has the right to post what photos.  They claim I can’t legally post photos downloaded from a Yahoo! e-mail, onto a social network.  Sounds like BS.  So, until that gets straightened out, I have no photos from Marshall Mesa or El Dorado State Park.  Maybe @BoulderChristina can post them.  They are her photos, after all.  It was a gorgeous afternoon, regardless.

Tuesday, I headed out to eastern Colorado’s plains.  Just outside Denver, there are five small towns which have organized themselves as the Plains High Five.  The group seeks to preserve the area’s ranching way of li, free from suburban encroachment.  They appear to have succeeded, so far.

I kept going eastward, making a brief stop in the town of Limon (LY-min).  Here are some shots of the quiet town.  There is a substantial Railroad Museum there, but it is closed until Memorial Day.

   

The next  town of substance in eastern Colorado, before the Kansas state line, is Burlington.  This town’s leaders have had the foresight to assemble a fascinating Great Plains village, called, appropriately Old Town.  I have posted an album of the photos from there.  Here are a few for your perusal.

    

    

    

On the left is a sod house, made by settlers throughout the Great Plains, during the Land Rush of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.  In the middle is a dance hall.

I find the story of anyone’s past usually worth hearing and seeing.  Burlington’s Old Town is a great way to spend $5, and two hours.  It is visible from I-70.

I made it to the top of Kansas’ nearby Mount Sunflower, a high plateau that is the Sunflower state’s highest point.  More on that in a bit.  After scaling the lofty height, my Kia and I returned to Colorado, and drove on towards Lamar, my evening venue.  I happened by Chez DuVall’s, a fine dining establishment, owned by a local rancher, in the town of Granada, as I previously mentioned.  A soft-spoken young lady took my order of Steak & Blue Cheese Salad, which was expertly prepared, and just as expertly presented.  Chez DuVall’s is a great concept, and a lady in Lamar assured me that it is appropriately packed on weekends.

I was blissfully happy after that wonderful meal, and was satisfied with a bowl of oatmeal and some sausage patties for breakfast the next morning in Lamar.  Wednesday led to Oklahoma, and Black Mesa.  More on that, next time.

Niwot and More Boulder Hikes (May 14, 2012)

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This past Monday was the last full Denver area day, for this trip.  I went to visit my Uncle George, whom some of you may remember from last May, at his apartment in Longmont.  The year has slowed his gait, but not his mind.  He took me over to Niwot (Arapaho for “Left hand”), which lies halfway between Longmont and Boulder.  There, we enjoyed seeing a pair of carvings- created from dead trees along the side of the main drag.    Mr. Eddie Running Wolf, Arapaho artist, is the man behind this extraordinary display.

    

            

Mr. Running Wolf has not decided yet what he will carve on the remaining stump, or what he might place in the spots on either side of “The Eagle Catcher” or “spear lodge Man”.  Whatever his inspiration brings about, it is sure to convey the dignity and strength of the Arapaho Nation.  BTW, Niwot is named for the Arapaho chief Niwot (“Left Hand”).  After this, Uncle George and I went to lunch at Garden Gate Cafe, in a mall just north of the display.  It’s one of three eateries in Niwot that draw a good-sized crowd. I enjoyed both the Cuban sandwich with a side of slaw, and a gratuitous roast beef with fries, that the server thought i wanted, for some reason.  If you ever get up that way, though, Garden Gate is a satisfying breakfast/lunch spot.

After bidding my uncle adieu, I went over to Boulder, and enjoyed a walk with@BoulderChristina, along Marshall Mesa, plus a quick jaunt down to El Dorado State Park, which is now on the Colorado segment of my bucket list- for the next visit.  I will show photos of both, once I get them from my “Little Sis”.winky

Boulder’s Chautauqua Park (May 12, 2012)

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I met my friend, @BoulderChristina, on Saturday morning, looking for a cafe that appears to have relocated.  We enjoyed breakfast at North Boulder Cafe instead, and it was perfect.  Then it was time to get her dog, Salem, and ourselves up on one of this magical city’s many trails.  Mesa Trail, in Chautauqua Park, was selected.  It was training time for Salem, and conditioning time for each of us.  

The day was overcast, but it didn’t stop anyone, including us, from getting up into the foothills of the Front Range.  Christina says it gets brown here in mid-summer, and I have seen it so, in nearby Aurora in July.  Now, though, the Rockies are glorious green.

    

I got along well with the big baby Shepherd, but I’m used to large dogs- having owned two Rottweilers and having been on the best of terms with my in-laws’ late Rhodesian Ridgeback- Great Dane mix.

The morning was awesome and I can see myself someday walking much, if not all, of the 500-mile Colorado Trail- along with a few others.  That will wait a few years, though.  I still have a few things to which I must tend.

Downtown Boulder, (May 12, 2012)

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The key to understanding a place is often found in its social center.  For many communities, that means downtown.  Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall is an excellent example of this, with probably a couple of hundred thriving businesses along its route, and along neighbouring streets.  After my visit with @ BoulderChristina and Salem, I headed downtown, purchased a one-hour parking pass from one of the kiosks that line Broadway Street, left the Kia in a lot, and headed for lunch.                                                                                                                                             

After the chicken salad panini and bhakti chai were a pleasant memory, I left Walnut Street and headed a block north to Pearl Street, and lots of company.  The Mall’s energy belied the dismal weather.  People, thankfully, don’t let a few clouds wreck their weekends here.  There are a wide variety of shops, from Old Tibet to several independent bookstores.  I chose Boulder Bookstore from which to purchase a couple of hiking guides.

   

Pearl Street, and the surrounding area, are a genuine historic district, from Boulder’s beginnings as a frontier town.

           

North of the mall, there are some intriguing homes.

  

I will likely be back in Boulder this afternoon, after visiting my uncle, in nearby Longmont

Mesa Verde to Denver (May 11, 2012)

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I left Mesa Verde around 3:30, after ascertaining that my family members would be glad to see me whenever  I got to Denver.  The weather remained fine until I reached the top of Wolf Creek Pass, about 90 miles east of Mesa Verde.  There, at the Continental Divide, I knew the rest of the trip would be in precipitation.

            

Ahead lay the San Juan Range, and the La Garitas.  I did not encounter snow right away, though, and was lulled into serenity by the relative lack of traffic on Hwy. 160.  Maybe it was that lack of business that led  Chief Chavez, of the South Fork P.D., to focus  on my car, tooling through his downtown.  I was stopped, cited and educated about how scofflaws from out of state can end up losing their driving privileges in their home states, if a citation is ignored.  Since I  was raised to play by the rules, I thanked him for this bit of advice, and came back to reality. I have no trouble keeping my vehicle at or under 65 mph.  It’s staying at 40, or under, that gives cruise control fits, and so it’s all on my mental awareness.

As it was supper time, I looked about for an eatery, but there was none that was conveniently located.  I figured South Fork and I had had enough of each other for a while, so I drove on to Del Norte.  The San Juan Valley is not tourist-oriented, per se, so the sidewalks roll up early.  I did get a sandwich and coffee at Peace of Art Cafe, just as they were closing for the night.  It was gratifying to see the Rio Grande a bit healthier than the last time I passed by it.

It was about forty minutes later that I found myself facing snow.  From Conchas Springs to Conifer, Hwy 285 was, to varying degrees, slick and slippery.  I drove with all manner of caution- in the midst of a second reality check.  The angel on my shoulder, and my own long-standing driving habits, got me safely to Northglenn, and a warm house, around 11:30 P.M.

One just never can tell how a day will turn out, but as long as the lessons learned make me stronger, it’s all good.