Back in the day, if someone said “PDC” to me, heck, I thought they were calling me Pretty Damn Cute! OK, I’m kidding! Work with me here people! In all seriousness, PDC refers to Palo Duro Canyon. It is a state park is north Texas. Like, really north Texas. Nearest big city is Amarillo. PDC’s claim to fame is as the second largest canyon in the United States. Now, if you have been to the Grand Canyon (North or South Rim matters not), you know just how big that Grand Canyon is – thus they call it GRAND! For Palo Duro, it definitely looks like a canyon, no doubt there. It is definitely smaller than the Grand Canyon and perhaps not as ‘deep’ but it is just as beautiful.
TwoGirlsCavorting decided to go on a hiking adventure to this wonderful land. That decision was made in June 2020. Our trip was scheduled for the end of October 2020.
Our mission was simple: we were going to the Lighthouse! This is one of the most popular trails in the park because when you get to the end’ish, you see a rock formation that looks like a dang lighthouse believe it or not. That was the focus! That was the target! That was the goal! But in true fashion for me, Susan, I had to do some studying to get prepared for this hike. Like, just how strenuous was it? I knew it was a total of 5.4 miles as marked on the trail but to actually get up to the Lighthouse, it was a couple of tenths more up and back with some scrambling involved. Yikes! So, I searched everywhere for insights into how this was done. I looked at YouTube videos, Trip Advisor reviews, blogs, heck, anything I could get my hands on. I would share them with my partner in crime, Joy, asking for her thoughts and her feedback. Ha! Mistake! She’s like “meh, we will do what we can do’. I’m like noooooo … we aren’t driving all the way up there to just get close … I wanted to get to that dang Lighthouse. So, I started training. LOL. Maybe I should put that in quotes. I started “training”.
So, knowing I had roughly 5 months to get ready for this 6 mile hike (when my longest had been 3 miles), I began pushing my elliptical workouts to a mile in the morning and then walks around my block. My blocks are large blocks with varying elevation. By golly, I was gonna be ready!
As I watched these videos, everyone talked about the dang ‘scramble’ to the top. There weren’t many videos at all of the actual going up or coming down and it wasn’t clear at the end of the 2.7 miles and you end up at the picnic table, do you go left or right? Most folks seemed to go left. Some folks went right. Everyone also talked about how easy the hike was until you got to the scramble part. Like they say, it is flat, easy but no shade. Yeah, no shade in Texas is bad thing on a long hike thus we chose to go in October when it would be cooler. Smart gals we are! Well, I don’t like to be hot and that’s just hard here in Texas.
So we were set! I was at Joy’s house by 6am and we were off on our adventure! First, we gals needed some sustenance and our first stop was McDonalds, because ya know, McDonalds is synonymous with breakfast on the go! But then came miles and miles of driving out of San Antonio, through our beautiful and scenic Texas Hill Country and out into dry, not-a lot-to-look-at west Texas before the turn north. We made our way through Lubbock Texas where we grabbed a bite for lunch and then made the final push into Canyon, Texas. From the time we left San Antonio where it was 70 some odd degrees and made it to Lubbock, it was in the 50s and windy as all get out! From my house to our cabin near PDC, it took us about 9.5 hours.
Since it was around 3:30-4pm, we wanted to get into PDC and at least drive the loop and check out where the trail heads were. I highly suggest this if you have never been here. There are a lot of trail heads. You will be struck by just house beautiful it is, so please do some recon and save on time!
When you enter PDC, you are greeted by two large Texas Longhorns. Now, mind you, I have lived in Texas nearly my entire life. I’ve never been near an actual Texas Longhorn. Along with the Longhorns (which, really, they are loooong), you have a Texas historical marker that gives you some information about the place.
There is a lot to see in this park. As I said before a lot of trails. Check out our YouTube video if you want any insights to the Lighthouse trail. We learned an awful lot on that trek.
I will leave you with this though … start your hike to the Lighthouse early. Because, even when we started at 7:45am and ended somewhere in the afternoon because we stopped for pictures, eat lunch and talk to folks, the temps do rise. We started when the temps were in the 40s and ended when the temps were in the 70s and seriously, people, there is no shade. The hike was amazingly beautiful at first light. I highly recommend it. You see so many more colors with the sun at such an angle (mind you it is late October so keep that in mind).
You may wonder if you’re fit for such a hike because of its length and its difficulty. I had done a lot of reading and watching videos of the Lighthouse trail and to some degree that were all fairly accurate but let me tell you from my perspective. I’m 5’7″, I’m a hefty girl. I do elliptical calorie burn exercises for a mile most mornings (or it’s .5 miles LOL) and I do yoga once a week. Since this would be my longest hike ever, I read – “it is flat until the end” – where you make the final push up to the actual lighthouse formation. OK, that’s not exactly true. 🙂 Yes, it is relatively flat but it is not all flat up to that final push. There are some ups and downs along the way. The difference from other trails I have been on is that if you had to go up a little and do a little more exertion, you leveled out enough to catch your breath and keep going. The 2.7 miles to the ‘bike rack’ or ‘picnic table’ really wasn’t bad at all and at that point, I was good with sitting for a moment and catching my breath. My friend and I decided on whether or not to continue up that final push. We felt pretty good so we said OK – let’s do it!
Now, at this picnic table you have a choice of going left or right. Everything I had studied, most folks went left. Some folks went right but there wasn’t enough evidence out there on which way was best. It was just – the left – is most traveled. So, it was left we went! Not far into going left – we were met with a fork in the road. Left or right again. We opted left. THIS WAS A MISTAKE. We ended up in a bad way. Like bad way in that we were both scared of where we were and nowhere forward that we could see that would get us someplace ‘safer’. So, we came down. We sat at the picnic table and ate our lunch to assess what had happened. Lotsa folks came by and we helped them understand that if you go left of the picnic table, when faced with a choice again, go RIGHT and not LEFT like we had LOL. And some folks – not knowing there was a ‘left of the picnic table’ just went right because it looked like the natural flow of the trail. Eventually, we were peer pressured by some girl scouts to go up on the right side of the picnic table LOL. OK, maybe it wasn’t exactly peer pressure but Joy and I thought – these 6 girls and 2 Mom-leaders were going up, why are we just sitting here?
So, off we went. That, what I call the first scramble, was doable. I did it. Didn’t struggle – I got up to the ledge where the girl scouts were. Now, my biggest issue with this trail is that I THOUGHT that this last push was the final push to get to the base of the lighthouse. Well, not exactly. We went up the right side to ledge and then there was some flat walking. Then we saw it. There was a whole other scramble up to the lighthouse a little ways into the distance. I was like – nope. No can do. That last bit of climbing – I watched people in the distance scale that base. I knew it was a little out of my range at the moment so, we decided to cut our losses and stop there, take a pic and head back.
Then we made our way back down and finished walking back the 2.7 miles from the picnic table. Our assessment was clear – at the picnic table, take the right side. And remember, there are two scrambles in our opinion. The first one is immediately after the picnic table and the second one is to actually climb up to the lighthouse. By the time we got back to the car, it was 75 degrees and it was getting hot. My words of advice: dress for the walk back on the trail, drink plenty of water, take some oranges, wear a hat and I felt like my walking sticks helped me navigate my way down. Would I do it again? You betcha. Next time, we know exactly how to go and when to go and what to be prepared for!
See ya’ on the trails!