Caprock Canyon State Park is the most exciting natural area I’ve been to. I say that with some hesitation because of Big Bend, and Cape Breton in Nova Scotia, and the Scottish Highlands, all of which I’ve also been to in the last year and a half. I think it’s because we went further into it’s remote areas than I did in those other places. Well, we did go pretty far up around the bend in Glencoe, and the Skyline Trail in Cape Breton was pretty far out. But beautiful and remote and challenging as they were they weren’t as other-worldly as Caprock Canyon. Probably because of the barren, exposed red strata. It felt like Mars. The hikes are into eroded scars, which I guess the less exposed glacier cut-outs also are. Maybe it’s the romance of the outwest, punctuated by a bison herd saved from extinction by the famous Lonesome Dove Goodnights of the Goodnight-Loving trail. This park was dontated in the 80’s by a rancher. It was more rugged than the Cape Breton Skyline trail, and less uniform than Glencoe.
Big Bend National Park would compare, but we didn’t camp there – yet. Camping makes you feel more a part of the landscape and less of a bystanding spectator. Plus on our 24 hour stay, interrupted by leaving to a hotel, we only surfed the highlights. Next time I want to take nice long more remote trails.
Back to Caprock Canyon. After being scarred off a tamer trail the evening before by bison lounging too close to it, we started on the wide, graded one mile Canyon Loop Trail that still went up and down and around the eroded bottomland. Then at the T, we turned left on the tree-lined, river-bottom crossing, narrower and layered 2 mile North Prong Trail. This trek along beautiful canyon walls ended up climbing up pretty steeply with boulder steps to Fern Cave, a surprising recommended must-see oasis of a hollowed out fern ceilinged cave that the girls had fun climbing up and around. The ascent didn’t end there as we looped back south and up on more rugged boulder and scree inclines. Till we made it to the John Haynes Ridge that had stunning views along it’s 2 miles west back almost to the Canyon Loop Trail. I say almost because the last part of it is a pretty dramatic descent all the way down what I call the Cliff of Insanity. It was made more dramatic because of an allergy-induced late start. The sun had just set and we needed to be off the most rugged so far part before it got completely dark. So the hurry made it a little harder and left us feeling like we had had quite an adventure. There was still a slight glow on the horizon by the time we got to the graded trail that barely outlined the peaks and valleys of the trail leading back to the parking lot.