Friday, May 28, 2021

Return to Palo Duro Canyon - Lighthouse Trail

 We went to Palo Duro Canyon in 2017 and immediately put it on our list of places to return to. Well, four years later we finally made it back! It is still just as breathtaking as we remember. Located just 27 miles southeast of Amarillo, TX, this impressive 120 mile long and 20 mile wide canyon suddenly appears out of nowhere.  It is thought to be the 2nd largest canyon in the US and is definitely the most scenic part of the Texas panhandle.  

In 2017 we were able to just show up without a reservation, but nowadays I would not recommend that. We planned ahead this time and were thankful we did because the campground was indeed full when we arrived. Last time we stayed in Sagebrush, which is one of the first campground loops you come to and is the closest campground to the play "Texas". This time we stayed at Mesquite which is several miles more down the road at the southern end of Palo Duro. It is located closer to the hiking and equestrian trails. The Mesquite campsites all have 30/50 amp electric and water hookups, as well as a fire ring and/or grill and a picnic table. During a heavy rain, this area can get a little flooded and the red clay turns into a slippery, muddy mess. Thankfully it didn't rain until the morning we were leaving.

Palo Duro Canyon had nearly 50 miles of trails. We hiked the Paseo Del Rio trail in 2017, an easy 2 mile trail that follows the river and passes a Cowboy Dugout. It was the perfect trail for a quick morning hike, but we had some more time this trip and were finally able to hike the Lighthouse Trail that leads to the iconic 310 foot "lighthouse" rock formation that you'll often see on souvenirs. 

There are many warnings heading into the trail about making sure that you are prepared with plenty of water and sunscreen. If you forgot sunscreen, there are dispensers by the trail head that look like hand sanitizer, but are actually sunscreen that you may use. If you have never hiked in a desert before, bring 2-3 times the amount of water you normally would (the state park recommends one gallon of water per person). There are no trees so you are exposed most of the hike. During the summer, temperatures on the canyon floor can reach 115 degrees. 

We had the perfect evening for a hike! The temperature was in the 60s, and the canyon walls cast some shadows on the trail. Still, we had more water than we thought we needed since we were hiking with 7 kids. I carried the baby, but this was the first long hike that our 3 year old completed by himself (and he totally rocked it). 

The trail is 5.7 miles round trip out and back hike. The first 2.5 miles of the hike are relatively easy. There are some gentle slopes as you follow the canyon floor, but nothing crazy.

 Do be aware that mountain bikers share the trail and come flying through here, so be alert and ready to move out of their way. 

The views of the desert and canyon walls are beautiful and you'll spy plenty of cacti, lizards, and possibly some other desert creatures along the trail.

After about 2.5 miles the easy, sandy, flat part of the trail ends and you'll have a near vertical ascent up to the lighthouse. It is not treacherous, but it is strenuous. Thankfully it doesn't last too long and you'll soon be rewarded with jaw-dropping views. Congratulations! You made it! 

You can either return the way you came (which is what we did), or for a longer hike back you can connect to the Givens, Spicer, and Lowry Trail.

We were so proud of this little dude for hiking the entire trail himself that we rewarded him with a souvenir hat from the trading post. 

Before leaving the Amarillo, TX area, stop by Cadillac Ranch and leave your mark! Don't forget to bring the cans of spray-paint!

Roadschooling in Amarillo? You may want to also check out the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame and Museum. 

Be sure to follow us on all of our adventures on Instagram @pocketful_of_treasures and check the Travel tab here on my blog.

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Thursday, May 27, 2021

Splash and Relax at Galveston's Premier RV Resort

When I found out our daughter's gymnastics competition would be held at the Galveston Island Convention Center, I went straight to RV Parky and google to start researching RV parks in the area. I came across Stella Mare RV Resort and instantly fell in love with the pictures of the amenities - this place has it all! Heated pool, splash pad, playground, and more. I booked three nights. The "Daily Rate" listed on the receipt came up as $150ish... Ok, that may be a lot more than we typically spend at a resort RV, but this trip was doubling as our vacation and we had a lot of accomplishments to celebrate. Plus, it beat the $300 a night hotel rate at the Hilton convention center. So I went ahead and paid the $150ish deposit for what I thought was just the first night of our three night stay. Boy was I surprised (in the best way possible) when we checked in and I was informed that we were all paid up. The $150 wasn't our daily rate! It was the right for the entire 3 night stay!!! I could not believe that this gorgeous resort that we had just pulled into was about  $50 a night (we did stay in the off season and had a promo code we used during booking). We have stayed at some rustic campgrounds for more than that! So if you want an affordable RV Resort with all the amenities in Galveston, this is your place! 

The roads are paved and the sites are level concrete pads with lush green space. The pads are plenty big to accommodate even the largest camping units and have full hook ups. Upon arrival, you will be guided to your site by friendly staff. Each site has a bench which flips up to double as a table. There is complimentary Wi-Fi (that actually worked!) throughout the park. The bathhouses are clean and spacious with laundry facilities. 

A 3000 square foot observation deck allows you sit, relax, and enjoy the ocean view. If you want to go to the beach, there is beach access directly across the street (it is a busy roadway, but with patience we were able to safely cross with our 7 kids).

The resort itself offers so many water activities that our kids actually preferred to stay and play at the resort the rest of the time rather than go anywhere else. The pool is heated and offers several different points of entry, including stairs and a walk in incline that was perfect for our littles. There is also a shallow area with an in-pool lounging areas that is perfect for moms to relax while the toddlers play. You can also sit and relax under one of the poolside fountains. 

Nearby is a spacious splash pad - the largest of any on the island. It provided hours of fun for our kiddos. 

When you are ready to dry off, there is a large playground on a sand island for the kids run off any energy they have left. Nearby is a covered tiki bar and porch swings to relax on.

We stayed on site 17, which backs up to a field with beautiful horses. One woman mentioned that they are retired police horses, but I have not been able to verify that. The horses would come to the fence and allow the kids to pet them.

My husband ran into a buddy of his that he deployed with several years ago (small world!). He has been living at the resort for a few months as he is working in the area, and agrees that it is the best around. 

If you plan to leave the resort, it is just like any other touristy beach town. There is a lot of traffic and parking is hard to find. We used Jeff's Cab and Shuttle Service. Drivers were on time and prices were reasonable. 

Roadschooling in Galveston? Don't miss Moody Gardens and Anahuac National Wildlife Center. Here are some books you may want to check out:

Oh, and if your route to/from Galveston happens to take you through Longview, Tyler, or Marshall, Texas, be sure to check out Jucy's Hamburgers. They really are the best burgers in Texas (and the best burger we have ever had!).

For more adventure guides be sure to check out our Travel Page and follow us on Instagram @pocketful_of_treasures.

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Friday, May 21, 2021

Dead Horse Point State Park

We love exploring Utah and have been to Moab several times, but this was our first time to Dead Horse Point State park. We spent 5 days here and used it as our base camp for exploring Canyonlands and Moab. There are no water hookups in the campground, so it took a little bit of logistics to plan for five days with 9 people. The air is very dry and you will need at least one gallon of water per person per day. The campground has bathrooms and a sink with cold water to wash dishes, but no showers. The closest water, gas, food, and medical care is 32 miles away in Moab, so be sure you come prepared. There was also very little AT&T cell phone coverage (occasionally we could get a strong enough signal in the early morning or late evening hours to get some text messages through). The sites are spacious, paved, mostly level, have a covered picnic area, and 1-2 tent pads. 

The hiking trails lead to several overlooks of the canyon. We hiked a couple of nights to Rim Overlook which was a short .7 miles from the campground (one way) to watch the sunset. There are very steep drop offs at the overlooks, so we had to watch our children closely and be sure that they understood the dangers and rules. At Rim overlook there are several boulders that our children enjoyed clinging on. They even found a geocache tucked away in one of the crevices (though nothing was in it). 

One afternoon we hiked Big Horn overlook, which is a 1.3 mile hike (one-way) from Kayenta campground. The kids found a boulder they thought looked like a big turtle and enjoyed surfing on its back. Like Rim Overlook, Big Horn Overlook has precipitous cliffs and it was extremely windy. We left the kids to play in the “nest” while we walked them out to the overlook one at a time. They had a blast pretending they were birdies and “flying” (or jumping) into the sandy “nest” (pit). 

And of course we had to hike to Dead Horse Point. According to legend, cowboys would corral the wild mustangs roaming the Mesa on this point. The neck is only 30 yards wide, so it was easy to fence off with brush. The cowboys would choose the horses they wanted and left the other horses corralled on the point. The Colorado River winds 2,000 feet below, but because of the cliffs the horses were unable to reach water and died there on the point.

 We hiked out to the point along the west rim trail 2.5 miles and back 1.5 miles along the east rim trail. The East Rim hugs closer to the rim so you have more scenic vistas. The trails were poorly marked and impossible for us to follow near the point, so we ended up hiking on the road past the neck before rejoining the rim trail. 

We chose to do the hike first thing in the morning before it got too hot, so we were done with the 4+ mile loop by 9am and celebrated with popsicles from the visitors center for breakfast. 

That’s about it as far as hiking trails go within Dead Horse Point State Park. To further explore you can ride mountain bikes on the Intrepid Trail System. We drove to Canyonlands and Moab for more hiking adventures. 

Be sure to follow us on all of our travel adventures on Instagram and check out the travel tab on the blog. Happy traveling!