This past weekend, I paid a visit to Caprock Canyons State Park in the Texas panhandle. The closest "town" is Quitaque (pronounced "kitty-quay"), but it's really not much of a town. You can buy gas there, but that's about it. Turkey is the next closest town, 15 miles east. Turkey is not much bigger than Quitaque, but it does have a few additional amenities (a larger gas station, for instance). The point is that Caprock Canyons State Park isn't really near anything of note, which is one reason it's as desirable as it is.
Caprock Canyons is what's known as an escarpment, which is a transition area between the high plains to the west and the rolling plains to the east and south. Transition areas like this one tend to be areas of great biodiversity. The plains Indians loved this country because it provided them relief from the winds and cold of winter, along with abundant game. This year, the caprock has had an abundance of rain, so it was lush and green (or at least as lush and green as it ever gets in this part of the country). There were bugs and birds everywhere. And that brings me to a confession: Normally, I'm completely at home and fearless in nature. It can't get too dark or too quiet for me. Bring on the snakes and whatever other fauna might inhabit the area and I'm fine. But honestly, bugs creep me out just a bit. And here, there were a number of Jurassic-park like bugs I'd never seen before. Big, bright, buzzing behemoths of the insect world which collectively turned their attention to me (or at least I imagined they did). They were the orcs of the caprock, and I was sure that they interpreted my arrival as a sign that meat was back on the menu. But I digress. . . .
The initial mission of the trip was to find someplace really dark so I could do some astrophotography (night stars). Well, the weather nixed that, as there was far too much cloud cover to see the stars. So from inclement weather lemons, I made lemonade. A mantra of landscape photography is that it is at its best when the weather is at its worst. So in spite of the cloud of little buzzing orcses around me, I persisted. Below are some of my favorite images:
The park is also home to the genetic progeny of the last wild southern plains bison herd. Back in the late 1800s, as bison were being decimated across the fruited plain, legend has it that the wife of pioneer cattle baron Charles Goodnight pleaded with her husband to save some of the region's bison before they disappeared. He did so and preserved a number of them, which were the ancestors of the bison roaming the caprock today. It is reportedly the only bison herd in the state which contains no cattle DNA. Incidentally, photographer Wyman Meinzer has recently done what I'm sure is an excellent book on the southern plains bison (admittedly I haven't had the chance to read it yet). The park affords an excellent opportunity to view the bison in a restored native grass prairie. Here are a few images of the herd that I made this past weekend:
More to come . . . .