Sunday, November 13, 2005

Caprock Canyons State Park - TX

The State Park
What a beautiful place. Reminds us a lot of Palo Duro Canyon, which is not very far from here. The park basically consists of several red rock canyons with a multitude of multi-use trails. Our first night there we hopped on our bikes to get a feel for the park. What we didn't take into account was the size of the park - the scale of miles was a little larger than we first anticipated. And there were two hills with a 16% grade! That's tough for anyone, but especially Floridians. We also got caught up in the beauty of the canyons and went off-road with our bikes on a couple of trails. One trail took us along the Little Red River on a trail so narrow our legs were poked and scratched by thorny desert plants encroaching on the trail. When we tired of that, we followed along the river bed instead. It was easier dealing with sand, mud, river rocks, and a tiny stream of water than those prickly plants. We missed the last trail crossing and ended up at the base of a bridge, so we picked up our bikes and carried them up the slope to get back onto the road. We did eventually tour the whole park road - checking out trailheads and campgrounds and planning for tomorrow.

The next day we took a 7-mile hike by combining the Upper Canyon Trail and the Haynes Ridge Overlook Trail. There was a warning on the map that says "Extremely Steep and Rugged" for a portion of the trail - well, they weren't kidding. Due to a high rainfall this year (40" vs a normal of 18"), a number of their trails, and trail signs, have washed away. This just added a complication to their already steep and rugged terrain that takes you from the bottom of a canyon to the ridge. But the views were worth it and we enjoyed the fact that one trail was low, inside the canyon, with upclose views of rocks and formations; while the other trail was high on the ridge looking down into two canyons lying on either side of the ridgeline.

Caprock Canyons Trailway
Our last day there we biked along the CCT. This 64-mile rail-to-trail is still under construction and was part of the old Burlington North-Santa Fe (BNSF) line. If you like to collect old railway memorabilia, there was lots of "stuff" along the old tracks here - big nails, metal plates, old timbers, etc could be found along the way. It will be a great ride when it's finished. That is if they're still planning on working on the old bridges, which were either missing floorboards or had holes in the concrete sections. I'm also assuming they're going to do something about the bat guano that is filling up the Clarity Tunnel. We only did a six-mile section before turning around because we knew we'd have the wind in our face on the return trip. We crossed several bridges and rode through the Clarity Tunnel. Several signs mention that the Brazilian Free-Tail Bats live in the tunnel from April-Oct, that you shouldn't touch them, and that you should minimize kicking up dust. Apparently the bat guano is reduced to dust by beetles and bugs. Children, pregnant women and the elderly are susceptible to toxoplasmosis which can kill an unborn child. What the signs didn't mention is that the dust is about a foot thick, or more in drifted areas, and is fine as powder, and impossible not to kick up. We regretted riding through it as soon as we reached the other side. Neither of us wanted to ride through that stinky, powdery bat poop again. But there is no alternative route. So we rode on for a little while to clear our noses and lungs and let more of the dust blow off of us before turning around. The tunnel used to be 790' long, but due to a train derailment, part of it was blown off to reach the train, reducing it to 528' long. That's still a long ride through the bat guano. On the way back through we prepared ourselves with shirts or bandanas over our noses and mouths.

We love rail-to-trails. The history, the old trestle bridges, the narrow train tunnels, and the scenery as they slice through narrow valleys or canyons keeping close to rivers, all usually make these bike rides such a treat. It'll be a great trail. But I don't think either of us would recommend going thru the Clarity Tunnel unless its cleaned up some.


At 2:29 PM , Tumbleweed Lee said...

As of 10/2006 the Clarity Tunnel still has the bat guano thick on the ground. Wear long sleeves and long pants going into it. Protect your lungs by covering your nose and mouth with a face mask or a bandana.

The wood timbers are beautiful, and the photo at this site shows it off well.

The closest car access is at the Monks Crossing parking lot, on the south side of CR30/FM689, just west of 1065.


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