By Clyde Davis: Local Columnist
In the early afternoon, the temperature is still climbing. It is easy to see that it would reach 100 degrees, if that hadn’t happened already. With plenty of water, we set off along a trail that winds up a ridge for about the first quarter of a mile. We are headed for the formations, twin formations, known as the Lighthouse and the Castle.
The reds and golds of the canyon’s structure, the veins of white quartz and gray shale, provide a constantly shifting and even mesmerizing pattern, as we pick our way along the boulder-strewn trail. Scrubby juniper trees, along with mesquite and coyote bush, line the way. Always, there is the sense of timelessness, of millennia residing in one place, that defines and delineates Palo Duro Canyon.
On a hiking scale of 1 to 10, this would have to be an 11. It equals a hike I made along the Allegheny Ridge once. But that hike was with my friend Roger and this hike is with my wife Janice, so by definition, this one is better. It could only be improved by a backpack with overnight gear, and the time to stay over.
You should share hikes into beautiful areas with your loved one; it provides another way of discovering who the two of you are, as individuals and as a couple. (Ladies, here’s a clue as to whether or not he is truly a gentleman — does he save some of his water until the end, in case you need it?) For me, our shared outdoor experiences — on trails, or water, or bikes — are among the most precious.
However, I digress. Back to Palo Duro, as we move along the trail, a gentle but definite upgrade, the broken and creviced ridges with shallow caves and clusters of brush hover above us. It’s easy to understand why Lone Wolf, the war chief, and Mamanti, the spiritual leader, chose this place to bring the southern Plains nations for their last stand in the 1870s. In theory, it should be impregnable. The way the Army broke the standoff is one of the more appalling pieces of local history, one which caused my mom to choke up when she read it on a visit to Palo Duro.
We are on hallowed ground, just as Blackwater Draw, Old Town Albuquerque, or Ghost Ranch is hallowed ground. Awareness in such places is heightened by immersing ourselves in them, which can only be done on foot, bike, horse, etc. Touch the past; take yourself or take a loved one to some hallowed ground soon.
Clyde Davis is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Portales and an instructor at Eastern New Mexico University. He can be contacted at: