Back last fall I took a class from Jessica Sprague called Stories In Hand. It was an amazing experience. The idea behind Stories In Hand is that everyone has stories to tell, but so often we don’t tell them. It was an idea that really resonated with me because I am also the family historian, in a way. I can’t tell you how many times I have wished that my ancestors had kept journals or had written down more of their stories. To hear about history from the people that lived it… the idea fascinates me. So, I resolved to tell more of my stories. For my kids, for their kids, and for anyone else that cares to drop by here and read them. If any of you ever get a chance to take the Stories in Hand class I strongly recommend it. It was a free class and I hope that she will continue to offer it for free in the future.
My sophomore year in high school my parents announced that we would be taking a for real, honest-to goodness vacation over spring break. I was so excited as thoughts of hotels and airplanes and tourist attraction danced through my head. My brother and I begged them to tell us where we were going.
“We’re going to Caprock Canyon,” my parents proudly exclaimed. Caprock Canyon? Where is that and why have I never heard of it? The explanation took the wind out of our sails…
You see, Caprock Canyon is located just outside of Quitaque, Texas near the panhandle. Mom and Dad were so excited to go because we were going CAMPING!
A few weeks later we headed out. I’m pretty sure that we headed out on Saturday to make the 6 hour drive to Caprock Canyon. Anyone that has ever driven out to the panhandle of Texas knows that it was an uneventful drive. Not much to look at and hardly anything in the way of cities or towns. It’s mainly just a lot of really dry, really flat land. I think we were about to ask for the 1,457th time if we were there yet when the land suddenly dropped out from underneath us. It was beautiful. The canyons stretched out for miles from the highway. It was so exciting to finally see where we were going to stay for the next week.
We drove into the camp and Mom and Dad settled our arrangements and got our campsite assignment. We headed out to find our site and get everything set up.
The area in which we were camping was set in a half-circle drive with marked sites on each side of the road. We found our site and pulled in. This was car camping at its finest. Everyone helped to unload the truck and Mom and Dad started setting up the tents. We had brought three, a large 8-person, two room job and two, two-person dome tents. Mom and Dad were going to stay in the big tent, my brother and I in one of the dome tents and we put all of the food for the week in the other dome tent. Once we got everything squared away we went for a short hike into the canyons to look around a little before heading back for dinner.
I can still see it in my head. We were standing at the bottom of a wide canyon at least 100 feet deep on each side. The walls ranged in color from an almost pink color to a very deep purple. There was little in the way of vegetation on the canyon floor, mostly scrub brush with a few other types of plants scatter throughout. I remember thinking how it must have felt to be one of the original settlers of that area, arriving in that canyon and dreading the appearance of the Native Americans looking over the edge of that canyon. We looked around for a good bit and then headed back to our campsite.
When we got back Mom fired up the brand new Coleman stove and cooked our rehydrated beef stew (or something similar). It was tasty as far as rehydrated food goes – and as much as I remember. We washed our dishes in the little faucet at the front of our campsite, walked down the little path to the bathroom for a shower and then turned in for the night.
I remember laying there in our tent for a while. Hot in my own bed and laying on the ground made it hard to go to sleep. And then we heard it.
I was terrified. My brother was terrified. My parents were telling us to stay put. I vaguely remember crying. I think my Dad stuck his head out of their tent to see what was going on and what was making that noise. Turns out that storing the food in a tent wasn’t such a great idea. It seems that the campgrounds had a resident skunk that liked to make the half-moon loop looking for food at each campsite. At the moment Mr. Skunk was digging underneath the other tent holding the food in an attempt to get at whatever he was smelling.
We waited, shaken, but not otherwise harmed until the skunk got bored and headed on to the next site. Dad and Mom hurriedly packed all the food back into the bed of the truck and my brother and I moved our sleeping bags into the big tent. It was awhile before we all settled down enough to sleep. The skunk came by every night to check on things. One night he even dug underneath our tent and freaked us out again.
As it goes in my family, the next morning it bagan to drizzle off and on and the temperatures fell. It wasn’t terribly cold, just cold and wet enough to ensure discomfort. Great. That week we hiked, we talked, we sang. In spite of the rain and cold we were having a good time.
One of the highlights of the week was courtesy of our little dog, Rambo. Rambo was a Yorkshire Terrier that thought he was a Doberman Pinscher. 🙂 We kept him trimmed up with a puppy cut most of the time, but his hair was still reasonably longish, just not dust mop long.
The dirt at Caprock Canyons is a very fine, very red dirt that turns very sticky when it gets wet. Over the course of one of our first hikes poor Rambo’s paws grew to about 5 times their normal size. Each individual hair strand was attracting dirt and had attached to it a little mud ball. He looked like he was wearing little pants with poufy ball trim at the base. It was hilarious and at every water source we came to we attempted to wash some of the mud off of his feet. It didn’t much help. I think Dad ended up cutting all the hair at his feet with a pocket knife when we got back to the camp site. Poor puppy was a total trooper the whole time though.
There was also the cave incident. At one point in a hike we had turned and were headed back to the trailhead when we noticed a cave up a little hill. It was really cool and a fairly large cave. I think my Dad and brother went up the hill to look in and see if they could see any of the inside of the cave. They made it up there and Mom and I saw them kind of look into the mouth of the cave and then all of a sudden they took off running. They swore they heard something growl. I don’t know if they were serious or not but it was funny watching them hurry down that hill!
At the end of the week we all packed up and headed out of the canyons. On the way out someone told us that a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant made the best hamburger around, so we decided to check it out. We went in and looked over the menu, finally deciding to order the burgers. One each. When they came, they were roughly the size of my head and contained one full pound of ground beef. We ate every bite. It was delicious. Best hamburger I ever ate.
As we drove out of town the clouds that had been ever-present and drizzling on our vacation broke and drifted away. Just like they have done on every family vacation I have been on. I think that was the only time we went camping.