Caprock Canyons a Victory


Ecology and Environmentalism are topics I am not qualified to discuss. Yet, after the  semantics, who with any sense of conviction doesn’t love nature? I was raised in deep South East Texas a place where hippies don’t chain themselves to trees in protest of deforestation. As a child we burnt our trash in a metal 55 gallon drum; on a side note there is nothing more redneck  than throwing aerosol cans into a fire. It is safe to say my views have changed greatly. But, then again no great southern story ever starts with a deeply studied, well dressed  gentlemen saying, hold my salad and watch this?


In preparation for our trip to the Texas Panhandle Lauren and I studied the area around the parks, the terrain and its history. Nothing impacted me more than a Ken Burn’s P.B.S documentary “The Dust Bowl”.  Old black and white photos narrated by those who saw millions of  acres plowed up  for the first time in human history. Tractors often running 24 hours a day broke ground so  wild grasses could be replaced by wheat. The end result was a  choking series of sand storms which destroyed dreams, families, livestock, and what little wild was left untouched. A man made plague of the plow, a plague of expansion without thought or examination.

dust bowl

As you can see somewhere along the way my view of  Ecology began to shift . With each hike we see an ever increasing growth of urban sprawl at the cost of shrinking wilderness. It’s easy to see our greed, our ever increasing  demands on the oceans, lakes, and soil, our obsession with building dams, and turning forest into lawns. I want so badly to stand upon a soap box handing out indictments. Yet perhaps,… just maybe,…. we could use a happy story.


With horrible images of the Dust Bowl burnt into my mind we began exploring Caprock Canyons.  There was tall strong grasses growing upon the plains. Buffalo grass, and among it these large beautiful beast grazed as they pushed their broad heads and shoulders through the thorns and thistles.  It was only after these Buffalo were brought in, and their DNA tested,  anyone realized  this was one of the last remaining Southern Plains Bison herd.


To support this treasure the plains grasses were replanted, a carefully examined balance of flora and fauna was introduced and “allowed” to repopulate. This includes coyote which can be heard at night as they serenade the moon. Prairie Dogs, often seen as a nuisance, are allowed to dig an underground city. I like to imagine their little town always breaking out in song and dance, like “Fraggle Rock”. They are funny little creatures who love playing a photography version of whack-a-mole as they pop-up, chirp at you,  wait till you reposition, only to disappear.


Every park is special in their way, but Caprock Canyons embodied something I couldn’t put my finger on. Visitors seemed less touristy, everyone was enamored by the Bison, Deer, Prairie Dog, and even the Coyote. The dry winds rushing through the expansive canyons sang a sweet melody of red, wild, wilderness, but the addition of indigenous wildlife and plants was the completion of a symphony.  As Lauren and I sat to eat our lunch we were surrounded by the nature of art’s very nature. I sat in the cool red dirt, the feeling of its fine texture was that of powder. I began to imagine metric tons of this fine soil blowing and twisting, striping and destroying. With this dust in my hand I knew that when “we” as “humanity” are poor stewards of nature we will reap that which we sow. As it has been said, perhaps the greatest lesson history has to teach us, is how little we learn from history.


10 thoughts on “Caprock Canyons a Victory

  • Sadly, we do not learn. I have been hiking since the 60’s, and have seen areas deforested now coming back. The difference in ground temperature is noticeable. I hear people complaining about fossil fuels (a misnomer never corrected) whilst they tear trees down to build their air conditioned homes and poor-substitute grass lawns, then cover everything over with asphalt. Never once considering what all that has done to the ground and air temperatures.

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      • The government doesn’t want to address home construction for two reasons. First, and foremost, it drives votes from the unions. Second, it drives the economy, with the collapse of manufacturing in the US the only major industry is construction.

        Anyone who doubts the effect of construction need only go out barefoot on a nice, hot, summer day. Walk in the lawn, then step out on an asphalt road or driveway.

        Then there is air conditioning, whether we are talking home or car is irrelevant. AC compresses and expands gasses, pumping heat out of one environment into the other, adding heat in the process from the equipment involved, simple physics. Let’s see everyone in California turn off all AC for one week to prove their commitment to global warming, otherwise admit you’re hypocrites and go quietly into the realm of the dinosaurs.

        Finally, sorry for the rant, but give up the travel to GW conventions, burning megatons of fuel to get there. Ever hear of Skype? Show dedication and use video conferencing!


      • The problem is one of greed and comfort. I am the first to admit that I live in a wood framed home, drive a car, and use products daily which are made from petroleum products. I have an air conditioner in my southern home. I will also admit I grow most of our vegetables, recycle, make only a very small trash bag of waste per week, and reuse and re-purpose to the point of obsession. We have chosen to not have children, the world is over populated. We travel to experience, this travel cost resources. There is always a price to pay, a variable on the other side of the equation. I am not who I should be, but I seek to be more. Perhaps this is where we are failing, few want to be more, few are willing to be wrong, few are willing to give up the “American Dream”. Which to me is a nightmare. Once one has all the stuff, has stepped upon their brother to gain more, do they feel happy, content. No this is the one who climbs Everest facing death and comes down no better the person then they were when they started. I promise you every mountain top is no more than Ice and rock. There is noting on top which will make you happy.

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    • I had a guy tell me he has been hiking since the 60’s and is just now seeing areas recovering which were clear cut. It is sad to think how much is taken and how long it takes to recover.


  • A thoughtful piece of writing which rings true the world over. I sometimes wonder how I would survive if there were no places left to experience the true wonder of nature. It makes me feel as though I am choking to even consider it, but sadly those in their ivory towers who are in positions of power do not necessarily feel as I do. Every time I hike into wilderness areas in Australia for several days at a time, I believe more and more that it is something of a right of passage that every individual should experience in order to understand our place in the natural world. And ‘news flash’ for many who would dare leave the comfort of their homes will be that we do not stand on the top of the pecking order. Thanks for another great post, beautifully written once again 🙂 Leah

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    • So many simply do not know. Most have never experienced nature in an authentic form. It is easy to damage and negate something you fear. Something you believe is dangerous, broken, and dirty. Although nature can be harsh it is beautiful, but few have seen this beauty. I agree everyone should spend a week through hiking. They should know what it is to smell the soil, and feel the breeze, to see the balance of things. I have never taken someone with me who has not wanted more. Everyone seems to have assumptions about the wild. Summed up I have been told many times in some form or another. “I always thought nature was hard and you had to fight it, but with the right tools and knowledge this trip has been nice”
      Again thanks for the encouragement. I often struggle with writing these post. I wonder if anyone cares. If this is making any impact. If it is worth the many hours it takes to get it right. I greatly appreciate your kind words.


      • I think that just by writing your thoughts in a post you have contributed something to ‘whoever is reading’, rather than letting in all brew up inside you. And if you worry that no-one reads, or cares, perhaps think that it is something that YOU care. Not sure what else to say in that regard other than by casting your thoughts to the Universe you might see what returns. Perhaps it all comes down to that old concept of critical mass: that when enough people care, then much can be done. 🙂 Chin up, and keep writing…..please:)

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