We spent a too-short two day visit at Caprock Canyons State Park in Quitique, TX. (We attempted our own sad pronunciations of the town until we finally saw a sign clarifying it as “Kitty-quay.”) What a beautiful park! Lots of red rock canyons mixed with healthy green grass and trees. There are plenty of trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding. When we made this campsite reservation a couple of weeks ago, there were only a handful of spaces left, and we selected the one on the end of the road only because that leaves one side of our site open. Little did we know that we had chosen the best site in the place, at least in our eyes. Instead of having another RV outside our door, we had a prairie dog city! How fun to hear their little barks as people approached. One of the hiking trails cut through the middle of their city, with tunnels coming up right on the trail. Since it’s spring, we’ve been seeing babies everywhere, among cattle herds, with horses, and of course the prairie dogs also had their litters. So cute watching the moms herd their young into the den and the little ones observe as the parents sound the alarm!
Our first night at Caprock started out with lovely, although cool, weather, nice enough to take a walk and watch the prairie dogs. Around 10pm we had gone to bed when Bob realized that he had forgotten to do something up front, so he walked up to the cockpit area. He started saying, “Wow! Look at that! Wow!” There was lightening off in the distance unlike anything we see in Connecticut. The horizon is so broad and flat in north Texas that the storm clouds seemed to hover over the earth. There were streaks of cloud to ground lightening, and every now and then light exploded over the top of the clouds. There was no sound, just light, so it was more than 25 miles away from us. We checked the weather radar and were surprised to find that there had been FOUR tornados that touched down to our west, 60 mph wind gusts and at least a half dozen reports of hail ranging from nickel to half dollar size! We watched the radar as the storm, thankfully, dissipated before it reached us. The next day, the park ranger said, “We weren’t even supposed to get weather like that last night!” We’re adding one more thing to our list when looking for places to camp in tornado alley … do they have a tornado shelter??
Caprock park also has a herd of bison that roams freely through the park. This herd is descended from the bison originally saved from extinction in the 1800’s by legendary cattleman Charles Goodnight. (He is considered the father of the Texas panhandle. With Oliver Loving, he mapped out a better route to take cattle from Texas to Colorado for market, the Goodnight-Loving Trail, and worked for better cattle breeding standards and stricter penalties for rustlers. When Goodnight and his wife saw that the bison were close to being wiped out, they captured a few and kept their own herd, some of which were later taken to Yellowstone.) We heard the bison through the trees, we saw evidence of them in our campsite and everywhere else (bison muffins), but we only saw a small group of about a half dozen off in the distance. If we had more time at this park, we may have seen them walk through the campground. Unfortunately, we were only able to book two nights here, so after one hike and lots of pictures, we were forced to move on. We’d love to return.
We had heard of a place near Joplin, Missouri, that has a huge collection of used RV parts; it’s pretty well-known in the RVing community, Colpaw’s RV. Like our auto junkyards back home, they take crashed RVs and the like and remove the parts that are still good. They say you can find anything at Colpaw’s. And Joplin was only a few hours northeast of Quitaque, and we’re heading east anyway, so we decided to see what Colpaw’s is all about.
Our first night on this leg was spent at a city-owned park in Elk City, Oklahoma. The town itself was kind of odd … an old downtown about the length of Manchester’s Main Street area with an old shuttered theater and small shops struggling to survive. Outside of downtown, there were a handful of popular retail box stores and some small industry. Generally the signs of a town that has fallen on hard times. But, the neighborhoods we drove through ranged from neat, well maintained brick ranch homes to new, beautiful large stone and brick homes. The city park was built on a lake with fishing docks, picnic pavilions, an amphitheater, and 6 paved RV sites with electricity that backed right up to the lake. Best of all, this was FREE camping! They ask that you limit your stay to 4 nights and, with better weather and more planning, we could easily have enjoyed a few nights there. But, this part of the country has had so much rain recently that the lake was spilling over and the grounds were soaking wet. The highlight of our single night here was the motley crew of four that followed us around whenever we were outside:
Oklahoma is greener than we imagined it would be. It is very flat and there are fields of hay, grain and cattle as far as the eye can see. Missouri, on the other hand, looks a lot like New England. It’s green with lots of deciduous trees, rolling hills and farms, much more farming here than in New England. We spent the next two nights in Walmart parking lots.
Colpaw’s, in Carthage, MO, was interesting. They have a very large store and it’s fun to walk around and see bins full of light switches, shelves of sinks, and a room full of furniture pulled out of RV’s. Bob bought a few small things that we need for our RV. The town itself, Carthage, was a nice surprise. It’s a nice low-key town with a lovely main road lined with well-kept homes from the early to mid-1900’s with nice lawns, porches, etc. The people were pleasant and talkative. Sort of reminded us of Longmeadow, MA.
We continue east toward Kentucky. We have three ultimate goals now: Nashville, Alabama for Larry Noel’s race, and then home!