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#9 – Sunrise at Palo Duro Canyon (Top 10 Experiences of 2018)

Since I grew up in the Panhandle of Texas, you would think I had seen the sunrise over Palo Duro Canyon umpteen times. However, until a recent Labor Day trip from Austin to the small town where our daughter lives near that amazing geological marvel, I really can’t remember ever having seen it at all.

It’s a Case Study

I have a good friend who is a psychologist-type, and when we discuss things about people (including us) that are hard to understand, she’s the first to sum up all the mystery with her hallmark comment.

It’s a case study.

Well, my fascination with this particular reasoning to which we all fall so easily prey is one of those case study things. Why do we plan big trips and adventurous excursions to faraway locations, leaving so many local gems revoltingly uexperienced?

Palo Duro Canyon is a Local Gem

The proper name of the place is Palo Duro Canyon State Park, and it’s truly a beautiful spot, by any standard. I’ve been to the park’s amphitheater to see Texas, the summer outdoor musical, many times, had a few picnics in the day-only areas, even enjoyed a few early morning breakfasts on the rim of the Canyon at the home of some friends. Oh, I also rode horses with a cousin when I was about 12 and climbed to the Lighthouse with a bunch of college students when our daughter was one of the group.

Have I camped there? Nope. Ridden bikes on the trails? Huh-uh. If you ask me if I’ve stayed the night in any of the dugout-style stone cabins, I’ll also have to answer with a big ol’ no.

But I can now say I’ve seen the sunrise.

Donuts, Coffee and a Big Surprise

When we go to Amarillo, we stay with family and dedicate every minute to being together. But this visit, Mike and I were uncharacteristically all by ourselves for one night at our daughter’s house.

My sweet husband knows how much I love making something customary into an intentional moment of adventure, so on Sunday morning well before dawn, he sent a whisper over to my side of the bed. Hey. Wanna go get donuts and coffee and drive out to the Canyon to see the sunrise?

Oh, my goodness. Ordinarily, I would have taken his face between my hands and smiled between the kisses.

It Can Be Really Cold Up There

Now??? It’s too cold, I whined.

We always forget how cold the cold really is up there, but the wind can blow it right through every bone in your body, even in September. If you’ve lived in Central Texas for five years, you might have become a wimp when it comes to that kind of temperature change, you know. Clearly, I had become a cold-wimp.

C’mon, he replied. Where’s your sense of adventure? We’ve lived nearly all our lives up here and never seen the sunrise at Palo Duro Canyon. Nobody’s here but us. The donuts are waiting. The coffee is hot. If we hurry, we’ll make it.

It’s Worth It, No Matter What

Finding a good vantage spot was easy, and we made it to the rim at the exact right time. Mike rolled down the windows, but we both couldn’t resist stepping completely out of the warmth of the car into the cool of the morning air. Even though it was cold, we wanted our eyes to see and our camera to capture all we could take in without any peripheral barriers.

It was stunning. It was colorful. It was static. And it was so very brief.

Sunrise, Sunset

As we drove back to town in the brighter light of day, I couldn’t help thinking of the lyrics to the beautiful song from Fiddler on the Roof.

Sunrise, sunset. Sunrise, sunset. Quickly fly the years.

I’m so glad another year didn’t go by without having experienced this magnificent occurrence. The sun rises every day, and the sun sets every evening. We barely even notice the miracle of it all. The going up and going down of the sun that lights our way and warms our air is such an incredible design for our sustenance, but we’re so secure in its continuity that we completely forget to thank the One who created it.

One Thing is For Sure

One thing is for absolute sure. No donut ever tasted as good as that one from the small town shop with the self-serve carafe of hot coffee.

Perhaps the simplest of pleasures, in the most ordinary of settings, awakens in us the most overwhelming of gratitude.

I’ll have to discuss that with my psychologist-type friend, but I’m pretty sure what she’ll have to say.

It’s a case study. 

Your devoted encourager,

PS: When was the last time you saw a stunning sunrise? Feel free to leave a comment to share.

PSS: This was the most meaningful of my outdoor experiences of the year; however, there were others that were also quite scenic.

The Blue Hole and Jacob’s Well

Hiking the Violet Crown Trail 

Picking Strawberries in Marble Falls

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