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"Great" Intro to Texas

We just got back from a great trip to visit friends, and our niece and her husband, in the Hill Country of Texas. Great, as in: great company, great food, great opportunity to taste some Texas distillations, great scenery. A couple other parts weren't quite so great. We got a LOT of

Photo of a windmill on a flat prairie taken at sunset in Texas
Prairie windmill at sunset near Plainview, Texas

rain (but they needed it, so we're not going to complain), and my husband and I both got home in time to come down with COVID-19 (bleah!). On the bright side of that one, so far, no one else we spent time with has come down with it!

Photo of the front of an abandoned restaurant with a dragon sculpture across the facade, found in New Mexico.
Dragon - For Sale or Rent

We'd been to Dallas about 10 years ago, but it was for work, not sightseeing, and I don't have many pictures from that trip. I included one of my favorites - a defunct Chinese restaurant in Clayton, New Mexico. Sadly, in the 10 years since, this poor dragon still hasn't been set free, and virtually nothing else had changed on the restaurant front. Literally the same signs are in the same windows.

Textural, art-concept photo of grain elevator complex found at Dalhart, Texas
The Dalhart Elevator

This grain elevator complex at Dalhart, Texas, virtually screams at me to play with color, textures, funky finishes and more. This is just one of the three versions of this image I've already put together. The view is especially serendipitous because I took it through the windshield as we were driving through Dalhart. The late afternoon light makes the original look great, too. I was happy my shutter speed was fast enough, and that I didn't get the tint at the top of the windshield in the scene. The pigeons that flew into the frame were bonus - I definitely didn't see them when I was trying to get the photo.

Closeup photo of a ripe cotton plant (Gossypium hirsutum), ready for harvest.
Slightly windblown ripe cotton

This part of Texas, in the Panhandle north of Amarillo, is full of giant corporate farming operations. We passed a lot of cotton fields still being harvested. The most common species of cotton, upland or Mexican cotton (Gossypium hirsutum), makes up about 90% of the cotton produced in the world. I was getting sleepy though. We'd passed several fields when my husband suddenly asked me if I was going to take any pictures of the cotton! I hadn't even been thinking about it. So, he obligingly found a good field and stopped for me (no wonder I like him so much!).


The first night, we camped at Canyon, near Amarillo. My husband had hoped to reach the Palo Duro Canyon State Park to camp there, but we got in too late. Next morning, we carried on to

Photo of a brilliant sunset over the Texas Panhandle prairie with windmills on the horizon.
Texas Panhandle sunset with windmills on the horizon

our friends' home near Brownwood, at the upper extent of the Hill Country. Their marvelous Texas hospitality is why we love so much to spend time with them - and they came through in spades! They took us down to Llano and Fredericksburg for authentic Texas barbecue and German food. Distillery and wine tastings made the day even more enjoyable - we brought

Photo of Ford Street bridge over Llano River, Grenwelge Park, Llano, Texas
Ford Street bridge over the Llano River, Grenwelge Park
Photo of potholes and shrub looking a little like a face at Grenwelge Park, Llano, Texas
Potholes and shrub, Grenwelge Park












home some of our favorites from those tastings. We dodged rain showers to make a short stop at Grenwelge Park in Llano, where there are fun sculptures and balanced rock structures all over, with even the natural potholes getting into the artistic act (can you see the face with the orange topknot?).


Photo of a large bird sculpture that looks like a blue heron found at Grenwelge Park, Lllano, Texas
Blue heron sculpture at Grenwelge Park, Llano, Texas

This large bird was carved from a tree stump in the park, and at one angle, looks incredibly like a blue heron. Plus, big outcrops of the local granite extend down to the river's edge, some with wide quartz inclusions. Interestingly, Llano is located on the Llano Uplift, a somewhat circular dome of Precambrian rock extending about 50 miles across (the circular shape can even be made out on Google Maps). The geology is mainly granite but includes at least 240 other identified rocks and minerals, including llanite (a rhyolite speckled with rare blue quartz and orange-ish feldspar) found only here. After the park, lunch at (and shoutout to) Cooper's Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que, where the smoked turkey was so good it didn't even need sauce, and the brisket was as tender as expected.

Photo of pin oak leaves in autumn reds with raindrops found near Fredericksburg, Texas
Pin oak leaves in autumn finery with raindrops

Then, local vodka, bourbon and wine tastings, and finally, to Fredericksburg, known for its strong German heritage (it was founded in 1846 and named for Prince Frederick of Prussia). There, we went to one of several German restaurants (The Auslander) and enjoyed its authentic offerings, including hot German potato salad and excellent sauerkraut. The sightseeing was pretty limited due to the rain, and my follow-up research found several more places I'd like to visit on a later trip. The following day, our niece and her husband joined us for smoky, barbecued "dinosaur" ribs and pork roast with all the fixin's (all three guys are great with a barbecue). We ate far too well on this trip!


On our final morning with our friends, we woke up finally to clear skies, and thick frost on the back deck and vehicles parked outside. The camper, as always, had proven to be warm enough for us, but our new doors had leaked during some of the heavy overnight rains. My husband's side of the mattress had gotten pretty wet, probably because he was also on the windy side. After a hearty breakfast of homemade biscuits and gravy (one of my guy's specialties), our niece and her husband headed back home. We were packed and heading north in the early afternoon, and got as far as Plainview by early evening.

Photo of an oilfield pump jack in northwestern Texas
"Nodding donkey" or pump jack, a Texas icon

We didn't even unhook the camper overnight, so when we were both wide awake around 5 am, we just pulled out of our campsite and headed north. The sun was coming up by the time we got close to Canyon, so we decided to take a short side trip into Palo Duro Canyon State Park. It was perfect timing, to be honest. The rock formations were extra pretty with the golden morning light and deep shadows, and there was still frost on the vegetation.


Photo of early morning sunlight on rock formations at Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas
Early sunlight on rock formations in Palo Duro Canyon State Park

Geologically, Palo Duro Canyon is second in size only to the Grand Canyon in the US; however, the park itself is pretty small and the majority of the rugged canyonlands south and east of the park are privately owned. There are a number of trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding. I didn't have a great map to work with, so I'm not certain, but the top photo of these I took inside the park might be of Brushy Butte. I was able to figure out some other formations when I found a better online

Photo of rock formations, likely Red Mesa, in Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas
Aptly named Red Mesa
Photo of early light and frost below Fortress Cliff, Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas
Early light and frost below Fortress Cliff











map; Fortress Cliff is pretty obvious due to its size. The 'river' that runs through the park was narrow enough to step over at this time of year, so I was amused by the length of its name - Prairie Dog Town Fork Red River. It's somewhat visible at the lower left of the photo with Fortress Cliff and on the left side of the photo of Red Mesa. However, it can become dangerously high and wide and is prone to flash floods, as evidenced by the warning signs on the maps and at crossing points. But it's also obvious this valley can get extremely hot in summer and there was a current burn ban due to dry conditions locally.

Photo of storm light on a windmill next to I-25 near Colorado City, Colorado
Storm light on a windmill next to I-25 near Colorado City, Colorado

After our nice detour, we were able to make good time the rest of the way home. Catching the storm light on this windmill, one of a group of five near Huerfano Butte, a lone cinder cone south of Colorado City, was unforeseen. I hope to catch one or more photos of the windmill group every time we pass them, and almost never manage to have decent lighting. Overall, the trip provided an abundance of happy memories and more than made up for the 'ick' of getting sick as soon as we got home.


The majority of the images I got from this trip likely won't be going onto my website as art images - except of course, various iterations of The Dalhart Elevator - but I will be uploading several to my stock site on Alamy.com. You can locate my personal stock portfolio on my website at www.denisedethlefsen.com, then select the Purchase tab and click on Stock. As always, feel free to let me know what you think. I welcome feedback and critiques. You can send me an email by selecting the About tab, then clicking on Contact.

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