Welcome to a land of red sandstone cliffs, rugged caprock canyons, hills covered with tenacious red-berry juniper and ragged mesquite, all interlaced with wandering trails.
We're in the Texas Panhandle near the quaint town of Quitaque. Two great trail riding locations near Quitaque are Pole Canyon Ranch and Caprock Canyons State Park. Both areas are known for their great horseback riding trails and horse camping locations.
Pole Canyon Ranch
We pulled into Pole Canyon Ranch (www.polecanyon.com) and met gracious ranch managers Phil and Lynnette Barefield. Lynnette is a direct descendent of the original ranch owners.
Pole Canyon Ranch is special — even though it's privately owned, the owners have chosen to share their ranch with the public. It's a portal into the past, as well as a trail-riding heaven.
This cozy, tidy ranch offers16 recreational-vehicle sites with a bath access. Dry camping and outhouses are also available. Numerous corrals with water spigots are located near the campsites.
The guest house, nicely appointed in Western décor, can accommodate up to 10 people. It consists of a living area, full kitchen, two baths, a utility room with washer/dryer, and a large, covered deck with a calming view.
Caprock Canyons State Park
Caprock Canyons State Park (www.tpwd.state.tx.us) is a full-service park, Texas-style! It consists of 15,314 acres, which includes the Trailway, a 64.25-mile Rail to Trail conversion.
When entering the park, stop at the visitor center to obtain a permit, information, and get a well-designed, informative map. This map features trail routes and distances, elevation points, location of pertinent areas, and information on the extremely steep and rugged areas where bicyclists and horses aren't allowed.
When you ride here, take plenty of water, and take time to drink. Also, keep an eye out for rattlesnakes and falling rock.
The park's Wild Horse Camping Area has no electricity. However, each campsite does have two 12-by-20-foot horse pens, a water spigot, a fire ring, and one or more shade trees.
Caprock Canyons State Park has the official Texas State Bison Herd and is also home to more than 175 species of birds. In camp, we enjoyed watching painted buntings and vermillion flycatchers.
Spring and fall are the most temperate times to visit the Texas Panhandle. During our visit at the end of April, daytime temperatures were creeping into the mid-90s. Warm memories will always linger in our minds of the Texas Panhandle and our carefree days of riding.
Here's a photo gallery from our trip to the Texas Panhandle. (For more on our trip, including descriptions of our trail rides, see Postcard From … Texas, The Trail Rider, January/February '12.)
Seasoned trail riders and equine photojournalists Kent and Charlene Krone enjoy sharing their riding adventures in the United States and Canada.