It was now time to hit the trails and I was so excited! Frank and I decided to team up with the group and we pulled up in line and waited for our group to head out. As we got started, the beauty of the canyon overtook me. The red and white layers were absolutely breathtaking! As the trail progressed, we started going down many turns, climbing up small hills and going down others. Then we came to a part in the trail that looked as if there were no possible way to climb it. Hesitantly, I looked at Frank. I didn’t doubt his driving capabilities, but this obstacle seemed to be impossible to overcome. As we watched the other Jeeps maneuver their vehicles up the cliff, it was then our turn. In my mind, I could just picture our Jeep flipping over backwards due to the steepness of the cliff. Frank carefully made his way through and it was such an awesome feeling to know that we made it. The trail was full of many other exciting and sometimes even unnerving obstacles that made our time on the trails one that we will never forget.
After spending the day having a ton of fun on the trails, it was time for us to head back towards camp for dinner. When we arrived, a fantastic steak dinner awaited all of us, prepared by the outstanding staff there at the ranch. After stuffing our bellies, Frank and I were very privileged to spend some time getting to know Mr. Tom Christian, owner of the ranch.
Mr. Christian, along with his wife Anne, have been serving guests at the ranch since 1981. What a wonderful treat it was to meet them. Mr. Christian spoke of how this particular part of the canyon was where the ending scene of “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” was filmed. He then took the time to explain a little of the history of Palo Duro Canyon, and spoke of how the Apache lived in the Canyon during the time that Coronado’s expedition visited and found them there. The Comanche and Kiowa tribes, who had an advantage over Coronado and his men by owning horses brought over by the Spanish, later displaced them. In 1874, Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie was sent to displace the Indians to Oklahoma reservations, leading to the establishment of the JA Ranch in Palo Duro Canyon.
Over the next half century, the canyon remained in the hands of private owners and in 1934, part of the upper section of the canyon was purchased by the State of Texas and became the Palo Duro Canyon State Park. I was fascinated by the stories told by Mr. Christian and I could have listened and visited with him for hours.