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Park Pick: Canyon Views at Seminole

Hiking the rim trail at historic Seminole Canyon.

By Elizabeth O'Brien

Hiking at Seminole Canyon State Park and Historic Site offers unforgettable views of tawny limestone cliffs where the rugged West Texas landscape cuts dramatically to Seminole and Presa canyons. Follow the rim trail along the curves of the precipice to see the glassy waters of the Rio Grande.

Along the path, the surrounding medley of vegetation — cenizo and creeping ocotillo — offers a hospitable sanctuary to a bounty of birds. Dive down with a barn swallow that swoops across the vista and you will see some of the oldest rock art in North America in the style of the Lower Pecos region.

Accustomed to traveling by bicycle, I was unprepared for the slower pace of hiking and didn’t plan enough time to see everything the park offers. A guided tour led by park staff can help you see the pictographs at Fate Bell Shelter and Panther Cave, though I didn’t get to see them myself.

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The exhibits at park headquarters contain replicas of the rock art, like the leaping mountain lion, painted by people long passed. The exhibits bring the rich history to the present, with the convergence of misdeeds by Spanish conquistadors, the perseverance of Seminole Indian Scouts and the enterprise of area ranchers. But now, I’m off on a hike.

The Canyon Rim Trail stretches 7.5 miles and takes the stated 3.5 hours to complete. After a while, shadows started to cast on the trail, warning me that the sun might set before I finished. Heeding the sun’s warning, I secured the pack slung across my shoulders — filled with water and emergency apples — and began to run. Thankfully, the mild fall temperatures helped me push on as I dodged pebbles and cactus needles, determined to finish the loop trail.

Near the end of the journey, the sun was illuminating the landscape in magnificent shades of gold. The tall stalks of the desert spoon, or sotol, glowed in the sunbeams. A spiny evergreen plant, sotol served as a multipurpose tool and food source for earlier people. The heart of the plant was baked and made into a veggie patty of sorts. Stems were used as walking sticks, and leaves woven into baskets.

Starting to tire, I noticed that a bird began to follow me; its chirp reminded me of a gym whistle, urging me on as I rose out of the canyon on to flat terrain. Arriving back to the start of the trail just as the sun’s red light edged the horizon, I savored these most precious moments. Most of my best times are spent on a bike, but this was pretty nice, too.

The park is located 9 miles west of Comstock on U.S. Highway 90, just east of the Pecos River High Bridge. For more information, call (432) 292-4464 or visit www.tpwd.texas.gov/seminolecanyon.

 

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