Seminole Canyon State Park, Comstock TX

We stayed in Seminole Canyon State Park once before, on a long trip from Big Bend National Park on desolate Route 90, but we were in a hurry to get to San Antonio for some reason and spent only one night. I don’t remember why we were in a hurry but I do remember that we vowed to return again someday to explore the canyon.

This time we did, and I was surprised to see how impressive it is.  Not the deepest, widest, or most colorful, but Seminole Canyon is strange and compelling for other reasons.  The park staff or volunteers lead hikes into the canyon (this is the only way visitors are allowed to enter) for $5. Once at the bottom you can see the smooth carved floor and walls of limestone that evoke images of massive floods and rushing water—but there’s hardly any water at all.

Seminole Canyon view

The canyon has no source other than runoff from the surrounding plains. It’s just a big storm drain, with the commensurate boom-and-bust water flows, leading into the Rio Bravo (Rio Grande).  Most of the time it’s dry.

The official hike leads to a rock shelter with hundreds or perhaps thousands of petroglyphs left by ancient people.  We’ve seen many petroglyph sites across the southwest but each one is slightly different, so this one has its own style.  Shamanistic figures and symbols are dominant here and that’s very different from the Mogollon style we see in parts of Arizona and New Mexico.

Seminole Canyon petroglyphs

The petroglyphs are slowly fading due to increased humidity from the nearby (man-made) Amistad Reservoir and other natural influences. They won’t last forever, and they are well worth a look.

After the volunteer-led hike into the canyon we decided to do some of the canyon rim trails.  I had figured the trails would be a little dull after going into the canyon but I was very wrong. The route we chose turned out to be a fantastic (and easy) walk with spectacular views at every turn—and sometimes beneath our feet!

Seminole Canyon Eleanor overhang

There’s a fair bit of history too.  The second transcontinental railway passed through here, and you can see remains of the rail beds and stone ovens constructed for use by the workers.  The visitor center has a good interpretive area that talks about the railway, the origin of the name Seminole Canyon, the “black Seminoles,” the lifestyle of the ancient people who lived here and latter-day ranching.

And, as in many parts of the desert, if you look closely you’ll see wildflowers …

My impression: Seminole Canyon State Park is an overlooked gem. It’s a long drive to get here so it’s not a convenient stop, but with Amistad Reservoir nearby I would say the destination opportunities are well worth making the trip and spending a few days.

And now to the continuing saga of on-the-road-repairs:  first thing Monday morning I got on the computer and used Skype (thanks to campground wifi; there’s no Verizon service here) to call Hensley Manufacturing.  Steve was extremely courteous to me and laid out the two options I already knew about:  get the crack in the hitch welded locally at my expense, or ship the hitch back for a repair.

I found a welding shop in Del Rio to fix the crack, and after I get back to Tucson, Hensley will send me a replacement hitch head under the lifetime warranty.  Of course, the old hitch head has to go back and I have to pay the shipping for both so this is not completely free, but at this point the hitch head has plenty of wear and is due for a refurb anyway.  It will cost about $250 in shipping, which I think is well worth it for a factory refurbished unit. Turns out I misunderstood. They’ll accept the head for a free repair under the warranty but I’ll get the same unit back, which means the other wear items will still be present.  I’ll probably do my own refurb at home, instead.

The welding shop in Del Rio deserves a shout-out. Arc-Rite in Del Rio TX was awesome. They took me into the shop right away, asked me how I wanted it fixed (“MIG or stick?”) and had the job done in about ten minutes—with a final bill of just $18.15.  Nice guys, great service, and I really appreciated that they didn’t make me wait.

By the way, the easy way to transport the Hensley hitch is shown in the photo.  I just disassembled it while it was still attached to the car and secured the top from swiveling with a Velcro strap.  No lifting, no hassle.

If you’ve ever got to work on yours, my number one tip is to wear disposable gloves and have paper towels handy.  The hitch is simple to disassemble, but the grease gets everywhere and cleanup is a lot quicker if you don’t have to scrub black grease off your hands.

After the 75 mile roundtrip to Del Rio with the hitch, a quick stop for ice, re-assembling & re-greasing the hitch, a quick shower and packing up, it was nearly noon.  We decided to make a break for Big Bend despite the late start.

This was a tougher decision than it might appear, because Route 90 and Route 385 are almost barren of services of any kind (Sanderson and Marathon are two exceptions). Once we started we were committed to going to Big Bend—or boondocking somewhere roadside.  So, onward along the southern border of Texas we went.  Big Bend or BUST!