Senior Managing Editor Matt Joyce has been documenting his outdoor adventures in Texas Highways for nearly a decade. For this month’s cover story, the sixth-generation Texan traveled to Caprock Canyon, Palo Duro Canyon, and the Canadian River to chart a roadmap for an epic canyon-to-canyon vacation.
What was a highlight of your Canyons trip that didn’t make it into the story?
The best part of traveling for Texas Highways is learning about different pockets of the state from locals who are fascinated with their own home turf. Chris Podzemny of Amarillo is a good example. “Podz,” as he’s known, builds trail systems for hikers and bikers across the Panhandle. At Palo Duro, Podz took me on a hike on the Rock Garden Trail, which he helped build 10 years ago with the Palo Duro Corps of Engineers. Our hike went deep into the park to spectacular side canyons I’d never seen before. To top it off, we jumped into an old stock tank known as the Duck Pond. The pond is typically dry and only fills every few years during unusually wet seasons like this summer. It was a blazing hot afternoon, but the water was chilly due to the cool Panhandle nights. Only time I’ve been swimming in the canyon.
Your stories often feature intensive physical challenges. Which trips have been the most personally challenging?
River trips on the Neches, Devils, and Rio Grande were personally challenging as I started a newbie and had to learn how to paddle. On the Rio Grande Lower Canyons trip, I fell out of my canoe, soaking my one set of clothes on a 40-degree November day. Cold! When I did the “5 Peaks in a Week” road trip in West Texas, I had to swallow my fear of heights when hiking to the top of Emory Peak in Big Bend National Park and Mount Livermore in the Davis Mountains. Both of those summits require some scrambling, complete with whipping winds and sheer drops.
What outdoor adventures are still on your to-do list?
I’d love to hike the roughly 100-mile Lone Star Hiking Trail in the Sam Houston National Forest.
Your family spends a lot of time traveling the state in a pop-up camper. What are some of your favorite spots?
We’ve been on about 85 camping trips since we got a pop-up camper in 2012, according to my spreadsheet. Some of our favorite sites include South Llano River State Park, Maverick Ranch RV Park in Lajitas, and Daingerfield State Park. Swimming is always a key component. As for the future, we’ve never camped at Palo Duro. After my experience this summer, I’m itching to return with my family and the camper.
Emily Roberts Stone
Editor in Chief