Painted Snow


“In Texas, there are three seasons, hot, damn hot and deer season.”


You just never know where a photograph might lead you.  My venerable father had a joke about Texas. “In Texas, there are three seasons, hot, damn hot, and deer season.”  It might snow once a year, and for me, that is a chance to see my wonderful landscapes in a whole new fashion. I woke to the ground blanketed in white and took off to re-photograph my favorite places.  

Top of the list was Palo Duro Canyon State Park. Just before the entrance to the state park is Palo Duro Riding Stables. I had passed it 100’s of times with its iconic herd of horses standing before a finger of the canyon leading into the state park.  On this morning I had to stop. Against the snow and the canyon and sky stood a single paint mare. It was so iconic and she seemed to know I was taking her portrait and posed perfectly.

The rest of the day was an adventure, from Palo Duro Canyon, the Goodnight House, to the River Falls (a 50 ft natural waterfall). Each of those images are worthy of a blog.  

The Canyon at Palo Duro Riding Stables in the Fall

When I got home and was mulling over the shots of the day, this image screamed at me.  I fell in love with everything about it. I edited and posted it on social media. One of the hands of the riding stables and amazing artist in her own right, Caitlan Blassingame, messaged me that the mare was one of the riding stable horses named Sassy and invited me to come to the riding stables.  Caity gave me a tour of the place in a 4x4 razor. This part of the canyon has a different ecology.

It is spring-fed and while most of Palo Duro Canyon has a desert and southwest feel, this small finger is filled with cottonwoods. Protected from the high winds of plains by the canyon walls, some of these cottonwoods are a hundred feet or taller.  And unlike most of the canyon, there is a lot of year-round green plants. Not only is the land cared for by one of the nicest families you will ever meet (Jesse and Kristin Sorenson), it is one of the most amazing parts of the canyon.

If you want an adventure of the old west, their rides go from the top of the canyon down to the bottom. On horseback, you are treated to some of the most amazing vistas of the old west.  Here Charles Goodnight (The Texas Ranger and Rancher who is the basis of the novel and movie Lonesome Dove) cut posts for his ranch. You can close your eyes and almost hear the echo of Comanche’s song. To complete the feel, Jesse and his crew dress authentically, as if they walked right out of 1880. Ask Jesse to show you his gunplay. He is an expert at trick shooting with his colt.

Jesse talking to his horse.  Serious conversaton...

The horse and I have become closest friends with is Coyote.  They paired me with him as he was born on the property and is a bit of an unflappable tank.  If I let go of the reigns to take a photo, Coyote becomes the most stable equine photo platform imaginable.  When I am feeling blue, there is nothing that will lift my spirits more than a bit of time on horseback in the most beautiful part of Texas.

That one photo, led to some of the greatest and most fun adventures, and to my making some great friends.

For more information about Palo Duro Riding Stables.