I recently took my range finder to the Texas Flat Overlook where it looks off into the depths of Arch Canyon right at the confluence of Texas Canyon, Arch Canyon and Butts Canyon. All three are tucked up under the east flank of Elk Ridge.
The Texas Flat Overlook has long been one of my favorite destinations. I have been there many times, often alone. It is comprised of a long, narrow finger of stone that juts out from the northwest rim of Arch Canyon. I have taken a camp chair out onto the finger of stone and, wrapped in a blanket, spent the evening sitting in the silence awaiting the rising of the full moon. I have spent the night alone sleeping back in the trees. Always I have wondered how deep the canyon is.
Just a few weeks ago I walked to the edge of the overlook, sat down upon a stone ledge and aimed my rangefinder into the depths of the canyon. I sighted on a patch of sand beside the small stream. I triggered the rangefinder. Nothing. I repeated the process with the same result. I aimed at a rock nearer to me, higher on the near side of the canyon and got a reading of over two thousand feet. I tried again for a reading from the bottom. No luck.
About a week before this last visit to the overlook, I had been down in the bottom of Arch Canyon, as far upstream as four-wheelers are permitted, near the picnic table beneath the tall pines. I ranged the cliff as high on the rim as I could see and got a reading of over 2,100 feet.
I have two thoughts about not being able to get a reading of the depth of the canyon from the overlook. One is that I am mildly disappointed to not know the exact depth. The other is that it pleases me to know that it is beyond 2,550 feet.
The Texas Flat Overlook is on two levels. When I first began to visit the overlook there was a dead tree standing against the short ledge between the upper and lower part of the point. It was a simple exercise to climb down the tree and walk out onto the far tip of the point.
Several years ago, I went there and saw that the place had changed. Someone had removed the tree and placed metal steps in its place, making it easier to get down to the lower level. To one side there was a pipe set into the rock with a sight tube pointing to one of the big arches that gave the canyon its name.
Not long afterwards, Barbara and I went there with our daughter, son-in-law and some of our little grandchildren. I was worried at the thought of small children running around near such high ledges. It was a great relief to me when Keith produced short lengths of rope, one for each child. He tied a length of rope to each child and handed the other end to each of the adults. Each child was safely tethered to an adult.
I had little Talia, who was about 4, tied to me. I did my best to not influence her when I asked what she thought of the metal steps and the pipe and sighting tube. She said, “I don’t like it.” I asked her why. She said, as though it should be obvious, “Because this is the mountains and I don’t like things like this in the mountains.” I had to agree.