Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Montrose and the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

June 22-26, 2015:

One of those endless views into the Black Canyon

It’s another travel day and I’m an under the weather, suffering from a stomach bug, but the show must go on.  It’s only a 40 mile ride to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and easy going until the final few steep uphill miles and curves to the National Park.  We have a reservation at the south rim campground, loop B which turns out to be a nice private campsite with electric, a water spigot in the campground loop, a pit toilet, but not nothing else.  That’s okay as I had my fill of the weekend warrior campers at the last state park.  

We were only able to get two days reserved at the Loop B campground so on Wednesday we moved to the loop C campground where the campsites are first come/first served, but no electric, all dry camping sites.  I actually like the dry camping site better than the first site.  The only complication is that generators are not allowed on the south rim, but since we use virtually no power and can always run the RV engine for a while, no problem. This also gives me the opportunity to try out a portable single solar panel system that was given to me by a friend.

The Deer are all over the campground and very tame

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison is an ominous sounding place for good reason, it’s a very steep walled, dark, rugged and inaccessible Canyon.  The Gunnison River flows through at a maximum descent of 480 feet in one two mile stretch and at an average descent of 96 feet per mile in the Park.  The river is now dammed and the flow is diminished but it is still a wild white water torrent.  The maximum depth of the gorge is 2,272 feet and it is mostly straight down vertical through hard rock.  There is a rim drive with numerous vista viewpoints and short trails along the way.


View into the canyon

It's very rugged country

Zooming in on the Gunnison River

Another canyon rim view

This River has had to cut through hard granite
in this Canyon unlike the Grand Canyon which
eroded through soft rock

Very steep shear canyon walls

We hiked the 4 mile long Oak Flat Trail which had more than expected ups and downs, but with great wildflowers, rocks and canyon views. I was dragging due to the lingering effects of the stomach bug, the heat and altitude.  I usually complain to Twinkles that she is holding me back, today the joke was on me.  We also did a few short hikes from Rim Road viewpoints, the views are almost unreal.  The canyon walls are so steep that that it is hard to see the river below, but it can easily be heard as it crashes over the rocks deep in the gouge.

Another zoomed in view of the river far below

Cactus are just starting to bloom

Lots of interesting rock

There are hordes of insects hatching out of the shrubs along the rim trails.  It sounds like thousands, maybe millions, as they make a clicking similar to a Cicada.  There are warning signs everywhere about bears in the campground but we have yet to see one.  The Mule Deer on the other hand are all over and have little to no fear of humans.

We are very impressed by the wildflowers, especially the Silvery Lupine, that is in peak bloom at present and the beautiful pink granite rocks with veins of quartz, peppered with mica flakes.

These Daisy's were in especially good light

That's a solitary Lupine

I believe it to be the Yellow Stonecrop 

I believe it's a yellow Salsify

A Goat's beard thistle

The campground is only 15 miles from downtown Montrose so you are not so far from civilization and Montrose has a nice downtown area.  
We have no internet or phone at the park and must make a trip down to plan our next upcoming move.  Montrose is another railroad town although the tracks are long gone.  It started with a couple of freighters who took pack trains, mules and donkeys, loaded with supplies to the mining camps of Ouray and Telluride.  They also brought back ore to be shipped by rail from Montrose as it was then the end of the rail line.  The other famous event was the construction of a diversion tunnel in the back canyon to divert Gunnison River water through a tunnel cut through the mountains to Montrose. This Tunnel was an engineering marvel of it’s day, completed in 1909, with President Taft on hand for the opening ceremony.  The tunnel supplied water to the Montrose area for irrigation to enable farming to succeed.

An old warehouse near the train depot is now a brewery

I love the Montrose "Look Deeper" theme.  The visitors center
was extra special nice.

Several nice restored buildings in town

Beautiful details

The Town Hall Tavern

I took a ride to the East Portal section of the National Park which involves driving down a very steep, winding road from the canyon rim to the Gunnison River.  There is a wilderness campground at the river level and a few nice picnic areas.  The river is a beautiful sight, full and fast flowing. You  immediately come to the Gunnison Diversion Dam.  This is the point where the diversion tunnel was built to supply irrigation water to Gunnison.  As you proceed a couple of miles further down the road the impressive Crystal Dam comes into view.  The road then dead ends at a security fence about 1/4 mile away so you can’t get an up close personal view, but what you do see is spectacular.

The view of the water pouring over the Crystal Dam from the
roadway is almost scary

The road along the canyon floor

The Gunnison River

The Diversion Dam area

I visited the Montrose historical museum at the original Denver and Rio Grande Railroad Depot built in 1912 which has an extensive collection of artifacts and good photos.  They also have a big collection of weathered old wagons and farm implements.

The original train depot has survived

Carefully we roll along

Bull Whackers and Mule Skinners were important in the early days

You can even see a Tree growing through a bike in this museum

Am I understanding this correctly ?  You clamp these pliers in the Bulls nose
to handle him ?

We are presently lightening the load in the RV by getting rid of some excess baggage.  A trip was made to Montrose to donate a bunch of stuff and ship a box of books back to New Jersey for storage. This is going to be a constant struggle.

Time is flying by and as a result, we have altered our plans somewhat to head straighter north to the Grand Junction area from here.  Twinkles has had her fill of the scary mountain passes !  

Next stop is the James M. Robb State Park in Fruita, Colorado,
Twinkles and Slick

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