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Published: August 8th 2006
This was our first view of the Black Canyon
We woke up bright and early Saturday morning and headed out to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. This park is not one of the most well known National Parks but is definitely one that should be visited more often! The skies were cloudy so we did not know how much of it we would actually be able to see. As we entered the park, we encountered thick fog and wondered if we would even be able to see the road! Soon we were above the clouds and had decent visibility. The sun even cooperated and broke through the clouds long enough for us to snap a few good pictures.
While we were in the park, we did a drive along the south rim, stopping to take pictures at multiple overlooks. We then descended into the canyon itself by way of a steep, 16% grade, windy road. The view from the bottom really put in perspective just how deep the canyon is. The canyon is 2000 feet deep and as you can see from the pictures it is not exactly black. It gets its name from the amount of shade in the canyon due to the immense North
Black Canyon - Sun Coming Out
Things started looking a little brighter while we were there.
After putting our rental car’s engine to the test while climbing out of the canyon we stopped in Montrose to stock up on food and grab lunch. On the way out of town, a small building on the side of the road advertising free jerky samples caught Aaron’s eye so we had to turn around and get some. Then we headed on toward Mesa Verde. The road Southwest through the Rockies was once again incredible. We drove through Telluride where a jazz festival was going on. Finally we arrived at Cortez which is just outside of the park. The landscape had changed dramatically.
We entered Mesa Verde and headed for the campground where we had reservations to stay for the next two nights. After setting up camp we decided to take a hike to see the sun set. As we hiked out we noticed a storm to the North that seemed headed in our direction but we thought it might miss us. It created rainbows in the distance that were more colorful than could possibly be captured in a picture, but we tried anyway! We sat down to see the sunset and started taking pictures when sure
Black Canyon - Painted Wall
Here you can see the layers of rock in the canyon.
enough, the wind picked up, the temperature dropped 20 degrees, and the rain started falling. We high tailed it back to our campsite to start a fire so we could warm back up!
The next morning we headed to the camp store to start our day with some big pancakes! After breakfast our day consisted of several guided tours of cliff dwellings and a few scenic drives in between. The ruins were amazing to see and the park rangers did an excellent job conveying the history behind the people who built them. They also made us appreciate just how far condominium architecture has come!
After our last evening tour, we ran into yet another storm on the way back to our campsite. We think that Mesa Verde got almost 90% of its annual rainfall that night! We didn’t get much sleep that night.
The next morning began our tour of Utah. The first stop we made was the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. The descent into the park was unlike anything either of us had ever seen before. Large, red, sandstone rock walls lit up by the sun surrounded us. YES WE SAW SUN THIS DAY! The
Black Canyon - Johanna
Johanna takes a rest in the sun.
park was very hot so we decided not to attempt any hikes in the blazing sun and stuck with a road tour. As we left, we saw storms brewing around us but managed to stay dry.
We then headed North to Arches National Park. We had hoped to camp in the park but unfortunately the campground was full. So we did a quick driving tour followed by a three mile round trip climb up to Delicate Arch. (the arch you see on Utah license plates) The sun was shining and the sky was a rich blue. We thought the sunset at the arch would be amazing. Instead, about half way into our hike the dark clouds started in on us. When we got to the arch the wind picked up and started whipping us with sand. We took a few very quick photos then headed back to the car. On the way back the wind was so strong that we had to lean into it to avoid being blown over! We both had our ponchos on so of course the rain never fell while we were on the trail, but Johanna almost became a human kite in her poncho!
Black Canyon - Bottom
View from the bottom of the canyon.
Soon after we got back to the car the rain started. We exited the park and found a campground in Moab to set up camp.
Today we will start Westward again and see where the road takes us!
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