The scenery on the road leading up to Black Canyon of the Gunnison was nothing special. There were some small shrubs, a couple of hills, and a pretty sky. I thought to myself, “Doesn’t seem like I’m anywhere near a park, nevertheless one that I heard had views that could take your breath away”.
And then I turned a corner.
Oh my goodness-gracious!
Steep, narrow, extensive slices of rock plummet over 2,000 feet to a roaring river. It was entirely overwhelming and my eyes just didn’t know what to focus on.
The geology of the canyon is truly unique. The hardness of the rock coupled with gravity forced the flowing water downwards carving deep fissures over the course of many, many years. And looking over the edge doesn’t begin to give you a true sense of how far downwards that rock goes.
That’s why I decided to hike to the bottom.
The Gunnison route is the “easiest” scramble down. A 1.5 mile hike that has an elevation change of 1,800 feet. To call it a hike, though, is an understatement. There were times I was scooting on my butt, grabbing onto tree roots for dear life. At the bottom, watching the river and peering up at the sheer rock faces surrounding me was an experience that I’ll never forget. I sat. I looked. I listened. Coming back up the canyon didn’t feel nearly as perilous, but I was huffing and puffing like a wildebeeste pretty much the whole time.
If you’re ever in Colorado, make the drive to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.
Today officially marks the 2-month point in my journey. It’s been exhausting, incredible, fascinating, frustrating, and one of the best decisions of my life.
I feel like I started as an eager newb with little experience when it came to full-time camping and long road trips. Now, I’m a just-as-eager traveler who has learned a lot, met extraordinary people, and experienced more spectacular moments than I could ever hope or dream.
Here are some significant things that I’ve discovered:
Country music is not only tolerable, but is perfect for driving down back-road highways
Always pack a rain jacket in your bag, even if it’s only a 5% chance of rain
Never underestimate the generosity of a stranger
High altitudes make you ridiculously thirsty
A gorgeous view make ok activities good, and good activities great
Microwaveable mac n cheese tastes like heaven after hiking 8 miles
Look for the small, beautiful things that nature has to offer; this requires getting rid of your “city eyes”
As I continue my travels, I look forward to new places, new experiences, and new people I will meet along the way.
Mesa Verde has been quite a memorable park so far. I was able to take a guided tour of 3 different cliff dwellings and view a couple other sites on my own. It’s surreal to walk through ancient ruins and spot pieces of broken pottery over 800 years old.
I have a lot of respect for these Ancestral Peubloan, who fashioned entire villages wedged into cliff alcoves. They chipped hand and foot holds into the rock that they used to climb up, over, and into their fields on the top of the mesa. Scrambling down the rock face, slipping through tiny tunnels, and climbing up into their rooms made history truly come alive.