Here, we finally say goodbye to Utah. Thank you, beautiful Utah, for taking up four entire blog posts and hundreds of photos.
Now, we enter Colorado!
- DAY 5 (Friday, March 27) — cont’d.
So, have you ever heard of Black Canyon of the Gunnison? None of us had. My older brother Matt and two of his friends hit up 20 national parks in 33 days last summer, and Black Canyon was one of them. When, back in October, I asked him what he recommended, he wrote the following on my Facebook Wall:
I spent 33 days in the American Southwest. Here are things you don’t want to miss:
I know you hate lugging it around, and I know you think it spoils the moment so often, but do yourself a favor and don’t leave your camera at home.
Big Bend National Park (specifically the Santa Elena Canyon). Great Sand Dunes National Park. Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Monument Valley. Goblin Valley. Arches. Bryce. Zion (the Angel’s Landing hike). Death Valley. The Grand Canyon (go to the South Rim and do the Skywalk). Yosemite (hike Half Dome). Also, Las Vegas.
In February, when Esten, Jeff and I were going over possible routes and places we wanted to visit, I mentioned Black Canyon of the Gunnison. It wasn’t until I showed them photos that Matt had taken that we became excited about it. Even then, though, I wasn’t expecting too much from the canyon.
I’ve never so enjoyed being wrong about something.
After we fixed up the hotel situation in Montrose and dropped off our things in our room, we headed out to the park. We were pleasantly surprised to see a sign posted in the entrance guardhouse that announced no admission fees during the winter.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Its walls are among the steepest in the nation, with an average drop of 43 feet per mile. I believe the steepest slopes drop at 95 feet per mile. Its name derives from the fact that sunlight exposes the canyon bottom and river only at certain times of the day — that’s how steep and narrow Black Canyon is.
After you enter the park, you basically drive on a two-lane road that follows the south rim of the canyon. Signs direct you to viewpoints and trailheads along the way.
We basically drove the entire length of the road (there’s no loop — when you get to the end, you drive around the circle drive and turn back the way you came) and stopped when we thought the viewpoint would be particularly photogenic. Due to the snow, we didn’t attempt any trails… for which I am thankful, since my footwear was definitely just Chacos sandals with a pair of hiking socks.
If you couldn’t tell already, Black Canyon is just beautiful. And the park was relatively empty, which was nice. And the snow was great for outlining ridges and other features carved into the steep canyon walls.
And, of course, we’d arrived at the perfect time for photography: sunset.
When we got to the end of the road, we turned around and drove out of Black Canyon. By that point, my feet were dead to me after trudging in six-inch-deep snow in socks-and-sandals. They were feeling vaguely normal by the time we ate surprisingly good Chinese food in Montrose.
And that is the end of Day 5!
As always, all roadtrip photos available on-line can be seen in my Flickr’s “The Great West” set.
- COMING NEXT: Snow makes everything prettier, including Colorado