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2021-06-05 – Springtime in the Rockies caravan… Day 10 – Gunnison, CO

Outing of the day is Black Canyon, in the Gunnison National Park.

We drove west from the RV park, enjoying the quiet beauty of this area…

Our first hint of the awe-inspring cliffs of Black Canyon occurred just after entering the park….

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is in western Colorado. It surrounds part of a deep, steep-walled gorge carved through Precambrian rock by the Gunnison River. Roads and trails along the north and south rims have views of the Black Canyon’s dramatic drops and the striated Painted Wall cliff. The winding East Portal Road descends to the river. Wildlife includes mule deer, elk and golden eagles.

Big enough to be overwhelming, still intimate enough to feel the pulse of time, Black Canyon exposes you to some of the steepest cliffs, oldest rock, and craggiest spires in North America. With two million years to work, the Gunnison River, along with the forces of weathering, has sculpted this vertical wilderness of rock, water, and sky.

John Williams Gunnison (born November 11, 1812 in Goshen, New Hampshire) attended Hopkinton Academy, where after one term, he went on to teach at the local school. During his years as a teacher, he prepared himself to enter West Point Military Academy. In June of 1837 he graduated second out of fifty.

Gunnison’s first sight of the western lands came as a member of the Captain Stansbury Utah Territory Expedition of 1849. Gunnison, having caught the exploration bug during his previous expeditions in Florida and Michigan, was thrilled to embark on this new adventure. Their task was to explore the route to the Mormon community in Utah.

The canyon has been a mighty barrier to humans. Only its rims, never the gorge, show evidence of human occupation – not even by Ute Indians living in the area since written history began.

We drove the loop road along the south rim. There are turn-outs to park, then we can walk down to viewpoints…

What we are looking at here are Pegmatite Dikes, which form when water is separated from lava as these mountains are pushed up from the crust of the earth. The water is forced though fractures in the rock. The water then forms crystals, which in turn produces pegmatite dikes.

We are at the visitors Center, looking down at a viewpoint below…

Here we are at the look-out…

Above us is the Visitors Center…

And below is the Gunnison River…

The Gunnison River has been carving this canyon for about 2,000 years…

This is Painted Wall… It is showing the striations of the different rock and crystals. Painted wall is the highest cliff in the park. It is 2,300 feet tall. If the Empire State Building were placed at the river below it would barely reach half way to the top…

Black Canyon is quite amazing in that everything is so close. It is only 48 miles long, 2,700′ deep, and 1,300′ wide at the top (40′ at the narrowest point at the bottom). In comparison, the Grand Canyon is 277 miles long, 18 miles wide, and one mile deep!

After our amazing visit to Black Canyon, I had to write about it… We drove to Gunnison and found a coffee shop with internet access…

After about 3 hours of work, we returned to the Villa. Tonight is the obligatory drivers meeting. Tomorrow we drive to Fruita, CO…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2021-06-03 – Springtime in the Rockies caravan… Day 8 – Traveling to Gunnison, CO

Travel day: Today we left Colorado Springs and are heading west to Gunnison, CO.  We will travel small roads once again, which is fine with us.  Some of the Airstreamers are taking the interstate, which we find boring.

It was an easy 180 miles. The scenery was beautiful and ever changing…

We left Colorado Springs about 9:45.  Along this route we are traversing 4 mountain passes, some higher than others.  Wilkerson Pass is at 9,500′ elevation.  (This is not as high as it sounds to you flatlanders – we started at the RV park at elevation 6,320’. In contract, Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in the 48 United States, is 14,500′, rising out of the plains of Death Valley, at elevation -282′.

We stopped in the tiny town of Hartsel.  This is a highly recommended café called Highline Café.  Breakfast burritos and buffalo burgers are their specialties.  Several other Airstreamers were already there, and they kept on coming. 

After lunch we walked the town a bit; there was this cute little schoolhouse… And then we were back on the road.

The views continued…

We stopped along the road to stretch our legs…

We crawled up Monarch Pass (11,312’).  It was an easy drive, as there was little traffic, and the big red trucked pulled the Villa effortlessly.

We finally arrived at Gunnison, and 12 miles out of town we found the Blue Mesa RV Resort.  We set up the Villa…

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Our site was a little uneven… This is how we leveled the Villa on the low side…

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At dinner time we readied for the Grill Night at the main office and recreation center. 

We met the other caravaners at the clubhouse, where we grilled our own entre, then moved into the Rec Room, where we were served side dishes and desert.   This was a nice time to socialize…

We returned to the Villa, and I dozed off a bit.  At 8:30 we drove 10 miles to the Gunnison Valley Observatory.

We watched a slide show given by the astronomer who was the lead researcher at the GVO.  (Yawn)  The we climbed the stairs up into the dome.  They have an “old” telescope that was built to observe Halley’s Comet in 1986.  More star talk (Yawn). But then I had the opportunity to talk the telescope operator, who explained how the dome works, why the “hatch” opens as it does, and how the entire dome rotates to allow the telescope to have access to the entire sky.  This stuff is interesting!

We each had a chance to look into the telescope and see a cluster of stars 25,000 light years away.  (Yawn)  But it is amazing that the light we were looking at was 25,000 years old…!

We didn’t return to the Villa until 11:30 pm… And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2021-06-04 – Springtime in the Rockies caravan… Day 9 – Gunnison, CO

EXCITING DAY! Our two youngest grandchildren are finally going off to big-kid preschool summer camp! This long awaited event comes after spending the last year at home…

Back in the Villa, we had a quiet morning looking for internet service and doing laundry… Finally at noon we drove the 12 miles back to Gunnison. We fueled up the truck, dropped it off at the Gunny-Lube for an oil change, then we walked to City Market and bought some birthday cake for another caravan member. After a few other errands we stopped for lunch at the W Cafe…

The town of Gunnison has a nice little main street with restaurants and local businesses…

After lunch we returned to the Villa. I took a walk while Lynda sat by and in the pool…

We had another GAM to meet new friends. The host, Charlie and Michael, own a winery in Plymouth, California. While they didn’t provinde wine to our little group, they did prepare an olive oil tasting, featuring their own olive oils. We tasted Tuscan, Lemon, Rosemary, Jalapeno, plus two balsamics, one of which was white… I particularly liked the Rosemary and the white balsamic…

After the GAM we walked around the park enjoying the twilight…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2021-06-01 – Springtime in the Rockies caravan… Day 6 – Colorado Springs, CO

Today was very interesting. In an interesting way…

We drove for about an hour to the west to a small town of Canon, CO. We are to ride a vintage train into the Royal Gorge, one of the most beautiful canyons in Colorado.

Built in 1913, the Santa Fe Depot was designed in the Mediterranean Revival style.  Even while the rail line through the Royal Gorge lay fallow from the mid-60s through the late 90s, the Depot was used until the early 80s for freight, like cement, oil, coal, produce, and ore. The Santa Fe Depot finally closed in 1983. In 1997 it became part of Canon City’s River Station Project as a family-style restaurant.

In August. 1998, the new Royal Gorge Route made it’s first journey through the Royal Gorge with tourists — and the Santa Fe Depot entered into an entirely new phase of use as ticketing and gift shop and offices for the Royal Gorge Railway.

The train is vintage Santa Fe; we are scheduled to travel in the Vista Dome car, having breakfast served along the way.  This will be fun!

The scheduled boarding time is 9:30. At 9:15 the manager of the depot came out to tell us that the 9:30 train was being cancelled due to engine problems.  They have another engine on its way, and they hope that the 12:30 train will run on schedule.  We lit out to the ticket office to change our tickets.  Sorry!  There are no Vista Dome seats available on the 12:30 train.

We returned to the Airstream caravan leaders.  They had negotiated with the train people so that we can board the Vista Dome car and they will serve us breakfast on the train as planned – we will just be sitting in the station.

Breakfast was pretty good.  As we were finishing, the new engine passed by.  We got up to leave, but we found that we could not leave the train until the engine had passed by once more.  So we waited again.  We spent some time in the open car, where the best views of the canyon were to be had… if we had gone into the canyon…

Finally, the replacement engine came by and we finally left the train

We walked a bit to an adjacent city park, with a nice bridge, a river, and a water playground…

We drove back to the town of Canon.  We refueled the truck and headed back to Villa…

We had wanted to see the Cadets’ Chapel at the Air Force Academy here in Colorado Springs.  No luck!  The base is closed to anyone without a military ID.  And, besides, the chapel is closed for renovations and restorations…

So, instead, we walked Historic Old Colorado City, just outside the RV park.  Old Colorado City was founded in 1859, when this area was still part of Kansas Territory. It became the first capital of the Territory of Colorado and the center of early settlement in the Pikes Peak region. Today it is a part of Colorado Springs, and is a fun place to walk. It is a little touristy, but it was interesting…

We returned to the Villa… And an enjoyable time was had bay all…

2021-05-31 – Springtime in the Rockies caravan… Day 5 – Traveling to Colorado Springs, CO

Today is Memorial Day. And a travel day. As I mentioned before, there are three pages of detailed driving instructions to travel this 145 mile route… It took us 5 1/2 hours, with a short stop for lunch and only two episodes of missed directions!

The scenery was again spectacular, and everchanging… Meadows, rocky slopes, rivers, and forests. We even went right through one of those rocky mountains…

We were traveling with and following another Airstreamer. We let him lead because he understood the route better…

We stopped briefly in the early afternoon to make a make sandwiches for lunch…, then we were back on the road…

We finally arrived at the RV park and found our spot. This is a very tight RV park, with narrow streets and small sites…

We all gathered in the park’s Rec Room for a pizza dinner. This dinner also functioned as a second GAM; we shared our stories around our table with four other couples…

This being Memorial Day, our tables were decorated accordingly… They passed the microphone around the room, person to person; each told of a family member and their military service. Not surprisingly, considering the age of our members, most told of fathers (and a few mothers) who served in WWII… A somber but memorable time of sharing.

We walked the park after dinner. We have been joined by another 34′ Airstream, a 1997 model. These folks came in from Florida and are late in joining due to some issues at home… But they are here now!

We returned to the Villa, and an enjoyable time was had by all…

2021-05-29 – Springtime in the Rockies caravan… Estes Park, CO – Day 3 – Rocky Mountain National Park

Today was a real thrill. Today’s drive was what Rocky Mountain National Park is all about. We drove from the RV Park (elevation 7,729) to the Alpine Visitor Center (elevation 11,796), passing the high point in the road at elevation 12,188…!

I took about 5,000 pictures. I’ll try to condense them down here…

There are several ecosystems visible from the road – forest, snow, rocks, tundra… It changes at every turn…

In the photo above we can see outside the RMNP. The entire Park is surrounded by National Forests…

At the Forest Canyon Overlook, the pathway was totally covered with snow. We decided to skip this path… We are at elevation 11,700, and we can feel the effects of the altitude…

We are now above the tree line. Nothing but tundra consisting of tiny plants, miniaturizing themselves as a way to survive…

Below are the Lava Cliffs…

Here we see the Gore Range – mountains reaching as high as 12,928′.

We have arrived at the Alpine Visitor Center, elevation 11,796. My Hemoglobins are starving! There is about 14′ of snow on the ground…

Our drive back “down” was exciting! We are driving on the edge of the world!

And then it started to snow!

The rest of the drive down was uneventful. Near the park entrance we saw these funny looking animals…

We believe they are either mule deer or elk?

Quite serendipitously we stopped by the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center. I noticed the detailing…

Something seems familiar… I Googled it…

Beaver Meadows Visitor Center, also known as Rocky Mountain National Park Administration Building, is the park headquarters and principal visitors center of Rocky Mountain National Park. Completed in 1967, it was designed by Taliesin Associated Architects, and was one of the most significant commissions for that firm in the years immediately following the death of founder Frank Lloyd Wright. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 2001.

Who knew!

So that concluded our time in Rocky Mountain National Park…

We had a drivers’ meeting to discuss our drive to Colorado Springs on Monday – Memorial Day. There are three pages of detailed driving instructions to travel the 145 mile route… Colorado roads must be amazing! (Apparently 20-30 miles of the 70 are under construction, so we are taking back roads…!

This evening, after the meeting, we returned to Bird and Jim, a local restaurant (“Colorado Cuisine”). This time we brought friends… We enjoyed craft cocktails, Smoked Pheasant Chowder, Short Rib Sliders, Colorado Trout, Beef Tenderloin, and something they called the “Carnivore Plate” – Elk Tenderloin, Lamb T-bone, and Wild Game Sausage. And a bottle or two of wine.

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2021-05-28 – Springtime in the Rockies caravan… Estes Park, CO – Day 2 – Rocky Mountain National Park

Today we enter Rocky Mountain National Park.

Rocky Mountain National Park is located approximately 76 mi northwest of Denver in north-central Colorado, within the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. The park is situated between the towns of Estes Park to the east and Grand Lake to the west. The eastern and western slopes of the Continental Divide run directly through the center of the park with the headwaters of the Colorado River located in the park’s northwestern region.[6] The main features of the park include mountains, alpine lakes and a wide variety of wildlife within various climates and environments, from wooded forests to mountain tundra.

The Rocky Mountain National Park Act was signed by President Woodrow Wilson on January 26, 1915, establishing the park boundaries and protecting the area for future generations.[3] The Civilian Conservation Corps built the main automobile route, Trail Ridge Road, in the 1930s.  In 1976, UNESCO designated the park as one of the first World Biosphere Reserves. In 2018, more than 4.5 million recreational visitors entered the park.  The park is one of the most visited in the National Park System, ranking as the third most visited national park in 2015.  In 2019, the park saw record attendance yet again with 4,678,804 visitors, a 44% increase since 2012.

The park has a total of five visitor centers, with park headquarters located at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center—a National Historic Landmark designed by the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture at Taliesin West. National Forest lands surround the park on all sides.

Today is the beginning of the summer season in the park. To control the crowds you must make a reservation to enter the park. We had procured a 9:00 am entrance time to go to Bear Lake, an alpine lake with a lovely walking/hiking path around it. We waited in three lines of cars for over 1/2 hour before we finally arrived at the entrance station.

Once in the park we again saw these magnificent mountain peaks…

Once at Bear Lake we had friends take our picture… While the temperatures were in the mid-60s, the wind was freezing…

The lake is mostly frozen over. The path around the lake is mostly snow, slush, and ice, with rare patches of dirt, mud, and rocks.

This is what the path looked like most of the way around the lake:

After completing the Bear Lake loop we drove a short way to Sprague Lake; this is Glacier Creek, which feeds into the lake.:

Spraugue Lake is named after Abner Sprague, one of the original settlers in the Estes Park area. Sprague built a homestead in Moraine Park in 1874 that eventually grew into a hunting and fishing lodge and dude ranch. He dammed the creek to create the lake so his guests could enjoy fishing and boating. The lodge operated from 1910 to 1940, preceding the actual National Park.

We enjoyed watching the ducks dive for food…

The lake offered great views all around. It was an easy 3/4 mile, with no ice and snow underfoot…

We don’t know what animal hatched out of these eggs… Maybe Elk? Moose?

After our time in the Park it was time for lunch! Bird and Jim’s serves “Colorado Cuisine”. Local ingredients, and creative recipes. We enjoyed a Smoked Pheasant Chowder and Short Rib Sliders…

After lunch came a nap; then we had our first GAM – a “Get Acquainted Meeting”. We will have five of these, giving us all an opportunity to get to know each other even better…

After the GAM we walked around the pond, and returned to the Villa.

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2021-05-27 – Springtime in the Rockies caravan… Estes Park, CO – Day 1

We awoke to 41 degrees outside, and 57 degrees inside the Villa. We started the fireplace and we were soon cozy inside. We had a leisurely morning, then went for a short walk around the park. We stopped in at the office to check out their little store, and found a lake in a quiet grassy meadow…

And that was about it for the day. We puttered around, went for more walks. After driving for four days straight we needed a break…

It was great to see the lineup of Airstreams again…

Tonight is our first group meeting. We reviewed the drivers’ manual (a three-ring binder with all the caravan information, itinerary, schedule, assignments, etc.). We all introduced ourselves briefly. We have 7-8 first time caravaners, and several of the “old-timers” have been on as many as 14-15 caravans. (We fall into the middle – this is our 5th caravan.)

The meeting was followed by dinner of salad, baked beans, mac ‘n cheese, and BBQ beef sandwiches…

After dinner the campfire was lit…

And we were entertained by a local musician, who sang and played Colorado-style songs. Mostly John Denver songs…

I am always amazed when I hear musicians like this. This guy – Cowboybrad.com – was very good! He normally plays with a few background musicians, but due to the covid, the others were unavailable. But as good as he is, he is unknown. Imagine how good the really famous musicians, like John Denver, Stevie Nicks, or Glen Campbell (am I dating myself?) really are… Just a thought.

As darkness fell we returned to the Villa. And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2021-05-25 – Springtime in the Rockies caravan…Traveling to Rock Springs, WY

We had our first view of magnificent, snow-capped mountains today. We traveled, south to north, almost the entire length of Utah, driving among beautiful mountain meadows and valleys, surrounded by towering mountains.

North of Provo we turned east onto the mighty Interstate 80, which extends from San Francisco to Teaneck, NJ. Again, these beautiful mountain meadows are around 6,500′ elevation, with towering mountains all around.

We stopped for lunch at a great local sandwich shop and walked briskly around the parking lot to keep our watches happy… The shopping center was on the highway leading to the entrance of the Park City ski area…

We’re not sure what this is we’re looking at. Maybe ski jumps?

Eventually we almost got a picture of the Wyoming state line…

More meadows with towering mountains beyond. Those are patches of snow on the meadow floor, although the temperatures are in the mid 60s here…

We continued driving straight across Wyoming. Straight across…

The topography does change on occasion…

And when we drive straight across Wyoming, we also drive straight through the mountains…

We stopped for the night in Rock Springs, at another KOA. This place was very beak, as KOAs go, but sites were spacious, it was quiet, and we has a restful evening…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

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