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Fruita, CO

2021-06-07 – Springtime in the Rockies caravan… Day 12 – Fruita, CO

Today we return to the Colorado National Monument to see more of its beauty…

On our way to the entrance we crossed the mighty Colorado River…

The Colorado River is the major river of the southwestern United States and northwest Mexico. Its headwaters are in Rocky Mountain National Park where La Poudre Pass Lake is its source. It flows southwest through the Colorado Plateau country of western Colorado, southeastern Utah and northwestern Arizona, where it flows through the Grand Canyon. It turns south near Las Vegas, Nevada, forming the Arizona–Nevada border in Lake Mead and the Arizona–California border a few miles below Davis Dam between Laughlin, Nevada and Needles, California, before entering Mexico in the Colorado Desert. Most of its waters are diverted into the Imperial Valley of Southern California. In Mexico its course forms the boundary between Sonora and Baja California before entering the Gulf of California.

We re-entered the Colorado National Monument.

On August 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the “Organic Act” creating the National Park Service, a federal bureau in the Department of the Interior responsible for maintaining national parks and monuments that were then managed by the department. The National Park System has since expanded to 423 units (often referred to as parks), more than 150 related areas, and numerous programs that assist in conserving the nation’s natural and cultural heritage for the benefit of current and future generations.

The National Park Service manages all of the various “units” – Parks, Forests, Monuments, Historic Sites, Lakeshores, Recreation Areas, Scenic Trails, and several other designations. The first parks were Yellowstone (1872), Sequoia (1890), Yosemite (1890), Mt. Rainier (1899), Crater Lake (1902), Wind Cave (1903), Mesa Verde (1906), Glacier (1910), Rocky Mountain (1915). Colorado National Monument was established in 1911. The different desinations have to do with how they are created. National Parks are created by acts of Congress. National Monuments and most other designations are created by the President via Executive Order. Thirty States have National Parks; the States with the most parks are: California (9), Alaska (8), Utah (5), and Colorado (4).

We began our visit with a ranger talk in the picnic area where we had had dinner last night…

We learned about the geology of these magnificent cliffs and canyons, plus a little of the park history. The man behind the creation of the Colorado National Monument was John Otto, who settled in Grand Junction in the early 20th century. Otto was the first white man to explore the area.

Prior to Otto’s arrival, many area residents believed the canyons to be inaccessible to humans. Otto began building trails on the plateau and into the canyons.  As word spread about his work, the Chamber of Commerce of Grand Junction sent a delegation to investigate. The delegation returned praising both Otto’s work and the scenic beauty of the wilderness area, and the local newspaper began lobbying to make it a National Park. A bill was introduced and carried by the local Representatives to the U.S. Congress and Senate but a Congressional slowdown in the final months threatened the process. To ensure protection of the canyons President William Howard Taft (who had visited the area) stepped in and used the highest powers available to him via the Antiquities Act and presidential proclamation to declare the canyons as a national monument

John Otto was hired as the first park ranger, drawing a salary of $1 per month. For the next 16 years, he continued building and maintaining trails while living in a tent in the park.

For many years during the Great Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps. built roads, tunnels, trails, and other features of the park. The CCC left in 1941; the major Rim drive was completed in the 1950s.

Following the Ranger talk we visited the Visitor Center. I liked the fact that it is built from the native sandstone…

After we had seen a few exhibits in the Visitor Center we drove the Rim drive for 23 miles, all the way to Grand Junction. We saw 23 miles of rocks.

Here I liked the walls made from the natural sandstone… These walls are several hundred feet long, and they occur at many of the pull-outs along the Rim drive…

After we left the park we drove through Grand Junction again. We found truck fuel and DEF. Tomorrow we will return to Fruita for some final grocery shopping before we enter the wilderness of Dinosaur National Monument, Flaming Gorge Dam, and the Grand Tetons National Park…

It was 97 degrees again, but we have good, clean power, so both AC units are running in the Airstream… At 5:00 we took a walk around the lake in the park.

We also saw the Colorado River again, adjacent to the park…

Unfortunately, we walked out of the park and around the outside of the park, and finally had to go totally around the park and walk in the maim entrance…

After a short break we joined other caravaners for happy hours. We returned to the Villa, and an enjoyable time was had by all…,

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…

2021-06-06 – Springtime in the Rockies caravan… Day 11 – Traveling to Fruita, CO

Today we travel to Fruita, CO, near Grand Junction.

Colorado National Monument is a National Park Service unit near the city of Grand Junction, Colorado. Sheer-walled canyons cut deep into sandstone and granite–gneiss–schist rock formations. This is an area of desert land high on the Colorado Plateau, with pinyon and juniper forests on the plateau. The park hosts a wide range of wildlife, including red-tailed hawks, golden eagles, ravens, jays, desert bighorn sheep, and coyotes.

Here we are in our pickup truck caravan lining up to get into the park…

The cliff ahead is over 1,000 feet tall. We will drive up the side of it, as you can see here…

There are two tunnels through the rock…

We met at the top for a catered “Southwest” dinner… I’m sure you know our personal prohibition of entering a Mexican restaurant outside of California (with rare exceptions…). SO we told ourselves that this is not a restaurant, and this is not even trying to be Mexican food… For a catered buffet served up in 97 degree heat in the middle of a desert, it was pretty good!

Lynda performed her first duty as birthday celebration host, presenting birthday cake to a fellow caravaner…

After dinner we drove back down the mountain. The light was just perfect on the valley floor…

We returned to the Villa. The heat subsided to about 90 degrees, with a slight breeze. We walked the park, enjoyed the sunset, and had a nightcap on the picnic table…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

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