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Gunnison, CO

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…

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…

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