Friday, September 18, 2015

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Sheer beauty.


Sheer verticality.


2,000,000,000 years in the making, this magnificent canyon is neither as deep nor as long as The Grand Canyon but, as geologist Wallace Hansen said, “No other canyon in North America combines the depth, narrowness, sheerness, and somber countenance as the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.”


The depths of the walls prevent sunlight from penetrating the deep dark canyon floor; hence the name black canyon. In the above photo, I had to enhance the brightness for the sake of visibility. Every view from the top is daunting - it’s easy to understand why humans (at least since recorded history) have never set up residence in the gorge itself, only along its rims.

It’s not possible to capture the scale of this gorge, but here’s an idea.


The Gunnison River has been carving the canyon for eons, at the rate of one-inch per century.  Each year the erosion occurs at the width of a human hair, a testament to nature’s patient persistence.


From any point high above, the thundering river is heard.


The route along South Rim Drive provides plenty of photo opportunities.  At 8,500 feet elevation, the afternoon high barely reaches 70 degrees. 


The mountain backdrops add to the majesty.


Pinyon Pines are everywhere – playing a vital role in the ecosystem here. Their scent fills the air.


Below is Painted Wall, the highest cliff in Colorado. Molten rock was squeezed into the fractured rock, resulting in a 3-dimensional painting.


I stumble onto a Ranger Talk in progress. Couldn’t have planned it better!


The ranger shows us a replica of a hummingbird skull alongside a hummingbird egg. 


We learn about the resident Golden Eagles and Peregrine Falcons.  Bonus: I attend another Ranger Talk that same evening in the Campground Amphitheater. Two talks in one day is a record for me! 

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is a designated as an International Dark Sky Park - one of only 19 in the world - and the skies last night were, well, heavenly. The Big Dipper was so low on the horizon and seemed as close as the end of your arm. Shooting stars were abundant and I saw one, again so close, it seemed to streak right over my head. What a show!

Web Photo, obviously ;-)

Figuring, but not knowing for certain, there would be no wi-fi signal here at the South Rim Campground, I decide to stay for just one night. I don’t like to be out of the classroom for more than 24 hours. I have to say, I didn’t miss having internet for one night - except for the inability to have cocktails with John and Doris!

Put this National Park on your list. 


14 comments:

  1. I'm surprised there are still ranger talks after Labor Day. Black Canyon has been on my list for some time...

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    1. Same here - both were a pleasant surprise. AND, during my rim hike this morning, I stumbled upon a Ranger-led hike.

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  2. WOW this is so interesting and to come up on a Ranger talk just adds to it.

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  3. We completely missed this area a few years back traveling through CO. I definitely want to go. Great pics!
    Nina

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  4. We were there in 72 maybe. When I was a kid. Nice to see it looks the same! I have to go look up Dark Sky parks now...

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  5. Ranger talks always make me think of my dad ( who has been gone for 9 years). When I was growing up we took a two week camping trip every summer to the National Parks, and those visits always included attending ranger talks, at his insistence. The older I got, the more I enjoyed them. Thanks for sharing the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, a park I will definitely put on my bucket list for a repeat visit.

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  6. I just noticed over on the Roadtrekking page that you used to live in Minot ND. What years was that? I was born and raised there, but left when I graduated in 1970. I can't post there since they banned me for talking about my crashed ecotrek system on my new 170 (and I didn't even say anything nasty). LOL

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    1. From 1963 till Summer of 1969. Great memories of that time.

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    2. Did you got to Minot High? I graduated in '66... It was a great place to grow up. I returned in 2002 to take care of my mother, but left as soon as I could to get away from the oil boom. They are totally trashing the state... and the crime level in Minot has been skyrocketing.

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    3. No. We moved after my 5th grade year. Makes me sad to hear what's going on there. Such a nice clean city/state. I returned to Minot and the AFB in 2011, two months before 9/11. Thank goodness as I wouldn't have been able to get on the base afterwards. It was just like I remembered, our house was still there and I got to tour it. Except for the new mall everything was the same.

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    4. Was that in 2001 or 2011? 2011 was the BIG floods and the town still hasn't recovered. I lived on Main Street... in a condo in the old Ellison's Department Store. Do you remember that? :-)

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    5. 2001. OMG! Ellison s department store. I bet my mom went there twice a week. I remember eating sandwiches on the mezzanine and riding in the old elevator. My favorite was the basement where the books and records were. Probably my favorite photo of my mom is of her standing in the snow clutching an Ellison s shopping bag. Stopped in to see the store in 2001 and was glad to see it still standing, even though it is now residential. Do you remember Gaffneys and Town and Country Mall?

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    6. The Fair is a great old building... walls over a foot thick. Mom's condo that I moved into after she went into the Nursing Home was in the area of the old cafe... where she waited tables as her first job in the 1940s. LOL I rented the apt next door which was the boy's department. (I lived in the condo for a couple years and once Mom reached the point where my presence didn't matter, I sold it and bought a condo in Minnetonka.) The basement was turned into parking... and the five condos each have a 2 car garage (with a garage door) and the renters/shops have pull in parking. Our garage was in housewares. I bought a picture of running horses down there when I was a kid and it now hangs in the entryway of Mom's old condo. :-) The old elevator is still going strong and we used it for move ins/outs and to haul large stuff up and down. It was great fun to run it.. and the little chair is still there. With new people, we would announce the floors. LOL (mezzanine... men and boys and cafe...) And T&C was the first mall... though we didn't hang out there as kids now do. We cruised Main for hours on the weekend... and up to the A&W for snacks. It was "American Graffiti" LOL Trinity Hospital has gobbled up so much of downtown Minot, torn down so many buildings, and taken all the parking... and they are also slowly taking over the old T&C building too. Only a very few shops left there now. A drug store... Hallmark... and JoAnn's Fabrics is really about it. Right now the downtown is a total mess. Some shyster company convinced the city council that he would build parking ramps (with apartments above) on both downtown lots (the one across from the Big M building and The Fair... and the other down in the block behind the old Montgomery Ward and the old Woolworths (did you love the escalator there? still in the building... probably doesn't work though). The city council has to be idiots as they let him start both at the same time and 3 years later... they are still only about 20-30% done. And then the city decided to finally replace the ancient plumbing/sewers under the downtown streets. So they are digging it all up a block or two at a time and replacing it all. The poor downtown business and residents of the many apartments mixed around have almost no parking now. That city is a soap opera... LOL

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  7. This IS on my list...and I thank you so much for the gorge-ous preview!

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