Thursday, July 12, 2012

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, CO

Hi all, Dianne here.  On our first full day in Montrose we loaded up the dogs and headed for Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park just outside of town.  We read that unlike most national parks, dogs are allowed on one of the trails, as well as all of the short hikes to the scenic overlooks.  They even had some nice, fresh water for the dogs outside the visitor's center.  

First order of business was getting my national parks passport book stamped in the visitor's center.   I've really been filling up the pages this spring and summer!  Then we walked out on the overlook at Gunnison Point for some photos.  

The trail that dogs are allowed on is the Rim Rock Trail, that leaves from the visitor's center there at Gunnison Point.  It was a short, two-mile out-and-back trail that connects the visitor's center with the national park campground.  

Along the way, we saw some amazing-looking rocks.  

The white stripe in the dark rock is pegmatite, molten rock that seeped into fissures in the metamorphic rock and slowly hardened, forming beautiful crystals.  

We were hiking at high altitude (8,000 feet), and even though it was an "easy to moderate" trail, once again I was huffing and puffing along.  Altitude seems to affect me much more than it does Roger.  We made it about two-thirds of the way, then Bandido also started panting and started seeking a shady spot to lie down in, even though it wasn't hot.  We decided that we'd hike back to the Tomichi Point overlook (which was about the half-way point of the hike), and then I waited with the dogs in the shade while Roger hiked back for the car and picked us up there.  

Several of the scenic overlooks required short hikes of several hundred feet to reach the canyon edge.  This was great for Bandido and Tequila, and meant they got several short hikes instead of one longer one.  The views down into the narrow canyon were amazing; photos don't do them justice.

The Painted Wall overlook afforded a view of the pegmatite "serpent" snaking up the cliff face, bearing its fangs.  Can you see it?  It is one of the more photographed areas of this national park.  This cliff face looms 2700 feet above the Gunnison River.

I found my own formation in the rock face.  Doesn't this look like a lounging skeleton posing for a photo?

Here are a few additional photos with captions:

Looking Down Into a Crevasse
Jagged Cliffs

Erosion Patterns of North and South Rims
One of the interesting factoids I learned was that the north side of the canyon is open to the sun's drying rays, so that snow and ice evaporate quickly, leaving the cliff walls vertical.  On the south side of the canyon, the walls remain in shadow most of the time, so that snow and ice have a chance to freeze and thaw, forming the loose "talus" or gradual slope.  

It's a Long Way Down!
On the way home we decided to go through a car wash in Montrose, to once and for all get rid of the Utah red dirt that was covering the car.  (It was starting to be embarrassing!)  Bad mom and dad, though, forgot how scary it must be for the "kids" in the back seat.  The pet photo of the day shows wide-eyed Tequila and Bandido wondering why all the sudsing and whirling giants
were slapping their car windows.

I guess we owe them some more ice cream, or as one of Bandido's puppy Facebook friends suggested, a steak dinner!


Patty w/ Joey and Scout, the greyhounds said...

Awww, they do look scared. I know that I took my new guy once and it really scared him.

Beautiful photos again!

Monica said...

Drove from Hoskiss through Black Canyon and on to Gunnison them to Ouvay, a camp on the river, 4J+1+1. Now experiencing heavy downpour.