Black Canyon of the Gunnison 

The Black Canyon was a bit different than the parks we had visited before.  It’s in Western Colorado, pretty close to Grand Junction.  We spent a week there and marveled at the steep canyon walls, enjoyed the foot of snow dropped by a passing storm, and took a side trip to Mesa Verde.

The parks we had visited previously were predominantly sand stone and prone to erosion. This canyon was carved out of hard schist and gneiss by the Gunnison River.  The rock is so hard, it takes a year to wear away the thickness of piece of paper.  The result is a narrow dizzying canyon, quite intimidating to peer over.  

The stone has veins of pegamite, a pink shiny stone, and it’s fun to imagine shapes in the streaks.  The best are the dragons, there are two, but I only got a good angle on one.  If I remember correctly, this is the Painted Wall.

We spent most of our time on the South Rim.  There are a few hiking trails and we were able to hit the Rim Trail, the Uplands Trail, and Oak Flat.  Trail.  The Rim Trail was a great easy trail that took us, predictably, along the rim from our campground to the visitor center.

  The center was great!  It had great informative displays and several exploration stations for kids: including a microscope with animal and rock samples; a track, pelt, and scat identification station; and even a dress up area!  We had a lot of fun.  There are some easily accessible viewpoints off the back porch and they’re fun and scary to look over.

We took the Uplands trail back, which was an easy meandering trail that took us through meadow and forest.  Bunny even spotted a grouse! 

The Big Oak Flat trail wasn’t my favorite, and frankly we could have skipped it. It did give us a cool view of rock faces, but otherwise, it was just a workout. (Not that that isn’t useful!)

We took one day to visit the North Rim and hiked out to Exclamation Point.  Much to my amusement, we ran into a cattle drive on the way.  The hike was fun with a great view of the Dragons, and some spooky vistas at the end.  Both Bear and I are nervous with heights, so watching us approach the edge to peer over is probably pretty amusing.

We were hearing we might catch some snow.  We were right.  About a foot fell over an afternoon and night and we enjoyed the hell out of it!  We didn’t have our snow gloves, but we had knitted gloves, dish gloves, and hair ties.  We made it work.  We spent one day playing in it, and one day driving the viewpoints.  It was freezing, so we did it as fast as possible.

When we had enough of the snow, we took a day trip to Mesa Verde, another National Park in Colorado.  This one has similar landscape to previous parks, but has an amazing amount of Cliff Dwellings and other ancient Pueblo finds.  We were able to see the progression of structures from early humans to cliff dwellers.  It was a great road school opportunity, and although we had only a few hours here, we made the most of it.

Both parks were amazing, and I would be thrilled to return to either.  I think we’d have to prioritize Mesa Verde because we just got a small tease of the park.  

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