Sunday, October 11, 2009


As a follow up tho the Ken Burns' series on the National Parks, Pam at Digging invited us to share our stories of visits we had made to the National Parks. I have chosen the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. We happened upon this park when spending the night in Montrose, Colorado four years ago. Now, each year on our way up to Idaho we stop in and spend a few days on the campsite.

Far below this steep sided rugged canyon flows the Gunnison River.

As the river runs through the canyon it drops at a rate of 95' per mile. This alone gives it the energy to cut through the rock faster than natural erosion can widen the canyon.
Because there is no accommodation in the park most visitors drive along the rim of the canyon and take short hikes to view points overlooking the canyon walls.

We are fortunate that we have a travel trailer and can spend as much as a week there. There is plenty to do. There is an excellent visitor center, every day there are ranger talks at various vantage points along the rim, hikes along the rim and into the sagebrush country. Each evening the rangers give talks on a wide range of topics relating to the canyon and its exploration in the early 1900s. This year we enjoyed a talk on astronomy; this is the place to see the milky way. During the presentation that evening we saw the space station pass overhead.

In June and early July the wildflowers are gorgeous.

Golden buckwheat, Eriogonum flavum.

and my favorite, the sego or mariposa lily,

Erigeron and yarrow.

The fishing is pretty good too. The Gunnison is a Gold Medal River for anyone who knows anything about fly fishing. However, the river is not easy to get to. The easiest hike is down the Gunnison Trail, where the hiker must negotiate a drop of 1800' over incredibly difficult terrain. David was very keen to do this hike to get to that fishing. Before heading out we had to spend time with the ranger looking at photographs of the unmarked trail. Prepare for self rescue. Was I crazy to be doing this!
Half the time I was on by bottom, slipping and sliding down the scree.

At one point there is an 80' chain to help the hiker. We only met 5 other people that day. All were from Europe!

Eventually we reached the river and while David fished I sat on the bank and enjoyed the scenery. Then it was time for the return trip. I can honestly say it was the hardest uphill I have ever done. At one point we were stopping every few feet to catch our breath and rest our weary legs.
See that pained look on my face. I felt as though I was climbing Everest. For the next 3 days if I crouched down I couldn't get up.

This year I told David I wasn't going down again but he was determined to go. The draw of the brown trout was just too much to pass up. I bid him farewell at 9am at the start of the trail and off he went. When he came back at 5pm he told me he was never going again- but that's another story!


  1. Oh my gosh, you guys are really hard-core hikers! Is there any trail you won't take on? I have to confess that I'd never heard of this national park before your post, Jenny. But it's on my list of wonders to see now.

    BTW, thanks for linking to Digging, but it's not typed in quite right. It should be

    Thanks for participating!

  2. Oops, never mind about the misspelled link. I see you changed it. Thanks again!

  3. We've been to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison several times. It never disappoints. It doesn't get the attention it deserves.
    I love to fly fish, but I'm not up to that kind of hike. I'll stick to easier rivers to fish.
    Thanks for sharing.

  4. I'd have pain on my face climbing up those hills too! Those cliffs are amazingly steep. I love the erigeron and the Mariposa Lily. They're beautiful. I don't know anything about fly fishing except what I read in A River Runs Through It, one of my favorite books. It certainly sounds a lot more difficult and technical than the typical bait fishing that is done on the lakes here.

  5. Thanks for the virtual trip down the canyon. Loved the Mariposa especially and so glad you didn't have to "self rescue" (whatever that means!). You are one tough gardener, that is for sure!

  6. I have never heard of this park before either. It looks like a wild and wonderful place.

  7. Ahh, the Black Canyon! My fiance and I were in the area last summer, where we camped for six days at Lost Lake, just west of Crested Butte. After staying there, we made the rest of the West Elk Loop, stopping by the Black Canyon for some glorious pictures. Gunnison county is truly one of the most beautiful places in Colorado! I'd move there tomorrow if I could.

  8. Wow, I'm going to have to include this park on my next visit to Colorado. That Mariposa Lily is unlike anything I've ever seen -- it's almost like another world inside that single flower.

  9. I love your stories of these park visits. Thanks for sharing them.

  10. Pam- I'm not a hard core hiker for too much longer. Neither of us are doing that hike again I can tell you. When David went down alone he fell tumbling head over heels. He cut his head and came back covered in blood. He did carry on and fish though!!
    Linda- I'm glad you enjoyed your visits there. We love it too.
    Sweet Bay- The Mariposa lily is so gorgeous and easily my favorite flower up there. I David.
    Texas Deb- I'm not sure what self rescue is either. I think it means they are not coming down to get you.
    Lisa- I'm glad I introduced you to the park. Maybe you will visit some day.
    Joseph- I love the area in the summer but not in the winter. Must look up Lost Lake, it sounds like a good next place visit.
    Meredith- Hope you manage to get up there. June would be the best time to enjoy the wildflowers as well as the scenery.

  11. Wow, what a spectactular looking place. I can't believe you made that hike though. I don't think I could have done it. The Mariposa lily is gorgeous. That's one of the great things about Colorado - the wildflowers. Gorgeous.

  12. What a beautiful area. Thanks so much for sharing it.

  13. Oh, sorry, I did the previous comment and forgot to leave my name.

    Barbara H.

  14. Nice. Love the mariposa lily. For years I've been wanting to go climbing there. It supposed to have some amazing climbs.