I just got home from spending the weekend with my friend Karen in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, and it was truly amazing. It’s a small but impressive national park near Montrose, and I didn’t even realize how near I’d been to it many times over the years. I’ve driven along the Blue Mesa Reservoir on highway 50 quite a bit, and the canyon is just past the reservoir. It’s home to the highest cliff in Colorado at 2,300 feet, a gorgeous slab of rock that is almost vertical. If you could stand the Empire State Building in the bottom of the canyon next to that cliff it would only come up halfway. It was hard to wrap my head around how huge it was.
On Saturday the 14th we drove from Denver to I-70 and Glenwood Springs where we had a good lunch. Then we took highway 133 south through some very beautiful terrain. We eventually worked our way to the north rim of the canyon. We found a dirt road that was muddy in spots and we shared the rim with only a handful of other people on a gorgeous Saturday.
We took highway 92 to Blue Mesa Reservoir to meet with highway 50, and it was dark by the time we got to the dam. We weren’t on highway 50 long before we saw signs warning us of yet another construction area. It was Saturday night and we were alone on the highway in the dark, and we slowed down to about 25mph. Then we hit a huge pothole and the paved highway turned to dirt. Then it turned to mud and the slop and small rocks hit the bottom of the Mercedes. If we weren’t headed slightly downhill we would have been stuck in mud in the middle of nowhere. I still can’t believe that was a major highway.
We got to Montrose as the rain really started, and it rained all night. In the morning, it was weird to see mud dropping off of the car. We expected great weather as we headed for the north rim of the canyon. There were many more people on that side as it was very developed and nice. Still, it wasn’t very busy for a Sunday. The scenery was really beautiful on the rim.
The clouds sprinkled rain on us a few times but it was never very serious. Once we had seen the rim we took the East Portal Road down to the water’s edge. The road is a winding and steep twisted mess of narrow pavement as it works its way down a steep cliff. We had to stop in one spot to let oncoming traffic go by where the road went down to one lane to avoid rocks that had fallen into the road. The weather got better and better, and when we reached the bottom it was sunny and perfect.
The road was built over 100 years ago to allow for the construction of the Gunnison Tunnel, and a town once existed at the bottom. Now, there is only camping and recreation in the gorgeous scenery.
We really enjoyed our stay along the river, but we had a long drive ahead of us so we eventually turned and headed for home. On the way out, we waited for a medium-sized bear to make its way across the road before we continued. We had planned to take highway 50 back home but after our experience in the mud we made another plan and headed over the Grand Mesa. It was beautiful, and on top we had a chilly rain. It was nice when we got off of the mesa, but then the weather turned on us later in the evening. It got worse and worse as the temperatures dropped and the rain got crazy, and we knew were headed back to Denver.
It was a great weekend!