Saturday, October 03, 2015

Day 20: Farmington, New Mexico to Grand Junction, Colorado via Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

We wanted to be gone by 6:30 and hiking some nice trails by 9:30 as our stay in the Four Corners, and the overall Southwest, was officially over.  We left Farmington and headed north along the Animas River into Colorado.

I love the mountains.  I really, really like the desert terrain of the Southwest but I love the mountains.  Durango is gorgeous in a way that makes me want to retire there but at the same time won’t allow me to because it’s too gorgeous.  Part of that gorgeous is expensive.  It’s as if someone wanted to put the ruggedness of the mountains on display for wealthy boomers and yuppie hipsters, then interspersed expensive stores and cafes in the mix.  We continued north and gaped at the mountains between Durango and Montrose, Colorado.  Waterfalls cascaded down snowcapped peaks with wildflowers in bloom and jagged peaks welcomed us to our new geography.  This stretch is known as the Million Dollar Highway and is considered by many to be the most beautiful road in all of Colorado.  We loved looking at it and researching it later, well, it makes sense that it is considered so fantastic.

Our destination was Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, which wasn’t even an option until a month ago when it showed up on a National Park calendar, and then received a seal of approval from a friend of my wife.   We had originally decided on a quick visit before Needles/Canyonlands but it changed when Grand Junction became the next stop.  We changed our lodging and made our way to Black Canyon.  Road tripping on the fly is awesome like that.  

What a nice treat.  The canyon is not necessarily wide (Grand Canyon) or super expansive (Canyonlands) but instead the landscape was a deep, short gorge that had fantastic black/gray coloring and steep spires.  We were tired of because of the drive and did a couple of short overlooks on the South Rim, saving the long hike for tomorrow.  One walk was by the Visitor’s Center and yet again we were accosted by a snake, although this time it was just a rather large garter snake so no worries.  All the views were fantastic, although both of us were very impressed with The Painted Wall; an immense cliff (the largest in Colorado) that was colored in black and grey, with veins of almost white running through it.  After hitting the outlooks we drove through a couple of thunderstorm cells to Grand Junction.

We are staying at a renovated 1960’s style drive-in motel in the middle of Grand Junction.  It came highly recommended by Trip Advisor although right now I have my doubts.  It’s cheap, that’s for damn sure. 

Trails hiked:  Oak Flat Loop, Warner Point, various overlooks.

Miles hiked:  4.5  

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