Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Yellowstone Road Trip - Day 05

“Our surroundings were of the wildest possible description. The roar of the water was constantly in our ears, and the walls of the canyon, towering half mile in height above us, were seemingly vertical. Occasionally a rock would fall from one side or the other, with a roar and crash, exploding like a ton of dynamite when it struck bottom, making us think our last day had come.” ~Abraham Lincoln Fellows, 1901

The Old Buzzards got up before the alarm went off and had a quick  La Quinta Sunrise/Sunshine Breakfast. Linda had coffee, OJ and RBTT with a little added strawberry yogurt. John had a bagel, strawberry yogurt, OJ, half a banana and coffee. There was too long of a line for a make-it-yourself waffles, so he made do with other items.

After the luggage cart was loaded with all the Buzzard's paraphernalia Linda was waiting with it while John went to fetch Wilma. A barefooted guy came by and after looking over all the gear and Linda's camping like attire said, very enthusiastically “Did you have a great ride on the river?”  He was so sure of himself that Linda just answered “Sure!”

We took Highway 32 onto 50 out of Grand Junction and soon came upon Delta, Colorado. We had gone through Delta, Utah yesterday so it was a little confusing for a minute when it looked like we had made a wrong turn. On the outskirts was the Devil's Thumb Golf Course. In town we noticed a Delta Pawn. There were fireman out on the main drag doing some kind of fill-the-boot fundraiser. They helped us find Doghouse Espresso which was a funky place with great coffee. There are some photos of the firemen and Doghouse Espresso in the day's photo gallery.

John had mentioned that it would be nice to find some fresh peaches and just outside Delta Linda spotted a pickup on the side of the road with a sign saying “Peaches, Picked Fresh this Morning” but she didn't see it in time to stop and it was on the wrong side of the road. Soon we came to a fruit and vegetable stand on the right side of the road and John saw it in time to stop and get some peaches.

Montrose was next with a Rose Bowl and a Taco John's. There were lots of businesses named after the Black Canyon that we were fast approaching. We wondered if there might be a Black Canyon Dentistry and a Black Canyon Septic Tanks, among others.

We decided to take time to visit Black Canyon of the Gunnison (the Gunnison is a river) National Park which meant leaving highway 50 to go seven miles in and seven miles back out (you Mileage Madness players should take note of those 14 miles). The quote at the start of today's post is from one of the early explorers of Black Canyon. The rocks aren't really black but it is so deep, so sheer and so narrow that very little sunlight can penetrate it. In 1901 Abraham Lincoln Fellows (quoted above) and William Torrence floated the canyon's river on a rubber mattress – 33 miles in nine days – and said an irrigation tunnel was feasible. The 5.8-mile Gunnison Diversion Tunnel, begun in 1905 and dedicated in 1909, still delivers river water for irrigation.

It took fans of Black Canyon from 1930 to 1999 before they were able to persuade Congress to declare Black Canyon of the Gunnison as a National Park. In just 48 miles in Black Canyon the Gunnison River loses more elevation than the 1,500 mile Mississippi River does from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. The river drops an average of 96 feet per mile in the park. It drops 480 feet in one two-mile stretch. All that fast moving water and debris are why the canyon walls are so steep.

We entered at the south rim, went to the visitor center to get our National Park Passport stamped and a park pin for Linda's collection. Then we stopped along the park's paved road at several of the vista points to peer down into the canyon and take photos. At the crossed fissures vista Linda took a nice 394 yard path to the viewing area. But when she got on the path to return it was suddenly very much of an uphill climb and she got back into the car gasping for air. Of course, the elevation could have been having some affect on her as well since we were at places up to eight thousand feet while in the park. John even took some 300 yard paths to viewing points and did just fine. Even up and down hill. His 100# loss is making a big difference in his walking endurance.

Here is a short video with shots of the Gunnison from the canyon rim, and John's walk out to one of the view points.

We emerged from the park back onto Highway 50 at 12:45. So our little jaunt cost us a little over two hours. We felt that it was well worth delaying our arrival to Pueblo. Soon were were at Blue Mesa Reservoir and we then started noticing fly fishermen in the river down stream from it.

By 1:45 amid sprinkles of rain we found a roadside picnic table with a nice cover so we stopped for a late lunch of a peach, a stolen La Quinta banana and a peanut butter rice cake. We were both looking forward to Mexican food dinner at Jorges tonight in Pueblo, recommended by former Puebloite (Puebloan?) Gale Hammond (not of Morgan Hill). So we didn't want to have a heavy late lunch. Linda thought the hand sanitizer dispenser instructions at the site were funny since the instructions said to start with clean hands.

Back on Highway 50 the rain had stopped. We had green plains, cows, sheep and gentle hills. The hay was mostly in large rolls. We only sighted one place that had bales of hay in the fields. By Monarch Pass there were lots of Rocky Mountains, some with snow still dusting their tops. There were also lots of winding roads. And there were many mountains that we couldn't see because they were completely covered with trees. In a few places there were yellow patches in some of the deciduous trees. The fall colors will be beautiful within a few weeks. The mostly all green is very nice for now though, The Continental Divide is at Monarch Pass – 13,720 feet.

After being on a two-lane road for several hours (with occasional passing lanes) and being behind trucks which were hard to pass safely the traffic came to a dead stop at 4:15. We figured that some rocks had fallen into one of the lanes but it was a traffic accident and after about 15 minutes we started to move slowly past the unfortunate vacationers. Fortunately, it appeared no one had been injured, but their Audi had a bad Labor Day.

Some nice photos of the Black Canyon on the Gunnison in today's photo gallery, along with an eclectic espresso place. You can view today's gallery by clicking here. Also, for more information on the Black Canyon on the Gunnison National Park, click here.

We finally reached our sumptuous lodging at Motel 6 at a little after 5:00. We called to make sure that Jorge's was open since it was Labor Day. Ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, no answer. Oh, well, maybe next time. So we chose to eat at a Black-Eyed Pea since we had never tried one anywhere and it was excellent. It was Chicken Fried Monday so John had salad, chicken-fried steak, green beans and baked potato. Linda had grilled Cajun catfish, sweet potato fries, squash casserole AND substituted BLACK-EYED PEAS for rice. John actually finished the day 134 calories under budget.

Stopped to gas up at a Loaf 'n Jug (owned by Kroger Foods) for $3.459. Then back to our Fannie at Motel 6 and to bed after blogging.
Happy trails!

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