Monday, August 14, 2017

FUNC Festival, Montrose (7/22/2017)

FUNC (Fun On The Uncompahgre)

Montrose is fortunate to have the Uncompahgre River running through town and long ago built a large park next to it.  Several years ago, the river was modified to provide a white water course used for kayaks and Stand Up Paddleboards (SUPs). 
This has given rise to an annual festival that features river races and other family fun,  As you might expect, there was music and various vendor sites for food, drink and accessories related to river running.

On a hot summer day, kids and dogs always find interesting ways to keep cool.

Races were staged in several different classifications, with cash prizes for each class.  Negotiating the buoys marking the course was part of the fun, especially when multiple entrants arrived at the same time.  Survival was the name of the game.

Spectators had the "boulder bleachers" and the bridge to offer good views of the action, and cool off between races.

Even those not entered in the races had the opportunity to enjoy the cold water, which was snow in the mountains just a few hours earlier.

As I walked back to the parking lot, I passed the skateboard area and enjoyed watching some of the kids showing off their skills on various devices.


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Owl Creek Pass (7/2/2017)

I've been enjoying the company of grand-daughter Lauren for several weeks, staying close to home to help her get to her two jobs (that's right, the thoroughbred farm in the mornings, volunteering at a vet clinic in the afternoons).  On Sunday she had a well deserved day off, so stayed home to clean her room and catch up on laundry.  I decided to escape to the mountains and headed for Owl Creek Pass.

Leaving Montrose, I noticed the temp was 93F, typical for the past few weeks.  As I turned off on the access road, storm clouds were forming over the mountains and the temp had dropped to 77F.  Climbing the mountain road, I began to experience thunder and lightning, but not close enough for concern.  Before reaching the top, I was in rain that soon turned to snow...those big, wet flakes that quickly covered the road with a light coating.  At the summit, just over 10,000 feet elevation, the temperature was a solid 45F.  I decided immediately not to do any hiking as I had planned.

Even after the rain stopped temporarily and the snow had melted, clouds and mist hung heavy over the mountains.  Driving a spur road that leads to some very nice campsites, I spotted a young mule deer buck with mangled horns and a large sore on its hind leg.

Back on the main road, there were good views of the Cockscomb and Chimney Rock, where the original True Grit was filmed.  There were also numerous patches of snow left over from winter.

 In the woods, I spotted an old "cowboy camp" trailer, parked there amid the trees.  No idea how long it may have been there, I don't think it could be towed away at this point.
With all the recent snow melt, Owl Creek was flowing strongly, so I took a few photos of some of the waterfalls as the creek tumbled down the mountain.

All along the road were pretty wildflowers, such as columbine, lupine and Indian paintbrush.

Taking the Middle Fork Cimarron Road, there were good views of more jagged peaks.

I passed Silver Jack Reservoir, stopping only long enough for a quick photo, then turned off on the road to Rowdy Lake.  An aging "hippie" lady camped by the road asked for a ride to the lake, since her car wasn't up to the rough spots ahead.  I assumed she lived out of the car, but it turned out she was there only for the week-end, and she works for the Federal government in Denver.  Wish I had gotten a photo of her colorful campsite and vehicle.
More wildflowers lined the road as I finished the loop and headed for home.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Gunnison Gorge & Crawford, CO (6/10/2017)

Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area is a large tract of the adobe badlands I sometimes refer to, actually consisting of volcanic ash that has hardened into near rock density.  Located just north of the Black Canyon, some rafting and kayaking is done in the Gunnison River through the gorge.  The conservation area, managed by BLM, is mostly used for ATV operation.  Frankly, it is raw, desolate land suitable for almost no other use.

In researching for something else, I stumbled upon a reference to Eagle Rock Shelter Archeological Site.  Digging deeper, I learned this site, only about 35 miles from home, is where some of the oldest human artifacts in the country have been found.  Evidence proves that humans used this area as far back as 12,800 years.  I had to make a visit to such a special place.

Getting to this site isn't difficult at all.  A couple miles on a dirt road, rocky in places but pretty tame overall, led to a gravel parking area and an unsigned trailhead.  The trail is good, dropping about 200 feet into the gorge over 1/3 mile.  It was one of our hottest days, 95F, so I knew the return would be a little tougher than the trip down.  Before reaching the floor of the gorge, the trail rounded a rock outcropping and I saw the remnants of the excavation.

I later read that the archeological team had concluded that all the artifacts had been found, so the excavation seems to have been abandoned, but looks ready for further work if someone decides it is warranted.  The rock walls are covered with petroglyphs, but erosion and other factors have rendered many of them indecipherable.  A few animals can be identified, probably more recent additions.  While petroglyphs can't be definitively dated, some are thought to be at least 4000 years old.

Among the oldest artifacts are seeds and small animal bones, indicating the people were not big game hunters.

Since I still had plenty of time that afternoon, I decided to visit Needle Rock, another twenty miles from Gunnison Gorge, near the town of Crawford.  Needle Rock is a volcanic plug, but was formed differently than the others I've written about.  In this case, magma was being pushed toward the surface in the process of forming a volcano.  However, the layers of sedimentary rock above were hard enough to prevent breaking the surface.  The magma eventually hardened and the higher layers eroded away, leaving the exposed plug.  All this took about 25 million years.
The formation looks much different on the far side.
Leaving the area, I was struck by the pretty valley and surrounding mountains, wondering if the farmers and ranchers appreciated their great views.  I also came across a ranch that raises yaks, the first I've seen in Colorado.