Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Black Canyon N P (8/24/2016)

With Black Canyon only twelve miles from home, I've visited there numerous times already this year.  In fact, there have been two travelogues from there.  I wanted Pam to see it first hand, but I'll try to avoid posting the same photos as before.

First of all, the sunrise that morning was very nice, and I took a photo through my office window.  It's too bad the trees across the street block my view of the full sunrise, but the color over the mountains where Black Canyon is located was worth saving.
Rather than taking the easy way (highway) to the canyon, we chose to drive the dirt road through the "adobe badlands", a little farther but much more interesting, I think.  In places, you can see trails up the buttes created by ATV and dirt bike riders.

The last few miles took us through ranchland, some of which have been in operation for more than 100 years.
It was early in the day when we reached the boundary of the park and some haze still shrouded the mountains surrounding the canyon.
 In addition to the normal views of canyon walls, the Gunnison River flowing through the canyon, and lichens that could be thousands of years old, we enjoyed some good views of the West Elk Mountains that helped shape the Gunnison's path millions of years ago.

Thanks to Pam's sharp eyes and long zoom lens, we also got some photos of three kayaks struggling to make their way through the canyon.  They were at a point where huge boulders block the river.  Unable to go back, the kayakers had to find a way to scramble over the boulders to continue on.  One fellow came out of the kayak when he pushed off the boulder, but his pals came to the rescue.

 We could see some monstrous rapids they had already traversed, but many more Class 4 and 5 rapids await them.  I cannot imagine making that journey.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Dallas Divide, Grand Mesa, Palisade & Colorado N M (8/17 & 8/22/2016)

During Pam's visit, we toured a number of places I had recently included in travelogues, so I don't want to repeat the photos that have been previously shared.

On Last Dollar Road, we spotted a flock of sage grouse right on the shoulder of the road.  This was almost too easy.
The wildflowers along this trail were also quite different than when I was there in July.

Despite the heavy clouds that eventually produced some rain, I wanted to include these two mountain scenes.  The one with the house sitting on the edge of the canyon is especially appealing to me.

It seems the magpies are always hanging out around this part of the road, and the chipmunks are everywhere.

On another day, we drove over Grand Mesa, a huge flat-top mountain to the north of Montrose.  Last time there, I encountered lots of snow and frozen lakes.  Now the summer season is in full swing with many fishermen spending time on the lakes.

In a remote area called Land's End, we took a long look over the rim to check out the gravel road into the Grand Valley.
Once again, there were chipmunks scampering all over the rock wall.
 In the village of Mesa, we enjoyed a delightful lunch at a small cafe called Blink.
Mesa also has a variety of rock formations that caught our eye.

The next town over, Palisade, is known for its fruit orchards and vineyards.  We stopped at a vineyard named Maison La Belle Vie (House of The Good Life), which must be the most French winery in the area.  Even the young man conducting the tasting was French, doing an internship in the U.S. An old French automobile was part of the decor.

At Colorado National Monument, I caught a shot of Pam returning from the Cold Shivers Overlook.
Later, we encountered a flock of bighorn sheep grazing along the roadside.

Thanks much to Pam for contributing photos to this travelogue, including one of yours truly as I left a waterfall.

Friday, August 26, 2016

California Pass/Animas Forks, CO (8/15/2016)

From California Pass, there are some good views of the roads we have traveled, as well as the road ahead.  Lake Como looks much smaller from up here.


At the road's highest point, 12,960 feet according to the sign, Pam hikes up the foot path to the very top of California Mountain.  There are only six higher passes in Colorado.  By walking to the summit, Pam has "climbed" over 13,000 feet.  Only 636 mountains to go to have reached the summit of all Colorado "thirteeners" (mountains exceeding 13,000 feet).
There are more great views of the road as it winds through the mountains and down into the valley below.

Along the way, we pass some equipment used in the mines and a few structures long abandoned.  The road passes through a pile of tailings.

Soon we arrive at the "ghost town" called Animas Forks, where the tree forks of the Animas River come together.  Situated at 11,200 feet above sea level, the town dates to 1873 when the first miner's cabin was built.  Eventually there were thirty homes, plus other buildings of commerce, to support the population of 450 residents.  While many structures have totally collapsed, several of the remaining buildings have been stabilized for safety, allowing visitors to enter them.

Many of the residents retreated into nearby Silverton to spend their winters.  At "only" 9300 feet elevation, Silverton was much warmer.  In one 23 day blizzard, some 25 feet of snow was deposited in Animas Forks, forcing those few people there to tunnel between buildings.

The road then follows the river into Silverton.  Note the white color deposited on the rocks by some mineral in the water.  In the twelve miles to Silverton, there are numerous small waterfalls and streams joining the river, as well as a few more abandoned mines.  A small amount of snow can still be found.

A yellow-bellied marmot rests on a rock, hoping to get a little sunshine.
At last we can see the outskirts of Silverton in the valley, which means our tour is coming to an end.  In Silverton, we did a little shopping before heading back to Montrose, about 60 miles away.