The plan for today was to visit the Black Canyon. I had not heard of it until I found it on the internet when sorting the itinerary and John heard about it from me. We have both had people saying, visit the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon (check!) Zion etc etc, but no one had ever mentioned the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. But here we were and we were going!
It was chilly when we left at 9.00 am and we were thankful of our linings. Marveling once again at the crisp, blue morning sky, I enjoyed the bends as we headed west for the Blue Mesa Dam where we would cross to the north bank of the Gunnison River. I had been warned about the twisty road, but my expectations were pleasantly exceeded. If the Black Canyon is not very busy on the main, south side, it is even less so on the north, hence there was little traffic to worry about. Lovely! The road was quite high, and there were a few magnificent views which we stopped to admire. The expansiveness, the massiveness of the views is almost overwhelming.
The small town of Crawford is a few miles beyond the turn off to the north rim of the canyon and we popped in there for an early lunch as there are no catering facilities within the National Park. Also in the diner was a group of men who were clearly hunters. Their clothing variously reflected membership of the National Rifle Association and their support for the Second Amendment. I feel right at home in the South and Midwest, but the diet is getting to me a bit. And it is definitely getting to my waistline!
Lunch over, we retraced our route to the north rim turnoff and had about six miles of gravel road to traverse at the end. The bike handled it with aplomb but I must concede it was in good condition. Parking the bike, it was only a short walk through the sage brush, Utah Junipers and Piñon Pines to the first view point. As we emerged from the trees, my fist word was 'wow!', a word I repeated numerous times while we stood there. In front of us was the Painted Wall, rising nearly two thousand feet from the canyon floor with thick bands of pink granite flowing diagonally across the face. The south rim is less than a thousand feet away on the other side, atop a vertical drop of similar magnitude. John and I struggled for words to describe the immensity of what we were looking at. Raw power, majestic, immense. As we walked away from it to the next viewing point, I felt quite emotional about what an experience it was. As I was to read later, this is not unusual.