Summer of 2018: The Black Canyon of the Gunnison (July 6-8)

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July 4th was on a Wednesday this year, making it hard to define July 4th Weekend. We defined it as the Friday-Saturday-Sunday after the holiday. We planned a camping weekend with our friends Kelly and Nadine at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park . We drove down the night before to help us get an early start.

Most of Friday was consumed by the drive to the national park. Our campsite was at the edge of the campground, and there was a small maze of little trails behind us. After dinner we walked down to the Rimrock Trail to catch the sunset. The light was nice, and I took a few shots of the canyon walls.

A storm was gathering, and that’s when the light really got good- dark storm clouds overhead, with the blazing reds of sunset underneath. As the skies rumbled, the color shades constantly shifted.

When the rumbling increased and the colors decreased we got everyone into the tents for bed. The winds howled and the skies boomed, but when it finally came the actual rain was a disappointment. Just a few minutes and done.

We had a restful relaxing morning, which in retrospect was a bad idea. When we finally got moving it was already starting to warm up. By afternoon it was in the mid-nineties, which felt worse in the semi-desert sun. We probably should have had a more active morning to go with our lazy hot afternoon. We filled up day packs, not knowing how far we would hike that day, and set off down the Rimrock trail. The trail was crawling with people and dogs- no solitude today. The visitor center was worse, a seething mass of people. We stayed there for quite awhile while the kids did their activity booklets to earn Junior Ranger badges.

When we were finally ready to leave, the kids wanted to go back to camp to play, so Kelly and Dorinna went with them. Nadine and I we enjoyed a cool lunch in a patch of aspen trees along the Oak Flats trail. We made the loop back to the campground by hiking the Uplands trail, which was hot and hot.

Back at the camp, Kelly suggested we go on a tour of the scenic lookouts, and I agreed. We drove down the road, visiting about half of the overlooks, including Cross Fissures View and Painted Wall View.

I tried as best as I could to take pictures in the hot hazy light. It was hot- mid to upper nineties at this point. We reached the end of the road and ran out of steam, so we didn’t hike the Warner Point trail. Still, I saw more of the canyon on this little jaunt than the entire rest of the weekend, so this was a worthy excursion.

Once more back at the camp, we retreated to the shade with beers and books while the kids played around us. Dinner was good and the night was relaxing again.

On the final day I woke up with grandiose plans to take the family to the overlooks and hike the Warner Point trail. It was hot again, and interest declined rapidly, so we only visited one overlook before heading out. Our next adventure was a drive down to East Portal. That area was really nice, and much less crowded. Shady, and with cool water to wade in. Down at the bottom of the canyon, I was cool for the first time all weekend.

The drive home was long and long. Plans to do another hike near Blue Mesa reservoir quickly fell apart with distance. After rest stops and dinner, our long weekend ended at 10:00pm.

The summer is over, but the memories remain. While the summer was going on, I didn’t have time to edit photos and write up the stories to go with them, but now I do. This regular series will look back at the trips and adventures of the summer.

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