Thursday, November 12, 2009

Visit to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison

The Painted Wall at the Black Canyon of the GunnisonLast weekend, I took a brief trip to Montrose, Colorado--flying out Saturday and back Sunday--primarily for the frequent flier miles (the flight, after a voucher I had, cost me $50!), but rather than a pure "mileage run" where one flies out and immediately back, I did spend a little bit of time on the ground.

I drove up to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, which features the Painted Wall, the highest cliff in Colorado, a portion of which is pictured above. Volcanic inclusions in the rock walls result in the lighter-colored strips in the stone where the canyon walls had been eroded away over the eons.

Vertical aspect of the Painted Wall
The Gunnison River plunges at a rate far steeper than the Colorado River does in the Grand Canyon, making for some very steep canyon sides indeed--in a couple of places, the drop to the river below is well over 2000 feet! In the photo above, consider the trees atop the cliff on the left for a sense of scale and perspective; even though the shadows cloak the river far below, the visible portion of the canyon wall alone is taller than the Empire State Building (which would reach just over halfway up from the Gunnison River).

The Elk Mountains in the distanceThe weather was perfect, with temperatures on the ground in Montrose in the upper 60s and in the park itself the low 50s--though snow was still extant in several places in the shade, as well as atop the Elk Mountains in the distance, off toward Telluride, CO.

Some interesting rocks at the Black Canyon of the GunnisonThe park as a whole was beautiful, offering in addition to the gorgeous views of the canyon itself many natural scenic features, like the lichen-crusted boulders above and the many plants adapted to the semi-arid conditions.

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