Thursday, July 19, 2018

Scenic All The Way

After two weeks of enjoying the Gunnison River area, we said goodbye to the Curecanti National Recreation Area and the Blue Mesa Reservoir (sadly depleted from the drought,  the reservoir level is far below its usual level).


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Once again we picked up CO 149, the Silver Thread Scenic Highway and headed east and south, retracing the bike ride we took to Creede two weeks ago (see Mountain Climbing blog).

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This time we gave the truck a good workout pulling our house up and down and around through Lake City with its view of Red Mountain,

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and up 3000 feet

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through Slumgullion Pass

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and recrossed the Continental Divide.

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A mile or so down the slope we picked up the Rio Grande River, about three miles from its source in Pole Creek Mountain.

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The young river was our constant companion for the rest of our trip on the Silver Thread,

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through Creede to South Fork where it continued east while we turned south onto US 160.

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So far the truck performed like a champ, easily dragging our our house over mountains and around curves.  After we crested Wolf Creek Pass, though, the real test began.  The road went down a 7% grade for 7 miles.  The truck behaved perfectly.  The exhaust brake kept the speed at 40 mph without even trying.

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Duane was able to relax and enjoy the scenery as he negotiated the sweeping curves.

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(That white patch is a runaway truck ramp.  The road curves down on the left.)

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At Pagosa Springs we turned west for the final leg of our drive to Durango.  From our rv park just north of Durango we plan to explore several of the National Parks/Monuments and tourist hot spots around the area.  Pagosa Springs was on our list to visit until we drove through it.  Road paving cause this back up, but we decided that this town just wasn’t someplace we wanted to see.

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We do plan to go back to visit Chimney Rock National Monument, which is just a few miles west of Pagosa Springs.

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A lot of our riding around will take us through the beautiful San Juan Mountains.  We visited the southern end of this range when we toured New Mexico.  Now we will visit the northern end.

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Between Bayfield and Durango we entered red rock country.  The walls of this valley were just beautiful!

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I didn’t take any pix of Durango.  We will be visiting there later.

Tomorrow we ride the bike.

Louise and Duane

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Bottom To Top Part 2

With only two days left at Gunnison Lakeside RV Park west of Gunnison Colorado, we decided to explore more of the Cunecati National Recreation which extends along both sides of the Gunnison River where three dams form three reservoirs.  Once again we took US 50 west outside the park which is across from Old Stevens on the map below.  We rode the bike about 15 miles along the northern rim of the canyon carved by the river and across Blue Mesa Reservoir along the southern rim  to the Pine Creek access.  Located here is a small parking area with a vault (pit) toilet, and a trailhead down to the river’s edge.  The trail continues along one side of the river in both directions, but the main part of the trail leads west to the boat dock of the Pine Creek Boat Tour of this part of the river which is designated as Morrow Point Reservoir. (See Bottom to Top, Part 1 blog.)

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We rode the bike halfway down the canyon to the parking lot then took he first part of the trailhead the rest of the way to the canyon floor (see Part 1)  The first part of the trailhead consists of 234 steps down, some made of poured concrete in wooden frames, some of flat-topped stones, some of wood.  Pine Creek rushes alongside the steps and empties into the river at the bottom of the south canyon wall.

We took our time walking along the narrow 1 mile trail between the steps and the boat dock, enjoying the warm sunshine and cool breeze. 

There are many small picnic areas like the one below and a few benches  tucked into the shade at the base of the south wall.

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At one time only the river and the Denver & Rio Grande RR ran along the bottom of the canyon.  As automobiles became a more available and popular way to travel, rail traffic declined, and the  three small towns that depended on it suffered.  Townspeople decided to build dams to create a lake to attract tourists. They moved their towns to higher ground and slowly the river covered the tracks.  The nature trail is the part of the rail bed that wasn’t covered by the rising river.  Just past the dock, the path narrows, and is not maintained.  About 1/4 mile past the dock the trail descended slightly to the river level and water encroached on the path.  We turned around and retraced our steps.

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We stopped often to bend our heads back to see the top of the canyon wall, listen to the water, birdsong, and wind, and to take lots of photos of the beautiful rocks, plentiful butterflies,  and to enjoy the antics of numerous chipmunks

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and ground squirrels,

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and of course, the beautiful views of the river.

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For an hour we were the only people down here, except for a guy fishing.  On our way back we stopped to chat with him

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and with this couple.  He was walking the dog, and she was taking photos.

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On our way back up the steps, we met a couple of young Park Rangers coming down and chatted with them a bit also.

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We made it back to the top of the steps and enjoyed our ride back to the top of the canyon.

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From there on the south rim we could see the north rim road across the canyon.

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We backtracked our route to the rv park and arrived home in time for lunch.

Today Duane played pickleball (I didn’t because I had a mild muscle strain) in the morning.  In the afternoon we started packing up all the junk that seemed to have spread itself out during our two week stay here.

Moving day tomorrow.

Louise and Duane


Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Bottom To Top Part 1

To make one more trip to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison today we rode the bike along US 50 across  and west along the Blue Mesa Reservoir.  Our river access point was the Pine Creek area of the Curecanti National Recreation Area bordering the Morrow Point Reservoir to the west of the dam that creates Blue Mesa Reservoir.

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A short ride on pavement turned into a longer steeper ride down hard-packed gravel

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to the parking area.  On the mesa in the distance (right) we saw the fenced in area where we stood on Tuesday when we stopped at a viewpoint during our ride of the north rim of the Black Canyon, (see Lots+Lots=Tons blog). 

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From the rim (then) we could see the rode down to the steps which led to the river’s edge.

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From the parking lot today we accessed the steps going down

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and down

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to a nice path bordering the river.  Formerly the tracks of the Denver & Rio Grande RR ran here.  Now it is a nature trail and the only access to the dock of the Pike Creek Boat Tours.

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We meandered along, enjoying the lap of the water on rocks, an occasional bird song, and the wind.  There were no markers along the 1 mile path, so that we were uncertain where it ended.  We thought perhaps this was the end of the trail, and then we saw that Creepy Guy peeking out. 

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When we chased him off we discovered that the path continued.

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A bit further on and we arrived at the boat tour dock, closed on Mondays for maintenance. 

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Looking up from the dock we could see the rocky point where we stood on our rim ride last week.

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From that viewpoint the boat dock and nature trail looked like this.

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More tomorrow.

Louise and Duane

Monday, July 16, 2018

Wow Factor Revisited

Our trip through Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park left such an impression that we thought we would share more photos.

After we explored the Canyon floor and regained the rim,

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we toured the rim top.  At the Visitors Center we walked down to the first vista viewpoint

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and enjoyed this view, 2000 feet down.

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There are a dozen such viewpoints along the South Rim.  Leaving the Visitors Center we rode to the next viewpoint.  From there we could see the Visitors Center perched on the rim

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and the river below.

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painted rock

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one last view

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Tomorrow we plan on one last visit to the Canyon.

Louise and Duane

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Close To Home


Duane had more energy than I today and decided to drive to Gunnison to play pickleball.  (This picture was taken a couple of days ago.)

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In all of our riding around exploring the mountains, we’ve managed to see one mule deer and a couple of hawks.  Because of this, for my exercise I opted for a walk across the street to Old Stevens (picnic area—part of the Curecanti National Recreation Area along Blue Mesa Reservoir) looking for wildlife.  This view is from the rv park.  The roof of the restroom is just visible.

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The area consists of a short paved drive ending in a circular turnaround with the restroom in the middle.  Along the lakeside edge are a dozen parking spaces

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and six nice picnic areas with grills and nice views of the reservoir.

All of these plants were giving off a very nice aromatic fragrance.

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Before the road turned into the picnic area, it continued straight to a boat launch.  Warm winters kept the mountain snow pack to a minimum.  That and the drought have lowered the reservoir to its present level. 

To the right of the sign a dirt road circles the shoreline for shore fishing.

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Normal water line.

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Here I finally found some wildlife—a gull,

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and a great blue heron.

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At the end of the road is an inlet where Stevens Creek runs into the lake.  Because of the drought, the creek ends in a pool.  Here I saw a fish break the surface, and swifts skimming for bugs.

Across the hill is Stevens Creek (picnic, tenting and boat pier).

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Of course, I found the most wildlife just outside my front door. 

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The wildest thing I saw was that the Aspen trees have eyes.  Apparently when limbs are cut the trees develop eyes to make sure people know they’re watching and won’t cut off any more limbs.

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Spooky!

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Only three days left here.

Louise and Duane