The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
On an outing earlier this year a friend said to me "Do something everyday that scares you." Although the opportunity didn't arise for me on this trip, I took someone with me that would be facing her fears head on. Looking over the edge, the Canyon floor was a quick and easy 2722 ft. straight drop. A horrible place to be if you are deathly afraid of heights. As my friend walked out on the overview platform and confronted her fears to peek over, I couldn't help but be proud of her. I think if she knew how many other drops and cliff sides we would see that weekend she wouldn't have been so eager to face her fears. I'm glad she did though because there was no better place in Colorado to do it.
The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is the steepest location in Colorado and the fifth steepest location in North America. Established as a National Park in 1999, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison is the least visited National Park in Colorado. It's quite a drive from the more populated cities like Denver and Colorado Springs. It's remoteness and lack of people are quite enjoyable to those seeking the comforts of the park without all traffic and crowds. This was my first time visiting the area and I really enjoyed it. We arrived after dark and descended the canyon to the East Side Campgrounds. Upon arrival I had no problem finding a site and was thankful for the lack of numbers. Although it was night and we couldn't see the canyon or the river, the stars were amazing! From the bottom of the canyon, light pollution from neighboring towns didn't seem to exist. Being such a warm night we kept it that way in regards to the light, and went fireless to help enjoy the celestial beauty.
When I woke in the morning I was eager to see the river. I've always heard how amazing the flyfishing was here, but this would have to wait for another trip. The river was a gorgeous green with rough patches and smooth fishing holes scattered along it. Even where the river looks peaceful, don't be fooled. This a fast moving body of water with a lot of force behind it, use caution!
The first wildlife we saw on this trip I guess wasn't so much of wildlife, but a large herd of free range cattle coming down the road. I stopped as the herd casually passed at eye level around my truck. Like most National Parks, there are an abundance of deer here. It's as if they know they're safe here and this seems to make them a lot less timid. Squirrels and rabbits have no problem running through the road in front of you either and often, so be easy on that gas pedal. Out of all the critters we saw, my favorite was the fat caterpillar that seemed to enjoy showing off on the trail for us. I don't know much about caterpillars but he was a beauty!
There are several places to take in the views and the depth of the canyon. If you're up for it, there are various trails off the viewing platforms, but proceed with caution and wear proper footwear! I hopped down one of these trails for a better vantage point, navigating over several large rocks and loose trail. I stepped onto a large rock near a steep slope that appeared to be stable, as soon as I did it wobbled big time. This could have ended badly and it could have been avoided entirely if I would have tested it's stability before committing to it. These things happen, but be on your game and try to avoid such hazards and potential accidents that could follow. Always error on the side of caution.
Now go do something that scares you!