Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Moab, Utah - Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park

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Moab Utah - September 2 2002

As we awoke our last morning in Estes Park, I heard the eerie sound of a lone bull elk bugling in the distance. We hadn't done all of the things we had planned (like driving Trail Ridge Road) but our visit had been a good one. As we loaded our car to leave that morning, the landscape painters (in Estes Park for a show) were heading out in the darkness for another day of "air painting" - painting in the open air rather than from photographs. We had watched one young woman who painted with a knife. She indicated she was the only one around who did and she had three different sizes. The painting was fantastic! It was 51 degrees as we left heading south on curving mountain roads thru mountain passes that went from 9000 to 12000 feet. The air grew even chillier - 42 degrees was the lowest the car registered.

The scenery was spectacular, dark green tree covered slopes and balding mountaintops above the tree line. We passed the "fourteeners," a line of peaks each over 14000 feet high. The sky was full of beautiful cumulus clouds. We made a couple of wrong turns which gave us a chance to see the strange casino towns of Black Hawk and Central City. Both towns clinging to the side of the mountain We crossed the Continental Divide at Hoosier Pass and stopped for lunch at a scenic overlook with the massive peaks of the "fourteeners" and the Arkansas River in the valley below.

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison is a fairly new National Park and was new to us. It is a strange and awesome sight! The Valley of the Gunnison is sheer desert except where it is irrigated, so we drove thru this area with grayish green desert shrubs on the right side, and forests or hay fields on the left. Rabbitbrush and small sunflowers grew along the side of the highway. We're up early everyday so usually we're asleep by 9 or 9:30 at night.

Photograph of Black Canyon of the Gunnison.The Black Canyon of the Gunnison is a fairly new National Park and was new to us. It is a strange and awesome sight! A deep narrow canyon with the Gunnison River far below. We drove the Rim drive stopping at the many overlooks. You could hear the roar of the River far below and see what are classified as Class V or un-navigable rapids. You can see the north rim easily across the canyon. There are no trails as such in to the canyon. We stopped at one of the picnic areas for lunch and were immediately greeted by a swarm of chipmunks. No one must have been there for a while to eat. One particular bold and aggressive fellow ran up and grabbed a plastic knife with peanut butter on it and scampered over the wall before we even realized what happened. He kept coming back for more and we had to keep shooing (probably not a word) him away. Later we watched as a young woman dumped what remained of her cheetos or whatever out for them to eat. We started to take a hike at the final overlook but quickly realized we both were feeling the effects of the high altitudes. Tomorrow we would leave for Moab and a lower elevation.

Wednesday, September 4th --

Photograph of Double O Arch at Arches National Park. Well, here we are, our last day in Moab so I need to backtrack a little. The last time we were in this area was 1994 and you forget a lot in eight years. We had forgotten how BIG everything here is! The predominant color here is red, BRICK red. Shades from deep, dark brick to the palest of pale. The red is broken by the green of the juniper/pinyon pine forest (dwarf size) and the grayish to greenish color of the shrubs. Every once in a while you see the bright yellow of the rabbit brush. The formations are huge and some strangely contorted. The temperature is HOT, blazing hot by mid afternoon so you need to do your hiking in the early morning which (for the most part) we did.

Landscape Arch at Arches National Park. We arrived here fairly early in the morning on Sunday and after checking in to the motel, drove out to Arches just to "take a look." Again we were awed by everything we saw. We took a short hike but it was much too hot to do anything. We have a studio room with frig and microwave so bought a rotisserie chicken and stuff to go with it and had a nice dinner and were in bed early. Next morning up early and headed back to the park to do part of the Devil's Garden Trail. We did the whole 7+ miles in '94 but not this time. We also would not do the hike to Delicate Arch this time because Jim felt it was just too much for him. We are keeping Kodak in business single handed!! In trying to beat the heat, we took a drive on the La Sal Mountain Loop Road which took us up to about 9000 feet plus. It was seventeen degrees cooler and delightful and the views down in to the Valley were fantastic.

Yesterday was the highlight of the trip so far. We took a jetboat/jeep (Ford Excursion) trip down the Colorado River and then drove up out of Canyonlands on roads you would not believe. There were only four of us plus our guide/driver. We boarded a rickety old bus after being picked up by the tour company and then drove to the River. This area is in its fourth year of a drought so the river is pretty low and very muddy. Because it was very cloudy and stormy looking, it was also much cooler and much more enjoyable. You get a different perspective, looking up at the red formations from down low on the river. We stopped occasionally to scramble up the banks (not an easy task) to look at petroglyphs and pictographs and 300-million-year-old petrified wood logs, some still partially buried in the cliffs. Tamarisk trees grew everywhere and while they are very pretty, they are taking over from the native cottonwoods and others that would normally be along the river. In some places the park service is cutting them down.

 Our trusty steed in Canyonlands National Park.We stopped for lunch at a canyon area that had been flooded just a few days before from heavy rain. Our guides (there were 2, one for the boat and one for the jeep drive) fixed a lunch for us. We then headed up Lathrop Canyon. I cannot begin to describe the ride over boulders, branches, and anything else that happened to be there. We bounced and jounced around, took pictures, cringed as we looked out the window to see only a scant distance from the edge of the "road" to the space beyond. It took us about 4 1/2 hours to go 14 miles but what an experience it was. Your really have to be here and do it to appreciate it.

The Windows at Arches National Park. This morning we got up early again and headed back to Arches for more hiking, more looking and soaking up this beautiful Red Rock Country. We leave here in the morning and head for Great Basin National Park. Not sure what kind of connection I can get there (only 2 motels in the whole town) or Yosemite so may not hear from us for a while.

Love to all,

Pat and Jim