Friday, July 19, 2013

Dillon to Black Canyon of the Gunnison: Eye Candy Driving

Today’s plan was to drive about 200 miles from Dillon to Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

I decided that since the drive was only going to take about 4 hours I’d take the morning and do some chores in Dillon before heading out.

Yesterday Mom had lunch with a friend of ours from Cincinnati who has a place in Keystone, she told Mom about the Dillon Farmer’s Market which is on Friday mornings! That was my 1st stop! It was more of an arts and crafts fair than a farmers market but I got some peaches and tomatoes and a purple pepper because Mom had never had one.

Next stop was Starbucks to use their internet to update the blog and upload pictures. It was so fast compared to the campground wifi we’d had in Estes Park! I enjoyed an iced chai tea latte and got everything updated quickly. When I went to shut down my computer however, if decided it needed to update itself. I don’t know if it needed to be connected to the internet or not so I sat there and waited. For 30 minutes. Ugh.

Next up was laundry. I found a nice Laundromat (WORD insists on capitalizing that…) in Silverthorne right next to a deli! I put all the clothes in a 3 load size washer and after they were washed walked next door to have lunch while they dried. The whole operation – laundry and lunch – took less time than the Starbucks with the computer updating!

Next I needed water. There wasn’t any at our campground so I was going to Heaton Bay campground on the Dillon Dam Road. Even though I didn’t camp there I figured I could fill up with water since I paid the same camping fee for my waterless campground. I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to drive across the Dam Road – it said no RVs, but we think they meant big RVs so I decided to try it. No one stopped me. I pulled into the campground and up to a spicket and filled up with fresh water.

The next errand was to dump the tanks. The black tank (toilet) was totally full! There were no dump stations at our campgrounds, but there was a community dump so I went there. Dad and I had checked it out and didn’t think they had any water – potable or otherwise but it turned out that they did have potable water! I didn’t need to have gone to the campground! Oh well.

The last task was getting fuel. I found some diesel at the City Market station in Breckenridge – it was very tight but I wedged in and filled up!

Finally, I was on my way to Black Canyon of the Gunnison!

WOW! What a drive!

Right out of Breckenridge there was a view of one of the 14ers. Then there were signs about 10 mph curves… We wound around and soon we were at the top of Hoosier Pass! Crossed the Continental Divide…again!

After we came down from the pass, thankfully much more gradual than the way up, we were in farm country, mostly flat and in the valley.

Soon however we crossed into the San Isabel National Forest and there were rocks and sagebrush and it was looking very desert-y. But there were 14,000 ft mountains all around! We had views of the Collegiate Range, but there were storms building on the mountains, obscuring the view a bit but also making it more dramatic.

About halfway I turned onto US 50. This is the same US 50 that runs through DC and is just about a mile or so from my school! I thought this was very cool! Especially when we began to climb and eventually made it to the top of Monarch Pass – 11,312! Monarch Pass was much more gradual than Hoosier, but it was long – 7 miles down! I put it in lower gear and just coasted down!

After Monarch Pass we had more farm land until we got to Gunnison. Gunnison was still 60 miles from the park! Silly me assumed more of the same scenery. I was wrong! US 50 passes through the Blue Mesa! I’d heard about the Blue Mesa from this guy I talked to at Lake Anita and from the cookie lady at the farmers market. I’d never heard of it before. It was neat to drive across – very open, red rocks, orange dirt, lots of sagebrush, and mesa’s sticking up everywhere. The Gunnison River flows through it.

By this time though the storms were really building and there was lighting ever where! I’m pretty sure I saw something get struck, a tree probably, up on the hill! The lighting was so bright it got my attention and then it was glowing orange at the end!

After I came down from the Blue Mesa, though a neat canyon, the rain started. It rained so hard I thought I’d wash away! It was crazy! I was only about 15 miles from the park but it felt like a million.

The Blue Mesa in the rain:




Finally I reached the road to Black Canyon of the Gunnison and headed up. It was 5 miles from US 50 to the park, all of it up. Wait, up? Aren’t we going to a canyon? And we are going up? Seems that Black Canyon is a crack in the top of a mesa! Can you even imagine the 1st person who discovered it climbing up and then suddenly finding a huge crack in it??? That would suck.


After trying to get level (nearly impossible) and “fixing” the fridge (turning the propane on is key) we had dinner then Dad and I walked out the Rim Rock Trail toward the visitor center. The canyon is pretty cool, especially as the sun was setting! It never rained here and was sunny all evening! It is chilly – 62* with a breeze!

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