Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Hiking and Touring

Posted from Hurricane, UT
(Click on Pics Below to Enlarge)

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There are MANY pictures not presented in today's blog.
If interested, click on the link below to view.

Monarch Pass, CO
Warner Point and South Rim Trails
Gunnison Diversion Dam and Trails
Morrow Point Boat Tour
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After visiting the Colorado Springs area we headed west on US 50 to Montrose, CO. We had never traveled this route and didn't quite know what to expect with the mountain climbs and descents. US50 continues thru an area known as Monarch Pass. The scenery both up and down the mountains was beautiful. I believe this is the highest elevation that our rig as gone so far. We stopped at the summit (11,312 feet) for a photo op.

There were available "slow lanes" coming up the mountain, so we just moved right and drove along at a steady pace.  The rig did fine. We only have an exhaust brake on our rig, but it worked well to slow the coach on the descent. The key is to maintain control of your speed and to stay off the brakes as much as possible.

We spent a week at the Montrose KOA with the intent of visiting the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.  Let me begin by saying that I am not a big fan of KOAs. They are usually overpriced for what you get (IMHO). After the escort person brought us to our site from the wrong direction, my opinion was further enforced.  We made it into the site (with no help from the attendant, I might add).

Ok, enough negativity, on with exploring the area. We actually drove to the Park on several days to both hike and explore. The first day we went to the South Rim Visitor's Center to pick up maps and literature for the Park. The Visitor's Center is situated right on the rim of the canyon.

Several trails take you on a walk along the rim of the canyon. The river at the bottom is named the Gunnison River.

Here's a picture Karen took of me sitting on a rock near the rim (but not too close.)

The Warner Trail provides great views into the canyon and looking south towards Montrose.

One of the areas we enjoyed was a drive down the East Portal Road to the Gunnison Diversion Tunnel and Dam. The road was originally used to transport materials and machinery to construct the dam and tunnel back in 1905-1909. The road is narrow and not available to any vehicles greater than 22 feet in length.

Tunnel Opening to left Beyond Pump House
The road winds back and forth for 8 1/2 miles from the main road to the river. The elevation drops almost 2000 feet in that distance. There are picnic areas along the river. We saw folks mainly fishing when we were there. The tunnel was quite an engineering feat carried out by the Bureau of Reclamation. The tunnel length is 5.8 miles and was bored straight through the side of the mountain and exits into the Uncompahgre Valley. The main purpose of the tunnel was to provide irrigation to the Valley and to the city of Montrose.


The adventure we enjoyed the most in the entire park was the Morrow Point Boat Tour. (Thank you Laura H. for the recommendation.) The tour is a bit over 1 1/2 hours in length on a large pontoon-style boat operated by the NPS. To reach the boat's dock is a bit of an adventure in itself.

We drove back east along US50 for 35 miles from Montrose. Once at the parking area at Pine Creek, a trek of 232 steps is necessary to reach the river. This is a picture of the "nice" part of the steps. There are many turns and rocky steps as well.

Once you reach the river, a hike of 3/4 mile is necessary to reach the boat's dock. This is along a flat path which once held a narrow gauge railroad track. Easy walking here.

We boarded the boat and were given the usual "safety" instructions by Ranger Morrison. He was to be our guide during the tour. I might say that he did an excellent job of relating the history and geological make-up of this area.

The canyon and river in this area are simply beautiful. Because of the remoteness of the area (and limited accessibility) we saw NO ONE else on the entire tour. (Sorry about the blurriness of this shot of the eagle, but the boat was moving as I attempted to get the picture.)

Even though it was summer, Chipeta Falls was still flowing from the cliffs above.

Here's a view looking west down the river.













If you are ever in the area, the Morrow Point Boat Tour is well worth the $24 per adult fee. The views along the canyon walls from the river level are stunning.

Thanks for stopping by to take a look!

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Garden of the Gods and the US Air Force Academy

Posted from Verde Valley TT Park

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Cheyenne Mountain State Park
United States Air Force Academy
Garden of the Gods Park
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I'm a bit behind in posting, but as I look back we were pretty busy during the month of August.  We pulled in to Cheyenne Mountain State Park near Fountain, CO and spent four nights. This was a well thought out and designed park from an RVer's standpoint.  Nice roads and easy to get into and out of spots. We stayed in a FHU site, but I believe they also have partial hookups, as well as, tenting sites. One of the minor "irks" I have against CO state parks is that they charge a daily entrance fee for your vehicle being towed. Why not just add the cost into the nightly camping rate and be done with it?

We selected a pull thru site which was terraced  on the mountain side and allowed for nice views of Colorado Springs below.

Although trees (and thus shade) in this section is non-existent, the temps were cool enough, and the wind was enough, that we only ran the A/C units for part of the day, and almost never at night.  The patio side of the rig had nice views looking towards Colorado Springs.

We had stayed in the area back in the mid-90s when passing thru with our 5th wheel, but had not returned since. We took one day and visited the United States Air Force Academy up in Colorado Springs.  Since there are no organized tours offered (unless you're a candidate I'm told), we began our exploration at the Visitor's Center. They show a nice video explaining the Service Academy's role in our country's overall defense and there are many items to view.  One such display is that of a typical cadet's dorm room. Very organized and tidy!

One of the most iconic structures at the USAFA is the Cadet Chapel. It was completed in 1962 and is very "modern" in style.

The structure is comprised of two levels, with Protestant assemblies on the main level. This area seats approximately 1200 persons.

The lower level holds Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist events. Both levels are uniquely beautiful.

An area which we visited (purely by accident) was the recently re-opened Planetarium. Different films are presented daily in an IMAX format. Well worth a visit if you are lucky enough to attend.  Seating is limited, with no advanced reservations taken.

Visitors are not permitted to "roam freely" in the cadets' living or classroom areas, but there are many viewpoints around the campus which afford nice photo opportunities.

On another day we visited the Garden of the Gods Nature Center. This park is located on the west side of Colorado Springs, not too far from Manitou Springs. At this plaque attests, the area contained within the park was given to Colorado Springs back in 1909 by the children of Charles Perkins. It was his desire that the park would always be free to visit by the public.

This is a view of the park looking from the Visitor's Center.  On the day of our visit the park was extremely busy. It was a bit of a hike just to reach the Visitor's Center from the parking lot.

There are several relatively easy hiking trails to explore the park. On this particular day, it was pretty hot so we just hiked a couple of trails.







It you have the time, Garden of the Gods is well worth a visit. Well, after a day spent resting up and "re-provisioning" we head further west thru Colorado. Come join us on our next blog post.

As always, thanks for taking a look!