After our Indiana Jones experience at Mesa Verde we had one more stop to make on our Utah/Colorado Loop Tour, Black Canyon of the Gunnison. It was a scenic four hour drive up route 145 through the San Juan National Forest. We passed beautiful snowy peaked mountains, forests of tall trees, and rolling meadows. We came across the mountain town of Telluride and decided to stop and take a peek. We heard it was pretty fabulous and wanted to get a look at the ski resort. The town didn’t disappoint. Driving down Main Street I felt like we had entered a storybook town. The houses all looked like freshly painted Victorian cottages the color of Easter eggs, and were maintained to a tee. Yards were mowed and manicured, with no sign of junk or clutter. Bicycles of all vintages and colors were parked by the porches. Bikes seemed not only the preferred method of getting around town in the summer, but also moving works of art proudly rode about by their owners. The more unique the paint job the better. Main Street was quaint and filled with shops, restaurants, and food carts. Giant rectangular flower boxes filled with colorful blooms sat right in the middle of Main Street dividing the two lanes of traffic. Every few blocks there was puppy parking for patrons to tie up their furry friends while they shopped or dined. As we drove down Main Street to the end of town we were delighted by the sight of Bridal Veil Falls cascading down the box canyon. It was a fantastical display of the power of water, dropping down 365 feet. After gazing at the waterfall we headed back into the main part of town, parked and walked over to the base of the ski resort which dumps right into town. We grabbed some ice cream from a food cart vendor and sat down on a bench to enjoy people watching and take in the scenic surroundings. On our way back to the truck we stopped in a real estate office to see what it would cost to live in the magical town. We laughed as we realized we would need a pot of gold to be home owners in the storybook town of Telluride. We jumped in the truck to head towards our more realistic camp for the night.
For our visit to Black Canyon of the Gunnison we opted to camp at Crawford State Park. For $18 a night we camped right on a lake and were treated to stunning mountain views, hot showers, and clean bathrooms. We were located a short drive to the North Rim of the Black Canyon where we planned on hiking the next morning. Being that it was a weekday there were only 3 other campers in the park making for a quiet, secluded camping experience. We had a peaceful night watching loons fishing for their dinner on the lake and a rainbow poking over the mountain top.
The next morning we got up and broke camp and headed to the North Rim of Black Canyon of the Gunnison. The weather was perfect for hiking! We filled up our Camel Back packs, grabbed our bear spray and sunscreen and set off. We planned on driving home later that day so we hiked the North Vista Trail to Exclamation Point, which ended up being 3 miles round trip. For a longer hike we could have continued up to Green Mountain for a 7 mile round trip hike. The hike to Exclamation Point contained numerous wildflowers and wound through juniper tree forest, oak and sage brush. We came across several plants that looked like they had white spray paint on them, but it was just the way the plants were made. It reminded me of when I was a kid and my grandmother went through a phase where she spray painted everything white. She would take candle sconces out into the yard and lay them on the grass to spray them down with white paint and the grass looked exactly like these plants we saw when she was done.
As we wound our way through the juniper forest the trail took us to different overlooks on the rim. The sight of Black Canyon is breathtaking. The dark craggy rocks of the canyon look like they should be home to Count Dracula. I expected to see his castle nestled in the side of the canyon at any moment. The walls of the canyon were steep and unforgiving. A fall here would be death for sure. The Gunnison River flowed through the bottom of the canyon at a rapid pace. It was crazy to stand on the rocky edge of the canyon and know that it was carved over time by the river moving far below. We made our way to Exclamation Point and it was easy to see how the area got its name. The view stretched for miles, both down into the canyon and across to the other rim. It’s not a spot for the faint hearted. Being perched so high above a canyon so scarred and rough looking is a dizzying sensation. Ryan was brave and sat on a rock right next to the edge to get snapshots of the river raging at the bottom. Unlike many National Parks we visited Black Canyon had few visitors that day. We had Exclamation Point all to ourselves for a bit and we sat and enjoyed the views and solitude for a while before making our way back to the truck.
This was our last stop on our Colorado/Utah Loop Tour and we had about a five hour drive back to Fraser. Our drive back was the icing on top of an already sweet trip. We passed through Grand Mesa National Forest and were delighted by the surprise waterfalls along the way. We had to stop several times to check out raging creeks and waterfalls bursting with the runoff from the melting snow of mountain peaks. We arrived home, happy, sun-burned, and satisfied that we’d managed to cross off five more National Parks from our list. It was time to start preparing to say goodbye to Colorado for the summer and get ready to take the Cramper out East for more adventures.